June 29 2017 09:36 AM

New addition to Lansing Mall food court

Guyton’s Heirloom Cuisine inside the Lansing Mall food court specializes in farm-to-table comfort food items. It also doubles as a training kitchen for the fledgling Michigan College of Professional Hospitality. Allan I. Ross/City Pulse

It seems like Hollywood’s reboot/ remake trend has officially crossed over into the real world, at least here in Lansing. Last week it was the Unicorn Tavern in Old Town being transformed from a blue-collar shift bar into the Unicorn Lounge, a trendy, tongue-in-cheek take on the dive bar concept. This week comes the news that a newly formed team of restaurateurs is ready to breathe new life into two other historic watering holes: Art’s Bar near downtown Lansing and the Barn in Grand Ledge.

Nick Sinicropi, owner of Good Truckin’ Diner in REO Town will join forces with his brother, Greg Sinicropi, owner of Crossroads Grill and Bar in Leslie, and Donn Thomas and Sedric Audas, the former owners of Gilbert & Blake’s in Okemos, to make it happen. The group is keeping details under wrap for now, but they have made it clear that both properties will undergo massive renovations, and a new (well, slightly tweaked) name for Art’s Bar. Henceforth, it shall be known as Art’s Pub. And yes, its most famous menu item is set to return.

“Nick and I will be doing our best to restore the original pizza recipe and have that back in the Lansing market,” said Greg Sinicropi in a Facebook post. “I grew up eating it and loved it. We have been in contact with (former co-owner) Nancy (Yager) and will be talking to some of the past employees about opportunities with us. (We’ll be) sharing some of the old traditions and starting new ones.”

Nick Sinicropi is currently moving Good Truckin’ Diner into a nearby space in REO Town that will allow him to nearly quintuple in size. He said the menus at the Barn and Art’s Pub will crossover slightly, but will remain mostly distinct from his diner’s specialty items, which focus on upscale versions of greasy spoon staples. Given the scope of these multiple projects, no firm timeline is being given about when we might see these new incarnations.

“The buildings need a lot of work and there’s a lot of paperwork to do, so it’s definitely going to take some time to get there,” Sinicropi said. “But the (building sales and license transfers) have been approved, so that’s a giant step forward.”

The team plans to spend more than half a million dollars upgrading the two properties, including a massive patio and roll-up garage-style doors to Art’s Pub, 809 E. Michigan Ave., as well as new windows for the Barn, 207 S. Bridge St.

“Like a lot of people, (my brother and I) grew up in Art’s and it meant a lot to us,” Nick Sinicropi said. “When (we) met Rick and Donn, they felt the same way and saw the potential we saw. It ‘s been a long process that my brother and I fought hard for and refused to give up on.”

Home court advantage After more than a year of effort, first-time restaurateur Taurian Guyton has finally launched his combination restaurant/hospitality school concept, albeit in a rather unconventional location. Last week, Guyton’s Heirloom Cuisine opened in the food court at the Lansing Mall, serving gourmet versions of home-style favorites. It also doubles as a test kitchen for his newly founded Michigan College of Professional Hospitality. Both entities celebrate their grand openings this Saturday.

“I know it’s unusual to do this at a mall, but I talked to a district manager about my vision, and she was totally on board,” Guyton said. “The best part is there’s a lot of flexibility for me here. There are a lot of vacant spaces, and if this goes well, it will give me lots of room to expand.”

Guyton initially launched his project at the Lansing City Market last fall, but a snafu with grill hood installation stalled his progress. The building has one hood, purchased and installed by Carol “Red” Smith at the now defunct Red’s Smokehouse, but Guyton was unwilling to purchase it if it meant he couldn’t take it with him when he moved.

“I just couldn’t justify the cost,” Guyton said. “A building inspector told me that if I left, it wouldn’t transport well, and $10,000 is a lot of money to just leave behind. I need a hood to do what I’m doing, but (Lansing City Market) just isn’t built to be a restaurant.”

Guyton said he briefly considered teaming up with the Waterfront Bar & Grill inside the market, but decided it wouldn’t work because it doesn’t use a grill hood, an air circulation/fire suppression system that’s necessary investment for restaurants that work with grease. Guyton said a new 10-foot hood runs between $20,000-$40,000 Waterfront deals mostly in salads and sandwiches that don’t require a hood.

The menu at Guyton’s Heirloom Cuisine rotates daily, but sticks to basic comfort foods made using locally sourced ingredients. Recent features include beef stroganoff, enchiladas and tuna casserole, as well as burgers made with a specialty blend of ground beef and “loaded” grilled cheese sandwiches.

“The mall staff wants something different every day, so I’ve been really popular with them,” Guyton said. “And it keeps it easy for the staff, so they don’t have to memorize a lot of new things every day. The whole point is to reinforce the learning and to interact with customers.”

The Michigan College of Professional Hospitality is a nonprofit school that will begin instruction for its first batch of cohorts in September. Guyton handpicked the first class, based on people he knew who had restaurant experience, but needed additional training in either management or culinary areas.

“The goal is to keep them here teaching, so I can grow the school, which in turn will grow the (restaurant),” Guyton said. “This (first class) are all good people with the same commitment to excellence that I do. This is the only training kitchen in the city. This is something that I think can help a lot of people who have an interest in hospitality, but don’t want to spend four years at a university and don’t just want to go work for someone else. It’s a new model, but I think it can really work.”

Guyton’s Heirloom Cuisine (in the food court at Lansing Mall) 5330 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday (844) 811-3276, guytons.farm