The MeetingHouse to open in former Mind, Body & Spirits space

By: Mary Beth Almond, | Rochester Post | Published August 15, 2012

ROCHESTER — A new family-friendly restaurant called The MeetingHouse is expected to open for business at 301 S. Main St., prior to Big, Bright Light Show.

“We’re shooting for early November,” said Jason Mood, who co-owns the restaurant with Chris Johnson.

Although the restaurant is the duo’s first venture on their own, they say they are well equipped to take on the challenge, thanks to the knowledge they gained from their experience with the Roberts Restaurant Group — which includes Streetside Seafood in Birmingham, Town Tavern in Royal Oak, Roadside Bar & Grille in Bloomfield Township and The Beverly Hills Grille in Beverly Hills.

 A view from the front of The MeetingHouse looking in shows the layout and design of the first floor.

A view from the front of The MeetingHouse looking in shows the layout and design of the first floor.

Rendering provided by Patrick Thompson Design

“Chris and I have worked together for the last nine years in the business under Bill Roberts’ restaurant group. We have shared the same goals in this business for a long time, so we partnered up and decided that we want to go into business together and open a restaurant,” Mood said.

Rochester City Manager Jaymes Vettraino said he is “very excited” to welcome The MeetingHouse downtown, which will occupy the vacant space that was formerly the home of Mind, Body & Spirits.

“The Mind, Body & Spirits location has the perfect style for the restaurant they are looking to open. It will give residents and visitors another nice diverse eating experience,” he said.

The concept for the restaurant, according to Mood, is to be a “very straightforward neighborhood restaurant.”

“Food and hospitality are the focuses of our concept. It’s really just about being a good neighborhood spot with very approachable modern food with some modern twists,” said Mood, who also serves as general manager of The MeetingHouse. “We want to make a connection to the community, and we want to build relationships with people and have the community take some ownership in the restaurant. We’d like to see the same faces there every week and just create a great neighborhood spot.”

Johnson, a longtime Rochester area resident who also serves as executive chef, said the menu will feature approachable, seasonal, modern American food.

“Conceptually, my goal was to do things that our guests would want to eat every day. It’s approachable food and recognizable food, but at a higher level,” he said.

The focus is on high-quality ingredients, Johnson said, noting that much of the produce is purchased from local farmers, as well as from Eastern Market.

“It all comes down to quality. Whatever has the best quality is what we are going to use, but we try to keep everything as local as possible,” he said.

Johnson’s three favorite dishes on the menu are the wood-roasted littleneck clams with paprika butter and grilled bread appetizer, the Moroccan smoked trout salad with spiced sweet potatoes in a maple yogurt crème, and the braised lamb shank ravioli with eggplant caponata, pine nuts and feta.

“The goal is to have something for everybody. Whether it’s a chicken or a pasta, our goal is to have something all the way across the board,” he said. “But what we are going to hang our hats on is our special board, which will have features every day that will change.”

Construction, which kicked off this week to completely remodel the space, is expected to take about 90 days.

“We’re really going to make a bit of a splash in there,” Mood said.

Patrick Thompson of Patrick Thompson Design of Detroit redesigned the space to have a simple, classic, sophisticated comfort. Thompson said in a statement that he wanted to ensure The MeetingHouse space is a reflection of its menu, a well-curated clean space designed with classic materials.

“While modern, the interior design honors The MeetingHouse’s historic name and location nestled on Main Street. … Decorative columns, tufted banquettes and colonial-style windows will be blended with raw steel and ash-wood planking to create a warm and appealing space. With its variety in seating (a comfortable lounge, standard table dining with a communal table option, and room for friends at the bar), The MeetingHouse invites guests to relax and promises to be a metro-area staple,” he said in a statement.

This year, the men plan to focus on reworking the ground level — which will be home to a dining area, a small lounge, a small bar and a kitchen — and address what to do with the second level next year.

“We really want to put all the dollars that we have to work with into giving the community a really nice dining space to start, and we want to make sure we are comfortable operating that space before we add another whole floor,” Mood said.

The MeetingHouse will initially be open from 4-11 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday and will serve just dinner at first. However, plans are in place to add lunch down the line, Mood said.

“We are really going to try to ease ourselves into this — master the first meal period, then bring lunch in and then eventually bring Mondays in,” he added.