Text: R. Collins // Photography: Sean McElwee
About a year ago, Tupelo Honey’s nationwide series of southern-inspired, scratch-made kitchens added another location in downtown Grand Rapids, the chain’s first location in Michigan. A year later, the location is a popular downtown spot for comfortable southern cooking and libations, as well as a noteworthy brunch served on its spacious patio and an interior that rings upscale, but not “high-brow” according to General Manager Sean McElwee.
“We’re definitely centered on a southern hospitality sort of feel since we’re based out of central North Carolina; it’s a down-home, southern Appalachia kind of vibe with good eats, a chill atmosphere, and southern hospitality. Those are really our core values,” McElwee said.
Though visitors are accustomed to dining in style at Tupelo Honey Grand Rapids, the jewel of the restaurant is its menu: a generous series of snacks, salads and bowls, chef specialties, sandwiches and handhelds, lunch combos, all-day brunch, and of course, lots of fried chicken options from fried chicken and buttermilk waffle dishes to Tupelo’s signature bone-in, 18-hour brined chicken. One signature waffle dish is getting particular attention this summer, along with some other savory summer features.
“We are featuring our Creole Shrimp Linguine, which is really tasty and comes with shrimp and creamy, tomato-based creole pasta sauce,” McElwee said. “The Mac ‘n Cheese Waffle is really popular right now too; it’s a real signature dish for us. It’s basically the waffle batter with our Mac ‘n Cheese baked into it, and then we make it into a waffle and top it with Nashville spice-dusted fried chicken and our Sriracha honey.”
To complement the flavorful depth of its dishes menu-wide, Tupelo sports an equally compelling bar menu, filled with signature cocktails, local beers and spirits, Bloody Marys, Mimosas, wines, and non-alcoholic, house-made specialties. The Bloody Mary menu offers guests a chance to customize between six options, based in Tupelo’s house-made Bloody Mary mix with olives, pickled okra, lemon, and bacon garnishes.
For another fresh addition to brunch, opt for one of four of Tupelo’s mimosas, such as the Sweet and Tart—a blend of grapefruit juice and blueberry purée—and the Southern Hospitality, with peach nectar and pineapple juice. The cocktail menu offers the classics—a mule, margarita, Manhattan, Mai Tai, and a Tupelo twist on the Paloma—with more summer features on the roster right now.
“We are featuring a St. Germain Spritz right now, which is St. Germain elderflower liqueur, our house bubbles—which a winery down in Denver makes for us—and soda water,” McElwee said. “It’s really nice, light, and refreshing with a little bit of sweetness from the St. Germain.”
Tupelo can accommodate parties of up to 12 people, with special arrangements for larger parties, but the location does not offer private dining. Since its opening last summer, the brunch destination has become a city favorite—including for McElwee—enticing visitors with plates like the Sweet and Spicy Chicken and Biscuit with fresh peach coleslaw, the Southwestern Omelet with potato cracklins, and buttermilk waffles and sweet potato pancakes. Because of its deep exploration of southern flavor and breakfast and brunch experiences, both indoors on a hot day or out on the patio with a refreshing cocktail, McElwee calls brunch at Tupelo Honey one of the best in Grand Rapids.
“I think we really filled that brunch need and it’s definitely been our most popular meal too; we’ve been absolutely rocking at brunch time lately,” McElwee said. “That’s what I highlight to people. This is a huge brunch spot and Grand Rapids loves brunch.”