Carryout fried chicken restaurant and beer hall duo Penny Red’s and the Brakeman are preparing to fling open their doors next week at the Shinola Hotel. NoHo Hospitality Group confirms to Eater that the restaurant and bar will debut at 4 p.m. on Monday, March 25. The openings mark the final link in a chain of openings from the New York-based restaurant group at the Shinola Hotel, which started with Italian restaurant San Morello in December and high-end cocktail lounge Evening Bar in January. Penny Red’s and the Brakeman are by far the most casual of the set.
Penny Red’s is a pint-sized stand with counter service specializing in buckets of fried chicken, biscuits, chicken sandwiches, and special recipe sauces. The shop gets its name from the Henny Penny pressure cooking fryers and Rhode Island Red chickens used to make its fried chicken — a recipe popularized by NoHo’s James Beard Award-winning chef Andrew Carmellini at the Dutch in New York. Carmellini and his partners Luke Ostrom, and Josh Pickard say they had been considering doing a spinoff devoted to fried chicken for nearly 15 years before finally committing to opening Penny Red’s in Detroit.
Although the restaurant functions as a standalone operation, Penny Red’s is also the kitchen for the Brakeman. The 200-seat beer hall has two bars, but lacks a dedicated food menu. However, customers are encouraged to move between both spaces placing orders at Penny Red’s and then taking a buzzer back to their table inside the Brakeman while they wait for their food. The chicken stand also sells tall boys, for those looking for something in a can.
The Brakeman also has a couple of unconventional features designed to make visits more interactive for customers. The bar sells beer tokens from a carnival-esque station at the entrance for $7 each. Each token is the equivalent of a single draft beer at the bar or a flight of three smaller sized pours. The Brakeman will serve eight different rotating draft beers. Customers who want cocktails can head to a second bar next to the entrance to Penny Red’s, which has a more traditional payment system (no tokens here) and serves a mixture of frozen drinks and traditional cocktails like old fashioneds.
The Brakeman is also perhaps the first bar in the city to introduce pour-your-own beer tables. There are two on the premises. The tables have four tap system that’s self-serve and each seats eight people. They’re the only space within the bar that accepts reservations. Ostrom says the Brakeman is still testing out which payment system makes the most sense for these tables, but that the Brakeman will likely charge a flat rate per person, per hour with a drink limit so customers aren’t being overserved.
NoHo is also introducing a cashless payment format at Penny Red’s and the Brakeman — a trend that’s become popular among some restaurateurs across the country and was only recently introduced to Detroit at Mootz Pizzeria & Bar in January. It’s a somewhat controversial business practice that was outlawed recently in Philadelphia and New Jersey. Business owners often argue that it cuts down on labor and is also safer because employees don’t have to transport large deposits to a bank. However, others argue that cashless payment is classist and discriminates against populations that are unbanked. “I think we decided to do that because it streamlined,” Ostrom tells Eater of the decision to go cashless. “I think a lot of people are using credit cards or debit cards [primarily],” he says.
Pickard, Carmellini, and Ostrom worked with Gachot Studios on the design for borth the bar and the restaurant. Penny Red’s has a mid-century feel with wood paneling and light-up menu boards. The Brakeman has a more industrial look with 14 flat screen televisions (a first for NoHo hospitality), a shuffleboard table, and foosball. In warm weather, the bar will have the ability to roll back its many garage door windows and spill out onto a roughly 75-seat patio along Parker’s Alley with ping pong tables.
Photographer Michelle Gerard took a tour of the new restaurant and bar ahead of Monday’s opening. Take a look around the space in the gallery below.
The Brakeman and Penny Red’s will open from 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Wednesday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday and Friday; noon to 2 a.m. on Saturdays; and noon to midnight Sundays; Penny Red’s will eventually expand into lunch hours.