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Capital City BBQ

April 24, 2016
  • 1026 W. Saginaw Street
  • Lansing, MI 48915
  • (517) 775-8500
  • Website
  • Menu

J and I first moved to Michigan in the spring of 2008 when she got a job in Lansing.  We hadn’t been dating that long, but I was tired of my job in Peoria, needed a change, and I knew where things were going with J.  It was a no-brainer for me to move with her.

Seeing as I didn’t have a job when I moved, I had a lot of time that I used to write a food blog I started and to work on my cooking as I made dinner for the two of us every night.

I had always hoped I could turn that food blog in to something profitable, but alas, eight years later, I’m still writing and still bringing in exactly $0 every month.  It’s ok, though, because really, I just like eating and the adventures finding new restaurants takes us on.

My biggest complaint on Midmichigandining.com was the lack of BBQ restaurants in Lansing.  I wrote more than once about the utter lack of anything worth a darn…like on this post

For over a year, I’ve been complaining about the lack of BBQ in Lansing.

Or this one.

I’ve been complaining about there being no good BBQ in this area since we moved here.  This was good, authentic BBQ.  We never would have found this place on our own, but now we have a place to stop on the way home from MIS!

Or this one.

On one hand, I think it’s sad that Lansing’s only BBQ joint isn’t the creation of a family recipe, but on the other hand, I’m glad there’s at least one place that takes the time to do BBQ right.  It’s a good thing we don’t live closer to Lansing Township.  I could literally eat every meal there and be happy.

And yet another.

Since we’ve been here, I’ve been asking people where the good BBQ joints are.  No one has given me an answer.

We always found something passable, but two of those were food trucks that didn’t last long, one was a chain, and one was in Jackson.

We moved from Lansing to Kalamazoo in the fall of 2009 and man, how things of changed in the Lansing BBQ scene since then.   Read more…

Fatso’s Pizza

April 17, 2016
  • 13506 Beadle Lake Road
  • Battle Creek, MI 49014
  • (269) 339-3813
  • Website
  • Menu

The zoo is open!  The zoo is open!  I’m pretty sure everyone in the greater Battle Creek area knows that because it was PACKED this past Saturday.  Sure, the fact that it was 70 degrees on opening weekend probably had something to do with that, but holy cow was Binder Park Zoo a busy place on Saturday.

We decided to head over to Battle Creek a little later in the afternoon thinking it wouldn’t be as busy, but the line to get in was well out in to the parking lot.  Lucky for us, there was an employee near the end of the line asking if anyone was a member.  We have a membership, so we handed it to her, she wrote down the information, and we were able to skip the line by going in through the exit.  Soooooo happy we’re members.  Others told us it was anywhere from a 45 minute to an hour wait just to get in!

Anyway, the deluge of people wasn’t so bad once inside.  The only real wait was for the tram out to Wild Africa.  It was a 20-30 minute wait each direction, but we passed the time and kept the kids happy.

We went later in the day than we had originally planned and J had asked for pizza for lunch.  I told her we’d pick up a pizza for dinner on the way home from the zoo.

We’ve been going to the zoo enough years now that finding a new pizza place somewhat close to our route home is getting more difficult.  Usually I go down B Drive North to Beadle Lake Road to get to the zoo, but this time, I intentionally took I-94 all the way to the Beadle Lake exit.  I had an idea…that is, if it was still there.   Read more…

Vitale’s Pizza and Sports Bar – Comstock Park

April 17, 2016
  • 3868 West River Drive
  • Comstock Park, MI 49321
  • (616) 784-5012
  • Website
  • Menu

I get lazy sometimes.  It doesn’t matter what I’m hungry for, if I can find a place that has online ordering, I will likely order from there instead of having to call something in.

Last week, I had some time at work to actually eat dinner.  I was hungry and my first choice was closed.  I was in the mood for a burger, but I really didn’t feel like talking on the phone.  How stupid is that?

Anyway, I kept looking around and decided I would just order pizza.  There’s a Pizza Hut fairly close to work as well as a Papa John’s….both have online ordering.  That would be just too lazy though so I started checking around to some of my favorite local places.  Seriously, I could have just called in an order for a burger and went in got it in as much time as it took me to find someplace to order online.

I finally stumbled on the website for Vitale’s Pizza and Sports Bar in Comstock Park which had online ordering.  I’ve always really liked Vitale’s pizza after getting introduced to it by a friend several years ago when I met him at the location on Leonard Street NE in Grand Rapids.

I put in my order for a large pizza with pepperoni and jalapeno bacon.  The email said it would take about twenty minutes to cook and I was about twenty minutes away.

Vitale’s is on the corner of West River Drive and Mill Creek Avenue in the unicorporated community of Comstock Park that kind of straddles parts of both Alpine and Plainfield Township.  The restaurant is just down the street from Fifth Third Ballpark in what can be considered the “Main Street” of Comstock Park.  Read more…

Buona – Beverly

April 7, 2016
  • 10633 S. Western Avenue
  • Chicago, IL 60643
  • (773) 941-69870
  • Website
  • Menu

Last time we were in the Chicago area, I had some time to myself to seek out a truly delicious Italian beef.  I chose to go to the northside of town and hit up Johnnie’s Beef in Elmwood Park.  While I was researching that trip, I came across a couple other places I wanted to try including Buona.

At that time, the closest Buona was in Orland Park, but as luck would have it, my mother-in-law mentioned, in passing, that Buona opened a new store on the corner of Western Avenue and 107th in the Chicago Neighborhood of Beverly.  This location is only about ten minutes from my in-laws and I wasn’t leaving town without making a stop.

After our time with my family in Cullom, we headed back to the Chicago suburbs to drop L off with J’s parents for the week.  Her preschool was closed for spring break and Nana and Grandpa wanted some one-on-one time with L.

It was about dinner time when we got back to Oak Lawn.  J and I did have a snack from Casey’s General Store before we left down south, but I really, really wanted an Italian beef.  I asked everyone else if they wanted to give it a shot and everyone was on board.

I attempted to put my order in using the website, but after I got everything completed, it told me that it had failed and to call the store.  I did that on my way to see if it somehow went through.  They never got an order from me, so I asked if I could put one in over the phone while I was driving so that it would be ready when I got there.  I could, so I did.

Buona claims to be the Original Italian beef.  Now, Buona has only been in business since 1981 which is long after the Italian beef was invented, but what makes theirs the “original” is the recipe.  The Buonavolanto who started the small Chicago chain is a relative of Carl Buonavolanto who is the original owner of Mr Beef on Orleans and one of the “Original 14.”  It’s a complicated story that all goes back to the 1930’s and Scala’s Original Beef and Sausage Company.  Robert Scala provided funding for Carl to open Mr. Beef which is how Mr Beef and, by way of the recipe, Buona can use the claim of “Original” in their marketing.  That’s all according to their website and not independently confirmed anywhere else.

Anywho.  Back to the beef.

The restaurant on the corner of 107th and Western is brand new.  They have a really tight parking lot with entrances off both Western and 107th.  If you’re looking for the drive thru though, you have to enter off of 107th Street.

I stopped in on Sunday of Grand Opening Weekend.  The place was busy, but not jam packed.  The feel of this Buona is a clean, sleek restaurant.  It’s not the sandwich stands you think of when you think Chicago beef.  The dining room is pretty large and very wide open.  Ordering is done as you walk in with a modern POS system instead of someone writing down your order on a piece of paper and yelling it back to the kitchen.  The place is and feels like a chain and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as the food is good and doesn’t taste like it came from a chain.

I had already put in our order for three Italian beefs and a salad.  I got two of the beef’s as a value meal (don’t say combo meal in Chicago as that has a totally different meaning at beef places.  I remembered that as the words came out of my mouth.  A “combo” is an Italian beef sandwich with an Italian sausage in it….delicious, but not what I wanted on this day) which come with fries and a Pepsi.  My order was ready when I got there and after paying the bill, just under $40, I headed back to my in-laws to dig in.  Read more…

Casey’s General Store – Cullom

April 7, 2016
  • 215 W. Jackson Street
  • Cullom, IL 60929
  • (815) 689-2784
  • Website
  • Menu

How weird is it to get excited over gas station pizza?  I’m not even gonna lie.  I really miss Casey’s General Store.  When J and I worked in Creve Coeur, IL (right outside Peoria), there was a Casey’s right down the street.  Whenever we didn’t have time for dinner, we’d stop at Casey’s and grab a couple of cheap slices to eat while on the road.

Unfortunately, Casey’s hasn’t reached Michigan.  The closest location of the Iowa based chain of gas stations is in Elkhart, IN.  Even when we go home for a weekend, there aren’t many Casey’s that we pass.  They are much more common in the central part of Illinois than in the northern.  Outside of one in Peotone, IL just off I-57, I’m not sure where there would be one that we pass near Chicago.

My mom’s hometown has one though and this trip home included a family gathering in the small Village of Cullom.  I didn’t grow up in a very big town.  At the height, population was 800 (not a typo), but Cullom beats even that with a whopping 563 people in the last census.  As far as food options, there’s Casey’s and a bar on Hack Street which is the main downtown area.

Our family get togethers always involve a pot luck, but just for nostalgia’s sake, J and I decided to stop at Casey’s on our way out of town.  We both needed a drink for the drive back to Michigan anyway and since we were there, how about some pizza. Read more…

Wojos

April 7, 2016
  • 9851 S. Pulaski Road
  • Evergreen Park, IL 60805
  • (708) 423-1121
  • Website
  • Menu

When J and I started dating almost nine years ago, there were several places that she pointed out to me from her childhood as we drove around the south suburbs of Chicago.  Like any new couples, we shared stories about times with grandparents at different restaurants, times with friends riding for ice cream, and those times our parents took us out of school to spend some one on one time over lunch.

One of the first places J told me about was a little hot dog stand on the corner of 99th and Pulaski in Evergreen Park.  Her mom used to pick her up from a nearby school over the lunch hour and take her for a milkshake.  Over the past nine years, J has said many times, we needed to go to this place for lunch, but we always forgot about it when it came time to find something to eat.

We were in Chicagoland last week for J’s birthday.  On Thursday night, she and I went to Black Oak Tavern for dinner.  On the way, we passed The Original Wojos (or Wojos Vienna..I’ve seen it both ways…either way, most people just call in Wojos) and again, the conversation came up about lunch with her mom and how the heck we’ve never eaten there.

The next day, I wanted a daddy-daughter day with L.  She has been asking to ride a train, so my idea was to take her on the Orange Line from Midway Airport and just see where the afternoon took us.  I wanted to grab lunch before we left though because I didn’t know how long we’d actually be on the train and I wanted to make sure L had a full belly.

When I got up in the  morning, I checked Wojos website and noticed they opened at 10:30.  I asked everyone else if they were hungry, took down the orders then made the short drive to Evergreen Park to pick it up. Read more…

The Black Oak

April 7, 2016
  • 9630 S. Pulaski Road
  • Oak Lawn, IL 60453
  • (708) 572-4500
  • Website
  • Menu

About 99% of the time, I pick the restaurant.  I’m one of those people that obsesses over finding something we’ve never had and something we both will love.  The other 1% of the time, it’s J’s birthday and I want nothing more than to make sure she’s happy with what we choose to do.

This year’s birthday involved a trip to see our families in the Chicago area.  We started out on J’s actual birthday at her parents house.  Our plan was to go check out Chicago’s first Ciderpub on the north side of town.  Unfortunately, The Northman wasn’t quite looking like something we were going to enjoy.  They have no functional website with menus yet.  They never answered questions about flights.  The menu we did see didn’t look like something we were really in to.  On the plus side, they have dozens and dozens of ciders to try….just don’t try to do it in a flight apparently.

J didn’t want to be disappointed because it’s a concept she fell in love with immediately.  We always go to breweries for me, but she really likes cider and was looking forward to being the irresponsible one and drinking too much.

We had a back up plan until J’s step-dad mentioned a new place that just opened up not far from their house.  The menu looked good and they have a decent, not great, but decent drink list.  We scrapped our back up and headed out to the recommendation instead.

Black Oak Tavern is very easy to miss on Pulaski Road just south of 96th Street in Oak Lawn.  It’s in a very unassuming strip mall next to a fishmonger on the busy strip of road.  J was the one that actually noticed it.  I was about to drive past.  I think I was looking for anything other than a rectangle sign on the side of a very bland building. Read more…

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