While the Greater Lansing area is known for the three Cs, the Capitol, the Campus (Michigan State University), and cars, I add a fourth, cuisine. Lansing features a lot of great local foodie experiences, from scratch-made Mediterranean cuisine to romantic inns. So, whether your objective is to cross off another capital from your bucket list, attend a Spartan’s game, or check out the city’s automotive history, you’ll need sustenance. And you’ll find some great eats in Lansing.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Lansing, be sure to check out these five must-have foodie experiences.
Experience one of Michigan’s best scratch kitchens at Zaytoon
Zaytoon, Arabic for olive, offers Mediterranean cuisine focused on the Middle East and Greece 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. 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 the chicken shawarma. Chef-owner Sam is sole keeper of the secret marinade recipe. 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 a choice of soup or salad. The housemade garlic sauce is my favorite condiment.
Tip: 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 the Soup Spoon Café
The chef handcrafts six soups daily at the Soup Spoon Café. 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, a brand of deli meats. With over 20 sandwiches to choose from, 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 topped with feta, served on butter-toasted Brioche buns.
Salads are also on the 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.
Tip: 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. It makes a great light supper and is a fun way to sample several soups.
Share a pizza at DeLuca’s
For more than 50 years, DeLuca’s has been a Lansing tradition. It opened in 1960 as Willow Bar for Lansing’s automotive workers and evolved into DeLuca’s Restaurant. While DeLuca’s menu has all my Italian favorites, the pizza stands out. In every restaurant, there’s one item that excites me. At DeLuca’s, it’s the pizza. It has lots of mozzarella! Add a green salad to that pizza, as DeLuca’s is also known for their house made dressings. I love their blue cheese.
DeLuca’s is more than pizza, it’s a complete Italian restaurant, so you’ll find favorites like manicotti and lasagna. Many of the desserts are house made too. Try the chocolate cake and Italian dessert specialties, like my favorite spumoni ice cream.
Tip: Deluca’s frequently has a line, so you may want to call ahead and order a pizza to go.
Experience a little romance at The English Inn
Voted one of America’s most romantic inns, The English Inn has live piano music playing softly in the background during dinner, contributing to the romantic ambiance. We celebrated our anniversary, and 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.
Situated seven miles south of Lansing on the Grand River banks, The English Inn is 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.
Their French cuisine stars — escargots, baked brie, and French onion soup. Our favorite meal was the Beef Wellington. It features beef tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto, topped with mushroom duxelles, and then it’s 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.
Vegan diners will enjoy the Cauliflower Steak. A mushroom velouté, onion marmalade, and sweet potatoes round out the dish accompanied by the daily vegetable.
Tip: 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 overnight room door is open, you may go in and enjoy the history.
Take the Ultimate Carnivore Food Challenge at Meat. Southern BBQ and Carnivore Cuisine
Walking through the door, the aroma of smoking meat hit hard. Dry-rubbed, slow-smoked, they cook the ‘que’ low and slow up to 18 hours with cedar, Meat. Southern BBQ and Carnivore Cuisine located in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood is genuinely 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.
My favorite sauce 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 housemade BBQ sauces, but people drank it. For now, they serve it on request—every sauce except the ketchup they make from scratch.
I had a choice of five more housemade 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 one thing you’ll never find in their kitchen is lettuce, but that’s alright, as the traditional sides fill in the gap nicely.
You will find jalapeno cilantro coleslaw, bacon and blue cheese potato salad, and award-winning, made-to-order macaroni and cheese. We enjoyed the leftovers the next day. The order weighs in at a pound.
The Ultimate Carnivore Food Challenge
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.
Tips: At about 3:00 p.m., Sunday afternoon is an excellent time to visit as typically waiting is minimal. When they run out of meat, they close early.
If you’re looking for a little romance, scratch-made cooking, or an eating challenge, you’ll enjoy these foodie experiences in Lansing, Michigan.
If you’re wanting another foodie experience, take a look at Deciding Dessert First.