Ypsilanti is home to many unique smaller restaurants featuring diverse cuisine. From quick and easy coffee and pastry stops to homey sit-down sandwich and pizza places to a wide array of Chinese, Thai, and Indian joints to order in from, there is a meal option to suit just about every taste. In a city hungry for new eateries, Ypsi is a prime location for any aspiring restaurant owner to set up shop or an experienced restaurateur to expand to.
Take Naj Hammoud, who opened Speedy’s Big Burgers at 10 N. Adams St. in Ypsi with his father this past summer. Although the restaurant doesn't have a website, it can be reached by phone at (734) 340-3655. Hammoud and his family have been in the restaurant business for several years now.
Naj Hammoud at Speedy's Big Burgers.
"This is our second of three restaurants," Hammoud says. "We have a restaurant in Detroit we opened in 2020, and my brother opened a third location in Taylor."
Each restaurant specializes in similar American fare, with Speedy’s and the Taylor location specializing in burgers. The Detroit location is a Coney Island. Hammoud says his father has almost 30 years of experience in similar restaurants, and he and his brothers were all working in different restaurants when the family opened their Detroit location. Recommendations from other restaurant owners in the Ypsi area encouraged them to expand their operations to Ypsi.
"We felt like it was the right place," Hammoud says. "We were confident that we could bring almost a whole different type of restaurant here."
Hammoud and his father are not the only ones who saw Ypsi as an opportunity to expand their brand and bring their food to a new audience. Reyes Arreola and his brother Nicolas did the same, bringing their Dos Hermanos Market and Dos Hermanos Mexican Grill
to Ypsi from Westland.
"We opened our first market in Adrian, but we wanted to do something different and bigger," Arreola says. "We saw a great opportunity here in Ypsi."
Arreola explains that the current Dos Hermanos Mexican Grill at 402 W. Michigan Ave. in Ypsi was not their first restaurant in Ypsi, although their previous endeavor closed after only three years. While the Arreola brothers were content operating the Dos Hermanos Market just up the road, another great opportunity fell into their laps when Abe's Coney Island, next door to the market, closed. Abe's owner offered to sell the building and restaurant to them.
Reyes Arreola at Dos Hermanos Mexican Grill.
"It wasn’t actually in the plans to open a restaurant," Arreola says. "And we saw an opportunity to grow."
While the restaurant saw major success throughout its first month in April, Arreola says things started to slow down when a massive construction project on Michigan Avenue started up in May. Speedy’s also faced similar challenges due to construction. With construction on the verge of completion, though, Arreola says he’s already seeing an uptick in customers visiting in person and ordering take-out.
"We’ve had a lot of customers find us through Facebook and Instagram," he says. "Without online orders, I don’t know where we’d have ended up."
Ypsi isn’t just a hot spot for restaurant owners to expand in. It’s also a prime location for a new entrepreneur to launch their first restaurant. Khadi’s Cuisine
founder and owner Khadi Faye explains that her passion for cooking and sharing her West African culture with the people of Ypsi ultimately led her to opening her first restaurant at 421 W. Cross St. in Ypsi. Khadi's Cuisine, which opened up just over a month ago, specializes in West African cuisine with Moroccan and European flavors as well.
"My family came here from North Carolina during COVID," Faye says. "We moved in without even looking at the place."
Before the restaurant, Faye also operated a catering and delivery service. The popularity of that business made it clear to her that a brick-and-mortar restaurant that also offered catering would likely be successful as well. She also prepared and sold food through Growing Hope’s Incubator Kitchen
, to which she attributes some of the restaurant's success.
Khadi Faye outside of Khadi's Cuisine.
"Growing Hope helped me grow my business," she says. "I also got a lot of help from Michigan Women Forward, the Entrepreneurship Center at [Washtenaw Community College], and my husband. I’ve had a lot of help."
Even though Khadi’s Cuisine has only been open a month, Faye says she’s already seeing a good amount of business, with customers coming in for dinner one day and lunch the next. Like Speedy’s and Dos Hermanos, Khadi’s Cuisine is also available on various delivery apps such as DoorDash and Slice. Faye says the overall reception to her restaurant has been overwhelmingly positive.
"It makes me really happy," she says. "We really have the help of the customers coming back. They love the food and telling us they love it."
Visitors to downtown Ypsi and locals alike have numerous restaurants to choose from when looking for lunch or dinner, and the locations mentioned here are just scratching the surface.
"Each of us brings something different to the table," says Hammoud. "When you have good food, everyone will eventually hear about it."
Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
All photos by Doug Coombe.