By Dana Kroll, Uptown Marketing and Communications Specialist
We’ve got great news: Our video series, ‘What’s Up In Uptown’, continues! For our newbies, this series is one in which we chat up a few of our very own local business people and ask them to quickly share with us which establishments are where they head for their own very favorite finds, while in Uptown. Today, an extra special sit down is on deck. We’re extremely pleased to share with you our short but sweet chat with Chef Clark Frain, Director of Operations for both Terra Restaurant and Terra Bagel.
Let’s first talk Terra: A GR eatery brand that is truly synonymous with excellence. That our Eastown district is their homebase, is a definite source of pride for us all, in Uptown.
Established as one of GR’s first to the local farm-to-table dining scene, Terra Restaurant still regularly tops the list as a best in show for this category of cuisine. The menu consists of staple favorites plus an always rotating roster of unique yet approachable seasonal dishes that boast as much comforting and hearty goodness, sourced from area farms and growers, as Terra’s talented culinary team can fit into a dish. After many years of dominating the dining game, the brand added a second concept to its portfolio with Terra Bagel, and while the concept seems simple on the front end, don’t be fooled. The bagels are crafted from the finest ingredients, boiled (as any bagel worth its weight should be), and served up either breakfast sandwich-style or with a cream cheese schmear so deliciously tall, it’s almost daunting!
Find Terra’s cozy rustic restaurant and patio space at 1429 Lake Dr SE. Find Terra Bagel’s Eastown location at 1413 Lake Dr SE (they’ve recently opened a second, downtown GR location too).
And now – for Chef Clark’s quick picks:
Question one: You have a sweet tooth. Where would you go for dessert?
Chef Clark says: When that sweet tooth hits – “I’m going to Cakabakery!”
If you love baked sweets of any kind and are looking for offerings that are as wonderful to look at as they are to eat, look no further than The Cakabakery. Each and every day of operation, you’ll find fresh from-the-oven gourmet cupcakes, giant cookies, towering slabs of cake sold by the slice, bars, brownies, and more – and the offerings are never the same two days in a row (pro-tip, follow their social media for daily updates on what’s been created for you that day)! You can stop in for the best afternoon treat you’ve had in a minute, or for a beautifully curated takeaway box of goodies that will make the office or the event you’re headed to swoon (we guarantee it). The Cakabakery is also a regionally famous go-to for custom desserts as well. Our recommendation? Try the award-winning chocolate chunk cookie. Soft, doughy, buttery, and crammed with giant hunks of luxe chocolate. We have to warn you – it’ll ruin those itty bitty chocolate chips for you forever (it’s worth it). Located at 919 Fulton St E, which is in our East Fulton District.
Question two: You have a free afternoon. Where do you go for happy hour?
Chef says: “When I’m looking for a fun cocktail, I’m going to Eastern Kille, on Wealthy Street!”
The Eastern Kille Wealthy cocktail bar – official name, EK Wealthy, – is an upscale establishment offered by Eastern Kille Distillery, as your place to go for beautifully innovative curated cocktails featuring their award-winning spirits which are also crafted right here in Grand Rapids. It’s hard to overstate the dazzling gorgeousness of this one-of-a-kind bar, and the beverages are top notch. Eastern Kille recently placed as a finalist in several categories of this year’s highly competitive Revue West Michigan Best of the West Contest, in which regional voters submit their picks (read more about that, here). While the sips and the space at EK are indeed topnotch, we love that the place is super cozy and inviting, with big windows to watch while Wealthy Street bustles along outside. Head to 634 Wealthy St SE (which is in our Wealthy Street District) to check them out.
Question three: You have a free morning. What are you up to?
Chef says: “When I get a free morning, I am going to the Farmer’s Market and checking out all of the local produce and seeing what’s new in the season.”
Fulton Street Farmer’s Market is one of the biggest jewels of our district, and we don’t mind saying so ourselves! The market has been around since 1922, and its long, open-air vendor corridor houses somewhere in the neighborhood of 130 vendors. This is where you must head to find the freshest and largest assortment of locally grown, produced, and sourced goods in West Michigan. It’s also where you’re likely to find culinary creatives and professionals, just like Chef Clark, as they scope and select and network, to keep their menus fresh for their lucky and hungry patrons. We encourage you to give the farmer’s market social media a follow; not only does the organization host the seasonal market as described here, but always has a rotating calendar of specialty markets, evening events, vendor showcases, and more, including boutique clothing vendor events, BIPOC vendor showcases, annual crowd-sourced rummage sales, and much much more. 1145 Fulton St. E, in the heart of our East Fulton District.
Question four: Someone is new to town. Where do you send them?
Chef says: “When anybody comes into the area, I like to take them to Grove. I feel like they’ve got a great culinary food and beverage scene and it’s one of our highlights in the neighborhood.”
Spot on, Chef. If you’re looking for an incredible “dinner and drinks out on the town” experience, Grove is a definite contender. They classify their fine dining fare as ‘authentically American’ and offer patrons culinary excellence via an outstanding menu, first-rate wine pairings that are carefully selected to go alongside, and classic upscale tableside service with knowledgeable and trained staff. Their beautiful brick restaurant is located at 919 Cherry St. E, which is in our East Hills district.
MEANWHILE. Can we just interrupt our regularly scheduled program for a quick moment to be in our slightly sappy feels? That was rhetorical – we’re so going there. But, it’s responses like this last one from Chef, that in many ways personify our district. For sure, Uptown GR is home to some of our city’s very best eateries (and bars, and shops, and spas, and bakeries, and more…). But we think it’s just as admirable, that Uptown is also arguably one of the most supportive of small business + residential communities you’ll find, regardless of where you go. The businesses champion each other, and take pride in what they are able to offer the people who live, visit and work here. Head chefs cheerleading the creations of their contemporaries? We love to see it! That spirit is infectious and you can’t help but feel it, when you head over to do, well, all the things that there are to do, here. I guess if we could sum it up, it would be that— what’s that? Oh, there was one more question for Chef Clark? Let’s see–
Question five: What is your favorite part about being in Uptown?
Chef says: “I love the camaraderie in Uptown, it’s such a friendly neighborhood. Everyone can walk around, from street to street, shop to shop, and all of the local businesses have a genuine care and interest in supporting each other.”
Ah. Well then. Yes Chef. Just exactly that.
Whether it’s an upscale night out, a casual day of strolling and shopping, or a brunch date with friends, Uptown always has 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 visiting us for the first time or the hundredth, there is so much in our district for you to explore and enjoy. Plan your next visit to Uptown today.
*Please note – all images in this article are courtesy the businesses they portray and may not be duplicated without their individual permission.