Ford's Garage nears opening date

Training sessions are ramping up at Dearborn's newest restaurant, Ford's Garage in an effort to ensure that the sizable staff is properly prepared for the bar and restaurant's July 5th grand opening.

A Ford's Garage burger. Photo by MJ Galbraith. Ford's focuses on craft beers and prime burgers, with comfort foods and other specialties, are also found throughout the menu. An emphasis on local products is abundant, including Detroit craft beers from brewers like Atwater and classic soft drinks like Vernors.

Training sessions have servers serving servers a week before the restaurant's opening, with the restaurant doing all it can to ensure that its opening goes off without a hitch. And that's no small task. Approximately 160 employees have been hired to staff Ford's Garage.

Making sure that the restaurant runs smoothly from the start is a priority for its owner, restaurateur Billy Downs, and customer service is a big component of its mission. Downs, the former owner and co-founder of BD's Mongolian Grill, has returned to running a restaurant after several years away consulting. Ford's Garage, which started in Florida, is an official licensee of the Ford Motor Company, and Downs's Dearborn location is the first in Michigan.

"I love the fact that this restaurant concept is energetic, fun, and timeless," says Downs. "It celebrates the unique heritage of the Ford Motor Company and how Henry Ford changed the world."

Not only does Ford's Garage celebrate the heritage of both Ford automobiles and the man himself, but the bar and restaurant goes above and beyond in celebrating car culture, history, and Americana in general. The facade of the building is a nod to 1920s service stations, from the color scheme down to the era-specific gas pumps out front. As cars pull up, a hose triggers a service bell, just as they did nearly 100 years ago.

Several Model As and Model Ts from the 1920s and '30s are on site, not only parked out front but also towering above the two bars inside the building. A 1930 Model A is situated above the main bar. The second bar features a 1923 Model T, an automobile the restaurant discovered was built 20 years to the day after Ford Motor Company was born.

The experience continues inside, with rare photographs courtesy of The Henry Ford and classic signs adorning the walls. Service stations of the 1920s were often fashioned out of old barns, so lighting has been rigged to shine through wooden slats to mimic a barn effect. The staff wear service station-inspired uniforms.

Built from the ground-up on what was a former parking lot on Michigan Avenue, Ford's Garage is made up of several components. The building itself is 14,000 sq. ft. of various rooms and distinct areas, including a patio, dining area, and two bars. In total, Ford's seats over 250 people. A separate banquet room can seat over 60 and will be open by the end of the summer. The banquet room is outfitted with multimedia capabilities and doors big enough to drive show cars through. Even the bathrooms are done up with sinks made out of tires, gas pump faucets, and similar details throughout.

The bars offer what's being billed as the F-150: 40 beers on tap and an additional 110 beers by the bottle. The majority of beers offered are Michigan-based craft beers/

An adjoining coffee shop is also being built, which is expected to be completed by late summer or early fall.

On Wednesday, July 5, Ford's Garage will officially open to the public.

Ford's Garage is located at 21367 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.