When I wrote the original EL visitors' guide a few years ago, I attempted to write a definitive list of all the restaurants in East Lansing. I soon realized how large of an undertaking that was, and cut it short before it ended up being 10,000+ words. So this time around, I'm going to go over some of my favorites. Note that I'm leaving out chains (McDonald's, Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, etc.).
Home of the Crunchy burger, truly an East Lansing institution. This laid back restaurant has old MSU posters on the walls, 20+ craft beers on tap, and Karaoke nights Thursday and Fridays. Debate often rages over who has the better burger: Crunchy's or the next place on this list...
The Barrel, as it's called by locals, specializes in burgers. Their patio is also one of the best places to people watch around Michigan State, so take a seat on a crisp Fall Friday with one of their Long Island iced teas (limit 2 - they're strong, but delicious) and watch the world walk by.
Another place that serves standard American fare: burgers, fries, sandwiches and stuff. Its location close to the Breslin Center makes it a logical choice for a couple beers before the basketball game on cold winter nights.
I haven't been to the East Lansing HopCat yet, but I have been to the original in Grand Rapids, and their crack fries are still some of the best I've ever had. If 100 (100!) craft beers on tap is your thing, make sure you don't leave East Lansing without giving HopCat a visit.
Sometimes you just need a quiet place before the game to have a good meal. Beggar's can be a bit pricier than the other restaurants I've mentioned so far, but the food's worth it. When I was at MSU, this was the place you took your parents to when they visited to give the semblance of you being a functional adult.
They make their own beer at Harper's, so they only carry their beers on tap. They're good though - the Spartan Wheat is my favorite. I would rate their food as "OK", so if you're thinking about eating here you'll probably want to visit some of the other restaurants on this list first.
This pizza place opened up a couple years ago, so I haven't eaten here yet. From what I've heard though it's a pretty good place to get a pizza and beer while you watch a number of college football games on Saturday.
El Azteco - 225 Ann St.
Another place with a great view during the summer, as many a margarita has been had on their rooftop.
Late Night Eats
Menna's sells dubs. What is a dub, you ask? It's basically a burrito filled with chicken and any number of toppings you choose. Don't be surprised to see a huge line, especially at the Albert location, at 1:45 AM.
While technically a chain, Panchero's has around 65 restaurants total, and I think that's not quite enough restaurants for it to qualify as a full-fledged chain, and thus it gets a mention here. Panchero's specializes in burritos, and I'm still trying to find a place where they make the tortilla in front of you.
Like Menna's they sell wraps, but they also sell sandwiches and burgers. If you have a late night hankering for tater tots and sour cream in a wrap late, this is where you go.
So those are all the places I can remember right now. I'm sure I forgot a few, so don't be surprised if a few more pop up on here. Let us know your favorite places to eat in the comments!