I was never around for the original incarnation of The Small Planet. Apparently, it was pretty popular and people are excited about this new version. I get hundreds and hundreds of hits every week from people looking for information on The Small Planet so we figured one of these days, we need to go check it out for ourselves.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting old or what, but I hate paying cover charges. There are very few places that I will pay a cover and not bitch and they’re all in Chicago. They’re not in Lansing. Plus, the bands that play at The Small Planet really aren’t my kind of music. I’m a country music fan. I’m going to see Taylor Swift in two weeks and I’m excited about it, so it probably wouldn’t be a good idea for me to go to a bar that gets a lot of rock bands.
So, instead, we decided to check out their dinner menu. We went on a Saturday night, but early enough the nighttime crowd hadn’t started coming in yet. It was about 6:00 and the place was pretty empty. From the beginning, J had a bad vibe about the place. Small Planet is not a good place if you’re just looking for a meal. The place is huge and very open. There’s no comfort to it at all. When you walk in, there are short tables leading all the way to the bar. In the back, there are higher pub tables back by the video games and pool tables. We chose one of the pub tables all the way in the back corner. We did this very intentionally.
I know Michigan hasn’t passed a smoking ban yet and I know it’s up to the owners to decide how much smoke they want. The Small Planet management must not care at all. There was no one seated anywhere near us. There were people at the bar smoking and on the other side of the restaurant smoking, but it felt like someone was sitting at the table next to us blowing smoke in our face. Like I said earlier, The Small Planet is not a good place if your just looking for a meal.
We sat at our table for quite a while wondering if we were even going to get served. Finally, a waitress comes out and asks if anyone has helped us yet. We said no and she said she’d be right back. She came back with a couple menus and took drink orders. I wasn’t in the mood for a beer so I ordered a Pepsi. J did the same, but in Diet form.
From the very beginning, J was very unimpressed with the place and that feeling carried over when she opened the menu. There wasn’t much on there that she thought looked good. I found some sandwiches and even a couple entrees that looked good to me, but she didn’t feel the same. She ended up ordering the Greek salad without the anchovies and beets. She got oil and vinegar to dress the salad and they actually brought out a bottle of oil and a bottle of red wine vinegar so she could dress the salad how wanted. For being very annoyed with the menu selection, she did say the salad was pretty good. There was a lot of feta cheese and she really likes feta. Other than that, she didn’t say a whole lot.
I ordered a BBQ Turkey Sandwich. What I got was not what I was expecting. The menu says “LEAN TURKEY BREAST BARBECUED TO PERFECTION, SERVED WITH LETTUCE AND TOMATO“ I assumed since it was called a BBQ Turkey Sandwich that there would be BBQ sauce on the sandwich and there was. What I didn’t expect was it to be a pulled turkey sandwich. I was expecting the whole breast. I got my choice of bread and I chose whole wheat. I didn’t really want the lettuce so I pulled it off. When I did that, I found another surprise. There was mayo on the bread. Who puts mayo on BBQ? Seriously?! To make it even worse, that wasn’t on the menu. If it’s not on the freakin menu, don’t put it on the sandwich. How do I know to ask to leave it off if I don’t even know it’s there? Other than that, the sandwich was pretty good. The sauce had a nice sweet flavor to it and the turkey was done perfectly. My sandwich came with fries. I didn’t even think of this until J said it, but they tasted like someone drove to McDonald’s Drive-Thru and ordered a large fry then put it on my plate. They were the same style fries and really salty.
Our bill was about $16 and I really felt bad about letting J pay for a meal she wasn’t happy with, but she insisted that it was her turn. The food was ok, but the experience was bad. J didn’t like anything about the space. It was too big if you just wanted a meal or even just a beer. It’s probably great when you’re there for a concert, but if you’re not there for a concert, you just feel out of place. There was too much smoke and J battled a fly thorugh most of the dinner. Even on the way in, she said it felt like we were going into a grocery store when we walked through the door. It’s one of those sliding glass doors on a motion sensor. There was just nothing inviting about the place as a restaurant. I’m curious about a couple other dishes on the menu, but I really have my doubts that we would ever consider going back just for dinner.
Update : I just want to add that both the Lansing State-Journal and City Pulse have reviewed Small Planet and come to a different conclusion than I have. I encourage you to check out their articles before forming an opinion based just on my experience.