1001 Lake Dr. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Open Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Accepts cash and credit cards
IMPRESSIONS: Marie Catrib's - what a find! As with many of my breakfast finds, this one came recommended by friends or readers. Which is funny in this case, because Marie Catrib's is located in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I had never heard of it... even though it opened about 3 years ago! Our usual breakfast stop in GR is the amazing Real Food Cafe, but my wife and I easily persuaded ourselves to hit up a second breakfast (not to be confused with a hobbit's second breakfast, which occurs on the same day) joint in town, after our friends Jacqui and Ryan recommended Marie Catrib's.
The restaurant stands on a recently-developed corner in Grand Rapids' rapidly-growing East Hills district. That area of town, especially along Wealthy and Cherry streets, has seen some really sparkling development by way of new boutiques, bakeries, coffee houses, and art galleries. Previously this corner was an empty lot with a gigantic sign that read "East Hills Center of the Universe." It's hard to forget a corner like that.
The color palette includes a lot of neutral, earthy tones like orange, yellow, green, and off-white. Black wooden tables and chairs fill the space. The whole eating area is big and bright, thanks to the large windows looking out on the street. The kitchen takes up a big corner of the main space.
Next door to the main restaurant is a deli (you can see it through the door in the picture above - and check out that copper door frame). There is additional seating in the deli, and there you get to eye the stacks of bread and pastries. The deli is decorated with tall grasses, and along the walls you can buy tea, coffee, and some of Marie's specialized spices used in her restaurant.
Here's a weird shot of the kitchen. To the left is seating along the counter (classic diner!), and right in front of you is a case displaying more of their lovely pastries. The kitchen behind it all rattles and hums with activity.
FOOD: Marie Catrib's really knocks it out of the park when it comes to the food. I will point out that their goal is to create fresh, local, and often vegetarian or vegan dishes (not to say there isn't any meat on the menu). So if you're looking for a straight-up inexpensive diner breakfast, Marie Catrib's is not your best bet.
First things first: the coffee. Marie's serves their coffee in these funky lime-green ceramic mugs. They really fit the decor. The coffee is brewed fresh - I had to wait a couple minutes for mine - which is surprising that they would run out, but overall good because I know it hasn't been sitting in a coffee pot all morning. And when I requested coffee, our server actually asked me what roast of coffee I would like. Awesome! Although I've come across places with different roasts on hand (such as Northstar Cafe), I've never been asked my preferred roast by a server. I like that. And I chose the medium roast - usually my choice.
The coffee was excellent - obviously freshly brewed, and not at all acidic or bitter. Beth asked for a glass of whole milk (pictured above behind the coffee). It was local milk, and thick and creamy like real whole milk should be. A dash of this milk made my coffee even better.
Now on to the food... first, I have to say that the menu is big... a little too big. Beth and I had to spend a few minutes deciphering each category, and figuring out what can be substituted or added to meals. It begins with a simple listing of eggs, then omelets, with a side-bar on adding cheese or potatoes, then a listing of "B-sides": bacon, granola, toast, etc. The second page continues with "Super sweet goodies" like pancakes, French toast, etc.; a section of favorites like oatmeal, granola, and potato pancakes; a list of drinks; and finally a section on the "Boulangerie," which includes breads, rolls, muffins, and scones. It's a LOT of stuff, and while I certainly value selection, the layout makes it a little confusing.
I chose the Baker's Omelet Both Ways, which is a pastry in bowl stuffed with sausage, mushrooms, spinach, onions, and topped with swiss and cheddar cheeses. It's baked in the oven and comes out piping hot - the menu actually suggests pulling some of it out of the bowl to let it cool. The omelet is served with a side of Marie's seasoned potatoes. The entire meal is delicious and more than filling. The pastry was light and flaky, while everything inside was cooked to perfection. The flavors of the sausage, mushrooms, and veggies mixed well. Meanwhile, the potatoes were prepared just the way I like them: big chunks, lovingly browned on a grill, and nicely seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, and seasoned salt (or "special salt," as my family knows it). The whole meal was a big piece of comfort food.
Beth ordered the Blintzes at the suggestion of our server. Blintzes are basically crepes filled with sweet cheese (mascarpone and cream cheese, in this case), then covered with all manner of sweet business. Marie's covers them with caramelized bananas, real maple syrup, and a cream sauce, and the resulting mixture is a sweet piece of heaven. Seriously, they came out all warm and sloppy and sweet. They were amazing. Just looking at this picture makes my mouth water.
One final note on the food... Marie Catrib's uses local, naturally-raised ingredients whenever they can, and their menu lets you know that. They list which farms the cheese, milk, and eggs come from. You can add local eggs or cheese to any meal for a small extra charge (usually a dollar or so).
SERVICE: Our server was very nice and attentive. Nothing extraordinary, but just what you could ask for. She kept my coffee filled, took our orders quickly, was happy to make recommendations from the menu, and generally welcomed us to the restaurant.
OVERALL: I think Marie Catrib's is definitely worth the visit. Their food is top-notch, and the attention to the origins and treatment of it is to be commended. Again, this means that the breakfast will be a little more expensive that traditional diner fare, but it's worth it. Marie's also offers a wide range of vegan options, so if that's important to you, Marie's is a must-stop.
The folks there are also very interactive with their community. A sign on the wall listed a "slicing demonstration," where you could daily learn how to slice and prepare bread. And Marie's doesn't just do breakfast. Their lunch and dinner includes salads, sandwiches, soups, pastries, and cakes.
And finally, here's a shot of the corner that used to boast the memorable "Center of the Universe" sign. Now that that corner is developed, they still kept the name. And Marie's is an integral part of that area. I suggest a visit!