The most salient evidence of D&L Heart and Soul Café's commitment to food done right is the sausage.
First of all, it's homemade, a labor-intensive detail that demonstrates this breakfast diner believes hungry people need more than platitudes and something recently thawed.
Pork is ground on-site, and a homemade recipe of seasonings is added for either mild or spicy disks of hearty breakfast meat. Those shriveled hockey pucks you might find elsewhere don't compare to these sausage patties.
Slicing, dicing and cooking since April, D&L, which also offers lunch and Asian menus, is owned by Kin and Fong Lo. They have teamed up with Michelle Macy, former owner of Golden Harvest in Old Town, to create an inconspicuous yet praiseworthy family-friendly fusion of East and West, breakfast and lunch.
"We have a little different thing going on," says Macy, the kitchen manager. "A couple can come in for dinner, and one can order Mongolian beef while the other gets blueberry pancakes."
For the Lo's and Macy, the food comes first, but atmosphere and affordability are foci as well. Weekly specials are handwritten on a whiteboard outside the entrance; inside, an intimate space is well-lit with bright yellow walls and maple-colored tables and booths. Another whiteboard crowns the buffet, noting the early bird special (10 percent off any meal 6-9 a.m.); the daily special — fish and chips with coleslaw ($5.25) on Fridays; buffet prices, a list of sweets and more.
"It's a completely different atmosphere from where I've been previously," Macy says.
After selling Golden Harvest in 2005 and settling into semi-retirement, Macy slowed down a previously-manic life by becoming a personal chef. As clients felt the pinch of the recession, however, Macy began to look for opportunities.
"I never thought I'd get back into this again, but it's been a good experience getting to know Kin and Fong and their family," she says. "And now I get to see people I haven't seen in six years."
Kin is a 38-year veteran of the restaurant business who has previously owned two local restaurants. "Me and Macy, we try our best," he says earnestly. "We give each other new ideas."
Back to the food. Egg product doesn't exist at D&L. Egg white omelettes are made from three actual egg whites, separated by hand from the yolks, not poured from a carton over-eagerly promising it's 99 percent real.
The homemade sausage gravy on biscuits is real, too, made the way a grandmother might make it; like a plate of bacon, it's terribly delicious, but, for the sake of your own longevity, probably not something you'd want to eat daily. For the dish ($5.25, $3.75 half order), gravy is blanketed over pillow-soft biscuits, which are buttery with a delicately crisp crust: Dixie in absentia.
Omelettes are made with cheese and served with potatoes and toast (build-your-own for $4.75, 50 cents for each topping). The farmer's omelette ($5.75) is packed full of tomato, asparagus, zucchini, onion and sprouts. The fluffy fold of eggs are made to be enjoyed, slowly, with a cup of black coffee and a newspaper on a lazy Saturday morning.
How exactly is such a treat created?
"With love," Macy says dryly, with a smile. "It's gotta come from the heart." She takes time to visit diners when tickets aren’t waiting in the kitchen, and it's those interactions that have refueled her passion.
"I do like cooking a meal then hearing people moan over it," she says. "That's a really good feeling."
While the breakfast menu is available all day, the Asian menu begins at lunch and is especially popular on the buffet. The buffet costs $6.25 dining in, but if you’re in a hurry and need to get back to work, buffet takeout runs $4 a pound. The entire menu is available for catering, too.
The Asian cuisine includes fried rice, lo mein and a variety of platters, but you don't need to go much further than the General Tso's chicken ($5.25) to know both spectrums of the menu emphasize quality. Mouth-sized chunks of chicken thigh (more moist and flavorful than breast meat) are thinly battered and coated with a gently sweet, smoky sauce that induces lip-smacking.
"Cooking is not just cooking, it's an art," Kin says. "Everybody deserves to have good food."
D&L Heart and Soul Café
4805 N. Grand River Ave., Lansing
6 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
TO, WiFi, $