The Old Bag of Nails Pub, 210 Cascade Blvd., Lansing. Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.;
Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Both reviewers agree if Old Bag of Nails wants to gain traction in Lansing, it will need to step its game up. "My two visits — one takeout, one dine-in — left me with an overall dissatisfied rating."
It was a rainy afternoon when I met a girlfriend for lunch at The Old Bag of Nails Pub. I’d never been there before and was surprised by the extremely limited available parking. Normally, I’m not a parking complainer. When I need to use a kiosk downtown, I figure it out. (Or I accept the parking ticket and pay the fee.) If I have to park a few blocks away from my destination and walk, I consider it a great opportunity to stretch my legs. My point is, when I hear people complain ad nauseam about the parking in Lansing, I don’t buy in.
The parking situation at Old Bag of Nails, though, is its own particular form of hell, especially in the midst of a torrential downpour. It appears that once the small number of spots is full, there are no alternatives. I’m sure the restaurant is banking on its proximity to the new apartments encircling most of the building and a large number of students being within walking distance, but for people driving in, it can be tricky.
For lunch, I chose the All-You-Can-Eat Soup & Salad ($14). I clarified that this option would allow me to try as many of the soups and salads as I wanted because your girl loves both. I started with the New England Clam Chowder and Spinach Salad in round one. The chowder was unremarkable. If you told me it came from a can, I wouldn’t be surprised. It wasn’t offensive, but it wasn’t special. The Spinach Salad was topped with sliced mushrooms and hard-boiled egg, crumbled bacon and red onion. I welcomed the mushrooms, as I don’t frequently see them as a salad topper, but the rest was what you’d expect.
For round two, I ordered the Caesar Salad and Broccoli Cheddar Soup. The Caesar was cloyingly sweet and almost inedible. Unexpectedly, so was the soup.
My friend had the Shrimp Po’boy ($14), which she hilariously ate with a knife and fork because it was so unwieldy. Her fries were completely unseasoned, and I was happy I hadn’t ordered my own because I would’ve eaten them out of habit and wouldn’t have really enjoyed them. It’s a good thing the gossip was hot because lunch left us cold.
On a return visit, the entire She Ate family arrived for an early dinner at 4:30 p.m. and put in a fast order for the fried pickle spears as an appetizer. Mr. She Ate was excited to try the spears since we both love fried pickles but normally see pickle chips on menus. Alas, the restaurant was out of pickle spears, so we tried the Jumbo Bavarian Pretzel ($10) instead. Again, the best description I can give this item is that it was what you would expect. Soft, salty, carb-filled. Mr. She Ate liked the beer cheese dipping sauce, but I turned my attention away from the pretzel and back to teaching my son how to blow the paper off the end of his straw.
For my entrée, I followed the advice of the crowd and tried the Famous Fish & Chips ($16). If I were to try it again, which I won’t, I would have it blackened or Eddie Style (spicy batter) because this fish was entirely devoid of flavor. The steak fries were much more offensive — the tough texture suggested they’d been prepared hours earlier and then reheated in a microwave. Mr. She Ate had the po’boy, and although he’s never met a sandwich he didn’t like, he would testify to the fact that this one was just OK.
The babies gobbled up fries and chicken tenders, but they’re 5 and 3 years old and don’t have much of a palate yet. We finished the meal with the bread pudding ($6) because I felt we had to. The bread pudding at Soup Spoon Café is my gold standard, but this version left much to be desired. The sauce was sweet but had no other flavor profile. The pudding itself was cold, and I needed it to be warm so the scoop of ice cream could melt on top. At least the vanilla ice cream was good.
When The Claddagh Irish Pub in Eastwood Towne Center closed in 2020, opportunities for authentic fish and chips in Greater Lansing took a major loss outside of some seasonal fare around Lent. The former Fish & Chips restaurant on East Michigan Avenue has given way to a ‘you buy, we fry’ seafood-and-chicken-wing spot that mirrors others around town, so I’ve been searching for a new home for a classic version of one of my favorite meals.
Enter The Old Bag of Nails Pub, an Ohio-based chain that recently expanded into Michigan with a spot in the still-developing Red Cedar project. Beautifully constructed and neatly tucked into the rear of the property, the restaurant seems primed for success.
Inside, there’s a modern ambiance that seems like it could stand up over time as it doesn’t give way to kitsch or cliché. Furthermore, the outdoor seating, including a second-floor patio, beckons Lansing’s happy hour crowd once the weather (finally) breaks. The wine list, discounted on Wednesday nights, boasts Woodbridge and Chateau Grand Traverse by the glass and bottles from Italy; New Zealand; and Lodi, California.
The company’s 14 Ohio restaurants have a strong concept, and I can see why it’s been successful to this point. However, if it wants to gain traction here, it will need to step its game up. My two visits — one takeout, one dine-in — left me with an overall dissatisfied rating.
Let’s start with the service. The Buffalo Chicken Wrap ($12) that was ordered with no onion and no tomato instead came with both, chopped and mixed in with the lettuce and chicken. My daughter was forced to swap meals with her mother, and, even then, only half the wrap got eaten.
The accompanying steak fries were OK but nothing special. Such was the case with my double burger ($12), which was overly greasy and limp and didn’t include the “favorite mayo-mustard sauce” that was touted in the description. These handhelds lacked love and attention to detail.
I also ordered the onion rings ($4), which were (too) thick-cut and heavily breaded, leading to an undercooked onion on the inside.
Lastly, I almost didn’t even want to mention the potato skins ($12) because they were that lackluster. Small and hollowed out too much, I guess since they were an afterthought coming out of the kitchen, they might as well be one here, too. Not the strong start I was anticipating given the rave reviews I’d seen on social media.
My dine-in visit with a colleague was better, mostly. They had the Fish Tacos ($14), which looked on point. With blackened cod, bright salsa and crunchy slaw, the three tacos were flavorful and filling.
Given that this was lunch and the fish and chips had three fillets, I ordered the Fish Sandwich ($13). The Atlantic cod was served Eddie Style with seasoned batter for a nice kick on the back end. The fish was pleasant — crunchy and tasty and served on a hoagie roll with tartar sauce on the side. I can never get enough sauce when I order fish, but thankfully, there was a bottle of malt vinegar on the table to rescue me.
Our meals would have likely been home runs had they not come out as we were both on the second bites of our soups. Forced to choose between hot soup and hot food, my entrée was eaten far more tepid than I wanted.
The soup, however, was delicious. The New England Clam Chowder ($6) tasted of the sea, with chunks of potatoes and chopped clams. The base was savory and creamy, reminiscent of scratch-made versions that steep for hours in boiled-over pots across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. There was more love poured into this one cup than my entire prior takeout meal. Hopefully, Old Bag of Nails’ newest location is willing to spread that love into other areas sooner rather than later.
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