Walker Roadhouse

(Grand Rapids, MI) — We’re not overly familiar with the west side of town so we decided to make it our mission to get to know the area a bit better. Thankfully, we have friends who live out that way and they are more than willing to give us advice where we should eat: Walker Roadhouse. Armed with trusty Google Maps, we hop in the car and drive to what we hope will be a new favorite hangout...

He Fed:

At first, we miss the restaurant entirely. I have to turn around and go back, then we spy it. The signage isn’t really that noticeable. Since we’re having an early dinner, we have no problems finding a spot to park. Still, there are plenty of customers, so that’s a good sign. Our friends—I, T, and K—are finishing up drinks at the bar so I check with the hostess to arrange a large table. Soon enough, we are shown to the dining room.

I order a beer from our friendly and efficient waitress because I notice they serve draught brew in chilled pint glasses. The ice forms on the outside of the glass like weird sculptures; it’s pretty cool (pun intended). Everyone is in the mood for appetizers so we dig into the thick menu. Wow, the offerings are expansive! It makes me wonder if the cook might be spread too thin, since there are so many different cuisines represented? Undaunted, we plow ahead, stomachs first.

We order the Buffalo Chicken dip, which is creamy and slightly spicy. I’m not a fan of tortilla chips, so I use the celery sticks to scoop out the dip. Although I have high hopes for the Fried Cheese Curds made of white cheddar, they’re pretty standard. Not standard, however, are the Bang Thai Shrimp. They are spicy, sweet, and succulent, and would give Bone Fish Grill a run for their money. It’s tough to cook shrimp exactly right; a little too much time on the heat and they’ll curl into tough little O’s. These are perfect. Another highlight is the Smoked Gouda Flatbread. Again, if you use the wrong kind of Gouda, you end up with a fake-tasting cheese dish. This one hits all the right notes, and nobody complains about the crispy pancetta sprinkled on top.

For my main, I go with the Chili Rubbed Bistro Steak. Ordinarily, I’m pretty picky about what kind of beef I order. About 99% of the time, I’ll get a small medium rare filet. I just don’t like the nodules and weird bits in some other cuts of meat. This is a grilled ten ounce cut of hanger steak, which Juliet and I have used in past at home, mostly for southwestern food (fajitas, tacos). It can be very tender if marinated properly. Walker Roadhouse’s bistro steak is seasoned, cooked, and topped exactly right. Sauteed peppers and onions smother the meat, and I even opt for the cajun bleu cheese option (only $1.50!!!). I hardly speak to my fellow diners as I demolish the steak. Fantastic! Sweet potato fries, cooked up crunchy, and crisp coleslaw accompany my meal, but I only have eyes (and taste buds) for the beef.

Dessert is not an option after all this food. We finish our drinks and chat away with our friends until the check comes. Both of us are pleasantly surprised at the quality of food we found out here on the west side, and there is no doubt we’ll be back regularly...and soon.
She Fed:

When friends insist Walker Roadhouse is one of those “can’t miss” places, we decide to make it a group event. I love dining out with other foodies, because you know there’s going to be a mess of starters for all to share. Indeed, we order four apps for our table of five!

The cheese curds with marinara don’t strike me as anything special, but to be honest, I’m not a fan of fried cheese sticks. I like a lot of fried foods, but cheese with spaghetti sauce? Nope, just not my thing. Now the gouda flatbread with chicken and pancetta is a different story. The crust is crisp with a luscious smoked gouda sauce drizzled over cubes of juicy chicken and salty pancetta. The buffalo chicken dip is spicy creamy decadence with tortilla chips and celery sticks. But my favorite app is the bang Thai shrimp, fried in a light batter then tossed in a sweet spicy Thai sauce. They’re addictive and I gobble up more than my fair share.

There’s a salad with these same shrimp on it. I’m tempted to try it for my entree, but I’ve been craving beef and everyone at the table agrees this place turns out a fab prime rib. Jeremy and I have been talking about eating more vegetarian fare this summer, so I decide to go for it while I can and order the prime rib medium rare. Jeremy must be thinking along the same lines as he orders a chili-rubbed steak.

Our server is friendly and efficient, like someone who’s worked here for years. Waters are kept filled and there’s no wait for adult beverages either. This place is a well-oiled machine but not perfunctory or scripted. The atmosphere is comfortable and familiar with neighborhood regulars who greet each other like old friends.

Well, there’s just no way around it, my prime rib is a behemoth cut. This might actually be what tipped Fred Flintstone’s car over. Next to the mass of beef, there’s a pile of steamed broccoli and a lovely little mound of garlic smashed redskins. The broccoli is crisp-tender and needs no seasoning. The taters are just what you want when you order mashed potatoes—comforting and homey with a light hint of garlic and cream. But the star of the show is that ginormous slab of meat, cooked perfectly medium rare. The prime rib is bloody and cool on the inside with dark brown edges tinged with salty seasonings. It’s nothing short of phenomenal and promises to fill any beef cravings for some time to come.

The rest of the group oohs and aahs over their food...bacon-wrapped meatloaf, French dip, and two steaks. (Okay, so we’re not a group of vegans, obviously!) Between all the apps and the big meaty dishes, we find ourselves much too full to even think about dessert. Jeremy and I head home anticipating our next visit already. We might have a new West Side favorite!

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