It’s a good time to be a morning person in Lansing. Over the last year, the number of breakfast joints in downtown, REO Town and Old Town has exploded, and most of them have taken a nontraditional approach to the most important meal of the day.
There’s the Hangover breakfast sandwich at Good Truckin' Diner, with smoked pork, fried eggs and sausage gravy; the Shrimp and Grits at Creole Coffee Co., served with jalapeno bacon; and the Brioche Pizza (pizza for breakfast!) at Glazed & Confused. And last week, two new places opened, adding their eclectic fare to the mix.
After a successful 18-month run at Lansing City Market, For Crêpe Sake moved into the former digs of the Spotted Dog Café, 221 S. Washington Square, in downtown Lansing. For most Lansing-area denizens — heck, for most Americans — crêpes are thought of as thin pancakes, but the French staple holds a lot of appeal to the new class of diners seeking vegan and gluten-free options.
“We connected with a lot of people (at Lansing City Market), but we could only do so much with the limited space there,” said Mark Owen, who co-owns/operates the business with his wife, Deborah Owen. “This move really opens us up to a much bigger crowd and allows us to try some new things as well.”
In addition to the menu of sweet and savory crêpes, the Owens have added homemade soups, quiches, galettes (more on that in a second) and expanded their salad options.
“This space has a full kitchen, which is something we didn’t have before,” Owen said. “But we made the decision to build our crêpe-making station out in front so people can watch their food prepared. It makes it more fun, and also a little easier.”
At For Crêpe Sake, diners first select what type of batter they want: sweet (for dessert) or savory (for more sandwich-y type affairs), including gluten-free buckwheat. The crêpe is made fresh to order and rolled into a wrap. Savory options include the Louvre (prosciutto or bacon with red pesto, egg and brie), the Eiffel Tower (turkey, bacon, spinach, tomato and cream cheese) and the Grec (spinach, olives, tomato, onion and tzatziki sauce). If you’re going sweet, you can choose from a variety of fruit topped with Nutella, caramel, sugar and/or cheese.
“It took a little while for people to catch on to the concept, but now that they get it, we’re really taking off,” Deborah Owen said. “January is a traditionally slow time for restaurants, but we’ve had a line out the door a few times. If this pace continues, we may have to add more crêpe makers to keep up.”
Coincidentally, January and February are big French food holidays. In January, the traditional food item is galette de roi (king cake). For Crêpe Sake doesn’t feature the authentic variety (that would require baking plastic charms into the food, a health code no-no), but it has added galettes to the menu. And Feb. 2 is a French holiday called Chandeleur, which involves eating crêpes and drinking hard cider.
“We don’t have a liquor license, so if you want to celebrate, it’ll have to be (non-hard) cider,” Mark Owen said.
For Crêpe Sake will have a grand opening event 9 a.m. Thursday with samples, specials and giveaways. Meanwhile, Gump’s BBQ/River Street Catering & Café, just east of REO Town, is holding off its grand opening until it’s a little warmer. The figurative dust is still settling for the new breakfast and lunch diner.
Owner/operator Craig “Gump” Garmyn worked in construction for 26 years, but is a barbecue hobbyist on the side. In recent years, he started kicking around the idea of jumping into the restaurant biz. A fortuitous conversation with restaurateur Scott Simmons — owner of the Waterfront Grill in the Lansing City Market and the River House Inn in Williamston — put the wheels in motion for Gump’s BBQ.
“I was telling Scott about my idea, and he said he had the perfect building for me,” Garmyn said. “He came up with the idea of having (the business) do catering in addition to just barbecue, so that’s where the River Street Catering part came in.”
And so a wood-fed electric smoker was installed in Simmons’ building. Garmyn spent a few months crafting the menu — including specialty barbecue sauces and a roster of side items like cheesy potatoes — and transforming the interior into some semblance of a dining room.
“There’s a baseball field right across the street. This summer, I want to add a patio out front so people can sit and watch their kids play,” Garmyn said.
A liquor license is also in the works, which would sweeten the deal even more for Little League parents. For now, though, the big seller is breakfast burritos.
“I just wanted to open be able to accommodate all the construction workers,” says Garmyn. “I’m OK being grab-and-go for now. I’m operating it like an indoor food truck.”
Gump’s BBQ/River Street Catering & Café 1105 River St., Lansing 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; closed weekends
For Crêpe Sake 221 S. Washington Square, Lansing 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Saturday; closed Sunday (517) 374-0401, facebook.com/fcslansing