A student cannot live on ramen alone. But rotate in a steady supply of pizza, tacos, hamburgers and pastries — supplemented by heaping doses of coffee and beer — and you start to approach a well balanced diet. It’s a good time to be a student in Metro Lansing. Over the last year, Lansing and East Lansing have blossomed with new businesses, most within short walking or biking distances of MSU, LCC, Davenport and Cooley, that specialize in these staples — and gourmet versions of them, to boot.
Starting this week, the Old Town Food Truck Court makes its debut at 536 E. Grand River Ave., in Lansing’s historic Old Town district. The first tenants, Detroit Frankie’s Wood Fired Brick Oven Pizza and Maria’s Cuisine, will join Cuban-themed truck Cocina Cubana on the corner of Larch Street and Grand River. At least three more are expected to debut by year’s end. Maria’s and Frankie’s had tried to make a go of it on the corner of Larch Street and Oakland Avenue, but Frank Tignanelli, aka Detroit Frankie, said the new location is a much better site.
“It was just a matter of time before a food court hit Lansing,” Tignanelli said. “I think the high monthly rent (at the previous location) kept everyone away. In Old Town, we’ll have more walk-by traffic, and we can rotate vendors if they want to stay a day or a week. I’m excited.”
The food court will flank Replay Barcade, 526 E. Grand River Ave., a resale store that recently moved back to Old Town. Owner/operator Ted Wilson announced last month he would transplant his 10-year old used video game/ DVD/vinyl shop from East Lansing to that location and add a performance stage and “nano brewery” that will serve small batch craft beer and handcrafted soda. The store will also offer seating space for food truck patrons. Assuming there will be Wi-Fi on site, it sounds like the perfect place to crank out a term paper — or procrastinate the writing of one.
Another hot studying spot is Lansing’s Avenue Café, 2021 E. Michigan Ave., a former coffee house turned bar and live music venue. The newest addition to the Avenue is Nomad Kitchen, which became the bar’s de facto food production facility last year. Now you can get a plate of poutine or a gourmet burger with bacon jam, vegan kimchee or bourbon-pickled jalapenos while you’re cramming for an exam or waiting for the next band to take the stage.
Burger aficionados also have a full menu to choose from at Tin Can East Lansing, just across the street from MSU at 313 E. Grand River Ave. It’s the fifth location for the self-proclaimed “world class dive bar” mini-chain that started six years ago in downtown Lansing. Besides stuffed burgers, Tin Can specializes in canned beer, pudding shots and oversized children’s games, including a giant Jenga set and a Connect Four board you have to stand up to play. And just down the street is the new Lou & Harry’s Bar & Grill, 211 E. Grand River Ave. In addition to Greek- American fare — including spinach pie, saganaki and gyros — the bistro features daily drink specials and Fiesta Fridays, with cheap tacos, beer and margaritas. Perfect for the student on a budget.
But that’s all for the night owls; the early birds need fuel, too. Bloom Coffee Roasters, 1236 Turner St., has all the usual coffeehouse creations — lattes, americanos, macchiatos and cappuccinos — as well as two types of pour-over methods: the Hario V60, which brews one cup at a time, and Chemex, which is good for multiple people to share. It also stocks pastries from Groovy Donuts way out in Williamston — a little off-the-beaten-path for most students.
For those seeking a creative/eclectic sugar treat a little closer to the No. 1 CATA route, there’s Whipped, 216 S. Washington Ave. in downtown Lansing, and Nom Nom Cupcakes, which opened recently in the Lansing City Market, 325 City Market Drive. Both feature cupcakes, muffins, cookies, torts and tarts. Also inside Lansing City Market: Iggy’s In Convenience, a grocery store servicing students living near downtown Lansing with fresh produce and craft beers. And for students craving a little continental fare, downtown Lansing has the French-influenced For Crêpe Sake, which recently moved from the City Market to 221 S. Washington Square. The newly expanded crêperie has smoothies, chopped salads and a full roster of sweet and savory crêpes, including one with Nutella and bananas — ooh la la!
For students who aren’t getting enough chemistry or sociology in their coursework, the newly opened REO Brew School serves as both a creative outlet for industrious learners and a starter institute for aspiring brewmasters. It’s a one-day beer class, created by two middle school teachers, that covers the basics of home brewing and beer culture. If you prefer your beer already brewed, there’s no shortage of local craft microbreweries, with the latest addition being Ozone’s Brewhouse, 305 Beaver St. in Old Town. It specializes in session beers — lower alcohol beers that put the focus more on flavor than on a good buzz. Early standouts include Kryptonale, a cherry-vanilla amber and a Sage Blonde Ale.
But out of all of the area’s eclectic cuisine options, perhaps the most studentoriented is Sapporo Ramen & Noodle Bar, 317 M.A.C. Ave. in downtown East Lansing. That’s right — we’re talking about gourmet ramen here. Before it was freeze-dried and sold in rectangular packages to the world, ramen was a street corner staple in Japan, with each region of the country specializing in a different style. The concept is straightforward but highly changeable: one of several types of broth, such as mushroom, pork or chicken, is combined with thin, hand-crafted noodles and any of a variety of ingredients, including egg, mushrooms, scallions, bamboo shoots and pork belly. No word on whether it can be officially called “brain food,” but if you’ve grown accustomed to the Maruchan brand ramen, chances are this will blow your mind.
Of course, this isn’t a full list of all your food and beverage options, simply the newest ones that are also the most student-friendly. And with more opening all the time — check back here for updates on the new Hot Chicken Kitchen, for example, coming soon to downtown Lansing — there will never be a lack of sites for test preparation, homework procrastination or end-of-semester celebration.