Eat! Lansing

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
517-337-7324
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?

September 15, 2010

Bake ‘n Cakes

Filed under: Bakery, East Lansing — dkastner @ 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 — 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.

March 1, 2010

ENSO

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

ENSO
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.

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 13, 2008

Omi Sushi

Filed under: Best of, East Lansing, Japanese, Sushi — Jack Lumanog @ 2:39 pm

Omi Sushi
210 M.A.C. Ave., East Lansing, MI 48823
(517) 337-2222
Mon.-Sat.: 11:30 am 9:30 pm (closed 2:30-5:30 pm); Closed Sunday

Omi is a cool, sleek (albeit cramped) place if you don’t mind waiting and have the patience for outstanding sushi.  It’s rare that I have been able to go right to a table.  I usually wait 15-20 minutes for a space to open up.  From there, it could be more waiting depending on the attentiveness of your server.

The sushi is wonderfully fresh (my favorite is the maguro, or tuna) and the selection of rolls for the sushi squeamish is more than complete with lots of delicious cooked options to choose from.  It’s always worth it, but at $1.95 per maguro piece, it adds up in a hurry (I could eat Omi’s maguro all day!).  The tables are a bit squished together so as to accomodate as many diners as possible.  Getting up every so often if one in your party needs to visit the restroom can be tricky so as not to bump the table next to yours.  We typically eat out with our 2 daughters and considering the tight squeeze in the restaurant, I would not consider Omi to be particularly kid friendly (not a criticism – it’s just the way it is!).

Omi also has a nice small selection of beer, wine and sake to go along with the meal.  A great thing to see is that all of the items on the beer, wine and sake menu are decently priced.

There are other items on the menu but I’ve never bothered to order them because the sushi is just outstanding.  I highly recommend this place  —  but be patient and be prepared to wait a bit.  It’s worth it!

Derek’s Take:

Omi is one of my favorites.  The location is great, walkable from many points around campus.  The atmosphere is modern and feels like it might come straight from a hip neighborhood in Tokyo.  I’ve never had to wait for a table, but I usually go on weekdays at around 5-6.  

I wouldn’t rank the sushi as highly as Sansu.  The specialty roles tend to be extremely salty (even without soy) and the fish isn’t quite as fresh.  However, the prices are far better at Omi.

Service is businesslike, but efficient.  There’s nothing better than a jar of warm sake on a cool, gray Michigan day.  My only complaint about the menu is the seeming lack of nigiri items.  Most of the a la carte items are maki or sashimi.  Sometimes the wasabi can be very fresh but at other times extremely old and dry.  It’s a mixed bag, but overall a cozy, casual place with good sushi.

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.

October 1, 2008

Chapelure

Filed under: Bakery, Coffee, Desserts, East Lansing — Jack Lumanog @ 11:08 am

Chapelure
Ste 10, 4750 S Hagadorn Rd, East Lansing, MI 48823
517-333-7172

My wife and kids and I stumbled into Chapelure after taking a walk around Hannah Plaza after dinner.  And, what a wonderful surprise this was earlier this summer finding this little jem in East Lansing!  I also can’t believe that I’ve forgotten to blog about this place because it is amazing.

Imagine European bakery treats like traditional madeleines offered along with an Asian twist  —  green tea madeleines!  As far as I can tell, they do both European bakery items along with Asian bakery items and they do them equally well.  This is the only place where I’ve been able to find Asian sweet red bean buns in town.  The assortment of goodies is eye popping and wonderfully arranged. 

You can enjoy your pastries with coffee and tea inside a very cozy atmosphere with free wi-fi.  We went on a Saturday night and there was a great buzz inside the place. (And, note to bargain hunters: some items are 30% off after 7pm!)

September 14, 2008

Grand River Coffee

Filed under: Coffee, East Lansing, Italian — dkastner @ 5:08 pm

Grand River Coffee
515 W Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823

In the spring of 2007, I was looking for a good coffee place to hang out at.  I saw a lot of billboards for Cornerstone Coffee and decided to try out the one in Holt.  I wasn’t impressed.  The decor seemed to come straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog (no character), the wireless internet was a no-go, and the owner/manager rubbed me the wrong way.  Since then, I drove by the Grand River location in East Lansing without stopping.

Now, the cafe sitting on Grand River is named Grand River Coffee.  I never would have stopped in, but my wife suggested it.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  The atmosphere is cozy – leather chairs and couches, a fireplace, and a sheet of falling water surrouned by stone masonry.  However, it’s still a little bit soulless and the light jazz piped through overhead speakers requires a pair of headphones to drown out.  

The coffee here is the best part.  It’s probably the best brewed coffee I’ve tasted here in town and there are plenty of varieties to choose from.  

On the dining front, there is a case full of tasty pastries or they’ll grill up a panini for you.  I had the Italian panini and it was good.  The dill bread was buttery and crisp with pesto spread on the inside.  The meat was pleasantly spicy.  The sandwich was served with salt and pepper flavored kettle-style potato chips.  

Overall, it’s a great place to study or hang out, especially if you enjoy good coffee.

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.

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