Last week, the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau, headquartered in the Stadium District in Lansing, cut the ribbon at its new satellite office across the street from the new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum in East Lansing. This prime location within walking distance of the world-class contemporary art museum — which is expected to attract up to 150,000 visitors to the area each year — is no coincidence.
“You certainly need product to generate demand,” said Tracy Padot, vice president of marketing communications for GLCVB. “With so many people coming here to see the Broad Museum, in addition to the students and visitors to the campus, we’re preparing for a high demand for information.”
The intimate, 400-square-foot space is packed with visitor guides and maps. It’s staffed with trained certified tourism ambassadors, who are primed to recommend all kinds of activities focused on shopping, dining and sightseeing. The ribbon cutting was accompanied by a nearby mural dedication, cementing East Lansing as the art lover’s place to be this fall.
Padot says that the GLCVB’s ambassadors are trained through a certified tourism program, which is geared toward hospitality. To become an ambassador, all you need to do is pay a $20 fee and then take a four-hour class that culminates in an open-book exam.
“Our mission is to promote the entire tri-county region and find activities that best suit the needs of our visitors,” Padot said. “If there’s someplace to eat or something fun to do anywhere in the area, we know about it and we can match you with something you’re going to love.”
Hibachi’s a ball
Last month, Hibachi House, a fusion Chinese/Japanese hibachi restaurant, opened in the shell of the former Mr. Taco on West Saginaw Highway. Owner/operator Qiuyan Chen, who runs the restaurant with her husband, Mou Li, says they started Hibachi House with a specific vision.
“We know what people like to eat,” says Chen. “We’ve watched as (local) taste buds have shifted over the years from liking fried food with lots of oil to desiring more healthy (food). Cooking on hibachi grills has many benefits. ”
Chen and her husband have been in the restaurant business for over 20 years — they owned a pair of buffet-style eateries in South Haven for the last 10. She said the change from a buffet-style restaurant where the food is cooked in woks to a hibachi-style one seemed inevitable.
“Food cooked on a hibachi just tastes better,” she says. “It’s quicker, and the meat comes out much more tender. It also tastes fresher — when you use the original juices from the meat instead of oil, it really locks in the flavor.”
The word “hibachi” comes from the Japanese word for “fire bowl,” which essentially cooks food like a large, oil-less griddle. Chen says that all the vegetables used in the dishes come from local growers, and all the sauces are made in-house from family recipes. Hibachi House opened Oct. 15, and Chen says so far the response has been very positive.
“People keep telling us how much they’re enjoying their experience here,” she said. “If business keeps up, we might start looking at locations for opening another one.”
Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau
549 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
4021 W. Saginaw Highway, Delta Township
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily