Top 10: Midland Dine-In

I am Midland lifer and I am not ashamed to admit it. I love this town, the people, the stupid roads, the Dow kow-towing local government, and despite itself, the food. I was recently FLAMED for having too narrow of a pallet from one of my more “mobile” (or a negative spin: “flighty”) friends. I miss you Cody! I am sure the food in Minneapolis is MUCH better. I am not even denying it! But you are forgetting one thing, while you are eating that delicious…. whatever it is they eat in Minneapolis.. You have to live in Minnesota. “Land of 10,000 almost always frozen lakes”. Michigan just needs 5 great ones plus Higgins and we are good to go. So Maina, enjoy that Poke Bowl in Seattle, Cody your… Fried Gopher and Lake Trout? Matt Vandy in Florida enjoy your Blowfish. Here are my top 10 meals at dine-in restaurants that Midland has to offer. It even includes a meal from Applebee’s, UNIRONICALLY.

Note: Meals are rated considering ALL criteria. Price, portion, presentation, availability, service at restaurant, restaurant environment, etc.
Shout-out to Gratzi’s cheese wheel, Molasses’ brisket, and Proper Taco’s pork taco. Excellent meals that probably deserve a spot on the list, but are new to me, and this don’t have the longevity to have satisfied me multiple times. I just need more data points before I am ready to declare them top 10.

10. Asian Express – Bibimbap:

Now I want you all to remember this one. It has a ton of vegetables okay? And it is delicious. The O.G. of adding an egg you probably don’t need. Bibimbap takes a dish full of ingredients that are kind of meh alone and makes them fit together perfectly (like a well coached team!). It better come in that cast-iron bowl, which keeps the dish hot, the rice a touch crispy, and every bite feeling like the first. With it’s hot temperature and hot sauce all over it, bibimbap delivers a unique taste brought forth by ingredients adding their own unique element. Bean sprouts? Pivotal. Carrots? Crucial. Spinach? Mandatory. Mushrooms? Please No. Egg? The proverbial cherry on top. Except cherries are gross and eggs are amazing. Petition to change the phrase to “the egg on top.”
Alternate Order- Get it with fried rice instead of white and add yum yum sauce if you want to know what it is like… to go… even further… beyond. (Real talk, don’t do this though, it ruins the… purity of the dish. Don’t worry I’ll get you your yum-yum and fried rice later in the article.)

9. Red Barn – Fries: This one may be a bit of a cop out. Does fair food count as dine in? Well it isn’t a drive-thru, and it certainly costs as much as a dine-in (no disrespect, I get the hustle). Also, the seasonal availability (and by seasonal, I mean one week of the year) makes this one a special treat. If you ever find yourself in the misfortune of being stuck at the fair, do yourself a favor and go to the Red Barn. While every fair in America has elephant ears and cinnamon rolls, there is only one Red Barn. They have somehow perfected the french fry. The indisputable king of a fried potato sliced and piled so high spilling fries out of the flimsy cardboard as they hand it to you is part of the process. As if to point out, you have an embarrassment of riches with these fries. Spilling a few is a necessary tax to pay to the fair-gods (AKA seagulls). Load them up with vinegar or ketchup if that is your style, but brilliantly, they don’t need them. Top it off with a freshly squeeze Lemonade and say hi to Mrs. Joesph for me. 
Alternate Order: There is no alternate, get fries. But right down the road a stand has Fried Oreo so if you somehow need dessert that is a solid choice. 

8. Buffalo Wild Wings – Asian Zing Boneless: As far as I am concerned, B-Dubs created this sauce. I am probably way wrong. But that red spicy sauce with chili flakes in it that everyone knows and loves, was made popular by this wing. There was a time when this was the only place to get this sauce, now you can find it in a gallon jug at save-a-lot. I’ll be sure to catch some flak for opting for boneless, but shoot. We are at buffalo wild wings people, we aren’t here for purity. We aren’t even here for chicken if we are being honest. We are here to find the most convenient way to get sauce into our mouths. And for that, I am going boneless. On the off-chance you somehow remember to bring home your leftovers instead of leaving them on the table for the fourth gosh-darn time in a year, boneless make for a better midnight snack. Add ranch if you are a baby and can’t handle the heat. Go with the Blazin’ challenge if you watch Hot Ones on Youtube and want to feel like a celebrity. 
Alternate Order: If you get anything other than wings at B-Dubs you are a fool but the loaded potato basket is a good option for an appetizer.  Easy to share, a food buffer if you will… if you aren’t in to sharing your wings.

7. Applebee’s – All-Day Brunch Burger:

Oh man. If you saw my fast food post, you know, I am a fiend for a good burger. And while Midland Burger Company makes a handful of excellent options, there is at least one burger in town that takes it to school. Burger, hash brown, bacon, topped with a fried egg. If you haven’t topped your burger with a fried egg yet, go do it. The fried egg brings out all the flavors from the burger without overtaking the taste at all. The yolk makes each bite juicier, the whites enhance the flavor of the burger, and the whole package of hash brown and bacon, makes a salty combination that you just can’t get from your 4th of July burgers. Bee’s has some solid fries as well, no need to rock the applewood smoked bacon cart and get fancy here. Let’s be honest, you are going to be forced to attend Applebee’s for some gathering you wish you weren’t at sometime soon, I’ve given you something to look forward to. 
Alternate Order:  4-Cheese Mac N’ Cheese with glazed tenders. It’s really good pasta if we are grading on the “I’m-stuck-at-Applebees-and-don’t-think-I-can-eat-another-wonton-taco-scale.”

6. Noodles and Company – Spicy Korean Beef Noodles:

I have to admit, when I heard Noods N’ Comp (possibly the all time worst abbreviation of a name that has somehow stuck with our circle of friends) was coming to Midland. I was irrationally excited, like a fat kid in a candy store. Or better, a fat man in a pasta shop. I love carbs so much and what better way to celebrate that then a restaurant that deals exclusively in pasta. I have to say, it failed to meet expectations (see: the last 10 years of Michigan football- I need help). The portions are too small for a price too high, and it fails to deliver a unique dining experience more often than not. Their mac n’ cheese dishes for example, I can get better, more exotic, more meat, mac n’ cheese at almost every bar in Midland. Do better! You are a pasta place! The one dish that saves it from being a never visit is the Spicy Korean Beef Noodles. A PERFECT mixture of sweet and spicy, with the type of thin pasta I consider to be ideal for most dishes. The veggies and …other green items… only enhance the dish. It isn’t overly sauced, so the pasta can still shine, and the beef is a nice protein to make sure you are feeling full at the end. If you are going to N&C, try this at least once.
Alternate Order: Pesto Cavatappi – I legit have no clue what this is but Hannah never finishes her’s and gives me the last few bites and it is good. Different, but good. Plus if you say “Pesto Cavatappi” five times fast you officially can speak Italian.

5. Mancino’s – Spitfire Grinder: 100% honesty, can’t remember if it is called a Spitfire or something else. But I’ll break it down so you know exactly what we are dealing with. Mancino’s bread, oh it’s so good. Toasted to perfection but still soft and doughy on the inside. Grilled Chicken, a universally solid choice. Bacon, and don’t take this bacon for granted, it is really easy to screw up bacon on a sandwich, just ask McDonald’s. Cheese, melted under the intense pressure of a conveyor belt oven. Cooked thoroughly so that the cheese is near getting hardened, but not quite there yet. Finished with the capstone: Siracha hot sauce. The perfect condiment, sent down to us from the spice lords themselves to bless our tongues with it’s perfect combination of heat and flavor. Add a cup of ranch, to dunk your perfectly quartered 18″ grinder in, and you’ve got yourself one of the best subs in town, neigh, the planet.
Alternate Order – Fred Bread: It’s a garlic cheese pizza and as far as I am concerned the best combination of cheese, bread, and garlic in town.

4. Maru Sushi – Sexy Bacon Roll: If you asked me if I liked sushi 15 years ago I would have responded with an emphatic “No!”. But now, easily one of the best food categories in the whole dang world. Either it got better, or I was able to broaden my horizons. I had this perception of raw fish, seaweed, and fish eggs, covered in too much soy. And if you want exactly that, (you sick freak) “that” kind of sushi is still an option. Or you can have an Americanized version of Sushi. You know, one that that taste good, with bacon. Just read this excerpt from the Maru website below and tell me your pancreas doesn’t get excited.

Anything with three kind of sauces must be amazing. The bacon sprouting out of the roll like an over-stuffed wallet, and the asparagus (low-key the best vegetable) adding the perfect amount veggie to your meat. You get a roll in your hand, it’s too fragile to split in to multiple bites, less you run the risk of deconstructing as you bite it. Instead, you pile it ALL in your mouth. A hand-made, customized, tailored just for you, salty, saucy, sweet, bite. And oh it is so good. It’s ranked at #5 because of price. I can’t get a full belly off one roll, so I usually supplement with some friend rice off the hibachi grill. Which is also excellent, and also over-priced. I can’t get out of there without spending $20-$25 on just myself. So it has to be a treat, a real treat. Not one of those, “Well-I-did-just-do-a-whole-30-minutes-of-yard-work-I-deserve-to-treat-myself” kind of treats.
Alternate Order: I am a fan of the Crouching Tiger Roll or the Ex-Girlfriend Roll as well. And a crouching tiger and my ex-girlfriend is a combo I wouldn’t want to miss!
{A} I’m just kidding guys, wouldn’t wish that on the poor tiger.
{B} It’s fine everyone, there is a 0% chance my ex-girlfriends read the blog.
{C} Awww I’m kidding, a bear would be just fine.

3. Basil Thai Bistro – Pad Thai: Basil Thai Bistro does one thing really well, and I am all about that one thing. Spicy Pasta. A place dedicated to delivering unique tasting pasta dishes has a ton of fun, unique, tasting dishes for you to choose from. I’ll take the most routine one though (no surprise) Pad Thai. BTB does this amazing thing when you order and asks you what level of spice you want on your dish. They warn you, that every dish is incredibly spicy on it’s own and even asking for mild is like ordering an American Medium. Well, I got for hot. It is an adrenaline rush unlike anything else. It is the closest you’ll ever get to feel like you are wrestling with you food. The shrimp is plentiful and gigantic, the classic peanut flavor of the pad thai combating the intense inferno at each and every bite. Not to mention the gigantic portion is excellent as left a leftover.
Alternate Order: Golden Noodle. It is basically the kingly version of the classic Ramen noodles every knows and recognizes.

2. Genji’s – Filet and Shrimp: As if this should come as a surprise to literally anyone. Genji’s is amazing. While the price can verge on steep, the portions are epic, the food is delicious, the atmosphere is passable, and the menu is vast. For a long time I thrived off of the early bird menu options. Only picking between steak, chicken, and shrimp depending on my mood. But I have expanded, get the filet. (And a retro roll appetizer.) Enjoy the show, smile extra big when the chef is handing out the extra rice or appetizer shrimp, and drench every portion of your dish in yum yum sauce. From vegetables to filet, it all taste better in that sweet, delicious, sauce. Leave a little rice to take home for a midnight snack (or don’t) and do your best not to drop into an MSG induced coma before you can get to your actual bed. No other meal in town will have you thinking, “I can’t wait to take my pants off” faster than Genji’s.
Alternate Order: They have a sushi bar. Kinda in the same sense that Florida has Busch Gardens instead of Universal Studios. You could go there… I guess.

1. Asian Express – Sesame Chicken with Fried Rice:

Full disclosure, I have been to Asian Express so many times, the cooks begin making my order as my car pulls into the parking lot. That is only a slight exaggeration. You’ll find the sesame chicken here as good as it is at Pi’s and you’ll find the fried rice here as good as it is at Genji’s. Thus, you have the best two things in Midland to eat, together, married under a blanket of yum-yum sauce. Sesame chicken is the best thing Chinese food has to offer at almost every Chinese restaurant, and Asian Express does it right. Not too saucy, large bites of chicken not overly breaded yet still crispy. A little sesame sauce mixes with your rice and you don’t mind. The sauce-soaked rice reaches a new level of tasty you didn’t know existed. All the flavors just melting together in your mouth, it’s hard to type this and wonder why I didn’t get Asian Express last time I ate out? The best part? Not only is the food delicious, the atmosphere, price, and service are top notch as well. Asian Express is a small building, so it keeps a quiet tone, but not so upscale you feel like you can’t laugh. The staff is INCREDIBLE, easily the nicest in Midland, frequently leaving me dumbfounded with how much care and effort they put into serving you. And lastly, this might be the cheapest meal on the list! It’s got it ALL going for it. I kept this article interesting by not listing 7 meals from Asian Express.
Alternate Order: There can only be one #1.

Thanks for Reading!

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