Looking back at a year jampacked with new restaurants

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After the quagmire of 2020 and the suffocating shutdowns that were undeniably tough on the restaurant industry, 2021 offered some levity and normalcy. A swathe of new restaurants, cafes and other good grub joints came to Greater Lansing and have found success, earning their place and recognition among old favorites from local foodies.

In February, 517 Coffee Co., a local coffee roaster that made its name on the farmers market circuit, open its very first brick and mortar location on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It was a longtime coming for owner James Defrees, who started the company seven years ago in his basement. 

The spring saw an unusual influx of crab-themed restaurants. If you were craving seafood boils, you had a lot of options to choose from as Lansing was introduced to The Tangy Crab, The Ocean Crab, King Crab and Crazy Crab. Why the crab explosion? Your guess is as good as ours. 

Springtime also saw the emergence of a new food truck on the south side of Lansing, Smoke and Soul. It also gifted us with the return of For Crepê Sake, which reopened in East Lansing after its original downtown Lansing location shuttered in 2020. But the biggest arrival during the post-winter thaw was certainly Babe’s Corner. Founded by Aharon Hebert and Will Green, the co-owners of the popular food truck Bango’s, Babe’s Corner helps fill a gap in downtown Lansing with its gourmet sandwiches and soft-serve ice cream creations.   

On top of Babe’s Corner, downtown Lansing had several other significant grand openings: Salt Rock Brewing Co., Sidecar Slider Bar and the Middle Village Micro Market all cut their ribbons in 2021. Sidecar Slider Bar occupied its space at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Cedar Street for several months before finally opening its doors. Salt Rock Brewing Co. joins fellow breweries and distilleries Michigrain Distillery, Lansing Brewing Co. and American Fifth Spirits. Middle Village Micro Market will bring downtown some interesting new food and merchandise, as it hosts several local artisan vendors at any given time.  

East Lansing also received its fair share of new places to enjoy. PappaRoti, an international chain of restaurants originally founded in Malaysia, opened up on Trowbridge Road, and Aloha Cookin’, a new joint focused on Hawaiian cuisine, set up shop on Albert Street. That’s What Cheese Said, which is a great name, is serving all sorts of cheese-based dishes from its new digs on Grand River Road. The MSU campus also got a new place to enjoy fruit juices and smoothies with the debut of the juice bar Clean Juice. 

Other restaurants of note to open in 2021 here in Greater Lansing include Mr. Corned Beef, Lefty’s Cheesesteaks, the Good Truckin’ Diner Market, MexiTreats, D.P. Dough, Sonia’s Soul Food, Zyara Grill and Ohana Sushi. 

Of course, all the exciting new openings had to be balanced out with some unfortunate closures. This year saw Champion’s Sports Bar and Grill, Leo’s Outpost on Pennsylvania Avenue and Spartan Hall of Fame Café. Eateries that aren’t closing, but changed ownership, include Detroit Frankie’s, The Peanut Shop and DeLuca’s.

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