I had the pleasure of checking out Utica and visiting the beautiful Jimmy John’s Field that Andy Appleby opened that is attracting people from all over southeastern Michigan. This brought a big change to the area – like a baseball rolling down a hill, speeding up the economic development in the town.
As I drove down Auburn Road, I saw new businesses renovating old spaces, and then I saw a beautiful historical brick building freshly painted. I walked in to what I remember as the old Hatchy’s Bar and stopped in my tracks when I saw the renovation that was done. I’m talking everything but the brick is new. I met up with the owner of what is now Danny J’s Brick Tavern, Eva Jaraczewski, and her husband Dan who owns the building.
They told me about the work they had done, which included gutting the kitchen, new LED lighting, paint, new tables, flooring and more. In total, $700,000 in renovations were made. In just the few months they have owned the building, they have really brightened it up while keeping the historical look and feel. They meant business when they opened, and business is what they are going to get.
I asked Eva what her background was that she wanted to open this beautiful casual dining restaurant. She said her parents owned two cafes in St. Clair County and later the Lyon Grill in South Lyon. Good food is what she knows, and Eva is bringing it to Utica.
What you notice while sitting is the cozy atmosphere with families dining and quietly talking. You receive a basket of soft pretzels rolled up into the shape of a little ball with a side of cheese to dunk them into. They also have a big list of starter dishes as well as soups and salads. If you are looking for comfort food, they have burgers, pizza and sandwiches. If you are looking for a main course, then you can dig into the chicken parmesan, fish and chips or flank steak to name just a few. There is also an excellent Sunday brunch menu that has way too much to mention. Please visit their website at www.dannyjs.com to see the menu.
I had the pizza, which you can already tell by this story was not going to be baked in a standard oven. They had to remove a wall to get a brick-fired oven into the building to make the tasty little personal-sized pizza that I ordered. Joann was my server and made me feel like we were old friends. It was really a great experience eating there. Don’t forget dessert while you are there.
What I felt talking to Eva was the passion that she has to source locally, to look for great beer and wine companies in the state and to get their fresh breads and produce locally when they can. She wants to grow the business and help local businesses benefit from her success as well.
They also showed me a Pepsi Spire machine that sits between the bar and the front door. It has 150 combinations of Pepsi products, so you can get the traditional brands or any combination you desire. If you are looking for something a little stronger than pop, there is a beautiful bar on the main floor as well. Then sit back and enjoy some TV from one of the many they have mounted on the wall. They have indirect TV, so you can get your own channel to enjoy.
The second floor has another great bar and area you can rent for weddings, sweet 16, graduation parties, showers, fashion shows, etc. It is also a great place for live entertainment with a very open feel and high top tables. Believe me or not, there is even a sweet third level which is a small quaint space to have meetings. They are even looking at a rooftop patio bar and grill. Keep your fingers crossed for that one.
With such a great place added to Utica, I was asking them how they are getting their name out. I was introduced to Kristen Keller from All Seasons Communications in Romeo. They have been around for 27 years and offer a complete advertising program from website design to social media creation and advertising, writing and publishing, video and more. You name it, and they can do it. All Seasons Communications is like giving Babe Ruth a new baseball bat. You give them a great business to promote, and they will hit a home run every time.
You can see Danny J’s Brick Tavern for yourself at 7759 Auburn Road, Utica, MI 48317, and tell them Jack Johns, the Macomb County Food Czar, sent you.
Jack Johns is a senior economic development specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development. He specializes in assisting food and agriculture, automotive, energy and retail companies. Contact him at (586) 469-6293 or email Jack.Johns@macombgov.org.