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.
While Lansing is itself a small city compared to New York, Chicago, L.A. and Detroit, it still is a city. And like all cities, there are buildings, concrete, and people everywhere you turn. It can get a bit overwhelming at times, causing you to head for greener pastures. Lucky for us, Lansing isn’t like New York or Detroit where you can only head to one major park in each city (Central Park or Bell Isle). There is no shortage of green space for Lansing area residents to escape to. And yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition, which is my prerogative.
The true beauty of Lansing may actually lay in its people, but a large part of its beauty is the park system. The city of Lansing has over 100 official public parks of various size and style. Some are simply the land surrounding historic buildings. Some are small with just a simple swing set. Others spread out over several acres of forested land.
Throughout high school, and whenever we were visiting home from college, my friends and I would invariably end up at a coffee shop named Cup-a-cino’s. For our younger readers, you might not realize what a real coffee shop is, due to the fact that you grew up with Starbuck’s being the model coffee house. Well lit, free wi-fi, sandwiches available, and everyone tap tap tapping away on their laptops. That’s not what I fell in love with in my teen years. The place I fell in love with was a small dark shop full of misfits. It was a place with strange art on the walls. It had a book shelf where you were free to take a book, as long as you left a new one in its place. It was where I learned how to play Backgammon, taught by a group of Chaldeans from Iraq who spoke very little English. It was where I could go and smoke cigarettes while drinking some of the richest coffee imaginable (unless you are my mom, in which case it was where I could go and study while drinking some of the richest coffee imaginable).
Cup-a-cino’s is where I fell in love with coffee, in all its varieties. I love the fierce taste of an espresso, or the creamy desert-like taste of lattes. Most of all, I love a great cup of black coffee which is surprisingly hard to come by in this day and age. Gas station coffee is always burnt. Starbuck’s never gets it right, it’s as if they teach their baristas how to make a cappuccino, but not how to brew a simple pot of coffee. People who say that Dunkin’ Donuts makes the best coffee have clearly never had any other kind of coffee. Biggby’s comes closest, and they definitely have the most pleasant employees, but no coffee shop comes close the coffee I used to drink at Cup-a-cino’s. Except one.