Nov. 21 2012 12:00 AM

The Family Restaurant

South Lansing diners looking for home-cooked eating that goes beyond chain restaurants and dollar menus have a new option: The Family Restaurant. And don’t worry about that name — no one’s looking over your shoulder telling you to clean your plate or no dessert.

The diner, which opened at the end of summer, sits in the shadow of the I-96 overpass at 6724 S. Cedar St. Co-owner Dennis Jasman, 57, said opening the restaurant has always “been a dream” for his two sisters, Sandra Pitchford and Linda Huett. The trio brings a lifetime of experience in the restaurant business to the fold.

Jasman said they grew up in their mom’s restaurants in Cheboygan, and Huett owned restaurants in Kansas before coming to Lansing. There’s plenty of room in the diner for big groups — The Family Restaurant also offers catering from small to wedding-size portions. Oh yeah — and they’ve also got a buffet.

The atmosphere, Jasman says, doesn’t stray far from the name.

“It’s a place where you can bring the kids and no one will care if they spill a little something on the floor,” he said. “It’s all about family.”

Jasman said for customers, the food will conjure up memories of “the food grandma used to make.” The menu varies from fried chicken and liver and onions to taco salad and hamburgers. And third-shifters rejoice: Breakfast is also served all day.

Jasman said they try to accommodate any taste for any customer.

Don’t see something you’re craving on the menu? If you have an extra 10 minutes, Jasman said, they’ll be happy to run to the store and whip you up whatever it is you’re hankering for. He said they’ve got the “best meatloaf in town” and a belly-busting buffet to boot. I spotted macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and fried chicken on the spread, as they were getting ready for the lunch crowd.

Jasman, who was sporting a leather jacket and an unfiltered cigarette behind his ear, reminded me of the gruff-sounding-but-friendly uncle that everyone has (or wishes he did). He said the building needed a lot of work when they moved in, as we talked politics and history over a cup of coffee.

It had been a while since I’d seen one on a menu, so I jumped at the opportunity for some country-fried steak. The steak was fried just right — it was the perfect balance of meat and breading. The mashed potatoes were just lumpy enough to let me know they didn’t come from a box. The whole plate, which came with steamed cauliflower and toast, was a perfectly portioned gravy-kissed delight.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Family Restaurant is offering a buffet spread that is “hooked up just like at home,” as Jasman put it. There will be turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing, a variety of gravies and everything a person would expect from an old-fashioned Turkey Day, he said.

Jasman said business hasn’t exactly been booming yet, but he says word-of-mouth is catching on. He said he hopes the customer flow will pick up soon as more people hear about the joint. With a full-menu, a daily buffet and the willingness to get creative for their customers, the Family Restaurant has a chance.

Now finish your peas.

The Family Restaurant
6724 S Cedar St., Lansing
8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Closed Monday
(517) 709-3027