It’s raining outside, but that doesn’t dampen Mindy Lopus’ mood or smile as she gestures to the former Standard Oil service station at the corner of Kercheval and Beaconsfield in Grosse Pointe Park.
“Isn’t it great,” Lopus grins watching workmen bang away as they transform the former garage into her vision for Red Crown, an American comfort food destination that will embrace the same farm to table philosophy of Lopus’ Birmingham restaurants, Tallulah’s Wine Bar and Bistro and Bellapiatti.
Lopus’ latest venture, Red Crown, is a departure from the French bistro flair of Tallulah’s and the rustic Italian fare of Bellapiatti--which opened last year and made the Detroit Free Press 2011 list of Metro Detroit's 10 Best New Restaurants.
The new garage-style restaurant is named after the original service station and will be open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, with brunch on the weekends. Lopus plans on keeping much of the original structure of the building, with the main dining areas located in the former garage bays while a clever bar area transforms the front reception of the former service station.
Choosing an unusual place for a restaurant isn’t new for Lopus, who chose to put her first restaurant, Tallulah’s, in a building that had been vacant for three years on a dead street.
“I tend to look for a space that hasn’t been a restaurant before and that speaks to me,” Lopus said.
Lopus feels the planned alfresco patio with wood burning fireplace and outdoor ping pong tables will entice families and couples alike to the fun eatery. An organic garden will make a beautiful display as well as contribute to the restaurant’s commitment to local, fresh produce.
The menu is American comfort food with a Southern influence, Lopus said. An on-site wood fire grill and smoker will no doubt add to the already delicious menu of barbecue, burgers and homemade ice creams.
In addition to the anticipated early winter opening of Red Crown, Lopus will open two more restaurants on Kercheval in the winter and spring.
First, Bona Fide Baking Company, will take up residence in the former Mulier’s Market. The baking company will create commercial and retail artisan breads with a coffee bar that serves breakfast and lunch. Pastry Chef Tanya Fallon, a James Beard finalist, will manage Bona Fide and it is scheduled to open before the year’s end.
Next to Bona Fide, in what is now a parking lot that faces Kercheval, a new building will host Tallulah’s, a twin to Lopus’ Birmingham restaurant. Tallulah’s features a wine list with over 200 bottles and more than 50 wines sold by the glass. Corporate Chef Daniel Campbell oversees Lopus’ restaurants and uses nearly 70 percent Michigan-made products in Tallulah’s French-inspired fare.
Lopus has embraced her technology background and was one of the first restaurants to employ a new digital tablet menu that provides tantalizing photos of all menu items while a patented algorithm pairs food with Tallulah’s vast wine list giving her customers confidence and choices when ordering food and beverage. Fun events like “Girls and Grapes” or “Som Slams”—a wine dinner with competing sommeliers that is fun and educational —are sell-outs in Birmingham and sure to be a hit with Grosse Pointers as well.
A Renaissance Woman
Lopus is relatively new to the restaurant scene first having a successful career in the technology industry before opening her first restaurant in 2009. After selling her company, Triangle Technology Services, Lopus continued to work as a technology consultant and globe trotted, all the while taking note of excellent food and wine concepts.
She left the technology industry to pursue her passion: wine. Lopus enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America’s wine professional program in Napa Valley. After over a year of coursework and bicoastal travel, Lopus is now a certified wine professional—knowledge that she puts to use in all the venues owned by her Silver Pig Restaurant Group.
Today, Lopus is a member of the board of directors for the Michigan Restaurant Association and co-founder of the charitable organization, Detroit Area Chefs Feed the Need, which feeds Detroit’s hungry through CASS Community Services.
Mindy Lopus is quick to point out that her plans to come to Grosse Pointe Park came about only after the Cotton family, who own the three buildings that will house Lopus’ new ventures, came to eat in one of her Birmingham restaurants.
“They liked my restaurant concept,” Lopus said.
Pointes residents and brothers, Jon and Sean Cotton recently launched the Grosse Pointe Housing Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides grants for college students to live in the Park’s rental properties. The program has helped stabilize the Park’s residential community which has roughly 20 – 25 percent rentals.
“The Cotton family has been absolutely amazing with what they’ve been doing in the Grosse Pointes,” Lopus enthused.
She said the Cottons urged her to come to Grosse Pointe Park and look at the commercial spaces available and the rest, as they say, is history. In fact, Lopus was so charmed by the Grosse Pointes that she and her husband Rick have bought a house here and now call Grosse Pointe home.
Lopus said, “We’re excited to be a part of this beautiful community and help preserve its charm.”