Operating a restaurant has never been easy, and that was even before the coronavirus hit and forced the dining establishments of greater Lansing to either close completely or only offer curbside pickup or delivery.
While many places that have remained open are surviving, some restaurants are stepping up their game during this difficult time and, to rephrase an old saying, thinking outside the take-out box to take care of their customers.
Blondie’s Barn has been a fixture in the local breakfast scene since it opened in 2007. The red barn at was once home to a Chinese restaurant. The farm-related décor accumulated with the years gives it the right touch.
Co-owner Andrew Manuel said the restaurant has traditionally been busy on weekends, with enough traffic to balance out quieter weekday shifts
That was before COVID-19, before business dipped by as much as 90 percent. Business slowly improved over the following two weeks, Manuel said, but “we’re nowhere near the numbers we used to have.”
Since the lockdown, Blondie’s has responded by meeting its customers where they are. Orders are being delivered to both curbside and porch, and the home delivery area takes in much of East Lansing. “We were just trying to figure out, ‘What can we do?’ to help the area, and ourselves” Manuel said.
Anyone needing their fix of arguably the best sausage biscuits and gravy on Lansing’s east side, plus custom coffee creations like a Grasshopper, aka a mint mocha, may either call the restaurant directly or order through GrubHub or DoorDash.
“We figured, the more options we have out there, the better,” Manuel said.
The People’s Kitchen in Lansing is also known for its breakfasts, including vegan options, and the brunch kits they’ve assembled.
General manager and co-owner Sophie Bell said the restaurant’s pancakes are popular, so much so that a take-home “Really Good F***ing Pancake Kit” flies out the door. The $25 kit, which serves four, comes with charred lemon butter, butter syrup and Guernsey Dairy buttermilk.
Once they arrive back home, enterprising brunch chefs can dial up the restaurant’s Facebook page to get help making pancakes from a staff member in a pancake costume.
There’s also a sausage gravy and biscuit kit ($15), including homemade buttermilk biscuits. There is normally a vegan kit as well, but Bell said getting vegan items is tough right now. If your mouth isn’t watering enough by now, there’s also bacon made in-house.
Without a liquor license that would allow sales of alcohol to go along with the brunch kits, Bell and her staff came up with Bloody Mary mix. If you’re not much for tomato juice, there’s elderflower and lavender hibiscus tonic for mixers.
The People’s Kitchen’s staff would be making tonic anyway for use in the restaurant, Bell explained, adding it’s a good use for an abundance of citrus.
Bell says the restaurant, which celebrates its first anniversary as a brick-and-mortar on April 20, tries to find local sources for their menu items as often as possible. “We try to be comfort food globally inspired, and we definitely try to accommodate the vegan crowd – and everyone else too,” she added.
The coronavirus outbreak may have changed how the restaurant copes in the short term, but that’s about it. One possibility they’re considering – and something Bell says they’re working on – is being able to sell items like their butter syrup for customers to take home.
“We’re trying to think long-term,” Bell said.
The People’s Kitchen
Pickup: Friday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
2722 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing
(517) 517-5730, facebook.com/thepeopleskitchenlansing
Takeout and Delivery ONLY
Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
5640 Marsh Road, Haslett
(517) 339-4600, blondiesbarn.com