Unlike the tap handles behind most bars in Metro Lansing, the ones at Capital Vine aren’t festooned with eye-catching designs. That’s because these handles don’t pour beer — they pour wine. And we’re not talking “Two-Buck Chuck” here.
“You can get a glass of Opus One cabernet, which would normally be unheard of,” said Joe Goodsir, proprietor of Capital Vine. The new wine bar, which opened last week, is adjacent to Goodsir’s other venture, Capital Prime Steak and Seafood at the Heights at Eastwood.
“Usually, these types of bottles would go bad before you’d be able to finish them,” Goodsir explained. “This system allows you to keep a wine that’s been opened good for up to 30 days.”
The taps are part of an innovative preservation and dispensing system that injects nitrogen into the bottle as wine is removed to keep it from oxidizing and changing flavor. It allows Capital Vine to give samples and serve individual glasses from bottles that are normally too expensive to open. Opus One, for example, normally retails for a few hundred dollars.
“We looked around Lansing and saw (the upscale wine community) as a niche that wasn’t being served,” Goodsir said. “And it makes a great complement to Capital Prime. We wanted to give Lansing a great steakhouse and a great wine bar that stands up to the best in other major metropolitan cities.”
Capital Vine, which seats up to 110 guests, fills the final vacancy in the 4-year-old building that’s also home to Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Pizza. Although Capital Vine is attached to Capital Prime, it has its own kitchen and maintains a distinct identity.
“Things are a little more relaxed here,” Goodsir said. “There are couches and chairs to spread out on, and the menu consists of mostly small plates and cheese and meat boards. It’s accessible, but will appeal to people who value good food and the best wine from around the world.”
The in-house wine expert is C.J. Davis, who handpicked the list. The menu was designed by executive chef Lisa Ackerson, who also runs the kitchen at Capital Prime. Goodsir said he’s been happy with the business generated by Capital Prime, which opened in 2013. He said the success of the restaurant paved the way for Capital Vine and bodes well for the prospect of more fine dining ventures in the capital city.
“The Lansing market has been good about supporting independent restaurants,” Goodsir said. “And that’s good, because it encourages other (restaurant entrepreneurs) to come here and take chances.”
Capital Vine packs a lot into its 3,000 square feet of space. There’s a massive wine wall that stretches up over 15 feet (you need a ladder to get to the upper shelves). There’s a bar, high-top seating and a lounge area with couches and cushioned chairs. There’s also four-season rooms with accordion walls that open in the summer and a private dining area that seats up to 12.
“We plan to use that room to hold special five course dinners that will pair food with our best wines,” Goodsir said. “We tried to give this a very homey feel. People who love the hunt of the bottle are really going to make Capital Vine their home away from home.”
And then, on the other end of the spectrum from $250 bottles of wine and gourmet appetizers, you have a boisterous bar that specializes in cheap canned beer, pudding shots and oversized children’s games. Tin Can East Lansing, the fifth iteration of the self-proclaimed “world class dive bar” mini-chain, is set to open Thursday in downtown East Lansing.
But Dave Sell, vice president of parent company 414 Entertainment, said the original concept, which launched six years ago in downtown Lansing, was actually a clever bit of counter-programming to the same cultivated crowd.
“We’ve always kept an eye on East Lansing, knowing it’s busy but that it would also be tough to compete,” Sell said. “Cheap beer does well in (older-skewing markets), but it’s no advantage in a college town where every other place has dollar pitchers. But our Grand Rapids store helped us realize that the college crowd really was our target demographic.”
Sell said that management noticed that college town business essentially came in two waves: early evening, for the faculty and staff, and late night for the students. The addition of food at Tin Can East Lansing will also help distinguish it.
“I think we’re going to do very well with our stuffed burgers, which are hand-pattied to order,” Sell said. “The haystack onion rings are also going to be big sellers, too. This isn’t just a bar. It’s a restaurant where you can eat, drink and have a good time. We’re really going to stand out.”
Tin Can East Lansing takes over the former digs of Stateside Deli & Pub. Construction included knocking down a wall to connect to the space next door, doubling its footprint to 3,200 square feet. The new bar features darts, a giant Jenga set and a Connect Four board you have to stand up to play. The work also included new bathrooms, concrete polished floors and — of course — chalkboards walls, just like the other locations.
“We Tin Can-ized it,” Sell said.
Capital Vine 2320 Showtime Drive, Lansing 3-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 3 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday (517) 377-8463, capitalvinelansing.com
Tin Can East Lansing 313 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing 3 p.m. -2 a.m. Monday-Friday; noon-2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday (517) 721-1880, facebook.com/tincanel