Pizza at The Sazerac Lounge, Grand Rapids

This is a very exciting post for me because I get to use the word “bedecked”. In 130 posts, I have not gotten the chance to use it, but today is my big day.

I also get to use the name Sazerac. It sounds like a villain from the “Lord of the Rings”, but in fact, is the name of a bar / restaurant in northern Grand Rapids. I was browsing through eateries and came across The Sazerac Lounge. Intrigued, and seeing that they had nachos on their web site menu, I headed up Plainfield Road.

It’s easy to miss. Located near a furniture store and karate studio, it’s a stealthy locale. But I prevailed, even picking the correct door on the first try, something I was infinitely proud to have done. (If you’ve been there, you’ll understand.) It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but the interior was pretty cool. It had bare brick walls and a tin ceiling, both of which I enjoy seeing in a pub. I can’t answer why that is. And (wait for it) the light fixture were bedecked with Mardi Gras beads.

The Sazerac Lounge

The Sazerac Lounge

In fact, the place had a Mardi Gras theme. Having been to New Orleans during the several week celebration of Mardi Gras, I’m a fan of the décor, including the big harlequin face. (BTW, if you are looking for a great food destination, go to New Orleans. The food is incredible, from the muffalettas at Central Grocery to the seafood at Mr. B’s, all good.)

As I mentioned earlier, I had intended on getting the nachos. Sadly, they were not on the menu – the website must have been displaying an old version. The sad clown of life had struck again. But rolling with the punches, I saw they had a Monday night special, a 10″ pizza with two topping for $5. OK, that was my consolation prize. I ordered a Mardi Gras Bock, which was quite tasty, and awaited my pizza.

Pizza at Sazerac

Pizza at Sazerac

Well, it sure looked good. But taste-wise… it was even better than it looked. (Had you there, didn’t I?) They were not shy on the toppings, as you can see from the big pieces of sausage and multitude of pepperoni. And it was a spicy meat, too – I’m glad I had my beer to comfort me. It also had lots of gooey cheese and a soft, chewy crust. I am a fan of Sazerac pizza.

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The magnificient nachos of Buddies

I would like to contrast the these nachos, which I ate at Conrad’s on Monday:

Nachos at Conrad's, East Lansing

Nachos at Conrad's, East Lansing

With these nachos, which I ate at Buddies in Okemos on Thursday:

Buddies Nachos

Notice the beautiful mountain of nacho goodness of Buddies. I can barely see Andrea across the table, the pile is so high. Cheese, onions, beef, tomatoes, oh my. And we also splurged and got salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.  Living large in Lansing.

This is the “small”, by the way. It’s one of the menu quirks – the small is the large and the mini is the small. The mini is enough for one person, or perhaps two if you are light eaters or are getting dessert. We were able to eat about half of the small, and I had the rest for lunch the next day. They warmed up pretty well in the oven, but don’t make the mistake of putting nachos in the microwave. Soggy chips are just plain nasty. To give you an idea of what was left, here is the “after” picture. As you can see, plenty were left:

Buddies Nachos - after

But if there were a lot of chips and the nachos sucked, that’s no good. Luckily, Buddies has great nachos, and they have been at the top of my list since I first had them over ten years ago. Good tasting beef, and the sheer amount of cheese is overwhelming. And the toppings were not just on top – top, bottom, middle, sides – it was all covered.

And beer! They had lots of brews on tap. I went with a Founder’s porter, as I’m a fan of the Grand Rapids-based brewery. Andrea had a cider, so if you’re a hard cider fan, they have one of those on tap, too. Muy bueno.

Buddies has three locations. The Okemos location is in a strip mall at the corner of Grand River and Haslett Road. The East Lansing location is in the Carriage Hills shopping center at the north end of Hagadorn, near the former location of Goff, my first employer when I worked as a bag boy. And the Holt location is located at Aurelius and Holt Road. That location, by the way, has a ton of TVs, and is a great place to watch a game. Oh heck, go to all three and see which one is your favorite.

Nachos at Conrad’s in East Lansing

Let’s start this right off with an image:

Nachos at Conrad's, East Lansing

Nachos at Conrad's, East Lansing

Do those nachos look good to you? Me neither, but that is what I was facing at Conrad’s on the corner of Abbot and Grand River in East Lansing. I wanted to take a break from my recent burger bonanza and get back to my beloved nachos. I picked the wrong spot.

I was given three choices of nachos on the menu – Super Nachos, Chicken, and Vegetarian. I chose the first options, but “super” they were not. Topped with chili, jalapenos, “cheese”, salsa, and sour cream, it was a disaster, both visually and on the taste buds. Everything about them screamed below average.

Some good points. Uh, I learned a lot about gangs from the blaring TV. They have free refills of Coke. The walls were decorated with all sorts of interesting photos, including one of The Hangover, a movie which I love. And there were plenty of napkins on the table, which were very useful, and the nachos were a complete mess to eat. And the people that worked there seemed nice. It was only them and the three people working – no one else came in during the 45-minutes or so I was eating.

Another good point, which is completely unrelated to the food: The website home page is the menu. This I like. No pictures of how cool the web designers are, or annoying Flash applications of pointless images streaming by. Just the menu. More places should do that.

I cannot recommend to you enough that you avoid the nachos at Conrad’s. Really, I’m doing you a favor.  I’m not rejecting Conrad’s completely based on their truly awful nachos, the second worst in the Lansing area next to Old Chicago’s Italian-style “nachos”. If you have had anything you liked there, please leave a comment so I can try something better.

Burger and beer special at Red Cedar Grill, Williamston

Monday night’s are half-off burgers and $3 pints at Red Cedar Grill in Williamston, MI.  As RCG is my favorite restaurant, I didn’t need much prodding to pay a visit. I’m a fan of the relaxed atmosphere, the excellent service, and their food, especially the mac & cheese with chicken and the pot roast, both from the “how comforting” section. And though they seemed to have disappeared from the menu, their nachos were amazing. Still, I had never tried one of their burger. But a decent burger for under $5? Couldn’t pass that up.

Red Cedar Grill burger

Red Cedar Grill burger

My first impression was that the Natural Burger both looked and smelled amazing. The brioche bun was shiny (yes, shiny) and lightly toasted, and as strange as it sounds, was my favorite part of the burger. The meat was solid, no complaints there, but the bun was outstanding. Maybe I can just have the bun in another bun. They do seem to do bread well, as the dinner rolls they serve with entrees are also excellent.

The shoestring fries were beautiful. Slightly crispy and salty and all things that fries should be. And made out of potatoes – that is a big help, too, because carrot fries just wouldn’t be the same.

I drank a Short’s Bellaire  Brown ale with my burger, a good choice. It probably would have went well with any food, but I would recommend it with the cow. For $3, it was oh so tempting to get two, but I had to go to Meijer, so only one for me. On second thought, two beers before going to Meijer is actually a pretty good idea.

So a burger, fries, and craft beer for under $10 (before tip). Deals don’t get much better than that.

A burger at Spectator’s, Saugatuck

After an evening hiking the trails at Saugatuck State Park, I headed for dinner at Spectator‘s , mainly because they were close to both the park and the freeway, but I had viewed their menu online, and it looked like it was worth a visit.

When I walked inside, I had a “The Matrix”-like decision. I could either take the aquamarine pill and go into the bar, or take the mauve pill and sit in the restaurant. I chose the more bluish pill and into the bar I went. It probably wasn’t a make or break moment for my reality, but you never know.

The Classic Burger is a solid, simple hamburger. I ordered mine with diced onions, pickles, ketchup, and mustard.  Nothing fancy, but there was plenty of patty to love, and they were not shy about the pickles. The Monday night price was $6.75, and that included fries.  I sat next to people who were talking the entire time about playing golf, which I found odd since it was February. Anyway, the nachos almost pulled me in, and on my next visit, I’m sure I’ll snag those, me being a nacho fiend and all.

Spectators, Saugatuck, MI

Spectators, Saugatuck, MI

While it was a good-sized burger, I wasn’t so full that I couldn’t complete my run in Grand Rapids. After all, I can’t let a meal get in the way of my training for the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, and that was the primary reason I didn’t get the nachos – if those chips are put in front of me, I’m going to keep eating until they’re gone. As this simple formula explains: Loads of nachos  + 4-mile run = bad news.

Cherry Point Market fish boil in Shelby, MI

This is a beautiful cherry doughnut from the Cherry Point Market in Shelby. I’m posting this because it’s February, and although it has thus far been a mild winter here in Michigan, I like thinking about summer. During our week at a rental cottage overlooking Lake Michigan, we had these doughnuts almost every day, and several now await their dates of execution in our freezer.

Cherry Point Market doughnut

Cherry Point Market doughnut

Cherry Point Market is a must-visit for our us on our annual stay in the Silver Lake area. Besides the doughnuts, they also have many kinds of fruit and strudels, my favorite being the outstanding cherry strudel – the cottage owner is kind enough to have one waiting for us when we arrive.

The other thing I love about Cherry Point Market is their fish boil. It’s like a small town party where dozens of people sit outside at picnic tables and chat and enjoy wine, beer, or other drinkage. (It’s a BYOB affair.) Just sit back and relax on a summer evening knowing that great food is on the way.

Before the boil

Before the boil

The main attraction is an excellent dinner of whitefish, potatoes, and onions boiled in a cauldron. They pour in an entire box of salt – I’m a salt fiend, so I love that part – but the food doesn’t taste salty at all. The proprietor explains the chemical reactions in the meal, as well as the history behind the Cherry Point fish boil.  The grand finale of the cooking process is the huge flames that boils off the oil resting on top of all that delicious food.

Fire!

Fire!

And the hot stuff is not all you get. No, no, you also get coleslaw, lemonade, and garlic toast. Oh, and a lemon. Don’t want to get scurvy.

Cherry Point fish boil

Cherry Point fish boil

And all that food is followed up with a piece of cherry pie a la mode.

Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie

Summer is coming (eventually), and when it does, we’ll be back in Shelby for our fish, doughnuts, and strudel.