Growing up, I was a notoriously picky eater. My distaste for everything not coated in peanut butter made me just like El Jefe in my neighborhood (in that I was so famous for it, I was infamous). In the morning I would eat cereal, but for the rest of the day I would only eat peanut butter sandwiches or peanut butter on crackers. My fruits and veggies were limited to apples or celery with peanut butter on it. When the family would go out to a restaurant, my mom would have to make a peanut butter sandwich for me, put it in a sandwich bag, and bring it to the restaurant so that I could eat with the family. My birthday parties at pizza parlors or bowling alleys were full of kids stuffing their faces with pizza, while I munched on a peanut butter sandwich that was made sure to be not ruined by the foul taste of jelly.
While I am no longer that picky, I believe that my childhood and the finicky eater in me is the reason that I do not really enjoy going out to eat. In fact, the only meal that my wife can consistently get me to go out to eat is breakfast. The Lansing area has no shortage of excellent breakfast places. One can travel to O’Neill’s in East Lansing for a 9 egg omelet, head to Sawyer’s Gourmet Pancake House for the best organic breakfast in the area (although many would argue that title belongs to The Soup Spoon Café), and most everyone knows and raves about the phenomenal breakfast and atmosphere at Golden Harvest, just north of Old Town in Lansing. Yet, for my money, all of these pale in comparison to the Sip ‘n’ Snack Restaurant in Okemos.
Located at 4690 Okemos Rd, just south of Grand River and just north of Hamilton, The Sip ‘n’ Snack is nestled between the Okemos Barber Shop and Art Unlimited, and is easy to miss as you drive by. Just look for the large camel painted on the front, and make your way around back for parking.
Owned and operated by Valentine Korrey (whose birthday is Valentine’s Day), the 89 year old Val has been behind the counter making breakfast for over 60 years. It should come as no surprise that he knows his way around the kitchen, even if it is at a slower pace than he once operated at. The menu isn’t overly eclectic, but what Val makes he makes very well. Even more importantly, Val and the Sip ‘n’ Snack generate a feeling of home. The staff and clientele talk to each and every one in the room, even if it means talking across the room and over other conversations.
The Sip ‘n’ Snack is the type of place where everyone greets you as you enter the building, employees and clientele alike. It’s the type of place where most everyone doesn’t even bother to place an order anymore, as Val knows what you like and is busy making it as you take your seat. You can choose to pour your own coffee, or Sherry (the only waitress employed) will gladly pour you a cup, and make sure it is refilled before you even have to ask.
The best day to come is on your birthday. While a lot of mainstream restaurants make their employees sing you a horrible song, while plastering fake smiles across their faces, the Sip ‘n’ Snack does something far better. Val will wait until you are not paying attention, then he comes over, pulls out his harmonica, and plays happy birthday for you. And as you go up to pay, he refuses to allow it, paying for your breakfast out of his own pocket.
On your way out the door, Val and everyone else makes sure to thank you for coming in, adding a “come back soon.” And I always make sure to come back as soon as I can. Sometimes later that day for lunch.
Make sure you have cash, as this place does not accept credit cards or checks. However, tax is included in the prices on the menu. I generally stick with the breakfast special which consists of two eggs, bacon or sausage, potatoes, toast, and coffee for $5.50. Also make sure to head here early and during the week, as they are open from 6am-2pm and are closed on the weekends. You may see some people milling about on a Saturday, but that is just Val and the regular customers eating donuts and drinking coffee while perhaps playing some cards. It’s invite only, but if you come back enough, you’ll definitely get an invite.