I’m all about Michigan; I was born here and after being gone for close to 30 years, I am proud to call it home once again. I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for this great state. You can’t turn around these days without seeing or hearing Tim Allen speaking majestically about this or that and it being “Pure Michigan.” Don’t get me wrong; it’s a brilliant marketing campaign that truly puts our state front and center in extolling its many benefits. But it got me thinking one day as I drove along Grand River and passed Paul Revere’s Tavern — an East Lansing institution for 64 years. I started scratching my head and was curious how a hero of the American Revolution gets a tavern in the middle of Michigan named after him? What’s wrong with Paul Bunyan’s Tavern? Michigan might not be able to claim him as one of our own (especially since he’s a mythical figure), but at least his exploits and that ubiquitous plaid shirt could pass him off as a lumberjack in the woods of northern Michigan. Then my mind began to race (okay, I’m giving myself too much credit here) but I immediately thought of my own hometown institution, the Mayfair Bar in Haslett. For more than 75 years the Mayfair’s been a stalwart structure, not far from the shores of Lake Lansing. But “Mayfair” is located in Westminster, a district in London, England! And there’s another long-time favorite of mine, Coral Gables along Grand River Avenue in East Lansing. Opening in the 1920s as a roadhouse, this fine establishment has been the go-to place for countless students and families for years. The joint was really hopping in the late 1950s, as back then East Lansing was a “dry” (hard to believe these days) town and students made Coral Gables their primary hangout. Someone must have gone to south Florida for spring break and then came back with the name. Finally, we come to the most egregiously misnamed Michigan icon of them all, the Coney Island. Yes, the Coney can rightfully claim Michigan as its birthplace, although Jackson and Detroit are still battling it out on who can lay claim to the hot dogs’ hometown. The amazing part of this is that Coney Island isn’t even an island; it’s a peninsula in Brooklyn, NY. I know ordering a “Mackinaw Island” doesn’t roll off the tongue, but we have lots of islands in Michigan — we could have come up with something. The other thing the three above establishments have in common is that their food is consistently great and has been for a long time. So, get out and enjoy these Pure Michigan dining icons and maybe ask them if they’d consider a name change.
Pete Ruffing is the Sales Director at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. He and his wife of 14 years Brenda live in Okemos.