Don’s Windmill Restaurant & Truckstop

It really drives me crazy when people go on and on about how hungry they are but then can’t contribute an idea towards what to have for dinner. The only thing more irritating is when these same people have zero opinion about any suggestions. Nope, one more thing that breaks the levee of annoying: has no opinion, suggests nothing then complains about the final choice.

Fortunately tonight, I only had to deal with level one annoying. Chris said I had to pick, he had no ideas despite the fact that he was looking at a bunch of Lansing-area food blogs I had mentioned to him. In a game of 20 questions, I narrowed it down to “not the usual” “not expensive” “close” “not sushi.” I started mentally driving down Saginaw Highway and nothing appealed to me other than sushi and well, see above. So then I started thinking about places a little farther out- to the west: Grand Ledge, to the east: Falsettas/Casa Nova and to the south: Don’s Truckstop.

So I asked, wanna go to a truckstop? I don’t think Chris knew how to respond at first. Soon enough we were walking in the door of Don’s. I first discovered Don’s when I returned to Lansing 2 years ago for work. I used to drive by all the time as I was living out in the boonies for the first 6 months. At some point, probably during one of my then-neighbors raucous parties, I took refuge in Don’s 24 hour restaurant. At some later point, my mom and I ended up there for a night owl strawberry shortcake.

Then I moved in to town and never went out that way. So tonight was the first time I’d been in there in probably a year. There were a bunch of Amish people eating dinner and oddly, I’m pretty sure that was true the last time too.

Since they serve Pepsi products, Chris went for a chocolate milkshake and I stuck with water. I knew exactly what I wanted: the turkey club. Chris considered a BBQ sandwich but on the recommendation of the waitress went for a roast beef and cheese sandwich instead. Both were served with coleslaw and fries, mine with a side of ranch dressing. Hey, if you are going to eat in a truck stop, you may as well go all out; that’s my philosophy anyhow.

Their coleslaw is a little on the sweet side in my opinion but I still eat it. The fries came out hot and crispy and my sandwich was exactly what I wanted and what I expected: tasty turkey, real bacon and too big to eat in one sitting. Guess what I’m having for lunch tomorrow?

The best things in life are free

Chris was really enjoying his sandwich. Up until the last two or three bites, he was chowing down. When he paused, a slightly green disgusted look on his face, I thought perhaps he’d been eating too fast and started to swallow wrong or something. But in actuality, he’d flipped his sandwich over and noticed a blue-green spot on the bottom bun. MOLD! Just a little spot and no evidence elsewhere on the bread but mold can grow invisible to the human eye long before you see it.

When our waitress came back, we pointed out the offending bun and she quickly snatched back the bill, took the plate and headed to the kitchen. She returned a few minutes later to tell us that the kitchen had covered our whole bill!

I could tell Chris was worried about eating moldy bread and he had a few psychosomatic symptoms on the drive home. Or maybe those were real symptoms of stuffing himself. Honestly, the lost 1/4 of sandwich was probably a good thing for his stomach.

Don’s is a Truckstop, no doubt. Its low frills, kind of smoky and has old phones on the wall for trucker phone calls. The convenience store side has all the things you could need to trick out your semi’s cab. Plus, they have a lounge area and maybe even showers for the long-haul guys. Don’s Windmill is also one of those pieces of Americana that feel like they will be around forever. Don’s has been around for about 50 years. They have some pretty cheesy commercials with a little jingle and a cut-out of the original owner appearing alongside a live family member.

After I took my mom here one night, she had memories of possibly stopping here when were kids driving back and forth to “Grandma in Iowa’s” house.

The mold thing was surprising and disappointing but the way she handled it certainly had a huge effect on our overall impression. I wouldn’t go here on a big date but we will return- we’ll just check the buns out before we eat them next time.


Don’s Windmill Restaurant & Truckstop
Adress: 7262 Lansing Rd., Dimondale, MI 48821
Phone: (517) 646-6752
Website: Couldn’t find one but here’s another blogger’s take on the ambiance and food: MidMichigan Dining.

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.

My Shopping Trip: Buy Local Market on the Capitol Lawn

It was a beautiful day to spend my lunch break outdoors. It was also quite a nice day for eating ice cream so I did that too.

Chris and I went over the the market about 11:30 yesterday. I remembered the lunch crowd from last time so I wanted to get there a little earlier this time. I was really hoping this market would be bigger than the one in July. After all, its September and everything should be coming in to harvest, right?
But, it was a bit smaller. The family that owns Fortune House restaurant in Owosso was not there this time, I don’t think. I bought a bunch of Asian vegetables from them before. A few of the stands were quite large though.

We bought some super-sweet red peppers, a couple of banana peppers, a pint of ginger gold apples (my favorite), a pint of plums, a pint of crimini mushrooms and some cheese from Grassfields Cheese of Coopersville.

While walking around, we sampled pickled vegetables from Safie Foods. I’m not sure how much I like dill-pickled green beans. The sweet and sour pickles were good though. We didn’t buy any as our fridge is ridiculous right now and I know where to get them in the future. We also had some sweet potato bread. It was decent but I think Chris was put-off by the vendor reprimanding him because he didn’t use the little tongs to pick up his sample. Okay… well he did take the last piece so its not like he touched anything else.

And we had ice cream from Mooville. Chris had strawberry and I went for mint chip, which didn’t actually have chips in it. I’m pretty sure that was just luck of the scopp though. The bowls with one large scoop were just a dollar each and made quite a nice lunch appetizer. Mooville milk is available at L&Ls and the City Market. I think they have ice cream at the market too.

I hope to see events like this continue to happen in Lansing and other places in Michigan. There are a lot of small food-related businesses in this state that deserve our support and the opportunity to develop a name beyond their little local shops. When I lived in Metro Detroit, I often saw things on the grocery shelves that were locally produced. Go 60 miles and no one had any idea what you were talking about. Garden Fresh salsa was just a Ferndale company selling salsa in local Meijers. A quick glance at their website shows you how big they’ve gotten.

E. coli Alert- Local Outbreak

Over this past weekend, a number of Michigan State University students were hospitilized with severe gastrointestinal issues. The school and Ingham County Health Department immediately began an investigation as all the students were on-campus residents.

Here in Lansing, a total of 10 cases were identified with seven students being hospitilized over the weekend. As no new cases have been reported since Friday, officials believe the outbreak may be over. However, as many people who have such symptoms- nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps- don’t seek medical attention, its possible more students were sick. Actually, its really possible more students were affected by this than will ever be known. Consider how likely one is to chalk-up a nasty stomache to too much cheap beer the night before (Schlitz’s Light Ice comes to mind- do they still make that stuff?).

Tests confirmed today that at least three of the illnesses were caused by E. coli O157:H7, the really bad version of E. coli.

The book, Fast Food Nation talks a lot about E. coli O157:H7. E. coli in general is found all over the place. It lives in your intestines, peacefully. But there are some rogue strains and O157:H7 is the mother of them all. Most outbreaks are associated with ground beef however, you can also get E. coli O157:H7 from unpasteurized milk, contact with contaminated water, eating contaminated vegetables and even from another infected human.

As of today, Thursday, at least 4 more cases have been identified. Health officials continue to investigate but have not identified a likely source. As noted above, the first batch of sick students were all campus residents. It would seem probable that the school cafeterias are the focus of the investigation. The MSU student ID is linked to an account for food purchases and cafeteria use. It shouldn’t take long to figure out if the students all ate in the same place but figuring out what they all ate could be more difficult.

A message from MSU: If you become ill or have been ill with gastrointestinal symptoms in the last 10 days, especially bloody diarrhea, seek care and notify the Ingham County Health Department at (517) 887-4308

School-issued releases:
Medical Alert from 9/15
Medical Update from 9/16
Medical Alert from 9/17

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