Let’s start with barbecue. This year marked the opening of the Lil’ BBQ Shack, 5920 S. Cedar St., Lansing; Gump’s BBQ, 1105 River St., near REO Town; and the weekend-only Alabama BBQ stand at the corner of Holmes Road and Cedar Street. Then last month, Carol Smith and Jacke Randall introduced the Red’s Smokehouse Food Truck, a mobile version of the couple’s two-year-old barbecue stand.
“Having the food truck has really helped connect us with people who may not have been aware of us before,” Smith said. “And we’re starting to see lots of new faces in the (Lansing) City Market, so it’s working.”
In June 2014, Smith and Randall started Red’s Smokehouse as a pop-up restaurant at the Allen Street Farmers Market. That September, they moved their signature smoked chicken, brisket and pulled pork stand to the Lansing City Market, where they’ve built a following over the last two years.
“The eventual goal is a restaurant, but we’re not quite there yet,” Smith said. “We’re definitely taking our time.”
The food truck sets up shop in the parking lot of Shucky Farms, a medical marijuana dispensary at 6040 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. on Lansing’s south side. The space was formerly home to Texas Jack’s BBQ, which continues to roam the city, most recently situated in the Cedar Street Dairy Queen parking lot.
Smith said opening Red’s Smokehouse fulfilled “a lifelong dream.”
“I take a traditional approach to cooking, and that really seems to resonate with customers,” she said. “Barbecue is my passion.”
In other food truck news, downtown Lansing recently became home to the Plateful Spread, which sets up on the corner of Washtenaw and Walnut streets at lunchtime Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The truck features rice bowls and “Japanese-style burritos.” And in August, the north side of town became home to the Old Town Food Truck Court, with Detroit Frankie’s Wood-Fired Pizza becoming the first official vendor. Speaking of pizza, this year also saw local openings of national chains Blaze Pizza, in Frandor at 300 N. Clippert, and Boston’s Restaurant and Bar, which hangs its hat on its “gourmet pizzas,” at 3301 Towne Center Blvd. in the Heights at the Eastwood Towne Center.
Dialing down the focus to a hyper-local level, there’s the Pie Hole Pizza Truck, recently launched by Cameron and Brenda Glinke. Both already had full-time jobs — he’s the owner of a sandwich franchise in East Lansing, and she’s a state worker — so why open a food truck?
“We’ve always made pizza at home for our friends and family, and everyone is always telling us we need to open a restaurant,” Brenda Glinke said. “But we already have a restaurant. We’re not looking to open another one. We’re just doing this so we can do what we love to do and do a little bit of traveling.”
Glinke spent the last few years experimenting with new types of cupcakes and desserts while her husband tested sauces and dough recipes. Pie Hole features the fruits of both of these labors, with his ovalshaped, thin-crust pizzas making up the majority of the menu, complemented by her rotating assortment of dessert pizzas.
The truck’s “home base” is on Lake Lansing Road in the parking lot of the shuttered Krispy Kreme, but it travels around the area, including farmers markets, downtown Lansing street corners and Uncle John’s Cider Mill. Earlier this month, the duo took their truck out to Ionia for the “World’s Largest Food Truck Festival,” where they had to turn down requests for their homemade pizza sauce.
“People go on and on about it, asking us to bottle and sell it,” Glinke said. “Maybe someday we will, but right now we barely have enough to keep up with what we’re making.”
Despite the acclaim, Glinke said she and her husband have no desire to turn Pie Hole into a full-time pizzeria.
“We really like moving around, going to festivals, seeing fireworks,” she said. “Some people start a food truck as a first step for becoming a brick-and-mortar (restaurant), but we have the opposite plan. We just want to find a balance with what (we’re already doing) and maybe talk about franchising it someday. We’re just enjoying what we have right now.”
Boar’s Head is back in downtown Lansing … sort of. There will be a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. today at Sarnie Shoppe, which opened on the first floor of the renovated Knapp’s Centre last month. The shop features British-style deli sandwiches, as well as a deli counter offering Boar’s Head meat and cheeses. Alas, there’s no connection to the equity theater of the same name that was leveled a few years back.
Last week also saw the opening of Hot Chicken Kitchen in downtown Lansing. The Nashville-style fried chicken restaurant serves its dishes in distinctive fashion: the chicken, which comes in four levels of spiciness, is placed on a piece of Tennessee toast and topped with pickles. Sides include traditional soul food staples like collard greens and cornbread stuffing.
Red’s Smokehouse 325 City Market Drive 10 a.m-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday-Monday Food truck location and hours: 6040 S. Martin Luther King 4-8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday (517) 489-0959, facebook.com/ redssmokehouse
Pie Hole Pizza Truck 2129 Lake Lansing Road, Lansing (main location); corner of Capital Avenue and Allegan Street; 13751 Main St., Bath (Bath Farmers Market); 2150 Cedar Street, Holt (Holt Farmers Market); 8614 US-127, St Johns (Uncle John’s Cider Mill) 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Saturday; 3-7 p.m. Thursday; 5-8 p.m. Friday; closed Sunday pieholepizzatruck.com
Sarnie Shoppe 300 S. Washington Square, Lansing 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Saturday (517) 657-3603, jbsarnieshoppe.com
Hot Chicken Kitchen 123 S. Washington Square, Lansing 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily (517) 203-5176, hcknashvillestyle. com