Stop by Garage Grill & Fuel Bar in downtown Northville at 5 p.m. and you'll find a line of patrons waiting to get in the door.
Business has been booming at the new restaurant since it opened just a week ago on Nov. 27.
"It's been overwhelmingly incredible. The people have just been fantastic," said Bill Evasic, one of the restaurant partners.
Managing partner Michael Bageris said that by 5:05 p.m., the wait is usually between an hour-and-a-half to two hours.
"The demand is so strong that we're doing our best to take in as many people as possible," he said.
The restaurant, which gets its name from the building's original use as an Atchinson Gulf service station in the 1940s, is only open for dinner at this time. Hours are Monday-Thursday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Bageris and Evasic said the turnout so far has exceeded their expectations, and that they are thankful to their patrons.
"Northville is a great, great town, and the people have been so supportive of us. We just hope we can have something here that can make everybody proud to say that the Garage is in Northville, and if we can do that, I think everybody will think it's successful," Evasic said.
Bill Evasic said he and his brother Mark Evasic always wanted to open a restaurant someday, and they knew that when they did, they'd want to include Bageris, who they went to high school with. Bageris has years of experience managing country clubs, and the Evasics knew he could run their restaurant.
The Evasics, of Northville, and Bageris, of Novi, were not actively searching for a restaurant location when the Garage building came on the market, but they decided that the opportunity was too good to pass up.
"When we saw this building, it was lightbulbs going off, it was fireworks. It just seemed like a natural thing. It seemed like the right time," Bill Evasic said.
The instant connection might have come from the Evasic family history. The brothers' grandfather started their family-owned manufacturing business in 1942 in the back of an old gas station in Detroit.
"It's interesting that we now go into a new endeavor and a new project like this and we start off in an old gas station. It's kind of neat," Bill Evasic said.
As a tribute, the Evasics have a photo of their grandfather and father at the old garage hanging in the restaurant's bar.
Bageris said it has been a labor of love for the Evasics.
"I think there were a lot of doubters at the beginning that we could eventually get through this thing, and we're just glad we did," Bill Evasic said.
The partners first started on the restaurant in May 2010. After a lot of planning and several meetings with the City Council, the men began breaking ground on the 7,5000 square foot building in February of this year.
And under Northville contractor Tom Crabill, the building was renovated to become a restaurant.
The Garage can accommodate up to 75 people in its dining room, another 40 in the bar, 55 outdoor on the heated patio and up to 80 people for special events in its banquet room.
The partners hired Ron & Roman architects to design the restaurant, who had the vision for the garage theme, which is apparent throughout.
Garage doors in the dining room remain closed for the winter, but will open up to the patio in the warmer months.
One of the restaurant's main features is the 28x7-foot mural of the original Gulf gas station, which was painted by Northville resident Darcel Deneau. The right side of the painting shows a view of Northville, while the left side shows downtown Detroit.
The seat backs of the booths are upholstered with jeans, many of which are from the Salvation Army. On each booth is a mechanic patch in Gulf station's orange and blue colors, and each patch has a name of one of the investor's children.
Original gas and air pumps also add to the theme, along with black and white photos of garage scenes. Even the lights are true to the 1940s era; a light in the bar is made of a 1940s Model A tire and headlamps, while the overhead lights in the dining room come from a 1940s gymnasium.
Back in the banquet facility, diners have a view of a 1940s Model A.
Bageris said many people have told him they are happy with the design of the restaurant.
"The history of this place is a big deal to a lot of people, and they think what we did with an old building that had a lot of issues is very special, so that makes us all pretty happy," Bageris said.
Whatever the partners could keep original to the building, they did. The dining room still has the original ceiling and wood floor. Some of the windows are original, as well.
"People just like the feeling they get in this atmosphere. I just hear that over and over and over," Bageris said. "I think they think we've kind of done the space proud."
Under Chef Steve Siekierzynski, who previously worked at Assaggi in Ferndale, the Garage offers American cuisine.
"I think what we're trying to do here is have a reasonably-priced restaurant that is casual enough, but food-driven," Bageris said. "We want any doubts of coming out to dinner on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday out of the way. We want you to be out here."
Many of the items on the menu are meant for sharing, such as the appetizers and pizzas ($9-$13). Popular items include the baja fish tacos ($14) and the garage burger ($11). Other dishes on the menu are the garage lasagna ($16), the potato-crusted whitefish ($17) and the buttermilk fried chicken ($17).
Right now the Garage is only taking reservations for parties of six or more.
The restaurant also offers more than 20 wines by the glass, eight beers on tap and 23 bottles of beer.
The Garage is only open for dinner at this time, but the partners hope to open for lunch as soon as they can hire enough staff to handle the demand. If interested, you can stop by to fill out an application.
Although the partners continue to work hard on the business, they're happy with how it's going so far.
"I think a lot of people are happy that we did something in Northville," Bageris said. "A lot of people are proud of their town and it's great to be a part of it."
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