Jolly Pumpkin to add new restaurants in Chicago, Dexter

2017 is shaping up to be a big year for Dexter-based Jolly Pumpkin. The popular portfolio of Michigan restaurant-breweries announced last week it will open a new location in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, and partner and CEO Tony Grant says a much smaller farm-to-table restaurant is also coming to Jolly Pumpkin's Dexter brewery.
 
The 5,800-square-foot Chicago restaurant will serve craft beers, distilled spirits, and wines from the Northern United Brewing Company brand, including Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, North Peak Brewing Company, Nomad Cidery, Civilized Spirits, and Bonafide Wines, as well as a full pub menu.
 
Grant calls the new location a "no-brainer" for Jolly Pumpkin, which also has locations in Traverse City, Ann Arbor, and Detroit and is known for its distinct brand of sour, barrel-aged beers. Plans for a Chicago expansion have been in the works since Jolly Pumpkin opened its third location in Detroit's Midtown last year.
 
Grant says getting in front of new customers is key to the brewery's success, and opening shop in a "great Midwestern city" like Chicago provides new opportunity to do so.
 
"The point of direct contact with the beer drinker is just so important for Jolly Pumpkin, because the beer is very different," Grant says. "Being able to interface with who's drinking the beer and talk with them about what they're drinking and what they're experiencing is just really important for us."
 
Also new for Jolly Pumpkin next year will be a farm-to-table restaurant at its Dexter brewery, which currently has a tasting room with snacks, but no dining.
 
The new venture will seat 50 to 70 patrons and will be run by Maggie Long, the longtime chef at Jolly Pumpkin's Ann Arbor location. Long was also recently tapped to help develop the menu for Avalon International Breads' new Hearth and Soul Cafe in Ann Arbor.
 
"It'll be more intimate, like you're sitting in her kitchen environment," Grant says. "It'll be a really neat experience for the guest."
 
Grant hopes the city of Dexter will greenlight the project once a new wastewater system is installed, and the new venture will also open next year.
 
Grant says Jolly Pumpkin's ownership and management team is always looking for new opportunities, especially within Michigan, if and when the timing is right. But he also says they're mindful about not overextending.
 
"We're still very small," he says.
 
Grant credits business partner and brewer Ron Jeffries' dedication and craft with putting the company in its current position.
 
"He makes great beer, [and] he does not sacrifice quality to cut costs or cut corners or get something out the door quickly," Grant says. "He's a perfectionist, and it really shows in the end product."

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
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