Beyond Seattle 2011: September (Pinesburger, Please)

This was not a particularly good month of eating, mostly because I was in nowheresville most of the time. Let’s jump in, starting in Albany, where I pulled off the highway shortly after leaving the airport for dinner at Ala Shanghai in Latham. This place has a slightly more upscale feeling than most Chinese restaurants. With low hopes, I ordered xiao long bao, and they were just so-so (really thick wrappers, little soup, ma-ma taste):

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And then I ate tong-po pork, which turned out to be more pork belly than I imagined:

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This dish was well-cooked, but simply too heavy for one person (me, who still managed to eat most of it).

I was in Saratoga Springs the next morning, which meant a visit to Mrs. London’s. I’ve raved about this place in the past, and this time I enjoyed a croissant sandwich:


The night meant a business dinner. I was taken to Blu Stone Bistro, in a little hotel near the airport. Blu Stone is going for the swanky feeling, but as I was there quite early, I never got a feel for its clientele. The food was okay…nothing offensive, but nothing to write home about, starting with this beet salad:


I also had a small portion of the scallops with confetti rice:


On to Ithaca, my home for six years. I met a friend at the Ithaca restaurant rated highest by Urbanspoon in the moderately priced category: Just a Taste. It’s a place for tapas and wine, but after just a taste of a few dishes, I felt dissatisfied. Flavors were flat, with the food uninspired and uninspiring. We started with summer squash sauteed in brown butter with garlic, pecans, and romano cheese:


Moved on to wild mushroom ragout with grilled sourdough bread and herbed goat cheese:


And then ordered housemade Italian cheese sausage with Calabrese olive orzo salad:


Before calling it quits. Maybe it was an off-night. I was sad to leave, as it looked like it had a lot of potential as a pleasant place to drink and nosh.

The next day would be better, as I hit an old favorite, the Glenwood Pines, on the way out of town. I’m sure it had been at least ten years since my last visit (could it be more like twenty?), but the place hasn’t changed a bit. Perched high above the lake, I resisted the temptation of a bloody mary (they’re great there) and ordered a Pinesburger (a six-ounce cheeseburger on French bread with lettuce, tomato, onion, and thousand island dressing). Still a mess to eat, and still delicious:


(And, yes, I was again watching tennis on the television!)

I then drove to Geneseo, where I decided to follow up my lunchtime cheeseburger with some dinnertime pizza. Mama Mia’s was awaiting, and was surprisingly good. I ordered a couple of slices and settled in with New York-style happiness. The cheese was slightly chewy (in a good way), the crust fine, and the sauce to my liking:


The following week, I found myself in Oklahoma for what’s become an annual business trip. It was a hectic time, and I found myself with just minutes to get dinner. BBQ comes quickly, so I stepped in to Bad Brad’s Bar-B-Q in Stillwater. Interesting dining room:


Here I got the plate dinner–with smoked beef brisket, pork tenderloin, cole slaw, and baked beans–along with a view of the taxidermy, a look at ESPN on the television, and the sounds of country music on the stereo. The food was just so-so. I found myself constantly reaching for the BBQ sauce to amp up the flavor.

I spent part of the final week of the month in Michigan. Not Detroit. Not Ann Arbor (where I would be able to go to Zingerman’s Deli). Instead, I was in central and western Michigan, where I’d have to forage the best I could for food.

First night was in Alma, where I paid a visit to Pizza Sam. Seems that the owner stands by the door, surveying the scene without even a smile. But the servers were friendly. There’s a bit of a secret menu at Pizza Sam, and I didn’t get it quite right. I remembered to get the double crust, but failed to get it cooked on a screen. There’s also some option about getting spices baked in, or not. I’m not sure how the screen would have played out, but I was fairly satisfied with the pizza:


The next night I was in Mount Pleasant, and in the midst of a trip that mostly offered pizza, Mexican, and Chinese restaurants, I found a little place called Shin’s Korean Restaurant. The person helping me spoke very little English, but was pleased that I was familiar with bibimpap. It was a little on the basic side, and I would have liked more banchan offerings, but overall it wasn’t bad:


Day three of the Michigan tour takes me through Grand Rapids, where I make a stop at El Granjero Mexican Grill. Especially hungry, I order the alambre, a combination of steak, chicken, and spicy pork with melted cheese, sliced onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos. I also get a side order of guacamole for the chips. This is a grand pig-out, but the food is actually pretty good (with many of the customers Mexican):


My last meal in Michigan is a quick one in Lansing at a Chinese restaurant called Little Panda. Yes, “Panda” is a red flag that this might not be the best meal, but it’s cheap and I’m hungry. I get the Szechuan spicy beef, complete with the egg roll, old rice, and something that’s supposed to be hot and sour soup:


One can easily make the case that the dish wasn’t truly Szechuan, spicy, or perhaps even beef. But it filled me up and got me back to Seattle, closer to good Chinese food.

Ala Shanghai on Urbanspoon

Blu Stone Bistro on Urbanspoon

Just A Taste on Urbanspoon

Glenwood Pines Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Mama Mia's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Bad Brad's B-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Pizza Sam on Urbanspoon

Shin's Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tacos El Granjero on Urbanspoon

Little Panda Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

2 Responses to “Beyond Seattle 2011: September (Pinesburger, Please)”

  1. Jen
    February 7, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    Next time you’re in Lansing, shoot over to East Lansing and try Rice Kitchen, an excellent chinese joint. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

  2. Jay
    February 10, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    Thanks! Will hope to check it out if/when I return.

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