Top of the Town 2019 Testimonials


Best Services/Best People

Domestic Divas, “Best Cleaning Service”

These women are reclaiming domesticity as a superpower.

“Domestic Divas has empowered me to provide for my family, while having a family,” said Mel Rodriguez, the general manager. “I am able to have a career and a baby.”

In addition to making piles of dust disappear, Rodriquez has a whimsical finesse when it comes to marketing as well. The Lansing branch’s mascot is Rodriguez’s pot-bellied pig named after Rosie the Riveter. The choice is barely ironic; Rosie is the true diva behind the team — take it from someone who witnessed the wrangling and bribes required to get her to pose for one picture.

7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Friday, (517) 881-2136,,

Curvaceous Lingerie, “Best Clothing Store”

Fact: Some of the most cringey memories of puberty are formed in the dressing rooms of department stores. And bra shopping? Forget it. Lauren Palmer, owner of Curvaceous, is reversing that narrative with personalized bra fittings and a wealth of knowledge on the mechanics of the brazier.

“It can be a moving experience sometimes,” said Palmer regarding working with clients. “A lot of people have never had a bra fit them in their entire life and their 65-years-old.”

With about 125 bra sizes available, it’s Curvaceous Lingerie’s mission to make bra shopping a celebration of individuality.

10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, 12 – 5 p.m. Sunday, 513 E Cesar E. Chavez Ave. Lansing, (517) 881-8466,

 Le’Mae Photography, “Best Photography Service”

Based in Grand Ledge, Jessica Heksem, 34, has been capturing memories and movements for almost seven years. As the owner and operator of Le’Mae Photography, Heksem sees her job as more than selecting aesthetically pleasing backdrops and lighting, it’s her civic duty.

“This past week I did complementary sessions for families of first responders to say thank you for all that they do,” Heksem said.

Last fall, she did a shoot titled “Enough is Enough” featuring local faces of the #metoo movement. The portrait photographer said the coolest part about her job is working with “all of the amazing families” who seek her services and witnessing their children “grow throughout the years.”

216 S. Bridge St. Grand Ledge, Michigan, (517) 230-7108,

 Big Daddy Taxi, “Best Taxi Service”

It is fitting for this declining industry that the winner is out of business. Two dead phone numbers, an expired website and no online reviews in years somehow earned this service to be the best in Lansing according to 100 voters. Big Daddy Taxi’s last Facebook post in 2016 read “Closed, but still awesome.” It must be awesome to survive three years and be resurrected as a Top of The Town winner. But the story doesn’t end here. Defunct since May after 70 years, Spartan Yellow Cab also made it in third place. Green Cab in second place is the only holdout still open.

Grand Ledge High School, “Best High School” “Best High School teacher” “Best High School coach”

Grand Ledge High School blazed through the competition like a comet for all things public schools. Grand Ledge High School baseball coach Pat O’Keefe won best coach, which is hard to argue with over 1,300 wins under his belt. He’s been coaching since 1968. Also, family and consumer science teacher Sara Zeko won best teacher. Zeko was named Teacher of The Year by the Greater Lansing Chamber of Commerce in 2016. Grand Ledge High School beat the second place East Lansing High School by over 100 votes.

20 Spring St. Grand Ledge, MI, (517) 925-5815,

Michigan State Capitol, “Best Eye Candy”

“Jaded” is not a word that applies in Lansing. Sure, we drive by the Capitol dome every day. But from north, west, east or south; seen up close, as a colossal, creamy cap, or as a tiny, shiny needle on the dusky horizon, we never tire of glimpsing that Elijah Myers dome. It’s the limestone slab of layer cake that pins us to the map of the United States and fixes our place among the wheeling galaxies. Even the sordid shenanigans that go on inside fail to dampen our ardor for the glorious glass rotunda, the chandeliers with the deer, the flowing exterior steps and balustrades where so many citizens have assembled.

Mount Hope Cemetery, “Best Cemetery”

If you crave quirky but quiet company, Lansing’s historic Mount Hope Cemetery is the place for you. The park’s most famous denizen, Ransom E. Olds, is permanently parked on a high hill here, and you can’t walk a dozen steps without reading a famous Lansing name: J.W. and Sarah Potter, George E. Ranney, James Henry Moores, Willaim K. Prudden. Look harder and you’ll find personages like Lucy Kearney, an African-American slave who was born in 1762, lived through the American Revolution and the Civil War and died at 117 years old. As you roam the hills, deer, turkeys, herons and occasional eagles provide quiet links to the land of the living.

1709 E. Mount Hope Ave., Lansing, MI, 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday – Saturday, (517) 483-4303

Jon Whiting, MSU, “Best College Instructor”

Once upon a time, college professors were slammed with the phrase, “those who can’t do, teach.” Jon Whiting of MSU’s Dept. of Media and Information is a wizard at both. Whiting has won Emmy Awards as a television producer and passes on his passion and skills in his audio and video production classes. He’s also the faculty advisor for the Media Sandbox Street Teams, student-run creative collectives that fan out into the community (and the Midwest) to create web sites, logos, videos and more for non-profits in need. Whiting is also a terrific photographer and the production point man for the Spartan Marching Band’s elephantine social media presence.

K9 Aiko, Bath Township Police Department “Best Officer”

You know times are “ruff” for law enforcement when a dog beats a hometown hero by 2,521 votes. K9 Aiko was doggy-badged by the Bath Township Police Department about five years ago and is formally trained in narcotics detection, tracking and assisting in suspect apprehension. He likes sniffing around for new drugs, chewing tennis balls and catching the bad guys alongside his handler, Officer Mike Lapham, and assists police in Ingham, Shiawassee, Clinton and Eaton counties. Good boy, Aiko.

None, “Best MSU Trustee,” “Best MSU President”

This year’s contest essentially produced a vote of no confidence toward the entire board of trustees and the president at Michigan State University. Given the option to choose the “best” in either category this past year, our readers decided it’s none of them. It has been a tumultuous few years over at MSU, and the results of this year’s contest reflect a largely unsatisfied community, anxious for new leadership to guide the institution to a (hopefully) brighter future.

As for the “worst” of the bunch? You picked “all of them” for the president, and singled out Trustee Joel Ferguson as the worst of the worst. Maybe it’s his unwavering support for John Engler or the general, unapologetic attitude he brings to campus. We’re only left to wonder.

Bonus points go out to newly installed President Satish Udpa and Board Chairwoman Dianne Byrum who nabbed second “best” in each category this year; Maybe our readers will continue to warm up to their leadership in time for the top-spot in next year’s Top of the Town contest.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette “Best/Worst Politician”

Well, this might’ve been an obvious one, but our largely Democratic readership at City Pulse is still pretty stoked about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer coming into office this year. Her strong, progressive-minded ideals have triggered a transformation from the top down, launching a much-needed recalibration of state priorities after eight long years of some tough nerd.

Accordingly, Whitmer’s challenger and former state Attorney General Bill Schuette took the cake for the “worst” politician this year. With the cloud of the Flint Water Crisis hanging overhead, and a host of other narrow-minded political faults, Schuette just didn’t seem to connect with Lansing.

Trump Signs, “Best Eyesore”

These signs dotting Greater Lansing have developed into more than just simple support for a presidential candidate. They, along with those red MAGA hats, have become a symbol of identity. They showcase an alignment with the largely racist and politically haphazard vitriol spewing from the Oval Office on a daily basis. They show a lack of compassion, understanding and equality among citizens. And it’s no wonder these signs beat out the other contenders — even something as ugly as Skyvue Apartments — for our reader-nominated EyeSore of the year.

Whitney Spotts, “Best Budtender”

Full disclosure: Spotts used to work at City Pulse as an editor. And it sounds like we’d all be having a lot more fun in the office had Lansing’s “best” budtender decided to stick around.

Spotts, 41, has been helping run Lansing’s medical pot market (namely over at Stateside Wellness) for the past few months. A medical marijuana patient herself, she most enjoys the healing properties of the plant as well as helping others deal with chronic pain and other conditions. Side note: The ‘80s cover band Starfarm, which Spotts is the lead vocalist of, won “Best Cover Band” for this year’s contest. Good music. Good weed. Seriously: What’s not to love?

Best Dining


Art’s Pub carries the torch passed on by the former Art’s Bar with its 32 oz. Schooper beer glass cheese-heavy pizza and 18-hour service times. However, it also reworked itself into a modern gastropub with food options for any crowd, which landed its spot as the winner.

“One thing we do that the old bar didn’t is we aren’t just a pizza and wings joint,” General Manager Jamie Jorgenson said. “We do have quite a few options for vegetarians and vegans.” A new menu coming within the next few weeks will feature even more options for the veggie crowd, she added.

7 a.m. to midnight daily. 809 E. Kalamazoo St., Lansing, MI, (517) 977-1033,


Kewpees owner Autumn Weston doesn’t count how many olive burgers go through the kitchen each week. She only counts the volume of homemade mayonnaise olive sauce at 70 gallons in seven days. Weston recalls her great grandmother as the inventor of the Kewpees olive burger.

“The recipe hasn’t changed in 90 years,” she added. “The salty olives and creamy mayonnaise is a great combination. It is one of those things you don’t tweak.”

The award-winning recipe for Kewpees’ olive burger is simple: a USDA certified hand-pressed beef patty, homemade mayo, green olives, tomato, lettuce between two toasted buns.

10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, 118 S Washington Square, Lansing, MI

(517) 482-8049,


Ever changing, the “Trust Us” cocktail at Zoobies is by far the most ordered on the menu according to Bartender Dani Solomon.

“I think people like to not think about what they want and hope we already know.” One of Zoobie’s more popular standard cocktails is the “Islamorada” with key lime liquor, coconut water rum and simple syrup, she added.

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, Noon to 9 p.m. Sunday

1200 N. Larch St., Lansing, MI, (517) 897-3563,


Sean Johnson, owner and pitmaster of MEAT, takes home two titles this year. He switched into the BBQ business in 2013 after planning to start his own business at 40. There is no great secret to MEAT’s success except hard work and house-smoked meats, Johnson said. “We have three commercial smokers that run all night from Tuesday to Sunday without a shut off.” If there was a method, Johnson aimed at converting the ambivalent crowd about BBQ into die-hard fans.

“There are certain techniques we do that I learned fro watching old school pitmasters down South to overcome what people may not like about BBQ. When you bring that into the fold and practice them, eventually you’ll make a very good product that is solid and consistent.”

11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, Noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, 1224 Turner Road, Lansing, MI

(517) 580-4400,


Tactical Urbanism or “Snacktical Urbanism,” according to The People’s Kitchen developer Jeff Deehan, was the philosophy that carried The People’s Kitchen from food truck to full-size restaurant.

“I think it is a good barometer of what the community supports, someone who is using and reclaiming existing resources,” Zane Vicknair, The People’s Kitchen owner and chef said. “Our whole philosophy is to make do with what we got instead of tearing a whole city block down to be turned into vacant commercial space.”

7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, CLOSED Monday, 2722 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing, MI, (517) 507-5730,


Based on the “Olympian Cafe” from a Saturday Night Live skit with John Belushi, owner Mike Alexander’s Olympic Broil has served thousands of olive burgers, gyros and fish platters over the past 40 years. It also competed tit for tat against fast food barons with more money and resources in the market.

“I’ll tell you what it’s like. I drive my 10-year-old Camry down here, park it in my favorite spot and come in here at 6:45 a.m. in the morning to make all the fish, chicken, mushrooms and onion rings all from scratch,” Alexander said. “The way we compete is we hit the four pillars of success in the restaurant business: cleanliness, quality, service and value. If you have that, you are going to be able to compete against anybody.”

10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, CLOSED Sunday, 1320 N. Grand River Ave., Lansing, MI

(517) 485-8584,


This is the first year Flour Child Bakery appeared in the contest. The owner, Beth Augustine, wakes up at 2:30 a.m. to take the bagel dough out of a slow cooler and starts hand rolling out the dough, boiling it and baking it to be in full stock for the early risers at 6 a.m. Each bagel recipe is original to Augustine and daily she gets creative with a sweet and savory special bagel. It is a tradition she’s done for the past three years as the owner of Flour Child Bakery and for 10 years as a bagel maker.

“I don’t cut any corners. If I have a cheese bagel, it is inside and outside. Not just on top,” Augustine said.

6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, 323 S. Bridge St., Grand Ledge, MI

(517) 622-4772,


“There is a category for that?,” said Chuck Deluca, co-owner and president of the pizzeria. “People put that stuff on everything.”

With an unchanging recipe from the ‘70s, Deluca’s ranch dressing is made in gallon quantities per day.

“It is really simple actually, but I’m not going to tell you the recipe. It’s how we make our living,” Deluca said.

To this day, the president still runs the helm of the pizza oven, turning out over 100 pizzas daily. What started as a way to feed bar patrons turned the Lansing establishment into a full-fledged Italian restaurant.

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

2006 W. Willow St., Lansing, MI, (517) 487-6087,


Featuring vintage neon signs, this QD past I-69 on West Saginaw Highway took home the win. Store Manager Matt Smiadak said he simply instructs his staff to “treat people the way you would want to be treated.” The QD was also remarkably clean without even a grain of sugar or drop of creamer on the coffee counter post-morning rush.

“I empower them to think if it doesn’t look like something you would like as a customer, get rid of it and change things,” he added.

Smiadak also said he tries to decorate the store for each holiday or special occasion. With the Women’s World Cup going on, he hung an assortment of flags and banners of competing teams all over the store.

Open 24 hours, 8512 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI. (517) 371-8933,

Best Local Arts

Atomic Boogaloo “Best Experimental Act”

Funky beats and a spacy hand-held Farfisa organ drives Atomic Boogaloo’s beats into the cosmos of experimental music. Though the group describes their sound as exotica, experimenting with sounds and styles is what Atomic Boogaloo is all out, accordionist Andy Callis said.

“It is considerably difficult to get a gig because we are not in one genre and don't have a vocalist,” he added. “But there is a big sense of humor in what we’re doing and audience members enjoy it.”

Ruckus “Best DJ” & “Best Ramen”

Steve Swart, 45, arrived to Lansing in 1992, back when the electronic pulse of house and techno was nowhere to be heard along Michigan Avenue. Since then, Swart, commonly known as “Ruckus,” has discovered the intersection of progressive sounds and cuisine. With 25 years of experience serving avant-garde sounds from the future, Ruckus became a restaurateur and opened “Ruckus Ramen” three years ago inside The Avenue Café. He fell in love with ramen for its versatility, and with the help of a few friends, built a menu packed with flavorful innovations of traditional Asian dishes.

“I get a lot of credit, when in reality this place would not be what it is without the input and collaboration of a bunch of people,” Ruckus said.

3 – 10 p.m. Monday – Saturday, 2021 E. Michigan Ave. Lansing, MI, (517) 999-7549,

Horrocks “Best Restaurant Date”, “Best Organic/Natural Market”, “Best Salad Bar”, “Best Wine Shop”, “Cleanest Public Restroom”, “Best Beer Selection in Retail Store”, “Best Candy Shop”, “Best Cheese Department”, “Best Deli”, “Best Florist”, “Best Gardening Center”, “Best Local Grocery Store”

This mega-market place has received the most votes than nearly any competitor over a four-year stretch. We even added new categories, “Best Cheese Department” and “Best Deli” thinking we’d throw off their fans, but there is no stopping this home-grown fever. Year after year, Lansing has made it clear that in the inevitable dawn of the zombie apocalypse, Horrocks would likely become the most popular survivor shelter. Heck, even the half-dead would be sure to find something satisfying in the wonderful land of Horrocks.

7 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday – Sunday, 7420 W Saginaw Hwy Lansing, MI, 517-323-3782,

Crunchy’s “Best Spartan hangout”

The fumbled U of M punt in 2015, the fake field goal against Notre Dame in 2010, the 2019 Final Four victory over Duke — where were you when Spartan lightning struck? Crunchy’s long ago earned its green and white stripes as every Spartan’s sacred, sudsy sanctuary, especially when a big game is on. (Were you expecting maybe the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum?) You can’t swill micro-brews and pop a bucket of pizza nuggets into your mouth at Breslin. The big plays are best experienced in communion with other die-hard fans, horns blaring and lights flashing, in the comfort of a booth full of burgers.

11 – 1 a.m. Monday – Wednesday, 11 – 2 a.m. Thursday – Sunday, 254 W Grand River Ave. East Lansing, MI

(517) 351-2506,

Rodney Page “Best Classical Musician”

It’s so Lansing to pick violinist-pianist-composer Rodney Page as Best Classical Musician. Let Ann Arbor nurture specialists in Czech microtonal opera. In a working class town, Page carries his violin around the way a carpenter totes a tool belt, with an open mind and a skill set that knows no academic bounds. He’ll come to your school and do a killer music clinic, play your wedding, conduct your orchestra (if you have one), and he’ll add raps and DJs into the bargain. Does your favorite DJ jump out from behind the console to lope around the dance floor and bliss-bomb you with his fiddle? Didn’t think so.

(517) 614-1382,,

Root Doctor “Best Jazz Musician”

Root Doctor turns 30 this year, and Lansing’s most hard-working, low-riding, high-flying music-mobile can add Best Jazz Musician to an already festive anniversary lap. Like the Capital City itself, Root Doctor is a warm, welcoming intersection of blues, rock, jazz and soul. Many of Lansing’s top musicians have put their shoulders to the Root over the years, from shredding guitarist Greg Nagy to B-3 organ virtuoso Jim Alfredson, as the ensemble morphs through new styles and attitudes. The current lineup consists of keyboard wizard Chris Cory, guitarist Bill Malone, bass player James Williams, drummer Bob Gardner and the group’s not-so-secret weapon, Lansing soul icon Freddie Cunningham on vocals.

(517) 881-8158,,

 Sir Pizza Grand Café Old Town “Best Open Mic”

Open Mic Wednesdays at Sir Pizza, is everything an open mic night should be — raucous, hilarious, messy, welcoming. A rotating set of regular headliners (Shine On, Hansel’s Regrettal, Mic and Cheese) and hosts (Ron St. Germain, Brandon Michael McCoy, David Winkelstern, Scott Carlson, Craig Gillengerten, Benny Henderson and Richard Merrill) generate a sweet vibe that often spills into the street. The squeak of the floorboards, the smell of dough in the oven, the Grand River rushing outside the windows combine to create a cozy yet cavernous space, conducive to the most unabashed vocal effusions.

7-11 p.m., Every Wednesday, 201 César E. Chávez Ave. Lansing, MI, (517) 484-9197

Breakout “Best Escape Room”

Breakout Escape Rooms is just the sort of off-kilter enterprise you’d expect to find underneath Lansing’s guerilla-foodie Street Kitchen restaurant on Michigan Avenue. Technically, Breakout is a chain, with locations in Warren, Ann Arbor, Lansing and Orlando, Florida, but there’s nothing corporate about this bizarre burrow of bafflement. Groups of four to 12 people scheme and puzzle their way out of three themed rooms, using clues hidden in drawers, under objects, beneath black lights or hidden in plain sight. A circus ringmaster’s quarters, a shady CEO’s spy den and a zombie-infested roadhouse have been lovingly cobbled together from thrift shop finds and sheer low-budget, DIY creativity.

12 – 8:45 p.m. Monday – Thursday, 12 – 10:30 p.m. Friday – Sunday, 2722 E. Michigan Ave. Lansing, MI

(586) 359-6944, Roombreakout/

The Goddamn Gallows, “Best Punk Band”

Since 2004, The Goddamn Gallows have drifted far from its hometown of Lansing — rigorously touring the globe while leaving a stack of twanged-out, gutterbilly LPs in its wake. Right now, the five-piece is in Germany amid another European tour, a west coast tour is next. The caravanning band placing first in “Best Punk Band” and second in “Best Country Band” is not shocking.

“As we aged and turned into old punk rockers, we decided to mix in some old-time country flavors to stir the pot a little bit,” said frontman Mikey Classic. “We’ve been messing around with some metal riffs and adding that in, too.”

This winter, the band returns to the studio to cut its seventh album.





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