As a food writer, I have to be the man on the street, the one who finds, researches, and describes in delicious detail what’s new, what’s different and what’s changing in the mid-Michigan food scene.
But I have a confession. I feel I need to come clean about my sentimental favorite, the place I habitually return to despite all of Lansing’s wonderful choices, my sinful lover bacon-wrapped in guilt. But fortunately the kind of guilt that can be easily dissipated by an omelette as big as my head.
The Golden Harvest has somehow found a way to successfully navigate the waters between cult classic and city-wide phenomenon while maintaining punk sensibilities on its tattooed sleeve.
The whole place is about as big as the waiting area in most chain restaurants. The sound system pumps mostly techno, interspersed with rock and metal and a little pop. Tchotchkes clutter the walls ranging from ironic — a tin Smurfs tray, a Pee Wee Herman doll, a toothy J.J. Walker painting — to thematic: They really love pirates here; nearly every line of sight ends in a Jolly Roger.
Customer demographics cut across color, age and income to create an interesting cross-section of Lansingites, most of whom flip through the art books and tinker with the children’s toys lying about. And everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, the smell of grilling meat, vegetables and potatoes hangs in the air.
Now, a certain sense of personal ownership goes along with being part of a smallish fanbase, in particular for a restaurant that really rocks your socks. But there’s a bittersweet irony to being in on the best-kept secret in town.
On one hand, you don’t want simply everyone knowing about it, because then you’re just another yokel singing the praises of something that’s gone pop. However, you want to make sure that “your” discovery has enough money to keep going, so you find yourself encouraging others to support it financially.
What’s a discerning trendsetter to do?
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you too have drunk the proverbial Kool-Aid: in the 2010 Top of the Town Awards, City Pulse readers voted at the badass breakfast/lunch joint No. 1 in four categories (Best Atmosphere, Best Bang for Your Buck, Best Diner, and Best Breakfast) and runner-up in two others (Best Place for Out-of-Towners and Best Casual Dining). This was the most categories any single establishment on the list appeared in. Think about that: A restaurant that seats fewer than 30 and closes daily at 2:30 p.m. got more loving than everything in the Eastwood Towne Center combined.
Take that, The Man.
Co-owner Zane Vicknair and his bohemian crew have been rocking the tiny Old Town building since the mid-'00s, despite a kitchen fire that knocked the eatery out of commission for several months. The line out the door of patient, friendly people seven days a week tells the rest of the story. It’s nothing for most of these folks to wait an hour or more for their Golden Harvest fix. They stand in a line that sometimes extends to the street, coffee in hand, politely chit-chatting or fuzzy with hangovers.
The tight menu only includes a handful of true specialty dishes, but Vicknair has found a way to make even the traditional plates his own.
His wife, Vanessa, one of the diner’s waitresses, claims she married him because of his Hollandaise sauce, which appears on the Eggs Benedict. That sauce has a zippy lemon kick to it, and actually came in a close second in one of this column’s flavor-ranking Food Fights last fall. Unique items include the Polish Omelette, a four-egg dish loaded with kielbasa, sweet peppers, onions, and home fries, topped with cheddar cheese and tomato, and the Breakfast Burrito, bursting with eggs, sausage, cheese, peppers and more, topped with either a mild or spicy salsa.
For non-breakfast eaters, there’s a host of hot sandwiches and daily homemade soups as well.
recently swung by Golden Harvest with a hankering for a Bubba Sandwich
(sausage, bacon and cheese jammed between two pieces of French Toast and
served with a side of potatoes), but ah-ah-ah, not so fast: One of the
daily specials was Fruity Pebbles-Encrusted French Toast, a novelty of
color and retro tastebud delight. How could I say no?
Then, a light bulb. Could I get the special French Toast as part of the sandwich?
thought for a second, wheels spinning, eyes twinkling, before Vanessa
piped in with the coup de grace: Sounds good, but wouldn’t it be really
good if he added cheddar cheese and jalapenos to the home fries for a
little sweet and spicy action?
so it came to pass as I sipped my coffee and plodded through the
Jonesin’ Crossword that this vision of carbs and artery-clogging protein
was ceremoniously dropped in front of me.
Ladies and gentlemen, I submit Exhibit A for why I love The Golden Harvest.
Now spread the word.
The Golden Harvest
1625 Turner St., Lansing 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (517) 485-FOOD