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The finishing touches are being performed on the exterior of The Flying Tomato, set for a September launch.Photo courtesy ANDY DRENNEN
The finishing touches are being performed on the exterior of The Flying Tomato, set for a September launch.

Photo courtesy ANDY DRENNEN

Restaurant to open inside Trolley's space

Posted online
Three area businessmen have teamed to bring a new eatery to downtown Springfield in space currently occupied by the restaurant portion of Trolley's at 107 Park Central Square. The new restaurant, dubbed The Flying Tomato, is scheduled for a mid-September launch.

Trolley's owner Ryan MacDonald, Gelato Mio co-owner Andy Drennen and Ozark-based Paolo's Pasta and Grill chef Paul Pentecost have partnered on the project and now have equal ownership in both The Flying Tomato and the Springfield Trolley's, according to Drennen, who will serve as general manager.

The bar portion of Trolley's - to continue under management by MacDonald - will keep its name, with overflow traffic to be directed to the second floor. A divider will separate the bar and restaurant to foster the eatery's family-style atmosphere, Drennen said, noting the restaurant would serve a variety of foods, including all-you-can-eat pasta, steaks, burgers, gourmet pizzas and seafood.

The menu, which is being crafted by Pentecost, is not yet complete, Drennen said, but a price range of $20 to 25 to feed a family of four is the goal.

"It's really hard to take your family out downtown, or probably anywhere for that matter, without paying $50-$60," Drennen said. "We think it's going to be great, especially with the square done. Whenever we have more events at the square, people will have a nice, safe alternative to take their family to that's not a bar and is right there on the square."

Drennen said the project has had minimal startup costs, as a kitchen was already in place. The partners are providing the finishing touches to the eatery's exterior - decked out in green -  and working on signage changes that would place the Trolley's and Flying Tomato signs on their respective sides of the building, as well as minor internal design and staffing.

MacDonald, who previously served as manager for Trolley's and has worked at the spot for about nine years, gained ownership of the bar and grill in February when former owner Aaron Buerge filed for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.

Drennen said MacDonald had been looking for a way to make the restaurant portion of the business more profitable. The two formed a friendship as business neighbors on Park Central Square, and Pentecost was brought into the picture because of his restaurant's relationship with Gelato Mio; Paolo's serves the dessert at its downtown Ozark location.

"I was kind of the middle man in putting this together," Drennen said, reiterating the trio's equal ownership. "We all met. We hit it off."

Gelato Mio also sells its products in both Springfield Harter House locations and the Dancing Mule coffee shop, according to its Web site. Though it also currently sells products at Trolley's, Drennen does not expect that to continue when The Flying Tomato is up and running.
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