As is my professional obligation and spring tradition, I get to spend a few days every May bumming around Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s a cross to bear, I realize, but one that I try my best to grin and bear with the best of them.
These days, in Grand Rapids, that rapidly turns into a hazy stumble through some of the best breweries (and now, distilleries!) that city has to offer—my three days this year included Jolly Pumpkin and BroadLeaf Brewing (where we reminisced on an open bar night(!) at the New Holland Knickerbocker across the street), City Built Brewing and Eastern Kille Distillery, and quick-pickup stops at Brewery Vivant and Speciation Cellars—followed by, for some reason, a nasty hangover at the next days’ meetings.
One of the stops when I first came to Grand Rapids, though, was HopCat.
The renowned craft beer bar, founded on downtown’s Ionia Avenue in 2008, expanded through the craft beer craze of the 2010s and contracted sharply around the pandemic, but no doubt gave many of us an introduction into the world of craft brews. For me, it’s where I once tried a 17% raspberry liqueur masquerading as a beer. (It was excellent.)
If those beers didn’t grab your attention, perhaps, the food would. In particular, what made HopCat particularly famous were its signature fries, renamed in 2018 from “Crack Fries” to “Cosmik Fries”:
“We chose the name more than 11 years ago as a reference to the addictive quality of the fries and their cracked pepper seasoning, without consideration for those the drug negatively affected. We were wrong,” Barfly CEO Mark Gray wrote in the blog post addressing the name change. “The crack epidemic and the lasting impact on those it affects is not funny and never was.”
“As we grow as a company we have come to realize that to make light of this drug and of addiction contradicts our values of inclusion and community. We want to thank our guests, employees and community members who have helped us come to this realization and apologize for the pain the name brought to others.”
Whatever your opinion on the rename—and, please, feel free to keep it to yourself—the Cosmik Fries and the HopCat brand itself ought to be synonymous with Michigan, and particularly Western Michigan, beer culture. So, writers:
(1) HopCat? Cosmik Fries? Have you and/or would you?
(2) Give us a Western Michigan beer or cider or spirit that we’re not enjoying that we should be.
(3) What’s the appropriate french fry seasoning, topping, or dipping in your book? (Note that if you say mayo, you’ll be ejected—I didn’t rehash the Michigan olive burger for a reason.)
Buffkomodo: 1) I have friends in the greater GR area. I enjoy heading up there every so often and bumming around the suburbs. I have partook the Cosmik Fries and I can say I enjoyed them. There was a bunch of heartburn after though but I’m certain it was the fries and not the craft beer.
2) I’m partial to Bell’s. No further questions please.
3) I said no further questions. Honestly, I do enjoy just the simple, crinkle fries with Ketchup. I had some sort of monstrosity at Kings Island a couple weeks ago where the proceeded to put buffalo chicken on the fries. Then didn’t put any ranch on it and left the ranch packets out in the hot sun. Bottom line, the fry stand at Kings Island sucks and don’t get the buffalo fries. What were we talking about agian?
Thumpasaurus: No joke, my wife’s favorite food is fries. She’s a big fan of the crack fries, but I think her favorite fries she’s ever had were the loaded cheeseburger fries at Meckley’s Fruit Farm about 20 miles south of Jackson, MI. No joke, tasted just like a Big Mac, but with fresh ingredients and really good fries everywhere.
I was gonna bring up Speciation until I saw that you did! Loved that place when I last went there. Might I recommend Adesanya for your next GR visit? It’s a mead place that seems pretty new, I thought it was fantastic.
I’ve been to so many places in southwest Michigan that it’s gonna be hard to limit myself to just one thing, but I’ll do it.
Beach Bum Blueberry by Tanglewood Winery. I wish I had some right now! This is a fantastic little place near Holland that was for several generations a humble blueberry farm, but as the craft beer/spirits/wine scene grew and they became a bigger supplier, they decided to try their hand at it. I liked their regular wine, but this is a 7% ABV sparkling blueberry wine that comes in a can and is an absolutely transcendental summer drink. They’re not too widely distributed, but I know you can find some around GR the next time you’re there.
I could go on and on, especially about Modales Winery in Fennville. You KNOW the stuff is good when I’m leading with WINE. I’m a beer person.
As for french fry preparations? I’m a poutine guy. Did you have the duck nachos at Vivant? Phenomenal, but I feel like I missed out on their poutine because of it.
MNW: I have had both just by virtue of going back every year. I think the duck nachos are even better than the poutine, and I can’t believe I’m saying that. But if I’m choosing fry toppings that are complex, poutine is it. For simpler, I’m a malt vinegar guy.
On the topic of Grand Rapids, I also found this ancient—both by blurriness and by prices—menu picture I took the first time I ever went to Grand Rapids, back in October 2015 for the Great Lakes History Conference at Grand Valley State out in Allendale (not even the downtown campus)!
I ditched that conference early, drove with a friend to Ann Arbor to watch the ‘Cats get blanked by Michigan, and came back that night to get absolutely shittenhaused at Founders.
But Grand Rapids—and, like Thump mentioned, the drive up I-196 is just chock-full of places I want to stop for beer and wine, and I never budget enough time on the way up or way back to do it. Maybe next year...
Oh yeah, football.
Here’s Sparty’s schedule for 2023:
How do they finish? Show your work.
BoilerUp89: On Sunday I asked my fellow writers if I could pick Michigan State to go 1-11. Our Michigan writer said “You can, and I, for one, would applaud it.”
So here goes. Michigan State goes 1-11 in 2023. The one win comes over Michigan. Are you still applauding my prediction?
RockyMtnBlue: /claps enthusastically
Sadly, while I would thoroughly enjoy such a thing, I can’t see it happening. First, while Sparty’s a little messy right now, they’re far from devoid of talent; second MSU is almost at its most dangerous when it looks broken (2017 anyone?); and finally, I would be annoyed by Spartan bowl eligibility so I’m confident the universe will bring it about.
Buffkomodo: I had the same thing as RMB. Same wins and everything. I don’t feel good about it though. Honestly, they could drop that Maryland game and if they do that, they’ll be 4-6 heading into the Spittoon game. Should Sparty be 4-6 heading into the Spittoon game, they’ll finish the year 4-8. The margin for error is razor thin my green friends.
MNW: I think Green Akers tends to get me down on Sparty more than most, but that schedule plus...I mean, Noah Kim and/or Katin Houser, huh? That’s what you’re rolling out?
Look. I have seen my share of “career backups + freshmen who are...uh...”. Zach Oliver. TJ Green. Aiden Smith. The Marty Party. Carl Richardson. Brendan Sullivan. Cole Freeman. Jack Lausch. I need a drink.
The point is, if that’s what you’re going to ride with, you better hope they’re either “competent/durable” or “moxie-filled/lucky”. Because that’s the road to 7 wins right there, unless these guys are brilliant talents who have been stuck behind the All-World talent of Peyton Thorne’s rock-hard nipples.
What I’ll be looking for? After Washington and at Iowa in two of three weeks, how does Michigan State respond? Will they have any quarterbacks left following those two defenses? Because coming out of that frying pan and into the fire, like Green Akers noted, of two home games after September 23 and trips to Minnesota and Ohio State...it’s got to be 3-2 out of the bye to have a prayer of sniffing a bowl game.
I’ll say 6-6 (4-5) out of generosity, but we could be talking about a $95 million albatross in a few months. I don’t get that same moxie or whatever from Mel Tucker that good ol’ Mork had—I get ginned up Pat Fitzgerald vibes about Respecting the Troops and Repeating the Slogan, and these days I just don’t buy that.
Thumpasaurus: I’m thinking 7-5 (5-4) and I have no idea why.
In 2023 in the Big Ten, Michigan State finishes...
This poll is closed
2-7 or worse
7-2 or better
And, overall, in 2023 Sparty goes...
This poll is closed
5-7 or worse
9-3 or better
Our thanks to longtime writer, podcast host, and friend of the program Green Akers, who will be going OTE Writer Emeritus after this week. I’m honored to call him both a great Big Ten mind and a friend, and I’ll miss seeing him around the Slack water cooler.