The Penguin rises again
By Morgan Bledsoe, PHD
Jackson Advocate Contributing Writer
The Penguin Restaurant & Bar is the latest addition to the many amenities on the Jackson State University campus located at the corner of Dalton Street and One University Place. The grand opening of the Penguin brings back wonderful memories for most Jacksonians and especially, former Jackson State University students who once frequented a small hotdog stand that stood as an iconic eating establishment and feeding hole for hungry college students for over 20 years. Back in the day the Penguin Hotdog could be had for a mere forty to ninety-five cents. Students could get the famous Penguin Hotdog and fries with its special barbeque sauce and be satisfied until they could gather up enough money for the next day’s meaty hotdog treat. Former Jackson State University student and Jackson food aficionado, John Hardy along with several other prominent Jackson businessmen have made a dream come true by opening the all new Penguin Restaurant & Bar. Hardy told a boisterous crowd at the grand opening ceremony held Friday, December 2, 2011 that, “I once ate a “Penguin Hotdog Special” almost daily when I was a starving college student (1974-78) on a violin scholarship many years ago. At the time my years at Jackson State were the best years of my life until now. I have realized my dream to own a restaurant but never imaged it would be on the campus where I received a quality education. While at Jackson State, Dr. Bill Cooley was my professor as I was a business major. I’m still trying to get an “A” from him. I never dreamed he’d be my business partner and confidant. I always had an idea in the back of my head to own a restaurant somewhere in south Jackson but never dreamed it would be to give rise to the resurrection of the Penguin. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the revitalization in south Jackson. I’m glad the void will no longer exist. I pledge that I will earn your business every day with quality cuisine, ambience, and service. We are in this together as President Obama said, “Yes We Can.” I want the Penguin to be a focal point of this community. I knew I had the right idea about this place when I got conformation from Dr. John Peoples that the restaurant should be called the Penguin.” Mayor Harvey Johnson was among the many well-wishers present for the ribbon-cutting ceremony organized by Dr. Juanita Sims Doty and the International Community Ambassadors Network (ICAN) who served as hostesses for the event. Mayor Johnson told the audience, “I appreciate John and his service to this community while at the University Club where he served as general manager, cook and chief bottle washer for several years. They don’t come any more dedicated than John Hardy when it comes to hard work.” Johnson presented Hardy with a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Jackson. Reverend C. J. Rhodes of the Mt. Helm Baptist Church invoked a blessing upon the establishment and its patrons, who will frequent the Penguin. Today we can hush the haters….Lord, give this Penguin wings as eagles.” Several community leaders and fellow investors were on hand to participate in the grand opening ceremony. Duane O’Neil with the Jackson Chamber of Commerce said, “John Hardy is a larger than life character. I’ve gotten to see the love and conviction he has for his community.” Jonathan Lee, Penguin investor and owner of Mississippi Products stated, “Once again economic development can happen in this community. We can think of the Penguin as a place away from home…this is your place. Thank-you John for being at the helm of this restaurant and your 36 years of service at the University Club and now to the Jackson State University community.” Fellow investor and local realtor Mike Lewis commented, “In order to know your future, you have to know your past if the Penguin is going to be a success. Thus the Penguin is going to be successful and continue to uphold the historic pride of a once prominent eatery in the original neighborhood. ” Senator John Horn presented John Hardy with a proclamation from the Mississippi State Legislature. Finally, Ms. Ruth Williams, daughter of the owners of the original Penguin, Nellie and Duke Williams when it was operational at the corner of Lynch Street and Dalton Street noted, “John Hardy has the original recipe and I hope you all enjoy the new Penguin. I just want to hug John’s neck to thank him for the vision to keep my parents dream alive and bring the Penguin back to prominence in the same neighborhood.” V.A and Aubrey Nelson were the second owners of the Penguin when it was located at Lynch & Dalton Street according to local historians. The Penguin Restaurant & Bar is located at One University Place, Suite 6A. (1100 J. R. Lynch Blvd.) Jackson, Mississippi. For reservations and additional information regarding event planning for special occasions please call 769-251-5222 and visit www.thepenguin ms.com. The hours of operation are 11:00 am-11pm Monday through Saturday. John Hardy is the principal owner and working general manager and Lawrence Crockett serves as the assistant manager. Mr. Darrell Harper is the Penguin’s executive chef and Ms. Trlisa Mosley is the sous chef. Local contractor Frank Dixon of Dixon Interiors created the plush interior of the restaurant and architect Jeffery Yentz designed the sleek appearance of the Penguin.