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Downtown noodle restaurant pays homage to historical spice trade

From the moment one walks in, The Bandit Queen tells a story through not only the food, but also the decor and overall design aesthetic of the small 20-seat establishment.

/Caitlin Hoop

Underwriting support from:

The Bandit Queen

117B South Division

Grand Rapids, MI




5 p.m.- midnight


For weekly menu specials, please check Facebook

/Caitlin Hoop

/Caitlin Hoop

Tory O’Haire is a storyteller. Walking into the The Bandit Queen, his most recent restaurant is an adventure story immersed into the world of the East Asian spice trade.

“The idea was to devise a restaurant based on the idea of trade route, which is essentially the oldest form of fusion cuisine,” says O’Haire. “With the trade route, travelers would go to the far east and bring spices and flavors back to their own cultures and then infuse them in their cuisine. That is what we are trying to achieve with a local twist.”

As he successfully achieved with Propaganda Doughnuts right next door, O’Haire and his business partner work to fill the culinary voids Grand Rapids has.

“A lot of the ideas come down to doing something that is not in the area,” he says. “There was a need for Propaganda Doughnuts, with us being the only from-scratch donut shop downtown, and then we moved onto noodles with the same principles in mind.”

O’Haire is trained in French cuisine. His business partner has traveled to Asia once. By no means are they trying to come off as experts in old-style ramen shops commonly found in Asian cities. 

“The Bandit Queen is a direct reflection of my personality, influenced by my French culinary experience,” he explains. “We are not attempting to recreate something, we are attempting to honor tradition and do something broadly personal on a Grand Rapids level.

With the exception of the noodles, which are shipped in, all ingredients are local and made from scratch. O’Haire relies heavily on fresh produce from local farmers, provided by Farmlink to him each week.

“The food and restaurant industry community in Grand Rapids is awesome,” O’Haire says. “I am very fortunate to have surrounded myself with passionate and talented people.”

O’Haire aims to tell a story at The Bandit Queen through not only the food but also through the total experience- with a brush of ‘shipwreck chic,’ as he calls it.

“It is a story of adventure," he says. "Sincerity is the most important things in a creative endeavor, and if I am going to create something new, the story in my mind needs to make sense.”

The decor provides the groundwork, with the interior of The Bandit Queen emitting a vibe of an old world saloon on a trade ship. There are wrought iron chandeliers intertwined with rope, mismatched chairs sprinkled among the community table at the head of the restaurant, all within a color scheme reminiscent of spice markets. 

“I want people to come here, be taken care of and eat great food,” he says. “Everything else is peripheral.”

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