You can call it a restaurant. You can call it a cocktail lounge. Just don’t call Bridge Street Social, the new eatery coming to downtown DeWitt early next year, a wine bar. Sure, one of the co-owners is a certified sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers and plans to have an in-depth wine menu, but “wine bar” has become synonymous with “stuffy,” and that’s a notion he’d like to dispel.
“Twenty years ago, there were a lot of bloated egos in the (wine industry),” said Justin King, Bridge Street Social co-owner. “And it took a lot of heat because of those people. One thing that we’ve learned is that it’s all about humility. We’re here to be good stewards of wine.”
King’s partner in this food/drink venture is Michael Luther, owner of the Red Cedar Grill in Williamston. Tuesday, the duo was scheduled to get approval for a Class C liquor license for the business, which will start construction at 107 S. Bridge St. in downtown DeWitt as early as two weeks from now.
“(City leaders) have been incredibly receptive to our ideas, and the communication has been great,” said King, 35, who is also a City Pulse wine reviewer. “And the area seems like a natural home for this concept.”
Luther is crafting the menu at Bridge Street Social, which will focus on contemporary American cuisine with Italian and Greek influences. King said it took a little while to find the right restaurateur with whom he could join forces.
“You want to make sure your concept meshes well with someone else, and the more I talked about my ideas with Mike, the more it made sense,” King said. “I don’t have a background in (restaurant kitchens), and it’s great to see his brain work. His flavor profiles sold me.”
King’s background is in wine. The East Lansing native worked part time at Goodrich’s Shop-Rite from age 18 to 22, where he spent time working in the store’s sizable wine department.
“I’m grateful they let a little punk kid like me learn about wine,” King said. “I got my degree in journalism from MSU, but it didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to be the focal point of my life. I’d already fallen in love with wine.”
King spent eight years in wine sales (which is where he met Luther) before moving on to work in two eclectic restaurants. He was the wine director at Red Haven in Okemos and the sommelier at the Stand Gastro Bistro in Birmingham.
“I’m a Lansing guy, and I wanted to find something that was part of the city that I love,” King said. “And I wanted something that I could have creative control over. That’s where the restaurant idea hatched.”
King plans to complement Luther’s menu with a craft cocktail and beer list and, of course, a full wine section. He estimates that Bridge Street Social will have about 150 wines available by the glass, ranging from basic California zinfandels to unique imported varietals. While King’s passion is certainly vinocentric, he’s making it his mission to make sure the wine list is accessible to oenophiles and newbies alike.
“I’m not about fetishizing obscure wine,” he said. “I want to keep the sometimesinsane verbosity in check. I always try to find comedy in it, I think people are tired of this too-precious nature when approaching wine. Mike and I want are focused on creating a fun, engaging food-and-drink experience. That’s all.”
Popping up everywhere
Downtown Lansing will soon be home to the third store in Chad Jordan’s ever-expanding Cravings Popcorn snack shop empire. What started as a stand inside the old Lansing City Market in 2007 became a brick-andmortar store Old Town in 2012 and last year expanded to Okemos.
“This is the result of buying local (and) shopping local,” Jordan said before the Okemos store opened last year.
The downtown location will move into the former home of Ernesto’s Hideaway, next door to the recently opened “urban bakery,” Glazed and Confused. Jordan was unavailable for comment, but a representative for Downtown Lansing Inc. said there’s no timeline in place for the move.