2018 saw old places reborn and broad strokes painted in Lansing’s culinary and artisan scene.
Among the old places with new faces is the remodeled Art’s Pub, taken on by longtime friends of the prior owners, Greg and Nick Sinicropi. Under the Sinicropis’ ownership, the bar preserved its famous cheese heavy pizza recipe, as well as old lamps and memorabilia from the former east side Lansing establishment. Art's also kept the third shift traditions of serving beer and pizza before sunrise every day of the week.
Taking over the former Fish and Chips building was Lee Lee’s Coney and Grill, serving diner-styled fare and completely renovating the property, along with its vintage, emblematic “Fish and Chips” spinning sign. After testing the waters for a few months, Lee Lee’s will update its service times to include extended hours Thursday, Friday and Saturday, filling the late night diner void on the east side since Theio’s departure.
The former Jumbeaux building on Saginaw Street also got new owners in the form of a late night Chinese takeout hotspot. Colala Express, a branch from the same family that owns the east side’s China Flavors, took over the establishment and does late night delivery until 11 p.m. Aside from takeout classics, it also serves authentic Chinese regional specialties worth checking into.
By far, 2018 was dominated by the taco.
In Lansing alone there was: Punk Taco, Taquero Mucho, Tacos Monterrey and Taqueria el Chaparrito. Each took the city’s taste buds by force with traditional and original spins on the sacred dish.
Punk Taco of the Potent Potables Project burst onto the scene in January with nontraditional taco items like kimchi, trout and cauliflower. It gave some patrons a “Portlandia” moment and existential dread over whether commercializing the punk name is a “punk” thing to do. Nevertheless, following its success in Old Town, Punk Taco recently expanded to East Lansing along with its sister restaurant The Cosmos.
First launched as a food cart, Taqueria el Chaparrito went brick and mortar in September, serving authentic Mexican dishes with lengua, al pastor, barbacoa and chorizo. The food is also served Mexican style, patrons dress their fare from a condiment bar. Owners Lourdes Casillas and Saul Martinez still find time to do catering with the food cart at events.
Tacos Monterrey moved in downtown on Washington Street serving simple Mexican stew dishes flavored more with vegetables than seasonings. Tacos Monterrey also offers very competent vegetarian options as well, substituting meat with nopalitos, a seasoned cactus or espinacas, a spinach and mushroom mixture.
The winter has not driven away the Taquero Mucho food truck in south Lansing by Dicker & Deal on Cedar Street. Its fare wavers from cilantro and lime style tacos to tortas, menudo and fresh made tamarindo and jamaica hibiscus tea.
The caffeine crowd also got some new additions this year. The Urban Cup opened alongside the M43 fitness complex and the Crafted Bean of Holt expanded to Michigan Avenue.
Coffee aficionados and Soup Spoon cafe fans can rejoice in the Urban Cup’s sliver-sized coffee shop alongside the M43 fitness complex with its Rudy Baggs roasted coffee and Soup Spoon soups. The shop is helmed by veteran coffee roaster and former Soup Spoon barista Robert Flanders.
All espresso offerings are hand pulled with a lever press.
The Crafted Bean on Michigan Avenue is a cozy coffee digs with vinyl records, vintage video games and handmade waffles. Owner Justin Hartig opened it up in January. His coffee cocktails see coffee blend with grassfed butter, raw honey and peanut butter.
REO Town Marketplace’s hodgepodge of resale and maker shops came out on top for small developments. Thrift Witch appeared in July with a smorgasbord of oddball items from monster movie apparel to animals in formaldehyde.
Also opening in the marketplace was ALT Printing Company, a screen-printing operation holding community classes and making signature T-Shirts, apparel and coasters.
Following the success of this endeavor, ALT Printing is already in the process to opening a brick and mortar location in REO Town on Washington Street in the new year.
Two bakeries gained steam in south Lansing: Siraj Bakery & Grill and Bake N’ Cakes opened up new storefronts in the fall.
Siraj Bakery & Grill, on South Waverly Road, is a Middle Eastern bakery ran by refugees, serves savory traditional meat and zaatar pies at a penny-pinching price. They also are offering shawarma, grape leaves and homemade hummus.
Bake N’ Cakes, with a new location on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, departed from its usual fare for the expansion, launching a doughnut operation supplying all regional Bake N’ Cakes locations. The move was made possible with a LEAP grant, as well as a brand new doughnut sheeter cutter machine. Each doughnut is made fresh daily on site starting in the wee hours of the night.
Some businesses did not make it through the year.
In memoriam: Glazed and Confused (Downtown Lansing and East Lansing) Fish and Chips Schuler Books (Eastwood Towne Center) Younkers (Lansing Mall and Meridian Mall) Theio’s Leo’s Spirits and Grub Finley’s Grill and Smokehouse (Cedar Street) Bagger Dave’s (East Lansing) Stay tuned for all things New in Town in 2019.