Ann About Town: Tannin for Upscale Comfort Food

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Photo courtesy of Tannin.

Unless you have a large budget for eating out, “takeout” in the pre-Covid days meant something cheap and quick: white containers of Moo Shu, black plastic rectangles of Pad Cashew, or the ubiquitous pizza box on the kitchen table. Fancy takeout meant Pizza House or Georgio’s instead of Domino’s.

These days, even though many local restaurants have opened at 25% capacity, many of us remain unready to dine in-house, even when we crave something a little more upscale. The good news is that you can still get takeout, if not delivery, from a diverse group of eateries that are a little less cheap – and maybe less quick – but offer the kind of food that makes dinner seem festive, like maybe you should change into your good sweats and brush your hair.

Tannin is one of those places.

Tannin serves white tablecloth food in what used to be a fast-food drive through on Michigan Ave. I’ve long been a fan, first when they were located in Okemos, and since their move to Lansing. They offer Italian food with interesting twists and are a true scratch kitchen, making their own pasta, sauces, and sausages.

Photo courtesy of Tannin.

Tannin’s fresh-made pasta.

Because their building has an existing drive through window, Tannin is using it for curbside pickup. The restaurant has chosen not to partner with any third-party food delivery services, so if you aren’t ready to eat inside, pickup is the only option.

We found it easy and pleasant to order by phone and then pay and pick up at the window. I was asked if I wanted the food ready for pickup in twenty minutes or at a specific time, which is kind of luxurious. 

When my husband picked up our order, he was prevented from leaving part of our order behind by the young man at the window, who said “Your wife won’t like it if you forget the pizza.”

It was actually Captain Carnivore’s pizza, but I would not have been happy if he’d forgotten it. I would have sent him back into the Arctic evening or tossed him a bag of kale chips as a punitive replacement.

Tannin’s takeout dinner menu isn’t their full menu but has plenty of options. Although I always order the warm, marinated olives at the restaurant, I figured they wouldn’t stay warm on the trip home. Microwaving them would be a sacrilege, and I lacked the energy to warm them up on the stove. Instead, I tried the goat cheese sformato – a goat cheese dip topped with gently cooked cherry tomatoes, chives, and balsamic vinegar, and served with crostini. The dip was goat cheese tangy, balsamic sweet, creamy and elegant, smeared on the accompanying garlic buttery crostini.

I also had a half-order of chicken parmesan, because that’s something about which I have strong opinions. Would the breading stay crisp? Would the chicken itself have flavor? Would the breading slide off in glutinous chunks when I cut into it? Would the pasta be good on its own and not just an indifferent island of noodles in a sea of watery sauce?

This chicken parm passed with flying colors. The chicken breast was moist, flavorful, and coated with a garlicky, buttery, crisp coat of crumbs. The pasta – made in-house – tasted and ate like homemade pasta. The sauce was a robust, but not overwhelming, red sauce – also made in house – and the provolone and parmesan were there, but not in such quantity that they hid the main attractions of the dish in oily, stringy blobs.

The breakthrough of the evening was Captain Carnivore’s pizza. Were I an incredible snob, I might tell you that I’ve spent enough time in Italy to appreciate “real” pizza with minimal sauce and cheese. Since I’m not that obnoxious, I will just say that for many years, I have silently judged people who like their crust thick, their sauce abundant, and their cheese “extra.” Since my Captain is an unrepentant fan of standard, American pizza, I was worried when he opened the box containing his 10” salami pizza. The crust was thin, the sauce and cheese modest, and the topping nothing but beautifully crisped rounds of salami.

I needn’t have worried. He loved it. The bite I tried was authentic and delicious, with a thin, crispy-chewy crust, but he didn’t care if it was authentic. He liked it because of the delicious part. I tend to think Tannin’s pizza would also please most kids, and, as a food snob, I would be delighted to have little eaters grow up appreciating pizza that doesn’t come topped with extra anything, from plastic mozzarella to cheese sticks, chicken nuggets, eggrolls, nacho “fixins,” or other nonsense.

Photo courtesy of Tannin.

The Captain’s sausage and ricotta stuffed shells were another hit, including bits of house-made sausage that was tender and had enough fennel to make the whole dish sing. We both had half orders of our entrees, which, by the way, is plenty if you’re also having a salad or other starter. I had food to make a full lunch the next day.

Tannin’s kitchen will make every effort to accommodate special requests, and there are several gluten free and vegan options already on offer, including gluten free pasta. It’s also an easy menu for kids – I think most kids would eat the salami pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, or fettucine alfredo (basically mac & cheese that’s died and gone to heaven). 

Tannin is also promoting a weekly “date night takeout” for two (see their Facebook Page) that sounds pretty great and includes bread, dessert, and a bottle of wine. You can order by email and pick up on Friday or Saturday between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

It costs more than cheap takeout, but I’m telling you that when you can afford it, really good food makes everything better. And who doesn’t need that right now?

Tannin is located at 1620 E Michigan Avenue, in Lansing.

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