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Driving from MSP to East Lansing, MI

A friend and I are driving on Monday to East Lansing. We are returning the following Saturday. Any food rec's on that route would be greatly appreciated esp. on the Illinois/Michigan side. I love the Norske Nook for pie and another friend told me that the Bell brewery is in Kalamazoo. Another friend told me about a restaurant in Kalamazoo that is called ?Food Dance? that serves local produce. Has anyone been there? I also love old-fashioned butchers that make their own bacon and bulk sausage. Thanks for any ideas.

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  1. Not sure if you will be going through Grand Rapids, but if you are there is a place called San Chez bistro which is downtown. Very good spanish style tapas, and a fun place. Sorry no recs for old fashioned butchers.

    1. Food Dance was great when I worked in Kazoo.


      Bell's is a hop, skip, and jump from there. Ignore the mailing address; it's not in Galesburg but in downtown Kalamazoo. The pub has experimental and new brews not available anywhere else.


      If you're heading up 131 from Kalamazoo, Arie's in Plainwell is a regional favorite.

      Don't know about butchers, but look for Koegel's products in Michigan--a small Flint meatpacker that's definitely a cut above average for bratwurst and dogs.

      If you're continuing on I-94, there's always Win Schuler's in Marshall for some classic Midwestern kitsch. Have some Bar-Scheeze for me. Marshall is also renowned for its collection of Victorian homes--the town has sort of snoozed since the late 19th century, and it's very well preserved. There's one bizarre sort of Polynesian-Victorian fusion in shrieking green and yellow.


      2 Replies
      1. re: Jim M

        cool. I'm there for the bar-scheeze just so i can find out what the heck it is!

        1. re: tipitina

          It's a cheese spread that manages to be both very spreadable and have a very strong taste of both chesee and garlic. No other bar cheese spread I've tried comes close to being the same.

          You can buy tubs of it as some Michigan grocery stores. I ask my parents to bring some down to me when they come visit because I love it on hot garlic bread.

      2. For a casual burger, Redemak's in New Buffalo MI (just past the Indiana border) is good.

        2 Replies
        1. re: coney with everything

          If you're in New Buffalo on the weekend, try The Crepery. Wonderful savory and sweet crepes. I don't think they're open during the week after Labor Day. Hannah's is good old fashioned American food. If you're tempted to go to the new casino, forget it. IMHO, it's a disappointment on all levels.

          1. re: SonyBob

            I disagree with SonyBob about the casino......on all levels.that being said he is right about the creperie and hannah's.

        2. Once you make it to East Lansing, try Merindorf Meats (http://www.merindorfmeats.com/) with stores in Mason and Williamston. It's not exactly "old fashioned" but they do a nice job with local proteins.

          And if there is just one place that you try while you are in the area, you must go to Big T's Deli inside Brower's Hardware (http://www.bigtdeli.com/Default.aspx). The burgers are really spectacular. He grinds his own meat. The buns are baked locally. Absolutely NO ambiance at all but great for a picnic. Of course we always end up shoveling the burgers into our mouths while we're in the car, in the parking lot.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Mensch71

            The burgers sound great. I love the purity of places that have no ambiance but make the absolute best chow.

          2. Check out the following link for places once you get to East Lansing

            1. If you get hungry in Wisconsin, there's always Madison. Or, if you don't want to get so far off the freeway, you could stop for ice cream or pie at the Cheese Factory in Wisconsin Dells (Lake Delton, actually).



              1. Don't forget the chocolate cheese at MSU Dairy Store. Heh.

                1 Reply
                1. re: willownt


                  I know it's a favorite among college students and some townies but seriously? Skip it. I've been taking a cheese class through MSU Evening College and can say with (some) authority that the cheddar is probably your best bet.

                2. Hi -- I used to do this drive at least four or five times a year. Here's some of my favorite stops:

                  1. On I-90/94, heading from MPLS towards East Lansing, there's an exit called DeForest past Madison. I forget the exit number, but I always stop there for cheese and summer sausage. They've got a huge selection and really clean bathrooms, and the people behind the counter are super nice and always let you have a sample. It's total kitschy fun, and a tradition in our family now. We never pass it up in either direction.

                  2. In Schaumburg, if you exit onto Golf Rd. and take it straight west for five miles or so, there's a terrific place called Yu's Mandarin in a strip mall on the right-hand side, right before Roselle Road, I believe. (sorry -- memory is a bit foggy). They serve the best Korean-Chinese food around. If you haven't had Korean-Chinese food, the specialties are: Tang'su-yuk, which is deep-fried pork with a slightly-sweetened honey sauce; Champ-pong, a spicy seafood-based broth with thick udon noodles; and Cha-jang-myun, which is fresh noodles topped with black bean sauce. Their dumplings are also fantastic. My parents drive from the Wisconsin/Minnesota border just to eat here once every few months.

                  3. Once you get into Indiana (after the skyway) I almost always end up needing to stop at the Ripley Plaza for gas.

                  4. If I skip the Ripley Toll Plaza, then I head to Valparaiso, where the exit offers one decent Mexican restaurant in a strip mall, and the first Wendy's you'll pass for awhile.

                  5. As for East Lansing, I have three favorite places:

                  a. Jersey Giant. love love love this place. They make enormous fresh submarines from scratch. It's a family-owned business and very bare-bones, but whatever is in their special sauce is totally addictive. I always get the number 12. There's a few different locations around town.

                  b. Charlie Kang's. Again, THE place to go for Korean and Korean-Chinese food. Skip the actual Chinese food entirely. I don't know why they keep it on the menu, because no one eats it. Turn straight to the back of their menu for the Korean stuff. Located in downtown East Lansing, right across from campus.

                  c. El Azteco. A total dive, but so, so good. I've been eating at El Az since it was a basement hole-in-the-wall. Their fribur (frijoles burrito) and side of rice is all of $3.00 total. They grow their own corn. They've got patio seating upstairs and margaritas specials to die for. And their botana...yum. And their salsa...lordy, I could go on forever. Also located across from campus, on Albert.

                  Additional places include a ton of terrific Middle Eastern places. Sultan's in the Hannah Plaza makes fresh juices and has nice seating. Woody's and another place over at the Frandor Center have great meals for cheap. There's also Sahara's over in Okemos. Indian food is also good -- Sindhu's has a nice lunch buffet for about $8.00 or so.

                  Good luck on your trip and have fun!

                  1. Just wanted to second the recommendations for Bell's in Kzoo as well as Water Street Coffee Joint -- totally cute, close to Bell's if you need a caffeine pick-me-up before heading back on the road.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Misschacha

                      Oh, yeah, is that still there? It's the best of Kalamazoo's many coffeehouses, which are mostly funky and fun.

                    2. Woody's Oasis in East Lansing (the original location on Trowbridge) does great Middle Eastern food...one of the few ethnic cuisines that's sorely lacking in the TCs.

                      1. I agree to all the East Lansing posts except for El Azteco. Yuk except for their topo salad.