The center of the Zingerman's empire is deli/cheese shop/bakery attached by a patio to a coffee shop and gelato stand, both intertwined with retail chocolate, cooking supplies, exotic dry goods, and a massive amount of exceedingly whimsical signage. Down the street is the Roadhouse, which will be the object of another road trip soon, and somewhere in the mix is a massive mail-order operation and a kitchen that I can only imagine.
Here's how it goes down. You pull into cute-as-a-button brick-street Kerrytown a few miles off the highway, far enough through nondescript neighborhoods that you begin to doubt your GPS. You look for parking. If lucky, you find it. You walk in through what looks like a regular deli entrance - large black awnings and warm window displays into a warmly lit room that redefines overstuffed. On your left, cheese. Beyond that, meats. The selections are truly mind boggling - 8 varieties of bone-in Spanish Hams. On your right, a wall of breads, fronted by friendly guys with beards. Keep walking, one very small step at a time, toward the giant menu boards that loom above the sandwich station. While you're wondering how this is all supposed to result in you getting a sandwich, a nice person with a clip-board approaches you and works with you to select the right sandwich for your particular needs and desires. You select a Pastrami, specifically the JJ's Special, with grilled onions and swiss cheese. You hope you like it, because the sucker is $16. Once you find your seat, out on the multi-level patio between the Deli and the Gelato, and pull down your drink from the all-Boylen soda fountain, your Pastrami arrives.
Katzinger's in Columbus, Ohio, a much longer drive from Lansing.
After dinner, despite being completely stuffed, I managed to find room for a slice of exceptional apple pie and a decent cup of house-roasted coffee. Zingerman's has earned it's imperial stripes - they roast coffee because they wanted really good coffee, they make bread because they needed the bread to be perfect, they make cheese because all the cheese they wanted wasn't made by anyone else. I love that kind of empire - it's generous and wide-stretching, raising the bar for anyone making a sandwich and providing the resources to get there.