When looking over the crush of new businesses that opened this year in Metro Lansing, you start to see some themes. We got four new restaurants dedicated to New Orleans-inspired cuisine, three new barbecue places, three full-service breweries and four gourmet sweets shops — We’ll leave it up the sociologists to make sense of the sudden allure of spicy food, high-octane craft beer and gourmet doughnuts. But not all the news was cheery: There was also a drying up of the downtown Lansing bar district and the loss of one of Lansing’s oldest restaurants. For better or worse, 2015 will live in the record books.
Last month, the Creole opened in Old Town, featuring fine dining Cajun fare and craft cocktails. This month marked the arrival of its conjoined twin next door, Creole Coffee Co., which focuses on New Orleans-centric brunch offerings and gourmet coffee. (Both businesses are the brainchildren of the Potent Potables Project, a new restaurant development group that also oversaw the January opening of Cosmos and recently broke ground on Punk Taco, an inventive twist on the Mexican cantina concept coming next year.)
In May, Nola Bistro Pho & Po-Boys opened on the city’s west side, featuring a menu that flip-flops between Vietnamese and Creole dishes. Similarly, Capital City BBQ combines Vietnamese cuisine with Southern barbecue. And then there’s Jumbeaux, an authentic Louisiana restaurant featuring jumbo, jambalaya and crawfish étouffée.
The aptly named Pho in downtown East Lansing has a menu based around the titular Vietnamese soup, which is made from a long-simmering broth that has its ingredients added just seconds before the soup is served. And Lansing’s culinary melting pot got a dash of Eastern European cuisine in late October when ChouPli Wood-Fired Kabob opened on the city’s west side. The fast causal eatery introduces Turkish cuisine to local palates, with all cooking conducted over natural wood charcoal.
It was a great year for sweet toothed locals. Williamston specialty bakery Groovy Donuts opened in late summer, just before downtown Lansing’s specialty doughnuts shop, Glazed and Confused. Also opening just before the school year: Velvet: A Candy Store. The East Lansing confectionary sells handmade ice cream, candy and Mackinac Island-style fudge. And the first business to move into the new Trowbridge Lofts mixed-use development is Iorio’s Gelatto & Caffé, which has handmade gelato made from imported Italian ingredients.
It was a quiet year for nightlife, with few new nightclubs opening. There was the grand opening of country music bars Duke’s Saloon, which slid into Harem Urban Lounge’s old digs, and Tequila Cowboy in the Lansing Mall, but otherwise, all of the attention was focused on new bars that doubled as production facilities.
American Fifth Spirits opened in April in downtown Lansing, becoming the city’s first-ever distillery. It utilizes Michigan crops to make its own vodka, gin and white whiskey, which are served in a variety of inventive drinks. New brewery Old Nation Brewing Co. set up shop in Williamston earlier this year, featuring a selection of craft beers and a full menu. Ellison Brewery and Spirits, a new microbrewery/microdistillery, also opened in East Lansing. And after 101 years, beer started flowing under the Lansing Brewing Co. moniker in downtown Lansing, including the revival of the original brewery’s flagship beer, Amber Cream Ale.
Just south of Lansing Brewing Co., Cooley Law School Stadium, home of the Lansing Lugnuts, added a new bar: Good Hops. The specialty hamburger-andcraft-beer station is situated in the new construction beyond the outfield. And it wouldn’t be right to call Beer Grotto a bar, as there’s no physical bar in sight. Instead, the 4,200-square-foot space inside downtown Lansing’s Stadium District has five “tasting pods,” where bartenders and wine experts — ahem, “beer geeks and cork dorks” — provide tastings of craft beer and boutique wine selections.
Saddleback BBQ in REO Town and Crossroads BBQ in Grand Ledge threw their respective hats in the ring for the title of best barbecue in town. Meanwhile, Crafty Palate and Henry’s on the Square, both on Washington Square, are hoping to appeal to the captive audience of downtown workers. Also hoping to appeal to downtown denizens is Iggy’s In Convenience, which opened inside the Lansing City Market last month. The grocery store is owned and operated by Igor Jurkovic, who also runs the new Mediteran Café and Catering inside the Capital National Building.
Other notable new businesses:
Compost Katie, a new vermicomposting business on Lansing’s east side, is capitalizing on the farm-totable trend and helping Metro Lansing residents live a little greener to boot.
Sweet Custom Jewelry, a husband-and-wife operation that opened in Old Town, makes necklaces, bracelets and rings to order.
JN Squeeze is the satellite location for downtown Lansing’s 5-year-old Juice Nation store. The menu features 12 types of juice cocktails made from all organic produce, much of which is sourced locally.
La Cocina Cubana is a new Cuban food truck parked in Old Town.
Reno’s North in north Lansing undertook a massive interior/exterior overhaul — a “Reno-vation,” if you will — of the former home of Rookie’s Restaurant Bar & Grill, complete with a massive patio and new sand volleyball courts.
Skate City Rink is built into a nearly 10,000-squarefoot former office plaza in south Lansing.
Restaurants, clubs and shops we lost in 2015:
Downtown Lansing: Black Rose, Brannigan Brothers, House of Eden Rock, Spotted Dog Café, Restaurant Mediteran, Secrets Nightclub
East Lansing: Grand River Coffee Co., Video To Go, Woody’s Oasis Bar & Grill, American Apparel
REO Town: Kait’s Vintage Café
Lansing’s west side: R-Club
Lansing’s east side: Emil’s Restaurant