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Mark and Gabrielle's top picks


Best Lansing Restaurants


Michigan Avenue — which I affectionately call Comeback Alley — is one of the brighter constellations in Greater Lansing’s culinary universe. So many things are happening along this storied avenue stretching between East Lansing and our state Capitol. People are moving into new housing, and no doubt they want good places to eat, close by.

With that in mind, here are my “best of ” choices for 2018, all situated along Comeback Alley.

1. Street Kitchen

Imagine a gritty-looking place with concrete floors, picnic tables and no kitchen.

Well, OK, the kitchen is actually a food truck parked next to the beige brick building. And inside the truck, magic is performed daily. One of the best sandwiches I’ve tasted anywhere is the Piggy Bank — crisp pork belly with chipotle chèvre aioli, cheese and greens.

This rivals the muffuletta from Central Grocery in New Orleans, which ranks in my Top 5 sandwiches list.

2. Bowdie’s Chophouse

Bowdie’s is the polar opposite of Street Kitchen. It’s intimate, refined and expensive; a place where Don Corleone would feel comfortable holding court. Housed in the former, legendary Knight Cap, Bowdie’s is known for its amazing steaks.

Try the 14-ounce bone in dry-aged filet steak. It came rare as ordered, tender and juicy on the inside with a crusty exterior. Easily one of the best steaks I’ve had in a restaurant.

If steak is not your thing, I recommend the brined chicken for an entree and smoked duck ravioli for an appetizer.

I thought the service was flawless, just what one should expect from an upscale steakhouse. Be prepared for the bill. Dinner for two with cocktails can easily run over $100.

3. Batter Up Bistro

This place has “cozy” down to an art form.

Sit at a table or a lounge chair, and you feel like you’re having coffee in a friend’s kitchen. Some of Batter Up Bistro’s sandwiches are first-rate — I recommend the Italian Stallion, a take on a traditional Italian sub sandwich. The chicken salad sandwich is amazing, made with herbed chicken, tart cranberries, onion and pecans.

Don’t forget the baked goods. We took home an order of scones made with bacon and bleu cheese. One scone and a coffee makes for a hearty, filling breakfast.

Honorable mentions: Green Dot Stables is a relatively new place with an equine theme that specializes in those dainty burgers we call sliders. Try the catfish slider. Also, their clam chowder is some of the best I’ve had in town.

EnVie in downtown Lansing serves some outstanding seafood dishes. Try the mussel appetizer, served in a cream sauce with chives, herbs and lots of garlic. This dish stands up with mussels I’ve had in Novia Scotia and Belgium.


Best Lansing Food Events


To top off 2018, I’m going to let you in on my top five annual food events in Greater Lansing. I’ve picked five that are unique to our area and are absolute favorites of mine.

The first one is the summertime Vietnamese Food Festival at St. Andrew Dung Lac Catholic Church. During the third weekend of July, the parish shuts down the parking lot and the parishioners prepare my favorite Vietnamese dishes, from pho to spring rolls to fried rice to crab rangoons. The aroma is incredible, and I like to load my bowl of pho with handfuls of Thai basil and bean sprouts to delude myself into thinking that I’m not eating a hot, steaming bowl of noodles when it’s 90 degrees outside.

The BWL Chili Cook Off is always a heartburn-inducing place to see favorite local politicians and other Lansing celebrities. If you’re really in the know, you bring a muffin tin to carry all the tiny cups of chili and maximize your eating time. Remember years past when the cook off was held in the summertime? Nothing like a bowl of chili in June, amirite? Needless to say, I am in complete support of the recent move to October.

For the last few years, one of the biggest events in Meridian Township has been their food truck rally. Upwards of 50 trucks converge near the Meridian Mall to provide eager eaters with zillions of choices like lobster rolls, hot dogs, stir fry, doughnuts, tacos, ice cream, burgers, and crepes, to name a fraction. Probably the only thing that is not available at the late June event is a salad, and do you really even want a salad if you’re at a food truck rally?

Downtown Lansing’s Trick or Treat on the Square isn’t exactly an opportunity for a meal, but it is an extremely popular downtown block party that is held on the Monday evening before Halloween and has been going like gangbusters for ten years. Sure, kids can trick or treat, but there are also refreshments, street performers, hay rides, and face painting.

I’ve saved my favorite for last, and the Dickens Dinner at the State Room in the Kellogg Center has become an annual tradition for myself and Mr. She Ate. Michael Clyne, State Room Executive Chef and Englishman to boot, transforms the State Room into a Christmassy, traditional British (but with a twist) wonderland for two nights at the beginning of December. This year, my favorite dish was a fresh, bright soup made with English peas, leek, potato, mint, and crème fraiche. There are always holiday carolers, and after dinner you can walk down the hallway and vote for your favorite gingerbread house from the gingerbread village. Spending that evening with my own special elf as he enjoys his favorite mulled wine and we linger over dinner is the best way that I know how to get into the holiday spirit, and I’m already looking forward to 2019’s dinner.


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