This downtown restaurant has truly stood the test of time, surviving Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic.

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — There’s no shortage of incredible restaurants in Grand Rapids. But with so many options, how do you choose where to indulge? We, the digital producers of 13 ON YOUR SIDE Riley and Amy, set out to find the tastiest places in the area and are documenting our journey with a series called 13 Eats.

13 Eats is all about showcasing the best restaurants in the Grand Rapids area. This week, we indulge in American delights at a restaurant that has truly stood the test of time.

About Cottage Bar

Grand Rapids is a busy, bustling city full of history and long-loved restaurants, but only one place can say it’s the oldest continuously operating bar and restaurant downtown. That place is Cottage Bar, conveniently located on the corner of La Grave Avenue and Fulton Street SE.

Now on its fourth owner, Cottage Bar has called Grand Rapids home since 1927 (Yes, that’s a long time. We were like -71 when it opened!). The space started as a sandwich shop called “The Cottage”, survived Prohibition, then became “The Olde Cottage Bar and Grill” in 1934 when the owners also obtained a license to sell alcohol. Now the little slice of history downtown is the beloved Cottage Bar, which serves what USA today crowned the best burger in Michigan.

►Read more about the history of Cottage Bar here.

The food

We started our meal with Chips and enchilada dip ($7.99) which are corn tortilla chips served with homemade salsa and a chili-style beef enchilada dip smothered in melted cheddar cheese.

The fries were light and savory, with the fresh homemade salsa refreshing our palates before diving into the meal. The real star, however, was the enchilada dip, with its savory beef flavor and stringy, steaming cheese piled on top. It got addictive, and we couldn’t stop until the little ceramic bowl was empty except for a few stray onions.

For a starter, we had to try the most iconic item on the menu – the Cottage burger ($11.99)which features a thick patty served on a dark rye bun, topped with green olives, lettuce, tomato, bacon, Swiss and American cheeses and their signature hickory-mayonnaise.

We had high expectations for this dish, knowing the awards and accolades it garnered, and when it arrived, covered in a layer of bright yellow cheese on a bed of olives, we could tell by the smell that this thing was going to exceed our hopes that we had for it.

The burger stands upright, a thick, flavorful patty with a large slice of tomato and creamy mayonnaise peeking out from the edges of the black bun. The flavor was perfectly balanced with the heavy beef flavor and the light mayonnaise and olives. After polishing off the huge sandwich, we got all the hype. We see you, USA today.

For its counterpart, we opted for the classic Grilled cheese macaroni and cheese ($9.99), which features creamy mac and cheese served on toasted wheat bread with tomato and crispy bacon. At the same time, we chose the “Original” Cottage Fries ($3.99)which are Michigan potato wedges, with the skin on and fried until golden brown.

The grilled cheese offered a wonderfully cheesy bite of carbs, with sliced ​​tomatoes adding a fresh element with perfectly crispy and salty bacon. The fries were deliciously cooked and spiced, sprinkle some salt and you have the perfect lunch dish in your hands.

Every dish was a tried and true classic with a twist, just like the lovely restaurant around us.

►See the full menu here.

The atmosphere

Cottage Bar has an old soul, deep roots and a rich history. Luckily, you can smell all of these things as soon as you enter. When we sat down at our little corner table, we couldn’t help but gawk at the building’s furnishings and finishes. It was like sitting in a time capsule filled with the most delicious smells.

The place is dark and moody, filled with nostalgic decor and warmed by a classic stone fireplace. With creamy wood trim and a beautiful original mahogany bar, the space is cozy, comforting, and a perfect vessel for some American culinary classics. We decided it was definitely the perfect place for a family dinner or a low key night out with friends.

The verdict

Cottage Bar has truly stood the test of time, surviving Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic. Why? Well, we can’t be sure, but it probably has something to do with the fact that this dive has it all – great food, great history and a great atmosphere too.

While the current restaurant is charming on its own, the history it is built from makes it even more enjoyable. When you walk through the doors and into Cottage Bar you enter a haven that has welcomed generations and generations before you. It’s a perfect little home nestled in the heart of our city.

► Cottage Bar is located at 18 La Grave Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

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