One of my strangest — and most hyper-local — childhood memories involves the old Lansing City Market. My parents would take us there on weekends, and while my brother and I would try to pummel each other with apples, incurring the wrath and embarrassment of my mother, our older sister would make her way to one of the stalls, where she was receiving crocheting lessons. Another one of my most on-brand Lansing memories is Quality Dairy’s milk in a bag and my dad and me going from store to store every Tuesday until we found one that wasn’t sold out of mint chocolate chip ice cream for buy one, get one free ice cream Tuesdays.
I digress. The old market has been the site of waxing and waning attention and increasing angst over the past several years. With the opening of Lansing Shuffle, I hope the strife can diminish, the businesses are successful and city residents and other interested parties are satisfied and find something good to eat. I’ve done my level best to do so and have had good luck.
When I first visited Lansing Shuffle, I was confused about parking. Then I realized you can park in the Lansing Center lot and have your parking validated. If you’re still nervous about that situation, the Lansing Center is directly across the street and offers hundreds of safe, well-lit parking spots.
I had my 5-year-old with me during my first visit, as we were fresh off a visit to Impression 5 Science Center. He eats like a typical 5-year-old — we go through an inordinate amount of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, bananas and Nutella. We carefully, painstakingly perused all of the small restaurants within Lansing Shuffle until he chose Pasta Rossa (pasta with red sauce) from Osteria Vegana ($14) and fries from Browndog at the Shuffle ($4.75).
If you’ve ever interacted with a young child, you know they change their minds as frequently as they’re physically able to without hurting themselves, and within the six minutes it took for the pasta to be prepared, Eddie decided he never liked pasta and couldn’t believe that I would subject him to such a thing. There’s a reason we refer to him and his sister as tiny dictators. The pasta made a wonderful lunch for me, and I’m excited to have more vegan options to try. Eddie ended up eating the fries, which were hot and crispy. He would have been crazy not to gobble them up.
I chose the Chicken Tikka Stuffed Bread ($8) from Yeti Kitchen, which is essentially chicken tikka masala in a quesadilla. It was incredible. The depth of flavor in tikka masala is often imitated but rarely duplicated, but I was a sucker for the gentle spice and crispy bread this version included. The portion was large, and I ate half with the intention of saving the rest for a future meal. What actually happened was that I nibbled on the leftovers all afternoon because I couldn’t stop myself.
I returned to Lansing Shuffle two days later for a lunch meeting. As the weather warms up, it’s a perfect little walk from downtown, and I beelined right back to Yeti Kitchen. This time I chose the Tawa Chicken Bowl ($15), which consists of pan-fried marinated chicken with sliced bell peppers, onions and rice. I sat at the table with my companions, all of whom chose and raved about the Pad Thai from Kin Thai, slowly devouring every bite of my lunch.
When I was a student at Cooley Law School, my friends and I would frequently take a break between classes and walk to the previous iteration of the City Market to get gelato from Iorio’s. It’s some of the best I’ve had in the country, and if you want to try it, the business is housed in Horrocks Farm Market. Incredibly creamy and dreamy, that scoop of coffee gelato was the light at the end of every day’s tunnel when I was studying for the bar exam. I haven’t yet sampled the ice cream from Browndog at the Shuffle, but I’m happy to know that on long, sweaty summer afternoons, I can put on my sunglasses and walking shoes, grab Mr. She Ate from his office one block away and treat myself to an afternoon indulgence. Here’s hoping that Lansing Shuffle breathes life back into an important and once-vibrant part of downtown Lansing.
Food halls are a great way to taste a variety of cuisines in one space. I’ve visited multiple versions around the country and have always wanted one in my own neck of the woods. A food hall is an upscale food court where feasting options are more high-end and diverse, yet the communal dining experience is open. Readers who are fortunate enough to be traveling soon can check out locations in New York City (Chelsea Market or Grand Central Terminal), Philadelphia (Reading Terminal Market), Boston (Faneuil Hall Marketplace), Portland (Pine Street Market) or Atlanta (Ponce City Market).
This year, Lansing welcomed its own food hall into the mix. The brainchild of the developers responsible for Detroit Shipping Co., Lansing Shuffle promises elevated street food with games, music and entertainment, and it delivers in a big way.
Housed in the perennially controversial former Lansing City Market, Lansing Shuffle has an inviting atmosphere; lively vibrations from reggae, soul and rock music; and an ideal location, taking advantage of River Trail, Rotary Park and baseball game traffic — especially on the warmer days I visited. While it promises outdoor shuffleboard courts in the summer, right now visitors can play cornhole or table shuffleboard.
The space literally has something for everyone. I observed one of the most diverse gatherings I’ve seen in the area — people of all ages, races, genders and physical abilities (as well as pets) all visibly enjoying themselves and taking advantage of the indoor-outdoor open access and seating. Somehow, even during the dinner rush, it never seemed crowded, with ample seating options.
If you visit Lansing Shuffle, pace yourself. There’s a lot to take in. The Grand Bar, featuring several Michigan-made beers and craft cocktails, is flanked along the perimeter by vendors serving vegan, Thai, Jamaican barbecue and Nepali food, plus more. I have to say, I didn’t have a bad bite — and I tried a lot.
Browndog at the Shuffle offers creative spins on burgers, small-batch ice cream, several versions of french fries and Faygo sodas. I started with the Brussels Hash ($12), which was hard not to award best bite, consisting of potatoes, peppadew peppers and a creamy aioli drizzle. Next was the juicy BDOG Burger ($18), which featured two smash burger patties, garlic aioli, bacon, Swiss cheese and a deep-fried poached egg. I punctured the egg and watched the yolk ooze down the rest of the burger like I was in a trance. It was the perfect kind of messy. If you’re 21 or older, don’t skip the boozy milkshakes. I tried the Hop, Skip, & a Mint ($18) and would definitely get it again. The creamy blend of Browndog’s Grasshopper and Chocolate Hammer ice creams, vanilla vodka and RumChata was decadent but not overpowering.
Kin Thai gives some of my favorite local Thai restaurants a run for their money. The Drunken Noodles with shrimp ($18) were sweet, savory and had just the right amount of heat. The rice noodles, Thai basil, peppers and onions were bathed in a delicious brown sauce. I would have preferred a few more shrimp, but the dish was top-notch overall. I’ve heard people rave about the Crab Rangoon Nachos ($12), and they weren’t wrong. I received crispy wonton chips loaded with cream cheese, green onion and imitation crab meat. The appetizer was then finished with a sweet chili sauce, and what I ended up with was an incredible fusion of flavors in one bite.
Irie Smoke Shack is all right with me. My tastebuds were transported to tropical locations and grounded in Southern comfort food roots at the same time. The tender Shack Signature Beef Ribs ($23) were slathered in a tantalizing mango-guava barbecue sauce and were delectable. The Caribbean Corn ($6) was an island take on street corn, with notes of thyme and clove mixed into the creamy sauce. The White Cheddar Return of the Mac with brisket ($12) had me puzzled — I couldn’t decide if I liked the mac and cheese solo or with the meat. Both ways were just so scrumptious. Finally — and I mean this sincerely — run, don’t walk, to try the Spicy Cauliflower ($10). Beer-battered, deep-fried cauliflower comes robed in a mind-blowing tamarind aioli with fresco cheese and cilantro. It had me singing “One love, one heart”!
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