Here’s Capital Gains’ look at visiting Lansing’s Eastside neighborhood. Also check out our guides to investing in and moving to Eastside Lansing.Lansing
’s Eastside neighborhood
—the area generally west of US-127 and east of Downtown—is a great place to catch a glimpse of the city’s continued metamorphosis from an industry town to a professionally and economically diverse city.
The Eastside developed at the turn of the last century, and it has cherished this history, working hard to maintain the integrity of the early 1900s buildings lining the Eastside’s shopping district while encouraging the development and expansion of new businesses.
In the early 1900s, REO Motor Company owner R.E. Olds needed more workers to make his cars. So, he constructed houses on the southern side of what is now the Eastside neighborhood and recruited German workers to move to his new neighborhood. Since that time, the neighborhood has evolved, expanding north and west of its original location and making way for a younger generation of nurses, law school students, young professionals and state employees.Sparrow Hospital
has been another neighborhood anchor since they landed at their current location at the corner of Pennsylvania and Michigan Avenue in the early 1900s. The hospital was started by a group of women who wanted to help local families in 1896, and today, the 7,000-employee hospital is preparing to open a $160 million west wing expansion. Diversity
Part of the attraction of this area is how the Eastside has held onto and embraced its diversity. A stroll down Michigan Avenue can provide a little taste of Thailand, Italy, the Middle East and Mexico—literally.
A long-standing Eastside landmark, Emil’s
restaurant is a traditional Italian restaurant that opened in 1921, and is still owned by the original family. It’s a great place to relax in the evening with friends, nestled in one of Emil’s many cozy booths, listening to the comforting din of the restaurant and enjoying the great bread and wine.
And the family values that nurtured the restaurant are evident every Tuesday night, when families crowd Emil’s intimate atmosphere for “all you can eat” homemade spaghetti and half-price wine. When it’s time for the new season of “American Idol,” staff pause between orders to watch the bar TV with their patrons, who are glued to the TV.
If Italian’s not your flavor, you can always stop by Lamai’s Kitchen
for authentic Thai food, or El Oasis
for a couple of corn tortilla tacos. Jerusalem Bakery
will fulfill a Middle Eastern craving. In the summer, the patio outside of the Jerusalem Bakery hosts card players who fill their stomachs with fresh pita and hummus whenever hunger strikes.
If you like the combination of history and food, Clara’s Lansing Station
restaurant needs to be one of your stops. The elegant Victorian-style restaurant is housed in the original Michigan Central Railroad Station, which dates back to 1903. You can select something from the 16-page menu, and eat either inside the replica of an old-fashioned dining car or inside the refurbished station house.Nightlife
Nightlife in the Eastside includes a variety of conveniently located bars, nightclubs and coffee houses, most of which line Michigan Avenue, the Eastside’s main corridor.
The Green Door Blues Bar and Grill
is an Eastside icon known for attracting great jazz and blues talent, earning a reputation as being the best place to go for live music any night of the week. The Green Door supports local musicians, including the popular Lansing-based roots band, Steppin’ In It
, which can be heard almost every Monday night.
Just across the street, Magdalena’s Tea House
specializes in original, independent music, including folk, bluegrass, jazz and world music. Comfortable couches, low lighting, and oriental rugs make visitors feel at home in this community gathering space. Enjoy organic, vegan and raw food options including smoothies and Magdalena’s own line of Michigan teas.
Other Eastside music venues include Mac’s
bar, a classicly grungy local hangout, and Dagwood’s
on Kalamazoo Street, home to great mozzarella sticks, cold beer and Tuesday open-mic nights.
If you’re a big darts fan, you won’t want to miss Moriarty’s Pub
. As Lansing's only official dart bar, Moriarty’s host several leagues and dart tournaments. The darts are free as long as you are buying drinks or Moriarity’s special Cajun-seasoned food. Live blues, rock and R&B cover bands also play on the weekends.Homegrown Music
is a great music venue and is quickly making a name for itself as the place to go for all-age shows. Cities are known for bending over backwards for the 21 to 30 year-olds, but Homegrown Music’s willingness to open its doors to people outside of this demographic is exemplary of the Eastside hospitality.
Other must-stops include Gone Wired Café
—part coffee house, part community gathering spot. Gone Wired’s drinks and extensive sitting space attract all kinds of late nighters. At the Café, it’s not unusual to hear a medicinal marijuana recruiter talking to petitioners at one table and a lawyer discussing a deposition over her cell
phone at another. It’s easy to wile away an afternoon in the neighboring bookshop, Everybody Reads
, as well.Great outdoors
In the spring, summer and early fall, Eastside visitors can take advantage of the Grosbeck Golf Course. The course is an extension of the Grosbeck neighborhood, one of the fancier neighborhoods on the Eastside. While Tiger Woods may never been spotted on one of the courses’ 18-holes, it’s a reasonably priced ($20-$49 a round) place to spend a lazy summer afternoon.
, a 13-acre park just south of Kalamazoo Street, is another good outdoor spot, especially for the kiddos. Hunter Park has basketball courts, tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a new greenhouse built as part of a local Cool Cities
project. The park is always busy in the summer, but you’ll find that Lansing residents take advantage of the park in the winter, turning the park into a cross country ski course.
Though the Eastside embraces young professionals and college students, its willingness to bring anyone into its
fold has allowed this neighborhood to thrive as Lansing’s grows beyond its manufacturing roots.
Ivy Hughes is the Development Editor for Capital Gains, and lives in Lansing's Eastside neighborhood.
Holly Makimaa is a Lansing-based writer who lives on Lansing’s Eastside and teaches journaling and memoir writing around the country.
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Eastside's Michigan Avenue shops
All Photographs © Dave Trumpie