Sunday, April 18, 2010

Worth driving past those highway exit eateries

In all honesty, this trip was a pre-planned "destination", but our visit to Marie Catrib's restaurant in East Grand Rapids, MI a couple of weeks ago reinforced why my husband and I do exactly as this blog title recommends. When hungry while traveling, we regularly drive right past all the chain restaurants that are so handy right off the exit ramps to find downtown (as big or small as it may be) and choose someplace to eat or just grab coffee that first, has a name we don't recognize as a chain, and second, has cute curtains and/or plants in the window, and may even have a line out the door.

Even arriving at Marie Catrib's at 1:30 pm, purposely arriving past the typical lunch rush time, the restaurant was packed and we had to wait for a table. The wait itself was an enjoyable experience because the smells wafting through the air, the friendly chatter at each table and also between tables, the beautiful (I mean exquisitely beautiful!) desserts, mains, sides, and breads available to view in the deli cases, yes the plants in the windows, local artwork displayed, plus reading and chuckling at the quirky menu board gave plenty of the warm and welcoming ambiance to soak in while waiting for a table to open up.

In a nutshell, we were eating at Marie Catrib's because she is going to cater the wedding reception for our younger son's wedding being held this summer over in the west side of Michigan. Also in a nutshell, even though Marie Catrib's restaurant came with rave reviews by several members/friends from our group of Michigan Lady Food Bloggers (see a partial list and links to many of the individual bloggers on the left side of my blog), eating at Marie's plus meeting Marie were experiences that went well beyond hopes for a memorable and enjoyable experience.

To read more, here is her website plus an article that gives Marie's two thumbs up, and if I had 10 thumbs, I would give her a "10-thumbs up"!

I didn't take pix of the deli cases or my own food, but here is a pix of Marie and her delightful menu boards. You can see that Marie is an advocate of "local, local, local" and spreading love of and with food that is delicious, locally grown, and hand-made from scratch.

Marie knew we were coming and that it was first trip for us (the groom's family) and so took time out from prep and cooking to welcome us to her restaurant and guide us through her extensive menu that focuses on food of her Lebanese heritage. Oh yum, yum, yum! I could eat there every day for I don't know how long and never get tired of anything. :-)

The menu board, which changes seasonally. I know this is probably hard to read. So I took some close-ups, too, because the individual items, especially those in the top row, are worth reading and chuckling over.

Ok - in case it still is unreadable, I'll tell you what you're looking at (top left to right):
In Season Now: Snowman Nose Carrot, Dead Roadkill Christmas Tree, Leftover Fruitcake

I just love how clever and creative people are with words, let alone artistic!

Bottom half of the menu board, again left to right:
In Season Soon:
Asparagus (early April)
Cabbage (March)
Broccoli (March)

Please let me know where you love to eat that is trying to serve as much locally-grown food as possible in case I find myself traveling in or near your town. Is there someplace you could eat every day for a long, long time and never get tired of the food? Maybe that is even at home - that's ok. :-)

Please chime in so I can start making a list to keep in my car and my travel folder that I keep in my computer case for those trips where I fly somewhere and someone always asks me where I'd enjoy eating.  My stomach and your local economy thanks you!

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow, inch by inch and row by row!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD


Cynthia said...

I went to Marie Catrib's last week, largely because you reminded me, with an MTU friend that lives in Grand Rapids. I was there for the day visiting Meijer Gardens. Marie came out to chat us up because she remembers Rob from our Houghton days. I had the falafel, because that's what I always had at Tech and it was fantastic, as usual. I've tried and have never been able to duplicate it at home. The kids had BLTs as big as their heads. Unfortunately, Marie's place is no where close to a highway, but well worth the trip whilst in GR.

Anonymous said...

Maries is the BEST and it is SOOOO cool to see her at the farmers market...she ALWAYS says hello...BEST place in town:)

Rhonda Hoffman

Anonymous said...

As a side note, Marie make a point of greeting almost EVERY guest and making them feel OH so at home...this is hands down my favorite restaurant in GR AND it's only 3 miles from my home;) See how well my being introduced to your "diet" and book (also being a breast cancer survivor) has gotten me to eat;)