A worker at D’arts Donut Shop hand-dips doughnuts in a bucket of chocolate.(Lori Rackl / Chicago Tribune)
Downtown Grand Rapids can get downright slammed with people during ArtPrize. Take a break from the crowds by heading to Uptown, a group of four interconnected business districts — East Fulton, East Hills, Wealthy Street and Eastown — full of cafes, boutiques, trendy restaurants and, yes, art galleries. Roughly bounded by Fulton, Wealthy and Plymouth streets and College Avenue, Uptown is a short car or bus ride from downtown and easily walkable once you’re there. Here are five things to put on your Uptown to-do list:
Have an Early wake up
Coffee connoisseurs can indulge in a macchiato, affogato or just plain cup of joe at That Early Bird cafe, a bright, welcoming spot where you can catch up on email over a hot beverage. The fresh-as-they-come breakfast tacos tricked out with purple potatoes or pickled corn are a bargain at two for $6. The property had long been a coffeehouse before the mother-daughter duo who owned it decided to bail. Chef Joel Wabeke and Rowster Coffee owner Stephen Curtis stepped in and opened the new cafe earlier this year. Don’t eat too much, because you’ll want to save room for what’s across the street (see next entry).
1445 Lake Drive; 616-258-8350; www.thatearlybird.com.
Aim for D’arts
What started as a food truck now has a brand spanking new brick-and-mortar location, and it’s already a popular place to get a sugar fix. D’arts Donut Shop, named for owner Adam Ouelette’s dog D’Artagnan, serves up a rotating mix of mouth-watering doughnuts in a warm, loftlike environment lit by strings of Edison bulbs. Before bellying up to the counter to order a bacon-topped treat or fluffy ring topped with Michigan-made honey glaze, let your anticipation build by popping over to the open kitchen window, where you might find workers hand-dipping doughnuts in a vat of melted chocolate.
1444 Lake Drive; 616-307-1169; www.dartsdonuts.com.
Refresh your wardrobe
An old car wash has been transformed into the stylish women’s clothing boutique Lee & Birch, which also has a location in nearby Grand Haven. A well-curated collection of dresses, tops and bottoms is displayed on the white walls, and racks drip with bright, shiny objects begging for a spot in your jewelry box. Somewhat out of place but welcome nonetheless is a nice selection of S’well beverage bottles.
759 Wealthy St.; 616-233-4001; www.leeandbirch.com.
Lenn Beardsley and Michael Schimpf were pioneers when they opened their home and garden store Wealthy at Charles. More than a decade later, the pair (who live upstairs with their two dogs) oversee a thriving business built around local craftsmen and artists. “We do very well during ArtPrize,” Beardsley said, adding that it’s much easier to get a restaurant reservation in Uptown than downtown during the event. Unusual items for sale include Michigan state-shaped flagstones — complete with the Upper Peninsula — and J-Storm Urban Map wall art from former ArtPrize contestant Justin Smith.
738 Wealthy St.; 616-458-6664; www.wealthyatcharles.com.
Drink in a funeral home
Belgian- and French-inspired brews are what’s on tap at Brewery Vivant, a lively joint ironically located in a former funeral parlor. (One of the best-sellers is a dark ale called “Undertaker.”) These days, a horseshoe-shaped bar juts out from where the caskets used to be displayed in this environmentally friendly microbrewery. The cathedral ceilings, wood tables and stained glass give the watering hole an Old World charm. The folks at Brewery Vivant make some fine food as well, like a tasty poutine with crispy Belgian frites. Tours of the brewery are offered Saturdays for $10, which includes a flight of beer samples.
925 Cherry St.; 616-719-1604; www.breweryvivant.com.
Bonus tip: Just outside of Uptown’s boundaries is the meticulously restored Meyer May House, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Prairie-style home open for free tours 1-4 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 450 Madison Ave., 616-246-4821, www.meyermayhouse.steelcase.com.
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