by Charly Mann
Brady's was one of Chapel Hill’s most popular restaurants for more than forty years. It opened in 1941 and closed in the early 1980s when commercial property values skyrocketed and it was sold and torn down to be replaced by the Siena Hotel. Today, that location is in what is considered central Chapel Hill, and is designated as being on East Franklin Street, but until the late 1960s it was a mile out of town on the Durham Highway.
This is the first ad for Brady's Restaurant in Chapel Hill. It is from early 1942, when it was also a gas station.
For much of Chapel Hill's history there has been a strong cultural division between "town and gown". People who grew up in Chapel Hill and were not assiciated in an educational capacity at the University had significantly different tastes in food, clothing, church membership, and politics than those who "immigrated" to Chapel Hill to teach or be administrators. Brady's was the most popular eating establishment for townies as well as anyone who enjoyed traditional home-style southern food. It had the best fried chicken ever served in a restaurant and they made incredible thick and long french fried potatoes to compliment it. For those looking for a way to blackmail me, my favorite dish at Brady's was their southern fried chicken gizzards. While the taste and texture of their gizzards are difficult to describe, they were definitely chewy with a delightful flavor. (I've been a vegetarian for most of the last twenty-five years, so chicken gizzards are no longer part of my diet.)
Brady's Restaurant ad from 1950 when Southern Pork Barbecue was also a specialty
Bradys Restaurant Carry-Out and Brady's Frozen Custard, Chapel Hill, NC from 1963
Other favorites at Brady’s were their pork chops and mouthwatering authentic Red Snapper. Meals at Brady’s were large and consistently good, and their menu prices were at least 1/3 less of most other local restaurants. The manager of Brady's for as long as I can recall was Louis Taylor. Brady's also owned and operated Chapel Hill's first drive-in restaurant directly across the street. It was particularly popular for having the only soft serve ice cream in town. Behind Brady's was a cinder block building which was used by local farmers to sell their produce.
Brady's opened their very popular Frozen Custard drive-in in 1952. This was Chapel Hill's first drive-in and fast food restaurant. (Ad from 1955)
During the civil rights struggle in Chapel Hill, from 1961 to 1964, Brady's like most other restaurants that catered to townies, remained segregated despite numerous protests and sit-ins. On the same day the Beatles were revolutionizing the music world with their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, 26 people were arrested at a sit-in at Brady’s and hauled away in the back of a paddy wagon.
Ad from the then integrated Brady's Restaurant Chapel Hill, NC (1966)
What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.