Peppy Grill started in 1949 to reopen after face-lift

Local

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A 70-year-old staple of downtown Indy is reopening its doors.

If you’ve ever been to the Peppy Grill in Fountain Square, you won’t recognize it now. The co-owner told News 8 the investment totaled about $250,000.

Last year, Peppy was in the news for all the wrong reasons, forced to close temporarily for health code violations.

After a nine-month closure, longtime customers on Wednesday did not recognize the place anymore … and that’s just fine.

The Peppy Grill at 1004 Virginia Ave. opened when Harry S. Truman was president in 1949.

Lola Mitchell said she has been a customer since she was 17. “I’m 78 now,” she said.

In other words, for 61 years. So for her, Peppy’s is more than a restaurant.

“Because there’s no place like it,” Mitchell said.

Old photos show the booths, a grill in the dining room, tiny bathrooms and a floor that was famously uneven. The brick exposed by the renovation is the original; it was just covered with stainless steel and decades of grease.

Mitchell said she did not recognize Peppy’s. “I said, ‘Wow.'”

John Trent is a regular, too, coming “about every night” from 25-30 years because his wife works nights. “For the food and drink coffee and enjoy the atmosphere.”

That’s about as long as Joe Wilkins has been working at Peppy: 27 years. He’s the head chef but has been doing the construction since the restaurant closed on the day before Thanksgiving.

“It was awesome to get back in here and start cooking again,” Wilkins said.

The menu is the same, though prices are up a bit. Wilkins said it’s the first increase in about a decade.

In a couple days, it will be open 24-7 with breakfast round-the-clock and some new things including online and delivery options.

The owner hopes to add beer and wine to the menu soon.

There’s also a much larger patio that’s already been approved.

But perhaps the biggest change, the floor now with a retro black and white diamond pattern.

“You don’t feel like you’re intoxicated walking through it,” Wilkins said with a laugh. “I don’t miss it.”

Mitchell doesn’t miss the old uneven floor either. “Oh, no, that was in bad shape.”

Mitchell, Trent and other customers said they have missed the place, not just the food but the conversation, although that seemingly picked up Wednesday where they left off nine months ago.

“Yes. Oh, god, yes,” Mitchell said.

“We’re got a lot more competition in the area, but there’s no place like Peppy’s,” Wilkins said. “No place like home.”

You might notice notice the sign outside Peppy Grill advertises for “Hamburgs.” Wilkins said one version of the story is the original owner didn’t have the money to buy a sign to fit the entire word “hamburgers” on it. The other story is connected to his German heritage and advertising to his customers. Customers can pick which one they like.

The Fountain Square Peppy’s will open again Thursday evening for another soft opening. Then the plan is to open at 2 p.m. Friday and start 24-7 operations Saturday.

(The Peppy Grill on Virginia Avenue is not affiliated with Burt’s Peppy Grill on East 10th Street near Sherman Drive.)

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