|By Joe Torok|
Mary’s Homestyle Catering owner finds inspiration all around her
Ensconced in the corner of a flea market, Mary’s Homestyle Catering quietly churns out some of the best pastries in town. But owner Mary Mullins offers much more than her signature wedding pies.
Before Mullins opens her kitchen on any given morning at the Mega Mall on US-27, north of Lansing, she never quite knows what her little café will offer. She rolls up her sleeves, checks out what ingredients she has onhand, and lists her decisions on a whiteboard near a dozen seats around a few small tables. The seating is flanked by shelves of vintage cookbooks and literature, and aisles upon aisles of collectibles and antiques, from anachronistic figurines of house servants and Christmas decorations of a bygone era to videos of Red Skelton and vinyl records of Frank Sinatra.
Like the merchandise surrounding her kitchen, Mullins is an eclecticist, both in method and execution, and that’s exactly the way she likes it.
“One thing I always wanted to do was open my own place,” Mullins says, “where I can call all the shots.”
Meals at the café are served in large glass pie dishes; the benefits of that, Mullins boasts with a smile, are a resistance to chipping and tendency to catch wayward crumbs, resulting in cleaner tables.
She gets her recipe ideas, both for her café and the larger catering business, from a combination of heritage and pop culture.
“The pie crust I use is the pie crust my mother taught me when I was 8,” she says.
The inspiration for her twisted Philly cheese steak ($6.50 combo), though, has contemporary origins: It came from a Food Channel segment. Her sandwich combines bean sprouts, spinach and mushrooms with deliciously greasy steak and cheese for a double-fisted tummy-buster. The twisted Philly is served with a quarter-wedge of orange, a thin slice of pickle, a side — chips, egg salad or perhaps baked beans, depending on Mullins’ mood, stock or customer demand — and a beverage.
“People have gone bonkers for this sandwich,” she says. Other lunch combos might include a taco or chicken wrap, a sloppy Joe, a ham and cheese sandwich or a classic hamburger. Daily soups obey the whims of Mullins’ proclivities as well.
Ever-energetic, Mullins becomes particularly electric when talking pie. Her business began with the idea of catering events with her sweet concoctions, and weddings play a major role in her success.
A cake decorator for over two decades, Mullins took a hint from the West Coast (where wedding pies are big, apparently) and began to offer a multitude of pie combinations for the happy couple, complete with one fully decorated, bride-and-groomstatuetted tier of traditional cake for shoving in each other’s faces or saving for the first anniversary, depending on the level of matrimonial bliss.
In either case, the pies are delicious. The banana cream ($12.25) has a mildly sweet, silky smooth filling populated with soft banana chunks and topped with a cloud
Aside from its tasty wares, part of the appeal
“If you want to stay successful in whatever you are doing,” Mullins says, “you have to give back.”
Mary’s Homestyle Catering
15487 US-27, Lansing (517) 908-0443 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; closed Mondays (except for select federal holidays)