Brick walls and fireplaces surround the nautical-themed dining area of Great Lakes Shipping Co. Restaurant & Tavern. During warmer months, the casual steak and seafood house opens its large outdoor deck that allows diners to pair meals with the melodic tweets of nearby birds. Executive chef Thomas Verlin's menu showcases fresh lake catches such as breaded perch alongside oceanic fare such as Australian lobster and Alaskan king crab, often accented with simple sauces, pastas, and cue cards that let the entree speak for itself. Thomas also lassos hand-cut slices of prime rib, new york strip, and tenderloin fillets onto dinner plates and wrangles juicy burgers and sandwiches to satisfy lighter appetites.
When the organizers of Grand Rapids Film Festival look at a blank movie screen, they see a field of possibility—a fresh canvas onto which writers, actors, and filmmakers can channel their dreams. The festival showcases those dreams once each year during a multiday juried film competition, which takes place throughout the city.
The festival generally bypasses mainstream flicks in favor of underground cinema, eye-opening documentaries, and films that highlight the region. There's something for virtually every viewer, from the family-friendly movies shown at the Grand Rapids Public Museum to the edgier films played during a brew-n-view segment at Pyramid Scheme.
The cooks at Le Kabob prepare an assortment of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern specialties, pairing juicy, charbroiled halal meats with herbal salads and creamy sauces. They grill skewers of shrimp, fry crisp falafel, and roll lamb shawarma into pitas with tomatoes, onions, parsley, pickles, and tahini. Diners can also sip fresh-squeezed juices or rich arabic coffee while seated in the restaurant's ornately decorated interior, or in the sunlight on its outdoor patio.
An island of 48 styling stations rises from tiled floors in the center of Excel Academies of Cosmetology’s contemporary, loft-like main salon. Nearby, dedicated manicure and pedicure stations line a low glass wall, and 16 fully equipped styling stations fill a separate junior room. The Academy—which trains up-and-coming stylists in the latest salon trends, techniques, and technologies—is fully equipped to cater to all of each client's beauty needs. Senior-level student stylists perform all haircuts and colors, facial treatments, and nail services under the watchful eyes of an expert instructor or an aesthetically inclined HAL 9000. Excel Academies utilizes a variety of hair care products, including Paul Mitchell.
An avid dancer since his teens, Casey Reed trained and coached alongside top dancers and choreographers—14-time U.S. ballroom champion Mark Brock among them—before earning his certification as an American and International Style Ballroom Instructor. Today, with his team of expert instructors, Casey draws on more than 10 years as a salsa and Latin specialist to teach ample forms of social and competitive dance to beginning and advanced students alike during group and private lessons. When each week of instruction comes to an end, Salsalogy Dance Academy hosts a Friday-night dance social, where guests can try out the latest salsa, waltz, or swing skills they've mastered to the backbeat of Latin dance music. In the meantime, instructors exercise along with clients at dance-based fitness sessions, teach kids and teens salsa and Latin fundamentals, and help couples choreograph wedding dances that distract attention from their joyfully sobbing parents' rendition of the Macarena.
Any time the doors are unlocked, the staff at Naked Plates Studios invites curious visitors to wander in and browse the vast inventory of raw—or naked—clay forms. Stacked deep on every shelf, the bleach-white pottery takes shape as simple plates or intricate statuettes of Einstein with perfectly teased hair. After selecting a piece, painters young and old can head over to browse the selection of glazes, which are lined up in a rainbow of hues. Once each piece has been painted, it's handed over to the staff, who glaze and fire it, ready to pick up in about a week.
More recently, the studio has also been home to canvas-painting classes. Setting up in front of a blank canvas, groups follow the step-by-step instructions of the teacher to complete a finished work of art. All materials are included in the cost of the class.