Ypsilanti Citizen Community Sidetrack

Volunteers prepare for Ypsi PRIDE Day
By Mark Tower
May. 13, 2010   ·   7:09 a.m.

Volunteers and W.H. Canon employees plant flowers in Depot Town while Ypsilanti resident Mike Labadie repairs the planter's brick work on Ypsi PRIDE Day last year.

Each year, residents in and around the city of Ypsilanti carry on a tradition started by a group of community members enrolled in a city leadership program, a sort...read more

Bicycles zoom as flowers bloom
By Citizen staff
Apr. 30, 2010   ·   2:11 p.m.

Riders from last year's spring ride come in after a long trip. Bike Ypsi’s 2010 Spring Ride and Festival is from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Sunday at Recreation Park (1015 Congress Street).

The weather has turned, the trees are budding and the flowers are popping out of the ground; time for a cruise through town. But don’t be so quick to hop in the...read more

Sheriff Clayton visits Ypsilanti Township
By Mark Tower
Apr. 29, 2010   ·   12:59 p.m.

Ypsilanti Township resident Kathleen Hanadel takes notes as her and other residents attempt to asses WCSO services Tuesday evening at a community forum held at the township's community center.

About 50 Ypsilanti Township residents gave the Washtenaw County Sheriff Office their input about law enforcement in the community Tuesday evening.

The information...read more

Local photographer raising funds for Ypsi Project exhibit
By Adrienne Ziegler
Apr. 20, 2010   ·   2:20 a.m.

Ypsilanti resident Nicholas Beltsos his grandson Demetrios were photographed by Project Ypsi photographer Erica Hampton during a bike ride she took Monday. A former EMU economics professor, Beltsos and his family moved to Ypsi from Dearborn in 1967.

Ypsilanti has many faces, and Erica Hampton wants to share a few of them with you.

Over the past year, Hampton created the The Ypsi Project, a series of portraits...read more

Savoy taking shape as live music venue
By Dan DuChene
Apr. 17, 2010   ·   2:38 p.m.

Local funk band Third Coast Kings play in Ypsilanti's newest live music venue, Savoy, Friday night.

Ypsilanti's newest concert venue is preparing for its grand opening weekend April 23, more than a month after its soft opening March 13.

Formerly Club Divine,...read more

Mongolian grill in Downtown Ypsi ready for customers

Photo by Dan DuChene

After a long wait, customers can now get a plate of Mongolian barbecue for dinner in Ypsilanti with the opening of J. Neil's Mongolian Grille downtown Friday.
Ypsilanti Farmers Market

Early opening for long-awaited new restaurant

By Dan DuChene
May. 9, 2009    ·    5:09 a.m.

With anticipation mounting during the past weeks, the Mongolian barbeque restaurant in downtown Ypsilanti is open for business.

The 40 staff members at J. Neil’s Mongolian Grille have been training for four weeks, creating a stir as the public have been walking past the Kresge Building’s windows to see food cooked on the circular cast iron grill.

Hasan Mihyar, the restaurant’s manager, said the plan had been to open the doors to the public Monday. But, with the ribbon cutting down the street at the SPARK East incubator Friday, he thought it would be good to bring in customers earlier and gain the exposure.

“It was spontaneous,” Mihyar said.

“We actually didn’t announce a lot in regards that we were opening today,” he said. “I’m expecting this to get way larger.”

Mihyar estimated the restaurant served approximately 40 people as of 8 p.m. Friday night. Between the grill upstairs and the Key Stone Wine Bar downstairs, the building is estimated to seat 100-150 people.

David Curtis, who owns J. Neil’s, as well as Pub 13 and Club Divine next door, joked about the idea of the restaurant opening a couple days early.

“We were supposed to open a long time ago,” Curtis said.

The restaurant’s opening has been in the press since Oct. 2007. The Citizen reported Curtis was putting the final touches on the business at the end of last year.

“The staff was doing a really good job,” Curtis said of the month’s worth of training they had done. “They needed real people to get nervous for.”

Amanda, a server and “flavor expert” at the restaurant, served the restaurant’s very first customer. She said he was straight to the point, and knew exactly what he wanted when he got in the restaurant—a rice bowl, which is a dish the wait staff prepare for the customer.

“Before I even got to introduce myself, he was ordering his food,” she said.

The classic self-serve style expected at Mongolian restaurants is available at the restaurant, with a selection of beef, chicken, lamb, tofu and various sea foods available to add to the dish, which is then stir-fried by energetic staff on the circular grill.

“We want everyone to come in here and have a great time,” Amanda said.

“We’ve got a lot of really fun people working here,” she said. “I’m really excited about that.”

Mihyar did point out some key differences between what J. Neil’s, named after Curtis's son Jason, has to offer as opposed to other Mongolian barbeque restaurants. The first two he pointed out are the fact that the restaurant has no freezer, and the bowls for collecting the food from the bar are bigger.

Because there is only a cooler at J. Neil’s, Mihyar said customers can expect the meat and vegetables to be fresh. He said the restaurant will also try to stay stocked with as many Michigan-grown vegetables as possible. He said the bowls are to benefit the consumer during a struggling economy.

Curtis said the prices at J. Neil’s were actually lowered from what he intended to charge. A standard dinner at the restaurant costs $11.99, and is all-you-can-eat for $1 more. A smaller portioned lunch dish costs in the neighborhood of $5. In November, before the store opened, he estimated a dinner might cost $16.

“We think the customers are going to enjoy a little more food at a reasonable price,” he said.

With the possibility of the restaurant becoming a destination spot in Ypsilanti, Curtis said he is excited to see how the restaurant will help grow Ypsilanti’s business districts. He said he will be placing a billboard on I-94 near Belleville and on US-23 near Saline.

“I think it’s going to bring in a lot of people,” Curtis said.

With the early opening, Mihyar said the staff has noticed some small details that will need to be taken care of before a large-scale grand opening. For instance, they will need more containers to hold the different sauces customers add to the bowls before having the food grilled.

He also pointed out that the house stereo system has yet to be installed, as well as some of the light fixtures that will hang from the ceiling.

“It hasn’t prevented us from serving great food to the customers,” Curtis said. “Everybody seems to love it.”

Related story:
Long wait for new restaurant could soon be over

The Rocket

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