Eat! Lansing

August 21, 2010

Five Guys is Coming

Filed under: American, Best of, Burger, Campus, East Lansing — dkastner @ 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.

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May 1, 2009

Sushiya

Filed under: Best of, Campus, East Lansing, Japanese, Sushi — Jack Lumanog @ 4:31 pm

Sushiya
529 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing MI 48823
(517) 333-0804

On a beautiful spring sunnt day in East Lansing, my wife and daughters and I were looking for a bite to eat for lunch.  We wandered into Sushiya across from the MSU campus between Espresso Royale and Chipotle.  This beautifully appointed restaurant hit the spot for every member of my family!

My daughters basically split two appetizers for their lunch (no children’s menu here).  The panfried beef gyoza dumplings ($4.95) and the agedashi tofu ($4.95) were beautifully prepared and my kids ate up nearly all of it (OK, I got to sneak a bite of each as part of my research for this blog).

My wife ordered the Sushiya special roll ($11.95) and it was an enormous plate of sushi.  It came with a small salad and a cup of miso soup.  It was a special roll that had tempura shrimp, crab, avocado, and a few other things that I can’t recall right at the moment. 

I was feeling like something warm for lunch and ordered the tempura udon ($7.95).  This is an incredible value considering all of the food that you get with this.  To start, I also got a small salad and cup of miso soup as part of my entree.  The soup was just amazingly satisfying.  The large bowl had a perfectly seasoned broth, enormous udon noodles, tofu, and tempura shrimp.  And, it was served with a side platter of tempura fried goodies: tempura squash, asparagus, zucchini, sweet potato, onion ring and shrimp.  As if that wasn’t enough, my soup also included 4 pieces of California roll on the side! Whew! At nearly $8, this is the biggest deal of the menu and all of it was just delicious.

Sushiya exceeded all expectations with food, decor and service.  I’ll definitely be back to this great campus gem!

October 10, 2008

Moe’s Firehouse Grill

Filed under: Arab, Burger, Campus, East Lansing — Jack Lumanog @ 7:06 pm

Moe’s Firehouse Grill
565 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing, MI 48823
(517) 333-7040‎

NOTE:  As of today (10-13-08) and driving by on Grand River, the restaurant is closed.

I walked into Moe’s Firehouse Grill and had a bit of an idea of what Chef Gordon Ramsay (Michelin-starred chef featured on FOX’s “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Hell’s Kitchen”) must think when walking into the restaurants that he is about to turn around.  I had a craving for a gyro and didn’t know where to go.  I settled on Moe’s after seeing a Kronos Gyro poster in their window  —  plus a sign that said there was a gyro dinner combo special.  I thought, “what could go wrong here?”  Sadly, the answer was everything that could go wrong  —  would go wrong.

The good news was that dinner set me back $6.50 for a gyro, french fries and fountain drink.  That’s where the good news ended.  After I ordered and paid, I noticed that the grill man took some gyro meat out of the freezer and placed it on the griddle.  If ever I was tempted to take back a transaction, it was right here.  But sadly, the deed was done and I had paid for my dinner.

There was one other customer in the entire place on a Friday night.  There were more flies inside the place than customers (something that Chef Ramsay would point out if he were reviewing the place on his TV show) and I had to swat them away as I tried to enjoy my dinner.  I picked up my gyro and immediately dropped it because the pita was so hot as if it was warmed up on the surface of the sun.  (Too bad this wasn’t an actual firehouse as I might get some water hose relief after getting burned from just picking up my gyro!)

My french fries tasted awful as if the cooking oil hasn’t been changed out in weeks (another thing that Chef Ramsay would point out if he were here).  The fries left a beige stain on the styrofoam container that my dinner was served on  —  a bad sign that the cooking oil is old.  At least my Slice tasted like lemon-lime soda.  The soda helped wash out the remnants of a regrettable meal.

The rest of the menu features plenty of cheap eats:  burgers and fries, sub sandwiches and something called a “chicken wrap.”  I didn’t bother to ask about the chicken wrap.  I bussed my table, took my soda and tried to forget about my mistake of a meal.

September 2, 2008

Memo’s – The Döner Company

Filed under: Best of, Campus, East Lansing, Mediterranean, Turkish — dkastner @ 8:25 pm

Memo’s – The Döner Company
http://memosdoner.com
Grand River Avenue, next to Barnes & Noble

Update: Memo’s is now closed!  Such a shame!

The Döner is legendary in central Europe.  It has become the new fast food hit in Germany, rivaling the mighty wurst (sausage).  After World War II, Germany’s population, especially its male contingent, was greatly reduced.  The West German government started a Gastarbeiter (guest worker) program in the 60’s and 70’s to help reduce the labor shortage resulting from a booming post-war economy (Wirtschaftswunder).  As a result, many Turkish immigrants came looking for work and a sizable Turkish population remains in Germany’s urban centers.  The döner kabob originated in Turkey (similar to plain shawarma), but was adapted to German tastes by putting the kabob meat and salad on fluffy pita bread.

I was extremely excited when I saw the newly placed sign over Memo’s storefront this summer, but it seemed like I waited forever for this place to open.  I looked forward to something a bit unique to appear in Lansing. To be honest, my only döner experience was a chicken döner in a backwater train station in Austria.  It wasn’t anything exciting, but I still wanted to experience the legendary döner.  Now, I could experience the legend right here in East Lansing!

Memo’s is definitely a unique restaurant.  The walls are brightly colored in red, green and yellow.  Small, simple furniture provide plenty of seating.  Food is ordered at a main counter and döners are prepared sub shop-style.

The döner itself is served on a fluffy pita or dürüm (like a flour tortilla).  Beef or chicken can be piled along with yogurt sauce, cucumber, tomato, onions, lettuce, cabbage, and chilies.  The beef I had in my dürüm had a depth of flavor that was far more interesting than the gyro meat you get at typical Mediterranean joints.

In addition to the kebabs are Turkish style pizzas and desserts like baklava.  The baklava I had seemed drenched in a lot more honey than what I’ve had before.  A word of warning to non-Turkish taste-buds: the yogurt drink is not a carbonated, milky-tasting drink (as I was used to), but is very salty.

Overall, Memo’s is unique enough and has good quality ingredients that will keep me coming back.  The owner plans to start a chain, so it’ll be interesting to see if this takes off.

July 20, 2008

Peanut Barrel

Filed under: American, Campus, East Lansing — Jack Lumanog @ 1:34 pm

Peanut Barrel
www.peanutbarrel.com
521 E Grand River Ave East Lansing, MI 48823
(517) 351-0608
Mon-Sat: 11:00 am 2:00 am,
 Sun: 12:00 pm 2:00 am

I’ve often looked forlornly at the outdoor patio of Peanut Barrel while strolling along with my wife and two daughters.  The place looks like a lot of fun  —  but not super kid friendly (not meant as a criticism).  I don’t think they have a highchair and the patio doesn’t look big enought to accomodate our stroller.  But, thanks to a babysitter and a night enjoying the beautiful weather in East Lansing, my wife and I finally were able to give Peanut Barrel a shot.

I had Sal’s Memorial ‘Shroom Burger with fries and a Long Island Iced Tea.  My wife had a sandwich (can’t remember which one) and a Long Island Iced Tea.  The meal and drink were delicious and the patio vibe was a lot of fun.  Total cost for dinner and drinks with tip was about $23.  Not a bad deal at all and a great spot to people watch.  Service was fair but in their defense, the 2 waitresses were covering the entire patio and trying to keep track of the seating order between them.  I suggest being on the ball to make sure you’re getting your order in and being proactive to get your check when you’re ready to cash out.

April 12, 2008

Charlie Kang’s

Filed under: Campus, East Lansing — dkastner @ 4:32 pm

Charlie Kang’s

127 E Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823
Phone:
517-332-4696

Hours: M-Thu 11:30-3:00 & 4:00-9:30, F-Sat 11:30-3:00 & 4:00-10:00, Sun 1:00-9:30

A Korean/Chinese restaurant with a “lodge” feel. The restaurant is owned by a Korean family, so I would trust the Korean food more. They serve Bibimbap in stone bowls along with pickled root vegetables and kimchi.

I used to hate Korean food. I used to live in Northern Virginia’s “Korea Town” but most of what I’d experienced was spicy blandness or soups containing a myriad of random sea creatures.  Not particularly appetizing. The Bibimbap I had at Kang’s, however, was spicy (thanks to copious amounts of pepper sauce) but wasn’t so bland. It’s a good, quick, hot meal that’s made interesting by the fact that it is cool ingredients cooked at your table within the hot bowl – be sure to stir it well!

February 26, 2008

Sansu

Filed under: Best of, Campus, East Lansing, Japanese, Sushi — dkastner @ 9:32 pm

SansuSansu
http://www.sansu-sushi.com/
Hannah Plaza, 4750 S. Hagadorn Rd, Ste 10, East Lansing, MI 48823
Phone:
517-333-1933

Hours: M-Sat 11:30-2:30 & 4:30-10:00, Sun 3-10

Sansu is movin’ on up, but is staying on the East Side.  The last time I had been there, the restaurant was crammed into a corner of a strip of mall in Hannah Plaza and featured budget seating and decor.  While the atmosphere was bland, the food was good.

But oh, how times have changed!  The new Sansu, located next to the old, has gone upscale and competes among the higher-end restaurants in the area.  This is a great place for a date or a business meal.  A “traditional modern Japanese” look is achieved, complete with a dining area that  mimics a traditional Japanese eating style of sitting on the floor at a short table.  Don’t worry, though, you don’t have to kill your knees sitting cross-legged.  Instead, the wait staff will sacrifice their legs for you by stepping in and out of the pit “dug into” the floor that allow your legs to dangle at rest.  It’s a fun, unique experience for the diner.

Looking at the a la carte menu, it was difficult to judge quantities.  When in doubt, ask, or you’ll be eating two meals worth of sushi.  The combination sushi/sashimi platter was a great sampling of Sansu’s standard offerings.  While not the freshest sushi you’ll get, it is definitely top-notch and probably the best you’ll find in the area.  I didn’t opt for the flashy dishes served in volcano bowls, but they looked intriguing.  Be sure to specify hot sake if you like it that way.  There is a good selection of the drink.

The staff were all very friendly and I can see Sansu becoming a cornerstone of Lansing eateries.

January 5, 2008

Espresso Royale

Filed under: Best of, Campus, Coffee, East Lansing — dkastner @ 11:12 pm

Espresso Royale
espressoroyale.com
527 E Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823
Phone
: 517-332-5224

Hours: M-F 6:30am-12am, S-S 7:30am-12am

Espresso Royale is a chain, but it does several things that put it over the top of the likes of Starbucks and Biggby.  

First, the quality of their brew is very good.  The fair trade Peru has a strong, but not overbearing acidity and a pleasant aftertaste.  

Second, if flavored coffee is your thing, they offer a few interesting drinks, like the Spanish Latte, which is made with condensed milk.  

Third, they don’t just offer food loaded with preservatives that came off a truck a week ago.  They make sandwiches and breakfast items in the cafe.  

Fourth, they use real dishes and silverware.  Not only is having real dishes a better experience, but it’s also less wasteful as you’re not throwing away paper cups and plastic plates.  

Fifth, it’s just a great place to hang out.  You’ll find a healthy mix of college students and working adults here sitting on plush furniture or sitting outside next to the fireplace on a heated (in the winter) patio.  

November 14, 2007

Sultan’s

Filed under: Arab, Campus, Lansing — dkastner @ 10:33 pm

Sultan Express
305 S Washington Sq, Lansing, MI 48933
Phone: 517-484-2850

Sultan’s Place
4790 S Hagadorn Rd, East Lansing, MI 48823
Phone: 517-333-4444

There are two Sultans, the tasty hole in the wall in downtown Lansing and the forgettable dine-in restaurant in East Lansing.

The downtown location caters to the Lansing lunch crowd with a relatively limited selection of typical Arab cuisine – kabobs in particular. The garlic-flavored hummus is pretty good. It’s quick, inexpensive, and an above-average meal.

The evil twin Sultan lives in East Lansing on the East side of campus. While it offers a more formal atmosphere, it lacks desperately in the service and quality departments. My server practically ignored me while he ate his own dinner. My beef kabob was overly charred on the outside and it tasted as though it may not have been grilled over charcoal (for shame!). It was just OK.

October 24, 2007

MSU Dairy Store

Filed under: Best of, Campus, East Lansing, Ice Cream — dkastner @ 8:11 pm

MSU Dairy Store
Main Building

dairystore.msu.edu
1140 S. Anthony Hall, Farm Lane East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: 517-355-8466

MSU Dairy Store
Student Union

107 MSU Union Bldg, Abbott Rd & Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823
Phone: 517-353-9988

Lansing seems to have the highest number of ice cream stores per capita of any city I’ve been in. Even better, many of them are independently owned. The crown jewel of ice cream in the Capitol area is the MSU Dairy Store. It’s on every MSU visitor’s list for a good reason. They sell “super-premium” ice cream at a great price while offering a plethora of flavors. This ice cream competes with (and possibly beats) Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream made in Madison, Wisconsin.

Some of my recommended flavors: Coconut Chocolate Almond, Pumpkin Spice, and Wildcat Crunch.

The store also sells cheeses, including a chocolate cheese (don’t bother). You can buy some flavors of ice cream by the half gallon.

If you’re on campus and craving ice cream, go here! If you’re not on campus and don’t mind driving over jaywalking students, go here!

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