Penny Black: All in-house food, all the time

Looking for a place to have great food and a good time? OU News Bureau reporters have visited some distinctive eateries in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties to learn more about what these places have to offer. Reporter Brian Curtin visited Penny Black Grill & Tap in Rochester, Michigan, to speak with co-owner Jordan Southard and general manager Bryan Cardwell.

The previous purpose of Penny Black’s building is stamped onto its sign. PHOTO/BRIAN CURTIN

Tell me about the history of Penny Black.
Penny Black used to be Rochester’s original post office. The name Penny Black comes from the name of the first postage stamp in the world. We thought choosing this was fitting because of the building’s past. A few other restaurants owned the building after it was a post office and before we bought it. Penny Black’s been open since mid-2010, and it has merged from a Southwest-style selection to more seasonal dishes.

Describe what Penny Black offers patrons.
Southard: All of our food’s made in-house. We have a full kitchen in the basement, and we have 24 different taps of beer and cider that rotate on a seasonal basis. We try to make as much in-house as we can, as opposed to buying ingredients from an outside supplier. For example, our fried avocado is prepared entirely in our own kitchen. This way we don’t deal with a middleman, and we have more control over how food’s made.

Why would someone want to come to Penny Black?
Southard: Our staff’s friendly, our staff’s fun and we’ve got a variety of dishes such as gluten free or vegetarian. One of the things I’ve noticed is when you come in here, it’s easy to talk to your bartender. We get a lot of regulars who ask for certain staff members, such as our daytime bartender, by name.

Co-owner Jordan Southard wants Penny Black to continue being an approachable, welcoming bar & grill. PHOTO/BRIAN CURTIN

What do you do that’s different from other bar & grills?
Southard: Our in-house food is a big thing. I know what I like and what I’m looking for, whether it’s ingredients or whole dishes. It’s also about taking time to prepare food, like when our chefs use our own avocados or hand-cut their bread.

What’s the one menu item everyone should order if they come here?
Southard: Our fish tacos are very popular, either fried or grilled. Our burgers are also big, we use our own Angus beef for them. People come back for our burgers on a regular basis.

How many people work at Penny Black?
Southard: We employ just under 50 people, between wait staff, bartenders, chefs and management, depending on the time of year.

What does the future hold for the bar and grill?
Southard: We always try to keep our entertainment as up-to-date as possible. We do live acoustic sets and we also have DJs playing music throughout the week. On Wednesday nights, we have a vinyl night where a DJ comes in and only plays music from vinyl records. We’ve been doing vinyl night since just before Christmas last year.
Cardwell: I was at a couple of bars in Midtown and saw them doing some vinyl nights. I talked with some people here and gave them the idea.

The Penny Black Grill & Tap is at 124 W. 4th St. in downtown Rochester. (248) 841-1522. Find it on Facebook, as well.


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Posted by on Jan 13 2018. Filed under Eateries. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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