1001-1003 Lake Drive SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
QISA (4, 4, 3.5, 3.5), $7-12, Vegetarian-Friendly
Marie Catrib’s is where the beautiful people eat. This is not the house of the wealth and well-dressed nor the movers and shakers of the Grand Rapids elite. No, this is the place where the actual beautiful people eat, the incredibly attractive college age men and women, the young families with photogenic children, and the occasional “normal-looking” middle-aged and elderly thrown in for good measure. Even the old man toddling his way past the bar looked stooped and creaky but not unattractive. This is the land of clean living.
Marie Catrib sounds like the name of a 18th century pirate queen, buT in fact she is the founder and owner of this experimental restaurant using, “a twist of Lebanese, a hit of Yooper and a yen for unique pastries.” I enjoyed the artwork on the walls which ranged from an impressionist painting of an 18th century woman pouring tea to a surrealistic painting of an airplane flying past planets to a lovely close-up photograph of Playmobile toy characters in an inner city setting. Obviously, the word has gone out about this restaurant because the place was hopping at lunchtime. I waited 20-30 minutes for a table for one. Upon arriving, I put my name on a yellow legal pad and waited along with the other hopefuls.
The restaurant is quite vegetarian friendly; the many creative vegetarian and vegan dishes offered are clearly mere afterthoughts to appease non-carnivorous patrons. I ordered the lentil quinoa burger, a side of Marie’s seasoned potatoes, and (because how could I not) a half pot of Turkish coffee. The burger had a pleasant chewiness and curry spice, and it was loaded with lettuce, curried vegenaise, and ginger-tomato chutney. The generous portion of seasoned potatoes were cut into large chunks, coated with a tangy, salty seasoning, and roasted. The accompanying pickle spear was just slightly under crisp for my taste, but it was moderately spicy which came as a pleasant surprise.
The Turkish coffee was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was strong, slightly sweet, and flavored with a touch of cardamom, creating a perfectly balanced blend. The half pot was clearly intended for more than one diner, but this did not stop me from refilling my little cup over and over again.
Marie Catrib’s is comfort food with a creative exotic twist. I definitely plan to come back to try out her falafel or her ancho lentil tacos or perhaps her marinated portabella mushrooms and onions on grilled challah bread. And perhaps next time I will treat myself to one of her wonderful looking pastries. I am definitely getting another half pot of Turkish coffee and nursing it in the corner. Y’all can get your own.