15 02 2010

(Mid-Michigan Dining is now SW Michigan Dining….find the new blog HERE)

Well, this is it.  The end to Mid-Michigan Dining.  My last day of scheduled work in East Lansing has come and gone.  I have no idea when or if I will be back in the area, so I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to update here. 

It’s been a fun couple of years.  A lot happened to J and I while we lived in Lansing.  Of course, there’s the big one.  We got engaged and married while living in Mid-Michigan.  J told me the other night that while we’re long gone from our apartment (that we don’t miss at all), we still have the kitchen table where you she found a diamond ring hidden behind a card when she got home from the gym.  I was told we can never get rid of that table. 

There’s a lot I’m gonna miss about Lansing and, of course, a lot I’m not. 

As far as what I’m going to miss, just the location in the state.  I loved that we were pretty centralized to most of the big metro areas.  We were closer to Detroit and Ann Arbor than we are now.  I was much closer to work opportunities at Michigan State.  I spent a good portion of this basketball season at the Breslin Center and I loved every minute of it. 

One of the restaurants we’re really going to miss is Andy’s Deli in Holt.  Not only was there great food, but Andy was a good guy.  I never identified myself to many people, but Andy was one of the few who did know who J and I really are.  The only other people that I’m aware of that know my true identity is Runs With Spatula and her boyfriend.  One of these days, we will hook up with them for drinks or dinner.  Everytime it’s been brought up in the past, J and I have been busy.  We always felt horrible because we never really made any real friends in Lansing.  J’s job wasn’t conducive to socializing outside of work and since I didn’t work with the same people everyday, I didn’t really meet anyone either. 

The one semi-regular job I did have was working for the Lansing Lugnuts last summer.  It didn’t pay worth a crap, but it sure was fun.  I’m glad J and I do alright for ourselves and I was able to do something that I enjoyed doing even if I did only make barely enough to pay the rent.  Before the season started, I considered getting season tickets.  This way, I got to go to every game and actually make a little cash.  Can’t complain about that. 

I enjoyed living in a state capital.  When I worked in the media, one of my favorite things was covering politics.  I looked for whatever reason I could to get sent to Springfield.  Since I didn’t work in the press in Lansing, I didn’t have that same opportunity here, but I loved driving down Michigan Avenue and see the Capitol building in front of me. 

One of the things we both really miss is being close to a couple great outlet malls.  For a while, we made bi-monthly trips to Howell and just discovered the UnderArmour and North Face outlets in Birch Run right before we left.  We’ll probably make a trip there next summer anyway, but now it’s a 2 1/2 drive instead of an hour. 

We discovered Cottage Inn which, even though it’s technically a chain, became our go-to pizza.  We still order from Cottage Inn here in Kalamazoo. 

MIS.  I got J into NASCAR when we started dating and through her work, we were able to get hot passes for NASCAR weekend at MIS.  How close were we, J almost got ran over by Juan Pablo Montoya.  Seriously.  She jumped out of the way at the last minute.  he didn’t slow down at all trying to get back to his garage during Happy Hour. 

As for the bad.  Well, the job situation, obviously.  When I quit my job in Peoria to move with J, I never imagined I would still not be employed full time two years later.  I was told by more than one person that I was over qualified for the few jobs that I am qualified for.  No one wants to hire someone with six years experience when they can hire a kid from MSU for five dollars an hour cheaper.  I was seriously offered a part time job for four dollars an hour less than I was making in Peoria…doing the exact same job.  I was fortunate enough that I had a back-up freelancing.  It’s worked out pretty well, but, like everyone else, I’d like to do better. 

One of the big things I will not miss is the traffic lights in Lansing.  I hated driving around town.  It’s like all the traffic lights are temporary hanging over the middle of the intersection.  When you pull up to the line, you can’t even see the damn things.  You had to stop five feet short and hope it wasn’t sunny.  I was so happy to see Kalamazoo has permanent fixtures.

The Cedar Street exit.  I hated that thing as well.  I lived right off Cedar so I took that ramp all the time.  Someone was seriously drunk when they put that design on paper.  It got worse in the spring when the entire roadway was a series of giant potholes. 

I could go on and rail against our apartment complex who charged us the equivalent of four months rent to break our lease.  Who never fixed lights in the parking lot.  Who blamed us for our cars getting broken into….twice in four months…and when they broke into J’s, they didn’t take anything.  They just smashed the window for fun.  And who we’re pretty sure screwed us over big time on the water bill.  We were getting bills for $40-$50/month for water in Lansing.  Our most recent bill here in Kalamazoo, $5 for an apartment the same size. 

So, that’s pretty much the good and the bad.  It was a helluvan experience for the two of us.  When we left Peoria, we had just started dating.  It had only been seven months or so which surprised so many people.  By the time we left, we were married….only by a few weeks, but still married. 

For the wedding, J bought me cuff links.  One had a map of Peoria on it.  The other a map of Lansing.  Where we met and where we got engaged.  We always knew Peoria would be special to us.  Now Lansing will be as well.  We’ll always have the stories about how we moved together for the first time.  Braved a snowstorm in Indiana that dumped 19″ of snow in a couple hours to get home for a long weekend.  Our trips to Traverse City and Mackinaw Island.  Taking my parents to Canada to gamble.  Tigers games.  Spartans games.  And of course, that Friday morning in May when J’s mom thought she found a mouse because she was screaming incoherently in to the phone, but really, she was trying to say I had just proposed….in my own way 🙂

With that, I’m closing up shop.  The site is not going anywhere.  I still get just about as many hits now and I did when I was actively blogging and I’ve linked to this site from my new blog, SW Michigan Dining.  If you come here for the narrative, move over to SWMD.  And if you’re ever in our neck of the woods, you know where to go to find good eats.


Conrad’s College Town Grill

31 01 2010
  • 101 E. Grand River Ave.
  • East Lansing, MI 48823
  • (517) 337-2723
  • Website
  • Menu

Well, it only took three months.  For three months, I’ve been trying to stop in to the place that used to be Johnny’s Lunch in downtown East Lansing.  Their open hours always seem to elude me.  They say they’re open at 11:00 AM during the week, but I’ve tried to stop on several occasions and found the doors locked. 

Anyway, Conrad’s College Town Grill is right on the corner of Grand River Avenue and Abbot Road.  When J and I first moved to Lansing, it was the 50’s-Style diner Johnny’s Lunch.  That closed up some time ago and we never did stop in to try it out, so I have no idea if much has changed since Conrad’s moved in.

I never could figure out from the street if it was a fast food place or a sit down restaurant.  It’s kind of a cross between the two.  There is a fast-food style order counter near the back of the space with a giant menu board hanging from the ceiling. 

I found burgers on the menu, so I put in an order for the BBQ Cheese Burger and added on an order of fries for a buck.  I didn’t go for a pop because they had Coke and if I’m going to drink a no calorie Coke, I’ll just stop at gas station and get a bottle of Coke Zero (which I did after I left).  The sandwich and fries only cost little over six bucks.  I opted to just eat it there.  Read the rest of this entry »

Key West Cafe

24 01 2010
  • 1500 W. Lake Lansing Road
  • East Lansing, MI 48823
  • (517) 203-0712
  • No Known Website
  • Menu

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a women’s The North Face jacket right now?  J’s been wanting a Triclimate jacket, but she’s already got the color picked out.  There aren’t a lot of places in Kalamazoo that sell them and the ones that do, don’t have it.  Since I was in Lansing for a couple days, I decided to check out the Lansing stores that had them which led me to Dick’s Sporting Goods at the Eastwood Towne Center

They didn’t have it either.  They had it, but not in the right size, so I left empty-handed. 

I still had a little time before I had to be at work so I sort of took the long way back to downtown East Lansing by going through town.  I was looking for someplace to eat and right after I crossed over US 127, I found a sandwich shop that I didn’t even know existed.

Key West Cafe is in a little shopping center at the corner of Lake Lansing and Coolidge Roads.  The sign for the business had the words “wraps” and “sandwiches” so I figured I’d be able to find something to eat. 

The layout is a little confusing.  When you walk in, you notice the huge menu board right in front of you.  Problem is, that menu board is above the kitchen….not the cash register.  As I stood looking at the kitchen, a lady behind the cash register was asking to take my order.  I didn’t know it, but they did have paper menus I could have looked at. 

Once I decided on a sandwich, I walked over to put in my order.  I got the Chicken Parmesan Grinder.  I went with the half sandwich, chips, and a drink which cost a little over five bucks.  I grabbed a bag of Lays while the cashier was filling my Sprite.  After that, I took a table at one of Key West’s half a dozen or so tables and listened to a job interview at the table next to me.  I felt sorry for the guy….I hate that process, but at least he had a job while he was looking for a new one.  Oh, why was I listening?  Not intentional.  The tables are just really tight in the small dining room. 

It took about five minutes for my sandwich to come up.  I took it to go.  I figured I could just get to work and eat before I went in. 

The sandwich was what I was expecting for a grinder.  There were chunks of grilled chicken breast, a five cheese blend, and pizza sauce.  The sandwich also comes with mushrooms, but I left those off.  It was a pretty decent sandwich.  It was good.  The bread was nice and crispy, but there wasn’t a whole lot of filling.  You can see from the picture below that there’s about 5x more bread

The sandwich was alright and it was cheap, so I’m not complaining.  It’s what I was looking for.


Wings Over East Lansing

22 01 2010
  • 1391 E. Grand River Avenue
  • East Lansing, MI 48823
  • (517) 332-5555
  • Website
  • Menu

Mmmmm.  Wings.  Man, I love wings.  For some reason, I had a taste after work and I went looking for some.  My original plan was to stop at Little Caesar’s now that they have Hot ‘n Ready wings, but I missed the entrance.  I pulled into a parking lot a little farther up and noticed the lights for Wings Over East Lansing were finally on.  It’s one of the places I have been trying to stop, but it’s never open.

Wings Over got its start at the University of Massachusetts in the late 90’s.  The franchise is pretty small with only 23 stores nationwide. 

Wings Over East Lansing is in a shopping center on the corner of Grand River Avenue and Hagadorn Road a mile or so from campus.  It’s a small storefront, but they do have tables and a lunch counter.  Most of their business is carry-out or delivery though. 

Wings Over does encourage you to call in orders because they are all made to order.  Since I didn’t plan on stopping, I didn’t call in.  There was actually another guy in the store that was waiting, so I’m not the only one that walks in to order. Read the rest of this entry »

Potbelly Sandwich Shop – East Lansing

22 01 2010
  • 233 E. Grand River Avenue
  • East Lansing, MI 48823
  • (517) 203-4278
  • Website
  • Menu

The thing about college towns… never know when restaurants are open.  I’ve tried my last three trips to eat at one of three places.  Everytime I go, the buildings are locked up and dark leaving me to scramble to find something else. 

On my most recent trip to East Lansing, I just wasn’t in the mood to keep looking.  There was a perfectly good sandwich shop down the street and that’s what I was going to have for lunch.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop is a Chicago based chain that has been around since the late 1970’s…well, the original shop on North Lincoln Avenue has been anyway.   They’ve been in the expansion game for a little over a decade. 

I’ve eaten at other Potbelly stores before, but never the East Lansing location which is in the heart of downtown on the corner of Grand River Avenue and Mac.  The restaurant occupies the bottom floor of the corner building. 

The decor of all Potbelly Sandwich Shop’s is an homage to the original store which took over retail space formerly occupied by an antique store.  Many of the decorations were leftover from that store.  I always get the feeling that I’m in an old carriage house or something.  The floors are antique-looking wood and there’s a wood loft that runs along the outside walls that is home to antique signs and knick knacks.  Read the rest of this entry »

Samuel Mancino’s – Frandor

7 01 2010
  • 401B N. Clippert Street
  • Lansing, MI 48912
  • (517) 351-7492
  • Website
  • Menu

I’ve blogged a few times in the past about how much I love grinder’s.  I’ve also gone over the whole spiel about my Mancino’s memories.  For those of you joining me at SWM-Dining, here’s the short story. 

Growing up, a new pizza joint moved in to Bourbonnais, Illinois near where I grew up.  My family, not being very adventurous, almost always ate at  fast food and chains…actually, this is something they still do.  Anyway, a shop called Mancino’s Pizza & Grinders opened up.  We ate there often.  All four of us were fans of these new toasted sandwiches.  When I moved to Peoria, there was a store called Bellacino’s…..that served the same menu.  Again, I ate there a few times and loved every minute of it.  When we moved to Lansing, we found more stores with the Mancino’s name on them.

Now, I’m going to be honest.  I’ve never been able to figure out if all them are connected or, if they are, how.  They all have the same name, the same food, and the same menu, but I cannot find one stinking website that lists all three cities.  Hell, all three stores have a different name.

Now, enter a fourth store under the Mancino’s name.  Read the rest of this entry »

Scalawags White Fish & Chips – S. Cedar

1 01 2010
  • 6260 S. Cedar Street
  • Suite A
  • Lansing, MI 48911
  • (517) 394-7700
  • Website
  • Menu

I had a real hard time finding lunch.  It seems like everywhere I wanted to go decided to close.  My first attempt was Conrad’s College Town Grill.  Since the kids are on break, they weren’t opening until 7 PM.  My next attempt was Ramon’s, but they too were closed.  I was frustrated at this point and just started driving.  Somehow, I ended up in South Lansing near where we used to live.  I was just going to hop back on the Interstate and go find fast food or something back near MSU.  As I was making my way down Cedar, I noticed a new restaurant behind the Pizza Hut.  Yay!  New restaurant.

Scalawags White Fish & Chips is a small Northern Michigan chain.  They have three stores now in the Lansing area.  The newest location is on Cedar Street in the strip mall at the corner of Edgewood Boulevard.  It has to be a fairly new joint.  It wasn’t there when we moved from Lansing three months ago and there was no indication that anything was moving in to the space.

All of the other Scalawags locations have a pretty nice looking storefront.  The South Lansing location is in kind of a rundown strip mall.  They really stand out with the blue banner that boasts their logo and name that wraps around their corner of the building.  The inside of the store is actually pretty nice.  I don’t remember what was in the location before, but everything inside is new for Scalawags.  The feeling I got was sort of like dining on an old wooden fishing boat.  It was a pretty typical quick service restaurant set up.  There were booths and tables in the front of the store.  The small order counter was in the back. Read the rest of this entry »

Julie Joe’s

11 12 2009
  • 2515 E. Jolly Road
  • Lansing, MI 48910
  • (517) 977-9415
  • Website
  • Menu

Well, I made it to Lansing.  It only took me about 45 minutes longer than it normally does.  I left quite a bit earlier than I needed to….just in case.  I got to Lansing about an hour before I needed to be there, so I went looking for lunch.

For quite some time, I’ve tried to stopping at Julie Joe’s on Jolly Road near the Dunkel Road intersection.  It seems like every time I try, it’s closed.  They close for three and a half hours between lunch and dinner during the week, they don’t open until five on Saturday, and they’re not open on Sunday.  It seems like every time I’ve pulled into the small strip mall, it’s been one of those times. 

This time, I made it in time for lunch, so I knew they would be open.  The previous business in this location was 2Fer’s.  I never made it there before it was closed, so I have no idea how much has changed.  Both on their website and on an insert in their carry-out menu, they make note of the fact that they used to be 2Fer’s.  I have no idea what that means or why, but since they make a point to mention, I thought I should to. 

The menu at Julie Joe’s is much larger than I expected.  As expected, they have tacos and pizza, but they also do deli sandwiches, salads, and soups.  The shop is not very big.  There are a couple tables, but I have a feeling not many people dine in.  There was a counter area that I assumed would be filled with pizza, but when I walked it up to it, there was no pizza.  They do have ads for pizza-by-the-slice at lunch time.  Not sure if they have it keeping warm somewhere else or how that works.  I wasn’t in to pizza, so I didn’t ask. Read the rest of this entry »

Meijer – Charlotte

11 12 2009
  • 1167 E. Clinton Trail
  • Charlotte, MI 48813
  • (517) 541-9201
  • Website

Like everyone else, I seem to wait until it snows to get my truck ready for winter.  The timing was impeccable.  We’re under a blizzard warning and I had to drive to East Lansing for work.  I have four-wheel drive, so I wasn’t super worried, but like most people, I’m more worried about the way other people drive than I am about the roads or conditions. 

I made it to Battle Creek doing 45 MPH the whole way.  I got off to get a Pepsi, text J to let her know how far I had made it, and use the bathroom.  I didn’t need gas, but I pulled up to a pump to clean off my windows.  This exact same thing happened to me last December.  I had a long drive and I was out of windshield washer fluid.  I should have bought some at the gas station, but it never occurred to me, so I got back on the road.

By the time I made it to Olivet, the road was clear, but still a little wet.  By the time I got to Charlotte, the road was actually dry, but passing semi’s had done a number on my windshield.  It was getting to the point it was hard to see, so I had to pull off.  Lucky for me, I knew there was a Meijer at the next exit. Read the rest of this entry »

Bell’s Greek Pizza – M.A.C. Avenue

5 12 2009
  • 225 M.A.C. Avenue
  • East Lansing, MI 48823
  • (517) 332-2355
  • Website
  • Menu

After spending the afternoon killing time before work, I was now faced with a longer than usual lunch break.  Now, I had another couple hours to kill.  Since I had just eaten an hour or so ago, a big lunch was out of the question.  I wasn’t even really sure I wanted anything at all. 

I went to Barnes & Noble first to look for a couple things then I just started walking around downtown East Lansing.  Didn’t really know where I was going, but when I ended up on M.A.C Avenue, I figured I could use a slice of pizza..

Bell’s Greek Pizza has two locations in East Lansing and they’re  not very far apart.  I’ve eaten at the Grand River Avenue location before, but never the location on M.A.C. Avenue near Albert Avenue. 

The downtown location is a small street front building.  There are a handful of tables in the front of the space.  The order area and kitchen is in the back. 

I’m a huge fan of pizza-by-the-slice locations.  It’s one of my favorite things about college campuses.  You can get just a couple slices for under five bucks.  I love it. 

Of course, Bell’s has other options, but pizza slices was all I wanted.  I ordered two pepperoni slices.  The lady working pulled them right out of the display case and put them on a paper plate.  Now, usually, those slices would go back into the oven before being handed over, but these didn’t for some reason.  I thought it was a little wierd but I didn’t say anything.  The pizza was still pretty warm.  Read the rest of this entry »