Between a rock and a hard place in Grand Rapids.

The Blue Water Grill
5180 Northland Dr
Grand Rapids, MI 49525-1052
(616) 363-5900

The season is a time of thanking and giving… or taking, depending on whether you came in on the Mayflower or you were already in the Americas. Either way, now its a time of family and food. My family went to Grand Rapids to have a Thankstaking lunch with my Grandma. Back in the day we would all gather at her house and she would make an outstanding meal, but as time wears on so does our age and she has wearied of the chore of cooking for everyone. Typically, we eat at mild eateries as Grandma’s palate doesn’t stand for things with pizzazz, but you can only eat at Applebee’s so many times before you start losing your sense of taste (and your sense of decency). So, my Pops scouted a new joint for us to eat at and he found The Blue Water Grill . On the initial perusal the B.W. Grill looked like it was going to kick our asses in terms of the price, but after looking at the menu we found everything to be reasonably priced. Mission “Nomnomnom with Oma” is a go at The Blue Water Grill. Dan was with me, so we’re going to tag team this review, I’ll get it started:

Matt: First, I’d like to say that the place looked impressive. There is a massive 4 sided fireplace when you walk into the joint and it actually provides heat. Unfortunately the start of service didn’t deliver in this respect. The host/hostess had apparently fled their station and we, along with another irate customer, were stuck waiting for one of the staff to meet our eyes and come over and ask what they can do to help. Instead of stewing in my own Rage-juices I asked the bartendress if we could seat ourselves (kinda rude, I know, but I really didn’t have the patience to re-read the menu and pretend like waiting was a fun option), this prompted seats and menus to be provided post-haste.

Dan: I found the overall ambiance really nice. It’s an interesting setup. The Blue Water Grill feels like casual dining, and the menu choices seem like you’re paying for $25 plates. We chose to sit at a booth instead of taking a seat at the bar. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to sit at a bar and crane my neck every time I want to talk with my grandma. Anyways, taking a look around, you get to see what happens when a gravel pit runs dry. They fill it with water and call it a lake; new development gets to pop up around previously worthless real estate.

Matt:  The art they have on and around the giant fireplace is fitting for the joint, it’s not breaking new ground but it’s not garish.  I could hope for something more progressive but at least it’s not the disjointed schizophrenic cacophony that Applebee’s and their ilk litter the walls with.  No one gives a shit about the local little league team that won 3 games over the past decade.

Matt:  I think I may be developing a new art form called “The Joy of Bitching.”  At the very least, I think it would make for a great book title.  Now on with the bitching: What shouldn’t you do?  Oh that’s right, eat with Old People.  They’re picky and go about things in an odd way, is this because they’re old?  My Grandma always asks for Decaf Black Tea, always.  The annoying part is that the restaurants we go to with her NEVER carry Decaf Black Tea.  She has quite literally asked for Decaf Black Tea on every excursion to a restaurant and they have not once had Decaf Black Tea.  Black Tea? Sure. Decaf Black Tea? Not on your life.  The second annoying part is that she always carries Decaf Black Tea bags with her.  So, why ask for the tea if she already has it?  The only reason I can suss out is the behaviour is a hold-over from going through hard times and getting the most bang for your buck possible.

Matt:  One nice point is that they have a bread service.  You get recently warmed up bread, vinegar, and oil to quell some of your hunger pangs.  They served sourdough, which I happen to enjoy.  Please note in the shot above, the aforementioned Decaf Black Tea.

Dan:  We ended up being seated close to the kitchen.  It was an open air grill type of deal, which I thought looked pretty good.  However, the General Manager was hanging out at the server station working on silverware or some shit and basically felt like he was hovering over my shoulder the whole time.  Probably not that noticeable when it’s busy, but for a slower lunch it was definitely irksome.

Dan: I ended up ordering the Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos.  I was pretty excited since I can never seem to find fish tacos anywhere in Michigan.  The plating was excellent, unfortunately the food wasn’t up to par with the plating.  The fish was completely over seasoned;  I didn’t taste any fish in my fish tacos.  I don’t know about you, but if I order fish tacos… I’m hoping for some flavor of the water to come through.  The rice was overcooked as well, the starches were completely coming apart and the rice was basically a mushy mess.  My other beef with the tacos is that I had to build the fucking things.  Don’t get me wrong, that can be fun to do under some circumstances (like when you’re cooking at home…) but I definitely don’t want to go somewhere and have to put my food together.  Also, there was nowhere on my plate to build the damn things!  So, I’m sitting here feebly cupping this tortilla and trying to shovel some of this food in while hoping to keep some semblance of balance.  The biggest stand out for the whole dish was the salsa/chutney that they had.  It was a good mixture of spicy and sweet, I probably would have been happier with more of that and some tortilla chips.

Matt: One unrelated note to my dining experience, I noticed a lot of folks with wine.  This may have been due to it being the Thanksgiving season or perhaps people show up at this joint for wine at 2pm on a Wednesday.  I’m not sure why they’d intentionally come to a place to drink wine and listen to the speakers drone out some shitty James Blunt songs and other miscellanious top 40 hits.  One further note about the music, The BWG’s website has a jazzy atmospheric song playing and I’m somewhat disappointed that they couldn’t follow through with this theme in their restaurant.

Another interesting thing about the restaurant is that it was much smaller than it appeared.  As Dan mentioned earlier The Blue Water Grill has an upscale appearance but a casual dining experience.  I didn’t feel out of place wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  The tables are made of a nice polished wood and were free of the slightly sticky surface that I’ve come to associate with all surfaces at an IHOP.   The BWG is a bit of a gem in a Strip-Mall-Hell.

Matt: I ordered the Chili Crusted Burger which was covered in tasty shoestring onions on a thick roll. On the menu the roll is described as a ‘pretzel roll’ but I received a sourdough roll.  The garlic butter crinkly fries that were served with it were alright as well.   The burger didn’t come across as all that unique, burgers generally taste like burgers. My only beef with the samich: where is the “Chili Crusted” portion? There wasn’t a hint of kick to the flavor.  Despite not being ‘Chili Crusted’ the burger did have a great flavor and I loved the avocado on the burger.  One note, I ordered the burger to be cooked to medium, and it definitely did not show as Medium but rather medium-well to well-done. Quite a few restaurants seem to do this and I can only hazard to guess that this is because their patrons are dolts and send back food that is cooked to the appropriate degree (medium should be pink in the middle, which you can see on the Iowa Beef Council’s site here).

Dan: While I thought my food was merely edible, I tried some of the pizza my parent’s ordered.  It was delicious.  One of the things that The BWG promotes is their wood fire grill for Pizza.  I’d definitely look at getting one of their Pizzas if I’m ever around that way again.

Dan’s Rating: Rating: ★★★½☆ .  I was impressed with the ambiance, and the other food looked great.. but the tacos were a let down.

Matt: My Grandma and my Mom ordered the the Blue Water Grill Prime Rib which looked fairly tasty but I didn’t have a bite.  Our bill ended up being below $50 which is fairly astounding considering 5 people were fed. In closing the service we received from our server was fantastic. She was very present, great on refills and follow-ups, courteous and friendly.  I think Dan needs to lay off the pipe because I thought this place was great.  The BWG merits a Rating: ★★★★½ from me and could’ve come close to 5 stars had there been a host/hostess.

Matt: Rating: ★★★★½

Dan: Rating: ★★★½☆

-Matt & Dan.

Author: Matt

I now live in Clearwater, FL and from here the food shall be reviewed.

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