You know it’s been a weird year when the biggest development news is two big holes in the ground. East Lansing finally eradicated its biggest eyesore, the former Citizens Bank at the corner of Abbot Road and Grand River Avenue, but the demolition of a fleet of perfectly good retail buildings on the next block, between 125 E. Grand River Ave. and 250 E. Grand River Ave., to make way for the $125 million Center City District project is still a little jarring.
At least Charlie Kang’s Restaurant got a liquor license out of it. The Chinese and Korean cuisine eatery had been situated in the demo zone, and it added beer and wine selections when it relocated to the recently renovated corner building, 101 E. Grand River Ave., joining Noodles & Co. and a Verizon store. Vintage boutique Clever Clover also survived by moving, albeit in the opposite direction; it’s now situated at 317 E. Grand River Ave.
Other moves this year included the Record Lounge’s relocation from downtown East Lansing to 1132 S. Washington Ave. in REO Town, and Thailand, which swaps its Old Town digs next week for a tiny carry-out hut at 2220 N. Larch St. on Jan. 2.
Also in Old Town, the Grid took over 226 E. Grand River Ave. with its bar/arcade concept. And following the death of longtime Unicorn Bar owner Tommy Malvetis last December, developer Pat Gillespie bought the historic dive bar, 327 E. Grand River Ave., and renovated it into the Unicorn Lounge.
Downtown Lansing also saw a wave of new businesses move into the ever-evolving, and seemingly ever-revolving, business lunch/ happy hour scene. The French-flavored EnVie, 210 S. Washington Square, and Chicagostyle steakhouse Bowdie’s Chophouse, 320 E. Michigan Ave., make a play for upscale palates, while Batter Up Bistro, 621 E. Michigan Ave., focuses on gourmet breakfast and lunch offerings.
Downtown also got two new international restaurants: Sahara Delight, 119 S. Washington Ave., serves up Middle Eastern fare and La Cocina Cubana, 123 S. Washington Ave., covers Cuban cuisine. A third place, the fast-casual Mexican place Red Burrito, was but a blip on the downtown radar, lasting for a mere seven months at 212 S. Washington Square.
It may not be new, but Troppo Italian Kitchen underwent an interior overhaul and concept change at 111 E. Michigan Ave., while Blue Night Hookah Lounge, 224 S. Washington Square, is trying to reignite downtown’s nightlife scene. And just north of downtown, the new you-buy-we-fry Nu-Wave Fish & Chicken, 427 E. Oakland Ave., opened at one of the busiest intersections in Ingham County.
Traveling south, you’ll find Sam’s Southern Eatery, 3812 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., offering authentic New Orleans street food. And farther south still, Kazumi Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar joins Lansing’s surprisingly robust hibachi scene. Also on the south side, Mega-Bev, 3630 S. Cedar St., became the capital city’s biggest liquor store, with a 10,000-square-foot footprint. The family-owned outlet offers over 10,000 varieties of specialty spirits, including about 2,000 types of craft beer.
If you prefer a different king of buzz, however, you can now order a “coffee cocktail” at third wave coffee shops the Crafted Bean, 116 N. Bridge St. in downtown DeWitt, and Blue Owl Coffee Co., 1149 S. Washington Ave. in REO Town. Eastside breakout Strange Matter Coffee Co. also opened a second location in downtown Lansing at 337 S. Washington Square.
And speaking of the east side, Ruckus Ramen, which started as a pop-up Japanese soup/appetizer experiment, took over the kitchen at the Avenue Café, 2021 E. Michigan Ave. Green Dot Stables, 410 S. Clippert St. in Lansing Township, specializes in craft beer and gourmet slider burgers. And the Street Kitchen farm-to-table food truck opened in August, recently adding indoor dining space at 2722 E. Michigan Ave. just in time for winter.
Metro Lansing’s eastern suburbs saw a flurry of activity, too. Kingston Kitchen, 4749 Central Park Drive in Okemos, introduced mid-Michigan to scratch Jamaican cuisine. Spartan Brewpub, 3056 Okemos Road in Mason, joined the ever-growing craft brewery biz. Good Eats Diva, 1561 Haslett Road in Haslett, is the culmination of a life of baking and entrepreneurship for owner/ operator Kathleen Hanna. And Timeout Play Café, 2650 E. Grand River Ave., gives tots a place to play while active moms can meet up for coffee and pastries.
Vintage shops saw a nice bump in 2017.
REO Town’s Vintage Junkies moved across the street to serve as the pilot business in the fledgling micro-bazaar, REO Marketplace, 1023-1027 S. Washington Ave. Vintage Marketplace, 1219 Turner St., kept antiquing alive in the former home of Lamb’s Gate Antiques. And Dragonfly Boutique helped propel the #CharlotteRising movement at 116 S. Cochran St.
Also rising in Charlotte: The Dolson, a chef-driven upscale bistro that took over the historic Gavel restaurant, 112 S. Cochran Ave. Meanwhile, in East Lansing, the new Sidebar, 246 E. Saginaw Highway, makes a similar play for distinguishing diners. Nearby, Crab Hero, a Cajun seafood joint with perhaps the best logo in town (a decapod poised for combat, claws up, glowering from the shadows of its own cape), and Poké Lab, serving Hawaiianstyle “deconstructed sushi,” moved in sideby-side at 235 E. Albert Ave. and 245 E. Ann St., respectively, in downtown East Lansing.
And business was so good for some establishments that they added second locations in 2017. While Strange Matter opened its satellite spot in downtown Lansing, its new neighbor, Glazed and Confused, expanded from its downtown store to 1595 W. Lake Lansing Road in East Lansing. And REO Town barbecue hotspot Saddleback BBQ doubled down in Okemos with a new eatery – complete with liquor license! – at 1754 Central Park Drive.
In memoriam It wasn’t all good news this year. We lost these Lansing-area stores in 2017:
Art’s Bar Bloom Coffee Roasters (café only) Colonial Bar & Grille East Lansing Food Co-op Hobie’s Café and Pub Hot Chicken Kitchen Jumbeaux Knight Cap Lamb’s Gate Antiques Office Furniture Outlet & Supplies Sarnie Shoppe Velvet: A Candy Store And the plugs were pulled on three proposed restaurants – Lansing Beer Exchange, Tavern and Tap-Okemos, and Rajje’s Taphouse – before work even began in earnest on them.
Check back next week to see what’s in store for Lansing in 2018.