ANN ARBOR - Downtown's newest eatery, Jim Brady's, is open for business.
It's hard to miss. Boasting bright colors, larger-than-life photographs and retro light fixtures, the three-story restaurant was three years in the making at 209 S. Main.
The establishment has a rich history, and is owned by the grandson of Jim Brady, the original owner of Diamond Jim Brady's -- a successful Detroit bar-restaurant concept inspired by the famous 19th century New York City businessman at 7 Mile and Greenfield. Tom Brady went into business with his father, and now his son, Tom Brady, Jr. is continuing the legacy at two locations in metro Detroit.
The original Jim Brady's location opened in 1954 and paid homage to the Gay Nineties -- an era of opulence in the 1890s that also saw the rise of the suffragette movement.
"He went back in time 60 years to do that," said Brady. "My partner, Darin, and I decided to do this when we were exactly 60 years from when he opened in ’54."
Following in his grandfather's footsteps, Brady designed his Main St. restaurant with a heavy focus on the 1950s and 1960s Detroit aesthetic with the help of Kelly Deines of ROSSETTI architecture firm. It's bright, it's busy, it's loud and it works.
The second floor mezzanine is a stunning transformation from brick loft space to the beating heart of Jim Brady's -- a two-story room with views of Main Street featuring a bar, two seating areas, a wall-to-wall projector screen and an upstairs area.
It is brighter than the first and third floors, and that was an intentional decision. Each floor builds upon the other with similar design themes, but retains its own distinct feel.
The walls of Jim Brady's tell stories of years past. Brady blew up old photographs of staff from the original Diamond Jim Brady's with portraits of his grandfather appearing throughout the space. Old newspaper clippings of restaurant reviews of the era also make up unique elements of the decor.
A large portrait of Theresa, Diamond Jim Brady's original waitress, hangs at the back of the first floor next to the kitchen.
"She used to babysit for me, and she worked for my dad and my grandpa for 25-30 years," said Brady. "We still use her recipe for the chili and the Caesar salad today. Same recipe since ’54. It’s different -- it’s real powerful, it’s got a lot of flavor. We heavily dress it like they did in the '50s and '60s."
The menu features other original menu items like the Diamond Jim Brady's Special Sandwich ($11) and the Charlie Brown ($13.50) -- the first Swiss and bacon burger to ever appear on a Detroit menu thanks to a regular who consistently requested the sandwich.
The Amazing Grace's Carrot Cake is Brady's grandmother's original recipe, and for every piece ordered, Jim Brady's will donate a meal to Tiny Lions Cat Cafe at the Humane Society of Huron Valley.
The prices are a stretch from the original $2 burgers at Diamond Jim Brady's, but Brady said they aim provide quality food at a good value and source whenever possible from local producers.
Another fun design element are the signature pink bathrooms and a telephone in the women's restroom.
"My grandfather installed a payphone in the water closet back in the day (just in case) a girl was on a bad date," explained Brady. "Because back then, single women really wouldn’t go to bars. He wouldn’t let an unaccompanied woman sit at the bar because he felt that she’d be hounded. He wanted to create an atmosphere where they felt very comfortable."
It's an ethos that Brady hopes to continue.
"You can come in in flip flops, jeans and a T-shirt and you can come in on a big night out and everybody feels comfortable in the same atmosphere," he said.
"We’re here to give everyone an opportunity to just unplug, because like my grandfather said, ‘All the hecticness of your day, just come in here, let it wash away. Take a step back in time, chill out, relax, let us take care of you -- and then go home smiling."
For more information, or to inquire about throwing a private event, visit the Jim Brady's website.
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