Beloved festival soul food now available year-round at Lansing Mall


After winning the people’s choice vendor contest at the annual Michigan Chicken Wing Festival back-to-back in 2022 and 2023, Eldred and Kameron Carter decided last fall that the time had come to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

The festival, founded in 2015 by Eldred Carter’s mother, Shirley Carter-Powell, was the catalyst for the couple’s entry into the soul-food market. In addition to wings, they began producing their own sauces and dry rubs to sell from their booth at the event each Labor Day weekend.

“We’d have so many people asking us where our restaurant was, but for three years, the only place you could get our food anywhere was the Chicken Wing Festival,” Eldred Carter said.

Less than a month after last year’s festival, the couple started scouting out spaces.

“We decided we had to give our customers what they wanted, in a standalone location where they could come year-round,” Carter said.

They settled on an empty booth in the Lansing Mall’s food court, dubbing the new eatery The Carter’s Family Owned Restaurant.

“We used to come here a lot when we were kids. Like most kids, the place we hung out was the food court area. It seemed natural to start here,” Carter said.

The restaurant celebrated its grand opening on March 16. It operates five days a week, serving up healthy portions of soul-food standards like wings, rib tips, catfish, MaBell’s sausage, cornbread, mac and cheese, collard greens and more.

The menu was inspired by the couple’s Southern heritages. While they both grew up in Lansing, they’ve maintained familial ties to Alabama and Mississippi, where soul food is a way of life.

“Basically, you can taste the hard work and the love the person has cooked into the food. With soul food, you can learn a lot about a person’s heritage from the way they cook,” Carter said.

For those craving an authentic soul-food experience, many of the dishes can be made extra spicy. More adventurous customers can opt for the Soul Rolls, a soul-food take on traditional egg rolls that are filled with a choice of meat and two side dishes.

The duo’s homemade sauces and dry rubs are also available at the new restaurant. Customers can try any of them on a sample spoon, just like at an ice cream parlor.

The couple are the only full-time employees, but they’re often bolstered by family members who regularly come in to help. Carter said they’re looking to hire additional help “in the near future.”

If the restaurant does well, he said they could potentially expand into other culinary ventures in the future.

“This thought process is still very much up in the air, but The Carter’s Family Owned Restaurant isn’t going to be our only thing to bring food to the public,” he said.

The food has been so popular that the kitchen regularly sells out before closing time. The couple expects this to change as they continue to settle in and find their rhythm.

The Carter’s Family Owned Restaurant

5330 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing

11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, Friday-Saturday

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday

Noon-7 p.m. Sunday

(517) 574-6715


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