How do you feel about Lansing's restaurant options? Is Lansing keeping up with current food trends? Current State speaks with City Pulse contributor Mark Nixon about the changing dining scene in Lansing.
Lansing has had its share of criticism when it comes to its dining scene. Critics have said there’s not enough to choose from, or that the choices are boring.
Former editorial editor at the Lansing State Journal Mark Nixon has been one of those critical voices in the past. He is now a contributor to the Lansing City Pulse.
We talk with Mark Nixon about how he thinks the food scene in Lansing is changing.
On his 2001 column that was critical of the Lansing restaurant scene
“I said a few things that upset people. What was surprising was that of all the columns I’ve written that one probably garnered the most reaction - positive and negative. Some of the restaurant people were unhappy. A lot of their customers were saying ‘Yeah, you’re right. We need a little bit more adventure in our dining scene’. That was fifteen years ago.” -- Mark Nixon
What has changed in those fifteen years?
“First of all, I think the dining crowd is more adventurous and a little more worldly. They’ve been exposed to more cuisines. They travel more, so they’re expecting more. At the same time, I think you have a new generation of restaurant owners and chefs who expect more of themselves. They see that what they do in the kitchen is more than just turning out food. It’s sort of an artistic expression.” — Nixon
On his favorite new additions to the restaurant scene
“I have several favorites. One of my favorites is a place called The Cosmos. It’s attached to a bar called Zoobies. It’s in Old Town. They’re like a lot of smaller operations, but do some creative things. They have this bruschetta with a tomato relish and a triple cream brie. I took one bite of that and turned to my wife and said ‘France’. Because I remember having my first bite of distinctly good cheese in France. It was fantastic.
People don’t think of the Kellogg Center or the State Room as being particularly cutting edge. But I have to tell you that the people in that kitchen are doing wonderful things. I think they’re like a lot of places like the Cosmos. They’re thinking fresh, local and thinking seasonal. For instance, when I was at the State Room a few months ago - in the winter - I had a parsnip apple bisque. They took a root vegetable that’s harvested in the fall and made something creative with it. It’s fantastic.” — Nixon
On older restaurants taking new risks
“A perfect example of that is The Knight Cap. I think it had lost a step a few years ago. Now it has some new owners, and they’re trying some new things. Even though they hold onto some older things, they’re still trying some new things. Going back to the fresh, local produce from local farms.” — Nixon
On Fork in the Road going out of business
“I was shocked. I thought they had a good following. As you said, it’s a tough business. A long, long time ago I was in the restaurant business so I saw firsthand how tough it can be. To do this consistently, and to do it with quality is a challenge.
I think that what keeps people in the business is the creative expression involved. Restaurants really want to do something that puts their signature on it. I think that the dining crowd really responds to that.” — Nixon
On what Lansing is missing in the dining scene
“I would just recommend that Lansing restaurant owners ought to branch out and do some road trips if they have the time. See what’s happening in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City. Those have a phenomenal amount of really daring restaurants. I don’t mind daring the sense that they’re super fancy - but they’re using simple ingredients and putting them together in great ways.” -- Nixon