Looking Back & Looking Ahead: Dining
|By Joe Torok|
Cooking up changes and serving up variety
Moving and shaking defined the Lansing area food and restaurant scene in 2010.
First, the moving. In January, after contentious barbs slung back and forth between vendors and developers, nostalgic citizens intent on preserving history and city managers eyeing energy costs, the new Lansing City Market opened its doors a stone’s throw closer to the Grand River.
An urban barn in design and product, the City Market has since seen the opening of The Waterfront Restaurant, an anchor vendors hope keeps the crowds steady even through the winter.
Not far from the market, a block from the capitol building, Troppo, a fine dining destination for many, moved across the street. Like the City Market, the move was a long time in the making and was executed smoothly.
Further east, the original Woody’s Oasis, a decades-old favorite for Middle Eastern fare, moved as well. No longer restricted by the confines of the Trowbridge Plaza, Woody’s is now a freestanding building in shiny, comfortable new digs.
Turns out downtown Lansing’s Dimitri’s — a notable closure in 2010 that disappointed many who enjoyed its diner-style atmosphere — was simply a move waiting to happen. It has reopened in Delta Township. Thailand moved as well, relocating in Old Town.
Also in Old Town, the year saw a major closing. Those who enjoyed a lunch or pastry with a side of environmental consciousness were saddened to see Mama Bear’s, an Old Town standout since 2007, shuttered late in the year.
The news from the year was surprisingly good overall, though, considering the seemingly never-ending economic pessimism. The moving went well, and the shaking did, too.
Again, downtown Lansing was the site of important restaurant news: Restaurant Mediteran patrons have much more elbow room since it renovated a space left vacant next door, delighting those who crave its pan-European menu.
Down Michigan Avenue, a mile or so, Soup Spoon Café tore down a wall to build up its customer base, nearly doubling its size and adding a liquor license. And Gracie’s Place, a fine dining jewel hidden in Williamston, also expanded greatly. Like Mediteran and Soup Spoon, Gracie’s renovated an adjacent space and continues to draw a steady stream of rave reviews from diners.
While others loaded moving trucks or ripped down drywall, Deluca’s Restaurant — forever known as the Willow Bar to a handful of baby boomers — appears to be an unmovable force as it celebrated 50 years in business in 2010, no doubt with a monstrous pie loaded with mozzarella and a hearty handful of toppings.
There are some newborns among us as well.
Latin American fare continues to sprout up around the area, and one of the most promising newcomers is Jose’s Cuban Sandwiches. At Kalamazoo Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Jose’s resides under the same roof as a gas station — for now — serving sandwiches pressed on a grill. Down the road, Frandor welcomed the modestly named That Little Mexican Place, where lunch crowds line up for authentic Mexican fare.
New international fare goes beyond the Latin variety. Aloha Piilani’s in Okemos brought a slice of Polynesia to town, and the Karahi King Grill, near Woody’s old home in the Trowbridge Plaza, has brought in a caravan of Pakistani flavors.
East Lansing’s Grand River corridor welcomed some newbies in 2010, too. Wanderer’s Teahouse is a fantastic, ecofriendly haven for tea mavens, history buffs or anyone searching for something on the Zen-side of life. Next door, Pizza Pi opened shop in August, focusing on organic pizza.
Longtime pizzeria Georgio’s, which has served Michigan State University students for years, did a sidestep, opening the Mexican-styled Senor Georgio’s along the drag, not too far from the Stateside Deli, where you’ll find sandwiches with first-rate corned beef piled five inches high.
Back in downtown Lansing, new options abound. For health junkies, Eden’s Juice moved in to offer whole fruit juices, smoothies and an array of natural, antioxidant-packed snacks.
The Urban Feast corporate group, which moved Troppo across the street, opened Edmund’s Pastime, a sports bar/family restaurant, in the spot Troppo vacated.
Also new on the scenes was a Zoup! franchise, where fresh soups, some innovative and some traditional, are dished up in the busy Washington Square corridor.
And finally, sushi is packaged and ready to eat for power-lunchers downtown at AnQi, which has filled a culinary void.
With all the moving and shaking going on, you really couldn’t go wrong looking for a bite to eat in 2010.