(Grand Rapids, MI) Although we've been to The Green Well a few times since it opened a couple years back, we thought it was due a proper review. Time and place finally clicked when our good friends T and Merry had a Sunday free. We caught a movie, then headed to "East" for what we hoped would be a spectacular early dinner...
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It's funny going to popular restaurants very early. If you're past lunch, but not quite to regular dinner hour, it's a kind of no-man's land...when servers are going off shift, and bleary-eyed new ones fill their shoes...when only one in 10 tables are filled with other patrons...when the bartender watches basketball with other barflies. Has that ever happened to you? It seems like a universal given: eat at off-peak hours, get lesser service.
Not so at The Green Well. A hostess promptly greets and seats us, followed by our server who shuttles over menus and printouts for the specials of the day. I start off with a Short's Pineapple Pilsner while we peruse the offerings and talk about the movie. After some leisurely discussion, we opt to try the Breads & Spreads, along with Vegetable Pot Stickers, to start. The hearty, grain-laden slices of bread from Tribeca Oven arrive with dips of bean, brocolli cheese, and quinoa, all of which are creamy and delicious (not to mention vegetarian friendly). However, the pot stickers are out of this world. Spicy with crisp carrot shreds, soft and pliable, not at all like the usual snappy, pan-seared dumplings you get at Chinese restaurants, but still deeply satisfying.
I'm torn between a couple different dishes. Should I maintain the vegetarian theme? The bacon-wrapped meatloaf sandwich sounds amazing, though. The Veggie Hash, with smoky spatzle, creeps up on my to-do list. I am also strangely craving fish, and the Southern Clam Bake calls my name. Could I be that brave? In the end, I veer toward the Barbequed Braised Pork at the last minute. Snap decision. Or, as it turns out, Fate.
After our apps, I'm not terribly hungry but I can eat. The pork comes in a monstrous bowl, however. That's a lot of food! It is very pretty, too, with the brown pork drizzled with red barbeque sauce, topped with braised greens, all swimming in a virtual lake of polenta. It's almost too beautiful to disrupt but everyone else is digging into their dinners, so I take a forkful.
The spicy sauce and meat mixes with the sharp tang of the greens, and all of it is soothed by the creamy, cheesy polenta with sweet corn sprinkled in to lighten the mood. There is another surprise, though. Zing! Chunks of andouille sausage punch up the dish with spicy, juicy, greasy goodness. My mouth is on fire, but craving more. The chunks of pork are done perfectly, each large chunk surrendering to my fork, flaking away to reveal succulent flesh. My head is spinning. This is beyond good.
This is one of the best dishes I've ever had.
There, I said it. What began as a fluke (Fate!) turns out to be the best choice I've made in a while. I beg everyone else to try some; I can't keep a good thing like this to myself, can I? (Even now, as I write this, my mouth is watering at the memory.) T seems to enjoy the Brazilian Black Bean Stew (with an egg on top!), and Merry really likes her Pork Tenderloin (with sweet potato fries!). Sadly, I don't have any room for a bite of Juliet's bacon-wrapped meatloaf sandwich.
In the final analysis, The Green Well delivers and delivers well. I've had slightly "off" service in past, and food that didn't seem fully conceived, but all of that is behind me now. As long as it is on the menu, I will have a very tough time ordering anything other than the Barbequed Braised Pork. Highly recommended.
We arrive at The Green Well before 5 pm and are clearly "early birds" for dinner. We're seated promptly, smack in the middle of the restaruant so we have a great view of the whole place.
We start with two apps for the table: the potstickers and the trio of spreads and breads. The potstickers are a bit skimpy on the filling and the sauce is extremely sweet, but the veggies – thin strips of multicolored bell peppers, carrots and bok choy, are delicious and still crunchy. If the sauce wasn't so sweet, I'd like a stir-fry of those veggies over rice as a main course. Really yummy.
The breads and spreads platter is piled with herbed cracker/lavash, toasted white bread, and a grilled brown multigrain. The multigrain is hands-down the best bread I've ever, ever had. It's so good I am compelled to ask our waiter where it's sourced from and he responds "Tribeca Bread Co." (I have a trip to Manhattan this week and begin calculating how many loaves I can fit in my suitcase.) The three spreads on the platter each have their own unique flavor profile. The black bean dip is light and tasty, not at all like so many heavy, overly-filling bean dips. The goat cheese broccoli spread is a lovely bright green and tastes fresh and creamy. But it has long slippery slices of cooked onions in it which makes it difficult to scoop up. The cheesy quinoa dip is ,cheesy but with a bit of texture, as if the quinoa has been blended well. I feel virtuous, digging in knowing all those great nutrients in quinoa are within.
For my main, I order today's special: the meatloaf sandwich. It's a dreary Sunday afternoon and winter just won't freakin' die – seems like a meatloaf sandwich kinda day to me! I order a cup of tomato basil soup as well. We're still picking (okay, I'm doing most of the picking) at the bread when our entrees arrive.
The meatloaf is on lightly toasted ciabatta bread with a tangy tomato sauce and a mild cheese, maybe provolone. There are slices of tasty bacon, once securely wrapped around the entire meatloaf but now freed from captivity after the loaf was sliced up, sticking out from the bread all akimbo. It's messy to eat, what with the moist meatloaf, the tomato sauce, loosey goosey bacon and bread with a boatload of holes in it. But I am not easily scared away and devour the entire sandwich. Actually I put down the second half after a few bites and declare, "I'm full. I should stop eating this." And a few minutes later I pick it back up and finish it. There are some "housemade chips" served with the sandwich. I assumed they'd be potato chips and am surprised to discover they are closer to pita chips. The chips are still warm (from the oven or fryer) and well-seasoned.
The tomato bisque soup is quite good. Nice and warm and exactly what you want on a drizzly day. And it's even better with the house chips crumbled on top.
Our server is prompt and efficient, but not overly friendly. He's not rude; just doing his job and doing it well, but not here to make friends. I respect that, though I tend to like servers we can interact with a bit more. The decor is slightly eclectic and the acoustics are pretty good, but as the restaurant fills it becomes more and more difficult to hear.
Everyone at the table agrees their food was extremely good and we are much too full for dessert, though they all sound tempting. Green Well is definitely worth a repeat visit.