New restaurant specializing in barbecue, bourbon opens south of Grand Rapids

Butcher Block Social

Butcher Block Social is a new restaurant located at 9900 Cherry Valley Ave. SE in Caledonia Township that specializes in barbecue and boasts a vast selection of bourbon, wine and more. (Photo taken by Mindy Peterson and provided by Butcher Block Social)


GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A restaurant in Caledonia specializing barbecue, bourbon and fresh ingredients has opened its doors.

Butcher Block Social, 9900 Cherry Valley Ave. SE, was opened this month by Justin and Kelly Heyboer, the owners of the Wildwood Family Farms wedding and event venue, in partnership with Mike Saladino and Brian Witvoet.

Justin Heyboer said the idea behind the restaurant is to provide quality, fresh food in a relaxed setting where people are excited to gather.

“We’re so happy to be open,” Heyboer said. “We want it to be a connecting place for people. So far, it’s been a nice place to watch people come and hang out because there’s not a lot of options in Caledonia or this area.”

The restaurant, which boasts 9,000 square feet of open, communal-style seating and a custom smoker that holds about 2,000 pounds of meat, is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. It’s open from 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Heyboer said he decided to open the restaurant after he was contacted by Caledonia Township officials who told him additional liquor licenses had become available, and would he like to apply for one.

He and his wife had always “kind of joked” about opening a restaurant someday, but that phone call was what “spurred the whole thing into motion.”

Butcher Block Social boasts a selection of barbecued meats, including brisket, pulled pork and smoked apple ribs, as well as barbecue sandwiches. There’s also a selection of sides such as baked beans and cheese potatoes, as well as home made key lime pie and banana crème parfait.

The barbecue is overseen by Saladino. He operates a food truck, Saladino Smoke, and met Heyboer once he started providing catering at events hosted at Wildwood Family Farms, the wedding and event venue owned by Heyboer.

Heyboer recalled how, years ago, he tasted a piece of brisket prepared by Saladino, and he thought, “It was incredible. Some of the best brisket I ever tasted.”

In addition to the food, Heyboer says the layout of the restaurant also draws people in.

“Our whole mantra is really communal style seating,” he said. “If you come in there aren’t booths that you sit in. If you want to get up and walk around with your cocktail or your beer you can.”

He added, “What we’ve noticed … is people will typically eat dinner and then they will get up and walk around. We have a pretty nice big outdoor patio space and people will just meander out there. You don’t just have to sit at your table the whole time like a typical restaurant.”

Besides barbecue, Butcher Block Social also specializes in bourbon and wine, Heyboer said. There are roughly 200 different varieties of bourbon available, as well as a wide selection of wine from Michigan, California, New Zeeland, Argentina and more.

“Barbecue and bourbon go pretty good together,” he said. “We sometimes have lost what flavor means in putting things together as far as pairings. Tying some of our bourbons together with some smoked apple ribs that we have on the smoker — it’s flavors that when you get done, your taste buds haven’t probably had that in a long time, if ever.”

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