Restaurant veterans to open southern-inspired Menagerie Lounge in Pontiac

A new restaurant is being planned for downtown Pontiac, and it comes from a few familiar faces in the city's dining scene.

James and April Forbes, the couple responsible for the pop-up kitchen and incubator Menagerie, are planning on opening a restaurant of their own. Dubbed Menagerie Lounge, the restaurant will feature southern-inspired fare, live entertainment, and design work and art from local Pontiac artists. The couple, who won the Food Network's Cupcake Wars in 2012, will also carry their own award-winning desserts.

Scheduled for a February 2018 opening, Menagerie Lounge will be located at 155 N. Saginaw St. in downtown Pontiac.

"When we go out to eat, we've been in the service industry for so long that we have a different lens that we view the experience through. We're more forgiving, but we also know how we want our staff to treat our customers," April says. "The customer service will be top notch because people work hard for their money."

The build-out of the restaurant is being funded, in part, by a recently announced $25,000 grant from Flagstar Bank and a $35,000 Small Business Administration (SBA) loan from Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED). The grant is part of $2.5 million that Flagstar is scheduled to invest in small business development in Pontiac.

"We're super excited about the loan and grant opportunity. It's not often that a small restaurant gets this type of opportunity at all," says James. "We're excited about the direction the city is heading in."

April recommends that businesses interested in applying for the loans and grants be prepared and have their business plans ready. Oakland County's One Stop Shop Business Center, she says, was a big help in preparing Menagerie's business plan.

Menagerie, which got its start as a pop-up kitchen in 2015, moved to Lafayette Market earlier this year, where they facilitate the pop-up kitchen and restaurant incubator programs. The couple says that they will continue to work on the incubator program, even after their own restaurant opens.

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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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