About Me

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Lansing, Michigan, United States
I am a Lansing townie, lawyer, and restaurant reviewer for the City Pulse. I love traveling, reading, yoga, and baking, but my favorite hobby is stuffing my face.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cops and Doughnuts

My mother is an original country bumpkin. She grew up bouncing around Up North, mostly a combination of Harrison, Clare, and Alma. Harrison was the mainstay, and she now owns a house there where all of us spend a lot of time in the summer. The scenery in Harrison is incredible. Our lake, Arnold Lake, is gorgeous. We have a (thousand-foot-long pontoon) boat that we dink around on, we go to the county fair, we go to Walraven's and Steve's in town to get ice cream and good Amish meat.

The town of Harrison, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Since Mom's childhood the residency has changed and the economic scene boasts a lot of fast food restaurants (not a LOT of them I guess, but more than a town that size warrants), some shifty bars, and quite a few stores of the Family Dollar/Save-A-Lot/Dollar Tree variety. My brother and I frequently bellyache about the lack of a good restaurant. I think I better get rich and open one.

Last week Mom asked me and brother to go up to Harrison with her to check on the house. We did so. We ate at Babe's in Harrison, where I had a patty melt. It was a patty melt. That's all I can offer.

On our way back downstate, we stopped, as we frequently do, at Cops and Doughnuts in Clare. Little brother is a cop. When little brother and SIL got married in August of last year, they made a donation to Thin Blue Line in lieu of offering favors to their wedding guests. It is his favorite cause and he was happy to see a TBL contribution box in Cops and Doughnuts. I, for my part, was happy to see massive sticky buns.

If Harrison leaves something to be desired, Cops and Doughnuts makes up for it in spades. It's only 15ish miles away and is right off the highway. You could also hop across the street for lunch at the Doherty Hotel, which has a kick-ass patty melt and blew me away the last time I was there.

While Mom was paying for our sticky bun, molasses cookie, and brother's Rice Krispie treat (what?!), I chatted with the woman standing next to me. She bought cookies and told me that she would have to get them all the way back to Toledo without eating them in the car. She was coming from her cottage Up North (Bay Harbor? somewhere up there) and always brought cookies back for her family. Sweet.

This sticky bun was incredible. You know how sometimes the sugar will get kind of grainy in a good way and the bread will become crumbly and crystallized? That's the best. That was in full effect here. I gave Mom a few bits of this in exchange for a few bites of her molasses cookie, and I ate the rest of it. I couldn't stop. It was so good. If you're ever in that area, stop by Cops and Doughnuts, get yourself a treat, and check out their kitschy tshirts. It's a great local business and the baked goods are fantastic.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dirtieth Thirtieth

Three months from today, something big is going to happen. It will be my birthday, my favorite day of the year (and the first day of summer), and I will turn this:

Finally, a real adult (adults can live at home with their parents, RIGHT?)

If I had my way, I would go to Chicago for dinner and eat the El Bulli menu at Next. The tickets are $365 a person and oh, they're sold out. Furthermore, I would be a little concerned that olives would be served and I would feel like a jerk ignoring them. I just hate those little buggers.

Anyway, I love my birthday, I love age, and I can't wait for 6/21/12. Get pumped.

Beggar's Banquet

Two weeks ago my SIL met me for noon mass at St. John's. I was lector #1 and ALSO an eucharistic minister, so I felt prettttty important. Sidenote- I absolutely love being an eucharistic minister and plotted for years to become one before actually becoming one last fall. I talked about it all the time, I knew all the moves, and I actually went to a training session a few years ago and left before it even started because I was too nervous. I don't know why I'm like this, either.

Anyway, after mass we were starving and I knew that she's had a pretty strong longstanding relationship with Beggar's Banquet. Truth be told, she loves the place and my brother can't abide it, so they rarely go there. It's been one thousand years since I had breakfast at Beggar's, so I was into it and we headed over.

I've had pancakes on the mind for a few weeks now. I don't eat them all the time or anything, but I just think about them a lot. I think I might be a little crazy. Another dilemma that I grapple with is the constant battle between a sweet and a savory breakfast- I always think I want one and then end up regretting that I didn't order the other. Imagine my glee when I saw the pancake option that comes with meat AND eggs. And, AND, you can add blueberries or chocolate chips. Or, if you're a lunatic like I am, you sweet-talk the waiter into putting blueberries into one of the pancakes and chocolate chips into the other.

I don't think I really sweet-talked him, I think he would have done this for anyone. Just let me bask in my unsubstantial victory, please.

The eggs were scrambled. The meat was bacon. I couldn't believe my luck.

I think I have previously mentioned that SIL loves a good breakfast burrito (her favorites are El Oasis and Soup Spoon.) She had her eye on a breakfast burrito at Beggar's too, and at the last second she threw me for a loop and ordered the Breakfast Bowl- Two eggs scrambled with ham, green peppers, onion & cheddar jack cheese served atop seasoned home fries, then topped with sausage gravy and two strips of bacon. It reminded me of my ol' college pal, the Skillet Breakfast at Flap Jack, and it didn't stand a chance. I didn't even have a bite because she mowed through it like she was never going to eat again.

We would have gone back to Beggar's last week after mass, but my little baby brother the picky eater was with us, AND I had to get home to head to the Black Keys concert in Grand Rapids. More on that to follow.

Monday, March 19, 2012

El Oasis Taco Truck

Last spring in Lansing came with the emergence of two new (and hugely popular) food trucks- The Purple Carrot, which will soon be opening a restaurant at the intersection of Mt. Hope and Hagadorn, and Trailer Park'd, which is now better known as Fork in the Road. They are both fantastic. Very different menus. They are also both pretty pricey, with Trailer Park'd/Fork in the Road really taking the cake in that aspect.

However, for those of us who have been eating our way around Lansing for a few more years, we know that there is an OG food truck- El Oasis. Permanently parked near Lam's Sweeper Shop on Michigan Avenue at Foster, El Oasis has been there, keeping it real, for years. They are there in the rain and in the snow. They are there early in the morning to serve up breakfast burritos. I'm not the world's biggest fan of Mexican food (my girlfriend KC takes that mantle), but even I love some El Oasis tacos.

A few weeks ago my mother called me and asked me to come have lunch with her at home. Whenever she does this I know she is trying to hoodwink me- she doesn't want to get her act together and leave the house and she wants me to bring her a meal, but she doesn't want to just order me to do it so she presents it like she wants to spend time with me. Or something. Anyway, I was just coming down MI Ave, so I stopped at the taco truck and picked up nachos

and chicken tacos

for us to share. I could actually have done with a little less cheese on the nachos, but that's a minor complaint and I know that I'm in the "less cheese" minority. The corn tortillas for the tacos are my favorite part. They are so good.

The taco truck might be cash-only. I'm not sure on this point. However, if you get there and don't have any cash, run yourself right across the street to Quality Dairy and hit the MSUFCU ATM. No fees. Then get back to the taco truck, where your food will be waiting for you, and eat everything in sight.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Last week I had lunch with one of my favorite law school professors. We get together every few months for lunch and never have a plan as to where we are heading so we've spent quite a bit of time wandering up and down Washington, vetoing each other's choices. This time I suggested Edmund's and he agreed off the bat. I don't know why I suggested it. Maybe I was thinking about milkshakes.

The place was packed, and the sign at the door instructed us to seat ourselves. We stood there like morons because every table was full and eventually I spied a weird bar-type counter set up towards the back of the restaurant. That's where we ended up. It wasn't a good location, since there were actual tables of people around us and the servers were struggling to get by with their trays of food. I was pretty sure I was going to end up with burger-lap.

I needed some vegetables in my life and ordered the Ranch Chicken Salad with no cheese. The mound of iceberg lettuce, complete with those gross chunks of lettuce that won't come apart, was topped with two huge onion rings, grocery store croutons, cucumber, and other junk that gives salad a bad name. Upon further inspection of the placemat/menu, I realized that I should have ordered the Popeye Salad and added chicken. Or gone somewhere else. That probably would have been a better plan.

Friday, March 9, 2012


A few nights ago, a group of friends got together to celebrate my very tallest friend's 33rd birthday. We went to Ukai, (website is under construction) the one on the West Side of town near Horrock's. I had never been there. Hibachi grills always remind me of my favorite episode of The Office, where Michael and Andy bring back two waitresses to the office Christmas party and sing "Your Body is a Wonderland."

It was a weeknight, it was late, we were all starving to death. Oddly enough, the place was PACKED. I wondered where all these businesspeople came from. Was there a businessperson convention at the dump across the street that used to be a TGI Friday's?

Sidenote: my two best girlfriends and I went to that TGI Friday's like every week in high school. We always ate some combination of Jack Daniels shrimp and potato skins, or some such garbage. We also always aet the Oreo Madness, which was good as hell. I would eat it right now if there was a TGI Friday's anywhere to be found.

Anyway, back to Ukai. My friend BG and I decided to order a sushi roll in addition to our hibachi chicken dinners, because we were famished. We got the Michigan roll, which I know had crab in it. That's about all I remember. It was normal, average, good. Whatever. But the salmon on top was above-average. I don't know what they did to that fish, but it tastes like Jesus himself made it. Or caught it. Or provided it to the sushi chef at Ukai. I also ordered some edamame, which the server brought out with a shaker of sea salt. You're telling me you couldn't have put that on yourself, backstage? Do I have to do everything around here?

The hibachi chef came in and did his show, threw an egg shell into his tall hat, made the birthday boy shoot sake into an onion volcano from a statute of a little boy to look like he was peeing. You know, totally normal. I ate my steamed rice, chicken, zucchini, onion, and bean sprouts and got the heck out of there so I could wake up bright and early for cardio jump rope the next morning.

Also, the service was not great. Granted, the restaurant was busy and there was a bunch of us. However, we had made arrangements to be seated in a private room and they should have taken into consideration the fact that the room would be full. It took forever to order, and when my pal KM accidentally grabbed a hot plate and threw edamame all over the place as a result, the waitress just watched her do it and didn't lift a finger. She wouldn't have been invited to the office Christmas party, I'll tell you that.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Guide to the Soup Spoon

Over the last few years, the Soup Spoon Cafe has become one of my favorite restaurants in town. It is nestled on Michigan Avenue just east of Sparrow Hospital. If you're there at a hot time, parking can be a nightmare. Deal with it.

I have eaten breakfast at the Spoon several times. To the best of my recollection, I have had the Smoked Salmon Benedict every time. I harbor a lot of grand romantic ideas about going out to breakfast and eating a stack of pancakes, but this never seems to happen. I like my pancakes of the whole wheat, dark chocolate chip-studded variety, and I generally make these at home for myself.

The Spoon has a full espresso bar and the coffee is serious stuff. They use Rudy Baggs coffee, a local company that is fronted by a yogi with a red goatee. My sister-in-law (SIL) loves the Breakfast Wrap, and after studying that menu a bit more I think I'm going to have to try the Stacked French Toast as soon as I can tear myself away from the Salmon Benedict.

I have loved the BLT, the Reuben, and the Grilled Cheese and Tomato. I hate the sides that are offered- kettle chips or cole slaw. I would love to see a green salad or cup of soup option instead. My favorite sandwich is the Cubano, but the Fish Tacos give the Cubano a run for its money (especially on Lenten Fridays.)

I've done a soup flight many times. They always offer special soups that aren't on the menu, and the pumpkin bisque a few months back was some of the best soup I have ever had. It wasn't sweet, because I wouldn't have eaten it otherwise, and it had a delicious kick to it. The above-mentioned SIL loves the Seafood Chowder and hasn't stopped attempting to replicate it at home.

The Greek Island Plate boasts a spicy feta spread that is incredible. And remember, babies, I don't like cheese.

The Hangar Steak. It pains me to order anything else.

However, I have ordered other dinners. A few days ago I had a Smoked Salmon Salad. It was perfect, after I swapped the raspberry vinaigrette for balsamic. I love, LOVE a hard-boiled egg on a salad.

The East Side Chicken has looked delicious as other people have eaten it. I, of course, can't abide the goat cheese. To the best of my recollection, the Diablo Pork Loin was a bit dry. The Voodoo Pasta and Spoon-i-Pino didn't blow me away, but it's difficult to impress me with a pasta dish. Without fail, SIL attacks the Voodoo Pasta like she's never going to eat again. Seafood Santorini was forgettable.

I am a lover of a good filet and a big fan of lamb, but both of these dishes pale in comparison to the Hangar Steak. Just let your eyes treat your brain to this description-

Hanger Steak* – Argentinean chimichurri rubbed 8oz hanger steak, grilled and sliced, topped with fresh avocado salsa and served with a smoky ancho jus, potatoes dauphanoise and fresh vegetable.

I have eaten this at least six times (in the last three months.) I recommend it to everyone I know. As I watch other people eat this steak while I eat something different, I swallow jealousy along with every bite. It is delicious.

On New Years Eve I had a strip steak. Should have gotten the Hangar.

If you think you don't like bread pudding, I have two observations.

1. You're an idiot.
2. You haven't had the bread pudding at the Soup Spoon.

They bring you a warm little saucer bubbling over with caramel sauce and cinnamon. Whipped cream dots the plate. The bread pudding sits in the center, swimming in sauce that you will be tempted to drink. The smell alone tantalizes. It is rich, and sweet, and perfect with coffee. Simply put, it is the best bread pudding I have ever had.

A few days ago as the waitress was offering dessert, I started to shake my head at the mention of the chocolate torte. "We don't want any crap," I said. "That measly, dry, crumbly mess that I've had before is no good" (it's amazing that people even speak to me. What a charmer.)

"We have a NEW chocolate dessert," she said. "We also have a new cheesecake with caramel and pecans." Twist my arm. We ordered both of the new dessert (and the bread pudding, obviously) and homegirl earned a zillion-dollar tip. This new chocolate concoction is GOOD. I can't even tell you what it is, aside from the facts that it is wonderfully rich and mousse-y. The cheesecake was good too, if you like that sort of thing (and I do. That's why I had to go to yoga twice yesterday.)

It's almost impossible to have a bad meal at the Soup Spoon. If you've had one, tell me. And be prepared to sit for a lie-detector test.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Brody Cafeteria, Michigan State University

Eating lunch at the newly renovated cafeteria in the Brody complex at MSU has been on my radar for quite a while. I tried to entice my MSU undergrad cousin to have lunch there a few weeks ago, but he told me that he was too cool to be seen dining amongst a bunch of dorm-dwellers.
I saw his dance moves at a wedding last weekend. It's a pretty bold statement for him to make that he's "too cool" for something.

Anyway, I finally got my chance to eat at Brody today and it was remarkable. I didn't photograph anything because I was busy stuffing my face and swiveling my head around rapidly trying to figure out where to go next. Here's the scoop:

We paid $9.50 per person for lunch. For this low low price, you get to eat as much as you want.
There are several different "restaurants" within the cafeteria. There is a salad bar, a Mexican place, an Italian counter, a counter where you can order a stir-fry a la Mongolian BBQ, sushi (which I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole because California rolls are stupid), and a few others.

But first, I started with a salad. The salad bar thankfully offered a good spring mix. I can't abide iceberg lettuce. I covered that with cucumber slices, chickpeas, crumbled hard-boiled egg, and a little balsamic vinaigrette. I had a scoop of tabbouleh on the side. After I scarfed that with a ginger ale on the side, I went to the Homestyle Counter. I had collard greens with ham, baked beans, mashed potatoes, and rotisserie chicken. The collard greens were the best part- nice and spicy. I have a real thing for collard greens.

Friend had a slice of pizza. She said it was better than Pizza Hut. It looked good and everything, but Pizza Hut is delicious and I'm not sure if she has her head screwed on properly. After we stuffed our faces, we decided to finish ourselves off with ice cream. There is a whole dessert section, complete with cake, smoothies, Rice Krispie treats, and an entire hand-dipped ice cream section. I had a scoop of cake batter and a scoop of some peanut butter concoction.

They also have breakfast. Made to order omelets. I might have to go back tomorrow. COLLEGE!