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What’s Up in Uptown – Featuring Essence Restaurant Group

By Dana Kroll, Uptown Marketing and Communications Specialist


Welcome to the first installation of a fun new series we have created with you in mind. Whether visiting a new place, whether you enjoy rediscovering a place well-known to you, or whether you like to stay current on “the latest”,  it’s no secret that a best practice? Ask the “regulars”! You know – seek recommendations or tips from are those folks that live, work, and invest in that place. When it comes to Uptown, we thought we’d spend a little time mining a few of the minds that know us best. Over the next season, we will take you through a fun series of quick interviews in Q&A style, about what suggestions our interviewees might have for you to try, the next time you’re here.


For our first Q&A, we sat down with Tristan Walczewski, Chief Operating Officer for Essence Restaurant Group .   Of the five restaurants owned by Essence,Uptown is home to two – Grove, and The Green Well, both of which are located on Cherry Street SE, in what is our East Hills Business District. Both restaurants recently completed stunning renovations that are as unique from each other as are their menues.  Tristan shared his excitement for the new year ahead for the business and then kindly shared his opinion on the ideal Uptown spots to grab food, dessert, and more!


courtesy @thegreenwell


You have a free afternoon, where are you going for happy hour or lunch?


“We love Maru, they have an awesome patio, and just where it’s situated in our neighborhood, being right next door, it’s great to go hang out. A really fresh approach to sushi, especially in the Grand Rapids area, they always have a great standard of quality which we really enjoy, great beverage program, awesome service, highly recommend checking it out.”

Located at 927 Cherry Street, Maru is a great spot to enjoy fresh Sushi and unique cocktails. With the chef’s desire to make every dish comforting and memorable as well as the option to dine inside during colder months or out on the patio when it warms up, you are sure to enjoy your experience. 

courtesy @marurestaurant


You have a sweet tooth, where are you going for dessert?


“We love a little spot called Fruition, which has awesome smoothies, acai bowls, and a really fun approach to just healthy grab-and-go options, which we really enjoy.”

Fruition, located at 1405 Lake Drive, offers a variety of fast and simple healthy food options for both breakfast, lunch, snacks, and sweets – and strives to make the guest atmosphere positive and inspiring.  

                          courtesy @thefruitionlife


You have a new neighbor, where are you getting a gift for them?


“There’s a really awesome, and relatively new to the area, wine shop on Cherry Street called Leon and Son. It’s owned by a husband and wife, Chris and Christina, they are based in Brooklyn New York and so they have a flagship wine shop over there and they opened another location in Grand Rapids. They’re focused on small sustainable producers, a lot of the things that as a company we are really aligned with. I love shopping there myself and especially if I’ve got somebody who enjoys a bottle of wine who just moved to Grand Rapids it’s a great place to head.”

Leon and Son, located at 927 Cherry Street, focuses on organic and small-batch wine; it is equally important to them that they ensure that the wine-buying experience is welcoming and enjoyable for everyone – not just the pros! They source benchmark bottlings from classic vineyards to hidden gem options that might be new to you. Their collection of wines is always changing, so you are sure to find just what you need. 


 Someone’s new to town, where are you sending them next?


“I mean one of the best parts of Grand Rapids as a whole is there are so many places here to go and drink and there’s an awesome nightlife, especially in Uptown. I really enjoy what the teams are doing at Post Off and Buffalo Traders on Fulton, awesome beverage programs, a really fun approach to cocktails, and awesome environments. I myself am one for a great dive and the oldest bar in Grand Rapids is actually right in East Hills, which is Pickwick. It’s cash-only but a really fun spot if you wanna grab a light beer and hang out with some friends.”


Post Off, located at 952 Fulton Street, is a wine and amaro bar that focuses on using responsibly sourced products and creating a comfortable and welcoming space for experienced and novice wine drinkers alike. A place to hang out and enjoy good wine, as they say, “It’s a dive bar, wine bar” kinda place. 

If you are looking for an artfully crafted cocktail experience then Buffalo Traders Lounge, located at 950 Fulton Street, is a must-visit for you. With its moody lighting and vintage decor you can easily cozy up and enjoy your sipping experience.  

A Long standing establishment, located at 970 Cherry Street, the Pickwick has been open for over 75 years and is a true neighborhood bar. Stop in for a drink, some laughs and a little Grand Rapids history. 

courtesy @buffalotraderslounge


What do you love about being in Uptown?


“I love the sense of community in Uptown, for us especially having two staple businesses here, The Greenwell and Grove right across the street from each other, we’ve been able to connect and be part of park cleanups from Cherry street Park to working with the West Michigan Environmental Action Committee. I love the community engagement here, it just continues to evolve and grow and we’re very excited to meet some of the newer operators that are doing fun and exciting things here too.”


What are you excited about this year?


“We’re super excited for 2023, we’ve got a lot of really wonderful opportunities in the Grand Rapids community, with our relaunch and refresh of Greenwell (most recently – Grove underwent similar renovations last year), which has been a staple in the East Hills community for a long period of time. It’s been a great opportunity for us to go back to the drawing board for restaurant concepts and figure out how we can reinvigorate our commitment to not just East Hills and Uptown, but as we expand with the portfolio addition of Lucy’s (located in the Creston community).  We’re looking at a really big 2023.”


We loved hearing from Tristan about a few of his Uptown faves, and we hope you did too! To watch the video of his interview, click here. 


About Uptown


Whether it’s a casual night out, a day of shopping or brunch date with friends, Uptown businesses always have something exciting to offer. Uptown consists of four vibrant districts: Eastown, East Fulton, East Hills and Wealthy Street that are full of character and personality. Whether you are bringing family for the first time or planning a fun day by yourself, we have something here for everyone! Plan your next visit to Uptown today!