Eat! Lansing

October 8, 2009

Maru Sushi and Grill

Filed under: Best of, Japanese, Okemos, Sushi — Jack Lumanog @ 8:41 am

Maru Sushi & Grill
5100 Marsh Rd., Okemos, MI 48864-1195
(517) 349-7500
Lunch: Monday – Saturday, 11:30a – 2:30p
Dinner: Monday – Saturday, 4:30p – 9:30p and Sunday 4:00p – 9:00p

My wife and I have been meaning to head out to Maru Sushi & Grill for a while now.  We finally made it out there last month when we had a babysitter. Just from outside appearances, Maru doesn’t look all that kid friendly as it looked like mostly couples eating there for dinner. (Not meant as a criticism – more as a helpful tip for those diners with kids.)

As we entered Maru, we were warmly greeted by the hostess and by nearly everyone working behind the sushi bar.  Our server was very attentive and let us know that we had about 5 minutes left before the sushi happy hour was over.  We quickly scanned the specials and ordered a tuna roll and crab roll – both on special at half off. Not a bad deal at all and both wonderfully delicious. (Half off sushi happy hour specials run from 4:30pm – 6:00pm daily, Sun 4:00p-9:00p.  Daily specials are announced via Facebook and Twitter.)

After the initial excitement of taking advantage of a deal wore off, it was on to examine the menu.  We started with the tofu appetizer.  I did not read the description all that carefully and didn’t realize until it came to our table, that the tofu was uncooked.  It was artfully presented in a bowl with ponzu sauce, green onions and some other embellishments.  The flavor was there, but I was not all that thrilled about the cold, slimy texture of the tofu.  My wife, on the other hand, loved it and it was a nice start to the meal for her.

I enjoyed the tuna maguro and salmon sake from the sashimi menu. Absolutely perfect on both counts. My wife went with the Ocean’s Eleven specialty roll which consists of: salmon, cucumber, sprouts, kampyo topped with albacore, and avocado with spicy oyster glazed salad (organic greens, carrots, cucumber, asparagus). My wife is not a fan of spicy food and didn’t realize this was a pretty spicy dish on account of the sriracha chili sauce that was the secret salad dressing. Fine by me, it was more for me to enjoy.

A few folks around us ordered the hibachi grills.  They came out beautifully prepared but at $19 and up for teriyaki chicken, it seems a bit pricy for fried rice, assorted meats and veggies.  The most expensive item in the hibachi offerings is at $26 for steak and shrimp. But, the plates coming to the neighboring tables were just beautiful!

That’s another thing about Maru.  As soon as you walk into the restaurant, you can’t help but be amazed at the attention to detail in this place!  The decor is very sleek, modern with lots of clean lines. I found myself just looking all around the dining room impressed by how beautiuful this place was. 

Finally, Maru is the recent recipient of a liquor license.  They offer a full bar with some delightful wines by the glass.

I highly recommend this place to you for the food offerings and for a beautiful place to relax and take in a nice dinner. If you can make it for sushi happy hour, your wallet will thank you for it as well.

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September 27, 2009

Michigan Brewing Company

Filed under: American, Brewpub — dkastner @ 9:57 am

Michigan Brewing Company
402 S Washington Ave, Lansing, MI
Mon-Sat 11am-2am, Sun 12pm-10pm

As I’ve noted earlier, Michigan is home to a plethora of craft breweries.  One of the Lansing area’s own brewery is Michigan Brewing Company.  Up until recently, the only way to get MBC beer on tap was to either find one of the few restaurants that serve it or venture out to Webberville’s industrial park.  I was ecstatic when I learned that MBC decided to set up a pub in downtown Lansing so that fresh, tasty beer is conveniently served only a mile from my house.

The pub itself is a welcome change from the clubby scene offered by neighboring establishments.  There is a couch and cushy chairs up front and dozens of tables toward the back.  The atmosphere is a bit spartan, but there was a good mix of younger people and congregating professionals.  Reinforcing the idea that this is a pub, there are games available, inviting you to relax, have fun, and enjoy a beer.  An acquaintance I ran into told me that at one point in the night, they had turned on some neon green lights, but the new ambiance seemed to do more harm than good, prompting them to revert to the soft glow of white lights.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to sample the food yet, but this post will be updated when that happens.

The brewery offers a good variety of beers, from Belgian ales to stout, to pale ales.  If you just want an old fashioned, American lager (think Coors), you can opt for Kid Rock’s creation – Bad Ass Beer.  We’ll see if I ever get a chance to try it.  My favorite so far has been the Celis Grand Cru – a Belgian-style wheat ale with traces of coriander and orange.

All in all, a great alternative to the coffee house for meeting and relaxing.

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?

June 15, 2009

Michigan’s Cornucopia of Beer

Filed under: Uncategorized — dkastner @ 10:00 pm

One of Michigan’s best kept secrets is its wonderful contingent of microbreweries.  Michigan has a high number of breweries per capita among US states, trailing only behind Wisconsin (home of Milwaukee’s breweries), the Rocky Mountain states (home of Coors), the Pacific Northwest (where most domestic hops are grown), and the far northeast.  Microbreweries and brewpubs were quite common before prohibition.  Many of the German immigrants into Michigan brought their beer garden culture and lager beers with them.  Yet Michigan enacted prohibition laws two years before the 18th amendment was passed and Detroit was the first major city to go completely dry.  After prohibition, many of the small breweries were wiped out and large national breweries, such as Budweiser, picked up the demand and were able to outsell the micros due to better economies of scale.  1978 was a turning point as legal restrictions on microbrewing were relaxed and a home brewing movement began.  Michigan’s craft brewing scene didn’t really take off until the 90’s as laws were relaxed.  However, given that it has only been a couple of decades, Michigan’s modern brewing scene is outstanding.

Within 100 miles of Lansing you will find 80% of the state’s breweries – a perfect reason to take a quick road trip! In the Lansing area alone, you’ll find Harper’s Brewpub in East Lansing, the Travelers Club International Restaurant and Tuba Museum in Okemos, and the Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville.

When most people think of beer, the first thing that comes to mind is the stuff that tastes like liquefied Corn Flakes sold under national labels. It’s no coincidence that corn (cheaper than wheat, barley, etc.) is a major ingredient in many of these brands. They are marketed toward those who see beer as a means to an end rather than a matter of quality or taste. But beer can be an enjoyable, tasty drink and it comes in so many varieties. Each brewery in Michigan reflects on its owner’s style and creativity, the location, and the type of ingredients used. Each brewpub also has its own unique atmosphere.

If you’re in the Lansing area and you want a good start, head over to the Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville.  My favorite offering is their Celis White, a Belgian-style ale that has a sweet, floral, fruity taste.  Their brown ale (a more nutty, carmel flavor) is also very good. The brewpub lacks atmosphere as its situated in the middle of an industrial park next to a major ADM grain terminal and the interior decor is just as sterile. However, it is far outweighed by the quality of beer. I’m also trying not to hold a grudge over the fact that Kid Rock has asked MBC to brew a special, state tax subsidized beer that he wants to taste like Coors Light.

I have yet to taste the offerings at Harper’s and the Traveler’s Club.  But here are a few suggestions as you branch out further from Lansing:

  • Dark Horse Brewery, Marshall, MI. This cozy hole in the wall (don’t blink or you’ll drive right past it) offers some innovative flavors, such as their blueberry stout.
  • Arcadia Brewery, Battle Creek. They specialize in British-style ales.
  • Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo. The most popular local brand in Michigan with their “Oberon” wheat beer.  Personally, I am sick of Oberon, especially after having a skunky batch (on tap, even!) not too long ago.
  • Ann Arbor Brewing Company, Ann Arbor. Well respected around Ann Arbor. Of note is their recent launch of a Belgian style ale.  I’ve tried their alt beer and it has a very dark, tobacco flavor.
  • Corner Brewery, Ypsilanti. A great place to hang out – plenty of couches and a patio in the back yard.
  • New Holland Brewing Company, Holland. So far, I’ve only tried their Dragon Stout and it was very good.

Note that over time, breweries tend to change up their offerings as they try new flavors. Many brewpubs offer samplers of each of their beers, a major advantage to visiting them rather than buying off the store shelf. I should also mention that Horrock’s and Goodrich’s are excellent places to find Michigan beers.

Another great resource is the Lansing City Market where Matergala stand.  The owner knows a great deal about brewing and is a great resource, especially if you’re home-brewing.

Have fun enjoying the beers of Michigan!

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!

April 19, 2009

State Side Deli

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jack Lumanog @ 5:00 pm

State Side Deli
3552 Meridian Crossings, Okemos, MI 48864
(517) 853-1100

I’ve not had much luck with finding a decent hot corned beef sandwich in the Lansing area.  That is, until a friend told me about the new-ish State Side Deli in Okemos.  I knew I was a deli snob, but not until I got an informative earful about the virtues of double-baked rye bread from Detroit.  My snobbery comes from being raised on New Jersey/New York deli where the bread is a secondary deal.  The first order of business is usually a pound to a pound and a half of the most delicious corned beef or pastrami you’ve ever had.  But again, I digress…

In a deli experience, I usually look for Dr. Brown’s soda (at State Side: check), amazing corned beef and pastrami (check and check) and decent bread (check).  Everything else can take a back seat in my opinion.

The dining room is pretty small so I suggest you come before or after the typical lunch rush hour if you expect to dine in.  We got in around 11:30 or so on a Saturday morning so we were the only ones there for a bit until a steady stream of customers came in until every seat was spoken for.

I had the #34 sandwich:  corned beef, pastrami, cole slaw, cheese and russian dressing on rye bread.  My friend who is really in the know about the legendary double-baked rye bread said that our visit wasn’t the best bread he’s ever had there.  It was my first experience with double-baked rye and I thought it was spectacular…even on a not so great day for it at State Side.  The sandwich was enormous, the corned beef and pastrami perfectly juicy and I basically inhaled the whole thing in 10 minutes.  Absolutely delicious!

I’ll have to save room for dessert next time or just take some to go once my enormous sandwich has digested.  There looked to be some delicious dessert options there at State Side (a small selection of ice cream) plus cheesecake, 7-layer cake and some other things.

I highly recommend this new deli.  Suddenly, after my visit to State Side, I’m not feeling all that deprived of decent deli in Greater Lansing!  And, I think I’ve been converted to the virtues of the Detroit double-baked rye.  The bread really added something different to the corned beef/pastrami experience!

March 31, 2009

Emil’s Restaurant

Filed under: Best of, Italian — Jack Lumanog @ 2:46 pm

Emil’s Restaurant
Menu on RestaurantDB.net

2012 E Michigan Ave., Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 482-4430

My wife and I have been meaning to go to Emil’s for a long time now.  Now, into our third year here in Lansing, we had a great opportunity to go for a church activity. 

We went on a Saturday night and the place was pretty packed out at 5:45pm (hint: make a reservation!) and that crowd was spilling out into the tiny waiting area and bar area when our group was finished up with our dinner.  And, what a dinner it was!

Apparently, Emil’s is Lansing’s oldest restaurant (operating since 1921).  It seemed a lot of the diners around us were going for the pizza.  But, the Italian sausage and peppers entree seemed like a great idea for me.  At $14.25, it was the perfect amount of food, perfectly prepared and it took me back to my childhood in Hoboken, NJ where I practically grew up on sausage and peppers at many a parish supper at St. Francis Church … but, I digress.  Emil’s Italian sausage and peppers came with two links, grilled sweet red peppers, a sweet marinara for dipping and a side of spaghetti in a different marinara sauce.  Absolute perfection and I was thoroughly satisfied.  My wife ordered the small dinner portion of lasagna which she proclaimed: “perfect!”

There is a limited selection of nameless wines by the glass.  The house wine selection is $5 by the glass.  At first, I went with the house Chianti and it was a mistake.  It was very, very sweet and tasted more like a Riunite Lambrusco.  My wife gladly took that glass of Chianti over so that I could try another glass of wine from the premium selection  —  $6 by the glass.  I went with the Cabernet Sauvignon instead and that was just perfect with the sausage and peppers dinner.

We had about 20 people in our group and the service was very efficient considering we were on separate checks.  Everyone from our group was very pleased with dinner which is very gratifying – and a feat at the same time! 

Finally, my only complaint is that my wife and I were charged $2 a piece additional to upgrade to a Caesar salad.  Should have stuck to the house salad for free because there was no real noticeable difference between our “upgraded” salad and the regular house salad.  That said, it was the only thing that stuck out in a bad way from my first ever visit to Emil’s.  It’s a minor thing and our family will definitely be back soon!

CLOSED: Krispy Kreme

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jack Lumanog @ 2:23 pm

krispykreme-lansing

A sad day for me (as an eater) and for cardiologists in the Greater Lansing area with the closing of our only Krispy Kreme on Lake Lansing Road at Eastwood Town Center.  It probably did not help that there was a “fake out” entrance that led to nowhere right next to the proper entrance and exit to the Krispy Kreme.  Also, it might not have helped to have a ton of Tim Horton’s locations opening all over Greater Lansing around the same time within the last year.

Oh well, Krispy Kreme, you will be missed.

February 12, 2009

Olga’s Kitchen

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jack Lumanog @ 3:26 pm

Olga’s Kitchen
http://www.olgaskitchen.com/

Meridian Mall Food Court
1982 Grand River Avenue, Okemos, MI 48864
517-349-8202

Frandor Shopping Center 
354 Frandor Court, Lansing, MI 48912
517-332-2500

Lansing Mall
5330 West Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI 48917
517-323-2888

I’m into my third year living in Lansing and I can safely say that I’ve settled into some eating ruts.  On the one hand, it’s nice that when I eat at my regular places, they usually know what I want when I sit down.  On the other hand, you forget that there are other places you’ve not tried yet.

My family and I decided on something new.  After driving by the Frandor location of Olga’s Kitchen a million times or walking by the food court locations at Lansing and Meridian Malls, we finally made our way to an Olga’s!

This was a nice place for a leisurely meal with courteous and efficient service.  The main attraction seems to be the Olga Sandwich…don’t call it a gyro or a doner kebab, though it looks suspiciously similar to both.  It’s an Olga sandwich, in Olgabread with Olgasauce.  Whatever you call it, it was delicious.

I opted for the Olga Combo with the Olga Sandwich (with extra meat at $2 upcharge) with curly fries and cole slaw.  My wife went with the Olga Sandwich and zucchini fries (excellent with the horseradishy dipping sauce it comes with) and my daughters split the kids meal of Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese. 

I think we all ordered well and got just the right amount of food.  The cost of our dinner added up in a hurry though…nearly $31 including drinks and tip.  Not a bad place and we’ll probably hit it again if we’re undecided on dinner.

January 8, 2009

CLOSED: Red Cedar Grill and China Gourmet in Lansing Mall

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jack Lumanog @ 3:42 pm

I went out to the Lansing Mall today to run some errands and both restaurants that I had in mind to eat at were closed.  My first choice today was for Bourbon Chicken (I know, I know, not the healthiest of things to eat) at China Gourmet.  That place at the food court is closed. 

Then, I thought, “Why not Red Cedar Grill for a burger?”  That place was closed as well. 

Click here for a report from Lansing State Journal on how Red Cedar Grill will be handling gift certificates at their Williamston and Brighton locations.

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