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East Lansing’s Beggar’s Banquet celebrating 50 years in business

Image of the the window door entrance of Beggar's Banquet restaurant.
Beggar's Banquet
Over the last 50 years, Beggar's Banquet has been offering a fine dining experience to the community.

One of East Lansing’s most beloved eateries is celebrating its 50th anniversary. To commemorate this milestone, Beggar’s Banquet is inviting customers and former employees to a reunion celebration Saturday.

Beggar’s Banquet was first opened in the early 1970s by four best friends: Bob Adler, Christopher Blunt, Martin Richard and Charlie Rose. They met while working together at a nearby restaurant.

In 1973, the four were working at the Cave of the Candles in downtown East Lansing as cooks, waiters and hosts when they got the idea about making fine dining more accessible to people in the area. Cave of the Candles was known for its upscale environment. Adler says it was serendipity when the four found a location for their restaurant nearby.

“We were a bunch of young hippies, and we wanted to prove that you could have a really good restaurant with great food, and you didn't have to be pretentious about it. And in that we succeeded immensely,” Adler said.

Soon after opening, the restaurant gained both local and national notoriety for its food, drinks and atmosphere.

“We had a splendid wine list that it was actually written up in the New York Times as being one of the best in the country,” Adler said.

Beggar’s Banquet has always been known for its original food. Adler says that part of the restaurant was primarily because of Christopher Blunt, who has since passed.

“He was a great fan of the famous French schools of cooking .... So, the list of foods that we did is endless and for a number of years in the beginning, we did specials every week: red meats, fish and fowl,” he added.

But the restaurant wasn’t just known for its accessible dining experience, it was also a place where local celebrities and politicians would hang out on a regular basis.

“Most of the governors and most of the Supreme Court judges were regular customers,” he said. “Senator (Carl) Levin, Governor (John) Engler, Governor (James) Blanchard including writers Harlan Ellison and Theodore Sturgeon…I could sit here all afternoon and come up with names.”

Every afternoon at 5 p.m., Adler says they would begin the dinner shift by playing WKAR’s All Things Considered in the kitchen while everyone cooked, cleaned and served.

“It was a way to keep us connected and informed with our community at large.”

He says one day his employees even got the privilege to host NPR reporters and hosts Nina Totenberg, Cokie Roberts and Mara Liasson. They were there in town covering a presidential debate that included former President Bill Clinton.

“I can still see the kitchen crew with their dirty aprons leaning over the swinging doors to look into the dining room to see these three women who they've been listening to for all that time,” he said.

Adler says the celebration will take place Saturday at 8 p.m. at the restaurant. There will also be a virtual event at the same time on the Beggar’s Banquet Facebook page. Adler reminds people to come early and stay late.

“As one of our most treasured friends [and] employees would say: ‘Be there or get a sub’," Adler concluded.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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