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Bartender: What’s Cole Ihrman got that the other bartenders don’t? You’ll have to come in and belly up at Bistro Bella Vita to find out.

Best of Grand Rapids Readers Poll
237 Reasons to love this city

Cuisine, refreshments, shopping, services, entertainment, people and more!

By Jocelyn Burkett
Photography by Michael Buck

A bit more than a shout-out but not quite an Academy Award, the Best of Grand Rapids list echoes our readers’ preferences in 79 categories from ballots inserted in the June through September issues of the magazine.

If we had to create a profile of an indivi-dual who typifies the collective choices of the Best of Grand Rapids readers poll, that person would look something like this: Busy. Diverse. Kind to the community. Hungry, with an insatiable appetite. Well-dressed. Active social life. Balanced. Appreciative of local industry.

We might find this person at a baseball game or at a 4-star restaurant. As likely to be covered in barbeque sauce as couture clothing. Probably has an eclectic mix of furniture and outside interests. May or may not have everything from “Charlotte’s Web” to “Grey’s Anatomy” on their bookshelf. Proficient with chopsticks or fingers, silver or plastic.

All said and done, the poll reflects what our readers do, see and depend on here in West Michigan. The businesses represented have a strong, reliable following, and through this patronage, our readers remain committed to supporting the local economy.

a la carte:
The Best: Bagel Beanery
Other favorites: Panera Bread
Big Apple Bagel

The Best:
Cottage Bar & Restaurant
Other favorites: Choo Choo Grill
O’Toole’s Public House

The Best:
Beltline Bar & Mexican Cafe
Other favorites: Downtown Trini’s
El Burrito Loco Mexican Restaurant

Chicken Wings
The Best:
Buffalo Wild Wings
Other favorites: Sandmann’s BBQ
Wing Heaven Restaurants

Coney Dog
The Best:
Other favorites: Grand Coney
Ritz Koney Bar & Grille

The Best:
Marge’s Donut Den
Other favorites: Sandy’s Donuts
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

The Best:
Uccello’s Pizzeria & Sports Lounge
Other favorites: Vitale’s Italian Restaurants
Big Bob’s Pizza – Italian Cafe

The Best:
Sandmann’s BBQ
Other favorites: Sam’s Joint Restaurants
Famous Dave’s

The Best:
Schnitz World Famous Deli
Other favorites: Panera Bread
Marie Catrib’s of Grand Rapids

The Best:
Leo’s Restaurant
Other favorites: Charley’s Crab
Bonefish Grill

The Best:
Panera Bread
Other favorites: Zoup!
Marie Catrib’s of Grand Rapids

The Best:
The Chop House
Other favorites: Louis Benton Steak House
Judson’s Steakhouse at The BOB

Appetizer Menu
The Best:
San Chez Bistro
Other favorites: The Green Well Gastro Pub
Leo’s Restaurant

The Best:
Wealthy Street Bakery
Other favorites: Arnie’s Bakery & Restaurants
Nantucket Baking Co.

The Best:
Real Food Café
Other favorites: Wolfgang’s Restaurant
Cherie Inn

The Best:
Charley’s Crab
Other favorites: The Spinnaker
The Grille at Watermark

The Best:
Schnitz World Famous Deli
Other favorites: Cherry Deli & Catering
Marie Catrib’s of Grand Rapids

The Best:
The 1913 Room
Other favorites: Arnie’s Bakery & Restaurants
Leo’s Restaurant

Ice Cream Parlor
The Best:
Jersey Junction
Other favorites: Sundaes at the Cottage
Cold Stone Creamery

New Restaurant (opened in 2009)
The Best:
The Winchester
Other favorites: Electric Cheetah

Outdoor/Deck Dining
The Best:
Rose’s Restaurant
Other favorites: Blue Water Grill
Red’s on the River

Romantic Dining
The Best:
The 1913 Room
Other favorites: Tre Cugini
Leo’s Restaurant

Beer/Wine Merchant
The Best:
Martha’s Vineyard
Other favorites: G.B. Russo & Son International Grocery
The Crushed Grape

The Best:
Kava House
Other favorites: Biggby Coffee
Starbucks Coffee Co.

Happy Hour
The Best:
Uccello’s Pizzeria & Sports Lounge
Other favorites: Blue Water Grill

The Best:
Founders Brewing Co.
Other favorites: Hopcat
Grand Rapids Brewing Co.

The Best:
Other favorites: Hopcat
Bar Divani

Sports Bar
The Best:
Uccello’s Pizzeria & Sports Lounge
Other favorites: Vitale’s Italian Restaurants
The Score Restaurant

Restaurant Wine List
The Best:
Bar Divani
Other favorites: The 1913 Room
Red’s on the River

shopping & services
Animal Clinic
The Best:
Cascade Hospital For Animals
Other favorites: Weisner Innis & Schoen
Wyoming Animal Hospital

Antique Shop
The Best:
Eastown Antiques
Other favorites: Blue Door Home Design
Windsor Cottage

Architectural Firm
The Best:
Integrated Architecture
Other favorites: Visbeen Associates Inc.
Design +

Auto Dealership
The Best:
Fox Motors
Other favorites: Todd Wenzel Automotive
Dan Pfeiffer Automotive Group

Auto Repair
The Best:
Fox Motors
Other favorites: Spaanstra Brothers Automotive
Dave & Jerry’s Auto Services

The Best:
Fifth Third Bank
Other favorites: Chase Bank
Huntington Bank

Bicycle Shop
The Best:
Ada Bike Shop
Other favorites: Village Bike Shop
Freewheeler Bike Shop

The Best:
Schuler Books & Music
Other favorites: Barnes & Noble
Kregel Parable Christian Stores

Car Wash
The Best:
Southland Auto Wash
Other favorites: Breton Village Auto Wash
Waterworks Auto Wash

Catering Company
The Best:
Applause Catering & Events
Other favorites: The Gilmore Collection
Bobby J’s Downtown

Children’s Clothing Store
The Best:
Snapdragon Boutique
Other favorites: Gap Kids
The Children’s Place

Credit Union
The Best:
Lake Michigan Credit Union
Other favorites: Option 1 Credit Union
Great Lakes Credit Union

Day Spa
The Best:
Design 1 Salon Spa
Other favorites: Tanaz Hair Boutique & Day Spa
Vasaio Life Spa

Dry Cleaning Service
The Best:
Sheldon Cleaners
Other favorites: Afendoulis Cleaners & Tuxedos
Martinizing Dry Cleaning

Florist/Flower Shop
The Best:
Eastern Floral and Gift Shop
Other favorites: Kennedy’s Flowers & Gifts
Daylily Gift & Floral

Furniture Store
The Best:
Israels Designs For Living
Other favorites: Klingman’s
Northwestern Home Furnishings

Garden Center
The Best:
Fruit Basket Flowerland
Other favorites: Romence Gardens & Greenhouses
Koetsier’s Greenhouses Inc.


Gifts/Home Accessories: Proving that your home can be classic and trendy at the same time, Wealthy at Charles is luxe living at its finest.

Gifts/Home Accessories
The Best:
Wealthy At Charles
Other favorites: YT Galleria
Art of the Table

Grocery Store
The Best:
Other favorites: Forest Hills Foods
D&W Fresh Market

Hair Salon
The Best:
Design 1 Salon Spa
Other favorites: Tanaz Hair Boutique & Day Spa
Panopoulos Salons

Home Builder
The Best:
Other favorites: Insignia Homes
Nugent Builders Inc.

Interior Design Firm
The Best:
Think Design
Other favorites: Tylor Devereaux Interior Design
Rock Home Studio

Jewelry Store
The Best:
Juhas & Sullivan
Other favorites: Herkner Jewelers
Preusser Jewelers

Landscaping Company
The Best:
Kappes Landscapes
Other favorites: Rooks Landscaping
Everett’s Landscape Management

Law Firm
The Best:
Varnum Law Firm
Other favorites: Miller Johnson
Warner Norcross & Judd

Men’s Apparel Store
The Best:
Daniel’s Collections for Men & Women
Other favorites: A.K. Rikk’s Menswear
Jos. A. Banks

Real Estate Company
The Best:
Keller Williams Realty
Other favorites: RE/MAX of Grand Rapids Inc.
Greenridge Realty Inc.

Resale/Consignment Shop
The Best:
Georgie’s Consignment Clothing
Other favorites: Plato’s Closet
One Girl’s Treasure

Retirement Community
The Best:
Porter Hills Retirement Communities & Services
Other favorites: Clark Retirement Community
Covenant Village of the Great Lakes

Shoe Store
The Best:
DSW Shoe Warehouse
Other favorites: Nordstrom Rack at Centerpointe Mall
Miera’s Family Shoes

Sporting Goods Store
The Best:
MC Sports
Other favorites: Dick’s Sporting Goods
Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus

Women’s Boutique
The Best:
Other favorites: Daniel’s Collections for Men & Women
Hot Mama

getting out
Art Gallery
The Best:
Grand Rapids Art Museum
Other favorites: LaFontsee Galleries/Underground Studio
Grand Gallery

Golf Course
The Best:
Thousand Oaks Golf Club
Other favorites: Cascade Hills Country Club
Egypt Valley Country Club

Health Club
The Best:
MVP Sports Clubs
Other favorites: YMCA
East Hills Athletic Club

Live Theater
The Best:
Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
Other favorites: Circle Theatre
Actors’ Theatre

The Best:
Grand Rapids Public Museum
Other favorites: Grand Rapids Art Museum
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum

Outdoor Festival
The Best:
Festival of the Arts
Other favorites: Celebration on the Grand
Blues on the Mall

Place For A Reception
The Best:
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Other favorites: Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
Cascade Hills Country Club

Public Park
The Best:
Millennium Park
Other favorites: Riverside Park
John Collins

Shopping Mall
The Best:
Woodland Mall
Other favorites: RiverTown Crossings
Centerpointe Mall

Sports Team
The Best:
West Michigan Whitecaps
Other favorites: Grand Rapids Griffins
GVSU Lakers

Tourist Attraction
The Best:
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Other favorites: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum
Grand Rapids Art Museum

The Best:
Mid Life Crisis
Other favorites: Organissimo
Mustard Plug

The Best:
Cole Ihrman/Bistro Bella Vita
Other favorites: Chris Williams/Leo’s Restaurant
Robin Rasmussen/Sayfee’s


Chef: Admit it now, who doesn’t love a man who can cook? Meet and nosh with Executive Chef Eric Chaitan at the popular “Grillin’ & Chillin’ with Chef Eric” at The Grille at Watermark
on Thursday nights.

The Best:
Eric Chaitin/The Grille at Watermark
Other favorites: Glenn Forgie/Red’s on the River
Bernard Lucas/Leo’s Restaurant

The Best:
James Elliott
Other favorites: Cathy Taig
Wayne Wright

The Best:
Matthew Gietzen
Other favorites: Devin Norman
John Stepanovich

The Best:
Richard Ashack
Other favorites: Robert Lamberts
Marek Stawiski

Plastic Surgeon
The Best:
John Renucci
Other favorites: W. David Moore
Scott Brundage

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