Olive Garden

A brief summary of last night’s visit to Olive Garden in Okemos. The Lasagna Fritta looked better than it tasted, the Five Cheese Ziti al Forno tasted better than it looked, and they have draught Blue Moon.

I don’t know why Olive Garden is always so busy. No knock against the food – it’s good or Andrea and I wouldn’t have gone – but it’s not that good. Bravo in Eastwood has better food for not much more money. Maybe people in Okemos just crave Italian food and don’t want to drive to Lansing.

The demise of South Lansing restaurants

I was wracked by sad South Lansing food news today. First, I read a Lansing State Journal article from the 6th that there will be no Sonic on Pennsylvania. There was a mild amount of unhappiness at that, since I’m a fast food fan, and I was looking forward to finally paying attention to all those Sonic commercials I see on ESPN.

But I swallowed my grief and headed to that side of town to get an oil change. While that was being done, I had planned a visit to White Castle. In preparation, I had even visited their web site where I was able to print a coupon for a free slider for becoming a Facebook fan. 

Armed with my coupon, I marched down Cedar Street and I was greeted with this:

White Castle, Lansing

White Castle, Lansing - gone

Lo, White Castle was gone. I don’t mind giving some strange app on Facebook permission to view my friends and subject them to potential identity theft and loss of privacy, but I at least want something out of it. All for naught. 

Instead, I went to Kentucky Fried Chicken (sorry, KFC – their food is so healthy now) to have some kind of chicken breast combo meal. Everything was fine, no complaints. And I gladly poured the “buttery spread” and “honey sauce” on my biscuit. I don’t know what was in them, and I don’t really care, I just know that apparently there wasn’t enough butter to call it butter, and there wasn’t enough honey to call it honey.

Next lunch outing, I’m headed back downtown to try something within walking distance.

Lenny’s Sub Shop, Lansing

Today was the grand opening of Lenny’s Sub Shop at 212 S. Washington in Lansing. Naturally, I went, because I’m always interested in new restaurant openings.

I arrived to a crowd of applauding people and a radio interview. Not being curious about it, I bypassed them and was able to slip inside. I was met by a greeting that, had it been any friendlier, my wife would have objected to be going there. They stopped just short of offering me a sponge bath.

Lenny's Sub Shop

Lenny's Sub Shop

This being my first trip to Lenny’s, I went with the “Original Sub”. I was offered regular and large. Since the large was about the length of my forearm, I went with the regular and was still impressed by the size of it.

Lenny's Sub Shop

Lenny's Sub Shop

I got everything on it, including the hot pepper relish, which added a nice bit of kick to the sub. I was happy with the sub. It tasted good and I was not left wanting. And I picked up a “Substantial Rewards Card”, their frequent eaters card.

I hope they do well in Lansing. There are a lot of sub shops on Washington, so we’ll see if the area can survive one more.

Houghton Hancock burger at Leo’s Spirits & Grub

Oh, what a wonderful site this is:

Labbatt at Leo's

Labbatt at Leo's

This is a 34 oz. Labatt Blue from Leo’s Spirits and Grub at 2085 West Grand River Avenue in Okemos. The old Bennigan’s has been transformed, at least on the outside. The interior looks different, too, but the layout remains essentially the same.

And my 34 oz. Labatt cost only $3, a Monday night special.

I don’t care what the annual survey says, Leo’s had the best burger in Lansing. And the king of Leo’s burgers is the Houghton Hancock. Topped with cheese and grilled ham, plus the normal veggie fillers, this is a beautiful work of burger art. The buffalo chicken salad almost tempted me away, but nothing goes better with beer than a burger, so I gave into my go-to Leo’s meal.

Houghton Hancock burger

Houghton Hancock burger

Stella’s, Traverse City

We were in Traverse City on Saturday, the night before I ran the Betsie Valley half-marathon, and we stopped into Trattoria Stella for dinner. Because we didn’t have a reservation, and they were already booked for the night by the time we arrived at 5:15 – yes, it’s a popular place, with good reason – we sat in a big communal table in the bar. The tall chairs were comfortable and we managed to keep our three-year old from falling out, but just barely.

Stella's in Traverse City

Stella’s serves meals like they do in Italy, with multiple courses of small-ish portions, at least by our standards here in the U.S.

For an appetizer, we split the Red Pizza, topped with pepperoni and sausage, and very good. It was perfectly baked and big enough for a meal for one person, or a precursor for three.

Red Pizza at Stella's

Red Pizza at Stella's

I chose the lasagna for my entrée. This was a first course meal, so it wasn’t a large portion, but combined with the Red Pizza, it was the perfect amount of food. The piece was very cheesy and topped with shitake mushrooms.

Lasagna at Stella's

Lasagna at Stella's

Along with the food, I started with a Short’s Pontius Road Pilsner, an easy beer to drink, so if you’re not up on hoppy beers, this will suit you fine. With dinner, we had a bottle of Poggio Nibbiale, which was fantastic. I have no idea how much it was, as I was taking my daughter for a walk through the halls of the Mercato building where Stella’s is located when the check came (good timing!), but it was (probably) worth it.

Stella's in Traverse City

Stella's in Traverse City