The typical college kid palette is pretty fascinating. At that age, your main food groups could be described as salty, greasy, cheesy, and sugary. Condiments are laid on thick. Ranch runs through kids' veins. Flavor is the name of the game, and much of what's consumed during the collegiate years is stuff that will lead to heartburn or other digestive challenges not long after you receive your diploma. In sum, college is a really fun time for eating.
Our advice: Embrace it. Here are some of our favorite restaurants serving flavor bomb dishes, the cheesiest bites, and the most creative eats around southeast Michigan's college campuses.
The Potato Place
107 W. Warren Ave., Detroit; 313-833-8948; thepotatoplace.com
Potato Palace has been feeding hungry (and some stoned) WSU students since 1991, and the name perfectly describes what you'll find inside: dishes built around potatoes. They also serve scrumptious salads and sandwiches, but the loaded baked potato, piled with chili and cheese, is the way to go. Other favorites include the chicken alfredo spud with chicken, mixed cheese, alfredo sauce, and parmesan cheese, and the taco spud with ground beef, tomato, onion, bell pepper, and cheese with side of taco chips and taco sauce.
119 W. Warren Ave., Detroit; 313-832-5809
This awesome little diner near WSU isn't trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to coney island fare. It's also a perfect place to grab something to eat if you have a solid hour or so in between classes. In the morning, the pancakes are light and fluffy, and in the afternoon the sandwiches and wraps are hearty and delicious. Find dishes like the Spinach and Feta Cheese Omelette Breakfast prepared with three extra-large eggs that are served with toast and jelly, and choice of hash browns, grits or tomato slices. There's also the greek Greek Taco Coney with a house burger topped with chili, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cheese. Or, from the pita station section of the menu, try the club pita with turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo served with fries.
Sweet Lorraine's Fabulous Mac & Brewz
4870 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-782-4180; macncheez.com
Despite taking over the location of a beloved independent bookstore, we can't hate Sweet Lorraine's Fabulous Mac n' Brewz. After all, they're giving students what they want — refined carbs and beer. We're partial to the Detroit Coney Dog mac and cheese, but the Philly cheesesteak and truffle and mushroom macs are to die for too. Also try the Fiesta Fajita mac n' cheese with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, spice blend, pepper jack, cheddar, pico de gallo, and choice of tofu, roasted chicken, beef or chorizo. Plus, they've got tons of great brews on tap.
University of Michigan
South U Pizza
1106 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-761-4500; southupizzamenu.com
South U Pizza has been serving hot pizza pies and slices to U-M students for years. While the traditional slices are popular, their specialty pies are where it's at. Check out the pesto chicken pie with tomatoes, spinach, grilled chicken, and pesto sauce or the Primavera Pizza with no tomato sauce, fresh cut tomatoes, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and onions. It's all topped with garlic and Italian herbs.
300 South Ashley St., Ann Arbor; 734-995-5502; thefleetwooddiner.com
The Fleetwood Diner is a quintessential '50s chrome diner with a menu that's a student magnet. They're open 24 hours, making this place a hotspot to get some munchies when the bars close. Fleetwood claims to be the inventor of the "Hippie Hash," which is a stoner's dream. Fleetwood describes it as such: "The bottom layer is a generous portion of our homemade hash browns. Next, we top the hash browns with grilled green peppers, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms. Then the entire thing gets topped with feta cheese to make a melty, delicious hash like none you've ever experienced."
Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger
304 S. Ashley St., Ann Arbor; 734-663-4590; blimpyburger.com
No two burgers are alike at Blimpy, where customers call the shots during their burger's preparation. The staff is known to be mean to people who don't order in the right way, but that's part of the fun and the "interactive ordering process." Bite back if you don't like it. Krazy Jim's uses an 80-20 ground chuck blend from Eastern Market that's grilled on a flattop. Order and stack as many patties as your stomach can fit.
Michigan State University
1625 Turner Rd., Lansing; 517-485-3663
Dining at Old Town's Golden Harvest is like a right of passage for MSU students. This breakfast and brunch joint is always changing up its menu and builds its plates with fresh and local produce. Killer omelets and inventive breakfast dishes are the name of the game, and people will literally line up out the door to try them. A sample of top notch specials include the Blue, Blue Balloon (blueberry, vanilla custard, shortbread, and blueberry coulis) or the Breakfast Arepas (fried corn cakes topped with chorizo, egg, black bean, onion, garlic, pineapple, salsa, pepper jack, and cumin lime yogurt). Golden Harvest also supports the LGBTQ community and, according to their Facebook page, does not abide racists.
254 W. Grand River Ave., East Lansing; 517-351-2506; crunchyseastlansing.com
This quintessential college dive bar specializes in cheap suds, but it's also got an awesome selection of bar fare. That includes Bacon Avocado Burger, priced to move at $10. It includes a half-pound of chargrilled beef that's smothered with mozzarella cheese, bacon, topped with avocado, and served with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles on a pretzel bun. Crunchy's finger foods includes campus hits like tots smothered in bacon and cheese that are served with a side of sour cream, and mac and cheese bites stuffed with pepper jack cheese and bacon that are born to be dipped in the restaurant's house-made ranch.
115 Albert Ave. B, East Lansing; 517-351-3827
Menna's Joint bills itself as the master of the "the American burrito. You can never fit too much food in a Dub." A Dub is a humongous American burrito, which certainly sounds like something to which college kids will flock. Among the more tantalizing options are the Blazer with chicken, cheddar, mozzarella, jalapeño, banana pepper, barbecue sauce, and sour cream; or the Chik'n Philly with chicken, Swiss, onion, green pepper, mushroom, and Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce; or the Loaded with bacon, cheddar, mozzarella, potato, ranch, and sour cream.
Eastern Michigan University
Abe's Coney Island
402 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-485-2008
Abe's is Ypsilanti's last standing Hippie Hash purveyor (RIP Gianni's). In fact, it's got a whole menu section dedicated to Hippie Hash, which at Abe's is made with green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and a blanket of feta in its most basic form. But you can also top it with corned beef, gyro meat, grilled chicken, and much more — just pile it all on. Abe's also offers an all-day breakfast menu, massive omelets with a massive side of hash browns, a solid coney dog selection, cheesesteak hoagies, and much more that goes down just right after a rip off of ye olde bong.
From the 2018 College Guide.
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