Old Town BluesFest

Last night, Chris and I went to Old Town to check out the music at scene at the Blues Fest. We didn’t go until late- about 9pm so there were just one or two acts left. I hadn’t eaten anything yet so my first priority was the food vendors.

The set-up, for those familiar with Old Town, is a stage at the north end of Turner St and a stage at the south end where Turner intersects with Grand River. The listening areas, free and the $5 section with the adult beverages are sandwiched in between. Grand River is blocked off to traffic for a few blocks to the east and west of Turner. Behind the south stage there was a vendor area with about 10 food kiosks and some people selling assorted stuff, some of it junk (i.e. glow in the dark everything and rip-off sunglasses).

We walked the food court once to see what the options were. I had a hard time deciding what I wanted but knowing that we’d need cash for drinks later, I drifted towards cheap. There were a lot of options including gyros, Jamaican food, Mongolian BBQ, Turkeyman turkey legs and somewhere Vernadine’s Soul Food. I didn’t see a temporary shop for them but since the restaurant is in Old Town maybe you were jsut expected to go there. In the end I chose Maria’s Tacos. And while I didn’t choose poorly, I don’t think I made the best choice either. And I had time to back out and I didn’t. The food was good: fresh, homemade tortillas were top notch. The issue we had was with the group running the show. In addition to two adults hanging towards the back and presumably handling the cooking of the meats, there were 3 kids working the booth, all under the age of 15. Girl #1 was taking orders while Girl #2 was scooping the meat and beans in to the tortillas while Boy was adding the toppings. They weren’t doing anything bad per se but Girl #2 couldn’t keep up with Girl #1’s shouted out orders. This was made all the worse by Girl#1 messing up and saying the wrong stuff and forgetting who ordered what. We kind of saw this happening while we waited in line but it wasn’t until our order and the order for the people in front of us got all confused that it became apparent communication was not a strong point. In the end everyone got the right food and I was able to stop Boy from putting a pound of shredded cheese on my tacos. I would have liked spicier meat but as I said, the tortillas were very good and the salsa was fresh and tomato-y. Oh, and Girl#1 under-charged us by 2 bucks so I really can’t complain.

Today, I found the website for Maria’s Tacos and now I’m really not sure who the people were working the booth. I don’t want to make too many assumptions but no one under the tent looked like an “Espinoza” or a “De Los Rios”, the names of the company founders.

Tacos & burrito in hand, we walked back across Grand River Rd to the stage area. At either stage, there is a seating area with some chairs, or you can bring your own. In between those open areas is a section that serves beer, wine and specialty drinks. Its five dollars per person then you buy tickets for the drinks. Wine was four tickets ($4) per glass. The people working the bar area knew nothing about the wines which was okay, I wasn’t expecting a formal tasting. I was surprised that the first person we went up to didn’t know that Cabernet was a red wine. For the first round, I had a Pinot Noir and Chris had the Cabernet. I don’t recall the winery for the Pinot Noir and my vague recollection is that the Cabernet was 201 or 209 or some number combination that started with a two. After my first glass, I tried the Merlot and found I liked that better. That I do remember was a Penfold’s Rawson Retreat Merlot, vintage unknown. A quick on-line search indicates this is a $8-10 bottle. Pretty decent choice for an event like this- not to strong but with a nice plum-cherry flavor and a hint of oaky spice on the finish.

While enjoying our first glasses and getting some top-notch people watching time in, Chris and I started talking about wines and his likes/dislikes. Really, he doesn’t know what he likes except that he’s not a fan of whites in general. I think he’d like some of the heavier oaky whites like big Chardonnays but anyhow. So we decided he should do a blind sampling of a number of varieties and make notes about the flavors and rate the wines. And I decided this should involve other people because it can’t be smart or healthy for us to open and drink 5 or 6 bottles of wine some night just to taste the varietals. So I guess we are going to maybe host a wine and cheese party sometime soon.

We hung out and listened to the music for awhile, ran in to someone I know through work and continued making observations on our fellow music-listeners. I can be really catty sometimes and one of the things I love about Chris is that he let’s me but he will still maintain a girl is hot even if I think her outfit is ridiculous. Eventually, we met up with some friends and after the music ended, about 11:30, we decided to move our party to a bar. One of our group is a born & raised Lansing-area local so I’m guessing he picked the bar we adjourned to- Stober’s Lounge. Located on Michigan Avenue near Sparrow Hospital, Stober’s is an old-school Lansing bar. Way back in some day before my time, Stober’s was voted “Coolest Bar in Lansing,” not for being hip but for having air conditioning. The exterior wall facing the parking lot is painted with a large mural that echoes the stained glass decor on the inside. The gargoyle dragon thing looking at me from above the bar was a little disconcerting with its glowing red eyes but the Merlin stained-glass centerpiece was very cool.

After closing down the bar, a reduced party of three, including Chris and I decided we were hungry. After vetoing Taco Bell, we ended up at Sawyer’s Pancake House. Since they are now open 24 hours during the weekend, we decided that we should support them and get some good food at the same time. And it was tasty. Last time, I mentioned the fries were a little too crispy? Not this time- they were pretty close to perfect. The place was pretty quiet but there were a couple of take-out orders while we were there. Hopefully they can build a name for themselves with the late-night crowd; Theio’s did it. One plus- they have a guy on site to handle any overly drunk fools that want to cause problems.

In reality, I don’t plan to make a habit out of being out past last call and then eating a big meal at 3 AM. I realized this morning that I am probably getting too old for that, on a regular basis. But we had a good time and I was able to make friendly with some of Chris’s fellow law school students.

Oh yeah, we had a nice time at the Blues Festival but in discussing it this morning, we both agreed that the music itself wasn’t that impressive.


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