GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new restaurant in Grand Rapids is looking to give customers an upscale take on fast food.
Black Napkin recently opened on Fulton Street NE at Diamond Avenue at the former site of Rinaldi’s Pizza and Sub Shop.
The takeout-only restaurant is the brainchild of Korin Hollinshead and Jason Richardson. This is the second major business venture in West Michigan for the married couple. They previously co-founded the popsicle business Any Colour You Like.
“We were looking for a storefront for the popsicle company,” Hollinshead said. “And we have been living in this neighborhood for like a decade. And our friend, who is a commercial realtor, was like, ‘I think Rinaldi’s is going to be available soon.’ So we kind of dream-followed this space. We had talked about doing a restaurant a while ago, way in the future. And then this popped up, so it was like, ‘Well, I guess we’re going to do it now.’ And here we are.”
At Black Napkin, customers can find Any Colour You Like popsicles, along with fast food staples like smash burgers and chicken sandwiches, but with a twist. Hollinshead said Richardson came up with the dishes.
“Menu-wise, he wanted to do something with a nice simple template that we could do a lot of different variations on,” Hollinshead said. “Keeping it simple and smooth back there because we wanted to do fast food style but with like really nice ingredients, really nice food. Which is kind of how we started with popsicles. It is a really simple 3 ounces on a stick, fruit or whatever. And then we can play with flavors within that.”
Among the choices on the menu are burgers like Le College Dropout, featuring grand cru cheese, Vidalia onion, arugula, peppercorn tomato jam, and herbes de provence mayo. As music fans might quickly put together, it got its name from the first album by current king of controversy Kanye West. Hollinshead said Richardson first called it Le Kanye.
“I was like, ‘Why did you call it Le Kanye?’ And Jason was like, ‘Because it is a bunch of French stuff. And Kanye’s crazy. So it’s like a crazy sandwich.’ And then it evolved into The College Dropout because we were like, ‘Well, that’s the best album.’ We were like, ‘That’s what it’s called now.’ So we play that album pretty frequently now. So once a day, we have been bumpin’ that.”
The couple is also trying some experimentation when it comes to their French Fries.
“And then the French Fries, the kimchi and parm is my favorite. So those are all like freeze-dried dried ingredients,” Hollinshead said. “So basically, the kimchi itself is turned into a freeze-dried powder, mixed with freeze-dried parmesan. And then coated in the vein of how you get Doritos or something, how they are like coated. It is like that but with actual dehydrated food. So chili cheese fries are like real chilis, real cheddar cheese. And then we have a salt and vinegar chip, with red wine vinegar, instead of the white vinegar that you’d usually get on chips.”
While Richardson handles the menu and food preparation, Hollinshead is focused on making the restaurant’s sodas, offering what she described as more natural ingredients than in regular pop.
“We just do hard water and old-fashioned soda-fountain style, make the syrups,” she said. “They are made in the same vein as our popsicles. So real food ingredients, no fake stuff. Either raw cane sugar or agave or honey or maple syrup to sweeten them. Yeah, like old-fashioned; how sodas used to be before they turned largely manufactured.”
One flavor has people divided over what its taste reminds them of: Pistachio Orange Blossom Soda.
“It reminded me of something from childhood and I couldn’t put my finger on it,” Hollinshead said. “And then someone was like, ‘This kind of reminds me of an orange Tootsie Pop.’ Which I’m not really a Tootsie fan. I was like, ‘I could see that.’ And then someone else was like, ‘No, it’s baklava,’ So we’ve had these people battling over what it reminds them of.”
As for the name Black Napkin, Hollinshead said it’s meant to be a little tongue in cheek, referring to the color of the cloth napkins commonly found at fine dining establishments.
“We do like, not fancy food, but like nice food, higher-end food, but in a fast food delivery,” she said.
Black Napkin is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. The restaurant is currently only taking walk-in orders, but the owners say they will expand to online ordering soon.
*Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Hollinshead’s first name. We regret the error, which has been fixed.