In business since 1921, Emil’s claims to be the oldest restaurant in Lansing, and is still owned by the same family. Many years ago, I lived near Emil’s and ate there often, but it has been several years since my last visit. For parking, there is a large metered parking lot in the back of the restaurant, or you can take your chances finding a spot in front of the building on Michigan Avenue.
Emil’s serves up traditional Midwestern-style Italian cuisine. The sauces, soups and Italian sausage are homemade and hearty. The menu also features all-American selections and vegetarian items. The pizza is very popular, and there are salads and sandwiches for lighter appetites.
Our dinners came with a choice of soup or salad. I chose the Minestrone Soup to stick with the Italian theme. It was thick and filled with tomatoes and vegetables, and a few bits of meat and pasta. My dinner partner had the Dinner Salad with Italian dressing. The salad was the standard iceberg mix. The server offered us bread. It was soft and dense white bread, and there were bottles of olive oil at the table for dipping.
The Manicotti, $10.95, was my choice. Two sheets of pasta were wrapped around a light ricotta filling in a sweet and tangy sauce. There was enough mozzarella melted on top to make strings with each bite, but not so much that the dish was coated. It was just the right size serving and not too heavy. My dinner partner ordered the Monday night special, BBQ Ribs. They were $13.99 for all you care to eat. The ribs were meaty and the sauce was tangy and not too spicy. There was also quite a bit of fat on the ribs, which made them very rich. I was surprised he had room for seconds!
A dessert list was on the table, but we were too full for dessert. The desserts might be more enticing if the menu was printed on a clean, fresh sheet of paper. Ours looked like it had been there since my first visit!
The staff made us feel welcome from the moment we entered the restaurant to the moment we left. The server was efficient and helpful. Several other people also stopped by our table to see if we needed anything.
The dining rooms are long and narrow, and look pretty much the same as they did 30 years ago, and probably 30 years before that. The décor has not changed very much over the years, and is showing some wear, but that is also the charm of this unpretentious place. Emil’s is a warm and comfy restaurant, filled with families, students and office workers out for some traditional Italian-American fare. The charm does not extend to the restroom, which was in need of a serious makeover.
The menu items are well priced with sandwiches starting at $4.95 and dinners starting at $6.95. The specials are a good value and very popular.
In addition to the BBQ Ribs special, Monday nights also feature Pizza and a Pitcher for $14.99 and the famous all you can eat Spaghetti special for $5.95. The Spaghetti special repeats on Tuesday nights for $5.49.
2012 E. Michigan Ave.