A Greener Shade Of Green

September 17, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — A new restaurant opens to the public on Thursday in East Hills. But the term “restaurant” may be too simplistic of a description for The Green Well, as its owners see it as a food bar with an eclectic cuisine that will offer a unique dining experience.

The Essence Restaurant Group, which owns and operates Bistro Bella Vita, a popular Mediterranean-style eatery near Van Andel Arena, calls The Green Well a gastro pub. Gastro pubs have been fashionable in Europe for quite a while, and there the concept applies to a smaller corner bar that puts a greater emphasis on quality food than on its beverages.

“They saw a business opportunity to sell really good food, and the chefs are able to work in a less restrictive restaurant, basically. They could do anything they wanted to in a food bar, so that is what we’re going to be,” said James Berg, general manager of the Essence Restaurant Group and a partner in the company with Patrick Wise and Jeffrey Gietzen.

“As for what the chefs are doing, there are no rules. We have Thai food and some contemporary Mexican food. We have American food. We have some Italian food. It’s going to be a hodgepodge of worldly cuisine but also what we’ve seen in Chicago with what’s going on in American dining,” added Berg, former general manager of Bistro.

Berg said The Green Well will have a different type of menu, one that offers diners tasting plates and large plates. The tasting plates contain smaller portions of menu items and let customers share bites of their orders with each other. The idea is to get them to try foods they might not ordinarily order and create a congenial environment in the pub.

Berg also said The Green Well will feature a “sideways menu” that allows customers to match side orders with their sandwich, salad or entrée. And the restaurant will also use a number of slow-cooking methods, such as smoking, brazing and curing, to prepare some items.

“The prices range from $1.99 for some of the sideways items up to $19.99. Nothing is over $20 on the whole menu,” he said.

The Green Well is located at 924 Cherry St. SE, near the former D.A. Blodgett Home that has been converted into the Inner City Christian Federation headquarters. The pub seats up to 115 patrons at the tables and the bar, which will offer 20 draught beers including local microbrews and European-style brews.

Berg said The Green Well is the restaurant he and his partners have dreamed of opening for the better part of three years. The name contains a color because almost all of the gastro pubs in Europe have one in the title, like the Red Fox. The Essence Restaurant Group chose green because they will serve fresh and green items, and because The Green Well sits in a Bazzani & Associates green-built building that has applied for exterior and interior LEED certification.

“As far as we know, this will be the only restaurant in Michigan to have a LEED-certified exterior and interior. We brought in the tables, chairs, paint, artwork, waterless urinals, eight-track control system, a computerized hood system, and lighting as a green aspect. So I think it’s going to be pretty cool and pretty unique for Grand Rapids,” he said.

Berg said the new restaurant will work with as many local food and beverage vendors as possible and will use the same recycling process the firm uses at Bistro Bella Vita.

The Green Well will be open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11-midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and 11-10 on Sundays.

“We’re taking advantage, I think, of a void in our market here for a casual atmosphere where someone can go in and have a great time and not spend a lot of money,” said Berg, “but have the food they see on the Food Channel and enjoy it in a restaurant setting.”

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