New owners kick off what hopes to be a vibrant second act for DT Muskegon’s Smash Wine Bar & Bistro

When the original Smash Wine Bar & Bistro closed for business in August of last year, it wasn’t clear what would be done with the now emptied space it had occupied since October 2013—a storage room turned restaurant located in the basement level of downtown Muskegon’s historic Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts.
 
Although ownership of the restaurant changed hands shortly after its summer 2016 closing, President and CEO Chris McGuigan of the Muskegon County Community Foundation, which currently owns the Frauenthal Center, decided she wasn’t ready to give up on Smash quite yet. 
 
“She spoke with the new owners who then came up with a proposal for reopening Smash with some minor changes so that we could bring it back to downtown Muskegon,” says Annah Crow, marketing director for Smash Wine Bar & Bistro, which held a successful grand re-opening event on July 7 after testing the waters with a soft opening a few days prior on July 5.
 
Originally built in 1929, the Frauenthal Center for Performing Arts in downtown Muskegon is home to not only the historic Frauenthal Theater, but also the Beardsley Theater, Clark-Cannon Gallery, several meeting rooms, two rehearsal halls, and now in its basement level, Smash Wine Bar & Bistro.
 
Operating out of a basement area space originally intended for storage, the new Smash Wine Bar & Bistro has had a facelift since its first iteration. New owners at CNK Management have not only given the space an overall aesthetic makeover, but have also created more outdoor patio seating with additional seating available in the Frauenthal upstairs lobby on non-show nights. 
 
Crow says much of the renovation had to do with opening up and modernizing the space, installing things like a ceiling-to-floor water feature, blue-hued LED lights that run in a wave pattern along the length of the wall beside the staircase that leads down into Smash’s dining room, and a giant picture window between the kitchen and the guest dining area. 
 
“We installed a giant picture window there to try and help open up the kitchen space and connect it to the rest of the basement there, and it’s more interactive because you can see the chefs working and get a peek at all of the behind-the-scenes action,” says Crow. 
 
Crow says she is also excited about the addition of new Head Chef Char Morse, a Culinary Institute of Michigan graduate from the Muskegon area who is well-known locally for teaching classes at the Muskegon Farmer’s Market incubator kitchen, Kitchen 242, and her appearances on WZZM 13’s morning news show.  
 
Morse handcrafted Smash’s new menu from scratch using her own recipes, hoping to create fresh twists on old favorites, allowing customers to explore new flavors in something that feels more familiar. Menu options range from blackened shrimp tacos, glazed salmon and seared Ahi Tuna to prime rib and chicken pesto pasta, along with a full cocktail, beer, and wine menu.
 
“Bringing (Morse) in was huge for us because it’s one thing for us to create a new menu from pre-made stuff, but it’s a whole other thing to have a handmade, chef-inspired menu,” Crow says, adding that these updated classic dishes are also a great way to make the world of fine wine and dining more accessible to everyone.
 
She says while Muskegon is and always has been a destination city for its proximity to the lakeshore and it’s other unique qualities, it’s got a little bit of catching up to do when it comes to its food scene. 
 
“(In Grand Rapids) there are a lot of different choices and places to go, but here in Muskegon…we don’t have a ton of those nicer or more experimental restaurants in the area and we are really trying to fill that gap,” says Crow. “We want our restaurant to be an experience, to be somewhere that you can learn something new at every time you come in.”
 
Now officially open for business, Smash Wine Bar & Bistro’s summer 2017 hours are Monday-Thursday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit Smash Wine Bar & Bistro on Facebook or online at www.smashwinebar.com
 
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Smash Wine Bar & Bistro
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