Downtown Ann Arbor will soon be the site of an elegant new restaurant and live jazz venue, the Blue Llama. Workers are completing finishing touches to the dining room and staff are being trained in anticipation of an opening in early April at 314 S Main St.
Club owner Don Hicks, founder and former CEO of Ann Arbor-based tech firm Llamasoft, brought in chef and general manager Louis Goral to lead the restaurant.
Goral and chef de cuisine Adrian Estrada, a longtime collaborator at restaurants in Philadelphia, did research on the intersection of jazz and food to create their menu of “jazz-inspired American shared plates.” As a result, some dishes are loosely inspired by famous jazz musicians. One highlight is the crispy foie gras PB&J with Marcona almonds and strawberry jam, which, according to the pair, was inspired by Billie Holiday’s love of the humble sandwich. The poached monkfish with collard greens, shaved Prosciutto, and pork consommé is a nod to pianist Thelonious Monk, who often wore a collard green lapel pin.
The bar, managed by Ann Arbor native Josh Hieftje, will feature a global wine list and classic pre-Prohibition cocktails.
The dimly lit space with curved walls and LED “stars” in the midnight blue ceiling will seat 100, all with clear views of the floor-level stage. The team turned to Stages Consultants — the firm who designed the acoustics for Jazz at Lincoln Center among other international music venues — to create a sound system that strikes a balance between the music volume and the ambient sound of the dining room. Goral describes the space as being “an expanded recording studio”, which will support their planned record label that will feature its live recordings.
Dave Sharp, bassist for the Worlds Quartet and founder of the A2 Jazz Fest, is Blue Llama’s artistic director and has booked notable artists such as Marsalis, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and vocalist Kurt Elling to perform at the venue. The club will host between four and six ticketed events a month, each with two sets and seatings per night with an optional tasting menu. The rest of the month will feature regional and local acts, virtual concerts, and jazz movies. On those non-ticketed nights, the Blue Llama will include a “suggested entertainment fee” on their checks in lieu of a cover charge and drink minimums.
Blue Llama debuts on Friday, April 5 with live music from jazz legend Ellis Marsalis.
Blue Llama will be open for dinner service Wednesday through Saturday, with brunch served on Sundays. Website.
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to Adrian Estrada as sous chef instead of chef de cuisine.