#OTGYpsi: Ypsilanti proves to be an attractive location for new restauranteurs
Rylee Barnsdale's Feature Article: Ypsi's newest restaurants include West African cuisine, Mexican grill, and "big burgers"
Rylee Barnsdale: You're listening to 89 one WEMU, and welcome to On the Ground Ypsi, a program brought to you by Concentrate Media highlighting the stories of those improving and making a difference in the Ypsilanti community. I'm your host, Concentrate reporter Rylee Barnsdale. And today, I hope you're hungry because this week's Concentrate story is a new restaurant roundup. We've seen a number of new restaurants crop up in Ypsi over the past few months, and we've highlighted the owners of just a few of them to see what business has been like. Our guest today is co-owner of the recently opened Speedy's Big Burgers, Naj Hammoud. Naj, thanks so much for being here.
Naj Hammoud: Definitely. Thank you for having me.
Rylee Barnsdale: So, Naj, you run Speedy with your father, but this isn't your family's first endeavor in the restaurant world. Can you tell us a little bit about your background in the restaurant business?
Naj Hammoud: For sure. So, it all started with my pops. He's been working in the restaurant business since before I was even born. And then, both of my brothers started working as separate restaurants. And then, I was working with each of them kind of part time. And then, when COVID happened, we decided to take advantage of it. We opened up our first restaurant in Detroit. Actually, we opened around April in 2020, and, ever since then, we've been trying to kind of expand. And I guess now we just don't have the experience to do it.
Rylee Barnsdale: April 2020. That's a pretty risky time to open up a restaurant. So, it's really great to hear that expansion has sort of, you know, paid off. Were you always interested in working in restaurants?
Naj Hammoud: I was, honestly. I was working with my dad as my first job. I was dishwashing. And I always kind of liked it. I started working in the kitchen slowly and prepping. And you know how it is. I mean, that's how you start off. That's how it really starts off. And then, really, when I started cooking for real was when we opened up.
Rylee Barnsdale: When you open up Speedy's here in Ypsi?
Naj Hammoud: When we opened up, in 2020, our first location.
Rylee Barnsdale: And that's when you started actually getting that cooking experience.
Naj Hammoud: Yup.
Rylee Barnsdale: Awesome. This is 89 one WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and I'm joined by Speedy's Big Burgers co-owner Naj Hammoud. So, Naj, like you said, Speedy's is an expansion of your family's business in the Coney Island or classic American food restaurant business. What about this kind of cuisine kind of drew you and your family in? You know, what do you like about running a burger joint instead of running another kind of restaurant?
Naj Hammoud: We think it's something classic, obviously. I mean, there's something for everyone. Also, we put our own touch on it. We kind of made a little bit more than just a fast food spot. We didn't want to be known as just another burger place or just another fast food place. We wanted to have good quality food. And that's one of our main things too. We have to make sure we maintain good quality. I mean, other than that, that's what we want to be known for.
Rylee Barnsdale: I can speak from experience that food quality is definitely up there when it comes to Speedy's. And, you know, folks can come and eat in. They can order delivery. I know that you're on some of the more popular food delivery apps.
Naj Hammoud: DoorDash. Uber Eats. GrubHub.
Rylee Barnsdale: A lot of different avenues to get your lunch or your dinner from Speedy's. And Ypsi has got a very colorful assortment of eateries to choose from.
Naj Hammoud: It does!
Rylee Barnsdale: Yeah, in the article, we also mentioned Dos Hermanos. They focus on traditional Mexican fare. We have Khadi's Cuisine, who combines African cuisine with French technique. You've sort of mentioned--you've mentioned this already, you know, wanting to be more than just a fast-food restaurant or just another burger place. But what's kind of setting Speedy's apart from those other restaurants and other similar places?
Naj Hammoud: We kind of have our own touch on everything. Even when it comes down to our burgers, we use the fresh meat that we get in. And also, it's an experience too. I'd like to talk with every customer that walks in on a personal level. I mean, you get to watch us cook, and you also get great food too.
Rylee Barnsdale: Would you say that, coming to Ypsi, you've really felt welcomed by the community? What's the reception been like?
Naj Hammoud: Definitely. Definitely. I mean, we've had a lot of support from the community, whether it's Facebook, Instagram, I mean, word of mouth. It's very welcoming, especially coming from our first location in Detroit. Like, the social community wasn't really that supportive. I mean, you can have social media and all that, but, I mean, you don't really get people interacting or people really wanting to interact with you when you come in. Just coming to Ypsi, it's very diverse. Everybody keeps things fun and nice and just makes it a lot easier.
Rylee Barnsdale: Was that sort of reputation what brought you to Ypsi to expand?
Naj Hammoud: Definitely. We were actually looking around the area for about six months prior to even finding this place.
Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. We're talking with Naj Hammoud from Speedy's Big Burgers. So, Naj, I'm wondering. Since Speedy's isn't your family's first restaurant, do you see even more expansion in the future? You know, maybe even another Coney Island or burger joint somewhere else in the Ypsi area? You know, what is the future of Speedy's?
Naj Hammoud: Definitely. We're looking to expand. I mean, once we get this place up and running. We don't just want to open and then leave it and not work there. I mean, we're always going to have one of us there no matter what. But definitely expanding. We're looking in the Ypsi/Ann Arbor area. But Ypsilanti has a very great community. It's nice, it's fun, and everybody's just very welcoming. It's important to us.
Rylee Barnsdale: And there was no way I was going to talk about a burger restaurant without asking you this, Naj. Do you have a favorite item on the menu? You know, what do you recommend to folks stopping in to Speedy's for the first time?
Naj Hammoud: Obviously, the burgers are our top. We also have a lot more that people don't really know about or they just are kind of on the fence on trying. We have good quesadillas and Shwarmas. We make our own garlic. We roll our own corned beef eggrolls with pitas, wraps, coneys, hot dogs. Really, we have something for everyone.
Rylee Barnsdale: Thank you so much, Naj Hammoud from Speedy's Big Burgers, for coming on today to chat with me about your restaurant. Let's hope some listeners are hungry for some burgers and fries and some corned beef eggrolls too, it sounds like, after listening.
Naj Hammoud: Awesome. Thank you for having me.
Rylee Barnsdale: For more information on today's topic and links to the full article, visit our website at WEMU dot org. On the ground Ypsi is brought to you in partnership with Concentrate Media. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti.
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