Eat! Lansing

June 21, 2011

Trailer Park’d

Filed under: American, Lansing, Organic, REO Town — dkastner @ 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, 2010

Sugarshack

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

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

Sugarshack
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.

August 13, 2009

Pablo’s Panaderia

Filed under: Best of, Lansing, Mexican — Jack Lumanog @ 9:28 pm

Pablos

Pablo’s Panaderia
311 E Grand River Ave, Lansing, MI 48933

(517) 372-0887

The first time I ate at Pablo’s Panaderia, I almost cried.  OK, well maybe not really, but I felt a little misty.  Maybe because our family has eaten some pretty mediocre Mexican food since moving to Lansing.  We’ve eaten at Fiesta Charra in DeWitt a few times simply because it’s close to our house and they pour a healthy margarita at a reasonable price. Besides proximity and margaritas, that’s where the good stuff comes to an end. No matter what you order, it’s going to be the saltiest thing you’ve ever had. We’ve had quite a few meals at Cancun Mexican Restaurant at both locations in Okemos (off of Jolly Road is preferred because it’s not as busy as the location across from Meridian Mall). We usually have a coupon, the service is OK, food comes out quickly (important when you’ve got kids!) and it’s consistently good. My wife always says the servers always seem in a hurry to shoo us out as soon as we slow down from eating. Lots of MSU folks also have a warm place in their hearts for El Azteco which I don’t quite understand. Service is always rushed, everything is an extra charge and nothing is particularly great.

So, we’ve settled down into a routine of not having great Mexican meals since we moved here from Kansas City. On one street alone in KC – Southwest Boulevard – you could take your pick of a dozen amazing Mexican restaurants.

So, enough complaining about other Mexican restaurants in Lansing that have not really hit the spot or reminiscing about the bevy of options in Kansas City.  Pablo’s is a place we’ve known about because of the road construction on our normal route to the west side of Lansing.  The torn up roads put us on a detour through Old Town. And after what seemed like the millionth time of driving by Pablo’s and saying, “We should try that sometime,” we finally did.

First time I went for dinner, I came with my family. The owner greeted us warmly, found a high chair for my youngest and put us right by the window. He was incredibly helpful in improvising a kids meal for our daughters and heaped on the sides for my entree and my wife’s entree so that all four of us could share. My wife got an amazing combo platter with carnitas (seasoned roasted pork). It had three items on it and I don’t remember any of the names but I snuck a bite of each of them and they were amazing.

For me, the 3 taco platter was what I had been missing since I moved here (pictured above with one missing – I ate the first one and realized that I should have taken a pic for the blog!). These tacos were perfection and there is just about every meat choice imaginable: lengua (tongue), bistek (steak), carnitas, chicken, chorizo (sausage) and others. I went with the various beef options and it was just amazing. Preparation is simple with two tortillas for each taco, your meat of choice, cilantro, onions and limes no the side. If you’ve ever been to Mexico, you’ll feel like you’re back there with the look of the plate and of course when you take your first bite. I don’t want to be overdramatic, but I felt like I was back in Cancun the first time I ate here. (And the successive visits over the last few weeks at the lunch hour.)

Our family of four ate an amazing meal for around $20. No liquor license at Pedro’s but they offer some fresh squeezed juices, fountain drinks and even bottled Coca-Cola hecho en Mexico (made in Mexico).  What’s the big deal about Mexican Coca-Cola, you ask?  If you are a freak about not ingesting high fructose corn syrup, you’ll love this because Mexican Coca-Cola is made with pure sugar cane.

As I write this post, I’m wondering: is going to Pablo’s two days in a row for lunch a bad idea?

December 5, 2008

Bangkok House

Filed under: Lansing, Thai, Uncategorized — Jack Lumanog @ 2:31 pm

Bangkok House
420 E Saginaw St # 112, Lansing, MI 48906
(517) 487-6900

Usually when I have a craving for Filipino food (BTW, I’m Filipino!), I usually find a Thai restaurant as that is usually as close as I can get as far as flavor profiles are concerned.  Filipino restaurants are hard to find around here in the Midwest (unless you’re in Chicago) but I can usually find a Thai restaurant that will hit the spot.

But, I digress…  after a few attempts in my nearly two years in Greater Lansing, I finally was able to eat at Bangkok House!  Usually, they are closed when it occurs to me to go check it out.  The location is another factor as it isn’t on my way to my normal routes for work or errands.  So, this had to be a deliberate trip at the dinner hour and they were open!  (The restaurant is closed for a few hours in between lunch and dinner.)

My wife and two daughters joined me for this little outing for dinner and all of us were pleased with our experience.  To start, we ordered 2 orders of Thai spring rolls (4 pieces all together for $4.00) and fried tofu ($3.00).  The fried tofu comes with either a sweet and sour sauce (I recommend this one) or a peanut sauce (I would avoid this one  —  the look of it wasn’t all that appetizing).  The kids loved the starters and they came to the table very quickly.

For dinner, my wife and I both ordered Pad Thai (come on, why not?).  My wife had the pork version, mild spices.  I ordered shrimp and chicken with extra egg, medium spices.  My wife’s came out first and then there was a bit of delay before mine came out.  They were both delicious and not at all greasy (which has been my experience at another Thai restaurant in Lansing  —  Dok Sing, across from the Lansing Mall).

Everything comes from the kitchen to your table at one temperature  —  “boiling lava hot” as comedian Jim Gaffigan would call it.  It’s not meant as a criticism at all.  It’s just how it is.  Food coming to our table was extremely efficient.  However, don’t expect for anything to be cleared off your table between courses.  We resorted to putting empty plates, glasses and other stuff on the table next to us (thankfully, no one was seated at that table next to us!).

Bangkok House seems to be one of the few Asian restaurants in the Greater Lansing area with a liquor license.  I enjoyed a healthy pour of the house chardonnay at $1.95 per glass  —  a relative bargain at any restaurant these days.  The white wine matched well with the spice of my entree.  There’s also a good selection of beers also at very affordable prices.

All in all, I’d recommend this place for something different.  The prices are just great, the food comes out to you very quickly and everything is pretty tasty.  This was not at all a bad way to spend a Thursday night with the family!

October 10, 2008

Curtis Original Barbecue

Filed under: American, Lansing — Jack Lumanog @ 6:28 pm

Curtis Original Barbecue
Saginaw & Cawood, Lansing MI
(in the parking lot of American Print & Copy – west of St. Lawrence Campus of Sparrow Hospital)
517-333-9287
Thursday, Friday & Saturday: lunch and dinner hours

“You don’t know what you got until it’s gone” applies to me and barbecue.  I lived in Kansas City for 8-1/2 years before moving to Lansing.  Kansas City is one of the capital cities of barbecue along with Memphis and Austin.  Every so often, I have a craving for some good BBQ and usually have to settle with Smokey Bones at Eastwood Towne Center in Lansing (a chain operation that is underwhelming and overpriced … not a great combination).

Enough backstory  —  let’s talk about Curtis Original Barbecue!  At the Old Town BlueFest, after a few bites of a horrible gyro purchased in the vendor area (wow, I’m full of reminiscing tonight!) I moved on to Curtis’s white catering truck with a reasonably priced menu of barbecue.  I settled on the rib tips and I was suddenly transported to Kansas City in a single bite!  It was an amazing meal that could have easily fed 2 adults and it only set me back $5. 

I was looking for something out of the ordinary for dinner tonight (i.e. I didn’t feel like cooking) and thought of Curtis Original Barbecue!  I drove up to his catering truck parked at Saginaw & Cawood and looked over the menu.  So much to choose from:  ribs, chicken, rib tips, beans, potato salad and green beans.  While I was trying to decide, Curtis was so kind as to give me a sample pork rib and rib tip  —  both were heavenly and made my decision all the more difficult.  I eventually settled on the Rib Dinner:  a massive serving of smoked pork ribs, green beans and potato salad for $11.  Everything is served from the catering truck with the grill/smoker right beside the truck.  It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

The drive home to enjoy my barbecue dinner seemed like an eternity but it was worth it.  I uncorked a bottle of Provenance 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon  —  a fine pairing to go along with my rib dinner from Curtis Original Barbecue!

July 12, 2008

Amici’s New York Deli, take 2

Filed under: American, Lansing, Uncategorized — Jack Lumanog @ 9:22 am

Amici’s New York Deli
521 N Clippert St Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 332-1000
Monday-Saturday, 10 am-8 pm; Sunday 11 am-6 pm

OK, I felt enough remorse about my last post (stay away from the corned beef is all I’m saying) about Amici’s that I stayed true to my promise about coming back to try the pastrami.  As soon as I posted my first review of Amici’s yesterday, I felt bad enough that when contemplating my lunch I had to return to try to find a redeeming item off the menu.

The pastrami is the main event here and should not be missed.  OK, I plunked down another $9.74 for a sandwich and a soda but this time went for the #3 “The Westsider” (basically it’s the #1 with pastrami instead of the corned beef).  The pastrami on its own was wonderfully moist and it didn’t need the Russian dressing and the cole slaw  —  though it added some depth and flavor to the great flavor of the pastrami.  The corned beef definitely needed the cole slaw and dressing which is why I thought they were trying to make up for bad meat by putting all this other stuff on it.

I will gladly return to Amici’s after finding some heavenly solace in their pastrami.  Sorry to be so harsh the last time around, but I knew I was missing something here where it seemed they were trying so hard to do something right.

July 11, 2008

Amici’s New York Deli

Filed under: American, Lansing — Jack Lumanog @ 7:40 am

Amici’s New York Deli
521 N Clippert St Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 332-1000
Monday-Saturday, 10 am-8 pm; Sunday 11 am-6 pm

I was born and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey and spent an awful lot of time in New York.  I like to think that I know a fair amount about “New York deli food”.  So, I was really excited about trying Amici’s New York Deli.  That is, until I had their hot corned beef sandwich.

The corned beef was very thin, dry and bland.  And, there was a lot of it on the sandwich.  I’m told that the pastrami is the main event and to give it another shot.  I wasn’t impressed with my first visit there.  The restaurant is trying to clearly go for that NY deli vibe.  The prices were certainly in line with New York (nearly $10 for my sandwich and fountain drink) and they offer Dr. Brown’s sodas and salt and vinegar chips. 

The ambiance is pretty nice with free wi-fi and a flat screen TV on one side of the restaurant and a bustling lunch crowd the day I was there.  Though I wasn’t feeling the NY deli vibe the first time, I’m still willing to give the pastrami a shot the next time I’m there.

June 28, 2008

Famous Taco

Filed under: Burrito, East Lansing, Lansing, Mexican — dkastner @ 10:22 pm

Famous Taco
Various Locations 

Famous Taco occupies the space between fast-food burrito joints like El Oasis or Taco Bell, and sit down restaurants like El Azteco, Chevy’s or Chi Chi’s.  It’s the typical northern rendition of Mexican food that features plenty of unseasoned meat, cheese, and lettuce.  If you want spice, you can dip into the salsa on the side or have a bite of Spanish rice.  Famous Taco is nothing spectacular, but if you want a quick, sit-down Mexican meal, it’s a good place to start.  Sort of like the Denny’s of Mexican food.  $10 for a larger than average burrito with beans and rice.

June 17, 2008

El Oasis

Filed under: Best of, Burrito, Lansing, Mexican — dkastner @ 8:15 pm

El Oasis Antojitos Mexicanos
Michigan Ave & Francis St 

Authentic Mexican in the middle of the Great Lakes State?  Yes, it’s true!  In true Taqueria fashion, El Oasis is in a trailer at the corner of Michigan Ave and Francis St.  Curiously, the trailer has Ohio plates.

The chicken burrito is very tasty.  The flour tortilla is very soft (extra shortening!) and is filled with spanish rice, refried beans, lettuce, queso fresco, and chicken.  There wasn’t much in the way of spiciness, but there was plenty of flavor.  Two tubs of Empanadas (caramel or apple) sit on the ordering counter.  The Empanadas are coated in sugar and cinnamon and the crust is flaky, almost like phyllo dough.  

El Oasis is perfect for a quick meal and it’s in a pretty eclectic neighborhood.  Some of the best Mexican food in town!

May 12, 2008

Burrito Chain Blowout

Filed under: Best of, Burrito, East Lansing, Lansing, Mexican, Okemos — dkastner @ 8:28 pm

Once Chipotle stormed onto the American dining scene, many “me too” burrito joints joined into the fray.  Here we will determine, once and for all, who makes the supreme burrito!

Let’s have a look at the contestants:

Chipotle Mexican Grill
East Lansing and Lansing Mall
www.chipotle.com
 

No, it’s not pronounced, “chuh-poll-tay” but it is the joint that sets the standard.   Without any real advertising this Denver-based company threw up restaurants in every major city, focusing on trendy “town centers,” yuppie neighborhoods, and upscale malls.  The menu is simple and the ingredients are above-average.  Diners are presented with an array of Tobasco sauces (one of which is chipotle flavored (flavored like the smoked pepper, not the restaurant)) with which to smother their food.  The guacamole is above average and the chips suit it well.  The meats are spicy and, if eaten freshly off the griddle, are great.  I think what puts it over the top is the rice with a bit of cilantro mixed in.  They also serve beer!

The high quality food and simple, yet clean atmosphere raises the bar for fast Mexican food.  Be sure to find a Chipotle staffed with Central/South Americans, if you can, as they tend to spice up the meat a little more.

But, are you willing to sell your soul to a national chain brought to you by McDonald’s investment?

Qdoba Mexican Grill
Various locations
www.qdoba.com 

If Chipotle is the Mercedes W463 of burritos, then Qdoba is the Ford Festiva.  Pretty basic, and gets you where you want to go (face stuffed full of meat and spices).  No gimmicks, just meat, veggies and maybe some movie theater-quality nacho cheese thrown in.  The MSU Union location was recently closed, presumably due to its substandard fare.

Panchero’s Mexican… You Guessed It, Grill
Various locations
www.pancheros.com 

I can just imagine the marketing meeting.  “How can we compete against Chipotle?  I know!  Let’s make the tortillas right in front of the diner!  That’s so much more fresh! And fun!”  Well, sadly, the wait for a tortilla to finish frying is quite a negative experience.  Especially when the other ingredients lack in quality.  The Guacamole, while fresh, is uninspiring and the chips don’t do much to help it out.  The ingredients are slightly higher quality than Qdoba, but don’t match Chipotle.

BTB Burrito (formerly, Big Ten Burrito)
403 E. Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI
www.bigtenburrito.com 

A burrito joint started in Ann Arbor, located here in East Lansing.  Unique, modern atmosphere with basic seating at long picnic tables.  Skinny burritos.  Quite cheap.  A decent meal for the price.  There are also plenty of other offerings here, but I haven’t ventured beyond the burrito.

New York Burrito
216 S Washington Sq, Lansing, MI 
www.newyorkburrito.com 

New York City?  That really chaps my hide!  There is a New York Burrito combined in an unholy marriage with a sub shop in downtown Lansing.  Just finding the correct line to stand in is initially confusing.  The burritos here are comparable to Qdoba.  Don’t waste your time.  Oh wait, that’s easy because, like every other downtown business, it closes at 6pm, so you’ll never have a chance to visit!  Fun fact: New York Burrito is headquartered in Utah.

And the Winner Is…

As a Mac fan, I have to say that Chipotle is the Apple Computers of burritos.  They’ve set an innovative standard and have managed to keep the quality up.  In a strong second I would put Big Ten Burrito and Panchero’s in a distant third.

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