He Ate

New culinary creations and destinations boost local food scene


Is the Lansing area becoming a food destination? It’s well on its way. Several local mainstays are attracting statewide visitors with unique culinary creations, from olive burgers and fried gizzards to crack chicken and pickled tea leaf salad. The upscale food scene, boosted by the arrival of the Comfort Zone and Toscana, has area residents buzzing about new possibilities — including a second summer of fun at Lansing Shuffle with even more options than before. In addition to the Allen Neighborhood Center’s incubator and accelerator kitchens, there are more tempting tastebud adventures on the horizon. A KPOT franchise opening on West Saginaw Highway and a forthcoming culinary incubator in the Knapp’s Centre are both testaments to the burgeoning foodie movement infiltrating the Lansing area. 

A few new spots have emerged over the last several months, and some longtime favorites are trying new things. There’s a lot to be excited about, but here’s what’s got my mouth watering right now. 

One of my favorite barbecue spots in the area is Delta Township’s Smoke N’ Pig. Its smoked wings and pulled pork give other popular smokehouses a run for their money. Give the ribs a shot, and make sure to venture over to the new bar with extra seating. Game days are made even better when cheering on your team with some brisket, loaded mac and cheese or pulled pork nachos on your plate. 

Golden Harvest has long been a bastion of flavor in north Lansing, serving up breakfast to lengthy lines of hungry patrons for decades. The restaurant is home to Cap’n Crunch French toast, a Biscuit Mountain and other wild takes on brunchy/early-morning fare. One standout is the Loco Moco, a Hawaiian-inspired beef patty on rice with a sunny-side-up egg, all smothered in a rich gravy. Recently, Golden Harvest has expanded to offer pop-up dinner events, with past dishes including meatloaf, four-cheese mac, chicken alfredo and stuffed peppers with Cajun pasta. Check its Facebook page for updates on future pop-ups. 

Another breakfast and lunch favorite is El Oasis, the local chain of Mexican food trucks with an eastside location on the corner of Michigan and Francis avenues. El Oasis is known for its hefty breakfast burritos filled with chorizo or bacon, eggs, beans, cheese, pico de gallo and incredible salsa. Others may have known about its desserts already, but I discovered them on a recent visit. The tres leches (three milks) cake is a decadent treat: moist sponge cake saturated in evaporated, condensed and whole milk and topped with rich cream and fruit. If you think you’re frustrated with construction, imagine how the staff at El Oasis feel with the road torn up right in front of them. It’s still accessible, so do them and your stomach a favor and stop by soon. 

There’s been a ton of talk about Noosh in Delta Township. The new Afghan restaurant has been an instant hit with its beef, chicken and lamb kebabs, shawarma and patties. It caters to vegetarians with eggplant and pumpkin dishes, and there’s a salmon entrée for those looking for something from the sea. The house burger can be made with beef or chicken, and both are outstanding thanks to the special blend of spices.  

Eaton Rapids isn’t on my beaten path, but I ventured south of the city recently for a meeting at Robin’s Nest. Known for breakfast and brunch, with country-fried steak and French toast highlighting its menu, its omelets use four eggs and include chicken fajitas or corned beef hash among options for fillings. Pack an extra shirt and order the cinnamon roll sandwich, a new item that includes eggs, cheese and bacon between two enormous rolls infused with cinnamon and coated with a glaze of sweet icing. Messy and delicious all at once. 

Best bite 

The Lansing Mall inhabits the shadow of its former heyday. Our collective shopping habits have shifted online, and social opportunities are such that malls aren’t the desired destinations they once were. Today, rentable event space occupies much of the mall, though dark and vacant space dominates. The new Zap Zone XL has started to bring back more foot traffic, and lucky for those guests, there’s a new soul food restaurant in the food court. Offering chicken wings and rib tips to pair with collard greens, dirty rice, yams or mac and cheese, The Carter’s Family Owned Restaurant is on point with its flavors, including some exotic barbecue sauces — think blueberry, watermelon and pineapple-mango. Give the Soul Rolls a try and get shredded rib-tip meat and your choice of two side items all rolled up in a large wonton wrapper and deep fried. Fridays offer fish fries with a choice of catfish or swai.  


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