We’ve never been to Scandinavia but if this is any indication of the food we’d be eating we need to book our tickets now. The Sovengard (or in their Scandinavian version “The Søvengård”) is part of the ever-growing westside hotspot on Bridge Street. As founder Rick Muschiana explained to the Grand Rapids Business Journal, the name uses both Danish and Norwegian. “Sø” is lake, “ven” is friends and “gård” is land. So the Sovengard translates to “land of the lake friends.” The vision for the restaurant is to embody that ideal – caring for the land, the farmers, the staff, and the community
Before we get into the food, the location in and of itself is worth a mention. The restaurant is in a historic building that has been carefully preserved with sustainability in mind. The Biergarten behind the restaurant facing Broadway is built around a repurposed shipping container. Predictably, it fills up daily during the summer months. The interior decoration is light and clean and damnit, it’s just a really beautiful place to have a meal.
For the food, fresh and locally sourced leads the way and the menu changes seasonally to reflect that. One constant is the quality and taste. The menu is split by plate size with a smaller plate section followed by what they call “share a lot,” and finally the supper plates which can be quite a meal.
Nordic-style food is currently something unique in Grand Rapids (although now an internationally known “style” having been created and made famous by the Danish restaurant Noma) with dishes that highlight products from local farms – a foraging mentality. The Sovengard always offers an outstanding collection of dishes, each carefully crafted with balanced flavor and texture. A kale salad during the Spring season is more like a work of art, featuring wheatberries, roasted squash, Brussels and a cumin-fennel vinaigrette. Locally sourced mushrooms are the star of many dishes when they’re available.
Vegan items are clearly marked, and those that have a vegan option available expand your choices even more. There’s a daily soup that comes with bread made in-house.
The drink menu also rotates frequently and it’s arguably one of the best curated draft beer list in the city. Many of the craft and bottled beer is from Michigan, but you’ll also find many Belgium beers on the menu. There’s also a cocktail menu that features seasonal ingredients as well. There’s also a decent selection of wine from all over the world.
The Sovengard offers lunch and dinner, along with a “social hour” menu from 3pm to 6pm daily with food, cocktail specials, and $2 off all drinks. They do offer Sunday brunch from 11am – 3pm. The spring brunch menu is a little thin on choice for vegans (they do make their bloody mary mix in-house and it is vegan!).
One of the best places to have a meal in the city, The Sovengard certainly makes you feel you are one of the “lake friends.”