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The History of Essence Restaurant Group

The History of Essence Restaurant Group

Categories: Essence Restaurant Group

Today, Bistro Bella Vita, The Green Well, and Grove are a few of the most well-known and beloved restaurants both in Grand Rapids and beyond—but it didn’t happen overnight. It has been a wonderful (and delicious) journey and we thought it would be fun to share with you how Essence Restaurant Group got to where it is today. Here we go!

Bistro Bella Vita

We opened the first of our three restaurants, Bistro Bella Vita, on March 27, 1997 in a building that once served as a warehouse for the railroad in 1906. Bistro was considered the “first of its kind” in Grand Rapids, referred to at that time as ‘Big city-casual with French flair and an Italian twist.’ Something else, eh? Back then, there was nothing like it in West Michigan, and as word spread, people couldn’t get enough of our martinis or the unique cuisine.

Today, Bistro has grown up, yet still offers a delicious menu with unique Mediterranean countryside cuisine and those famous martinis. Bistro was voted one of the Best of Grand Rapids restaurants by Grand Rapids Magazine in 2011 and is a multiple title-holder of their Best Martini award.
Once Bistro really started to take off and become a staple in GR, we saw the potential and need for more restaurants with the same values and mission in mind: serving delicious food made from fresh, natural ingredients sourced from local, family, and sustainable farms. In 2006, our Executive Chef Patrick Wise, Jeff Gietzen and I decided to go for it. We formed Essence Restaurant Group (ERG) in 2006 with the intention of opening more restaurants that support conscious consumption and our local community.

The Green Well

Our next project would be The Green Well. The concept was conceived on a trip Chef Pat and I took to San Francisco in 2004. The environment in San Fran inspired the idea to blend great food with a laid-back atmosphere. We knew this was something Grand Rapids would really eat up.
The Green Well (GW) opened in 2007 as one of the first designated ‘gastro pubs’ in the country. We chose the East Hills neighborhood and the building on Cherry Street purposely. We furnished the Silver LEED-certified building with healthy, energy-efficient furnishings, equipment, methods and materials to align with our goals of sustainability. And we chose the neighborhood for its walkability for employees and guests alike to further our purpose. GW serves “honest fayre with local flair” in the traditional gastro pub style with an ever-changing menu of eclectic, comfort food. We have committed to the ideals of local sustainability and mindful consumption, and deliver this consistently in our establishments.


Our most recent venture for ERG is Grove, which opened in September 2011 with an emphasis on Earth to Table dining by offering food with a purpose. At Grove, guests experience genuinely unique cuisine that is frequently updated and guaranteed to feature seasonal ingredients sourced from local, family and sustainable farms. We are proud to say that Grove won Grand Rapids Magazine’s Best New Restaurant award in 2011 as well as their Best of Grand Rapids restaurants award in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Essence Restaurant Group proudly sponsors and partners with organizations whose values and mission align with ours. That is why we have been a part of the Local First Street Party since its beginning in 2003, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, and have also been recycling since 2003 and composting since 2009.
Our history would not be as rich as it has grown to be without the support and love of our guests. Thank you for supporting Essence Restaurants and believing in our mission, people and food. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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