Historic firehouse transformed into the popular Jimmie’s Ladder 11 restaurant
By Ginny McCabe
Jimmie’s Ladder 11 at 936 Brown St. in Dayton is everything patrons love about an outstanding local restaurant—a memorable, yet comfortable dining experience, excellent food, top-notch service and reasonable prices.
The coolest part is the family-owned and operated restaurant is set in an old firehouse, Engine House 11, dating back to 1892.
“We opened on Veteran’s Day, 11/11/11,” says Jimmie Brandell, owner and longtime restaurant industry expert. “We picked that day. On Nov. 11 we will have been open seven years. It’s seems like a lot longer because we’ve been so busy from the start. We’ve been blessed and Brown Street is booming.”
Brandell’s wife, Susanne, and their three son’s, Nick, Jason and Anthony, are also involved in the business. Nick serves as one of the restaurant’s managers, Jason is a trained chef from St. Clair Community College and Anthony, who is still in high school, helps out as a host. Susanne acts as the human resource director.
Prior to opening Jimmie’s Ladder 11 in Dayton’s historic firehouse Brandell owned and operated Jimmie’s Cornerstone Bar & Grille across the street for nine years. It took about a year of renovations at the firehouse before expanding and opening Jimmie’s Ladder 11.
“The most-asked question I get is, ‘Was I fireman?’ I’ve never been a fireman,” Brandell says.
Yet, the restaurant is packed with historic fire memorabilia. An old firebox sits outside in front of the restaurant. The indoor dining area features antique hardwood flooring and fire station memorabilia. The atmosphere creates a sense of nostalgia allowing guests to learn more about local history. Fire marks from around Dayton—small plaques indicating the building on which they were affixed was insured against fire—line the walls. Many ex-firefighters regularly stop in to see Brandell’s collection of fire marks.
Upstairs is a party loft and a bar. (Jimmie’s former Cornerstone Bar & Grille sign hangs above the bar as a nod to his previous business.)
Brandell got his start in the restaurant business at the age of 16 with the Upper Krust, where he worked (on North Main Street in Dayton) for many years before starting Jimmie’s Cornerstone Bar & Grille.
Jimmie’s Ladder 11 has an extensive menu, including a tribute to Brandell’s mentor from the Upper Krust, Jack Rouda.
“If you look at my menu we have Jack’s Special. Jack owned all of the Upper Krusts and I was his manager. I was with him until I was about 30 years old. He was my mentor in life in the restaurant business. I’ve been in the restaurant or bar business my whole life,” Brandell says.
Jack’s Special features oven-roasted beef, tomatoes, hand-cut cole slaw and Russian dressing on rye or a toasted hoagie roll for $10.
A few other specialties on the extensive menu include New Orleans gumbo (and other homemade soups,) Ladder 11 lasagna and house-made spaghetti and meatballs. The Creole cheesecake (an appetizer) is a must-have. There’s also a craft-beer selection on tap featuring a fire-hydrant tap.
I ordered the Ladder 11 sandwich with onion rings. Both were delicious. The Ladder 11 sandwich is made with Romanian-style pastrami, corned beef, hand-cut cole slaw and house-made Russian dressing on rye bread. I would highly recommend this selection.
Sandwiches are served with Mikesell’s potato chips, or you can substitute another side item for an additional charge.
The restaurant employs 50-60 staff members. Many of them are part-time University of Dayton students. Jimmie’s Ladder 11 also has several longtime staffers, including manager Brad Hull.
Hull runs the front of house and oversees the day-to-day operations. He also helps out with the social media and marketing at the restaurant. Another part of his role is taking party and rehearsal dinner orders. He has worked with the Brandells since 2008. He previously worked at Jimmie’s Cornerstone Bar & Grille.
“We receive a lot of great feedback about the service and the food. Also, a lot of people come in and compliment us on our draft beer selection,” Hull says.
The restaurant offers patio seating and regularly features live music on Friday and Saturday nights. The first Tuesday of every month there’s a Jazz Night hosted by Dave Greer’s Classic Jazz Stompers from 7-10:30 p.m. On Sundays during the summer there’s a Songwriter’s Series from 5-8 p.m. Guests can enjoy acoustic music on the patio, featuring local musicians.
Jimmie’s Ladder 11 generously gives back to the community and supports a number of local fundraisers, such as Alzheimer’s Awareness, or working with the Huber Heights Fire Department during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Additionally, Brandell owns Jimmie’s Greenhouse, an 1877 home and gardens at 24 Park Drive, in the historic South Park district. The home can be rented for business meetings, parties, birthday celebrations and more.