July 1 2015 12:00 AM
There haven’t yet been any car accidents attributed to Capital City BBQ yet, but that could soon change. Lansing’s newest barbecue joint is tucked in the back half of Sunshine Cellular, a cell phone store on the northeast corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Saginaw Street, and it’s easy to miss. It’s situated on a busy intersection, has a tight parking lot and has only two things signifying its existence: a small sign and the smell of barbecue wafting out into the street.

But it’s been enough to put the tiny eatery, which features a unique blend of American barbecue and Asian specialties, on the radar of local foodies.

“We’ve only been open three weeks, but already we’re starting to know people by name,” said owner Linh Lee. “Some of them come in every day. I’m surprised how word is spreading.”

Two words, actually: banh mi (pronounced bun-ME). Capital City BBQ is one of only four restaurants in town offering the traditional Vietnamese sandwiches; the others being Midtown Brewing Co., Old Nation Brewing Co. and Nola Bistro Pho & Po Boys (you can also find them at St. Andrew Dung Lac Church on Sunday mornings). Big deal, you may be tempted to say, a sandwich is a sandwich, but take heed: Linh spent months (yes, months) searching for the perfect bread.

“The bread is the most important part of banh mi,” she said. “Of course, you need a good pork shoulder, the pickles, carrots, green onion and cucumber, but if you don’t have the right type of French bread, it’s not a banh mi.”

Linh won’t say where the bread comes from, but it does arrive fresh daily from a bakery in the Detroit area. There are three types of banh mi sandwich on the menu: meatball, grilled lemon grass and pork and pork and pâté.

But one sandwich does not a menu make.

The restaurant’s chef, Jeff Ramirez, helped Linh and her partner, Regan Louchart, develop the three homemade barbecue sauces used in the other dishes, including ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken.

Included with the traditional barbecue sides like potato salad, baked beans and mac and cheese are traditional Vietnamese egg rolls made with pork and shrimp. And what have we here, hidden under the moniker of Vietnamese soup? Why, it’s our old friend pho, another relative novelty in Metro Lansing.

“If I don’t love it, I won’t put it on the menu,” Linh said. “I’m (new to barbecue), but I grew up in Vietnam with all this wonderful food that I’ll share if people (respond well) to the items we have. Money is nice, but I like making people happy.”

When is going out for pizza like going to the barber?

After a six-month stint at Lansing City Market, Detroit Frankie’s Wood Fired Brick Oven is back at its original location, the socalled Capital City Food Court on the corner of Oakland Avenue and Cedar Street.

“I was feeling too locked in over there,” says owner/operator Frank Tignanelli. “I missed the freedom. If I want to take a day off and take a motorcycle ride, I can do it again.”

The return move has allowed Tignanelli to pick up additional catering jobs, and he’s hoping (once again) to lure local food trucks to the parking lot of the former Arby’s and make a thing out of it. Good Truckin’ Diner got its start there as Good Truckin’ Food before relocating to REO Town, and Michael O’s developed a following before bouncing to Old Town. (Michael O’s is temporarily closed while the owners are dealing with insurance companies following an incident in March when a driver struck and damaged the truck.)

“This is a great spot for an (upstart food vendor) looking to make a go of it,” Tignanelli said.

“This could be as big as Ann Arbor or Dallas if it caught on.”

Although Tignanelli voluntarily left the Lansing City Market, he said he hasn’t ruled out pairing up with another vendor someday. He said he’s in talks with the owners of American Fifth Spirits to provide its food service, and has been approached by “a couple other places.”

“But I like doing this myself — it’s ironic, but I don’t want to get too busy,” Tignanelli said. “The whole fun is talking to people while they’re waiting for their pizza. It’s like getting a haircut. Just sitting and talking while I’m working. That’s my favorite part.”

Capital City BBQ 1026 W. Saginaw St., Lansing (inside Sunshine Cellular) 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday (517) 775-8500, facebook.com/capitalcitybbq

Detroit Frankie’s Wood Fired Brick Oven Capital City Food Court, 500 E. Oakland Ave., Lansing Noon-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; closed Saturday- Sunday (517) 449-2130, detroitfrankie.com

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