(Grand Rapids, MI) — It’s Grandwich season! The 2nd annual competition pits nearly 30 local restaurants against one another to determine who can make the best “signature” Grand Rapids sandwich. During my second week tour of duty, we only had time to try two entries...
Judging from the many Grandwich offerings, pork is definitely the “it” choice for ingredient this year...and that’s just fine with me! (Though my doctor may dissent.) Ivy invited me downtown for a quick lunch at San Chez to try their $9.99 Pork Belly & Pretzel BLT. The sandwich is described as mustard braised slow roasted local pork belly, tomato, and homemade sweet cabbage slaw on a buttered pretzel bun with sea salt. I pick up mine, ready to take a big bite, then notice that “buttered pretzel bun” evidently means butter melted on the outside. Strange, and now I need extra napkins. Undaunted, I dig in. Mustard hits me first, a bit stronger than I like, but the juicy tomato and slaw help to balance the flavor. The pork belly is first-rate, firm and salty without being too fatty. After cleaning my plate, the sweet mustardy taste sticks with me, and it’s kind of pleasant. A solid Grandwich, all around.
Next, I entice Juliet to join me for dinner at Brewery Vivant. She decides to get the duck nachos, so I’m left with the massive (and most expensive at $14) Solitude Braised Pork Sandwich all to myself. Local lettuce, hydroponic tomato, Cowslip cheese (Phocas, I think), and pork braised in beer are topped with a fried duck egg on a whole grain bun smeared with Michigan cherry aioli. I tuck in, enjoying the deep, brooding taste with just a “pop” of cherry. The bun is simply amazing, hearty with a nutty sweetness. Although I like it, the flavors do kind of blend together as a single note. Unfortunately, I had a sneaking suspicion that I might have a food allergy to duck eggs...and I did not heed that inkling, so paid the price shortly thereafter. I survived, but this ended up being my last Grandwich this year. Only eight sandwiches in two weeks? Shameful.
How will I vote? Pretty simple, really. Corazon’s El Diablo is the best one I tried, so I have to vote for them. I’m sad I didn’t have time to plow through some other restaurants; best laid plans, and all that. Oh well, there’s always next year!