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Come springtime, the slab of black bricks on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Clemens Street, former home to Strange Matter Coffee Co., will house Lansing’s newest high-end Spanish wine bar.
Bar Mitena — deriving “mitena” from the Catalan word for “mitten” — is the latest project of Justin King and Michael Luther’s company, Bottleneck Hospitality, which currently owns DeWitt’s Bridge Street Social. The two were mulling the idea over since early last year, but no suitable properties were available.
“We were in love with the idea of doing something Spanish influenced,” King said. “Once the location opened, we knew it was a perfect fit.”
King said the well-loved building, with its intimate size and likely low overhead cost, will give Bar Mitena’s chefs and bartenders breathing room to craft unique ideas out of obscure wines and underappreciated (at least here in Lansing) Spanish dishes.
“When you experience the wines and the foods that pair well with them, you get to have this moment with your loved ones,” King said. “It heightens the experience and the romanticism of why people fall in love with food and beverages in the first place. We just want to facilitate those experiences.”
While Bridge Street Social eventually found its way as a diverse formal restaurant, Bar Mitena will evoke King’s original inspiration, a vision he has been chasing since first visiting the lush wine lounges of New York City.
King fell in love with the food and wine culture of San Sebastian, which he called an “otherworldly experience compared to what you get in Michigan” and “super inspiring.”
An advanced sommelier (and wine columnist for City Pulse), King can sniff, swirl and spit wine specifics and science all day, but he kept it concise about what makes Spanish wine selections special:
“Spanish wine is really diverse. You’ve got wines from Galicia made from grapes like albariño that might be relatively light to medium body, dry — a little bit floral,” King. “You go inland and you see a lot of really wonderful stuff done with the mencia grape. Those tend to make lighter red wines, maybe not too dissimilar from pinot noir.”
King was specific about the cuisine of Bar Mitena being Spanish influenced, with emphasis on the word “influenced.” He doesn’t claim to offer a perfectly authentic recreation, but he still went over several of the specific regions and styles that will get their due.
“Are we going to adhere to the traditions entirely of the Basque Country? Are we going to do things that are strictly tapas, or always do things like jamón ibérico or paella?” King said. “No. But that stuff is very much part of our menu as a whole. We’re a couple of dudes from Michigan, and I think Lansing has an appetite for those sort of things.”
For updates on Bar Mitena check out: