The Penguin is back.
The fabled restaurant and hangout for past Jackson State University students and faculty will return to campus in September on the ground floor of One University Place, said owner and operator John Hardy.
Hardy, general manager of the University Club in downtown Jackson for the past 36 years,
retired from that post last week to resurrect The Penguin and its beloved hot dog special.
“It’s two hot dogs piled with cole slaw, french fries and slathered with a spicy barbecue sauce from a special recipe that no one’s been able to replicate. It’s so different, yet so good,” Hardy said.
Hardy has purchased the recipe from the original owner’s family – a guarantee from the new owner that the special will mirror the original.
“I’ve had people question whether this will be an authentic hot dog special. It will be,” he said.
The Penguin will be open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. The space seats about 70 people.
The 22,000-square-foot ground-floor retail space at One University Place, a mixed use development that includes apartments, is 75 percent leased less than a year after opening following construction delays, said Kimberly Hilliard, director of Jackson State’s Center for University-Based Development.
Other tenants include optometrist Tonyatta Hairston, who will open a second Jackson location for EnVision Eye Care in September. Hairston already has two practices in Magee and Belhaven.
Hairston said growth in downtown and West Jackson, and her love of Jackson State, factored into her decision to locate there.
“I drove my parents by the office the other night, and Jackson State is downtown Jackson now. It’s almost like it’s one in the same,” she said.
“This is a great opportunity to not only serve the students, but also the community at large.”
Another tenant, Gallery 1 at One University Place, will open in mid-August, said gallery director Kimberly Jaccobs. The Jackson State-owned gallery will display work from the university’s permanent collection, as well as work from local and national artists, Jacobs said.
Hilliard said two additional retail leases are pending.
For Hardy, The Penguin’s return complements the resurgence of West Jackson, an area he says more entrepreneurs should consider.
“I’m tired of people saying nothing can flourish in this area,” Hardy said. “There are 9,000 students across the street and 1,500 staff members. If I can’t make this work, I should fold up my tent and go home.”