Diamonds are Forever

Jim Brady’s restaurants in Royal Oak and Ann Arbor bring the past forward.
Jim Brady's Detroit location
Tom Brady, co-owner of Jim Brady’s in Royal and Ann Arbor, says once a Detroit location is open, he plans to expand the concept to other cities.

In 2015, when Tom Brady opened Jim Brady’s, a vintage-style restaurant along Main Street south of downtown Royal Oak (formerly the Oxford Inn), he wanted to pay homage to his grandfather.

The original Diamond Jim Brady’s opened as “a shot-and-a-beer saloon” at Seven Mile and Greenfield roads in Detroit in 1954.

The new space, designed by Kelly Deines at Rossetti in downtown Detroit, harkens back to the décor of the patriarch’s 1890s-era saloon, complete with mirrors — lots of mirrors (which made the original location look larger than it was). The 71-seat eatery closed in 1990, along with a location in Southfield.

Like its forerunner, the women’s restroom in the new space may be the only one in the region, if not the country, with a pink pay phone — for when a girl’s date doesn’t work out. “You can imagine it took us a long time to find a pay phone that would work, let alone a pink one,” Brady says. “My grandfather’s place was like ‘Cheers’ before there was a Cheers (a legendary bar that opened in Boston in 1889 that was popularized in an NBC sitcom that ran from 1982 to 1993).”

Working in the restaurant business all of his life, both as an employee and an owner, Brady says Jim Brady’s is the culmination of three generations’ of work. His father, Tom Brady Sr., ran several eateries, including his grandfather’s, while his stepmom, Mary, operates Diamond Jim Brady’s Bistro in Novi (she’s a certified executive chef).

The grandson says part of celebrating the past extends to the menu, where original recipes like chili and a Caesars dressing — created by Theresa Watkins, the first employee at Diamond Jim Brady’s — are included, while the carrot cake is the same delicacy his grandmother made.

The menu also includes hand-patted burgers, just like the original, which are formed using a proprietary blend of meat from Fairway Packing in Detroit. The sesame-style buns come from Brown’s Bakery, just like Jim Brady used. Other offerings include maple miso salmon, blackened chicken carbonara, and a chimichurri hanger steak.

The reincarnation, which Brady opened with a partner, offers 184 seats, along with 40 more on a seasonal patio. A long bar complements several booths adorned with globe lights and street signs named after famous roads in Detroit. Diamond tile and clear-coat stained floors, black-and-white murals, and decorative lighting round out the décor.

“So what’s the business case?” Brady asks. “For me, it was about following my passion. I realized life is short, and you have limited opportunities. In my case, I was able to honor my grandfather.”

In addition to opening up a location in Ann Arbor last December, Brady acquired the former Chung’s Chinese eatery in Midtown. The goal is to renovate the space and open a Jim Brady’s there in the next two years.