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Friday, February 15,2013

New in town

Portable Feast and Friends

by ALLAN I. ROSS

This story was updated on Feb. 15 to reflect a change in hours of operation.

This week, a fascinating three-year-long game of restaurant switcheroo comes to an end when Portable Feast and Friends returns to its former Old Town digs. After closing in 2009 and embarking on a different food service venture the next year, owner/operator Sharon Hind has settled back in at 1216 Turner St. with the re-opening of her breakfast and lunch caf'. 

“I had absolutely no idea I’d be back here again,” Hind said. In 2000, Hind opened the first incarnation of Portable Feast in Lansing’s old City Market. She said she was approached by the late Robert Busby about bringing her eatery into the space he owned adjacent to his Creole Gallery, so she made the move to a full-time restaurant in 2002. For the next seven years, she slowly built up a following around her wraps, salads, paninis and fresh soups, supplementing her business by doing catering on the side.

“Then I just got burned out,” she said. “I went to North Carolina and considered staying there, but I had this idea to start a food service truck in Lansing.” 

Hind left the space in November 2009, the year after Busby’s death, and made Portable Feast and Friends, well, portable. Her old location became the Pastry Palette Caf' and Bakery in 2010 and Favorites Caf' in 2011. 

But Hind said she only operated her truck briefly before quietly ending Portable Feast and venturing back to stationary kitchens working for other people. And that’s when something interesting happened. Enterprising restaurant professionals Nina Santucci and Tony Maiale were looking to break into the Lansing dining scene around the same time Hind decided to put her truck up for sale — so Santucci and Maiale bought it. They transformed it into The Purple Carrot, a “mobile fine dining” kitchen that paved the way for the duo’s magnum opus, Red Haven, which opened last October at a permanent location in Okemos. (Coincidentally, during this time, Mike Comer and Jesse Hahn’s farm-to-table food truck Trailer Park’d also popped up and likewise made the transition to a permanent location with the opening of Fork in the Road in 2011.)

Meanwhile, Hind said that after three years, she was itching to be her own boss again.

“I needed to get playing with food and being more creative than I was allowed to be in (other people’s kitchens),” she said. “I had always stayed in touch with the Old Town community, so when I heard about an opportunity to come back, I took it.”

And so Hind moved back into her old location — now operated by Busby’s daughter, Ena Busby — after Favorites Caf' closed in the fall. Hind says that Portable Feast’s menu will remain true to its roots, but will include “some updates,” including adding small plates and the possibility of evening and weekend hours. Hind is also turning her restaurant’s walls into a rotating gallery, keeping with the Old Town art theme. She even had her interior sign fashioned by a local artist who works with recycled materials — it’s made of old Styrofoam. 

“It feels good and comfortable to be back here,” she said. “It’s like coming back home.” 

Portable Feast and Friends
1216 Turner St.
Lansing
8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Saturday
(517) 853-5575

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