The State Room in East Lansing, Michigan

It’s a Wednesday evening at The State Room and here’s the scene – in a semi-private area of the restaurant there’s an event dinner teaching food and wine pairings. In another area, hotel guests are conducting a business dinner, and our table is celebrating my birthday. A lot is going on yet, the servers are enthusiastic, and the service is impeccable.

Location: The State Room located at 219 South Harrison Road, inside the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, Michigan.

Menu: Seasonal menus feature American cuisine. In addition to a Saturday menu brunch and a Sunday brunch buffet, the State Room offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

They have a separate vegan menu featuring items like cinnamon chipotle roasted sweet potatoes, seared tofu, and roasted Brussels sprouts.

Thoughts: The State Room’s contemporary décor has an autumnal color palette with shades orange and brown. Art objects accent the furnishings.

The modern wine tower divides the room and displays a complete collection of wine that has won Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence for 13 successive years. They offer over 750 selections of bottled wine and 18 selections of by the glass wine.

Rumor around town was that The State Room provided a free entrée AND dessert on your birthday. Any entrée and any dessert that you choose, no matter the price. Considering The State Room is a fine-dining restaurant where top-end entrees like the six-ounce char-grilled filet mignon with a glace de viande served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed asparagus run $31, I thought there must be a catch. I decided to test the waters on my birthday and was pleasantly surprised. Asking the server about any restrictions, and she assured me there were none. Order anything, provided today was my birthday and I had pictured identification. After the entrée, the server also offered a complimentary dessert of my choice. It turned out the rumor was true.

Michigan State University is a world-renown agricultural college. As a result, they have the MSU dairy plant which produces ice cream and cheese. The State Room takes advantage of this bounty. Their dessert menu includes The State Room’s house-made sorbet; but, also there is also a variety of ice cream made next door at the MSU dairy plant. The choices vary; however, an ice cream featuring Michigan’s cherries was on the menu the night we celebrated. Michigan cherries covered in chocolate swirled throughout a pure vanilla ice cream was the perfect ending to our meal.

Cheese is another product of the MSU dairy plant. While not all the cheese in the State Room is made at the dairy plant, MSU Dagano was a choice for the cheese plate. The MSU dairy plant invented MSU Dagano, reminiscent of the Dutch cheeses Gouda and Edam. It’s a semi-soft brined cheese with a mild flavor. Like a Swiss, round holes or eyes form during aging and contribute to Dagano’s look. Dagano ages for eight weeks.

The cheese plate had a choice of three, two-ounce cheeses. The State Room’s selection included Havarti dill, brie, sage derby, goat cheese, MSU Dagano, or Maytag blue cheese.  The cheese comes with blueberries, strawberries, and warm ciabatta.

Some of my favorite dishes include:

  • The filet tip and wild mushroom arancini in a bed of roasted tomato garlic oil. The arancini are fried to crispy perfection. A parmesan crisp decorates the plate.
  • The signature burger made from a blend of brisket and chuck comes on an everything brioche bun. Topped with feta cheese, candied jalapeños, pickled cherry tomatoes, and arugula the burger is a unique take on a classic. House-made French fries accompany the burger.
  • The classic campout s’more morphs into a torte with chocolate custard on a graham cracker crust. A marshmallow fluff swoosh decorates the plate, along with a giant marshmallow toasted to perfection and two graham crackers. The dish was served on a rectangular piece of gray stone, making for a pretty presentation.

Price Range: Appetizers range from $9 for the cinnamon chipotle roasted sweet potatoes with lemon yogurt to $18 for the Moroccan shrimp. A bowl of soup is $5. Salads range from $6 for the bistro salad to $11 for the arugula salad. The signature burger is $16. Entrees range from $21 for black truffle ricotta gnocchi to $31 for the filet mignon. Desserts range from $4 for house-made sorbet to $6 for the s’more torte or the signature chocolate cake. Dinner for two runs about $75 including tax and gratuity.

Amy Piper

Amy Piper is a freelance food and travel writer. She writes about food and multi-generational travel on her blog Follow the Piper. You can follow her on Twitter @amythepiper.

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