2017 Brady's Feature
With St. Patrick’s Day just a few short weeks away, March 17th, it’s fitting that we share the history and interesting facts of Downtown’s only Irish restaurant, Brady’s. Brady’s was opened in 1980 as a bar establishment by owner Rick Colucci and his partner Paul Murphy.
Rick Colucci is originally from upstate New York, in the Finger Lake Region. He settled in Hammond after what he thought was just a visit. His business partner, Paul Murphy, was in town visiting his brother Richard Murphy. “I came down to Hammond to visit Paul and the next think I knew we were looking for real estate for Jacmel Inn,” says Colucci. The pair also owns Jacmel Inn and Nuvolari’s Italian restaurant in Mandeville, all under their corporation called Hoot Owl Corporation.
They opened the Brady’s established together in 1980. “Jacmel Inn came first in 1977,” Colucci explains. “It was doing really well but we wanted to hit a segment of town that could cater to the university students, so that’s what we did.” Paul Murphy found the building and together they opened Brady’s.
“You know, when we were building this place in 1980 people told us it would never succeed. You couldn’t have a bar in a restaurant where people could see the bar while they were eating.” Prior to Brady’s nothing like that existed in Hammond. Most of the restaurants had a bar that was separate because people wouldn’t accept that there was a visibly open bar. “So that was a bit of something new for the people here and we succeeded and made it work.”
Downtown was not the hustle and bustle it is now. In 1980 there wasn’t much going on Downtown. There was Mariner’s Inn and Lee’s Drive Inn but Lee’s didn’t serve alcohol. There was also a strip of bars on Cate St. like there still is today, but none that served food. They wanted to mix things up and add something new to Downtown Hammond.
The original idea for Brady’s was meant to be a bar that served a little food. When the establishment first opened it was a full service bar, an oyster bar, and had a few sandwiches on the menu. “The menu was so small,” Colucci explains. “I think we had 6 sandwiches, a salad, french fries and maybe a soup on the menu. In the beginning we did much more bar sales than food sales.”
The menu was so limited that waitresses didn’t even go into the kitchen. The baskets of food would be places outside the kitchen and the dish drop was also outside the kitchen. Now the waitresses actually sometimes make their way back to the kitchen for desserts and a few other menu items but they still hold true to that same concept. Brady’s had a lot less dishware to wash as well. Instead of the pearly white plates we use now, the early years of Brady’s served most of it’s food in wicker baskets.
The concept of Brady’s as a bar establishment worked well until the mid 80’s. Louisiana’s oil industry plummeted and people couldn’t spend as much money. Even Southeastern Louisiana University suffered from the declining oil industry at the time. “The university wasn’t doing so well. They got down to maybe 6500 students,” states Colucci.
Everything at that time, 30 years ago, in Hammond was for sale. Everyone was moving out of town, trying to sell their property and move somewhere that the economy wasn’t so bad. The whole state is so dependent on oil money and when the prices are too low, like we know too well, people hurt financially.
Colucci explains, “the people in this town that got rich were the people that were swooping in and buying these properties Downtown while everyone else was moving out. At that time my bar business was starting to dry up but I wasn’t moving anywhere, I had to get creative.” Colucci says that the establishment started being more aggressive with the food business and tried to make even better food than they were serving before.
“We extended the menu just to survive,” states Colucci. That’s when the feel of Brady’s shifted. Brady’s had permanently become a restaurant establishment rather than just a bar. Colucci says, “That’s the story, that’s basically how we evolved to what we are now. We just kind of grew and became what we are out of necessity”
Now, Brady’s is known for their extremely large menu with a wide variety of options that services the whole city. “It’s now a big menu!” Colucci exclaimed. “The appeal was to not lose track of who I was and what I wanted Brady’s to become, but I wanted to make it attractive for everyone with the a big, full menu.”
It sure is attractive! Brady’s is always full, serving people in all walks of life and at all ages. “It’s just a family place. I do a lot of family business, a lot of business business, a lot of college business and even some kid business too. I mean, I’ve even got a full kids menu!”
So why Brady’s? How did the establishment get it’s name? In 1980 Irish pubs and restaurants were very popular. It was the era that Houlihan’s and Bennigan’s made Irish establishments a national trend. According to Rick Colucci, Irish bars were the “hip thing” 35 years ago. They were all drinking establishments that served food and that’s what the vision was for Brady’s. They picked the Irish name Brady’s, meaning spirited and broad, and the rest is history.
As for the design of the restaurant, Colucci says they were inspired by New Orleans, especially Café Maspero located at 601 Decatur St. “The restaurant has such beautiful archways, a lot of brick work and beams that run through the whole place.” When Brady’s was built they incorporated some of that detail into their own design.
In 1991 they added the side room which was originally an alley way. It was previously a barber shop. Now the side wall of Brady’s is actually the exterior of the Hebert and Huszar building next door. They added the brick and windows in the front and the back of the building along with the openings to get to that portion of the restaurant and expanded their business. Also in 2003 the patio in the back of the building was added for customers to enjoy outdoor dining.
Co-owner Paul Murphy says that owning more than one successful business has it’s challenges. While Rick Colucci focuses mostly on Brady’s. Paul spends his time focusing on Jacmel Inn. If one didn’t know that Brady’s and Jacmel Inn were owned by the same owners, you could hardly guess.
Rick explains that they are two totally different restaurants with two different price points. Jacmel Inn is a higher price point. This establishment has more of a fine dining feel. People dine at Jacmel for a lot of special occasions. Brady’s is the lower price point of the two and serves more “everyday food.” Rick says, “We’re right in the center of town, you can stop in, grab a beer and a sandwich and be on your way.” But if fine dining is what you’re looking for, Brady’s does have a few elaborate items on the menu.
With Louisiana festival season and St. Patrick’s Day approaching, Brady’s has a full agenda. Colucci’s relies on his right hand man, Chad Gulino, bar manger, to help set the schedule. Chad says St. Patrick’s Day is a huge day for the business. Brady’s will have a DJ the night of St. Patrick’s Day and live music during dinner. They’ll most likely have some live music earlier in the afternoon so visitors can get into the St. Patty’s Day spirit.
The special for last year was corn beef hash. “It was such a success that we’ll most likely do the same special for this year,” says Gulino. They have Brady’s shirts for sale but they’ll also be giving away free Brady’s merchandise. Everything from tshirts to cups to cozies. All you have to do is check in on Brady’s facebook page.
While this Irish restaurant really throws a party for St. Patrick’s Day, we can’t forget about Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras that come first. For Valentine’s Day they’ll have their full menu plus a Valentine’s Day special of 2 or 3 items. “We’ll spruce the place up a bit for date night. We’ll lower the lights, put out candles, things like that to set the feel for people that do want to have a Valentine’s dinner here at Brady’s.”
When you walk in, Brady’s is already decorated with the spirit of Mardi Gras. Keep an eye out on their facebook pages for all the food specials, drink specials and live music Brady’s will have during this carnival season.
Brady’s has served Downtown Hammond now for 37 years. Their Irish feel brings us to a different place and helps to add some culture to our Historic Downtown. Brady’s is open 7 days a week with new specials every day. Visit Brady’s at 110 SW Railroad Ave for a fantastic meal for lunch or dinner. Visit their facebook page or website to get a peek at their menu.