South African food at Travelers Club, Okemos

Have you ever had the irresistible urge to look at tubas? Me neither, but if you have had the urge, then Travelers Club is the place for you.

The thing I like about the Travelers Club in Okemos is the monthly food specials. All kinds of tastes that you normally couldn’t get around the Lansing area can be gotten there. This month’s specialty was South African, and since Andrea is taking a class on Africa at MSU, this was a perfect segue.

The meal was broken into two courses. The first was Curried Pork Kabob with spiced rice. The pork was good, though fatty. The food was brought with three “sauces”, two of which tasted like cucumbers (one of which was called South African Komkommer Sambal  – I just couldn’t pass up putting that name in here)  and the third was
Moroccan Harissa, a spicy red concoction that was no joke – it was hot. But I like that sort of thing, so it was all good. And there was no permanent damage. It was very cold in the restaurant, so I think the Harissa helped me make it through the night without freezing. Hey, Michigan in January.

Travelers Club

Travelers Club

What also helped was the Atwater Brewery Java Vanilla Porter. Another nice feature of Travelers Club are their Michigan beers on tap, and they are reasonably priced. I’m a fan of reasonably priced beer, and beer in general.  The porter was smooth and not overwhelmingly hoppy, a beer I would definitely get again. I wonder how it would go with Quality Dairy doughnuts?

The main course was Cape Malay ground lamb meatloaf. I don’t know where Cape Malay is, but they made good food. What was unusual were the raisins in the meat.  The whole meat-raisin block didn’t look like much, but it made up for it with its taste. The loaf didn’t have any big “bammo” flavor, so the sauces helped. The meatloaf was served with sweet potato slices and Gesmoorde Kool, from “Kool and the Gang”, I believe. No, this Kool was cabbage and onions, and couldn’t carry a tune.

Travelers Club

Travelers Club

So keep your eye on the Travelers Club website – they have different international specials every month. If you have even a twinkling of curiosity about out of the ordinary foods, head on over.


bubble island, East Lansing

It was a dark and stormy night on the campus of Michigan State University when a figure struggled against the wind. The man crossed Grand River and into the oasis of light in a sea of darkness.

OK, that’s it for the dramatics.

It really was a dark and stormy night when I went to bubble island, though. I had never had bubble tea, and as I didn’t want to die before I had one, in I went to try one of the oddest sounding things I’ve had. It’s not exactly a “Bucket List” type of goal, but one of the keys to goal setting is to put lots of little goals onto your list so you have things to check off. You’re welcome for that tip.

bubble island (small ‘b’, small ‘i’) had green tea mixes, black tea mixes, and curly fries, among others – quite a combination. I had no idea of what I was doing, so I looked on the special board and saw that a “Snowstorm” was the bubble tea of the day. Well, alright then – a Snowstorm it was.

Snowstorm from bubble island

Snowstorm from bubble island


This concoction was milk tea, Oreos, and almonds. Sounds a little nasty, actually, but they had me at Oreos. So I shrugged, grabbed one of the gigantic straws with the sharp point to penetrate the plastic cover of the cup, and drank deeply of something that looked vaguely like chunky chocolate milk.

The texture was… unique. It was definitely chunky. I didn’t find bubbles, I found mushy Oreo pieces. But it did taste pretty good. I just couldn’t decide if I was supposed to eat it or drink it. A different sensation, to be sure. A Shamrock Shake it was not. Which is just fine, because the quality of Shamrock Shakes has really gone downhill lately.

I felt so college student-like, drinking/eating some kind of semi-exotic concoction while typing on my laptop. It would have been the perfect picture if I had an Macintosh and was wearing a turtleneck while complaining about capitalism, but instead I had a Dell with a button-down shirt and was writing a zombie short story. But close enough.

[For another review, check out Dining Michigan.]

Bagger Dave’s, East Lansing

I’ve been in a burger sort of mood, and a burger mood calls for a burger place which, in this case, was Bagger Dave’s in East Lansing. It also has the honored distinction of being the first “new to me” restaurant of 2012. 1 down, 24 to go.

Bagger Dave’s is a build-your-own burger establishment. They also have signature burgers, sandwiches, and salads, (and more!), so if you’re not in the mood for a burger, then you’ll still be able to find something. Bagger Dave’s also has a train running around the ceiling like Don’s Windmill 2 on Oakland used to have. Oh, memories of going there after seeing Rocky Horror at the Spartan Theaters. It’s just a jump to the left…

I decided to go the build-my-own route, though the “Train Wreck” was very tempting. “Next time”, I promised myself. On this occasion, I ordered the regular sized burger (which has two patties) with cheese, sautéed onions, green olives, a fried egg, and Railroad Burger Sauce. But that is not what I got – my burger was missing the egg and the sauce. No big deal – I’m flexible. After throwing a few chairs around Bob Knight-style, I settled down to enjoy my meal.

The burger was excellent, possibly gaining my “favorite burger around Lansing” distinction. Juicy and perfectly cooked and on a honey wheat bun ( you can choose your bun, too). Makes me hungry just thinking about. Along with the burger I had an order of fries. Wow, those were great, too. I would put them on the same level as 5 Guys, though not the same enormous portion size. Still, enough to satisfy.

Bagger Dave's

Bagger Dave's

After just one visit, I’m a BD fan. My next visit, I will get that Train Wreck. Fries and an egg on a burger? Bring it.

Houghton Hancock burger at Leo’s Lodge

I’m a Leo’s fan, so I was happy to visit Leo’s Lodge in Lansing. I almost gave into temptation and tried their seafood nachos, but I had not had a Leo’s burger in quite a while, so I gave into the call of red meat.

While I normally go for the oliveburger, this time, I was all about the Houghton Hancock burger. A beef patty topped with ham and cheese – that is some good stuff. The beef was fine, but when you add ham and cheese, that put it over the top. In fact, it was so much that I couldn’t finish it. OK, it was only a bite or two, but I held back. Add to that some very good fries and things were going well.

Houghton Hancock burger at Leo's Lodge

Houghton Hancock burger at Leo's Lodge

I like the rustic décor of all three Leo’s – it makes me feel like I’m at some kind of elaborate deer camp, and also makes me want to watch “Escanaba in the Moonlight”. They are good places to watch a game, and the Monday night beer special (34 oz. domestics for $3) is hard to beat.

Dixie Luau pizza at New Hollland Brewery

It was visit #3 at New Holland Brewery in, where else, Holland. The first time I tried the corned beef, which was excellent. The second time, I had an Italian sub, which was OK. This time, I tried the Dixie Luau pizza. If nothing else, it wins on the oddest name on the menu.

What does one put on a Dixie Luau pizza? Good question: Prosciutto, bacon, pineapple, banana peppers, and cheese. Basically, it was a bonus version of a Hawaiian pizza. I was a fan of everything but the banana peppers, which I normally like, but I didn’t think they mixed well with the pineapple. It was like a little sour battling more sour for supremacy of the pizza. More sour won.

Dixie Luau pizza, New Holland Brewery

Dixie Luau pizza, New Holland Brewery

My coworkers gave me good reviews of the pulled pork wrap and the chicken-pesto pizza, so I may try one of those on my next visit, because I’m sure there will be another. But I’m still waiting for some nachos to rear their beautiful head on the menu. Come on, NHB, give me some meaty chips and cheese!

Fire at Las Vegas McDonald’s

I read on the Las Vegas Sun that a fire at McDonald’s on The Strip near Mandalay Bay caused $200,000 in damage. I’m always pained when I hear bad things happening to a McDonald’s, my go-to fast food place when I can’t decide where to go. (In fact, I was at a new-to-me McDonald’s in Ionia last night.)

But I bring this specific one up because I stopped at the blazing restaurant in December while in Vegas for the Rock and Roll half-marathon. After horrible traffic caused me to be late for the race, I ducked into the McDonald’s near the race start at Mandalay Bay to use the restrooms. I didn’t buy anything, though, so I owe that McDonald’s a Coke or fries or something next time I’m in the area.

Dave’s oliveburger at Reno’s East, East Lansing

I discovered something that I believe needs to become a trend that sweeps the nation: Oliverburgers with cheese and bacon. I’ve had a good one at The Cottage Bar in Grand Rapids, but I found one in my very own stomping grounds of East Lansing at Reno’s East.

I limit my visits to East Lansing bars when Michigan State is in session since I prefer things a little tamer when I’m out. It’s hell to get old, you know. But since it was Christmas break, I went to a sports bar to watch the Rose Bowl. Poor Wisconsin got beat by Oregon, but our Spartans had a victory against Georgia in the Outback Bowl.

Onto the food. As you probably guessed, I ordered and oliveburger. Dave’s Oliveburger, to be precise. I’m actually going to mention the bun because it was crispy and tasted slightly buttery, and actually enhanced the burger instead of just being that thing that holds in the meat. Well done. The burger was cooked just right and was topped with some tasty bacon, and there were plenty of olives in the olive sauce. Without olives, it’s just mayonnaise, after all. The fries were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, exactly as they should be.

Oliveburger, Reno's East

Oliveburger, Reno's East

While I just had a Mt. Dew, they had lots of beer to choose from, including lots of Michigan beer, so I’ll have to make a return visit. Definitely a place to remember to catch a game, as I couldn’t see a seat in the place where you could get a good view of a TV.