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Wednesday, August 1,2012

New in town

Penn Station East Coast Subs, Culber's and Los Tres Amigos

by ALLAN I. ROSS

Since Jared Fogle introduced the world to the Subway diet 12 years ago, the fast-food industry has been scrambling to duplicate the quick-and-healthy model without losing its core indulgers. Recently, an interesting hybrid — Penn Station East Coast Subs — emerged, combining the nutritious build-your-own sandwich styling of Subway with the guilty pleasures you can get from a sizzling deep fryer. And one has just pulled into Lansing, north of Frandor, at 3020 E. Saginaw St.

This will be the first of eight projected Michigan Penn Station stores (four of which will be in the Lansing area) owned by Cheryl, Mark, Jeff and Chris Kellogg. Husband-and-wife team Cheryl and Mark are based in DeWitt, where Cheryl previously worked for Sweetie-licous Bakery and Café. (Mark is a CPA and lawyer, while Jeff, a major league umpire, and Chris, an Arizona physician, are Mark’s brothers). The Kelloggs are also looking to Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor as sites for future Michigan locations. 

Penn Station is a Cincinnati-based franchise that started in 1985. The menu features more than a dozen types of hot and cold submarine sandwiches, hand-cut fries, fresh-squeezed lemonade and in-house baked chocolate chunk cookies. Apparently the Philadelphia Cheesesteak is the menu item to beat. Oh, and did I mention that Penn Station opens today?                               

Another Culver’s coming

Meanwhile, another Midwest-based food chain is expanding its mid-Michigan base. Eastwood Towne Center is adding a Culver’s into its mix. After finding success on the east side (across from Meridian Mall) and the west (in the retail district near I-69/Saginaw Street intersection), the nationally franchised casual dining restaurant will establish a central location beside the newly re-energized Lake Lansing Road shopping center.  Culver’s is known for its decadent ButterBurger and revolving list of frozen custard Flavors of the Day; if you’ve never had it, frozen custard is the richer, silkier big brother to soft-serve ice cream, and the Culver’s brand is a definite must-try. Culver’s has been based in Wisconsin since it opened in 1985, and the Eastwood location will be opening later this year near the back of the sprawling complex. 

Downtown getting Amigos

Popular local Mexican restaurant chain Los Tres Amigos is set to open its new downtown Lansing location — the company’s 10th store — any day now. Owner Arnulfo Ramirez is setting up at 107 E. Allegan St., in the slot previously inhabited by The Boardroom, Downtown Doghouse and Skyline Chili over the last 10 years. Los Tres Amigos does have a few features none of the other businesses that failed in that spot had — strong local name recognition, genuinely good food (and seriously, the chips and salsa alone are reason enough to go)— and limited competition. As of right now, Jalapenos is the only other south-of-the-border food station downtown, and it closes by 3 p.m. I’m told not only does the new Los Tres intend to have dinner hours, but it is expecting to have a liquor license as well.  An exact date is still not set for the opening, but don’t be surprised when you start seeing salsa stains on your downtown coworkers’ ties later this month. 

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