Sunday, December 21, 2014

New Gem in REO Town

I am beyond excited to relaunch this restaurant review blog that honors the taste and flair of Lansing. Plus, to be able to begin anew with such a fun lunch establishment makes the effort even that much sweeter. Good Truckin Diner has its beginnings in the food truck business as Good Truckin Foods, but the owners decided to get themselves a storefront in REO Town. I am certainly glad they did.

My husband has always been a little nervous when I say there is a brand new restaurant in town. He likes to wait a bit and hear what others think of it first.  However, these are the very places I usually drag him to right away. In this case though, he is happy for my persistence. 

The menu is a fabulous array of foods with funky, fresh names, from Hangover (breakfast sammich) to Miami Vice (craft burger) and Low Country (breakfast burrito) to Fire Balls (appetizer), one can choose breakfast, appetizers, or lunch/dinner entrees any time of day. The diner also has hand cut French fries and homemade potato chips that are crispy and delicious.

 The hubby orders the chocolate chip Flap Jacks, although he forgoes the whipped topping, which I feel is a huge mistake. I mean come on... Why not? He does make a good choice with the southern potatoes with bacon and sourdough toast though. The Flap Jacks are light and fluffy with just the right amount of melty chocolate chips. My husband likes the potatoes as well. The spuds have a crunchy exterior and tender potato goodness on the inside. Plus, the bacon is not overcooked. It happens more often than one might think. The chocolate chip Flap Jacks are a nice hearty breakfast meal that satisfies for lunch for only $6.99.


I order the El Marichi. This is a chorizo and beef burger topped with cheddar cheese, poblano aioli, and a fried egg on a brioche roll. A juicy, well-seasoned sandwich like this goes well with the restaurant's own chips. This craft burger looks rather small in the photo above, but it is quite a filling bite for $8.49.

Overall, we had a lovely experience at Good Truckin Diner. The decor, at this time, is a bit drab. Then again, the restaurant has just opened. The servers are engaging and sweet. We will definitely be back in the future.   


Good Truckin Diner on Facebook

Good Truckin Foods on Twitter

Monday, March 24, 2014

New in Town


Schawarma, Kabobs, and Hummus! Oh my! The foods at Zaytoon Mediterranean Grill, in Delta Township, are beautiful and flavorful. The new restaurant, across from the Lansing Mall, has a wide variety of delicious lunch offerings to delight the taste buds!

My husband and I stopped by this  Elmwood Road location, because we had heard good remarks about the food. We have not been disappointed. The menu is quite extensive with appetizers, soups, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. At first, it may prove difficult to choose what to try. Everything, on the menu, sounds fantastically tempting. The cashiers are extremely helpful in this process. These selections are served deli style, so you can definitely rely on the people behind the counter to point you in the right direction, if you simply cannot decide. This friendliness gives the service some extra points in my book. Zaytoon's owner is also present.  He is personable and seems to be close with his staff.

For my meal, I choose the Chicken Schawarma lunchbox. This excellent deal comes with Chicken Schawarma (marinated chicken pieces), a generous helping of rice, pita bread, hummus, and a soup salad for $6.99. I am surprised by the amount of food served for the price. All of the dishes are fresh and well prepared, with the tang for which Mediterranean food is famous. It is absolutely delectable. 

My lunch (and life) partner picks the Lamb Kabob lunch box.  His plate consists of a Lamb Kabob, hummus, pita bread, a mound of rice, and a cup of Lentil Soup for just $6.99 as well.  My hubby is also impressed with the liberal portions.  Everything on the plate has an enjoyable flavor.  He is especially pleased with the lamb kabob, which is simply seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Apparently, our wait for the food is a bit longer than the owner would have liked, although we, honestly, did not think so.  He apologizes and brings us a cute basket of yummy bread to our table for waiting. Soon after, someone brings our food to our table. Maybe we look extra hungry!

Since it is cafe or deli style, we bus our own table. It may be serve yourself, but there is no rush. It is a relaxed atmosphere  The decor calms with bright colors, cool lighting, and lots of foliage. It is a great place to reconnect with others and enjoy food.

Zaytoon's website states, "A member of the Sultan's family, Zaytoon offers Authentic Middle Eastern Cuisine made daily from fresh ingredients. Home of authentic chicken shawarma slowly roasted on a vertical broiler not cooked in an oven. We firmly believe that good service and good quality will persevere - and our regular customers echo this sentiment day after day." My husband and I will definitely return!
 
http://www.zaytoonlansing.com/

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Welcome Back!


      Portable Feast is back!  After a temporary absence, the owner decided to give Old Town another go, and we are certainly glad she did.  Sharon is amazingly sweet.  So are her desserts!  Um, we will get back to those in a moment.

     This little diner is clean, bright, and simple with a homey atmosphere.  Fresh flowers on the tables create a touch of elegance, as well as the artwork on the walls, without being pretentious, and soft music plays for a bit of background noise.  It is a delicious place to hang out and share a meal in a refreshingly, family friendly environment.  The pretty dishes are a big plus too.

Busby Beef
     Looking at the menu, the choice is a difficult decision.  My husband orders the Busby Beef, a sandwich honoring the late Robert Busby, an inspiring community leader and champion for Old Town.  Busby Beef consists of thinly sliced roast beef, horseradish sauce, sliced red onion, yellow pepper rings (banana peppers), and Swiss cheese.  This comes with kettle chips, Coleslaw or pasta salad for $7.35.  At Portable Feast you have a choice, each sandwich can be either a panini, a wrap, or just a whole wheat bun.  My hubby chooses the panini, and he adds lettuce and tomato.  He also decides on Cole slaw for a tangy crunch.  He is pretty impressed with his sandwich.  The meat is nice and tender.  The other ingredients are fresh and crispy. Overall, it is a very tasty sandwich!  He also enjoyed the yummy Coleslaw.  The garnish of a slice of blood orange is a sweet touch.        

The Turner

     As for me, I pick The Turner, a wonderful combination of spinach, bacon, tomato and mozzarella.  I ask for a panini, as well, with kettle chips on the side for $7.00.  The spinach, plus the mayonnaise I add, makes it kind of a sophisticated BLT.  This sandwich is scrumptious.  I know, with the bacon, what is not to like, right?  Exactly!   
         
     Now for the moment we have all been waiting for, getting back to dessert!  It is a hard choice here at the dessert case as well.  The desserts change all the time, but today, Portable Feast has something especially desirable... We decide to finish off our meal with a gorgeous piece of double chocolate, chocolate cake.  We decide to split it, because it is huge.  What a decadent slice of rich, luscious cake!   Mmm....   

     Sharon, the proprietor, has been in the restaurant business for a long time.  She has an idea of what people really love, when it comes to food.  She chooses her ingredients carefully, and she makes certain that everyone in the diner is comfortable and happy.  When you go, tell her Julie sent you. 

Unfortunately, Portable Feast has closed since this blog post was released.  :(

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Meet Susie Finkbeiner!

     This blog post is an extra special treat!  My friend, local author Susie Finkbeiner shares an excerpt from her brand new debut novel Paint Chips.  Susie selected this section of her book especially for my restaurant review blog!

     This riveting book is the story of Dot and Cora, a mother and daughter, who must overcome anguishing past experiences to find true redemption and real trust, not only in God and others, but also in themselves.
What lies beneath the layers of hurt?
 
  
Author - Susie Finkbeiner
             In my novel Paint Chips, Cora meets Steven in the middle of a rainstorm. They retreat to a small restaurant. This restaurant was inspired by “Nic’s” that once inhabited a building on Martin Luther King Jr. BLVD (or Logan St. to long time Lansing natives). I loved Nic’s, spending much time there in my high school and college years. They made a mean breakfast, back in the day, and a real strong cup of coffee.
I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Paint Chips.
We were dripping wet when we walked into the coffee shop. I tugged at my clothes, worried about how the water caused them to cling to me. We sat in a booth.
“You kids get stuck in the rain?” The waitress glared at us from across the room.
“She did.” Steven pointed his finger at me. “And I saved her.”
“Well, ain’t you just a knight in shining armor.”
“It’s sure hard to pass up a damsel in distress. Especially when she’s this pretty.”
I looked at him. He winked. I turned away.
“Well, after you’re done eating I’ll have an awful mess to clean up.” This with a teasing tone. “You wouldn’t want this old lady to work that hard, would ya?”
“What old lady?” Thick, syrupy charm. “I’ll tell you what. You bring me a mop before we go and I’ll take care of the whole floor for you.”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that. It’s not your job, young man.” She pulled a pad of paper from her apron pocket and walked toward us, licking the point of her pencil. “Now, what can I get the two of you to eat?”
“Just coffee, please,” I said, embarrassed. I only had enough money for that. And not even enough for a tip.
“Gosh, you know, I think I’ll have the special.” He pointed to a picture on the menu. “That any good?”
“Best in town.” She answered. “How you like your eggs?”
“Sunny side up. And sourdough toast, please.”
“You got it.” She wrote on the paper.
“And can she use the phone?” He nodded toward me.
“Sure thing, sugar.” The waitress motioned for me to follow her. “It’s over this way.”
At the counter, I dialed the number for my office. The receptionist answered.
“This is Cora,” I said.
“Cora, where are you?” she asked.
“I got stuck in the rain. My car broke down.”
“Do you think you can get here? Mr. Jones told me if you don’t show up soon, he’ll fire you.”
“Then I quit. I can find something else.” I sighed. “Just tell him that I’m done.”
“What about your things, from your desk? Do you want me to bring them to you?”
“No. Just throw it all away.”
I gingerly put the receiver down, wondering at the words I’d spoken. I’d worked so hard for that job. I couldn’t understand why I’d been so hasty to quit. Anxiety choked me.
“Where’s the restroom?” I asked the waitress.
“Down that hall,” she answered, pointing.
The dimly lit bathroom made my panic worsen. Digging a safety pin from my purse, I made a small slice on my arm. The cut took the edge off my nerves.
The waitress walked in. I pulled my sleeve down quickly.
“I needed to fix my hair.” I moved toward the mirror.
“Here, honey.” She handed me a few hair pins. “You need a little help?”
“Thank you.”
She twisted my wet hair, rolling it into a loose bun. I watched her reflection as she pushed the pins into my auburn hair. She stuck her tongue out the side of her mouth and squinted her eyes in concentration.
“My little girl hates having long hair. If I don’t get it cut she’ll take my shears to it herself.” She smoothed the front of my hair. “I never get to play with anybody’s hair.”
“Thank you,” I whispered. Her motherly touch soothed me in an unfamiliar way. It put a lump in my throat. It had been so long since anyone helped me with my hair.
“Now, what happened on the phone? You seemed upset.”
“I quit my job.”
“Well, it must not have been worth having. Everything’ll work out for you. Pretty girl like you’ll find something new in no time.” She patted my shoulder. “And that fellow out there. He’s sure to take good care of you. He seems to really think a lot of you.”
“Well . . . .” I wanted to correct her, but she didn’t let me.
“Well nothing. I bet your folks are plenty proud of you. And a military man, too.” She washed her hands. “Any wedding plans?”
“We aren’t really—”
“Well,” she interrupted me again, “the way he looks at you, I bet he’ll pop the question soon enough. That wouldn’t surprise me at all.”
After drying her hands, she patted my cheek and walked out of the bathroom.
“But I just met him,” I said out loud after the door closed behind her.
I gazed into the mirror for quite a while. Part of me hoped Steven would leave before I got back to the table. I didn’t want to let anyone into my life, even for a few hours. When I got involved with people it always ended in heartache.
A different part of me wished that he would stay. I had to remind myself that he was just a man who helped me. Nothing more.
“I am so lonely,” I whispered. “Lord, I need somebody.”
Even after years of determining that God didn’t care, I still prayed occasionally. Superstitious, hoping for good luck prayers.
I walked out to the table just after the waitress set two plates down. One was in front of my seat.
“I didn’t order this.” I sat, looking at the eggs, bacon and toast. “There must have been a mistake.”
“Sure was.” The waitress placed rolled up silverware on the table. “That old cook back there just made up too much food. Don’t worry, honey. It’s on me.”
“Oh, thank you.”
“Ain’t no thing, darling,” she said. “I’ll leave the two of you alone now.”
She winked at me before walking away.
“That was nice,” Steven said, taking a bite of toast.
“It was.” My stomach grumbled at the promise of the warm breakfast. I poked at my eggs, bursting one of the yolks on the white plate. After dabbing at it with my toast, I took a bite.
“So, what’s your name?” Steven asked. “Oh, sorry. Of course I asked right after you take a bite. Let me see if I can guess.” He rubbed his chin with thumb and index finger. Looking at me, he pulled his eyebrows together in thought.
“Let’s see here.” His eyes were a rich, chocolate brown color. “Is it Peggy?”
I shook my head.
“Greta?”
“No.”
“Oh. Could it be Wilhelmina?”
The giggle coming out of my mouth caught me by surprise.
“I’m horrible at guessing.”
“Clearly.”
“Okay. Then you’re just going to have to tell me your name.”
“My name is Cora.”
“Cora? That’s a nice name.” He sipped his coffee.
“Thank you.”
“What does the name Cora mean?”
“Maiden,” I said. “I looked it up in a baby name book at the library.”
“The lovely maiden Cora.”
“What does Steven mean?”
“Crowned.” He wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Like a king. My parents wanted me to have a healthy self-esteem, I guess.”
“Well, I guess it’s fitting. You’re the king and I’m the lowly maiden.”
“I really doubt that there’s anything lowly about you, Maiden Cora.” His eyes held a gentleness I’d never seen in a man before. “You seem to be full of the grace and kindness of a queen.”
We talked for hours. I’d never been so interested in what anyone had to say before. He told me stories that made me laugh. Deep down, from the stomach laughs.
Paint Chips is now available for digital download for only $3.99! Also, you can preorder the paper book, releasing in April.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Stroll Down 'The Avenue'

     There is a new kid in town... well, sort of.  The Avenue Cafe, formerly Gone Wired Cafe, is on Michigan Avenue just a few short minutes from downtown Lansing.  With a new look and a new attitude, this kid is ready to rock.  The owners wish to make their freshly renovated space into a new venue for Michigan brews, lattes, and music.  This vision embraces a love for the Lansing community and its diverse, incomparable music scene.  The owners also share a love of food.  

     Having frequented Gone Wired Cafe in the past, I immediately notice the new bar area.  The wall that hid the baristas is gone, and an open, more inviting environment has emerged.  The man at the bar, who takes our food and drink orders, is very friendly with a good sense of humor.  Unfortunately, the kitchen is all out of the Veggie Burger mix to fulfil my order.  This is a bit disappointing, but the bartender apologizes and makes other suggestions to satisfy my tastes.  I go for Vegetarian Quesadilla, which I still do not see on the menu.  Hmmm...  Oh well, it is delicious!  The Quesadilla tempts the taste buds with a generous amount of cheese, zucchini, mushroom, onion, and green pepper in a soft, flour tortilla. It is cooked perfectly and served with salsa.  My meal is complete with their Michigan roasted house coffee, brewed with obvious care.
    

     My husband orders the hamburger with fries.  The hamburger, he states, is good but a bit too done for his taste.  It comes with lettuce and tomato on the burger, and mayonnaise is served on the side.  Also on the side, my hubby is expecting fries, which is offered on a new The Avenue Cafe menu.  Instead, he gets seasoned fried potatoes with his burger.  Again, hmmm...  Sadly, he is not very happy with his meal.

     I am hoping The Avenue Cafe is just working some of the kinks out, as far as the menu goes, because I truly wish the owners the best.  The transition from Gone Wired to The Avenue Cafe has been fairly successful, thus far, with great bands from all over Michigan.  A fantastic, new music venue and an upscale place to meet friends for Michigan brews and coffee will be a wonderful asset to the Lansing community!

The Avenue Cafe Menu

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sweets to the Right, Savory to the Left

   Old Town Lansing is blessed with many sparkling gems, from its art galleries to its quaint speciality shops, its delightfully creative people to its fabulous food establishments.  One of these fantastic restaurants is a newcomer to Old Town, Aggie Mae's Bakery.  Aggie Mae's began with a delicious space in the Lansing City Market, which is still in business.  The owner decided it was about time to expand to her own place with more room and more ways to tempt her customers.  From sweet to savory, Aggie Mae's does just that.

     When one walks in the door of the bakery,  two display cases arouse the senses.  The case, to the right, features a generous portion of sweet pastries, and the case, to the left, spotlights a variety of savory breads.  All of these look absolutely decadent.  The natural, exposed brickwork of the building, mismatched furniture, and lovely glassware gives the restaurant that eclectic, European feel.  This is the perfect atmosphere for losing oneself in a leisurely lunch, with dessert of course!
 

     As one moves toward the back of the shop, beyond the cases of confections and treats, one finds a beautiful sandwich making station.  On our trip to the bakery, my husband starts there.  He orders a roast beef sandwich on seeded sourdough bread with sliced cucumber, tomato, red and green peppers, leaf lettuce, mayonnaise and a few slices of pepper jack cheese.  He adds this sandwich to a meal deal, which includes a cookie and a drink, for $6.50.  The sandwich, although simple, is colorful and fresh.  The roast beef is perfectly sliced, and the seeded sourdough provides a nice earthy flavor.  His chocolate chip cookie rounds out the meal nicely with a melt-in-your mouth goodness.


       I opt for something a bit more substantial for lunch.  The special, this mild Friday afternoon, is Sloppy Joe, so I decided to try it.  I was, sort of, looking forward to one of their soups, but the owner decides that since it is not so cold out, the bakery would try something a little different.  No problem!  The Sloppy Joe, served on a house made bun, is appropriately messy, unique, and delicious at the same time.  My meal deal cashes out at $5.50 for a sandwich, an Italian pasta salad, and coffee.  For dessert, I acquire an extra special treat, a Red Velvet Cupcake.  These cupcakes are elegant and rich with a luscious, creamy frosting.  This particular Friday, Aggie Mae's Bakery has four different kinds to choose from, so the choice is not an easy one.  The display case holds cupcakes of Peanut Butter Cup, Red Velvet, Sea Salt Toffee Caramel, and Boston Cream Pie.  Yum!  It is hard not to get one of each and take them home to enjoy later.


       If one is in the Lansing area, Aggie Mae's Bakery is an easy location to spot in the Old Town district, as well.  Just look for the huge cupcake on Grand River Avenue.  It is a lovely place to stop for lunch, or any time really!


Update:  Aggie Mae's now has a new location in Grand Ledge, which still serves the same great food with excellent service.  Please, check them out at, 914 Charlevoix Street #130, Grand Ledge, MI 48837.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Savory Soups

     I can safely say that soup is one of THE most perfect foods for autumn eating!  The Soup Spoon Cafe on Michigan Avenue serves up a mean bowl of soup!  My husband and I cannot resist their Pumpkin Bisque.  It is a seasonal blend, so as soon as the pumpkins are ripe, in the fall, we rush over to grab a cup.  That is, usually, all I can eat, a cup.  With creme fraiche on the top and a cup of fresh, dark roasted Rudy Baggs coffee, it is almost like dessert for lunch, although it is not sweet.  The savory flavor makes it simply decadent!         

 
     However, soup is not all they do.  The Soup Spoon features a wide variety of deliciously prepared entrees to please even the most finicky palate.  My hubby goes for the Stacked Roast Beef, which consists of thinly sliced roast beef and sharp cheddar with lettuce, onion, tomato on sourdough bread with their own café sauce.  His meal also includes a side dish, so he chooses to try their homemade Coleslaw.  The roast beef is tender and juicy.  The texture of the meat is complemented by the crispness of the vegetables on top and the soft sourdough bread.  The sauce adds a rich, creamy goodness to the whole sandwich ensemble.  The Coleslaw provides a nice, crunchy accompaniment to the yummy meal.  The Cafe Combo, a cup of soup, a half sandwich, and a side dish, is fairly priced at $6.99.  I also choose this amazing deal!

      I decide on one of the Soup Spoon's luscious wraps.  The “Wraptor”  includes grilled chicken, snow peas, bell peppers, onions, carrots and romaine wrapped up with sriracha and a sweet chili sauce.  The chicken is melt-in-your-mouth tender.  The cooks have prepared it perfectly!  The vegetables are fresh and snappy, and the chili sauce adds a wonderful spiciness.  I also choose the Coleslaw,  but I am unable to finish it.  My husband polishes it off for me.  My tummy is happy enough with the soup, sandwich and coffee.  Delish!

     The Soup Spoon Cafe boasts a very busy but comfortable establishment.  Lunch time is always, always bustling.  You usually have to wait quite awhile for a table.  Seats at the bar seem to be available more readily, although there is no rush.  The servers are friendly and helpful, and they make sure you are happy with your meal.  My favorite waitress is Gretchen.  Her sense of humor makes lunch just a bit more fun!

     Also, do not forget to take the time to look at the Michigan and Lansing art in the restaurant and to go next door to get your honey a rose or other giftie!

The Soup Spoon Cafe