First Look: Hey!, chef Rodney Bowers’ new kid-friendly restaurant on Roncesvalles


Sometimes life throws you a curveball. For Rodney Bowers, it happened as he was opening up his latest restaurant, Hey!. His wife had just given birth, and the child promptly needed open-heart surgery. It goes without saying that, at the time, the restaurant was the least of Bowers’ concerns.

“It was a weird predicament to be in,” Bowers says. His finances were on the fritz, forcing him to open while things were still messy. Now, with the new baby doing swimmingly, the restaurant is finally getting settled.

Originally intended to be the younger sibling to Little Italy’s Hey Meatball!, this iteration has kept the focus off the quick sammies (though it still has those), instead delving into rustic comfort food.

“This is a huge ’hood for kids, and it needed a huge restaurant for kids,” explains Bowers. A sandwich-focused menu simply wasn’t going to cut it.

Designed by Melissa Davis and Halina Catherine of HCMD Design, the space itself is divided up into various sections, some of which are still in flux: there is a juice corner, a retail area — filled with homemade canned goods and the like — and a soon-to-be-expanded bar. Baked goods, all made in-house by Leslie Cairns, tempt passersby. Meanwhile, those staying for a bite can settle in upstairs, which will soon have a play area for kids (it’s currently downstairs).  

During the week, Hey! is open from 7 a.m., which means that breakfast, lunch and dinner are all available, and weekend brunch is on offer, too. Rebecca Ross (Enoteca Sociale, Malèna), is holding down the kitchen.

“She’s putting out some serious, serious food,” Bowers says.

Dinner picks include house-made gnocchi ($16) with radicchio, mozzarella and house mortadella, as well as and buttermilk fried chicken ($17.50) dotted with squash mash and served on a bed of chard.

With his “red meat and butter reputation,” as he puts it, Bowers wanted to include healthier options to reflect his changing diet. Vegan options include the raw veggie lox with nut cheese, fresh greens and live crackers ($12.50), and accommodating picky palates (like, say, those of kids) is never a problem. 

Despite a rocky start, Hey! is finally settling into its groove. And judging by the number of kids running around, Bowers has hit the nail on the head.

Hey!, 89 Roncesvalles, 647-748-0439

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