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Experience One of Michigan’s Best Scratch Kitchens at Zaytoon
Zaytoon, Arabic for olive, is a Mediterranean restaurant focused on the Middle East and some Greek dishes with an American twist. “Fast Food – Cooked Slow” — it’s a healthy alternative to fast food. They offer counter-service in a casual atmosphere, so the food arrives at your table quickly, making it one of the best restaurants in Lansing. The servers bring your food to the table and check in regularly.
They emphasize from-scratch cooking with fresh Michigan ingredients, never frozen. For example, making hummus is a three-day process. First, they soak the chickpeas, then boil them, and ultimately, after cooling overnight, they make them into smooth hummus accompanied by pita. Order the spicy version for a bit of a kick.
Zaytoon’s most popular dish is chicken shawarma. Chef-owner Sam is the sole keeper of the secret marinade recipe. But, he said, “I should probably write it down, just in case.” The chicken shawarma can be a wrap or a meat plate with sides. The meat plate comes with hummus, rice, and soup or salad. The house made garlic sauce is my favorite condiment.
They also offer some great vegetarian options. Zaytoon offers a combination box with salad, tabbouleh, and hummus, along with the entrée.
Piper’s Pro Planning: Many dishes, including kabobs, chicken shawarma, cauliflower, and eggplant, are gluten-free. The chef even switched the bulger (wheat) in the tabbouleh for quinoa to make it gluten-free.
Enjoy a Cuppa Soup at Soup Spoon Café
Located near downtown Lansing, the chef at Soup Spoon Café has six handcrafted soups on the menu daily. French onion soup and seafood chowder are always on the menu. They also serve a vegan soup, a cream-based, and a broth-based soup, plus a seasonal soup every day. With over 200 soups in their recipe compilation, your favorite probably won’t be on the menu when you return, but you’re sure to choose a new favorite.
Sandwiches are a café specialty with their in-house brand of deli meats, Wolfe Meats. With over 20 sandwiches, they offer everything from corned beef and pastrami to roast beef. One of my favorites is the lamb sliders. I was expecting a patty made from ground lamb, but it had bite-sized pieces of braised lamb drizzled with a Greek yogurt-mint sauce. They are topped with feta and served on butter-toasted Brioche buns.
Salads are also on their extensive menu, so you can make the soup a complete meal with the traditional soup and sandwich or go a bit lighter with soup and salad. They also offer some vegan options.
Piper’s Pro Planning: Can’t choose among the six daily types of soup? Get the soup flight. Pick four soups for your flight, accompanied by a piece of French bread. The flight makes Soup Spoon Café the perfect spot for a great light supper and is a fun way to sample several soups.
If you’re looking for another foodie experience, read Deciding Dessert First.
Try One of the Best Sandwiches in America at Saddleback BBQ, a Lansing Best Restaurant
At Saddleback BBQ, the BBQ is personalized. They post your pit masters’ names to tell you which pit masters stayed up all night to smoke your meat. A sign also indicates the type of wood they used to smoke overnight. The wood types are one thing that makes Michigan BBQ unique. You’ll frequently find apple and cherry woods in the smoker, as Michigan is a top producer of these fruits.
While Saddleback BBQ is a favorite place with locals, it was also a Food Network favorite. Food Network called their rib sandwich one of America’s best sandwiches, and I agree. First, they cook baby back ribs for four to six hours. Then they debone the pound and a half, half racks. Finally, they make it into a sandwich with house made pickles and some onions and add their original sweet and savory BBQ sauce. You’ll find that it’s a filling sandwich. I was amazed to find such an excellent sandwich outside a sandwich shop.
While I love the rib sandwich, they make it seasonally, so I’ve had to find other dishes to love the rest of the year. I believe some of the best tacos in town are the brisket tacos—the brisket’s bark results from the rub’s brown sugar and cayenne pepper. My favorite side is the corn cake that comes with each entrée. A hint of sweetness balances out the meat’s smokiness. Wash it down with one of the cold local artisan beers.
During the warm summer months, they also offer outdoor seating at both Okemos and REO Town locations.
Piper’s Pro Planning: Join the Carnivore Club, a rewards program to earn free food.
Have Dinner in the Tatami Room at SanSu Sushi
SanSu Sushi features Japanese cuisine, aiming to make you feel at home. They have service awards to back up their great service. SanSu Sushi is a Japanese restaurant in the Hannah Plaza that blends Japanese and South Korean flavors to suit the American palate. They have one of Lansing’s largest sushi bars, and all their chefs have international experience. So, whether you’re adventurous or not, their full menu has something to suit your tastes.
Besides sushi, popular dishes include Bento and teriyaki. All of which will tempt your taste buds. Experience a bit of Japan with the sit-down-style tatami rooms, low tables, and floor seats. But, if you prefer standard seating or a seat at the sushi bar, that’s also available. This makes it arguably the best sushi restaurant in East Lansing and a popular place with visitors and locals alike.
Piper’s Pro Planning: This East Lansing restaurant in the Hannah Plaza has a free parking lot. The location makes it a great place to eat after an MSU football game.
Experience a Little Romance at The English Inn, One of the Best Restaurants in Greater Lansing
Voted one of America’s most romantic inns, The English Inn has live piano music playing softly during dinner, contributing to the romantic ambiance. We celebrated our anniversary with fine dining and excellent service, but you won’t want to keep it for a special occasion. On a cold February evening, we sat next to the roaring fire, and we felt like this was a cozy restaurant with a great atmosphere. At the end of the meal, our server presented us with a scrolled lithograph of the English Inn tied up in a red ribbon as a reminder of our special day. These little touches help make it one of the Lansing area’s best restaurants.
The English Inn is situated seven miles south of Lansing on the Grand River banks, on Michigan’s State Register of Historic Places. The 16-acre property has beautifully manicured gardens and hiking trails that provide the perfect place for an after-dinner walk.
In 1927, Irving J. Reuter, then General Manager of Oldsmobile Corporation, and his wife, built the property. The original white ceiling tiles, stain-glass windows, and a roaring fireplace help maintain its history.
On the dinner menu, their French cuisine stars — escargots, baked brie, and French onion soup. My favorite meal was Beef Wellington. It features beef tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto, topped with mushroom duxelles, and then all wrapped in puff pastry. They serve it with a demi-glace, that’s delicious. The daily vegetable and a mountain of whipped potatoes complement the meal.
One of their vegan options is the Cauliflower Steak. Then, to round out the dish, they add a mushroom velouté, onion marmalade, and sweet potatoes, accompanied by the daily vegetable.
Piper’s Pro Planning: The innkeepers encourage diners to enjoy the inn’s history. In addition to dinner, you can stay at the inn. Their open-door policy says if the bedroom door is open, you may go in and enjoy the history.
For more information on Lansing, Michigan, check out these articles:
Buy and Fry at Eastside Fish Fry & Grill
Buy it and cook it at home, or have them cook it for you—either way, Eastside offers fresh fish. Eastside Fish Fry & Grill is a good place to get a takeout order.
While they bring in fish from all over the world, Eastside Fish Fry and Grill also understands the importance of eating local, so they carry fresh fish from the Great Lakes. As a result, you’ll find all the local favorites on the menu: whitefish, bluegill, yellow lake perch, and walleye.
While the name indicates fried food, they also grill and steam. If you don’t want fish, chicken also stars on the menu. To sample something a bit more exotic, try items like alligator tails. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, featured Eastside Fish Fry and Grill on one of their episodes. I think they’d agree, it is one of Lansing’s best restaurants.
Take the Ultimate Carnivore Food Challenge at Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine
Walking through the door, the aroma of smoking meat hit hard. Dry-rubbed and slow-smoked, the pit masters cook the ‘que’ low and slow for up to 18 hours with cedar, Meat. Southern BBQ and Carnivore Cuisine, located in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood, is all about the meat — beef brisket, pulled pork or pork ribs, turkey, wings, and Texas hot links. When it’s finally ready, it’s falling off-the-bone tender.
The one thing you’ll never find in their kitchen is lettuce, but that’s alright, as the traditional sides fill the gap nicely. You’ll discover jalapeno cilantro coleslaw, bacon and blue cheese potato salad, and award-winning, made-to-order macaroni and cheese. Of course, we enjoyed the leftovers the next day. The order weighs in at a pound.
In addition to the great food on the menu, they also have Michigan craft beers on tap and a craft cocktail menu. Try their Bloody Mary. I think it’s one of the best in Michigan
My favorite sauce at Meat BBQ is the Cherry Bomb Sauce, which comes on the Trailer Park Bruschetta, but I also request some on the side for the meat. The server told me they used to leave it with the rest of the house made BBQ sauces, but people drank it. So, for now, they serve it on request—every sauce except the ketchup they make from scratch.
I had a choice of five more house made barbeque sauces, the sweet and tangy tomato-centered Jazzy Q sauce with mild spice, the vinegar-based Vin 666, coffee-based Black Magic, Buffalo-garlic-infused Hot Garlic, Dijon-spiked Carolina Mustard, and the traditional.
The Ultimate Carnivore Food Challenge
Meat is a great spot if you’re famished. Take the “Ultimate Carnivore Food Challenge.” When you eat The Boss Logg Meatwich, with one side, the made-to-order mac and cheese, with two types of meat, in 45 minutes, you’ll get the meal for free along with a t-shirt. And a complimentary beer and your photograph on the wall! However, understand eating the Boss Logg is no easy task. With 18 layers, including two burger patties, bacon, pork, brisket, cheddar, American and Pepper Jack cheese, fries, bacon gravy, hot garlic sauce, jalapenos, and a sunny-side-up egg, it weighs in at five and a half pounds. The Boss Logg features every type of meat they smoke. To eat all of this, you have to believe you are eating at one of the best restaurants in Lansing.
Piper’s Pro Planning: At about 3:00 p.m., Sunday afternoon is an excellent time to visit; typically, waiting is minimal. When they run out of meat, they close early.
If you’re looking for romance, scratch-made cooking, or an eating challenge, you’ll enjoy these foodie experiences in Lansing, Michigan.
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While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.