The trend toward creative/eclectic dining has mostly kept an east-to-west orientation through Metro Lansing: Gracie’s Place and Red Cedar Grill anchor the Williamston end, while Soup Spoon Café, the Creole and the Cosmos hold it down in Lansing. Sprinkled in there are East Lansing’s Red Haven and Black Cat Bistro and Okemos’ Dusty’s Cellar and Tannin, giving local foodies a variety of must-trys. But this week, Bridge Street Social, a new eatery in downtown DeWitt, will give them a reason to head north.
“It seemed like DeWitt was an opportunity that was being missed,” said Justin King, co-owner/operator of Bridge Street Social and City Pulse wine columnist. “I wanted to create a gathering place, not just a date night place.”
King’s buisness partner — and Bridge Street’s executive chef — is Michael Luther, owner of the Red Cedar Grill. The two met years ago when King was working as a wine rep. They stayed in touch as King, a certified sommelier, developed his wine and food skills at several restaurants, including Red Haven. So when King decided he wanted to start his own eatery, he knew whom to call.
“The birth of Bridge Street Social came from Mike and I having a conversation about restaurants and food ideas,” King said. “I had started to put together some ideas for a wine bar, and Mike was looking into starting a second location. We realized quickly that our concepts aligned and that we were both looking at DeWitt as our prime location.”
The menu incorporates contemporary American cuisine with Italian, French and Greek influences. Standouts on the menu include a steak tartare that is as authentic as you can legally get in the U.S., as well as creative originals such as the spinach and ricotta gnudi (think: pasta-less ravioli). There’s also a cheese board that features a cave-aged blue cheese that will change how you think of cheese.
“The concept is simple,” King said. “Contemporary, rustic food and enjoyable beverages. We have Atwater lager on draft, as well as Vieux Chateau Certan Pomerol, (a wine that) you can get by the glass.”
There’s also a creative cocktail menu, including the ginbased One Night in Bangkok, and the Childish Gambino, which uses Hue vodka made at American Fifth Spirits in downtown Lansing.
But the real star here is the wine list. Bridge Street Social has 150 wines available by the glass — more than any other restaurant in town, and rivaling some of the state’s top restaurants.
“The beverage concept is unique for the area and it's exciting for us,” King said. “It's a progressive idea to offer 150 wines by the glass, as there's no other place in Michigan that's doing this. But ultimately, we're not trying to cater upward to five-star dining. That's not us. We're Lansing, through-and-through. This isn’t going to be a fine dining restaurant with white tablecloths and dim lights. It will be vibrant because of all the eating and drinking and the conversations going on.”
Being an independent upstart, King said he and Luther had to be creative with more than just the menu. The first thing to go was an advertising budget, which will put the onus of building a customer base on word-of-mouth buzz.
“We spent on our build-out what others might spend on their billboards, because we had no other choice,” King said. “All of our money went toward getting the building ready, buying great product and getting good staff. The aim was to give them a great dining experience, treat our guests with the utmost hospitality, make them happy and hopefully they will tell their friends. That's it.”
Last week’s soft opening gave the community its first opportunity to peek inside. One week in, King calls the response “staggering.”
“DeWitt is a wonderful community, and they've been so supportive,” he said. “It's an exciting time.”
Adding to the excitement is the fact that King’s wife gave birth to their first child — a son, Julian — last week.
“My wife and I talked a few years ago about two big goals: opening a restaurant and starting a family,” King said. “I didn't think that both would happen in the same week.”
Bridge Street Social
107 S. Bridge St., DeWitt
4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 4 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday; noon-10 p.m. Sunday
(517) 668-1837, bridgestreetsocial.com