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New downtown Muskegon restaurant, bar planned by Dr. Rolf’s owners

MUSKEGON, MI – The family that introduced Muskegon to Dr. Rolf’s Barbeque is bringing another restaurant to downtown.

The Hissom family is planning an “All American” diner with bar that will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

They have the location – on Western Avenue at Fourth Street, just steps from Dr. Rolf’s – but not a name for the new establishment.

Fortunately for them, they already have a liquor license. Those can be hard to come by, but the Muskegon City Commission agreed in May to award a Downtown Development Authority liquor license to the new establishment at 451 W. Western Avenue.

The Hissoms intend to make full use of it. In addition to a horseshoe-shaped bar in the middle of the main dining area, they are planning what Geoffrey Hissom described as a “pretty substantially sized” rooftop bar.

The inside will have seating for about 130, and the roof will have a bar plus seating for nearly 80.

The Hissoms expect to go before the city soon for approval of their plans.

Geoffrey Hissom, who is a manager at Dr. Rolf’s, is the son of the barbeque joint’s – and new endeavor’s — co-owners Dr. Rolf Hissom and Judy Hissom. His brother, Andrew Hissom, is manager of Dr. Rolf’s Grand Haven location and will be tapped to run the show at the new spot.

Geoffrey Hissom has already begun to gut the interior of the building that most recently was used as a real estate office and previously housed the Muskegon Chronicle’s circulation office and a flower shop.

Plans are to keep the exterior mostly unchanged but to add large garage doors that will open onto sidewalk seating. The city recently expanded sidewalks in the area to encourage outdoor dining.

In all, the investment in the restaurant will be around $1 million, Judy Hissom said. They purchased the building in June.

The new restaurant will be smack dab in the center of the downtown’s burgeoning entertainment district. Next door is Pigeon Hill Brewing Company’s restaurant, tap room and entertainment complex that is under construction.

Across the street is the fairly new Legends Bar & Grille, the VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center and Mercy Health Arena with two Western Avenue restaurants: Rad Dads’ Tacos & Tequila Bar and the brand-new Carlisle’s. Just up the street is the Delta by Marriott hotel with Walker’s restaurant as well as the Frauenthal theater.

And less than a half block in the other direction is Dr. Rolf’s.

Judy Hissom said on busy nights, they are turning people away from the restaurant they established in early 2019.

“We still need tables down here,” she said of downtown Muskegon. “There’s still business to be had.”

That’s especially true for breakfast, where downtown options are limited. Judy Hissom envisions weekend buffet brunches with a Bloody Mary bar, scramble bowls and homemade cinnamon rolls using a family recipe.

Lunches likely will be soups and gourmet sandwiches, the latter using some of Dr. Hissom’s recipes and smoked meat from Dr. Rolf’s, she said. Those include corned beef and an Italian pulled pork sandwich, she said.

The menu remains a work in progress, but Judy Hissom said it will feature locally sourced foods and seasonal plates. The family is enthused to move beyond barbeque to try other dishes, including southwestern fare, she said.

“It will be a family effort again,” she said.

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