Brick’s, Northville

After a long day of cycling, who doesn’t want sliced meat? Exactly – nobody. And since I was in Northville, an hour from my house near Lansing, I didn’t want to drive all the way home to get a good French dip at Leo’s. And I could have found an Arby’s, but it was a special day – I wasn’t working – so I decided to splurge a bit. There were several good-looking choices on Main Street, but I went with Brick’s.

Brick's, Northville

Brick’s, Northville

I like French dips. Yes, ’tis true. So since it is true that everybody loves sliced meat after bike rides (and I never, ever overgeneralize), a French dip is what I ordered. The sandwich didn’t exactly fly out of the kitchen. I considered going back there to help, or to ask for a restaurant recommendation where I could get an appetizer while I was waiting for my lunch. But I had plenty of time to read my Kindle, and eventually the food did come, or else this post would be a lot shorter, and even more sarcastic.

French dip at Brick's

French dip at Brick’s

Sure looks good. Taste-wise, it was a little ho-hum. But it definitely improved when dipped in the au jus. It’s like most of the flavor had seeped into the juice, and the sandwich was only complete when dipped. So I’m glad I didn’t just order the French, and got the dip as well. It wasn’t a large sandwich, but it was fine for me. And the fries were a hit, with a soft interior and a slightly crispy exterior.

I would return to Brick’s, even though they were slow (it could have been the regular cook’s day off, or there could have been angry gecko’s running around the kitchen). Had it been warmer, the patio would have been a great place to enjoy a burger and beer, or French dip and beer, or just beer.

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Leo’s Lodge of Lansing – French Dip

I work in south Lansing. Yes, I know, you people in boring places like New York City or Hawaii are very jealous. And to continue to tweak you poor people in those locations, we have Leo’s Lodge and you don’t. But we have plenty of empty houses, so if you want to live here, fly on over.

It was third trip in two weeks, which could mean one of two things. One, it was a decent place to eat. Or two, I need to vary my eating habits. Actually, both are true. On the previous trips, I had ordered a burger and tacos. The former was good, the latter not as much. On this tie-breaking visit, the French Dip was at bat. Henceforth in this glorious piece of writing, the sandwich will be referred to as “The Dip”.

How would the French make a dip? No clue – I’ve never had a French Dip in France. But how they do it is South Lansing, though, is quite good. There was a tall pile of thinly sliced beef in a focaccia-ish bun. That alone scores it high – lots of meat and fancy bread? Wow. But then throw in a generous pour of “au jus” and it puts it over the top. And I found that fries dipped in au jus are a thing for me. Not quite as life-changing as hush puppies dipped in cocktail sauce, but still good.

Wherever you are in Lansing, you are not far from a Leo’s. Pick one and do the dip.

Nachos from Christmas town – Frankenmuth, MI

In Michigan we have a place known for beer, Christmas, and fried chicken. That magical place is called Frankenmuth, and if you happen to go in December like I did, you will encounter a town that takes it’s Christmas decorations seriously. It almost made me feel bad that I hadn’t gotten my lights up, but not quite. But I didn’t go for the lights, or the decorations, but I did go for beer and chicken.

At the north end of the main drag, just past the hotels, cheese shops, and ninjas dressed in lederhosen is the Frankenmuth Brewery. While my mission to Frankenmuth was top secret, I am willing to share my dinner experience, which involved chicken nachos. You’re welcome.

Nachos!

Nachos!

The nachos were enormous, because they weren’t “chicken nachos”, they were “super chicken nachos.” So enormous, in fact, they were brought on a palanquin, so as you can imagine, there were enough to share. However, as there was no one nearby that I wanted to share my nachos with me, I made a go of it, but didn’t even come close. And I still ate more than I should have. As I write this the next morning, I haven’t fully recovered. Sorry boss, this morning’s work may suffer – I blame the nachos.

They were also possibly the cheesiest nachos I’ve ever encountered. And not that queso  pseudo cheese, real, honest to goodness, all-American cheese. Also generously applied was  tender (un-fried) chicken, pulled apart with loving care by immigrant workers specializing in the almost forgotten skill of tearus chickenus apartus. It made all the difference.

The chicken – cheese explosion was topped with lettuce, jalapenos, and tomatoes, and the occasional onion showed up, too. Over it all was drizzled the Frankenmuth Brewery special sauce, a recipe of 23 spices designed to force upon you an addiction to beer and Mexican food. I wasn’t worried because I was already dependent on both, so I just enjoyed the experience. Don’t quote me, though. Or listen to anything I say, actually, because it was actually sour cream.

The hefeweizen was light and sweet, like my personality. Was it the best choice with my nachos? No idea – it was the only beer I tried. But I thought it went well. The brewery menu recommended “Batch 69 IPA”, so perhaps that was the ideal pairing.

So if you like Christmas, beer, and / or nachos, well, there is no better place than Frankenmuth. So grab those leather pants and head on over.

Le P’tit Bar, Paris

The worst bar in Paris is a bold statement, and honestly, it may not be true. After all, I’ve only been to a half-dozen bars in the City of Lights, but I would like to share what I think comes in Number 1.

 My wife found a link on to Le P’tit Bar, a tiny place in the 20th arrondissement, about a half-mile from Pere Lachaise. (Come on, you know you wanted to see Jim Morrison’s grave.) The bar looked interesting, so off we went, navigating our way through the streets of Paris on our search. When we arrived, the lights were off, so it didn’t look like it was open. But, my wife tried the door, and apparently the bar was open. Time to explore this mysterious “time capsule”.

 Have you ever read “Great Expectations”? I hope so, because if not, this next reference will be lost on you. The place reminded me of Miss Havisham’s home, Satis House, a place frozen in time after Miss Havisham was left at the alter.  Le P’tit Bar reminded me of Satis House. It seemed to have been a fun place at some distant time in the past, with a tropical feel and colored lights in the corners, a place to spend an evening drinking with friends. But something happened in the past, and everything froze at a place in time when that terrible event occurred.

Le P'tit Bar

Le P’tit Bar – could use a little cleaning

 So here we go. The “petite” (small in French) was certainly true – there were only a few seats. But in addition to the smallness of the place was the “smellness” of the place. Bird guano, dust and age were the main smells, but let’s not forget the bags of stale bread,  and the rotting food left on the floor for one of the world’s fattest cats. In the cat’s defense, though, he could still jump up on our laps, and he was very friendly.

 Our limited (i.e. awful) French was not enough for my wife to order a glass of wine. Apparently, “vin rouge”, which worked in all the other bars we visited, was not enough here, and we settled for “biere belge” straight from the bottle. Which was probably for the best, because I doubt the glasses were clean. The glasses on the shelves and the bottles of liquor were covered with dust. And the flies buzzing around inside didn’t help the ambiance either.

 Since I mentioned that cat and the bird (something had to produce that guano), I’ll mention “Madame Polo”. We had a short conversation with her, the owner, basically about cats and children, the two things we had in common. And she runs a bar at 90+ years of age. That is pretty impressive. Had I spoken more French, I’ll bet I could have learned some very fascinating things from her.

 Unique? Yes. Pleasant? No. I never saw my wife drink a bottle of beer that fast in her life, and that was to escape the smell and the flies. If that kind of experience works for you, you’ll be right at home. If you prefer a bar that has been cleaned since the turn of the century, I suggest you look elsewhere. in either case, it was certainly out of the ordinary, and if you are interested in it, you can find “Le P’tit Bar” at 7 rue Richard Lenoir 75011 Paris.

Le P'tit Bar

Le P’tit Bar

 It was a memorable visit, I give it that.

Chicago-style hot dog at George’s, Chicago

In the Bucktown area of Chicago, at Damen and Cortland, is George’s. My experience with George’s came included with the Chicago Beer Experience, a wonderful, magical tour involving beer, rowdy Canadians, tales of crossing-dressing bar owners, goats, and more beer. But I digress.

I didn’t actually step inside the restaurant. Our tour guide, Bruce, ducked in to grab the hot dog awesomeness before serving us our tubular beef feast (that sounds dirty, doesn’t it?) at Lemming’s, a (very) nearby pub.

Chicago-style hot dog at George's

Chicago-style hot dog at George’s

Oh, what a hot dog. First, it was a Chicago-style dog, which meant it was a meal. I mean, onions, a pickle, tomatoes… and other stuff. I lost track. But what I didn’t lose track of was just how good it was. It was so good that I made the mistake of savoring the dog when I should have just enjoyed. The difference being that savoring took too long and the dog fell apart, so enjoying is much faster, and less messy. In either case, it was a great meal.

If you’re in the Wicker Park / Bucktown area and in the mood for some wonderful beef (that sounds dirty, too), George’s is the place to go.

Crunchy’s, East Lansing

Any resident of the Lansing area knows about Crunchy’s. Specifically, the Crunchy Burger or, as the menu reads, “The Famous Crunchy Burger”. And it’s a good burger (like how I’m getting right to the point?) Nothing fancy, just a simple lettuce – tomato – onion cheeseburger cooked how you like it. A solid burger to meet your burger needs, and we all have them. You will not go wrong ordering this burger. And you can get it with chips, fries, onion rings, or tater tots. What variety! Boggles the mind.

Crunchy Burger and fries

Crunchy Burger and fries

But Crunchy’s is also known for its beer. The draft list is constantly changing, and they have a great selection of beers, both in-state and out. It’s one of the best spots in the area to try a wide variety of beer styles, and they have regular beer events posted on their website. And they have a Crunchy’s card, so if you drink enough beer (and you should), you’ll get a discount down the line.

And I can’t forget the décor. In between the beer paraphernalia adorning the walls are scribbles and signatures of Spartans present and past. And the Christmas lights are a nice touch. Even though I write this in May, I can practically hear the sleigh bells. Or the cash register or my ears – something that rings.

A very Crunchy alley.

A very Crunchy alley.

Before you can enter Crunchy’s, though, you have to find the entrance. It’s in an alley, but if you just follow the signs, you will not be led astray from the burger – beer goodness that lurks inside.

Pointing the way to Crunchy's

Pointing the way to Crunchy’s

Nacho Dog at The Watershed, Haslett

Best hot dog in Haslett. Yes, I am making such a bold statement after only having one hot dog in Haslett that hasn’t come off of my own grill. I am making this statement because it was an excellent dog that you may or may not want to eat with a knife and fork, your call.

My default place to eat in Haslett is The Watershed. Known at other times as Jefferson, Gus’s Watershed, and Mark’s Watershed, the overall look hasn’t changed very much over the past decade, the biggest change coming from a patio that may or may not be swarmed by mosquitoes, depending on the wetness of spring. Just across the street from Lake Lansing South park, the restaurant includes pictures of the amusement park rides that were long ago torn down. Sad as it is to see a rollercoaster meet its end, the thing was probably death trap by the end of its life.

Yes, right – food. I decided on the Nacho Dog, a hot dog smothered with queso and sprinkled with crushed tortilla chips and jalapenos. A tasty, inexpensive meal. There is nothing fancy there, but good stuff piled one atop the other that tasted beautifully. Yes, I used the adverb “beautifully” to describe a hot dog experience. There were four other hot dogs to choose from, but the Nacho Dog sounded the most interesting.

Nacho Dog

Nacho Dog at The Watershed, Haslett

The dog was served with the excellent homemade Shed Chips.  When my wife and I visit, we almost always get an appetizer of Shed Chips, and the side served with the Nacho Dog was very generous. Nice, crispy and seasoned with mystery spice, the appetizer version is served with bleu cheese. Tip, enjoy, repeat. And the draft Sam Adams Pale Ale when excellent with my dinner, because wine with a hot dog just isn’t right.

Come down to the corner of Haslett Road and Lake Lansing Road and enjoy a cool locals bar. And during the warmer months, walk across the street to the Cone Zone for ice cream, followed by a walk through the park, all at one intersection.