The Rapidian

Bartertown Diner gets makeover, expands with live food bar

Popular vegan fare restaurant Bartertown has remodeled its interior and plans to add a live food bar next door.
Bartertown interior

Bartertown interior /Eric Tank

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Burritotown has reopened and is in its third weekend. After Bartertown closes, a separate crew of three take over the kitchen and open Burritotown at 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. serving tacos, burritos and nachos. 

Bartertown exterior

Bartertown exterior /Eric Tank

Cult Pizza

Cult Pizza

Bartertown Diner has gotten a new makeover that adds transparency to the popular vegan restaurant at 6 Jefferson Avenue SE in Downtown Grand Rapids. The refurnishing came when the building's owner Rockford Construction opted to rebuild the storefront windows extending them from near ground level to the ceiling line. The upgrade allows for a street view into the diner that previously was mostly obstructed by concrete. 

In addition to the the windows, builder William Campbell, designer of the previous interior patchwork of upcycled furnishings, spent two weeks upgrading the space to include a new aesthetic that reflects his evolved style of craftsmanship and woodwork. 

The space now features two bars and 11 table tops made from maple and walnut with black metal framing. One bar still lines the partition separating the kitchen from dining room but now has new stained glass windows from Rainbow Resources in Eastown. The other seats eight and lines the front facade from the entrance through where the raised floor section was, which has now been removed. The bar will eventually extend through where the new live food bar will be and into Cult Pizza, creating a cohesiveness to the three adjoined but separate spaces.

Gone are the red walls with their murals depicting communist icons and satirical scenes of controversial political leaders. The walls are now whitewashed with a similar schema of socio-politically charged murals. Artist Pat Perry painted one panel mural themed "Eat the Rich."

The cramped entryway with its wall of posters and tacked up ephemera is now gone. The entire space has taken on a minimalist and sanitized version of its former self. The rear inset booth however still remains, as well as the miscellany chandelier of stained glass, deer antlers and brasswork.

The menu, however, remains only changed by the seasons. The winter menu shifts to locally available produce, but the fare that Bartertown is sought for remains the same. Soon, though, there will be a significant addition to what the space has to offer.

A "Live Food Bar" is planned to be completed sometime in January. Rockford Construction is in the process of remodeling the space and William Campbell is building the furnishings. The bar plans to sell juices and smoothies at first and eventually offer raw wraps, salads and ferments. It has partnered with B&B Organics to provide ethically derived produce. The Bar will operate as part of the cooperative that is currently Bartertown and Cult Pizza but will be its own separate restaurant with its own staff. 

Bartertown, Cult Pizza and The Live Food Bar all operate under a cooperative business model owned by founder Ryan Cappelletti. All employees, including Cappelletti, split tips and earn the same wage based on seniority and hours worked. 

"Ryan [Cappelletti] is a never-ending wealth of big ideas," says Megan Shannahan, a senior employee and former co-owner. "And he clearly makes a lot of them happen."


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