One Well Brewing, Kalamazoo

I’m normally not a fan of restaurants in strip malls. It’s not quite a phobia, just a preference. But the owners of One Well Brewing made their location work. Look, it has a well next to the door! And the outdoor seating looks like a place I could hang out during the summer months. But November wasn’t a summer month, and the area was full anyways, so inside I went.

One Well Brewing

One Well Brewing

As I walked inside, I was greeted with a blast of noise that had the introverted side of my personality (which is typically dominant) wanting to run for cover. At first glance, the main room looked full, but past the crowded bar, there was plenty of seating at one of the long tables a bit further back. But this was 5:15 on a Saturday, so your mileage may vary. At any rate, I had the whole table to myself, so it was either not as busy as I thought, or I had an unpleasant odor wafting about me that I was unaware of.

I ordered at the bar, because that’s where you order. The woman behind the counter was among the most upbeat, perky people I have ever interacted with, a day and night difference from the morose McDonald’s employee that “served” me in St. Joe earlier in the day. I was given a number on a stick to notify the food bringer of my location, and his mission, I was happy to report, was a successful one just a short time later.

The pulled pork sandwich was excellent, tender and tasty, and, if I may throw a third ‘T’, tangy, referring to the BBQ sauce. I made the error of thinking the coleslaw was a side, a mistake. It was, in fact, a sandwich topping. But the sandwich was solid without it. I had no doubt I made the right choice with my dinner selection -it was a definite winner. The smattering of chips were crispy and dusted with a spice of unknown origin. Forced to guess, I would say paprika.

Pulled pork!

Pulled pork!

Your entertainment choice are legion. A plethora of board and card games await anxiously to be chosen. If pinball is your thing, they’ve got you covered there, too. Or perhaps darts are you thing. Feel free to throw pointy things at the wall until your heart’s content. Remember, though – throw them at the wall, not fellow patrons.

Now that's entertainment

Now that’s entertainment

As for me, I’m more of a reader, so I enjoyed my dinner with a  pair of beers in a not-so-quiet corner, reading “Ready Player One” on my Kindle until it was time to return to Lansing. I had an excellent time at One Well Brewing. Good food, good beer, good times. I didn’t see Elvis in Kalamazoo, but finding good beer is even better.

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BJ’s Bar and Grill, Morrice, MI

Morrice is not known for… well, anything that I can think of. I’ve visited the little town (less than 1,000 residents) several times as a turn-around spot for my cycling route, but never for any other reason. But I decided to visit Morrice’s one bar to see what it was all about. Thus, I arrived at BJ’s Bar and Grill after work.

I was the only one dressed in black Dockers, and I was instantly out of place. I got the occasional looks from the people at the bar, the “who is that guy?” look, but it wasn’t unfriendly, just curious. I sometimes get that look at home, too.

BJ's awesome interior

BJ’s awesome interior

I liked BJ’s from the start. Small, local, with all kinds of beer paraphernalia on the walls. It reminded me of my college dorm room, just without so many people I didn’t know. Most of the time. What I also liked about the place was that their one-page menu was taped to the wall. No messing around with handing out menus, just look at the wall. Convenient.

I had hoped they had an olive burger, because 2016 is Scott’s Year of the Olive Burger. And they did! And voila, I present to you, the BJ’s olive burger:

Olive burger!

Olive burger!

OK, it doesn’t look like much. But it tasted pretty good. The burger was fine, nothing outstanding, perhaps a little dry. The sauce was full of olives and didn’t lack for mayo. That helped balance the dryness of the burger to make it a wash. The bun was grilled, which you often don’t get in your finer establishments, but at BJ’s, you do. The fries were hit or miss. Some were quite good, the perfect mix of crispy exterior and soft interior, but others were nearly soggy.

And I will not leave out the beer. I’m usually a bit of a beer snob, but I went for a $2.50 20 oz. Budweiser. And not just because Peyton Manning was going on and on about it during his Super Bowl speech (he owns Budweiser distributorships, so he was giving himself free advertising.) At BJ’s, a Bud just seemed like the right thing to drink.

Admittedly, there is not a lot of choice in Morrice. You have a BJ’s, Country Kitchen, and a pizza place. But I liked the food, liked the atmosphere, and really liked the inexpensive beers. If you’re in Morrice (and who isn’t at some point… don’t answer that), check it out.

Jumbo’s, Owosso

One finds themselves in Pittsburg, MI for three reason. 1) You’re going to Perry. 2) You’re going to Owosso. 3) You’re going to a Steelers game and wildly lost. I was in Pittsburg twice yesterday, first for reason #2, then for reason #1, spending a grand total of 20 seconds in the town. And that was enough.

But enough about Pittsburg – that’s probably the most that’s been written about that town in the past year. The real purpose of this post is to talk about the third olive burger I’ve had this year, at Jumbo’s in Owosso, the crown jewel of Shiawassee County. I had walked through town to see what were the most promising establishments in the downtown area for a burger, and this seemed like a good choice. After all, the restaurant had “burger” written all over it:

Jumbo's, Owosso

Jumbo’s, Owosso

There wasn’t much to think about once I got inside as far as what to order. I was in an olive burger mood, and an olive burger I did order. It was a good-looking burger, and the fries matched it in food appeal. The fries looked beer-battered, but they may have been milk battered, or wine battered – they were cooked in something tasty and unhealthy, that’s for sure. The pickle was pretty ugly, and though it looked past its prime, it did its species proud in the taste department.

Olive burger

Olive burger

The beer you see in the top right corner was a Fat Tire. Though good, I should have gotten the $2 24oz. PBR. Regrets, I have a few…

The burger was decent, though not outstanding. It had plenty of olives and plenty of mayo, the latter is a good thing on an olive burger. I put a small amount of blame on the less than stellar burger on myself. I ordered it medium well when my heart was telling me medium. So it was a little dry. That probably didn’t affect the taste much, which didn’t really stand out above an average burger, but it probably would have been better had it been cooked less. The fries were the star of the plate. They were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and full of those carbohydrates that I so love about potatoes.

Jumbo’s was a decent place, and I’d visit again. It’s got that small-town, local feel, probably because it’s a small town, locals bar. They didn’t have a lot of beers on tap, and those were mostly the Bud Light – Bud variety, but they had more than Nick’s in Durand, so that was an improvement over my last restaurant experience.

Field House, East Lansing

Field House, East Lansing

Field House, East Lansing

Oh Peppino’s, I hardly knew you.

But things change. Where once Bilbo’s and The Post stood is now East Lansing’s equivalent of a skyscraper. And HopCat’s current neighbor is Field House.

There were two factors that led to my visit to Field House. One, MSU was on Christmas break. Lowering the population by 40,000 raises the chances of me going entering East Lansing. And two, I had a buy one, get one free appetizer coupon. That is a good draw. I like free stuff, especially when it’s edible.

I took a seat at the bar and was faced with plenty of TVs and taps, both of which raised my level of happiness. The lurking bartender (not as creepy as it sounds) knew more about beer than just how to fill a glass. He recommended Arcadia’s Cheap Date, and it was a good suggestion.

Appetizer #1 was the cheesey bread (the spelling is correct). They didn’t skimp on the cheese (or the bread, either, both of which are crucial to having cheesy cheesey bread). On top of the already impressive layer of cheese was more cheese, a dusting of parmesan. It was cooked nicely and even warmed up well the next day.

 

The main event, though, were the nachos. But they were no mere “nachos”, they  were “MONSTER NACHOS”. But had a half-order, so they were just “monster nachos”. They were better than I had expected. Atop the multi-colored chips was a generous helping of cheese and ground beer. The chip to good stuff ratio was perfect, and I didn’t have many chips that were missing the key nacho ingredients. And you can see a nice array of veggies on top. I was overall impressed with my meal at Field House, and particularly the nachos.

Field House may have downtown East Lansing’s best nachos, right up there with Beggar’s Banquet’s chorizo nachos. Definitely worth a try if you’re a nacho fan. If not, perhaps burgers may be your preference, and FH had a nice looking selection of those, too. In any case, I’ll make a return visit. How long until spring break?

Poutine, Lansing Brewing Company

It’s with pride I tell you I was one of the lucky 100 people that got a free appetizer card for being among the first patrons at Lansing Brewing Company in October. Yes, haters gonna hate, but I was there.  And I had held onto that precious card through several trips to the brewery, but it was time to let it go. After all, it was going to expire, so use it or lose it. I done used it.

Lansing Brewing Company

Lansing Brewing Company

There were a few tempting appetizer choices, but I decided on the poutine to be one with my Canadian brothers to the north. And east. And in some parts of Michigan, south and west. If you have not had poutine, then you are really missing out. Imagine fries, with a bunch of good stuff on top, and that is what it is. I hadn’t had any gravy-covered fries since a trip to South Detroit in Windsor for a Weird Al Yankovic concert last summer. Good times.

To be official, LBC’s dish was called “Great White North Poutine”, evoking memories of being in the woods fighting bears and wolves and Maple Leaf fans. These fries were covered with not just any gravy, but Amber Cream Ale gravy (i.e. beer gravy). But to keep the goodness coming, they added braised pork. Yes, that’s even better than just gravy, and it was deliciously delicious pork, tender and tasty.

Poutine

Poutine

But when you put cheese curds on it, you just upped the game. There were fries that were just covered with gooey cheese that were as awesome as they sound. But the piece de resistance was the egg on top. If that doesn’t sound good to you, I don’t want to know you. It was freaking sweet. It was a big bowl of messy runny fry goodness and if I didn’t want to try the nachos so badly, I’d get the poutine again. But you should get it, because you want it. Do it Canada.

B Spot, somewhere west of Cleveland

Technically, it was Westlake. But, when I talked to my wife that night, all I really knew is that it was somewhere around Cleveland. Thus, Westlake will always be “somewhere west of Cleveland”.

But somewhere west of Cleveland was nicer than I expected. I have come to change my opinion of the area. When I used to hear Cleveland, I would think industrial wasteland and burning rivers. (Yes, I know that second one was a long time ago.) But a few trips to the area have given me an appreciation that there are some really nice spots in northeast Ohio. I’m an especially fond of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

B Spot was located in one of those nice spots, in an outdoor mall called Crocker Park. But it was more than just a mall. In addition to nice shops and restaurants, there were apartments above those, and it felt like a bigger version of a small town. I even relaxed next to a fountain while listening to a band.

Crocker Park

Crocker Park

I was the first one of our group at the restaurant, and I had the important job of getting a table, which I did with extreme prejudice. Whatever that means. During my wait, I enjoyed a beer from New Holland – even though I was in Ohio, I still wanted a taste from faraway Michigan. Their beer menu was solid, including a description of the beer, and the price, which I appreciate.

B Spot Burgers, Westlake, OH

B Spot Burgers, Westlake, OH

Many good burger choices awaited me, but the Fat Doug called me, a burger topped with coleslaw, Swiss and pastrami. It had two meats, which on a burger is better than only one meat. I really couldn’t taste the pastrami – I could visibly confirm that it was in there, it simply had a mild flavor. The coleslaw made a nice showing, though. The burger itself was perfectly cooked, and when they said a little bit on pink, they were right-on.

Fat Doug at B Spot

Fat Doug at B Spot

As an aside, I kept calling the “Fat Doug” a “Hot Doug”, probably because I’m still grieving at the closing Hot Doug’s near Chicago. I believe this is the “denial” phase.

Back to the food. The burger didn’t come with any sides, but our table ordered fries and onion rings, and both were excellent, with my slight preference being the fries. Perhaps I just like rosemary, or maybe it was the superior crispiness of the fries. Either way you choose (I’m not judging here), you’ll be happy. Onions and potatoes can live happily together. And I have to give a special shout-out to the pickle bar. It’s like a salad bar, but with pickles. I didn’t make that up, either.

The burger at B Spot was be-licious (you’re welcome for that). This was my second experience with a Michael Symon restaurant, the first being the incredibly good Roast in Detroit. We have a nice outdoor mall in Lansing – perhaps Mr. Symon wants to delve a little farther into Michigan?

From Zoobies to The Cosmos… and beyond!

For my 200th post, I wanted to review a place I enjoy going to. Sure, I like writing snarky post as much as the next guy, but what I like much more is having a great meal.

I’ve been a fan of Zoobies since my wife’s volleyball team starting going there to drown their post-game sorrows. I soon learned they have the best popcorn in Lansing (Zoobies, not the volleyball team). Salty and truffle oily is a beautiful combination – who knew? Amazingly good, and if you have an “I’m a beer hound” card, it’s free with the purchase of a beer. That deal alone sold me on the card and lured be to Zoobies more often – well played, both of you.

The beer selection isn’t large, but its excellent. I’ve found they usually have a Short’s Brewery and Brewery Vivant beer on tap, both favorite breweries of mine. But they also carry a rotating selection of beers from breweries that I’ve never heard of. If you can’t find a beer you like at Zoobies, then there is a liquor store down the street where you can get something more to your liking, like Mickey’s or Mad Dog. Just make sure your CPL is up to date – the worst thing about Zoobies is the neighborhood. Remember, serpentine.

For our last outing, Andrea and I tried the relatively new “The Cosmo”, which is attached to Zoobies. The Cosmos is where Papa Leo’s used to be until it was ransacked by Smurfs. Ironically, the building still produces pizza, though quite a bit different (and better) than your ordinary variety, for no chain (or semi-chain) pizza will you find there now. But you will find a 50s-style science fiction décor, which is a win.

We tried the Boursin cheese / sausage pizza, and it was fantastic, even fabulous. Generously covered with creamy cheese, and with sausage with a spicy heat that paired well with the Boursin. I could have eaten the whole thing by myself, but marital stability has its upsides, so I didn’t. Be warned that if spicy foods make you weep and roll on the floor calling for mommy, it is probably best to choose another pizza.

I’ve been to Zoobies a dozen times and haven’t had a bad experience yet. It could happen – Roseanne Barr could walk in and do a strip tease or something equally awful. But it does get busy on weekends, so get there early if you actually want to sit down. Unless it’s Roseanne Barr night, and then it’s empty.