Eastown Visiting Guide
Eastown did it the way Eastown does everything differently than everyone else.
Most communities get their start because people find a nice place to settle down. Then the residents want a few amenities, so the grocery stores, shops, and taverns pop up. But not in Eastown.
Eastown started with the amenities. Then, after the people saw what a nice place it was, they moved in. And they stayed.
In the 1800s, when the streetcar lines were a thriving enterprise, Eastown was the layover stop for the line that ran between Reeds Lake and downtown Grand Rapids. The passengers were affluent whites who could afford to ride the streetcars. Near the intersection of the five corners, Lake Drive, Wealthy, and Norwood, passengers had to disembark to switch lines. They had nothing to do while they waited for the next streetcar. They were hungry, thirsty, and had money to spend but no place to spend it. In response to the demand, the supply showed up. Restaurants, grocery stores, and clothing shops lined the streetcar tracks, and Eastown was born.
Today, Eastown is the hippest community going. Historic brick streets lined with trees and flowers lead to art galleries, coffee shops, earth-conscious clothing stores, and ethnic restaurants. Mingled among them are video stores, rare book dealers, comic book shops, and bars. The business district is just a few blocks from Reeds Lake, around the corner from Aquinas College, and down the street from the vaudeville-era Wealthy Street Theater.
A Real Variety Show
Eastown's collection of galleries, offbeat shops, and restaurants have become places of pilgrimage for many locals.
"We have a nice, social place to come and relax and hang out after work if you don't want to do the bar scene," said Alex Farhat, co-owner of The Hookah Lounge. A hookah is a traditional waterpipe from the Middle East. Thirty flavored tobaccos add to the smokers' enjoyment as they relax on overstuffed chairs and couches, munch on appetizers, sip a cappuccino, and watch music videos on the large screen television.
Nearby Mulligan's Pub is a celtic-style bar where customers can relax with a good imported beer or quaff a local brew. A pool table in the back and several televisions keep the early evenings quiet, but the place comes alive as the evening wears on.
Across the street is nighttime hotspot Billy's Lounge, known for its nightly live music, including rock, funk, reggae, jazz, and open mic night. On Friday and Saturday nights, Billy's rocks with some of the area's best blues. Tap your toes at the table, or strut your stuff on the dance floor.
The Wealthy Theater, built in 1911 for vaudeville shows, is just west of Eastown. The theater was vacant and decaying for three decades until its renovation in 1998. It reopened as a community arts center and plays host to foreign films, dance classes, plays, lectures, art shows, and more.
The Performing Arts Center at Aquinas College is the home of the Circle Theater. Circle's summer theater presentations play to packed houses. They also showcase solo performances and children's theater.
Eastown is a forward-thinking community that embraces the unordinary, works hand-in-hand to find solutions to community challenges, and has fun while they're doing it.