When you think of American cuisine served in a classic pub setting, you probably wouldn’t expect the Executive Chef to be vegan. While it may be surprising, it doesn’t stop Ryan McClure, Executive Chef at Derby Station in East Grand Rapids, from connecting with people of all palates and dietary needs.
Last month, we had the chance to speak with Chef McClure, who came to Derby Station in late 2013 after spending time at The Green Well, about his vision for the restaurant’s menu. Simply put, he wants to create food he loves to eat and share it with patrons.
Although he embraces a vegan lifestyle, he’s very conscious of customer needs no matter their food preferences. He points out that modifying his dishes based on customer requests is important. In his mind, it’s not an inconvenience, rather an opportunity to serve his creations to as many people as possible.
“It’s important that everyone gets to go out and enjoy great food whether they’re gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or meat eater,” he notes.
Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are of utmost importance, too. Derby Station is proud to partner with local providers including S&S Farms, Heffron Farms, and Country Winds Creamery, and pays homage to them on their large specials board in the dining area.
When asked about the restaurant’s most popular dishes, Chef McClure points out that the Shrimp and Wild Mushroom Bruschetta, Chicken Pot Pie, Pesto Chicken Wrap, and Adult Grilled Cheese are all fan favorites. Luckily for us, we were able to do more than just talk about Derby Station’s food.
During our visit, we had the pleasure of sampling some delicious creations, including a Warm Winter Panzanella Salad, a welcome alternative to a cold salad on a blustery day. The Smoked Salmon & Clam Dip was fresh, well-balanced, and extremely tasty. A hearty slice of Lasagna, the special entrée of the evening, pleased our palates as well.
Chef McClure isn’t the only one with a creative bone in the kitchen. For dessert, we enjoyed a whimsical, frothy ice cream concoction created by Chef Kris Lohraff. In addition, Chef Rich Cole created a mind-blowing Orange and Coriander Crème Brûlée that sent us back to our childhood. Imagine the orange flavor of a Push-Up elevated beyond your wildest dreams.
We would be remiss not to mention Derby Station’s impressive beer selection. The establishment features 35 beers on tap, 22 of which are from Michigan breweries. Short’s Brewing, Perrin Brewing, Dark Horse Brewing Co., Saugatuck Brewing, and Mt. Pleasant Brewing Co. were just a few on tap during our visit.
The abundance of craft beer at Derby Station is a good fit for Chef McClure, an admitted beer enthusiast. Not only does he enjoy a pint now and then, he likes to cook with it. In fact, he used New Holland’s Pilgrim’s Dole to create a “dolognese” sauce for the Lasagna dish we enjoyed.
Furthering the restaurant’s commitment to offering a wide-variety of beer options, Derby Station hosts a beer dinner the second Tuesday of every month. February’s dinner features five courses paired with five beers from Green Flash Brewing Company located in San Diego, California (McClure swears by their Palate Wrecker IPA).
Whether you stop in to drink a pint of Michigan brew, enjoy a tried-and-true favorite, or explore food and beer pairings, Derby Station is bound to have something to please. Chef McClure and company will make sure of it.
Derby Station is located at 2237 Wealthy St SE in East Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information, please visit derbystation.com.