Aug. 17 2016 12:23 AM

Lansing Brewing Co. complements beers with creative menu

Left: Great White North Poutine, Lansing Brewing Co.'s take on the Canadian staple, features French fries topped with cheese curds, braised pork, gravy and a fried egg. Right: Lansing Brewing Co. offers a half dozen creative pizza options, including a Please Frugivore Me pie with roasted pear and brie.
Gabrielle Johnson Lawrence/City Pulse

Stellar sandwiches, awesome appetizers
By Gabrielle Johnson Lawrence

Let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about the food at Lansing Brewing Co., because I have a lot to say.

I’ve previously waxed poetic in this very paper about the brewery’s IPA Cheese Bombs, which are lightly breaded, flash fried, drippy, gooey dollops of deliciousness. Seriously, these things are worth the price of admission. (No, there isn’t a price of admission, but just go with me.) If I were a “cheat meal” person, these cheese bombs would be it — the entire meal. Instead, I just eat whatever I want and punish myself on the treadmill later.

(That treadmill, by the way, was the subject of our biggest premarital argument. “You won’t use it!” he said. “Get me a treadmill or I’m never making another yellow cake with chocolate frosting!” I countered.)

Back to the food; let’s talk pizza. We chose the Please Frugivore Me pie and upgraded to the family size at the suggestion of a high school friend who was waiting on some other tables. The crust, he explained, is a different recipe and much better than the crust on the personal-sized pizzas. Indeed, the crust was worth writing home about. It was chewy and had a nice heft, but it wasn’t as thick as the crust at a restaurant on Willow Street that people freak out over. Hint: The name rhymes with FeFluca’s, and that isn’t pizza; it’s casserole. Don’t @ me.

While the combination of mozzarella and large slices of brie was a bit overwhelming, the pesto and drizzle of balsamic vinegar punched up the flavor. The pizza was a B+ effort, but my favorite pear pizza at Tavern 109 crushes the competition, just like Katie Ledecky in the pool. (P.S. How much has the local dining scene changed in the last few years that I now have a “favorite pear pizza?” What a time to be alive.)

Have you heard of poutine? It’s a Canadian thing, a mess of thick-cut steak fries typically topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. To me, that sounds like it’s not worth the sureto-follow indigestion. However, Mr. She Ate convinced me to give it a try, and I’ve never loved him more — except maybe the time he bought me that treadmill. The fries are crispy and topped with what is, essentially, the best pasta-less goulash you’ve ever had in your life. Shredded pulled pork is combined with cheese, gravy, scallions and — the crowning jewel — a sunny-side up egg. We had come from golf before taking part in this pizza and poutine bonanza, so the 72 calories we burned on the links were replaced tenfold. Hello again, treadmill.

On a follow up visit I chose the I’m Kinda Doing Atkins Salad, because I’m a sucker for green things and a catchy name. This salad had everything that I want in a lunch — grilled steak, a big ol’ plate of non-iceberg salad greens, caramelized fennel, roasted cherry tomatoes, blue cheese and grilled scallions. Pro tip: Roasted cherry tomatoes are so much easier to spear with a fork than raw cherry tomatoes. And they need not be roasted to death, just a few minutes in a hot oven will soften them enough to do the trick.

He had the Jam On It Smoked Turkey Club, which I almost ordered to take back to the office with me as the world’s fattest afternoon snack. I don’t know which factor of this sandwich blows me away most — the Swiss cheese, arugula, apricot jam or chipotle aioli — but all of those things add up to make one of my favorite sandwiches in town. My other favorite sandwich in town, also from Lansing Brewing Co., is the Adam’s Short Rib Grilled Cheese, a sandwich that we insisted all members of our wedding party and our British friends sample in the days leading up to our April wedding. This sandwich is a near-religious experience. My Mr. finds it a bit greasy, but we agree to disagree on this and on whether to get another dog (which, by the way, isn’t happening).

On another visit we tried the nachos on a recommendation from a coworker. Lansing Brewing Co. replaces the typical tortilla chips with wonton chips, which stay crisp much longer than regular chips. The jalapenos are seeded, providing kick without pain, and the Sriracha sour cream is simultaneously spicy and cool.

We haven’t tried any of the dessert offerings, because after every meal we feel like Violet Beauregard after she turns into the giant blueberry in Willy Wonka’s factory. But I have a feeling that our relationship with Lansing Brewing Co. is young, and this is only the beginning of a beautiful food friendship.

Not your (great-)grandfather's brewery
By Mark Nixon

Some restaurants intuit their surroundings. They reflect and respect the roots — the bones, if you will — that define a town. I’ll admit to being a bit of a history buff, and it’s fair to say Lansing Brewing Co. had me at hello.

Here, just a stone’s skip from the Grand River, the brewery pumps out brews that are, as the signage states, “best served cold and often.” Lansing Brewing Co. is an homage to Lansing’s gritty industrial past — and present. Yawning garage-style doors can be flung open to catch an afternoon breeze. Flights of craft beers are served on steel slabs with the heft of a baby anvil. Wooden floors creak. Reproductions of beer advertisements have the crafted feel of the early 20th century.

None of is this incidental. The original Lansing Brewing Co. closed its doors in 1914, dealt a death blow by the local temperance movement that preceded national Prohibition. A century later, the Gillespie Group has revived the name and co-opted some of the brewery’s history — but also added several 21st century twists. Brewers of yore would recognize the hulking fermentation tanks in the adjoining brewing room. But they would certainly be puzzled by brie and pear pizza or something called IPA Cheese Bombs.

I hereby declare Lansing Brewing Co. is what this city has waited for since, well, for ever, it seems. It’s downtown. It’s near the river and the baseball stadium. It has a welcoming, playful vibe. (How often do you get to watch employees on break limber up with a pick-up game of basketball?) And the 12 house-brewed beers on tap are themselves worthy of return visits. There is room for improvement — but more on that in a bit.

The menu is a pun-filled take on pub grub. I love a good pun, but the names overreach at times — I’m looking at you, Born and Braised This Way Tacos — and the food itself , at times, underperforms.

From what we tried, the best of the bunch was the brie and pear pizza ($10.99), on the menu under the awkward moniker Please Frugivore Me. The brie and pears pair remarkably well, though Judy, my wife and dining companion, thought it needed a few more pear slices. I was happily surprised by the quality of the soup offerings, since soups in so many places are slapdash affairs. Lansing Brewing Co.’s tomato basil and chicken curry soups ($3.99 per cup) were rich in both flavor and texture. My suggestion to the chefs: Plop a teaspoon of crème fraîche on the tomato basil soup just before serving.

Our dinner guest, Dennis, raved about the Great White North Poutine ($9.99). Add my raves to the pile as well. Here’s Dennis’ mini-review: “Poutine is Canada’s own junk food invention, which has evolved into a glorious low art form of culinary improvisation. Lansing Brewing Co.’s version included the requisite fries topped with white cheddar cheese curds, braised pork, amber ale gravy and scallions. The entire lovely mess was topped off with a sunny-side up egg. Heavenly.”

On our first visit, I was hankering for comfort food and found comfort in the meatloaf ($13.99). Named “Ma. the Meatloaf!” Please — a G-rated version of a popular “Wedding Crashers” reference — this dish features horseradish mashed potatoes and amber creamale gravy ladled on top. Heavenly, as Dennis would say.

Anne, our other dining companion on that visit, tried the Smopoke Sammie ($8.99), a pulled pork sandwich. She declared it tasty, though the Carolina-style sauce was a bit too vinegary for her taste.

Before we had even reached our table, a friend at a nearby table recommended the IPA Cheese Bombs ($7.99). I’m generally suspicious of fried cheese, because there are so many god-awful iterations out there. But the four of us shared these deep-fried cheese curds, which are served with an aioli for dipping. Suspicions unfounded; they were terrific.

Less terrific was the Jam On It Smoked Turkey Club sandwich ($8.50). The bread was over-grilled, as was the turkey. The result? A no-can-taste-turkey flop. Similarly, our friend Bruce had the house-smoked brisket sandwich ($9.99), which he found overdone. (We agree that Saddleback BBQ sets the local gold standard for smoked brisket.)

On the upside, Judy had the G.O.A.T. Salad ($9.99), a goat cheese and arugula salad with dried cranberries and toasted walnuts and topped with balsamic vinaigrette. It was outstanding, and the goat cheese and arugula make a lovely couple.

OK, please permit me a senior citizen gripe. Lansing Brewing Co. is bleepin’ loud. Sound doesn’t merely bounce off the walls — it ricochets off walls and bruises the eardrums. I see some New York Times reviews rate restaurants’ sound level. Not a bad idea for those of us who value hearable dinner conversation.

This is a brewery, so I suppose I should say something about the beer. The best way to tackle the ever-changing beer list is a flight of five different brews ($8). The Black Velvet oatmeal stout was my favorite ($6 a pint). Next best was the Amber Cream Ale — a recipe lifted from the original Lansing Brewing Co. — which has a finish reminiscent of maple syrup or caramel.

Other than the clanging din, our experience over three visits was overwhelmingly positive and fun. Judging by the crowds, this place is on track to be the city’s coolest watering hole. The reborn Lansing Brewing Co. seems to have already found a spot in Lansing’s heart.

Lansing Brewing Co.

11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m.

Friday-Saturday; noon-10 p.m. Sunday 518 E. Shiawassee St., Lansing (517) 371-2600,