New ‘Inspired Hospitality’ kitchen and dining experience coming to Bell's Eccentric Café in 2015

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By: Eric Strader
ericstrader69@gmail.com

Eric Strader

Larry Bell, owner of Bell’s Brewery, has an eccentric mind full of ideas. Over the years I have heard Larry talk about many of these ideas, and it has been fun to see many of these come to fruition.  

And Bell’s has changed quite a bit from those early days of the late 1980s. I’m sure that I’ve shared the story of one of my first visits to Bell’s (at that time the name was Kalamazoo Brewing Company) with many of you.

I discovered Bell’s beer during my later year’s in college, and often drove down to the brewery to purchase beer since it was cheaper there than other places in town. They didn’t have a tap room, or even much of a retail space at the time. There was a small cooler of six-packs, and they often had a keg or two tapped—for tasting only, since they didn’t have a license to sell draft at the brewery.  

One Friday evening I drove down to pick up some beer for the weekend, and there was quite a bit of activity going on at the brewery. As it turns out, it was one of the first Eccentric Days, and my first of many Eccentric Days.  

I just finished watching two documentaries about the Michigan Brewing industry, and I think there is no doubt that Larry is the grandfather of Michigan brewing, and that Bell’s has laid a foundation for the many other breweries in the state.

Not all breweries have a success story like Bell’s. Larry started out very small as a home brew shop in 1983, and sold his first commercial beer in 1985, which was brewed in a 15-gallon soup kettle. In 2013, Bell’s brewed over 248,000 barrels of beer, and in the same year was listed as the seventh largest U.S. craft brewery by volume by the Brewer’s Guild.  

They have continued to expand the Bell’s General Store and Eccentric Cafe, and now have announced another addition to the downtown location. Bell’s is definitely a family friendly location (21 and over only after 8:15 p.m.), and I love the food from the Eccentric kitchen. However, this new dining area will only add to the Bell’s experience.

From press release:

COMSTOCK, Mich. – Construction has recently begun on a brand new full service kitchen and dining room at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., in downtown Kalamazoo, adding about 130 seats.

The gastro pub style space will occupy more than 6,600 square feet of space that most recently served as storage and warehouse space to the east of the original Café.

This space was also part of Bell’s original brewery and well before that, a full service gas station.

“Our goal is to match and even enhance the high quality beer that is already being served with high quality food and service,” said Jason Reicherts, Director of Retail at Bell’s.

“We will be focusing on both the front and back house experience and with our Inspired Hospitality program, service will be a huge focus,” he said. “Our staff training program will feature an ever evolving and ongoing course of modules covering everything from the latest news in the craft beer industry to food and beer pairings,” Reicherts said.

The new menu will be a collaboration between kitchen management and the eccentric mind of Bell’s President and Founder, Larry Bell.

While still being developed, the new menu will feature fish and chips, fresh ground burgers (more than beef), fresh and unique salads, smoked meats, steamed mussels and eggs prepared in a variety of ways.

“We will try to source our ingredients locally whenever we can, but our focus will also be non-GMO and organic foods. Quality is the top priority, no matter where it comes from,” Reicherts said.

The new dining space will feature a gas fireplace along with an intricate mosaic tiled floor. The bar inside the original Café will also be expanded into space where the current 150 sq. ft. kitchen now resides, adding even more seating.

An employee area for the approximately 120 employees that work at the Café will also be part of this expansion. Adding additional parking options are also planned.

Local architect Nelson Nave, structural engineer Nehil-Sivak and construction company Maxwell & Associates are all working on the project.

Because of construction, brewery tours of Bell’s original brewery will not be offered on the weekends for the time being. Brewery tours in Comstock will be expanded however to Sundays at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. A third Saturday tour option has also been added (2 p.m.) in Comstock.

“There may be some minor inconveniences in the interim, but the end result will be more than worth it. We hope our customers will be patient with us as we work to bring them an even better experience here at the Eccentric Café,” Reicherts said.

Bell’s will be hosting a career fair Oct. 25 at their Comstock production facility.  They will be hiring at least 100 new employees, many of who will work in the new dining room.

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