If you fondly remember eating dinners off of TV trays while settled into the family room couch watching the evening’s sitcoms, you’re going to love the newest addition to the Heritage Hill neighborhood.
The Commons opened last week on the first floor of the Oakwood Manor Apartments, at 547 Cherry St SE. With its wood paneling and relaxed lounge area—complete with TV’s built into wood consoles—the new restaurant will transport you back in time to the ‘70s.
Designed to look like the family room of your parents or grandparents home, it’s the attention to detail that really does the trick. Beth Rich, owner of The Commons, said she spent two years collecting the items that now furnish and decorate the dining and lounge spaces of The Commons.
“I wanted to really focus on the décor and this is my era,” Rich said. “I want it to feel like my grandma’s basement.” She added, “I’ve repurchased everything my mom gave to Goodwill. My mother is dying. She never wanted to see these colors again.”
Rich, who was born and raised in Grand Rapids, recently returned to the city after a four-year stint in Santa Monica, California, where she operated a bar.
She said she knew she wanted to open a full-service restaurant when she returned to Grand Rapids and she immediately started searching for spaces to fulfill her vision. Rich settled on a ‘70s theme because she wanted to create a unique space.
She noted in Los Angeles, restaurants and bars focus on creating a full experience to compete for customers, so she brought that mentality back to Grand Rapids with her.
“The bars and restaurants really have to step up their game to compete for the Millennials and the people who truly care about food,” she said. “There are a ton of great restaurants in LA, but they really do a good job at the whole experience. It’s more of a whole package vibe.”
She also wanted to bring the neighborhood vibe she’d had with her bar to her new establishment.
“For being a craft bar in a tourist town, we were really important to the neighborhood of Santa Monica and I really wanted that again,” she explained. “So I was really looking for a neighborhood so we can be important to the people who live here rather than right downtown.”
To open The Commons, Rich brought her team from Santa Monica—that’s right, she actually succeeded in getting three individuals to leave sunny California for blustery Michigan winters.
Brian Abbott serves as the front of the house manager at The Commons, and said he’s adapting to the weather and is eager to see just how cold it gets here. He also is excited to introduce diners to The Commons.
“What I really like is unique concepts … the ‘70s vibe and lounge atmosphere, and the hospitality that we have in mind, our goal is to have people linger,” he said. “To have people feel comfortable to sit and have dinner and move up to the lounge after.”
The restaurant serves lunch and dinner, with a focus on shareable items including fried Brussels sprouts, avocado sprouted toast, street corn mac & cheese, and twice-cooked chicken wings. Large plate offerings include a double cheeseburger, cauliflower fried rice and steak frites. It also has a ‘70s inspired cocktail menu and a beer and wine list.
Abbott described the menu, “It’s nostalgic. When you eat the dishes it reminds you of dishes that might have been prepared at a family meal. Most dishes have cheese or something that makes you feel good. It’s comfort food, but with a twist, a new take on them.”
So for a trip back in time, visit The Commons, at 547 Cherry St SE.