At Silver Bells in the City Friday, downtown Lansing revelers will get a first look —and perhaps a first taste — of Metro Lansing’s latest addition to its growing French culture. EnVie, a new fusion restaurant opening next month at 210 S. Washington Square, will be open for folks looking to duck in from the cold, and take a sneak peek at downtown’s newest dining destination.
“Initially we were looking to have just a few French items on the menu,” said co-owner/operator Lance Davis. “But when word got out we were coming and people saw the name, they started posting to our Facebook page saying how much they were looking forward to authentic French food. So we made some changes based on that feedback. It’s definitely more French than we were thinking.”
Slowly and subtly, Francophile-friendly joints have been popping up all over Metro Lansing. You like sweets? Le Bon Macaron, 1133 E. Grand River in East Lansing, is dedicated to creating macarons, the classic French meringue mini-pastries that resemble tiny hamburgers. Chapelure, 4750 S. Hagadorn Road, another East Lansing patisserie, recently opened a second location in Eastwood Towne Center. Then there’s For Crêpe Sake, which did so well in Lansing City Market that it moved into a brick-and-mortar location at 221 S. Washington Square, in the heart of the bustling downtown lunch scene. And the Creole, 1218 Turner St. in Old Town, Bridge Street Social, 107 S. Bridge St. in DeWitt, and Guyton’s Heirloom Cuisine, inside Lansing City Market, all have portions of their menus dedicated to authentic French items, such as steak tartare and charcuterie plates.
EnVie, meanwhile, will have a scratch kitchen, offering house-made sauces and hand-made pasta. Familiar French dishes such as duck à l’orange and coq au vin will certainly make the cut, but beyond that, the menu is a work in progress.
“We’re still finalizing the menu, but the idea is to use French cuisine as a base and build up from there,” said co-owner/chef James Cheskaty. “I’m creating things no one has seen before. I obviously want to make diners who are coming in looking for French items happy, so I’m including some familiar favorites that I’ll give a modern, interesting twist to.”
Cheskaty said he’s working with local farmers to do meat curing for some items. While the menu won’t be strictly farm-to-table, he plans to use as many local items as he can as they come into season. The goal is to have a 20-item menu that will be in place all day, from 8 a.m. breakfast to happy hour. Special grab-and-go salads, sandwiches and soups will be positioned near the entrance for downtown workers who don’t have time to sit, but a full European experience will be available for diners with relaxed schedules.
“Not everyone has time for a three-hour lunch,” Davis said. “If you just want a sandwich, you have your choice of sandwich shops already. We wanted to do something different.”
Cheskaty, originally from Florida, has been working in Lansing-area restaurants for the last six years, including recent pop-up experiments Supu Sugoi and Ruckus Ramen. Lansing native Davis, meanwhile, spent the last 10 years as the general manager of Gilbert & Blake’s in Okemos before striking out on his own.
“The company wasn’t expanding, so I decided the time was right to do my own thing,” Davis said. “And we decided on downtown because I live down here, and it’s an exciting time to be here. There’s so much going on now with new apartments and new things to do. Old Town is growing, REO Town is growing, and we’re right in the middle of all that.”
Bar manager Joshua Williams will keep the beverage menu focused on high-end wines and craft cocktails. Handmade syrups, grenadines and mixers will keep the European vibe going, as will the décor. Since August, the team has been working to turn the former Brannigan Brothers space into an intimate dining room (seating capacity: 65), including a glass-top bar and a new entrance featuring folding French doors, as well as a fireplace, a chandelier and a black-and-white subway tile theme.
“It’s going to be much lighter in here,” Davis said. “We really want to make you feel like you’re walking into a European bistro when you enter.”
The name is a clever triple entendre of French words. As an adjective, it means to have a desire for something. As a noun, envie means a craving, especially for food. And as two words, “en vie” means to live life to its fullest.
“There’s a certain romance to France and French culture that (Americans) just seem to connect with,” Davis said. “If we can capture a little bit of that, I think we’ll do alright.”