Again, Lansing, great make
Ten years in, Top of the Town settles into a superlative groove
By ALLAN I. ROSS
Ten years ago, if you were caught drinking beer inside Horrocks Farm Market, you’d likely find yourself being shown the exit and probably facing an intervention back at home. Today, if you’re not enjoying a craft coffee stout while waiting at the olive oil and vinegar filling station or shopping for imported organic snap peas, it’s practically a waste of your shopping cart’s cup holder.
Ten years ago, Soup Spoon Café was an upstart breakfast and lunch diner with a quaint eastside location next to a flower shop. Today, it’s tripled in size, has a full dinner menu, a full bar and an effective “second location” in Williamston — if you can call an upscale bistro with fine dining sensibilities second to anything.
Ten years ago, DeLuca’s Restaurant and Pizzeria was a family-friendly brasserie known for its outstanding pizza and pages-long menu filled with Italian-American staples. Today, it’s … pretty much the same. Maybe a little bit wiser, but they still have the Seafood Pizza, so all is right in the world.
As the annual Top of the Town Awards celebrates a decade of popular culture in Greater Lansing, there are few surprises. Over 17,000 individual votes across 124 categories — the most ever — decided the best people, places and things (very noun-forward) that make the Capital City so capital.
For the second year in a row, Horrocks drew more votes (7,222) than any other competitor, nearly doubling the number that the second-place finisher earned. It handily won in six categories — Best Craft Beer Selection, Best Beer Selection (retail), Best Florist, Best Grocery Store, Best Organic Natural Market and Best Wine Selection (retail) — while coming in second in Best Candy Shop and third in Best Gift Shop. And here, we thought it was all about the flavored popcorn samples and free coffee.
After 57 years, there’s not much left to say about DeLuca’s that hasn’t been said, but when you’re the best, you’re the best. Earning 3,857 votes, perennial multi-category favorite DeLuca’s won for Best Family Friendly Restaurant, Best Italian and (natch) Best Pizza. Most likely, see you next year, DeLuca’s!
No sophomore slump for last year’s rookie upstart, Lansing Brewing Co. After being named last year’s Best New Restaurant and Best Lansing-Area Brewery, the downtown destination drew 3,688 votes, winning again for Best Lansing-Area Brewery and taking the title of Best Bar. It also came in second for Best Distillery and Best Local Outing with Friends and third for Best Craft Beer Selection. With a massive patio perfect for summertime socializing and an ideal location within stumbling distance of practically every single downtown activity, it’s easy to see how LBC has managed to rise so quickly to the Top of the Town.
Inarguably the city’s most idiosyncratic dining establishment, Golden Harvest, has been drawing strong opinions for as long as it’s been assaulting customer eardrums with EDM and making them queue up outside, no matter what’s falling from the sky (exception: fireballs — it’s written right there on the door). Yet again it won for Best Breakfast and Best Diner, but this year it took a couple other notable honors. Ever-upbeat server Tim Gleason was recognized this year as Lansing’s Best Restaurant Wait Staff Person. And for some reason, voters only recently discovered the lavatory chalkboards, as Golden Harvest was won for Most Unique Public Restroom. There are no small winners in this contest, folks — everything matters.
MSU Dairy Store earned 3,238 votes between its repeat wins for Best Dessert and Best Ice Cream Shop. Or if you prefer salty to sweet, you might venture just outside campus to HopCat, which won for Best Fries and came in second in Best Craft Beer Selection and third for Best Hangout for Students and Best Happy Hour. Oh yeah, HopCat also came in just behind Golden Harvest in the Most Unique Public Restroom category. The East Lansing beer bar stirred up some controversy when it launched with restrooms wallpapered with Playboy, Cosmopolitan and Vogue magazine covers, but the restrooms have been redone and now feature black and white tiles arranged into trippy crooked patterns.
Conjoined twins Zoobie’s Old Town Tavern and the Cosmos earned 2,881 and 2,416 votes, respectively, effectively giving the building the second most votes in town, and the most votes per square foot. Zoobie’s won for Best Cocktails, Best Happy Hour and Best Bartender for Heather Haslaker; it came in second for Best Bar and third for Best Local Outing with Friends. Interestingly, even though it came in eighth for total votes, Cosmos didn’t actually win anything. It came in second for Best Pizza and third for Best Family-Friendly Restaurant, Best Fries and — there it is — Most Unique Public Bathroom. Which, in all honesty, you really have to see.
El Azteco in East Lansing won Best Margarita and Best Mexican, coming in second for Best Patio for a total of 2,352 votes. And in its 11th year, Soup Spoon Café still showed up strong, garnering 2,304 votes and winning for Best Vegetarian/Vegan/Gluten-Free Options, and second for Best Breakfast, Best Sandwich/Deli and Best Bartender for Melik Brown.
So take a look through this year’s winners over the next 14 pages, and you’ll get a good idea of where to go for food, drinks, services and political action here in Lansing. At least you definitely know where to go when you need a public restroom.