Dusty's Cellar roots out an amazing array of fantastic food

By Jane Rayburn / Detroit News Restaurant Critic

OKEMOS -- "I'd give it four-and-a-half forks if I could," said my husband, Larry, after reveling over a near flawless dinner at Dusty's Cellar, aka Dusty's Wine Bar & Pub, in Okemos.

"Everything -- everything -- I ate was a delight," he went on. And if anyone out there knows my husband, "delight" is not a known part of his Arkansan patois, nor is flapping.

Dusty's, after some 20 years on that long, dusty road known as Grand River, just southeast of East Lansing, is a singularly extraordinary food and wine experience.

"Now you'll probably tell me that the last name of the owner is Roads," Larry had spouted earlier, he being a man given to storytelling peopled with characters like "Dusty Roads." And, yeah, Larry, it's true. Dusty's retired owner is a fellow named Dusty Rhodes, a guy who opened a gourmet deli in 1981, then, over time, got rid of the fancy cookware, kept the remarkably eclectic and upscale deli and spawned a neighboring room into this handsome, spot-lit, carnivore/herbivore/oenophile's nirvana.

I mention Dusty's now because it was just recently cited by Sante!, a trade magazine for restaurant professionals, as one of a half-dozen best bistros in the country. And with Sante!'s praise I do concur. Saturday also marks the annual gridiron showdown between Michigan State and the University of Michigan, and MSU has the home advantage. Dusty's is within a shout of the MSU fight song, a 3-mile jog or so from Spartan Stadium. So keep it in mind.

No matter, what excites Larry and me no end are chef Kevin Cronin's unexpectedly spectacular takes on what he calls New World cuisine, a catch-all that, in his case, leans leeward toward breezes of Florida and the Caribbean, Hawaii and California. He also gives a significant tip of the toque to our own Midwest.

Translation: tapas such as garlic crostin slicked with truffle oil, heaped with a woodsy, and lusty, mish of wild mushrooms; oysters encrusted with potato panko, panko being Japanese-style crumbs, the oysters bronzed, impossibly light and cracklingly crunchy, all of which let that sensuous brine of the sea shine through; or duck sausage in puff pastry, the only delight-deflator at Dusty's. The sausage is rubbery and not helped along by doughy puff pastry.

We're struck by the casual but top-flight service, as well as the offering of four different "flights" of wine -- that is, four different styles of wine, with four different bottles to taste therein. At $7 to $8.50 per flight, it's a nice way to sample, say, very different "wild, wild whites," red wines or "zippy reds."

Wine, of course, is a hallmark at Dusty's, and no small part of its estimable legend is its well-chosen, user-friendly wine list -- so friendly, in fact, it comes with a graph for pairing wine with certain foods. Here is, say, a 2000 Toasted Head chardonnay for $30, as well as a 1998 Talbott "Diamond T" Monterey chardonnay for $115. Here are a dozen merlots, 20 or so French Bordeaux and Rhone and many others the world over.

While fish is no mere afterthought at Dusty's -- what, with the behemoth Dusty's paella for two or my sublime special of plantain-and-coconut-crusted grouper served with a medley of nutty, cabernet wheatberry, brown, red and jasmine rice -- meat is king at Dusty's.

All hail, then, the heroic 2-inch-thick, meltingly rich New Zealand lamb chops rubbed with garlic and rosemary. They sit, too, like grand poohbahs, on a throne of whole-grain jalapeño mustard sauce over that cabernet rice jazz. Or an equally luscious 20-ounce chargrilled certified Angus beef porterhouse with a sheen of Scotch bonnet chile butter over rough-hewn Yukon Gold mashed potatoes.

Desserts reign supreme, as well. Like the assortment of tea cookies with house-made hazelnut gelato; Florida Key lime pie, laced with Don Julio Margarita 100-percent blue agave tequila for a $7.25 add-on or a Hawaiian chocolate volcano, with molten Hawaiian chocolate ganache in a pool of mango and raspberry coulis with macadamia nut brittle.

Dusty's Cellar -- a best-seller, an award-winner, a prize. Or as my husband would so rarely say, a delight.

Detroit News: Dusty's Cellar earns four forks out of four   
Dusty's Cellar, aka Dusty's Wine Bar & Pub, not far from Michigan State University and East Lansing, delivers a singularly extraordinary food and wine experience.
Lansing State Journal:
Dusty's Wine Bar is
an exercise in elegance

Dusty's has an award-winning wine selection, so even if you're a new-comer to fine wines, the menu and your server will help you choose a suitable accompaniment to your meal.
Dusty's puts classy spin
on bars with Tap Room

If you're looking for athe quality of a Dusty's meal without the leisurely pace, the Tap Room is a place to check out for a quick, delicious meal

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Dusty's Cellar • 1839 Grand River Avenue • Okemos, Michigan 48864
Phone: 517.349.5150 • Fax: 517.349.8416 • Email:
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