Food trucks are well covered territory here on the Awesome Mitten. We love their mobility, their accessibility, their laid-back, yet innovative charm. For a couple of Michigan food trucks, there’s now even more to love, as they ground a part of their business near the mitten’s capital city.
The first, a creation of Nina Santucci and Anthony Maiale — the great minds behind the Purple Carrot (so awesome, that we’ve featured it twice) — is Red Haven. Red Haven, which opened its doors this past October, is a restaurant all about showcasing the best of Michigan. Even the name, which comes from the Red Haven peach developed in 1940 by Michigan State University professor Stanley Johnson, is a nod to Michigan. The Red Haven peach, which is now said to be the top standard by which to measure peaches, comes from right in our own backyard.
As does everything at the Red Haven restaurant. Walking in, you’ll first notice the decor, although you may not realize that it puts the spotlight on Michigan. Using beams salvaged from a barn in Charlotte, Santucci and Maiale called upon artists at Against the Grain to repurpose the wood to create rustic, inviting interior.
The walls are also adorned with photographs of the very farms that supply the food on your plate, taken seasonally by Jena McShane. Add in the scenic view of Michigan State farmlands and you have the wholly farm-to-table theme that can only be found at Red Haven.
Additionally, your server will drop off any number of Michigan-made beverages, whether your pleasure is bubbly sodas, rich coffee, or delicious Michigan beer, wine, or signature Red Haven cocktail.
Lastly, you’ll order your meal from the tapas-style, seasonally crafted menu. Red Haven suggests ordering two to three dishes per person (I don’t have to decide on one dish? Count me in!), the ingredients for which come from nineteen assorted Michigan farms. Since the restaurant format removes the limitations of what can be cooked and how it can be presented experienced at the Purple Carrot, Red Haven’s menu is much more extensive. One thing, however, is consistent between the two: the mission will always be “Local First.”
The same can be said of food truck Trailer Park’d “Slow” Fast Food and restaurant Fork in the Road; Local Artisan Diner, which opened this past November. It has even been noted that owners Jesse Hahn and Ben Ackerman can often be found at the East Lansing Farmers’ Market perusing for the perfect ingredients for dishes to be served at Trailer Park’d and Fork in the Road. Indeed, both establishments boast a commitment to using only fresh, local, seasonal ingredients.
This commitment shines through in the delicious cuisine; with a gourmet take on classic comfort food, Fork in the Road makes what could be very simplistic food both special and exciting (See: grilled cheese. Definitely not Kraft slices on white bread.). The playful and flavorful dishes, including the famed Ballin’ Ass Tacos originally served at Trailer Park’d, are ordered at a walk-up counter where guests can peer into the kitchen for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the inner workings of how your meal is crafted.
It isn’t just a commitment to the fare that makes Fork in the Road special, though. There was significant thought put into finding a building with character to house the restaurant, as well as a location in a neighborhood where clientele were already abundant. Thus why you’ll find Fork in the Road near Old Town Lansing (where Trailer Park’d can often be found). Even beyond location, it is clear that the owners and employees at Fork in the Road are committed to creating an unforgettable experience for their customers, with servers taking the time to speak to guests and guarantee an understanding of all that this unique restaurant truly has to offer.
Be sure to visit Red Haven in Okemos (also on Facebook and Twitter) and Fork in the Road; Local Artisan Diner in Lansing (also on Facebook and Twitter) to get a taste of Michigan’s best. And now that the weather is warming up, make sure to see where it all began at the Purple Carrot (on Facebook here and on Twitter here) and Trailer Park’d “Slow” Fast Food (on Twitter here)!