Beggar’s brie delights
By GABRIELLE LAWRENCE
There are a few things that I know for certain about the City of East Lansing. One, the ice cream at the dairy store is the best ice cream in a 100-mile radius. Two, if you drive past Rick’s American Café after 10 p.m. on a weekend, you’ll see lots of scantily-clad coeds, because coats are evidently for nerds. Three, if you sit on the rooftop at El Azteco, the service up there will make you wonder if you have personally, mortally offended your server.
On par with these certainties is a certain familiar menu at Beggar’s Banquet. With a few exceptions like the “Sticky Fingers” section, which is new-ish — more on this later. The menu at Beggar’s has remained steadfast for as long as I can remember going there, which is upward of 15 years. Sure, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? But on the other hand, the sucking sound you hear is the void of interesting, reliable restaurants in East Lansing.
For a recent brunch visit, my first in at least five years, Mr. She Ate ordered the breakfast burrito ($8). The burrito was large and over stuffed with scrambled eggs and seasoned onion, which were a tad on the tepid. His side of bacon ($3.50) was oven-roasted — just how we like it, as it avoids a shriveled piece of meat. His side of tri-color — quad-color, if you count the sweet potatoes — breakfast potatoes ($3.50) needed salt. Although they have needed salt for 15 years.
I’ve noticed about myself lately that if the word “chorizo” is included in an item description on a menu, chances are high that I’m going to order that item. I was true to this trend when I ordered the Santa Fe omelet ($10.50), which includes three eggs and the usual suspects: onion, green pepper and my beloved, spicy Mexican sausage. This variation is topped with thick slices of avocado and chipotle mayo, and accompanied by — you guessed it — breakfast potatoes.
To test my theory of Beggar’s having some of the most timeworn food in the area, during our brunch, I posted a photo of my plate to Instagram and asked my followers to guess where I was. Within 10 minutes I had two correct guesses. Just saying, Beggar’s, a fresh herb garnish goes a long way to brighten a dish.
For a lunch visit, we debated ordering the baked brie as an appetizer. You know the one — it’s nestled in puff pastry and served with crackers and a sliced green apple. I’m sure it’s exactly the same one that you had during the Wine Wednesdays you spent at Beggar’s when you were an undergrad. For the sake of variety, we ordered the poutine ($13) from the Sticky Fingers section of the menu instead, which is essentially French fries topped with your choice of cheese, chopped tomato, chili, pork or poutine. The poutine was lacking in description, and, had we known that Beggar’s riff on the Canadian classic is a thick, brown gravy absolutely heaving with mushrooms recently released from their can, we would have chosen something else. That said, any time a French fry is topped with melted cheese, you’re going to find at least one or two good bites. We picked up steam with my Hipster sandwich ($11).
The prosciutto and brie grilled cheese sandwich includes Beggar’s-made strawberry and Bell’s Soft Parade jam, which brought the perfect savory dimension to this already delicious sandwich. The prosciutto was thicker than some varieties I’ve had, which was welcome here as it stood up to the gooey melted cheese. That sandwich was possibly the best thing I have ever eaten at Beggar’s. His chicken nachos ($11) appeared to be beautifully presented. I say “appeared,” because can we talk about the lighting in the dining room for a minute? I’m all for dimming the lights and creating some ambience, but it is straight-up too dark in that restaurant. Have you heard the expression that first we eat with our eyes?
The dimness of the room might also explain the service, in that our server might simply have been unable to see that we were sitting in her section. I understand, the week when students return to East Lansing can be stressful and busy, but as a professional adult who treats her servers with dignity, I expect the same from them.
Beggar’s Banquet 9 a.m.-Midnight, Sun.-Mon.
218 E. Abbot Road, East Lansing (517) 351-4540 beggarsbanquet.com