I'm always amazed when people say there are no nice restaurants in the Lansing area. You do have to look a bit through the neon haze of the numerous chain places, but here are my top choices:
* Red Cedar Grill, Williamston (http://redcedargrill.com/) - It's a 7 minute drive from East Lansing and worth it. Lovely dining room, well-edited wine list, try the tomato tarragon soup and the pork shank.
* Troppo, Lansing (http://www.troppo.org/) - Right downtown Lansing (Michigan & Washington), Troppo had a really good, seasonal menu.
* Soup Spoon Cafe, Lansing (http://www.soupspooncafe.com/) - If you're in town Wednesday - Friday, go for dinner but MAKE A RESERVATION NOW. This is Lansing's best kept locals-only secret lunch place. (I'm there once a week, minimum. Try the soup - doesn't matter what kind. Trust me.)
* Knight Cap, Lansing (http://www.theknightcap.com/) - Best steaks in town, amazing service, teeny-tiny place with probably the best bartender in Lansing.
* The State Room (http://www.hfs.msu.edu/stateroom/) - In the Kellogg Center at MSU, on campus. The food is good, the service can be excellent and it's consistently a safe place to take a client. (I was there on Monday for a lunch meeting.)
* ENSO, East Lansing (http://www.enjoyenso.com/) - I've been twice and the steaks are excellent. This is the newest hipster dining place in the area so make a reservation.
If you are looking for great prime rib and steaks, you have to check out the Airport Tavern (http://www.airport-tavern.com/). It's a bar, by the airport and the last place EVER you would think of to go for your carnivore fix which is why we usually don't tell out-of-towners about it. (We also don't let people from the 'burbs know either, mainly because they prefer those neon-chain restaurants. *shudder*)
A few notes -
* The Sheraton is now the Lexington Hotel (was there on Wednesday) and Christie's bistro is typical of hotel restaurants meaning if you are stuck there in a snowstorm or for meetings, order room service. Otherwise, get in the car.
* For a great breakfast/brunch while you are in town, check out:
* Mama Bear's Cafe (http://www.myspace.com/mamabearsllc) - Gourmet organic from the best pastry chef in Michigan. Seriously. Try the eclairs and the pesto scrambled eggs.
* Sawyers (http://www.sawyersgourmetpancakehouse.com/) - Local food made by really wonderful people. The pancakes are good but if the smokers are going out front, get the BBQ.
* Golden Harvest (http://www.myspace.com/golden_harvest) - Cult favorite among Lansing foodies. The lines are long but the wait is worth it.
* Soup to Nutz Bistro (http://www.souptonutzbistro.com/) - Cindy is truly a food genius. From her inspired brunch dishes to the French country bistro decor, this place is perfect for brunch and lunch. I'm there almost every Sunday and she's the only person in town to make eggs perfectly.
Downtown East Lansing is very student-oriented. You'll find good sushi, several excellent burger places (Peanut Barrel is my favorite), any number of sub/burrito/pizza places plus of the usual college chain rubble. Avoid those if possible.
Have a great trip! Can't wait to see your reviews after your visit.
For good middle eastern food with a nice atmosphere try Sultan's in the Hannah plaza in East Lansing. No alcohol but great fresh squeezed juice! Make sure you get the lentil soup,
For sushi and japanese food try Maru in Okemos or Sansu (also in the Hannah plaza)
Otherwise I agree 100% with Mensch71. (and thanks for the Airport Tavern tip! I've looking for a good prime rib spot)
I second JackieCat's recommendations. We love Sultan's in Hannah Plaza (no alcohol, good Middle Eastern, great pita bread), Maru and Sansu (going there on Wednesday, actually).
You're welcome on the Airport Tavern tip. Just wear attire that you can either wash or throw away. We have to wait til May 1, 2010 before Michigan goes smokefree.
Dusty's Wine Bar uses only Choice grade meats or higher for all of it's Steaks including Prime Grade NY Strips, Wagyu (Kobe) Burgers, All Natural Angus Ribeyes, Choice grade Hanger Steaks, etc. For a Great Steak, check out Dusty's nightly Steak Special.
1701 S Neil St, Champaign, IL 61820
I recently went to Dusty's in Okemos on a few occasions. The Tapas apps were both pretty yummy. I was not so much a fan of the Paella. Just seems to be a bit bland...needed more acid and salt.
On my next visit I had some absolutely great lamb. The service was very nice except for some odd deal with having two different menu's for one of our parties. They never really did clear that up for us. I guess we could order from either but it was poor for continuity. I am sure this has been corrected since then.
The wine and beer selection was pretty nice. They are also attached to small higher end market. They have some caramels there for about 40 cents a piece. If you go...do yourself a favor and grab about twenty bucks worth.
1839 Grand River Ave, Okemos, MI 48864