Eat! Lansing

November 3, 2011

Fork in the Road Artisan Diner

Filed under: American, Diner — erithmetic @ 7:13 pm

Location: 2010 W. Saginaw St, 48915, Lansing


With the number of diners in town, I’m sure Lansing could easily claim highest number of diners per capita in the nation. But Fork in the Road is one of a kind in Lansing.

No matter how many run-of-the-mill diners there are, they all seem to be slight variations on a single theme – microwaving or grilling whatever comes off the Sysco truck. In August, the Sysco truck still delivers mealy tomatoes that were grown far across the country using virtual slave labor, picked green, and force “ripened.” This despite the fact that Michigan is the second greatest producer in the country next to California in terms of variety of produce and there are plenty of local farms raising sweet, juicy, organic tomatoes. It’s not just with tomatoes that this irony plays out – most food in restaurants comes to you in a similar manner.

What makes Fork in the Road different is that they source many of their ingredients from local farms, many who specialize in organic produce and meat. They reinterpret classics you’d find at your local diner – country fried steak, meat loaf sandwiches, apple pie – using quality ingredients and an artisanal touch. For example, instead of plain tater tots, they serve tots made with rosemary, garlic, and asiago cheese. Yes, they taste as good as they sound. The fried pie should be on your list for dessert.

The restaurant was started by the same guys who run Trailer Park’d, the gourmet food truck that typically shows up in Old Town and the East Lansing farmers market. I imagine the location doesn’t work as well for those in East Lansing/Okemos/Meridian, but it’s really only a couple miles from Old Town and downtown. It’s also close to a bus route.


June 21, 2011

Trailer Park’d

Filed under: American, Lansing, Organic, REO Town — erithmetic @ 9:32 pm

Gourmet food trucks have been popping up all around the country and Lansing now boasts two of its own. One of them is Trailer Park’d, a wood paneled trailer towed by a Chevy pickup. Much of the food is locally sourced and naturally grown, if not organic.

You’ll need to follow the truck on Twitter or Facebook or rely on happenstance to find where they’re operating on a particular day.

The dishes are all very creative, fresh, and taste great. The menu seems to center around American classics and some fusion dishes. Allow several minutes for your food to be prepared.

To provide seating, the owners created a bar that hangs from the side of their truck which is surrounded by stools.

March 15, 2011

Hershey’s Steak and Seafood

Filed under: American, East Lansing — Jack Lumanog @ 9:44 am

Hershey’s Steak and Seafood
2682 East Grand River Avenue, East Lansing, MI 48823
Monday-Thursday: 11:30am – 9:00pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:30am – 10:00pm
Closed on most Sundays

I’ve been to Hershey’s a few times for lunch and dinner and on my most recent visit last weekend, I realized I never sat down to write out a review for this place!  I would call this a good restaurant – not great – but good.

The service has been excellent each time I’ve visited Hershey’s.  The food is where it has been off the charts great or mediocre.  I don’t know of any other restaurants in Greater Lansing that has escargots on the menu besides The English Inn. It’s served with two garlic breadsticks with six escargots in an order.  A great way to start the meal.  My entree also came with a choice of soup, a trip to the salad bar or the Caesar Salad.  I went with the Caesar because I got a choice to add anchovies and bacon – I said yes to both and it was just awesome.  In fact, I may go back just for the old school Caesar!

For entrees, my wife and I decided to split what we ordered.  We ordered the Top Sirloin Broil (good) and the Chicken Wellington (not so great).  The steak was cooked a little more than the medium that we ordered but it was tasty.  The Chicken Wellington sounded great on the menu but it came to our table a little on the pink side – never a good idea for chicken.  Our delightful waitress cheerfully made it right by getting our entree re-fired and she threw in a free dessert to make up for the kitchen’s error.

The wine list isn’t huge but the prices are reasonable.  The decor and the menu reminds me of a country club.  Both have worked for years so why mess with a good thing?

October 23, 2010

PiiLani’s Buffet Express

Filed under: Best of, Hawaiian, Okemos — Jack Lumanog @ 3:40 pm

PiiLani’s Buffet Express
3490 Okemos Rd., Okemos, MI 48864
(517) 347-8828
Monday-Saturday: 7am-3pm
closed Sunday

Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall at Okemos and Jolly Roads in Okemos, you will find a culinary gem in the Greater Lansing area.  PiiLani’s Buffet Express has been serving up traditional Hawaiian cuisine at this location for the last 5 months or so.  My family and I checked it out for lunch today and we can’t wait to go back!

We sampled just about everything that was on the buffet today and it was all incredible.  There were a couple of chicken dishes, a pork stew, chicken noodle soup, spaghetti and Italian sausage, macaroni and cheese and the most amazing pulled pork and homeade barbecue sauce (more on that later).  In addition to the plentiful hot food selection, there was a full salad bar as well.  Each adult is $6.99 for lunch and children 8 and under are half price – a great value considering the high quality food that is offered at PiiLani’s.

To try some traditional Hawaiian flavors, be sure to load up on white rice and cold macaroni salad (mac salad) with the Hawaiian barbecue chicken so tender it falls off the bone.  I went for a few helpings of PiiLani’s pulled pork.  This is worth noting since there really isn’t a traditional barbecue restaurant that I’ve found in the Greater Lansing area.  I lived in the birthplace of barbecue – Kansas City – for 8-1/2 years and I’d like to think I know a bit about this cuisine.  In my book, PiiLani’s pulled pork offered on the buffet can rival some of the world class barbecue restaurants in Kansas City just about any day.

I was delighted to see that they offer Spam musubi made to order at $2.00.  This is a wonderfully traditional and quirky dish of a block of rice, grilled Spam with a nori (seaweed) wrapper to keep it all together.  I will have to save room for this and I’ll try this on my next visit to PiiLani’s!  And, we heard about the delicious breakfast options with the most popular being a breakfast burrito and the traditional Hawaiian moco loco (white rice, hamburger patty, fried egg and brown gravy).

My family and I really enjoyed our visit to PiiLani’s. The food was delicious, there was something for everyone’s taste and the value cannot be beat for what you get. If you’re not familiar with Hawaiian food, I can think of no friendlier place to try out something new. Even to get you started, there are still American favorites to be found on the buffet and available for order a la carte.

September 15, 2010

Bake ‘n Cakes

Filed under: Bakery, East Lansing — erithmetic @ 9:13 pm

Bake ‘n Cakes has a few favorable attributes. It’s a local establishment, which could give them an edge over places like Panera in that they could maintain creative control over their business and could add a personal touch. They have a cute-looking storefront, implying a specialty bakery where you might find a delicious cupcake. However, there are simply too many flaws that keep me away.

The bakery sits right next to US-127 just south of Frandor. You won’t be enjoying a pastry on a streetside table as you watch passersby. Instead, you can gaze at the adjoining parking lot, gas station and liquor store.

At times, such as when I had Bake ‘n Cakes cater an event (for which they performed admirably), the pastries are enjoyable. However, a recent visit had my wife and I throwing away our pastries that featured a strong propane-like flavor. The staff isn’t always particularly warm and the coffee service typically lags. Being a Lansing institution, they seem bound to brew the typical Paramount coffee blends.

From cakes I’ve happened to see other customers ordering, the designs seem good and would be a good place to order a birthday cake.

If there were twothings that would make me come back, it would be to serve specialty coffee and to improve the quality of their pastries.

August 21, 2010

Five Guys is Coming

Filed under: American, Best of, Burger, Campus, East Lansing — erithmetic @ 8:28 am

The famous burger chain known as Five Buys Burgers and Fries will be gracing East Lansing in late September.  If you’ve never heard of Five Guys, here’s some background.

Five Guys started out in the mid-80s in Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC.  By the time I was living there, around 2004, the small chain was already legendary among Northern Virginians.  By the time I moved to Michigan in 2007, the chain had expanded all over the Virginia suburbs.  There was quite a bit of fanfare when a location was opened up in New York.  Around the time of the Presidential elections, the public discovered that Barack and Michelle Obama have a penchant for greasy burgers and that Five Guys was one of their favorite stops (Ray’s Hell Burger is now the preferred burger joint).  Since then, the Five Guys has exploded into much of the US, east of the Mississippi.  I have eaten at a Five Guys near Farmington Hills, but I was especially surprised and delighted to find that one would be coming to East Lansing.

The menu is very simple: burgers or hot dogs with regular or cajun fries.  There are a plethora of toppings you can have piled on top of your burger, including grilled onions, jalepeños, and green peppers.  The griddle-fried patties are succulent and juicy.  Great care is required when eating to avoid spilling grease and toppings all over.

The french fries are delivered in a styrofoam cup within a paper bag.  The best approach is to rip open one side of the bag, pour out your fries, and douse them with a healthy dose of malt vinegar.  The fries are “boardwalk style,” following the tradition of fries sold in East Coast beach towns like Ocean City, Maryland.  The fries are fried in peanut oil and it is customary to use malt vinegar, similar to eating fried fish.  The cajun fries are usually the better pick, especially if you like spicy things.

While you’re waiting for your food, there is usually an open box of peanuts in the shell for snacking.  The walls are also graced with issues of Washingtonian Magazine that rave about the joint, reassuring you that you have chosen the best burger in town.

My only complaint with this opening is that it will be located on the far eastern side of campus town, next to Blockbuster and Jimmy John’s.  Not exactly convenient for a lot of people.  However, the crack-like addiction many are likely to develop to these burgers will probably be enough to keep people coming.

East Lansing’s campus town has a glut of cheap, greasy fast food, but I’m hoping Five Guys will be able to outlast the rest, given its allure.

March 15, 2010


Filed under: Bakery, Best of, Desserts, Lansing — Jack Lumanog @ 8:45 pm

2315 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing MI 48912
(517) 316-2009
Sunday, Wednesday & Thursday: 11am-2am
Monday & Tuesday: 11am-1am
Friday & Saturday: 11am-3am

A selection of two inch high cupcakes from Sugarshack – Mocha, Strawberry and their take on the classic Hostess

Sugarshack has been open since August 2009.  I finally strolled into this delightfully small place tonight on my way home.  There are cookies, brownies and some frozen treats for sale.  But the main event is the extra large gourmet cupcake.  There is even a baking rotation for the extra large gourmet cupcakes.  I went in on a Monday and the designated specials included: carrot cake, Hostess, Mocha and there was even a special St. Patrick’s Day themed cupcake.  (Flavors available by day are posted on their website.)

I ended up with taking home a sampler of three cupcakes: Mocha, Strawberry and the Sugarshack’s take on the classic Hostess.  All of them were amazing.  The cupcakes were so moist and to top it all off was their perfect icing.  The Mocha and Hostess cupcakes were both chocolate cake and both exceptional.  But  my favorite of the three had to be the Strawberry with angel food cake and the pink icing.

Sugarshack also offers delivery within a 5 mile radius from the bakery’s location for a $2.00 fee (Google maps tells me that I am 4.4 miles away from Sugarshack – so I’m good there!).  It’s worth a drive to check out this bakery next to the Marathon gas station serving up some amazing gourmet cupcakes.

March 1, 2010


Filed under: East Lansing, Fine Dining — Jack Lumanog @ 4:03 pm

16800 Chandler Road, East Lansing, MI 48823
(517) 333-1656
Mon – Sat: 11 am – 2 am
Sun: 11 am – 12 am

According to the menu at ENSO, the name of this restaurant in East Lansing stands for EnergyNourishmentStyleOpportunity.  I visited this restaurant for lunch three times and once for dinner before writing this review (the lengths I will go for this blog!).

The first two times I was there for lunch, the crowd was all business. It looked mostly like lobbyists courting lawmakers and sales reps with their clients.  The last time I was there for lunch (which was today), I occupied the only other table with a party of 3 finishing up when I arrived at noon.

At lunch, all four flat panel TVs were on and tuned to ESPN which was a little on the distracting side which is a shame. At ENSO, there is a lot more to look at – the waterfall and the sleek bar come to mind immediately. Thankfully at dinner, the TVs were off which made it feel less like a sports bar and more like the club it is striving to be.

The menu includes “Gringo sushi,” a few varieties of house cut fries (the portobella mushroom fries are excellent) and a handful of sandwich and entree options.  There’s also a great wine list at ENSO with the outstanding selections from Opus One and Paraduxx.

No bread and butter here – how about a free platter of homemade hummus and salsa and grilled flatbread?  (At today’s visit, there were no complimentary appetizers – I figured they would do away with that sooner or later as it’s hard to come out ahead when so much is given away for free.)

The food has been hit or miss on my visits there.  I had the fork tender short ribs for lunch.  The flavor was excellent, however the fat needs to be trimmed better before leaving the kitchen.  I also had the bleu cheese bacon burger which was fine – not great.  And for lunch today I had the crab cake sandwich which again was fine – not great. The meal was made worthwhile for the portobella mushroom fries.

The one and only time I was there for dinner I had the grilled hanger steak with the parmesan truffled house cut fries.  This by far has been the best meal I have had at ENSO.  The steak was cooked a perfect medium rare and the truffled fries were amazing.

Normally, I have been so full that dessert has not even been an option.  However, for lunch today, I intentionally ordered light so I could have dessert.  The dessert menu looks great – caramelized bananas, quad of mousses, crème brulee cheesecake.  I settled on the caramelized bananas flamed with Meyer’s Rum and served with vanilla ice cream.  The flavor was outstanding – however the presentation was a hot mess. Basically, I had bananas in a pool of vanilla soup, formerly ice cream. It got more and more unappetizing as my ice cream rapidly melted.

I would say that service was excellent at each visit for lunch.  Over the lunch hour, the servers were very attentive and they took very good care of me.  However, dinner service was pretty non-existent.

Since this was shaping up to be an unflattering review of ENSO, I gave the restaurant a few chances to hopefully even things out.  However, after my visit today, I’m ready to call it quits on a restaurant that clearly has valued style over substance.  The most fashionable looking restaurant in Greater Lansing is in need of more hits than misses in the food department especially considering the prices on their lunch and dinner menus.

February 10, 2010

Dusty’s Tap Room to start Sunday brunch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jack Lumanog @ 4:13 pm

Dusty’s Wine Bar/Tap Room/Cellar
1839 Grand River Avenue, Okemos, MI 48864
Phone: 517-349-5150
Cellar hours: M-Sat 7am-9pm, Sun 7am-6pm
Wine Bar/Tap Room hours: M-Th 11am-12am, F-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 12pm-10pm 

If you’re a fan of Dusty’s Cellar on Facebook, you may have noticed this little bit of good news:

Ever have a breakfast craving on Sunday morning? Starting March 7th Dusty’s Tap Room will offer Sunday brunch and build your own Bloody Mary bar from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Details and pricing to follow.

Great news for Sunday brunch seekers in Greater Lansing!

October 25, 2009

Cranberries – A Change of Pace

Filed under: DIY — erithmetic @ 8:33 pm

This summer my wife and I have been growing vegetables in our own garden.  This means we’ve been eating out a lot less and eating a lot more vegetarian meals.  Not necessarily because of the recession, but because we’ve discovered what a joy it is to be at least somewhat more connected to the land through what we eat.

So, for a change, I’ll be posting a recipe because it was just too good to keep to ourselves.

Tonight we just finished a dinner of roasted chicken (roasted alongside carrots and parsnips), broccoli, and a cranberry sauce.  We ate one of the breasts and we’ll be freezing the rest for chicken salad, BBQ pizza, or whatever and we’ll slow-cook the bones and leftover morsels in water to make our own chicken broth.  Quite a few meals from a $4 chicken!

What stood out tonight was the cranberry sauce.  We took a recipe from epicurious but it turned out we were missing some key ingredients.  Namely, the cinnamon sticks and the dried cranberries.

The original recipe calls for a cub of ruby port.  However, I used about a 1/4 cup of Cerise (cherry port) from Chateau Chantal (on Old Mission Peninsula along Grand Traverse Bay – you can find it at Dusty’s Cellar) and 3/4 cup of some 10-year Tawny port.  Tawny ports are aged in oak barrels, so they have a subtle oak taste, but they’re a bit sweeter than ruby ports.  We out of cinnamon sticks so I substituted two Tazo cinnamon herbal tea bags.  We were also out of dried cranberries so I used some golden raisins from Trader Joe’s.

The result was a sweet compote of cranberry goodness.  It was great with the chicken!  It was so good we put it on some vanilla ice cream.  I could even envision it on some oatmeal or yoghurt.

Also, my neighbor informs me that Foods for Living sells whole, free-range, organic chickens for $2.40/lb.  Not bad!  Our Meijer chicken was $0.99/lb, but I’d gladly pay $1.40 more for a sustainably-grown chicken.


The colors in the picture are a little off, but you get the idea (thanks, iPhone!)

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