GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan’s first Real Seafood Co. restaurant opens to the public in Grand Rapids Tuesday.
“When you walk into this restaurant, it won’t look like any of the other three. It’ll have a different feel to it. It’s more of a lighter look to it than some of the others,” said Kevin Gudejko, president and CEO of Mainstreet Ventures Restaurant Group.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND INSIDE
It’s been about a year since the company signed on to bring Real Seafood Co. to the Old Kent Bank building on Lyon Street NW just west of Monroe Avenue. Pioneer Construction started building out the site about eight months ago.
Between the main dining room, two private dining areas in the second-floor mezzanine and the private dining area downstairs, the finished area inside Real Seafood Co. can seat just over 200 people, Gudejko said. When the restaurant opens its patio later this year, it is expected to accommodate another 75 guests.
The Grand Rapids Real Seafood Co. also features a full bar, semi-private dining rotunda, wine displays and a mural painted by Saginaw-based artist Jim Perkins that’s an updated version of the artwork in the original Ann Arbor restaurant.
This is Mainstreet Ventures Restaurant Group’s third restaurant in Grand Rapids.
“Grand Rapids has been a great town for us. We opened… the Chop House in 2004, and that’s just been a fantastic restaurant for us, and so much so that we opened the Palio on Michigan (Street) just a couple of years ago. We’ve been looking for a space. I would probably would have tried to do it sooner if it hadn’t been for the world and COVID,” Gudejko said.
The Grand Rapids Real Seafood Co. restaurant avoided dining room shutdowns and restrictions during the pandemic’s peak, but Gudejko says it has still encountered supply chain issues. Five days before Real Seafood Co.’s opening dinner benefit, the restaurant was still waiting on tables, chairs “and a few other things” to be built.
But Gudejko says the biggest challenge has been finding the right employees, even with pay rates that have “certainly ticked up” to the $18 to $25 per hour range for hourly staff. Gudejko says with tips, servers average $30 up to $80 per hour, depending on the restaurant.
As of last week, he needed about 25 to 30 more people to get the restaurant firing on all cylinders.
“We certainly have enough to open up with, but we’d like to get some more great people to join us as well,” he said.
ON THE MENU
Skyrocketing food prices also morphed the menu slightly. Gudejko said the cost of crab legs rose almost 400%, so that dish is off the menu for now. But popular signature dishes like Real Seafood Co.’s miso glazed sea bass, fried whole fish and oysters remain on the menu. Gudejko said the Grand Rapids restaurant will also have some of its own specialty dishes other locations don’t have.
Like the other Real Seafood Co. restaurants, the Grand Rapids location will “focus on basically the freshest possible fish we can get,” with shipments coming approximately four times a week. Gudejko said the company uses Foley Fish — the same Boston-based business Real Seafood Co. has worked with since the restaurant’s inception back in 1975.
“We go and inspect their facilities. We go down to the docks and work with them and see what they bring in, but it costs. So we’ve certainly seen some price increases the price inflation as we’ve gone through this. But again, I think if we can offer a really memorable experience and a lot of different levels and still offer great value… we’ll be fine,” Gudejko said.
Real Seafood Co. Grand Rapids also has a full bar, which will serve up specialty and nonalcoholic cocktails. The restaurant’s selection of wines are showcased in a 1,500 bottle wine cooler in the private dining room on the main floor. Near the restaurant entrance, another 125 bottles of wine and spirits fill the walls of a rotunda that surrounds an eight-person table.
“Everybody loves to go out to dinner, which is good for us. But I think you’re going to walk in the front door and have a sensory experience and just see what’s going on here. And then to be able to have hope with the service and the food that you’re going to experience as well, we’ll keep you coming back,” Gudejko said.
Real Seafood Co. will start with dinner service only and eventually add lunch hours. Starting business hours will be 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
“We’re looking forward to a long relationship with the city of Grand Rapids,” Gudejko said.