Spanish-Inspired Restaurant Proposed by the Black Cat Bistro Team

Monday, November 18, 2019, 7:41 am
By: 
Brad Minor

Chef Jose Romero and attorney Michael Brown present to the DDA on October 24. (Photos by Raymond Holt.)

The Peabody Group, which owns the Black Cat Bistro on Albert Avenue, is planning a new “tortaria” restaurant at the former Menna’s Joint location, right next door to Black Cat.

The new restaurant would feature a Spanish-inspired cuisine serving sandwiches, soups, and salads. The Executive Chef of Black Cat Bistro, Jose Romero, will oversee the kitchen while continuing his work for Black Cat. He spoke at the October 23 Planning Commission meeting to give officials a taste of his plans.

“The concept that I’m developing is an affordable sandwich restaurant-bar that can cater to everybody. It will use European-style bread like baguettes and Spanish bolillo bread. It will be something really unique, using southern Mexican ingredients,” he said.

Romero explained the menu at the new restaurant will be different than what most have come to expect from Mexican restaurants.

“You’ll see a lot of the sauces from [Southern Mexico] and not a lot of the things you see now with mainstream Mexican food around here,” he said. “It’s like the opposite side of the spectrum.”

Many of the tacos and wet burritos known as “Tex-Mex” will not be on the menu, Romero explained. His goal is a “European-Mexican” menu that is affordable but “has a real thought on the gourmet ingredients and presentation.” (See the draft menu here.)

Romero said that at a recent tasting people were very exciting and said they had never tried that style of food before.

For drinks, the owners are planning what they say will be a first-of-its-kind bar in the state, featuring mezcal drinks. Mezcal is similar to tequila – both are made from the Agave plant – kind of like whiskey is similar to bourbon.

The cocktails and margaritas will be crafted with different kinds of mezcal. On tap would be Mexican beers such as Modelo and Dos Equis. (See the draft drinks menu here.) The hours for the new restaurant will be 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., the same as the Black Cat Bistro.

The owners are hoping to create what they called a “younger, more hip atmosphere” coupled with a lower price point, to attract younger, lower-income patrons that the Black Cat Bistro cannot.

The new restaurant will be sharing a liquor license with the Black Cat Bistro and the two will share a general manager and chef, but food and liquor will not travel back and forth between the two establishments.

Representatives for the company said the food and drink menus of the two new restaurants would be “distinct and different.”

Currently, the space has about 2,740 square feet. The owners of Black Cat and the proposed restaurant want to add a small addition on the back that would be a second handicap accessible entrance. Right now, the two restaurants share an entrance area in the front of the building.

The new restaurant is designed to have a big garage-door-type opening in the front to create an open-air feel in warmer weather. The idea is to have a small, fenced-in seating area out on the sidewalk for outdoor seating.

The plan has now been given unanimous support by the East Lansing Planning Commission and Downtown Development Authority, and is expected to come to City Council on December 17.

Final approvals will need to be obtained by City Council and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

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