New restaurant brings ’50s flare to Ann Arbor

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - 7:04pm

Jim Brady's opened its Ann Arbor location after nearly a year’s worth of development and planning.

Jim Brady's opened its Ann Arbor location after nearly a year’s worth of development and planning. Buy this photo
Madeline Hinkley/Daily

Last month, local businessman Tom Brady Jr., along with his associate Darin Dingham opened up an Ann Arbor location of Jim Brady’s after nearly a year’s worth of development and planning. This is the second location opened by the two since 2015, when the first Jim Brady's opened its doors to the public in Royal Oak, Mich. 

The restaurant served its first meal on December 10. According to Brady, the vibrant culture of the Ann Arbor community was a key factor in the choice to branch out into the area.

“Ann Arbor, to us, is incredibly exciting,” Brady said. “It’s just such a dynamic market in terms of the people that live there, in terms of the culture, the art and the music.”

Although the interior was only completed within the last year, the structure of the restaurant dates back to 1861. The restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, close to the intersection of South Main and Liberty streets. 

In planning the interior of the restaurant, Brady hoped to capture the energy of the restaurant upon which Jim Brady’s was modeled — Diamond Jim Brady’s. The well-known Detroit restaurant and bar opened more than six decades ago by Brady’s grandfather.  Located in downtown Detroit, the restaurant quickly gained popularity and became known for casual food and high-end atmosphere.

Brady recalled the origins of his grandfather’s restaurant and its success throughout the ’50s and ’60s, up until its relocation to Novi in 1990 where it still stands today.

“He had this idea, to take this little corner bar and make it really upscale,” Brady said. “He had really amazing burgers, the chili became legendary. For that style of bar, that really wasn’t what was going on at the time.”

Business sophomore Alais Murillo explained the decades of success of the original restaurant in Detroit could bode well for the future of Jim Brady’s in Ann Arbor.

“We have such a diverse group of consumers as a college town,” Murillo explained. “If you’re successful in a big city like Detroit, that will likely transfer to Ann Arbor as well.”

During the year-long process of development, Brady and Dingman worked hard to emulate the atmosphere of the iconic Detroit restaurant, hiring the architecture firm Rossetti and Associates and principal interior designer Kelly Deines to help recreate the 1950s feel.

“It’s really a legendary Detroit firm, it’s been in Detroit since the 1940s,” Brady said. “They really helped us — starting in Royal Oak and then in Ann Arbor — realize what that whole visual experience was like.”

Scott Behler, an Ann Arbor native who now serves as the general manager of the Ann Arbor location, noted the work that went into finding the people necessary for an optimal restaurant staff.

“We started interviewing back in April, and didn’t stop until we opened,” Behler said. “We had over 700 people apply, probably about 500 interviews and ended up hiring about 120 people.”

Executive chef Ian Hockenberger attributed the attention drawn in by the restaurant thus far to the restaurant’s quality food and ingredients.

“We’re using a lot of local ingredients, a lot of local purveyors,” Hockenberger said. “We like to have fun with our menu. The food’s all really high quality.”

Hockenberger also credited the success of Jim Brady’s to the general retro ambiance of the restaurant.

“The visuals that you get inside the restaurant are great,” he said. “It’s really a stunning place to eat, especially the upper floors.”

Despite the consumer traffic the location and aesthetics of Jim Brady’s has brought since its opening, Brady still credits the majority of his restaurant’s success to the energy of his staff and the Ann Arbor community.

“My dad told me a long time ago: The secret to the restaurant business is people, people, people, location,” Brady explained. “Without the people and the energy that our team brings and that the community brings, it's nothing.”