Jan. 4 2017 12:32 AM

2017 Preview

The first-floor retail section of the Venue at East Town, a mixed-use development project slated to open this year, will be anchored by Strange Matter Coffee Co., which will add a scratch bakery, and gastropub Rajje’s Taphouse.
Courtesy image

Correction: This article originally included an outdated rendering of the Gillespie Co.'s Michigan Avenue development. City Pulse was also informed that the development's name has been changed to the Venue at East Town.

Looking ahead at some of the new businesses coming to Lansing in 2017, we see a trend toward upscale dining, with at least three new restaurants coming that put an emphasis on chef-driven cuisine. But let’s start with the way most people start their day — with coffee.

Kavana Nitro Coffee House is set to open in downtown Lansing this spring, featuring locally roasted beans from Old Town’s Rust Belt Roastery. Kavana will feature five coffee taps serving nitro-infused coffee, similar in look and texture to a stout beer, like Guinness. There will also be a sixth tap for cold-brewed black tea. Owner/operator Igor Jurkovic is still finalizing the location, but it will be within walking distance of downtown Lansing.

Another downtown Lansing newcomer, EnVie, will have a scratch kitchen, featuring house-made sauces and hand-made pasta. It won’t be a French restaurant per se, but the menu, heavily influenced by French cuisine, includes traditional dishes such as duck à l’orange and coq au vin. When it opens later this month at 210 S. Washington Square, EnVie will have a 20-item menu that will be in place from breakfast to early evening, as well as grab-and-go salads, sandwiches and soups. The beverage menu will be focused on high-end wines and craft cocktails made with handmade syrups, grenadines and mixers.

“There’s a certain romance to French culture that Americans just seem to connect with,” said co-owner/operator Lance Davis. “If we can capture a little bit of that, I think we’ll do alright.”

The downtown Lansing version of a popular West Michigan hotspot, Kalamazoo Beer Exchange, will move into the second floor of the Hurd Building, 234 S. Washington Square. The Lansing Beer Exchange will keep the original location’s signature concept: fluctuating beer prices on a giant stock market board that will have nightly “crashes.” When the $1.5 million renovation is completed sometime this spring, the space will feature a 150-seat, 6,500-square-foot dining room, a 3,500-square-foot rooftop patio, two fireplaces, a bocce ball court made with real grass and an open kitchen.

“Lansing is going to blow up soon, I can feel it in my bones,” said owner/operator Jim Flora. “I really think (this concept) is going to fit in perfectly with what’s there now, and bring lots more people back downtown.”

Ruckus Ramen, which got its start as a pop-up restaurant experiment last year, will become the full-time kitchen at the Avenue Café, 2021 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing’s Eastside Neighborhood. The Tuesday-through-Saturday dinner menu will offer traditional Japanese soup dishes, salads and dumplings, all sourced with local ingredients and tweaked to appeal to American palates. The same neighborhood will also get in on the barbecue trend this spring with the projected opening of Red’s Smokehouse Burgers & BBQ, 1619 E. Kalamazoo St. The new 1,200-square-foot restaurant will have a state-of-the-art kitchen, a small dining area, a deli and a takeout counter.

But the big news in Lansing’s Eastside Neighborhood this year will be the construction of the Venue at East Town, a $6 million mixed-use development project taking over the south 2000 block of East Michigan Avenue, including the former site of Emil’s Restaurant. Two businesses have already committed to anchoring the ground floor retail space. Cara Nadar will move her café, Strange Matter Coffee Co., across the street into the new construction when it opens sometime this summer. Last year, she crowdsourced over $40,000 to launch a scratch bakery inside the new space.

And Rajje’s Taphouse, a creative/eclectic eatery, will include a few design flourishes from Emil’s, including the elephant head brass rails from the bar and some wall art. Rajje’s will be a 110-seat restaurant with outdoor seating, gastropub fare and a bar with 22 taps.

REO Town will continue its growth as well, with some new drinking and dining spots on the way. Sleepwalker Spirits & Ale, coming this spring to 1101 S. Washington Ave., will feature the 2-year-old microbrewery’s signature brews and a deli counter. The space will seat about 50 people. Down the street, restaurateur Jeff Oade will spend much of 2017 renovating 1210 S. Washington Ave. — formerly the dive bar Oade’s Hidden Camel — into an upscale restaurant, the Rusty Nail. And a food truck court is set to open this spring in the parking lot of Riverview Church, 1115 S. Washington Ave., featuring some new additions to the mobile dining scene.

The business anchoring the city’s other food court, up in Old Town, is slated to open this year. Replay, 526 E. Grand River Ave., will be the sixth iteration of Ted Wilson’s 10-year-old used video game/DVD/vinyl resale store. He plans to add a performance stage and “nano brewery” to the space, as well as seating space for the food truck patrons.

Closer to campus is Green Dot Stables, specializing in craft beer and gourmet slider burgers. It will be the second North American location for a concept that started in Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood. It takes over the 12,000-square-foot building at 410 S. Clippert St. in Lansing Township that was formerly home to the Whiskey Barrel Saloon. In East Lansing, Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza will take over the former home of American Apparel early this year. The fast-casual pizza chain is an assembly-line style eatery, similar to Chipotle or Subway. And near Frandor, the Potent Potables Project restaurant group is poised to unveil Punk Taco, a Mexican restaurant/carry-out eatery, sometime in 2017.

(Two other projects — one in the Heights at Eastwood, and one in Old Town — are also in the proverbial hopper. I’ll tell you about the Old Town one next week.)

And those are just the things we know about. If we learned anything from 2016, it’s that anything can happen anytime here in the capital city. Stay tuned.