During the holiday season, I relish my family’s food traditions. I savor my Aunt Peggy’s perfect buckeyes. I devour my Aunt Theresa’s perfectly spicy and savory Chex Mix. And on Christmas Eve, I painstakingly prepare a dinner for around 25 family members, starring a slow-roasted beef tenderloin served with basil-Parmesan aioli, horseradish cream sauce and Gorgonzola butter.
But as soon as Boxing Day rolls around, I’m ready to turn my attention back to my vegetables. I look around my house and see balls of wrapping paper, toy boxes yet to be recycled and gifts ready to be put away, and the last thing I want to do is haul myself into the kitchen and cook (although my new air fryer has admittedly made that a whole lot easier.) Enter Fuel’d.
As close as Fuel’d is to our Groesbeck house, I’d never been there before this assignment. I frequently find myself heading north for hearings in Clinton County and telling myself that I’ll stop for lunch on the way, but I never do. All of that ended after my first visit to Fuel’d. As I get older, I find myself heavily favoring vegetable-laden meals most of the time and searching for meals that will fill me up but also pack a nutritional punch. On our first visit, we needed takeout quickly. I went to the Fuel’d website, which is incredibly intuitive, and ordered Garlic Butter Noodles ($14.40) for Mr. She Ate and a Let It Grain salad ($12.95) for me. Fuel’d specializes in stir-fries and salads, with several signature items on the menu to choose from, but you can also create your own fully customized dish — think Subway, but about 1,000 times better.
Mr. She Ate’s whole-wheat-noodle-based dish was hearty without being heavy. He held the mushrooms and added green beans, which retained a snap when we bit into them. The steak was juicy and seasoned. The She Ates are a big broccoli family, so this was a bonus treat. The corn, however, tasted like it had previously been frozen and was a bit chewy. The meal was large enough to feed him three times, which we needed during those lazy days of Twixmas.
My salad wasn’t my favorite thing I’ve had at Fuel’d. I had the same experience with the corn, and the cheddar cheese and tortilla chips seemed conspicuous in such an otherwise fresh salad. I learned my lesson for the next time, when I read the item descriptions more carefully and chose the Honey Ginger Salad ($13.60). I could have drunk the honey-ginger dressing by itself, and I love a spinach salad with apples and candied pecans. I added hard-boiled eggs and ate an extremely large portion for lunch, then had a sizable side salad left to pair with that night’s dinner.
On a third visit, I chose to make my own stir-fry ($13.60). I picked a brown rice base and added roasted shrimp, kale, edamame, green beans, cilantro and garlic butter sauce. Mr. She Ate and I were enjoying a mental health day together, having just come back from a quick trip to Mexico for a wedding, and we were frantically running around on a quest to finish some post-vacation errands. Our lunch stop was a great time to slow down and really think about what we were eating, a lesson we’re trying to impart to our children, which is made a lot easier when the food is fresh, colorful and smells incredible. Mr. She Ate had the Sweet Kikkoman Soy stir-fry ($13.60) with no modifications, and while his was good, mine was better. I made sure to label the leftover containers so he didn’t “accidentally” grab mine when we took our lunches to our respective offices the next day
To be honest, the He Ate reviews can be challenging for me. I know it’s a privilege to be able to venture into eating establishments and scribe my opinions. I take this role very seriously and am honored that these reviews are typically well received. That said, when I’m in the moment of ordering, it’s sometimes hard to follow protocol because I can envision an even better dish with just a few minor accommodations. Still, outside of never ordering anything with raw tomato on it, I stick to the way items are presented on the menu, even against my better judgement. I try my best to honor the intent of the dish from the chef or cook’s perspective. But this month, at Fuel’d in East Lansing, I got to take full control over what I ordered. I didn’t disappoint myself, and neither did the kitchen staff.
Fuel’d has been serving up fresh and nutritious fare since fall 2022. It was co-founded by the restauranteur behind the Tangy Crab and Ohana Sushi and Bar, which offer plated crab boils and all-you-can-eat sushi on Lansing’s west side. The stir-fry and salad venture offers customizable dishes from start to finish. Ordering is also a breeze, provided you’re comfortable with technology, as online selection for pickup or touch screens for dining in or carrying out are your only options. Thankfully, there are great photos of the restaurant’s signature dishes that give you a better idea of what’s possible when beginning your order.
To start, you choose a base, with options including several kinds of noodles and rice for stir-fries and a wide variety of greens for salads. Next, take your pick of proteins and veggies, from chicken, shrimp, beef or tofu to roasted cauliflower, broccoli, kale, pineapple, corn, mushrooms and more. Choosing the sauce is probably the toughest decision on the stir-fry side: Garlic butter, tangy Thai chili and coconut curry are just a few of the sensory-pleasing options. The salad dressings are equally intriguing, including balsamic and raspberry vinaigrettes, house-made buttermilk ranch and yum-yum sauce. Finally, you can choose to garnish your dish with cilantro, fresh lime, honey-roasted peanuts or even fried shallots.
The first two stir-fry dishes I tried were really good. Both were served hot and fresh out of the wok. My better half ordered the signature Garlic Butter Noodles ($14.40) with whole-wheat noodles, roasted steak, mushrooms, broccoli, corn and cilantro. The aroma and flavor of the garlic butter sauce were equally delectable, pairing well with the fresh vegetables and noodles, which were cooked to a perfect al dente. The sauce was flavorful enough to overpower the meat, which was rather bland when eaten by itself. The steak could have used a bit of five-spice powder or salt and pepper. The portions were large, and Mrs. He Ate claimed it was even better for lunch the next day.
My create-your-own stir-fry with chicken, pineapple, broccoli, spinach and coconut curry ($12.65) was both sweet and savory in the best way. Paired with rice noodles, the dish got kicked up a few notches with the free chili oil I received. Although the curry itself wasn’t that spicy, the dish was on point.
What’s really good
The honey Sriracha sauce was incredible. My daughter paired it with rice noodles, chicken, carrots, edamame and snow peas ($13.40). She likes her food to be really spicy and added far more chili oil than I was comfortable watching her eat. I thought the dish was plenty warm already.
The sweet-heat combination was even better on my second visit when paired with brown rice, shrimp, broccoli, spinach and red onion ($15.60). The dish was a near winner for best bite, and I was ecstatic I didn’t have anyone to share with.
The Honey Ginger Salad with chicken ($14.30) was outstanding. I added pineapple, apple and carrot for a colorful boost to the romaine-and-baby-spinach base. The star of the show was the honey-ginger dressing, of which I was gifted two cups on the side. It was better than any version you might’ve had at a Japanese restaurant. The chicken was flavorful on its own, but when combined with the fresh fruit, veggies and dressing, it was simply outstanding.
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