Pizza Hut, South Cedar

I was on the south side of Lansing today, which I usually only do if I need an oil change, to have lunch with my grandma, or to be involved in a robbery. Today, it was the former.

As part of my quest to eat at 25 new restaurants in 2011, I headed to CiCi’s Pizza – the cheap buffet was appealing. When I arrived, I found this friendly greeting:

CiCi's is closed

CiCi's is closed

(After I returned to the dealership to pick up my car, the guy said that CiCi’s wasn’t that good anyways, so apparently I wasn’t missing anything, at least from that location.)

Back on track… Still in the mood for a pizza buffet, I walked all the way across the parking lot and ate lunch at Pizza Hut for their $6 lunch buffet. That was a good price for the theoretical amount of pizza that could be consumed. I’m not that big, and I can’t eat as much as I used to when I was younger, so they shouldn’t be pushed into bankruptcy from my visit.

Pizza Hut, South Lansing

Pizza Hut, South Lansing

Pizza Hut hasn’t fared well in the Lansing area. The one at Abbot and Saginaw closed years ago, the space now used for Rite Aid. The one on MLK near Holmes is gone. Ditto the Okemos location on Grand River. But the South Cedar one has held strong.

I tried three types of pizza. The first, a sausage and ham, I enjoyed – spicy sausage is a good thing. The second, a ham and pineapple, didn’t do anything for me. Maybe because the Jet’s Hawaiian is so good that it has spoiled me. The third, pepperoni, was very good – perfect pepperoni, just a little crispy. And make sure to save a little love for the breadsticks.

I also tried two types of pasta. My favorite was the chicken Alfredo pasta. The pasta with traditional meaty spaghetti sauce topped with cheese was not nearly as good .

Of course, they also had the dessert pizza and cinnamon bread sticks, but I skipped those on this visit to concentrate on the chocolate covered pretzels I had waiting for me back at the desk.

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Nachos at Edmund’s, Lansing

Nachos at Edmund's

Tosado Nachos

My first impression of the nachos: Who ordered the pancakes? The nachos were actually stacks of tostado chips (not nacho chips) and served in layers of refried beans, ground beef, and cheese topped with avocado, tomatoes, jalapenos, and lettuce. Surrounding the nacho stack was a dark sauce named “Torpedo Sauce.” I liked the appearance – I had never seen nachos look like that.

But it went downhill from there. It was a tale of two tastes. The Tornado Sauce was a bit overpowering – it was spicy barbeque sauce that was a bit out of place for what I expected for nachos. But without the sauce, the beef and beans didn’t were not flavorful enough to be good. The chips were alright, mostly crispy, but I found a few tough bites in there. Maybe that was why they were served with a sharp knife.

The nachos were $8.95. If they had tasted better, the price probably would have been worth the cost. What wasn’t worth the price was the beer – $5.50 for a pint of Blue Moon! That’s crazy. I may be eating there again – they did have some other items that looked good – but I certainly will not be drinking there.

The bar area was nice. There were a few decorative items on the walls, but otherwise the place had a clean look. There were four flat screens over the bar, and we eaters and drinkers faced Michigan Avenue, Troppo being directly across the street.  (Edmund’s is in the building previously occupied by Troppo.) There wasn’t a big crowd there on a Tuesday night, even for a MSU basketball game. It would be a place I could regularly go if the beer wasn’t that pricey.

I can’t condemn the whole menu, having only eaten there once, but I would recommend avoiding the nachos. If you’re in downtown Lansing, Jalapenos, The Firm, and Brannigan Bros. all have better nachos than Edmund’s.

The 1913 Room, Grand Rapids

Andrea and I celebrated our anniversary several weeks late (it wasn’t my fault) by spending a night at the Amway Grand in Grand Rapids. I had walked through the hotel before and marveled at the impressive sitting room – chandeliers, a fountain, a huge robotic dinosaur that breathes fire and snatches up small children. Very good stuff.

We also took advantage of our location to eat at the 1913 Room. Ranked Five Diamonds by AAA, it is one of the best restaurants (if not the best) in the state. It has also been ranked as the most romantic place to eat in a local magazine, so I thought that was a good choice for a post-anniversary dinner.

The dining area was elegant. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word to describe a restaurant, but that’s the most fitting description. Low lighting, more chandeliers, soft music piped in – very nice environment. Chuck E. Cheese it is not.

The only bad part of the evening was that we had the worst table in the restaurant, near the entrance to the kitchen and the bathrooms, so people were walking all night wondering “What did those two do to get this awful table?” Next time we eat there, we’ll be sure to request any table except that one.

Being a fancy restaurant, we weren’t served a big plate of food and told to dig in. No, fancy restaurants serve lots of small courses to keep you wanting more. You’ll have to excuse the blurriness and darkness of the pictures – I took them with an indoor setting and didn’t use a flash, which probably wouldn’t have been appreciated by everyone else having a nice dinner.

This is a mahi mahi shot. It was served cold and reminded me of sushi without the rice and difficult eating utensils. This course was followed shortly after by the roll tray. Yes, we got to pick which roll we wanted, and we got to pick more than one. I went with an anise seed roll and a Kalamata olive roll, both good selections. Andrea picked the focaccia roll and something that looked like pita bread.

The 1913 Room

Mahi Mahi shot

For the next course, the appetizer round, we ordered “A Symphony of Appetizers”, because you can’t go wrong with something name a “Symphony.” That included (from left to right) duck rillettes, foie gras, tuna, a lobster cake, and butternut squash panna cotta. (As I typed this, my spellchecker was going crazy – there were lots of words it didn’t know.) Everything was excellent, though I liked the lobster cake the best.

The 1913 Room

A Symphony of Appetizers

To get a better description of the items, see the 1913 Room menu.

Round three was a blueberry and lime sorbet served in a bowl atop a small stand that reminding me of the Stanley Cup. The teeny tiny spoon forced me to savor this mid-meal dessert, and it was not too tart, not too sweet.

The 1913 Room

Blueberry lime sorbet

Now, the big deal, the main course, the entrée. I ordered the grilled mahi mahi over risotto. Whew, that was good. Andrea ordered the Dover sole, which Ian the waiter said had been on the menu for nine years. That was also very good, and the most tender fish I’ve ever eaten. If you are looking for recommendations, I suggest either one of those, but I give the mahi mahi a slight edge.

The 1913 Room

Mahi Mahi

To go with it all, we split a bottle of the Saint-Veran pinot grigio. Like any good waiter, Ian knew what wine went best with our entrees, and it was a nice pairing with our meals. And since we finished our bottle, we didn’t need to ask to have it re-corked. That wouldn’t have worked anyways – it was a twist-off top.

The 1913 Room

Dover Sole

The final round: dessert. I ordered the Nougat Napoleon which, as I now view the menu online, is not there anymore. Ian wasn’t kidding when he said the menu changed – we were just there a week ago! In any case, it was layers of chocolate will little puffballs of nougat. Andrea had the Milky Way with reminded me of a Drumstick. We were both given little “Happy Anniversary” sugar plaques, since we were there celebrating our anniversary.

The 1913 Room

Milky Way

The 1913 Room

Nougat Napoleon

 

And best of all, dinner only cost of fifty-four cents! You just can’t beat that deal. I suppose I should admit that our room package included a $200 credit at the 1913 Room, so our dinner was included in the room. What was nice is that we were upgraded to a suite overlooking the Grand River and the museums on the west side of the city.

We will at some point return to the 1913 Room – it earned it’s Five Diamond ranking, and it was quite an experience to enjoy such a great meal in that environment.

Sundance Grill, Grand Rapids

We were in Grand Rapids last weekend. Any time we are in GR, Andrea wants to eat at Sundance Grill on Pearl Street. (There is one on 28th Street, but I’ve never been to that one.) I usually don’t object too strenuously. Though I like trying new restaurants, I’ve been happy with the food at Sundance, so no arm-pulling is required.

Sundance Grill, Grand Rapids

Sundance Grill, Grand Rapids

The wait can be long, but this time, we were seated immediately. Since my daughter wasn’t there to demand she have the same, I was able to order a glass of chocolate milk. The waiter convinced Andrea that we needed a cinnamon roll, an appetizer for breakfast, so we go one of those. If you, too, go the “appetizer” route, just get one – they are quite large:

Sundance Grill, Grand Rapids

Sundance Grill, Grand Rapids

It is hard deciding on breakfast because so many things look so good. On this visit, I went with the El Paso omelet which had chorizo, mashed potatoes and Jack & Cheddar cheese. And, they came with a side of blue corn chips and salsa. Mm, mm good. A little heavy on the mashed potatoes, but I would order it again, if the Bacamole omelet wasn’t on the menu, that is.

Sundance Grill, Grand Rapids

Blue corn chips for breakfast

Andrea had one of their skillets with bacon, egg, and cheese on it – also an excellent choice, as I can attest, having had her leftovers for lunch the next day. And did I mention no waiting? That may have been a first for us.

And check out the bathrooms. OK, not the bathrooms themselves, but the room between the restaurant and the bathrooms. There is a safe door and old pictures of Grand Rapids.

2010 list of new restaurants

I mentioned in my last post about the 24 new restaurants I tried last year. Here is the list, which includes a few trips, like Traverse City, Mexico, and Chicago:

1.  Capitol City Grille – Lansing
2.  Right Brain Brewery – Traverse City
3.  House of Doggs – Traverse City
4.  Veradero – Isla Mujeres
5.  Mango Cafe – Isla Mujeres
6.  Taqueria El Cachirul – Isla Mujeres
7.  Guacamole Mexican Grill – Cancun airport
8.  Spag’s bar – Williamston
9.  Hopcat – Grand Rapids
10.  Geno’s Pizzeria – Lansing
11.  Happy’s Pizza – Lansing
12.  T & D Coney Island – Okemos
13.  Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar and Grill” – Auburn Hills
14.  Mediterranean Deli  – Lansing
15. RG’s Ballpark Dogs & More – Lansing (by Clara’s)
16. Lamai’s Kitchen – Lansing
17. Mama Bears – Lansing
18. The Waterfront Restaurant – Lansing City Market
19. AnQi Sushi – Lansing
20. Old Country Buffet – Lansing
21. Brody cafeteria – East Lansing
22. Lenny’s Sub Shop – Lansing
23. Mumbai – East Lansing
24. Five Guys Burgers and Fries – East Lansing
25. Brown Bear – Pentwater

Soup at Zoup! in Lansing

Starting last year, I have a goal to try several new restaurants. My goal for 2010 was 20 new restaurants, and I finished the year with 24.

So for 2011, I’ve set the number at 25. It should be doable, but I plan on traveling less this year – not that I want to travel less, but that is the reality of life right now. So 25 should be a challenge for a small market city like Lansing, MI, but still something I can accomplish.

So my first new restaurant of the year was Zoup! at 214 South Washington Square in Lansing. First impression – the restaurant was well organized and clean. I was offered to try out a soup, but I had browsed their website before lunch, so I knew just what I wanted – the chicken pot pie soup. Service was fast – hadn’t even got my coat off before my order was ready. Of course, it’s just soup, so it was already made. But still, I appreciate fast.

I went for a cup of soup, which included a piece of bread (I chose the sourdough) for $4.95. Not a great value, which is my only criticism of Zoup! For $5 for soup, I expected more than I got.

Soup at Zoup!

Soup at Zoup!

As for the taste, I was impressed. The chicken pot pie soup was creamy and had chunks of chicken, as well as peas and, my favorite part, crumbled bread crust on top. The sourdough was decent, and the purpose of its inclusion was to sop up the soup.

It seems to be doing well – the restaurant was packed by the time I left, so that is a good sign. I’m happy to see a downtown Lansing business that is thriving. I’ll be back again later to try the sandwiches. If they are anywhere as good as the soup, I’ll be pleased.