Bowdie’s Chophouse opened to the public last week in downtown Lansing. It’s the second location for the family-run business, which was started in Saugatuck three years ago by the father of general manager Tyler Bowdish.
For last week’s annual Silver Bells in the City event, two new restaurants near the parade route officially opened to the public, while a third — an overhaul of a Lansing mainstay — offered a sneak peek at what’s to come. Could the downtown dining landscape be mounting a comeback after a rash of closings in 2016?
“We’re counting on it,” said Tyler Bowdish, general manager of Bowdie’s Chophouse, a new steakhouse that took over the former home of the Knight Cap. “The Lansing restaurant scene seems to be going through some changes right now, and I think we’re coming in at a good time.”
Since the Knight Cap and Troppo both closed earlier this year (more on the latter in a minute), a newcomer, the French-themed brasserie EnVie, has held the mantle of premier downtown eatery. Meanwhile, nearby Soup Spoon Café continues to be a major draw for epicureans on the east side. Bowdie’s is the second location for the family-owned/operated restaurant, which was opened in 2014 in Saugatuck by first-time restaurateur Scott Bowdish. His son, Tyler Bowdish, serves as general manager at both locations.
“Their restaurant in Saugatuck is very successful, and I think Lansing is lucky they chose to open a second location here,” said Doug Johns Jr., who owns the Bowdie’s building. “Downtown will now have a top notch steakhouse again that will complement all the other entertainment options within walking distance.”
The Bowdishes were able to take advantage of the massive interior renovation performed by the last tenants, Leo and Gregory Farhat, another father/ son partnership. The Farhats purchased the Knight Cap in 2015 from original owner Charlie Sinadinos and kept the name, but closed their version of the 48-year-old bistro after only two years. They had time to give the interior an elegant, contemporary look – complete with a new, muted blue-gray color scheme – which is still in place at Bowdie’s. Tyler Bowdish said the look plays into the restaurant’s refined-yetapproachable sensibility.
“This isn’t your normal stuffy steakhouse,” Bowdish said. “This is very casual fine dining.”
Chicago native Scott Bowdish opened the original location after semi-retiring in Saugatuck and finding himself disappointed with the lack of local places to get a good steak. Tyler Bowdish, meanwhile, had spent his career working his way up through progressively higherend restaurants in front-of-the-house positions, until he finally landed at legendary Chicago chophouse, Ditka’s.
“Mike Ditka would come in once a week to eat and sign autographs. He was a really nice guy,” Tyler Bowdish said. “I learned a lot about treating customers with respect and how a professional restaurant should be run.”
So when his father opened Bowdie’s, Bowdish was a natural pick for GM. Although the 48-seat dining room was routinely packed, it was set up in a historic Victorian home, so an expansion was out of the question. The idea for a second location remained on the table until Johns approached them about his building in Lansing.
“We paid a visit, and it seemed like a perfect fit for us,” Bowdish said. “This place had been an institution for so long, and it was small, which is what we were already used to. Plus we knew that there was a market for a steakhouse in the area, so we said, let’s give it a shot.”
The Lansing Bowdie’s has 36 seats, including eight seats at the bar that can also be reserved in lieu of a table. Come summer, the patio will nearly double the capacity with 32 seats. The menu will be tight: just a shortlisted set of steak-andseafood items and a few classic appetizers. The Bowdishes lured Jason Campbell, a Cordon Bleu-trained fine dining chef who worked in several Southeast and Prairie State restaurants, to hone their menu.
All steaks will be 100 percent USDA Prime, 28-day, dry-aged meat that will only receive a salt-rub before hitting the grill. After their designated cook time, the cuts will get a rest for six to eight minutes before being dolloped with chive butter, finished in a broiler, and served on a 300-degree plate.
“This is the way the classic chophouses do it, and we’ll be following that religiously,” Bowdish said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The menu also features a lobster macand-cheese dish (which boasts an entire lobster tail) and wild-caught Faroe Island salmon, as well his father’s specialty ceviche appetizer.
Bowdish hopes Bowdie’s will generate enough buzz to get diners flocking back to Michigan Avenue and Washington Square.
“Downtown Lansing doesn’t seem to be a destination dining location right now, and our goal is to get people to drive to here for dinner,” Bowdish said. “That’s what we’re going to feed our success off of.”
Downtown’s other two newcomers
Although Troppo closed with zero fanfare last fall, it recently completed a major interior renovation, downshifting from its fine dining décor into a sleeker, more contemporary look, which includes an open kitchen. It is expected to reopen soon under the slightly tweaked moniker, Troppo Italian Kitchen. It was briefly open last weekend for Silver Bells and its annual Brunch with Santa event, but has closed again with no word on the official relaunch; no one from the restaurant, including owner Kris Elliott, returned a call for comment.
Meanwhile, Sahara’s Delight became downtown Lansing’s third Middle Eastern restaurant when it opened on Friday in the space vacated three weeks ago by Lou & Harry’s, 119 S. Washington Ave. Check back next week for full details.
Bowdie’s Chophouse 320 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing 4-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday (517) 580-4792, bowdieschophouse.com