Restaurant brings “fresh ideas” to Heritage Hill

The Peacock Building on the corner of Jefferson and Fulton has seen a lot of changes over the years. But if Bob Johnson has anything to say about it, one thing that won’t change are the marble peacocks that adorn the building.

“I fell in love with the building. It has a lot of character and that’s why we’re here,” Johnson said about the location of his new Heritage Hill eatery, Bobby J’s Downtown. “I live five blocks from here and this is my neighborhood.”

Johnson and his business partner and fellow chef, Mark Ansara, are determined to bring a new type of dining experience to “The Hill.”

“It’s a very eclectic neighborhood kind of place,” Johnson said, “with a very diverse menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

Everything is homemade, including the breads, muffins, and cinnamon rolls. The lunch menu includes soups, sandwiches, and burgers; dinner features steaks, ribs, pasta, and specialty desserts, like the Towering Chocolate Cake, and holiday treats, including pecan pie.

“Our buyers go to the fresh vegetable market every day and buy fresh fruits and vegetables,” Johnson said. “All of our meat and seafood, none of it is frozen, it’s all fresh.”

The main level has 4,000 square feet of kitchen and dining space, with seating for 120 in the dining room and 35 in the deli, which offers a full takeout menu. The lower level has another 4,000 square feet for the catering office. A sister company, West Michigan Caterer, has its offices downstairs and provides high-end catering services that complement Bobby J’s lunch and business catering.

Exterior awnings that play up the building’s fanciful peacocks were added to the facade. Inside, the space was gutted and the original wood floors restored.

“We took an old building and converted it to give it the big-city, NY/Chicago feel,” Johnson said.

Source: Bob Johnson, Bobby J’s Downtown

Photographs by Brian Kelly

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