JungleBird restaurant coming to downtown Kalamazoo

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JungleBird's menu will include smoked drumsticks, croquettas de jamon and aguachile. Courtesy JungleBird

Restaurateur Mark Sellers is partnering with PlazaCorp to open an anchor restaurant in The Exchange building in downtown Kalamazoo.

Sellers announced Tuesday, Sept. 21, he will bring “art deco decor, Caribbean flair and casual island sophistication” to The Exchange building at 155 W. Michigan Ave. in downtown Kalamazoo via JungleBird, a new restaurant and cocktail lounge expected to open in early 2022.

Sellers and PlazaCorp — the developer of The Exchange building — previously worked together to open HopCat Kalamazoo.

The restaurant will anchor key commercial space inside The Exchange, said Sellers, who is best known as the creator of HopCat, Stella’s Lounge and Max’s South Seas Hideaway. Sellers exited BarFly last fall after the company filed for bankruptcy, and he now owns Max’s South Seas Hideaway and the new JungleBird concept under separate entities.

The new concept will feature an extensive list of craft cocktails and eclectic cuisine inspired by the tropics in an atmosphere “infused with elements of Havana soul, Miami-style art deco, unique artwork and tropical plants.”

Sellers said he is drawing on his travels to Miami, Cuba and other Caribbean islands to create an experience with a chef-driven food menu and craft cocktails. When guests enter JungleBird, they will be “transported into an alternate reality that will feel like an oasis off bustling West Michigan Avenue,” he said.

“This is a restaurant concept I’ve been thinking about for years. JungleBird will combine much of what I love about the Caribbean — island hospitality, a welcoming, sophisticated atmosphere, creative and flavorful cuisine and unforgettable tropical cocktails,” Sellers said.

JungleBird’s food menu is being created by Chef Richard Williams, who previously created the menu for Max’s South Seas Hideaway in Grand Rapids. Max’s recently was voted “Best New Restaurant in West Michigan,” “Best Craft Cocktails” and “Most Innovative Cuisine” by readers of Revue Magazine.

On the JungleBird menu, guests will find small plates such as croquetas de jamon (potato croquettes stuffed with ham and red dragon cheddar) and charred octopus, as well as entrees like churrasco brick chicken thigh, braised short ribs and Chilean salmon.

For dessert, guests will be able to choose from options such as key lime pie, pastelitos de cucurucho (layered puff pastry filled with guava, papaya and coconut chutney with Chantilly cream and caramel deco) and homemade avocado sorbet.

The craft cocktail menu is still in development but will include drinks such as the Brazilian caipirinha, the Cuban mojito, and the rum-based Jungle Bird, from which the restaurant takes its name.

“Mark has created some of the most innovative restaurant concepts in the state, so we jumped at the opportunity to partner with him to bring this unique experience to The Exchange,” said Jeff Nicholson, founder of PlazaCorp. “We think JungleBird will provide an everyday escape for locals and a memorable destination that will draw more people to downtown.”

JungleBird’s dining room will seat about 220 guests, with private event spaces for groups of up to 50 and an outdoor patio with seating for 40 people.

The restaurant is hiring for management and culinary team positions, and those interested can email jobs@junglebirdkzoo.com.

Updates on JungleBird’s progress will be posted on Facebook, Instagram and junglebirdkzoo.com.

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