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Brady's Restaurant Chapel Hill

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.

Brady's Restaurant and ESSO Gas in Chapel Hill NC 1942
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 Pork Barbecue Chapel Hill NC
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 Frozen Custard Chapel Hill NC
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. 

Brady's Home-cooked meals Chapel Hill NC 1966
Ad from the then integrated Brady's Restaurant Chapel Hill, NC (1966)



Rankin Morrison Craig      10:44 AM Sun 9/29/2013

My husband was taking premed classes at UNC we lived in the little home attached to the miniature golf "putt-putt" owned by Mr. Brady. We managed the putt putt golf for him. We remember the times and Mr. Brady well!

James Greene      11:01 PM Fri 8/19/2011

Brady's had incredibly good onion rings. I've never had anything like them anywhere!

Christie      11:02 AM Mon 5/30/2011

My family and I to this day still mourn the passing of Brady's. It was a family tradition for us. If we were getting take-out, my brothers and I would fight over who got to ride with Dad to get the food. Whoever got to ride, got the most french fries. Absolutely one of the best homestyle restaurants ever. Thanks to Brady's for lots of good memories!

Ben Wysor      12:39 PM Fri 1/28/2011

I remember the place across the street from Brady's was The Grill Master. Best crinkle fries ever! I'd beg my mom to take me there every time she stopped at Earl Walker's Gulf for a fill-up.

bangle      4:03 PM Sun 10/24/2010

i worked with anne w at brady's in the 70s...we still remember when one of the cooks (woodrow) needed a day off. he had someone call in for him, saying he DIED! needless to say it was chaos at brady's that day! there were some older waitresses (younger than i am now HA!) and then college students. nothing like that fried chicken! yum!

bill ridout      9:55 PM Tue 8/31/2010

My father once owned the cave (1971-74). He even change the name at one point to the &quot;Watergate Memorial Tavern&quot;. It didnt last. Then it was renamed the &quot;Cavern&quot;, which again, didnt last. I saw Mike Cross, AC Bushnell, and many others play there as a young boy. One of my favorite stories that my late father told me and I will never forget is as follows, in his words:<br \>I was working one weeknight, it was slow and hot outside. I had the front and back doors open to get some ventilation through the rooms. There were some kids playing pool in the backroom. I had one customer at the bar and he was passed out, sleeping on the bar, despite my efforts to awake him. I asked him if I could call him a cab or get a ride home for him. Finally, he lifted his head and said he&#39;d like another round. I recommended coffee or soda instead. He got up, cussed me, and stumbled up the stairs to the street. I watched him as he climbed the stairs so he wouldnt fall down. 15 minutes later, I can only assume he must have walked around the block, heard the juke box playing in the pool room and came in through the back door. I saw him as he made his way down the narrow hall towards the bar area and stopped him as he approached and told him, &quot;Buddy, I told you that you have had enough to drink tonight and I think you need to go home&quot;. The fellow looked at me in disbeleif and bewilderment, stepped back a few steps, and said, &quot;YOU WORK HERE TOO?&quot; I laughed at his honest mistake and walked him in and gave him another beer on the house as payment for one of the funniest things Ive ever heard or witnessed in my bar!!!

Jon      11:36 AM Mon 7/19/2010

Does anyone remember Snoopy&#39;s? Wasn&#39;t it just across the street from Brady&#39;s? I seem to recall both of those places were torn down around the same time.

Anne W      5:15 PM Thu 10/29/2009

I worked my way through college at Brady&#39;s. All my buddies worked there too! We had a blast and needless to say ate way too much chicken and fries. I mostly remember Louis the &quot;Host&quot; and &quot;Cashier&quot; and all the cooks.

Bob Morrow      1:25 PM Mon 10/5/2009

As best I can determine, Brady&#39;s would have closed sometime during 1986, because the land on which it stood became the Siena Hotel, which opened in October, 1987.

tony      10:34 AM Fri 9/4/2009

Absolutely LOVE the information on Brady&#39;s! I was born in Chapel hill in 1963 and have been here ever since. One of my favorite childhood memories was going out for supper at Bradys for their incredible seafood platters. Our family didn&#39;t go out to eat much at all as there were six of us and more of a reason was our Mom&#39;s cooking was THE best so why spend money on something not as good BUT once in a while, maybe on a special occasion of some sort, my Grandfather would take us all down to Brady&#39;s for a good supper. I can still recall exactly what it looked like as soon as you walked through their doors. If you took a right as you entered, on your immediate left would be a place there at a cozy bar with several of those old extremely soft plastic-like covered stools, short and nicely permanantly mounted for easy eating, a desert case that tempted your taste buds like no other, and then your next left would take you to one of two extremely large dining areas. Of course memories as a kid always make things larger than they truly were but the seafood was deeeeelicious and the hushpuppies hall-of-fame like. One could also smell the cookings at Brady&#39;s just by driving by the place and it was just a majical place where everything seemed perfect while you were there with your loved ones. Thanks again for the piece on Brady&#39;s!!!!!

Nora Esthimer      10:22 AM Wed 9/2/2009

My parents did not frequent Brady&#39;s or other businesses that refused to integrate. I think of the Rock Pile and Watts Motel among others. I never went to Brady&#39;s as I was growing up but did go once or twice when I was at Carolina (1969-73) because I had friends who loved the chicken. Even though the integration battles were over by then, I was uncomfortable there. <br \><br \>Read John Ehle&#39;s The Free Men for a wonderful account of how Chapel Hill desegregated. The book was reissued by Press 53 recently.

Harriet      6:45 PM Mon 8/24/2009

<br \><br \>Until 15-501 was built in the late 50&#39;s,and even later, the location of Brady&#39;s was called &#39;the bottom of Stroud Hill&#39; that being the steep decline from the top of Franklin Street.<br \><br \>Brady&#39;s Drive -In was not just famous for soft serve ice cream but famous locally for being the only &#39;drive in&#39; in town. One simply drove into the unpaved parking lot, wily-nilly, went to the window and ordered. Next to it was a glorious miniature golf thing,most likely owned by Brady himself. In the early 50s when Moms stayed home and eating out was uncommon, an evening at the drive in was a huge treat.

Peter Neenan      8:27 AM Thu 8/20/2009

This erstwhile &#39;immigrant&#39; to CH loved the Fried Chicken at Brady&#39;s and that along with the fries remain my gold standard. I also got a chuckle out of the very delicately-worded &quot;malt beverage&quot; on the menu. <br \><br \>Peter Neenan<br \>Saratoga Springs, NY

Sally Hensler      2:23 PM Mon 8/17/2009

I had forgotten all about that ice cream drive-in across from Brady&#39;s. I never had any idea it was owned by the same people. I do recall getting great vanilla cones dipped in dark chocolate there.

A C Carter      7:40 PM Sun 8/16/2009

Tear down the Siena Hotel and re-build Brady&#39;s.

A C Carter      7:40 PM Sun 8/16/2009

Tear down the Siena Hotel and re-build Brady&#39;s.

Donna Green      4:02 PM Sat 8/15/2009

I had forgotten what great fries they had. I never had anything less than great food at Brady&#39;s.

Wes Campbell      8:59 PM Fri 8/14/2009

Thanks for paying tribute to my favorite Chapel Hill restaurant. Every traditional southern restaurant in town now is overpriced, and not nearly as good as Brady&#39;s.

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Chapel Hill is located on a hill whose only distinguishing feature in the 18th century was a small chapel on top called New Hope Chapel. This church was built in 1752 and is currently the location of The Carolina Inn. The town was founded in 1819, and chartered in 1851.



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.

-- Charles Kuralt



Dark Side of the Hill -- Pink Floyd, the creators of the most popular album in history, Dark Side of the Moon, took the second half of their name from Floyd Council, a Chapel Hill native, and great blues singer and guitarist. He once belonged to a group called "The Chapel Hillbillies".



Check out Charly Mann's other website:
Oklahoma Birds and Butterflies


We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.





There would probably be no Chapel Hill if the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees in 1793 had not chosen land across from New Hope Chapel for the location of the university. By 1800 there were about 100 people living in thirty houses surrounding the campus.



The University North Carolina's first student was Hinton James, who enrolled in February, 1795. There is now a dormitory on the campus named in his honor.





The University of North Carolina was closed from 1870 to 1875 because of lack of state funding.





William Ackland left his art collection and $1.25 million to Duke University in 1940 on the condition that he would be buried in the art museum that the University was to build with his bequest. Duke rejected this condition even though members of the Duke Family are buried in Duke Chapel. What followed was a long and acrimonious legal battle between Ackland relatives who now wanted the inheritance, Rollins College, and the University of North Carolina, each attempting to receive the funds. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and in 1949 UNC was awarded the money for the museum. Ackland is buried near the museum's entrance. When the museum first opened, in the early sixties, there were rumors that his remains were leaking out of the mausoleum.



The official name of the Arboretum on the University of North Carolina campus is the Coker Arboretum. It is named after Dr. William Cocker, the University's first botany professor. It occupies a little more than five acres. It was founded in 1903.



Chapel Hill's main street has always been called Franklin Street. It was named after Benjamin Franklin in the early 1790s.



We need your help. Send your submissions, ideas, photos, and questions to CHMemories@gmail.com.



Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill Junior High were on Franklin Street in the same location as University Square until the mid 1960s.



The Colonial Drug Store at 450 West Franklin Street was owned and operated by John Carswell. It was famous for a fresh-squeezed carbonated orange beverage called a "Big O". In the early 1970s, I managed the Record and Tape Center next door, and must have had over 100 of those drinks. The Colonial Drug Store closed in 1996.



Sutton's Drugstore, which opened in 1923, has one of the last soda fountains in the South. It is one of the few businesses remaining on Franklin Street that was in operation when I was growing up in the 1950s.



Future President Gerald Ford lived in Chapel Hill twice. First when he was 24, in 1938, he took a law couse in summer school at UNC. He lived in the Carr Building, which was a law school dormitory. At the same time, Richard Nixon, the man he served under as Vice President, was attending law school at Duke. In 1942, Ford returned to Chapel Hill to attend the U.S. Navy's Pre-Flight School training program. He lived in a rental house on Hidden Hills Drive.



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