BY EMMA SLONINA, Staff Columnist
If you don’t mind driving a little for good food, Lansing is a near-perfect destination. I cut my foodie teeth on our fair capitol; Lansing and East Lansing are full of independent, locally-owned restaurants of endless variety. From state politicians’ favorite haunts downtown to burger joints in East Lansing and all the funky places in between, Lansing is a treasure trove of culinary treats.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list, these are a few of my favorite picks from across the city.
Tavern on the Square – Always a crowd favorite, amongst politicians and us plebeians alike. They have a fantastic small plates menu, perfect for sampling everything they have to offer. For lunch or for a friends night out, get a giant group together and order a ton of small plates to share.
Out for a more formal occasion? They have a small but fantastic selection of entrees, simple yet sophisticated.
You can’t leave without trying: sweet potato chips, chipotle macaroni and cheese.
The Soup Spoon – One of my favorite spots for lunch. I can’t say I know much beyond one specific item on the menu, but I’m sure everything is delicious. Not that I care, all I care about is the seafood chowder. I get cravings for the spicy, briny soup more often than I’d like to admit. I have never had anything like it, neither before nor since.
They have a huge menu, and if I could just get past that seafood chowder, I’ll bet I’d like everything else.
Palace of Jamaica – Jamaican is one of my favorite cuisines, thanks to Palace of Jamaica. I have driven all the way to Lansing just for their food. It’s the tiniest little place, with six tables crammed in and a little kitchen in the back. Everything is served in Styrofoam travel containers with plastic cutlery, even if you dine in.
The more tame dishes of chicken and beef are just as authentic and delicious as the wilder dishes of oxtail and goat. Every dish comes with plantains, rice, and vegetables, but it’s always worth it to get an extra side of fried plantains.
You can’t leave without trying: brown stew chicken, curried goat.
Greater Lansing Picks
Great Lakes Chocolate and Coffee – Who can resist coffee and chocolate? Not the most convenient location, especially when you have to bus your way from East Lansing to downtown Lansing every day, but worth it to take a little side trip once in a while. Besides getting your caffeine fix, the sparkling display case of chocolate treats is irresistible.
You can’t leave without trying: chocolate-covered Michigan cherries.
Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine – I’ve only ever had Ethiopian food once, at Altu’s, and have wanted more ever since. You eat with your hands, grabbing your food with pieces of sour, spongy injera bread. Being an Ethiopian restaurant, there are a ton of vegetarian options like lentils, beans, and chickpeas, as well as deliciously tender meats in thick, spicy sauces.
You can’t leave without trying: mild chicken stew, mild garlic lentils, spicy pinto beans.
East Lansing Picks
ENSO – A swanky lounge and restaurant in the middle of an apartment complex. Out of place, but delightful. They do American cuisine with a modern, international twist, right on trend.
The restaurant converts to a nightclub after a certain hour, though the dance-floor seems to be permanently set up so I’m not sure how much converting there is.
You can’t leave without trying: pulled pork sushi.
Sushiya – The best sushi I’ve had in Lansing, though I only got to visit once. That didn’t stop my friend and I from ordering an entire boat of sushi and spending about $50 each on our very first visit. While it may not be on my top three list of sushi places I’ve ever been to, it is one of the best in the area that I’ve tried, and they have plenty of non-sushi options for your sushi-phobic friends.
You can’t leave without trying: Ninja and Lansing rolls.