Eventually it was going intown to wind up being someone I knew. But when my friend and college roommate Bryan Van Curen became the subject of this week’s New in Town, it was something I wasn’t prepared for — especially since neither he nor the business is particularly new in town.
Van Curen, 33, bought Hannah’s Koney Island late last year. He’s worked in several restaurants around the Lansing area, including Mitchell’s Fish Market and Beggar’s Banquet, but he said he was just as surprised as the rest of us when he took the plunge and bought his own place late last year.
“I never thought I’d be a restaurant owner,” Van Curen said. “I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 14, and every time I tried to get out, something pulled me back in. But this time I pulled myself in. I love it. I love working with food and with people. I just never admitted it.”
Van Curen took over for Anton Prenaj, who owned the 20-year-old diner for the last seven years. (Prenaj moved across town in January to open Athenas Diner, 3109 S. Cedar St., Lansing, former home of Jon’s Country Burgers.) Prenaj left behind some of his Greek-themed specialties — such as the rotisserie-cut lamb used on his gyros — but Van Curen has started seasoning the menu with his own twists on traditional coney items.
He’s named many of the new additions after friends and family: Lisa’s Mac & Cheese after his girlfriend’s signature dish, Mark McMuffin after his dad’s fast food taste-a-like and Allan Fries. (Yeah, those were my creation.) The biggest move was creating a more dinner-centric lineup, led by his Bryan’s Spicy Pasta, which has a spicy tomato sauce he’s spent the last 10 years perfecting.
Van Curen said he’s toying with the idea of extending his hours, but for now he’s just getting used to the early hours and getting used to being his own boss.
“It’s taken some adjustment, but I really like it,” he said.
The Buffet is gone; long live the Buffet Last week a sign appeared in the window of the former Old Country Buffet, 2301 W. Grand River Ave. in Okemos, which was renamed Osake Buffet last summer. It announced the restaurant’s reopening in “late March, early April” with a rather logical new name: New Country Buffet. The owners also run the Asian Buffet, 4920 Marsh Road. To follow the opening, go to facebook.com/ncbokemos.
Hannah’s Koney Island 4790 S. Hagadorn Road (in Hannah Plaza), East Lansing 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday- Saturday; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday (517) 333-3527 msuconey.com, facebook. com/hannakoneyisland