Dinner Train Ending Run

31 12 2008

This is something else I thought was outdated.  I had no idea these dinner trains still ran yet this is the second one I’ve heard of in Michigan.  When we moved here, I found info on the Murder Mystery Dinner Train and tonight, J saw a story in the Detroit News about the Michigan Star Clipper making it’s last run.

After 24 years, the Michigan Star Clipper dinner train is making its last passenger run on New Year’s Eve before it embarks on plans to relocate to the East Coast in 2009.

Plans are also under way to sell the nine-mile-long rail line and eventually transfer the land to local communities, possibly for use in a trail network.

The Monday announcement by parent company Railmark Holdings Inc. has nothing to do with the dinner train’s derailment Friday because of icy roads and tracks, President and CEO B. Allen Brown said.

Anyone ever gone on one of these?  They sound cheesy to me, but I’m still a little curious.  Everytime I see these now I think of the King of the Hill episode when they went on a murder mystery for Peggy’s birthday and Luanne ruins it.  J loves King of the Hill 😉


Quality Dairy – Cavanaugh Ave

31 12 2008
  • 917 E. Cavanaugh Ave.
  • Lansing, MI 48910
  • (517) 272-1509
  • Website
Quality Dairy on South Pennsylvania in Lansing.

Quality Dairy on South Pennsylvania in Lansing.

For some odd reason, J and I have started a tradition of making ice cream sandwiches and playing games on New Year’s Eve.  Last year, we played Trivial Pursuit.  This year, it will probably be Rock Band 2, but the thing that will be the same is the ice cream sandwiches. 

As we left Corey’s, J suggested stopping at Meijer to get some ice cream so we could keep this odd tradition going.  I wasn’t really in the mood to go into Meijer.  Just getting something simple seems to take 20 minutes.  When we left Corey’s, we headed back towards Pennsylvania.  I knew somewhere along there their was a Quality Dairy. The store sits on the corner of Pennyslvania and Cavanaugh, but apparently, the address is on Cavanaugh.  The store faces Pennsylvania though…weird

Quality Dairy is one of those things that is foreign to me, but for people that grew up here, it’s something they have a hard time living without once moving away.  I see it as just another convenience store, but with ice cream and it was the ice cream that drew us in. Read the rest of this entry »

Corey’s Restaurant & Lounge

31 12 2008
  • 1513 S. Cedar St.
  • Lansing, MI 4891
  • (517) 484-7060
  • No Known Website
  • Menu
Coreys Restaurat & Lounge on South Cedar Street in Lansing.

Corey's Restaurat & Lounge on South Cedar Street in Lansing.

Since we found out our bar of choice wasn’t going to be open past 10:00 on New Year’s Eve, we decided to go out for dinner.  We had driven by a very uninviting building on Cedar Street with a old sign hanging off the building that simply said “Corey’s Coktails.”  We never gave the place much thought until a co-worker of J’s recommended it during a discussion of local eateries.   J e-mailed me and asked if I just wanted to go out for dinner and I said, yes and suggested Corey’s, so that’s where we ended up for dinner on New Year’s Eve. 

Corey’s Restaurant & Lounge sits on Cedar Street not too far from downtown.  From the outside, you’d never guess what was inside.  We pulled up to the building around 7:30 to find a packed parking lot.  We entered the lot off of Cedar Street and found a place to park, but we had no idea where the door was.  It definitely wasn’t on the Cedar Street side, so I assumed it was around back.  As we were walking towards the building, we saw someone walk out solving the mystery of the front door.

When you walk in, you take a step down and enter in the lounge part of the space.  There were no signs about seating or a hostess.  I noticed a pub table along the wall not too far from the entrance so that’s where we went.  There are two rooms  to the space.  Had we kept going, we would have found a more traditional dining room separated from the bar.  We climbed up the chairs and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited for a waitress to see us.  After a five to ten minute wait, we were finally noticed and a waitress came over for drink orders and left a couple menus.  Read the rest of this entry »

More on New Year’s Eve….

31 12 2008

One station does a story on how places are struggling and another does a story on how everything’s ok.  Last night, WLAJ did this story on how places are targeting a little older for New Year’s.

Some local entertainment venues are finding success this New Year’s Eve… but often only with a certain audience.

Local hot spots have found the audience that is willing to spend for entertainment, even in this recession. The age sweet spot is somewhere between 25 and 45. 

“Occasionally we’ll see some older clientele come in, but the bulk of what we’re marketing for is that younger group… who seems to come out, not really afraid of what the current economy situation looks like,” says Patrick Wisema, manager at Club X-Cel in Lansing.

Eh.  Who cares.  Found out I’m not going out at all.  Barley’s is closing at 10 PM tonight.  10 PM!  On New Year’s!  Things must really be bad if bars are closing early.  So, J and I will spend New Year’s watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve in the right time zone for the first time ever.  In the Central time zone, they play it live so the ball drops at 11:00 and then we’d turn to a Chicago station for a countdown to Midnight….this year, midnight in New York will actually be our Midnight…yay!

New Years Eve Plans?

30 12 2008

Ugh.  It’s that time of year again.  I’ve never understood why people actually go out on New Year’s.  I usually spend it just like I do any other night.  No crowded bars for me.  Last year, J and I played Trivial Pursuit while watching Dick Clark’s Rockin New Year’s Eve.  I can’t even remember how I spent the year before that.  J has to work until 11:30 this year and it looks like we’ll probably stop in to Barley’s for a couple beers.

It looks like we’re not the only ones planning a low key New Year’s this year.  I found this story on WILX pretty interesting. 

As the ball drops this year, fewer people will be ringing in the New Year at a prime-time party.

“Our ticket sales are about half what they have been the past four years at this time,” says Dave Sheets, who owns Lansing’s Cadillac Club. “Normally by now we’re pretty much sold-out but now we’ve got a few hundred tickets left.”

For years, Sheets has been hosting what he calls a New Year’s Eve Extravaganza–a sold-out soiree that, this year, is slumping. Sheets blames the economy for slow sales.

I never got these big parties that you paid $100+ for.  Why do you want to spend your New Year’s Eve with strangers making small talk.  That sounds like something my grandparents did in the 1940’s…not something that people would do today.  I’m guessing this may be the end of these big New Year’s Parties.  It’s not a tradition that I’ll be sorry that goes, but there are better ways to spend your hard earned money than on some mass prepared meal, some cheap booze, and swing music.  I feel bad for the places that count on these shindigs like the Cadillac Club and The Radisson, but it seems like an outdated tradition.

Merry Ann’s Diner – Downtown Champaign, IL

29 12 2008
  • 1 E. Main Street
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 531-1160
  • No Known Website
  • Menu
Merry Anns Diner in downtown Champaign, IL

Merry Ann's Diner in downtown Champaign, IL

5:30 AM is still too early for me.  I was up at this ungodly hour because I had to be in Champaign by 7:00 AM for a basketball game.  My parents live a little over an hour away, so the alarm was set for just before 5:30.  Since the game was at 1:00, it meant lunch was actually going to be breakfast, so on my way in to town, I started scouting out breakfast joints.  I wasn’t having much luck until I had to detour off of Neil Street (the main artery of Champaign and the road that runs through downtown) because of construction.  I turned down Main Street and like a golden beacon, a simple sign that said “diner” jumped out and I found my breakfast spot.

Merry Ann’s Diner is located in the One Main building which is a development companies’ prototype for downtown buildings.  I know they also built a “One Main” in Normal, IL near Illinois State University even though the street is not Main Street.  The “One Main” name comes from the address of this original building. 

I was not aware that there was a second Merry Ann’s in Champaign.  I had eaten at the location farther down on the corner of Neil and Kirby Streets near the University of Illinois (review HERE).  I was surprised when I actually saw the name of the diner on Main was Merry Ann’s.

I got back downtown just before 10:00.  The diner isn’t very big and it’s set up pretty much the same was as the diner on Neil Street.  Most of the booths but up to the “kitchen” with little cutouts for the waitress.  This way, the waitress never has to go out into the dining room….unless you happen to be sitting at the two or three tables near the door which are separated from the counter.  The diner is setup with a row of booths, a lunch counter, and another row of booths.  When I walked in, I wasn’t sure there was any available space.  All of the booths looked full.  I thought maybe there was one down at the end, so I started walking that way.  That’s when I noticed the stools at the counter, so I just sat down there. Read the rest of this entry »

Culvers of Bourbonnais, IL

29 12 2008
  • 983 Convent St.
  • Bourbonnais, IL 60914
  • (815) 614-3638
  • Website
  • Menu
Culvers of Bourbonnais on Convent Street

Culvers of Bourbonnais on Convent Street

It’s always fun when you take people some place new.  J and I have been eating at Culvers for a few years and love the food..well, love it as far as fast food goes.  My family had only been to Culvers one other time when we lived in Morton, IL and they just got custard, so lunch was something new…and apparently confusing for them.

J and I were in Bradley because my brother wanted to take a family portrait for my mom for Christmas.  J and I couldn’t get back before Christmas so we did it the Saturday after.  The Sears portrait studio made a huge mistake and took a walk-in of 17 just before our scheduled 12:00 appointment.  It was 1:30 before we even got our pictures started and 2:30 before we got out of there.  By that time, everyone was starving.  Even though everyone was hungry, no one wanted to make a decision.  Everyone my mom asked, “What do you want to eat?” would reply “I don’t care.”  I don’t know what restaurants are in the Bradley/Bourbonnais/Kankakee area, so I left it up to them…even though no one wanted to make a decision.

Finally, someone said Culvers which has just opened within the last month.  My brother didn’t think it was a great idea because it has been packed since it opened.  I just got in the car and started driving.  I noticed it was being built when we were home for Thanksgiving so I knew where it was.  J and I were going to Culvers even if it was by ourselves at that point.  I just wanted food. Read the rest of this entry »

BonaPit Grill & Smokehouse- Palos Heights, IL

29 12 2008
  • 12200 S. Harlem Ave
  • Palos Heights, IL 60463
  • (708) 361-9610
  • Website
  • Menu
BonaPit Grill and Smokehouse on Harlem in Palos Heights, IL

BonaPit Grill and Smokehouse on Harlem in Palos Heights, IL

I told J as we were eating dinner, it’s a good thing we don’t actually live in Chicago.  Every time we go home, I gorge myself when we go out because the food is so damn good!

J and I were at one of her friends house catching up with them when dinner rolled around.  They ordered pizza from a place I’ll probably blog about next time we go home.  They encouraged me to try a slice and a slice ended up being two and a half. It was delicious.  We didn’t eat because we had plans to meet her parents at a BBQ place in Palos Heights. 

BonaPit (not Bon Apetite) is located on Harlem near 122nd Street in Palos Heights.  J’s mom said there used to be a fancy, white tablecloth restaurant in the building and that was the first thing we noticed.  BonaPit doesn’t look like a BBQ joint.  The floor was a wood planked floor, but the tables, walls and ceiling all looked like we should be sipping wine over candlelight.  Read the rest of this entry »

Melt Gelato & Crepe Cafe – Chicago Ridge, IL

26 12 2008
  • 444 Chicago Ridge Mall #K11
  • Chicago Ridge, IL 60415
  • (708) 422-1219
  • Website
  • Menu
Melt Gelato & Crepe Cafe at Chicago Ridge Mall

Melt Gelato & Crepe Cafe at Chicago Ridge Mall

For the first time in pretty much ever, I went shopping both the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas.  The same is true for J.  We only had a couple things to return, but we had some gift cards and wanted to get a few more Wii games and I needed to go to Carson’s (Younkers) to get a shirt for a family picture we have to take tomorrow.  The closest mall to J’s parents that isn’t the Ford City Mall is Westfield’s Chicago Ridge.

After taking care of things at Carson’s, we headed to the food court.  I needed a Pepsi bad and the vending machines only sold Coke.  I’ve been drinking a lot of Coke Zero lately, but I really needed a Pepsi.  I still have those bad cravings every now and then.  There was a Taco Bell in the food court and I knew they sold Pepsi, so that’s where I headed, but we got sidetracked when J and her mom noticed a new place open where the customer service kiosk used to be. 

Melt Gelato & Crepe Cafe is a fairly new chain concept founded in 2006.  They have shops in seven states with the most locations being in California.  This particular location at the Chicago Ridge Mall sits near the entrance at the food court.  It’s a stand alone kiosk sort of in the middle of the of the dining area. 

The big draw is the dozens of gelato flavors in the case right up front.  Sure, they do panini’s and crepes, but I don’t think we even realized that until we were walking away.  All three of us zoned in on the gelato.  I wasn’t going to get anything, so I went on to Taco Bell to get my giant Pepsi and left J and her mom at Melt.  By the time I got back, they were trying to talk me into changing my mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Mr. Gyros – Oak Lawn, IL

25 12 2008
  • 10806 S. Cicero Ave.
  • Oak Lawn, IL 60435
  • (708) 741-4014
  • Website
  • Menu
Mr. Gyros on South Cicero in Oak Lawn, IL

Mr. Gyros on South Cicero in Oak Lawn, IL

I can only take so many cookies.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas cookies, but usually by dinner time on Christmas day I’m craving some real food.  J and I made it back to her parents in the south suburbs of Chicago and went on a hunt.  Surprisingly, there’s not a whole lot open.  We drove around for ten minutes or so before finding Mr. Gyros open.

Mr. Gyros is in a small strip mall on Cicero near 108th.  Neon signs filled the front window and there signs for their specialty, the “Big Pappa.”  J and I went in to find a counter and a small dining room.  There were a few other people who had the same idea we.  Most of the tables were full and there was even a guy sitting at the bar along the wall.

Mr. Gryos must have brought the whole family in to work Christmas Day.  We were met at the counter by a kid who couldn’t have been very far into his teens.  He asked what we wanted and started writing down the order.  J asked for a grilled cheese and fries then I ordered the Special #5 which is an Italian Beef, fries, and a pop.  I think we confused him.  He wasn’t writing as fast as we were talking and he got all confused.  He thought the #5 was the grilled cheese and it took some explaining to straighten things out.  Finally, it must have sunk in.  I got my beef without peppers and onions, but I did add mozzarella.  In another weird twist, J ordered a Diet Coke to add to her sandwich.  After we paid, the kid turned around and grabbed a can of Coke out of the cooler for me then got J a fountain Diet.  That was bizarre.  Why they have both cans and fountains and why one comes with the special over the other beats me. Read the rest of this entry »