Though many Michiganders risk their lives by swimming across the lake for a slice of Chicago-style pizza, Chicago 7 Pizzeria brings the Windy City's beloved deep dish closer to home. After making dough and sauce from scratch, cooks bake each 2-inch-thick pizza for up to 45 minutes—an authentic process that lets layers of crust and cheese cook over the bed of toppings hidden underneath. The pizzeria also specializes in hand-tossed pizzas topped with everything from barbecue chicken to artichoke hearts. Slices of the deep-dish and hand-tossed pies can be gobbled up at lunchtime, as can their burgers, subs, and hot dogs that, in another homage to the city across the lake, can also be served Chicago-style.
Fazoli's expeditious culinary team assembles gondolas of oven-baked pastas and sandwiches for a palatable odyssey through comestible canals. Chicken submarinos ferry onions, peppers, provolone, and roasted red pepper toward mouths in bread battleships ($5.99), and the chicken piccata builds a noodle nest for grilled chicken with linguini in creamy marinara sauce, capers, and broccoli ($5.79). Diners can nosh on traditional Italian flavors with a plate of spaghetti in meat sauce or fettuccine alfredo ($5.99). Fazoli's bountiful menu also bursts at the seams with pizzas, fresh salads, and a supply of breadsticks that's as bottomless as a trapdoor in the Oval Office.
Voted Best Chef by the readers of Grand Rapids Magazine, Eric Chaitin, executive chef of all three restaurants, oversees an edible empire emphasizing creativity and customer service. Take your taste buds on a dream date to The Grille and ponder its sophisticated menu, which entices eaters with wood-fired pizzas, hearty pastas, and meaty marvels such as a Wagyu New York strip ($18.95). Rush Creek Bistro's menu slays cravings with an eclectic assortment of sandwiches and rib-sticking entrees, while the menu at FireRock Grille includes shrimp ($9.95) and steak ($15.95) that can be cooked on a 500-degree FireRock like those used by Stone Age tailgaters before the first Super Bowl. Each menu changes seasonally, accentuating locally grown, seasonal produce and fresh meats. All three locations feature scenic country-club views, outdoor dining, and bar areas for debating with strangers over which of the Founding Fathers had the nicest singing voice.
Originally founded in 1936 in Glendale, California, Big Boy’s flagship location initially bore the name Bob’s Pantry after owner Bob Wian. At a diner’s request, Bob piled two beef patties onto a bun to create the Classic Big Boy––an original double-decker hamburger that would become so popular that the small burger stand would eventually grow into a franchise of more than 100 U.S. locations. Legend has it that Bob named the creation after one of his most loyal customers: a 6-year-old boy in droopy overalls who would one day ascend to mascot stardom.
Though the menu has since expanded to include ham sandwiches, homestyle dinners, and breakfast, the eatery still serves its namesake burger stacked high with two patties, american cheese, shredded lettuce, and a special sauce. A large, overall-clad statue stands guard at every location, reminding patrons of the restaurant’s humble beginnings and that children will turn to stone should they not eat enough cheeseburgers.
Although 36th Street Lounge features a number of high-topped tables and booths, sitting is far from the only option. Live bands perform throughout the week and energize the crowds with high-octane sets. Other nights, DJs keep heads bobbing with eclectic mixes and karaoke allows guests to show off their ability to read. In addition to dartboards and a handful of arcade games—such as Golden Tee and Ms. Pac-Man—the bar features two pool tables.
The 36th Street Lounge kitchen crew whips together a menu of somewhat elevated bar fare. Fettuccine noodles arrive slathered in savory alfredo and sizzling fajitas receive dollops of teriyaki sauce. Regardless of the menu's inspirations, each dish pairs well with a drink from the bar. Bartenders pour frosty drafts of iconic brews and mix a number of cocktails using flavor-infused liquor.