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Again, Lansing, great make
Ten years in, Top of the Town settles into a superlative groove
By ALLAN I. ROSS
Ten years ago, if you were caught drinking beer inside Horrocks Farm Market, you’d likely find yourself being shown the exit and probably facing an intervention back at home. Today, if you’re not enjoying a craft coffee stout while waiting at the olive oil and vinegar filling station or shopping for imported organic snap peas, it’s practically a waste of your shopping cart’s cup holder.
Ten years ago, Soup Spoon Café was an upstart breakfast and lunch diner with a quaint eastside location next to a flower shop. Today, it’s tripled in size, has a full dinner menu, a full bar and an effective “second location” in Williamston — if you can call an upscale bistro with fine dining sensibilities second to anything.
Ten years ago, DeLuca’s Restaurant and Pizzeria was a family-friendly brasserie known for its outstanding pizza and pages-long menu filled with Italian-American staples. Today, it’s … pretty much the same. Maybe a little bit wiser, but they still have the Seafood Pizza, so all is right in the world.
As the annual Top of the Town Awards celebrates a decade of popular culture in Greater Lansing, there are few surprises. Over 17,000 individual votes across 124 categories — the most ever — decided the best people, places and things (very noun-forward) that make the Capital City so capital.
For the second year in a row, Horrocks drew more votes (7,222) than any other competitor, nearly doubling the number that the second-place finisher earned. It handily won in six categories — Best Craft Beer Selection, Best Beer Selection (retail), Best Florist, Best Grocery Store, Best Organic Natural Market and Best Wine Selection (retail) — while coming in second in Best Candy Shop and third in Best Gift Shop. And here, we thought it was all about the flavored popcorn samples and free coffee.
After 57 years, there’s not much left to say about DeLuca’s that hasn’t been said, but when you’re the best, you’re the best. Earning 3,857 votes, perennial multi-category favorite DeLuca’s won for Best Family Friendly Restaurant, Best Italian and (natch) Best Pizza. Most likely, see you next year, DeLuca’s!
No sophomore slump for last year’s rookie upstart, Lansing Brewing Co. After being named last year’s Best New Restaurant and Best Lansing-Area Brewery, the downtown destination drew 3,688 votes, winning again for Best Lansing-Area Brewery and taking the title of Best Bar. It also came in second for Best Distillery and Best Local Outing with Friends and third for Best Craft Beer Selection. With a massive patio perfect for summertime socializing and an ideal location within stumbling distance of practically every single downtown activity, it’s easy to see how LBC has managed to rise so quickly to the Top of the Town.
Inarguably the city’s most idiosyncratic dining establishment, Golden Harvest, has been drawing strong opinions for as long as it’s been assaulting customer eardrums with EDM and making them queue up outside, no matter what’s falling from the sky (exception: fireballs — it’s written right there on the door). Yet again it won for Best Breakfast and Best Diner, but this year it took a couple other notable honors. Ever-upbeat server Tim Gleason was recognized this year as Lansing’s Best Restaurant Wait Staff Person. And for some reason, voters only recently discovered the lavatory chalkboards, as Golden Harvest was won for Most Unique Public Restroom. There are no small winners in this contest, folks — everything matters.
MSU Dairy Store earned 3,238 votes between its repeat wins for Best Dessert and Best Ice Cream Shop. Or if you prefer salty to sweet, you might venture just outside campus to HopCat, which won for Best Fries and came in second in Best Craft Beer Selection and third for Best Hangout for Students and Best Happy Hour. Oh yeah, HopCat also came in just behind Golden Harvest in the Most Unique Public Restroom category. The East Lansing beer bar stirred up some controversy when it launched with restrooms wallpapered with Playboy, Cosmopolitan and Vogue magazine covers, but the restrooms have been redone and now feature black and white tiles arranged into trippy crooked patterns.
Conjoined twins Zoobie’s Old Town Tavern and the Cosmos earned 2,881 and 2,416 votes, respectively, effectively giving the building the second most votes in town, and the most votes per square foot. Zoobie’s won for Best Cocktails, Best Happy Hour and Best Bartender for Heather Haslaker; it came in second for Best Bar and third for Best Local Outing with Friends. Interestingly, even though it came in eighth for total votes, Cosmos didn’t actually win anything. It came in second for Best Pizza and third for Best Family-Friendly Restaurant, Best Fries and — there it is — Most Unique Public Bathroom. Which, in all honesty, you really have to see.
El Azteco in East Lansing won Best Margarita and Best Mexican, coming in second for Best Patio for a total of 2,352 votes. And in its 11th year, Soup Spoon Café still showed up strong, garnering 2,304 votes and winning for Best Vegetarian/Vegan/Gluten-Free Options, and second for Best Breakfast, Best Sandwich/Deli and Best Bartender for Melik Brown.
So take a look through this year’s winners over the next 14 pages, and you’ll get a good idea of where to go for food, drinks, services and political action here in Lansing. At least you definitely know where to go when you need a public restroom.
Best Asian Buffet: Hibachi Grill & Sushi Buffet
Top of the Town voters praised the “great prices” and “great selection of food choice” at Hibachi Grill & Sushi Buffet. The self-proclaimed “Lansing’s largest buffet” boasts over 250 buffet options.
3. bd’s Mongolian BBQ
Best Bakery: Roma Bakery
For nearly 50 years, this family-owned bakery has been churning out traditional cannoli, paczkis, sandwiches and other tasty goodies from a modest storefront on the edges of downtown Lansing.
2. Bake n' Cakes
3. Glazed & Confused
Best BBQ: Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine
The name says it all. This Old Town joint, whose “vegetarian options” menu is a list of soft drinks, is hailed by City Pulse readers for not only its brisket, but also for its heavy metal atmosphere.
2. Saddleback BBQ
3. Crossroads BBQ
Best Breakfast: Golden Harvest
Don’t let the long line out front dissuade you. Top of the Town voters rave about the punk rock vibe and killer food — Cap’n Crunch french toast, anyone? — at Lansing’s breakfast mecca.
2. Soup Spoon Cafe
3. Fleetwood Diner
Best Brunch: Creole
A taste of New Orleans, sans the Mardi Gras beads and hurricane weather, sits right in Old Town. Weekend brunchers can dig into Southern-inspired options like pulled chicken waffles, biscuits and Andouille gravy or NOLA-style beignets.
2. Beggar's Banquet
3. Tavern & Tap
Best Burger: Dagwood's
The neon sign on the front of Dagwood’s, visible from US-127, is a beacon for those seeking unfussy bar food. City Pulse readers describe Dagwood’s as “old school” and praise the “unbeatable prices” and “the best staff.”
2. Five Guys Burger & Fries
Best Chinese: P.F. Chang's
The modern Chinese chain with the signature giant horse statues won over Top of the Town voters with creative menu options like Dynamite Shrimp and wok-fired filet mignon.
2. Chen's Restaurant
3. Charlie Kang's - East Lansing
Best Cocktails: Zoobie's
With names like the Slow Burn and Louisville’s Revenge, the cocktails at Zoobie’s are almost as fun to order as they are to drink. And if you’re feeling lucky, you can go with the mysterious Trust Us cocktail.
2. American Fifth Spirits
Best Craft Beer Selection: Horrocks
City Pulse readers praise Horrocks for its wide variety of beers, including rare imports that are difficult to find anywhere else. And thanks to its in-store taproom, shoppers can even sip a brew while picking up groceries.
3. Lansing Brewing Co.
Best Dessert: MSU Dairy Store
The only thing the MSU Dairy Store treats better than its cows is its customers. The on-campus ice cream shop offers a variety of Big Ten-inspired ice cream flavors like Badger Berry Cheesecake and Dantonio’s Double Fudge Fake.
2. Grand Traverse Pie Co.
Best Diner: Golden Harvest
When one reader describes this diner’s food as “to die for,” can you really go wrong? But if that isn’t enough, our readers promise the food, people and atmosphere in Golden Harvest is most definitely worth the wait.
2. Fleetwood Diner
3. Good Truckin' Diner
Best Family Friendly Restaurant: DeLuca's
Kids love pizza, right? (Of course they do. Everyone loves pizza.)
3. Cosmos Pizza
Best Fish Fry: Eastside Fish Fry
From walleye to catfish to Oreos, this you-buy-we-fry joint serves up a huge variety of tasty fried fare. And if you’re feeling exotic, you can order up some mako shark steaks or alligator tail meat.
2. Claddaugh Irish Pub
3. Blue Gill Grill
Best Fries: HopCat
Dining at HopCat and not ordering Crack Fries — beer-battered fries topped with special cracked pepper seasoning and optional cheese sauce — is considered a punishable offense by City Pulse readers.
2. Five Guys Burgers & Fries
Best Greek: Lou and Harry's
Lou and Harry’s takes its third lap as winner for Best Greek food in the Lansing area. Readers still cannot get over the greek dressing and gyros, not that they would want to.
2. Zeus Coney Island
Best Ice Cream Shop: MSU Dairy Store
The Dairy Store steals customers’ hearts quicker than they can say Sesquicentennial Swirl.
2. Tasty Twist
3. Lick-ety Split
Best Italian: DeLuca's
For over 50 years, Deluca’s has provided Lansing diners with traditional pasta dishes, piled-high pizzas and tasty garlic breads. One voter put it simply: “Great family, great food.”
Best Late Night Food: Fleetwood Diner
South Lansing’s 24-hour (most of the time) diner serves up Hippie Hash, gyros and other local favorites all around the clock. It’s the go-to spot for third shifters, insomniacs and other nocturnal types.
2. Famous Taco
3. Taco Bell
Best Margarita: El Azteco
One voter bragged that EL Azteco is “the real deal.” And it seems like much of Greater Lansing agrees, as the Mexican restaurant takes home the top prize in our inaugural Best Margarita category.
2. Los Tres Amigos
Best Mediterranean: Zaytoon
One voter described Zaytoon’s lamb as life changing, while another voter described its Mediterranean fare as “the best stuff of life.” It also won over voters with its signature chicken shawarma and gluten-free options.
2. Woody's Oasis
Best Mexican: El Azteco
From classic dishes like burritos and fajitas to specialties like the Topopo Salad and cheese dip, El Azteco’s menu earned the local chain this year’s Best Mexican award. The only thing our voters can’t agree on is which location is better.
2. El Oasis Truck
3. Cancun Mexican Grill
Best New Restaurant: Blaze Pizza
Top of the Town voters describe Blaze Pizza as “fast and delicious” — and rightly so, with custom pizzas cooked on the spot in just three minutes. The “fast-fire’d” pies can be inventive or classic, you decide.
3. Zaytoon Holt
Best Pizza: DeLuca's
North Lansing’s Italian juggernaut snags the Best Pizza award for the ninth consecutive year.
Best Restaurant Wine List: Dusty's
With a great wine selection and monthly wine tastings, Dusty’s is the place to be for local winos.
2. Capital Vine
3. Bridge Street Social
Best Sandwich/Deli: Jersey Giant
Top of the Town voters describe Jersey Giant as a “great value” and “amazing sandwiches.” The local sandwich chain has won the hearts and stomachs of many readers with its East Coast-style subs.
2. Soup Spoon
Best Seafood: Mitchell's Fish Market
When our readers are in the mood for fresh seafood, they head up to Mitchell’s Fish Market. Voters described its seafood as “cooked perfectly” and “so worth it.”
2. Maru and Ukai Hibachi Grill (tie)
3. Red Lobster
Best Steak: Capital Prime
Our voters have declared Capital Prime to have the “best steaks around.” One reader even said, “I cried it was so good.”
2. Knight Cap
3. Texas Roadhouse
Best Sushi: Maru
Maru is our readers’ favorite sushi spot because “the chefs are creative” and “the vibe is not stuffy.” One reader went as far as to say that Maru has “the best sushi outside of Japa