1913 Room a Five Diamond Dining Establishment

16 04 2008

A friend of mine sent me a link to this article on WILX’s website today….

A swanky Grand Rapids restaurant is one of only 46 dining establishments in the nation to receive the AAA’s five-diamond rating this year.
For the sixth consecutive year, the automobile club has awarded its highest rating to the 1913 Room, which is inside the downtown Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
The restaurant is the only five-diamond winner in Michigan.

So, what exactly does that mean? According to AAA, 60,000 lodging establishments are restaurants are reviewed annually and rated on a scale of one to five diamonds. 

One Diamond properties meet AAA’s basic standards for comfort, cleanliness, and hospitality, while five diamond properties are the premier establishments that provide the ultimate in quality and service.

So what I wanted to know is what exactly makes a Five Diamond restaurant.  Having not been to the 1913 Room yet, I don’t have any idea what the restaurant looks like or even what they serve, but  this news has peaked my interest.  There’s a whole list of criteria broken down by rating on AAA’s website.  You can access that by following this link.  For the most part, a five star diamond rating is only acheivable with elegance.  The use of exoctic ingredients and presentation of food comibined with from-scratch cooking make up some of the criteria from the food prep list.  Things like addressing patrons approriately when calling for reservations and calling to confirm those reservations are required by AAA to earn the distinction that the 1913 Room has. 

Congrats the 1913 for it’s sixth straight Five Diamond Rating.  I am now looking forward to a weekend trip to Grand Rapids to check it out and see what exactly makes a Five Diamond restaurant



Penn Ave. Diner

16 04 2008
  • 6031 S. PennsylvaniaPenn Ave. Diner
  • Lansing, MI 48911
  • (517) 272-0504
  • No Known Website
  • Menu

When you take the first letter from each word in the name of the Penn Ave. Diner, you get the word PAD.  The Penn Ave. Diner has taken that theme and ran with it.  As you walk into the restaurant, there’s a sign that says “Welcome to the PAD.”  Do you see where I’m going with this yet?  No?  Look at the picture to the right.  See anything there that jumps out at you?  Yeah.  It’s frogs.  Frogs everywhere.  The diner is painted green and adorned with stuffed frogs, ceramic frogs and anything else you can make a frog out of. 

Penn Ave. DinerI picked my girlfriend up at work and we took a quick dinner break at the PAD.  We walked in and waited for a waitress at the front counter.  The waitress came out and asked smoking or non-smoking.  We chose non-smoking which is a pretty small dining room in the front of the restaurant.  There’s a wall that seperates that space from the smoking section, but windows still allow the smoke to sneak through.  The non-smoking side of the dining room is actually pretty big.  I headed back that way to the restrooms and there were quite a few people back there enjoying their meals in the thick, smoky air.  Most of the patrons back there seemed to know each other as converstions extended beyond their own tables.

Dinner was what you expect at little family diners like this.  I chose the Penn Ave. Diner because I was in the mood for a greasy cheeseburger and fries, so that’s what I ordered.  Unfortunately, the sandwich didn’t come with fries.  It came with chips, so I had to order fries and they had to charge me extra.  The burger itself was really good for a diner burger.  They took a little extra time to toast the bun and the meat was a little bit better than a frozen patty.

My girlfriend went with comfort food too and ordered a grilled cheese sandwich.  Like me, she wanted fries instead of chips and added on the extra.  She took her first bite and the look on her face was enough to tell me the PAD passed when it comes to making comfort food.  Both her and my sandwich came with coleslaw as well as the chips.  I don’t really like coleslaw so I passed and my g/f only took a couple bites and didn’t say anything.

Penn Ave. DinerThe Penn Ave. Diner passed the test as a greasy spoon diner.  They didn’t really do anything that made them standout, but most people don’t go to a place like this for something super special.  The bill seemed to be a little high to me coming in at $15 before tip.  I’m sure it was the extra we had to pay for a fry cook to open a bag of fries and drop them in the oil.  It was a quick meal though as we were in and out in about 20 minutes.  The PAD has a unique design and food that satisfies, but doesn’t wow.

Michigan Workplace Smoking Ban Revision

16 04 2008

I just moved to Michigan from Illinois and at the beginning of the year, Illinois enacted the Smoke Free Illinois Act which is very similar to a law that is being pushed through the Michigan legislature right now.  The Smoke Free Illinois Act bans smoking in all public places including bars, restaurants, and casinos.

I know this is controversial.  I know this borders on constitutional rights, but let me tell you from first hand experience, this is one of the greatest things to ever come out of the Illinois legislature.  I eat out more thanMichigan State Capitol most people, but once this law went into effect, it made dining out so much better.  You could go to a pub after work or for lunch and not have to worry about your suits soaking up that cloud of smoke.  Ther have been some bumps in the road in Illinois.  The disfunctional legislature hasn’t been able to agree on how to enforce the law so all tickets wrote in Illinois have been thrown out so far.  Communities have had to deal with an abundance of trash on the sidewalks.  In my former home of Peoria, the city has stepped up and given the downtown bars cigarette receptacles.  In the first three months I was there, not one bar or restaurant shut it’s doors because of the smoking ban.  Forty miles to the east, Bloomington/Normal (home of Illinois State University) banned smoking in all public places six months before the rest of the state.  Again, not one bar or restaurant closed it’s doors because of the smoking ban.  In fact, a few business have said the smoking ban has actually helped there business

“We’re really starting to see an improvement in lunch business and early evening as they’re doing business activities,” said Sully’s General Manager Curt Johnson. And that’s not all.
Sully’s in downtown Peoria is seeing a lot more families too. Manager Curt Johnson says it’s the Illinois Smoke Free Act that’s bringing different faces to his business. Across the River City, Bingo officials say the act is also scoring new players. “We may have some people that aren’t coming out but on the other side of the equation we have some different faces,” said Roger Boswell of the Knights of Columbus.

 With that said, should the State of Michigan ban smoking in bars and restaurants by revising the workplace smoking ban?  HB4163 passed the Michigan House of Representatives on Dec. 5 by 10 votes.  What this bill does is update the bill by striking the provision that allows exemption for “licensed” establishments.  This exemption allowed businesses that were licensed by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to sell alcohol to continue to allow smoking.  The bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate where a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop said he opposed the bill, but would allow a debate on the subject according to the Detroit Free Press.

Of course, the bar and restaurant owners are already on the defensive.

A spokesman for the Michigan Restaurant Association said Tuesday that bars and restaurants should be allowed to set their own policies based on what customers want. More than 5,000 bars and restaurants in Michigan already ban smoking, up from around 2,200 in 1998, Andy Deloney said.

“If it’s what their customers want, their potential customers want, then they’ll do it,” he said

Of course, that’s the same bull I heard in Illinois for a year leading up to ban.  No bar is going to ban smoking on it’s own.  When one bar does it, but the other 200 in town don’t, the bar may as well just close up shop.  When the entire state bans smoking, everyone is on the same playing field. 

I, for one, hope this issue gets taken up soon in the Senate and smoking gets snuffed out in public places.  I remember the first time I walked into a bar in Lansing and the first thing out of the hostess mouth was “Smoking or Non-Smoking” and I just kind of rolled my eyes.  I was finally able to enjoy a night out drinking or a relaxing dinner with my girlfriend and not be assualted by smoke and now I was stepping back into that world.