KALAMAZOO, MI — The restaurant and bar industries have been under the microscope as the world grapples with how to safely gather and enjoy dining during a global pandemic.
After a slew of executive orders have opened, closed and restricted the industry, a look back at 2020 shows that at least 11 Kalamazoo business owners took the risk of opening, despite the pandemic.
There have been closures as well, with some owners citing the coronavirus among factors that led to those decisions.
Eight well-known Kalamazoo-area restaurant owners closed their doors this year. A Paw Paw restaurant announced plans to close, but an overwhelming flood of community support buoyed the eatery enough to stay afloat and remain open for delivery and takeout.
A Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association survey of 175 restaurant owners shows 48% are considering closing down until the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Here are a few of the notable additions, and losses, to Kalamazoo’s bar and restaurant scene in this unprecedented year:
Rollup Ice Cream & Tea
A classic treat with a trendy twist came to Kalamazoo when Rollup Ice Cream & Tea offered up a new dessert option. The shop at 3262 Stadium Drive opened in February.
Flavors include strawberry cheesecake, brownie batter, dairy-free orange dreamsicle and cookie dough delight.
Nonla Burger’s Drake Road location
Kalamazoo’s best burger joint opened a second location in February. Nonla Burger expanded to a new location at 1700 S. Drake Road in Oshtemo Township that features a drive-thru option.
The new Nonla Burger, located in a shopping plaza near the intersection of South Drake Road and Stadium Drive, offers the same menu items and aesthetic as Nonla’s original Burdick Street location.
TaKoKaT, a Mexican restaurant in Paw Paw, was among the first to take a hit and close its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kalamazoo-area community rallied around the local staple, though — so much so the restaurant reversed course. TaKoKAT remains open today, and has expanded its delivery zone to adapt to indoor dining restrictions.
Middle Eastern Appetite
Just two weeks before the coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants to shutdown, Western Michigan University students and family members took a chance, expanding their food truck to a brick-and-mortar business.
Middle Eastern Appetite opened its doors in March at 2625 W. Michigan Ave. near Western’s campus in Kalamazoo.
Bravo! Restaurant and Cafe
Bravo! Restaurant and Cafe closed its doors in May after operating for 33 years in the Kalamazoo area.
The restaurant, located at 5402 Portage Road, closed in March during the stay-at-home orders and then opted to permanently close on May 5.
Moe’s Southwest Grill
Moe’s Southwest Grill’s location in Kalamazoo permanently closed in May.
The restaurant, located at 4206 Stadium Drive, is part of the Atlanta-based chain specializing in burritos and other Southwest-influenced food. The Westnedge Ave. location of Moe’s remains open.
Station 702, a breakfast and brunch restaurant and coffee shop in Kalamazoo, permanently closed in June.
The restaurant, located at 702 Douglas Ave. in the city’s West Douglas Neighborhood, offered gluten-free and vegan menus along with more traditional fare of omelettes, salads and sandwiches.
Load A Spud Potato Bar
Kalamazoo welcomed a new franchise in June as Load A Spud Potato Bar opened its doors at 2624 W. Michigan Ave. near Western Michigan University’s campus.
The Grand Rapids-based franchise offers a baked potato in 20 different signature ways including with fixings like steak and cheese, surf and turf, taco, pulled pork or chili potato.
Theo & Stacy’s — Westnedge location
The Westnedge location of Kalamazoo’s beloved Theo & Stacy’s restaurants went up for sale in July.
The location was closed during the stay-at-home order and initially planned to reopen in late summer 2020. The family decided to put the restaurant up for sale instead, said Betty Peristeridis, the co-owner of the downtown location and daughter of founders Theo and Stacy Skartsiaris.
The downtown location on Michigan Avenue is now the only remaining Theo & Stacy’s location. The local restaurant brand’s Portage Road location closed in 2018.
Buddy’s Detroit-style Pizza
A slice of the Motor City came to Portage in July when Buddy’s Detroit-style Pizza opened at 5314 S. Westnedge Ave.
Buddy’s was established in 1946 and is the birthplace of the original Detroit-style pizza, the restaurant says. Over the last seven decades, the restaurant has grown its footprint across Michigan, CEO Burton Heiss said in an interview with MLive.
Two Fellas Grill
Two Fellas Grill cured late-night cravings from a new location, just around the corner from the restaurants’ original building. The new building opened in August at 2730 W. Michigan Ave. in a former Wendy’s restaurant.
The Two Fellas menu will keep favorite wraps like The Bronco and Southern Hospitality.
A new bistro featuring burgers, pizza, fried chicken and salads opened in August in Portage. ZooCity Beastro opened its doors at 5222 Portage Road.
In addition to “munchies,” grinders and pizza, the restaurant’s menu also includes 11 different burgers including “The Beast Burger,” which features two half-pound patties.
Kalamazoo got the sweeter side of Mexican cuisine with the opening of Little Mexico at 3501 Stadium Drive.
The sweets shop opened in September and specializes in authentic Mexican snacks and desserts like fried ice cream, churros rellenos and raspados.
Finley’s Grill and Smokehouse
In September, the Finley’s Grill and Smokehouse location in Kalamazoo announced it would not reopen after closing for the coronavirus shutdown.
A year earlier, the Finley’s restaurant in Jackson closed after being a community staple for 47 years. The Battle Creek location of Finley’s remains open.
Zazios, located inside the Radisson Plaza Hotel, permanently closed its doors in November. The space will undergo a total transformation into a new restaurant, which is slated to open in summer 2021.
Zazios served upscale Italian and world cuisine for 16 years in Kalamazoo. The restaurant underwent renovations in 2016 in an effort to make the space less formal and more inviting.
Turbo Chicken promised to be better than its fast food competitors by making everything from scratch when it opened in September.
Located at 5234 Portage Road, the restaurant is the latest development from the owners of Kelvin & Co. Urban BBQ.
Rose St. Nutrition
Kalamazoo’s newest health store offers up protein shakes that don’t compromise calories or flavor from its downtown location.
Rose St. Nutrition, located at 402 S. Rose St. under the apartment complex there, offers 70 flavors of shakes. The health store had its grand opening in September.
Kalamazoo’s newest pizza joint claims the biggest slices in town, deeming them “the fastest two-handed meal for $5.”
Benny DiCarta’s, located at 232 E. Michigan Ave., offers 28 inch pies and pizza by the slice. The downtown Kalamazoo location is the first in the Midwest for the franchise, founded in Virginia.
The Union Carbaret and Grille
Union Carbaret and Grille, a downtown restaurant and entertainment venue on the Kalamazoo Mall, closed its doors this fall after 18 years in the community.
The bar and restaurant reopened in September after taking a hiatus after the March shutdown. Despite making adjustments to staff and seating, the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic ultimately closed the restaurant, owners said.
The business, one of several in the Kalamazoo area owned by Millennium Restaurant Group, closed after a final day of business on Saturday, Oct. 31.
One of Kalamazoo’s most beloved sweet spots, Mackenzie’s Bakery, announced its last business day is scheduled for Christmas Eve. The bakery opened up 40 years ago on West Main Street.
Both locations of MacKenzies’ Bakery, on Harrison Street and West Main Street, been up for sale for a few years now, owner John MacKenzie said in an interview with MLive in June 2019. MacKenzie said he is ready to retire.
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