Nov. 16 2011 12:00 AM

When business drooped, Paul Revere’s Tavern owner Jim Driscoll came up with a revolutionary idea


At Paul Revere’s Tavern (2703 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing), last year’s state-mandated smoking ban in bars and restaurants was a warning shot: Adapt or perish.

“It’s the small bars that have taken the hit,” says Tavern owner Jim Driscoll.  

So Paul Revere’s went big — Big Apple
big. Through a fellow barkeep, Driscoll got his hands on an authentic
recipe for New York-style pizza.  

“I’d thought about doing pizza for a long time,” Driscoll
says. With business falling after the ban, Driscoll bought a pizza oven
(for the price of a small mortgage) and set his sights on making
something unique.

Last year he started giving out samples to regulars. The pizza was a hit, but Driscoll says he knew he was really
on to something when a native New Yorker, in town on business, told him
it was the best pie he’d had outside of the big city.

A good New York-style pizza should be built to be held
with three fingers: forefinger on top, pinching down with thumb and
middle underneath, folding up the sides of large slices into a U-shape,
toppings sliding down off the point as steam curls upward. 

That’s what you get at Paul Revere’s, and what really makes the pizza great is the homemade crust.

Thin and crisp on the bottom without being crackery, soft
as a bed just a few millimeters above where the slightly sweet sauce
resides, it’s a crust as good as you’ll find in the area. A healthy
sprinkling of corn meal underneath adds both a rustic texture and a
touch of flavor.

Driscoll is understandably proud of his pizza. “Anyone who’s had one comes back for more,” he says.    

Call (517) 332-6960, or visit

Pii Lani finds a new home

Hungry for half the world?  Pii
Lani, the mononymous caterer and restaurateur with a Hawaiian heritage,
is serving up fried chicken, a Mexican menu and plenty of south Pacific
favorites at her new location adjacent to the Marathon gas station at
Saginaw and Pine streets.

Pii Lani saw her Aloha Piilani catering
business also take a hiatus when her buffet-oriented restaurant in
Okemos folded earlier this year. But all gears are spinning once again.

Two months into her new gig,  Pii
Lani is relying on fried chicken, breakfast burritos and potato wedges
to pay the bills, but still gets the occasional request for Hawaiian
favorites like musabe, a special-order sandwich that consists of
Japanese rice, Spam and seaweed.

Kalua pulled pork is still on the menu, too, in the form of a one-pound Hawaiian rice bowl ($4.50).  Other island-inspired options include pulled pork and cabbage, pineapple chicken and curry coconut chicken.

Pii Lani says she hopes to draw more
catering business with a location closer to downtown Lansing. She says
her pizza logs are perfect for informal corporate lunches, and she
hopes to be putting together boxed lunches for similar crowds in the
near future, too.

“Everything we make is homemade,” says Pii Lani.  “I love doing what I do.

Call (517) 485-8808.

Southern Grill heats up in REO Town

REO Town is cooking in the morning.  The
Southern Grill opened last month at 1107 S. Washington Ave., in
Lansing’s resilient neighborhood just south of the downtown business
district, and owner Tyson Guillen says his new enterprise has been an

You see, Guillen works full time as a
press operator for a local manufacturer, so the restaurant business is
all a bit new to him. Undeterred, he’s leapt right into an opportunity
that he says he hopes could turn into a full-time gig in and of itself.

Like his blue-collar night job,
Guillen’s Southern Grill is anything but pretentious: grits, eggs,
sausage gravy and pigs in a blanket all have spots on the menu.  

Burgers are perhaps his biggest seller, and the Southern Grill makes each patty by hand and cooks them to order.  Olive burgers ($6.49 with fries) have been a surprise hit.

“I don’t even like olives, so I wasn’t
even going to put it on the menu,” Guillen says. But demand is a
persuasive argument in the world of business, so on the menu the olive
burgers went.

Breakfast is served open to close, and
burgers, chicken wings, pork chops, meatloaf, Coney dogs and catfish
are among the options for lunch. While the menu is still being
adjusted, Guillen says almost everything is homemade, including soups
and chili.

The Southern Grill is laid back, the kind of place a regular hears a hearty “there he is!” when stepping through the door.  

Like any diner with a small-town feel, chatting with the staff is fun, if not veritably mandatory.  

Ask Guillen’s cook (and brother-in-law), Wayne
Hutchinson, why someone should visit the Southern Grill, and, along
with a robust laugh, he’ll tell you what he told me: “I’m the baddest
cook in Michigan.”  

Call (517) 574-5853.