New restaurant featuring Southern cuisine opens in Ypsilanti's Thompson Block

After many years and $10 million in renovations, the Thompson Block in Ypsilanti's Depot Town will have a first-floor tenant: Thompson and Co. restaurant at 400 N. River St. The restaurant officially opens to the public Thursday, Aug. 12.

The restaurant will offer upscale versions of Southern cuisine in an 11,000-square-foot space. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating and private dining rooms. Much of the decor, including a wood mural by Michigan Reconstructed and tabletops, was created from an old oak tree that had to be removed during renovations.

The Thompson and Co. restaurant is one of nearly two dozen restaurants managed by Mission Restaurant Group. Mission Restaurant Group Vice President of Marketing Julie Zurawka says the project "recycled and reused as much as possible." Another green touch is a bank of solar panels on the carport at the back of the building, designed to offset the large amount of energy that a restaurant consumes.

The Thompson Block renovation was many years in the making, with several developer changes and a devastating fire in 2009. The current development group, 3mission, hoped to open the restaurant as early as 2019, with market-rate loft apartments on the second floor, but plans were delayed for a variety of reasons. 

General Manager Disa Brown says many of the employees hired so far have been from Ypsilanti. About 45 employees are already hired, with a goal of about 65 total employees, including hourly waitstaff and corporate staff. 

The management group hopes to open Mash Whiskey Bar in the other half of the building's lower level sometime in September, bringing the total number of employees to about 85. Zurawka calls Mash and Thompson and Co. "the same entity but two concepts" in the same building, with Mash's menu focusing on drinks and small plates.

Executive Chef Keith Martin says he and owner Jon Carlson discussed basing the menu on Southern American cuisine. Martin says the older generations of his family are from the South, and he's been cooking Southern food all his life.

"That was right up my alley," Martin says. "The corporate chef and I put together some nice cuisine, and made it approachable and something different for Ypsilanti."

Hours of operation are 4-10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 4 p.m. to midnight Fridays, noon to midnight Saturdays, and noon to 10 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit www.thompsondepot.com.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo by Sarah Rigg.