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Johnny D’s restaurant completes renovations to offer dinner, alcoholic drinks

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Johnny D’s Restaurant at the Paddock Arcade — a popular spot for breakfast and lunch among downtown business professionals — will unveil a dinner menu for the first time next week, extending its hours until 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Open for about five years, the small restaurant has raked in its most business yet this year, and manager David P. Bartlett decided now would be an ideal time to start offering dinners. Along with new menu choices, the restaurant’s former 20-foot lunch counter has been renovated to serve as a bar with stools and is about a foot higher than before. A former storage space near the kitchen was converted into a serving area for the bar, featuring shelves lined with bottles of wine and spirits.

“We knocked out a wall and shuffled some things around to make it happen,” said Mr. Bartlett, who acquired a state liquor license in October to serve draft beer, wine and spirits. Rather than apply for a new license, Mr. Bartlett transferred the license from another restaurant he started on Coffeen Street, Bistro 108. That restaurant, which Mr. Bartlett closed in February because of slow business, is now run by Sherri L. Marsh.

Johnny D’s dinner menu will showcase an open-faced prime rib sandwich, Parmesan chicken and lasagna along with a range of successful burgers and sandwiches also offered at lunch. To stay open until 10 p.m., Mr. Bartlett said, the casual diner’s target market will be families and professionals seeking a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere.

“We want families to come here and enjoy a drink,” he said. “It will also provide a place for professional people to go without a nightclub-type environment.”

“I’d like to bring more people downtown because everything seems to be focused on the perimeter areas with fast-food locations,” Mr. Bartlett said. “There are a lot of new people who don’t know we’re here.”

On Fridays, the eatery will offer a happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. It also will host wine nights with $2 specials on drinks.

Mr. Bartlett will add another cook to work evenings to a staff of four workers. Visitors will notice, though, he and his wife, Robyn L., spend plenty of time working in the kitchen. To express his passion as a restaurateur, Mr. Bartlett rattled off one of his favorite quotes from the late television and newspaper journalist Andy Rooney: “He said in a good restaurant you will always find the owners on hand, but in a better restaurant you will find them in the kitchen.”

He’s pleased with the restaurant’s gradual success over the past five years and said he hopes the extended hours will add to its base of frequent diners. But because the business climate downtown is always changing, it’s challenging to say where the restaurant will stand financially from one year to the next. Most first-time customers at Johnny D’s heard about the diner from friends and family members.

“The place seats 40 people, and we try to do the best with what we have to work with,” he said. “My wife and I would like to be here until we retire, but the restaurant business changes on a daily basis. But we’re now confident that when we open up for business, we’re going to have a good day and make a profit.”

He added that starting next week, the restaurant will celebrate the holiday season by selling Tom and Jerry cocktails featuring eggnog, brandy and rum.

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