Sava's Restaurant owner reveals plans for Spanish tapas eatery in downtown Ann Arbor
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Using food ingredients like padron peppers, Marcona almonds, olives, dates, boquerones, saffron, octopus, Manchego cheese and honey, Lelcaj hopes aventura’s small plates-style menu will bring something new and unique to Ann Arbor.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Lelcaj is opening aventura at 212-216 E. Washington St., just down the street from her existing babo market and Sava’s Restaurant. She signed a lease in February to take over the former Mahek Indian restaurant space, and purchased the neighboring building to create a multi-level restaurant with an outdoor deck.
The space, which is roughly 6,500 square feet on the first floor, has been gutted and Lelcaj hopes to start construction in the coming weeks and open aventura in September.
Plans include: a 36-seat bar that wraps around the middle of the buildings, a high-top seating area, a dining room with booths, a mosaic tile wall, a kitchen for cold foods upstairs and an open kitchen downstairs, an “intimate” cocktaileria lounge in the basement, a wine cellar, and a raised outdoor deck behind the buildings.
“This is such an adventure to us,” Lelcaj said. “We’re building these rooms that are so connected but so different. It’s just really fun because there are so many things happening in one building.”
Lelcaj hired a chef, who is experimenting with ingredients to create a menu. Lelcaj said it will be mostly Spanish tapas — some with an American twist — but the menu might also include some larger dishes that are meant to be shared. There will be a variety of pinchos, which are popular appetizers in Spain served on bread.
“Our chef, for us to sample, made one with herbed goat cheese, a pickled red pepper and a little drizzle of honey,” Lelcaj said. “It’s really simple, but you can really be creative. They make for fun spreads that people can share.”
Added Chene Peña, aventura’s creative director: “We’re really inspired by the flavor of foods. Boquerones on things add a little saltiness, and padron peppers, once paired with certain things, completely change the flavor.”
The restaurant will also offer a variety of homemade Spanish cocktails and a Spanish wine list.
Peña, who spent time living in Spain, said friendly service and a community-focused atmosphere will be important at aventura.
“We did love how friendly everyone was in Spain, especially in restaurants where it feels like they know you,” he said.
Lelcaj entered the Ann Arbor dining scene in 2007, when she opened Sava’s State Street Cafe in a small second floor space on South State Street. After expanding Sava's and then opening babo market, Lelcaj said she was ready for her next challenge.
“As a company, we were ready to do something else. I think (aventura) fits in because this is just a little more mature. I feel like (each business) has its own personality, but they’re all so connected.”
Lelcaj and Peña have started hiring and training an aventura management team, and they will hire additional wait staff this summer.