Outdoor Cafes Busy in Fall

Saturday, September 27, 2014, 2:24 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

Perhaps because we have serious winters in East Lansing, when the weather is nice the outdoor cafes and pubs fill up. The current stretch of temperate, dry weather led this reporter to ask a non-scientific sample of locals for their two or three favorite places to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of beer outside.

The most-mentioned favorite turned out to be the Peanut Barrel. Kristin Beals Bellar, local attorney, says, “I like [Peanut Barrel] because of nostalgia. It brings me back to my undergrad and law school days. It is relatively kid-friendly (we have a three-year-old) during the day, and the people-watching is excellent. The beer selection is adequate, but the olive burger and fries is a meal I dream about all year round.”

Bellar and several others also named the recently-opened Black Cat Bistro as a new favorite. The bright purple umbrellas on the patio along the “Faces and Fountains” park has been drawing a steady crowd. Joe Lonstein and Doug Luckie, both East Lansing residents and faculty at MSU, mentioned Black Cat in the poll. Says Luckie, “I tend to jump on whatever special they have going (this week I had a French toast tastiness) when I drag all VIP friends I can to lunch there on a Monday in the sun.”

Bellar says that, while she isn’t crazy about the food at HopCat, she does enjoy the beer, cider, and seating options. (She is shown with her husband James outside HopCat in photo below.) She also appreciates the service: “Sammy Wilson, our favorite server (formerly of Harrison Roadhouse, current host at Beggars also), is a major draw to HopCat.” She added, “I would be remiss if I did not mention that my heart will always be with Beggars as our favorite local watering hole, [we] just wish it had a patio!”

Cindy Jordan, another MSU faculty member and East Lansing resident, explained that where she goes depends on who she is meeting. For coffee, she enjoys the outdoor seating at Biggby’s near People’s Church, Espresso Royale Cafe on Grand River, and Red Cedar Café in Brookfield Plaza. When asked why she goes to these locations, she answers, “I like the people!” The servers at these locations are all known for being friendly.

When on the east side of campus, Luckie favors Chapelure Café in Hannah Plaza: “The madeleines there have recently become super-fanastic and the macarons are, well, hallucinogenic.” He waxes poetic on the subject: “You slowly eat one outside at one of their tiny outdoor tables and are transported (Amélie-style) to ‘that day’ at the park on Rue de Bac in Paris when you realized what the whole fuss was about for macarons.”

Two of the East Lansing residents polled favored highly exclusive locations: Joe Lonstein, his patio, and Ann Nichols, her front porch.