Bell’s Brewing Company
355 E Kalamazoo Ave
Visited on June 6, 2010
Naturally as soon as I moved to Michigan I had to head straight to Bell’s. At the time it was the Michigan beer brand that I was most familiar with, having craved their dopplebock in Bloomington, Indiana all throughout graduate school. And the name lives up to the hype, especially after the renovation work that was completed in the past couple of years. Between the excellent food, the always awesome beer, pub-only brews, beautiful woodwork, ginormous stages for live music, and a generally awesome atmosphere, this is one brewpub you should not miss out on. Despite their size, Bell’s does it right.
Two words come to mind when I think of Bell’s Brewing Company’s local brewpub; small and eclectic. Being such a large regional distributer, I expected the restaurant version to be expansive. But it’s not. Instead, crowds of people mash together in the hot, steamy environment hoping to catch a table.
Some of them are content to dance to the live music that often comes through the small city. Anyway, the bar isn’t very big and the table space is limited on a busy Friday night. There is a balcony that covers about half of the room, but that was pretty crowded as well. To be fair, they have a lot of room outside including an outdoor stage for live music and plenty of tables and chairs, but this was March and the weather was inhospitable to being outdoors.
The decorations are very cool, and they score a lot of points for their uniqueness. Lots of Indian-styled masks line the walls behind the bar. A giant mural proclaims the presence – in spirit – of the Kalamazoo Brewing Company, which it was named before it had to change its name for legal reasons. Stained glass windows give a different feel when the sun shines through. Though the place is small, it feels like a real neighborhood joint, and I dug it.
Everyone within 500 miles of Kalamazoo knows Bell’s makes one hell of a beer. That night I enjoyed a highly-hopped lager, one of the many special brews they offer from the tap but not from the bottle. Someday I’ll come and try them all, because I’ve never met a Bell’s I didn’t absolutely love.
I came in with my cousins after they fixed my Mom and I a spectacular dinner, so I didn’t have anything to eat, but I’m looking forward to returning and trying their organic, regional fare.
Which I did about two months later. The ordering process is certainly unique. A large chalkboard proclaims the features of the day while a regular menu is plastered to the wall beside. After perusing the merchandise, you take a few steps to your right and order the food directly from the kitchen. They give you a receipt, which you take up to the bar to pay for your food and receive a buzzer for when the order is ready.
This is really smart, I think. They cut down on overhead by not requiring waiters, just bussers. Also, you can never blame a waitress for getting your order wrong.
To the food; I enjoyed a hot ham and cheese featuring a pesto mayonnaise, bacon, and tomatoes. It was awesome. Accompanying, I got a pickle and chips, which were also tasty. And because I had just finished 70 miles on my bike, I also got an order of hummus, which came with warm pita triangles and fresh vegetables for dipping.
Overall, I like their style, but the menu is rather limited and the food isn’t quite up to my very, very high standards. It could be better. But they do a fantastic job with the limited kitchen they have. Maybe things will change once they’re done expanding.