At the Fork in the Road

I had been following their short existence for a while now; first as a mobile food truck, Trailer Park’d, and recently at their new location on the west side of Lansing. I have been vicariously enjoying the menu of this place through friends’ graphic descriptions and photographic posts of specific purchases made there. Finally, today I was able to walk my way to Fork in The Road. It literally sits at a true fork in the road; the first (or last) commercial area sitting between Oakland and Saginaw as you’re coming into (or driving out of) Lansing.

Upon entering the door I was joyously greeted by Kristin. She seemed overly happy to see me; as if she were expecting me. Then she leaned over and asked, “Are you the intern?” Even with no as my answer she still seemed really happy that I was there. After a brief description of my intent; to patronize small, local businesses, blog about it and photograph my finds, she was more than eager to set me along the correct path. At Fork in the Road you decide what you would like to order; the options are brightly inscribed within chalk board painted areas on multiple surfaces throughout the diner. Then you go to the order counter to place that order. Finally you take a seat at one of the nine tables or four bar stools to wait for your food item to be hand created and delivered to your location. I politely waited in line taking in all the menu possibilities. With words like “Owosso Organics Hot Sauce”, “burnt onions” and “Ballin Ass Tacos” I knew a meal would be really the only true way to honor this artisan diner. However, I was somewhat in a hurry and decided to try out the skills of the master barista instead. I was told from the young woman at the counter that John created fantastic coffee drinks. I had previously seen one of his creations on a friend’s Facebook page and must admit it persuaded me to take a walk on the westside earlier than I had scheduled. So I ordered my Americano and took a seat at the bar. When a kitchen is open to the public so they can see all that is done within, it is called a fish bowl and that’s exactly what Fork in the Road has. This allowed me to sit at the counter and really observe the professional fluidity within this tiny diner. The two creating the food art were Jesse Hahn and Ben Ackerman, the owners. Their movements almost appeared choreographed as they weaved around the kitchen, producing luscious plates of food one after another. The food never once sat longer than a few seconds as one of the three other employees (including John the barista) quickly swooped in to deliver the masterpiece to its new owner. When not delivering food, John Miller is creating piping hot coffee drinks. As he began my drink he looked to the counter and made eye contact. I knew he knew who this next drink was for. It’s really that kind of a place. He then placed a dark chocolate mug filled with clear liquid in front of me. He was explaining to me that he was trying a new coffee from Grand Rapids and wanted me to tell him what I thought of it. All the while I was trying to figure out how that coffee could be clear. I waited however. This place, at least at the bar, is like sitting back and watching a magic show take place. Soon John returned with a steaming, dark, tiny cup full of coffee. He poured it slowly into my mug full of hot water (silly me) and we both paused for a moment and watched it foam and swirl. “Let it sit for about three minutes”, he instructed with a nod. As it sat I was able to ask him a few questions. It seems that this John Miller is the very same guy I took photos of a few months ago. On one of my last Old Town walks I happened to walk past Artie’s Filling Station just as they were taking promotional photos. I introduced myself and asked if I also could take some photos. They were ever so happy to let me. So now serving me my steaming, magically brewing cup of Americano at Fork in the Road, is John Miller from Artie’s Filling Station!

As construction woes go, I guess he has seen a few. However he seemed perfectly in place working at this little diner. There was a passion to him, and all of them really, that comes across in everything they were doing. John has an artistic flair to each cup he hand delivers to each customer, pausing to make sure it meets all expectations. He sometimes adds small details that enrich the creation even more. Then there’s Kristin who eagerly walks around making sure everyone has what they need. She often stops to explain all the locally grown food products they use within each recipe. I even over heard her graciously apologizing to the man sitting next to me who didn’t realize he needed to place an order but had just sat down instead. She made it seem like it was her fault because he didn’t see the sign saying “place order”. Yet you could tell she honestly felt responsible for someone not understanding the nuances of their quaint kitchen. It was obvious with the quality, appearance and swiftness that Ben and Jesse were meant to work together to create delicious homemade, locally grown meals. Even the diner itself had something about it. The soft sage colored walls and brown marble counters provided an earthy setting, a stage almost, for the perfect artisan meal. Each of the windows was decked out with intentionally mismatched fabrics, creating an urban apartment feel. Add to that the not-too-loud reggae music providing a soft rhythm and this easily could be my new favorite spot to enjoy a quick, delicious meal (or cup of coffee) and enjoy the good things in Lansing.

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