MARQUETTE - Dan Torres recently sat on the upper level of the new Border Grill building and talked about its construction.
As he spoke, natural light from the large windows on the building's north and west sides streamed inside. The natural light and the view of the ground floor level from the second story mezzanine gave the restaurant a comfortable, open feeling.
"People really, really enjoy this upstairs space. I'm actually a little bit surprised at how people gravitate to this space ... with all the glass that's in here, on a beautiful, bright, sunny day it's a great place to be in and it has a great feel," said Torres, who owns the Border Grill.
Above, Dan Torres, owner of the Border Grill, stands on the second floor of the new Border Grill restaurant on Washington Street. (Journal photo by Christopher Diem)
Construction of the building started in August and the restaurant opened on Nov. 26.
The building's unique two-story design was the brainchild of architect Barry Polzin, Torres said.
"His initial thought was, looking at it from an architect and designer's perspective, we're going to be next to what is obviously a very large building and ... you have to have a building that has presence so you don't get lost," Torres said. Marquette's new Walgreens is being built right next door.
In fact it was Walgreens and its developer, Anchor Properties, that convinced Torres to build a new building. Anchor negotiated with Torres to buy the site of the old Border Grill along with property owned by the city of Marquette in order to build the Walgreens at the corner of Washington Street and McClellan Avenue. In return, Anchor sold adjacent property to Torres to build the new Border Grill building.
"Our old building was functional but it was nothing exciting, it was a box, there was really no character," Torres said. "But this one has a real neat feel and people have responded to it very favorably ... we've doubled our seating, which was real critical."
The restaurant now has enough seating for large groups to hold events there.
"We'll get Northern's women volleyball team coming in quite frequently during the season. They're a group of 10 to 15 that wouldn't have taken the chance before but now we have a lot of spaces that lend themselves well to larger groups," Torres said.
Large groups can either mingle in the regular dining section or they can gather in a private, window-encased conference room in the building's front corner.
Torres said he will likely develop new menu items as summer approaches, primarily driven by the restaurant's outdoor deck. The deck will seat about 60 and includes a small stage for live music.
"It's on the sunset side of the building. I think it's going to be the only deck and outdoor seating area in Marquette that I think is sort of situated attractively for afternoon dining," he said.
New menu items may include platter-type dishes that can be shared among guests as well as Mexican dinner-house entrees including grilled salmon and grilled mahi mahi, Torres said.
Torres is also looking forward to traffic on the city bike path.
"Come summer time you'll be able to ride a bike from the lake to our restaurant on paved, lit trails. I think that's huge," he said.
Renting out the restaurant on Sundays for private functions is another new feature of the restaurant.
"We have opened and encouraged people to use us for events. There have been some holiday parties here and a couple weddings have had receptions booked," he said.