Perry Porikos says his longtime family friend Gina Pantely knew “how much I loved Chelsea,” when she approached him last year about taking over her Chelsea Grill. Pantely, who’d overseen its reopening almost a decade ago after the Chelsea Shopping Center fire, “decided it was time to put her energy into one place [she owns Ann Arbor’s Broken Egg], travel more, and enjoy life,” he says. Porikos reopened as the Valiant Bar & Grill, in December.
Porikos, sixty-one, owns four bar-restaurants near the U-M campus, including the iconic Brown Jug. But he says Chelsea’s always been “one of my favorite places to get away” and that taking on the new restaurant was a “no-brainer.” “If you love it, it’s the best business!” says Porikos.
Valiant’s name pays homage to U-M’s fight song, and Porikos is a fiercely loyal fan. He played soccer for U-M after arriving in the U.S. from Greece in the late 1970s, and his son Niko, a recent grad, played Wolverine hockey. Memorabilia–from various sports and teams, not just the Maize and Blue–decorates Valiant’s interior, including, by the bar, a photo mural of the 1937 MLB All-Star team.
“I want this to be a comfortable and friendly place where you can get good food, a cold beer, and watch the game,” Porikos says. He took the most popular items from his other restaurants to create Valiant’s menu, which includes burgers, sandwiches, entrees, salads, and pizza.
Porikos once owned eleven restaurants–and worked up to fourteen hours a day. At one time, he estimates, “upwards of seventy percent of Ann Arbor’s restaurant owners were Greek.” Pantely was “one of the first people I met when I came to America,” he says, and she became a mentor.
Now Porikos finds himself in that role, receiving thank-you emails from some of the thousands of employees who’ve worked for him over the years. “My greatest fulfillment comes from working with the kids,” he says. “If I can take someone or something and help make it better, that keeps me going. It’s not just about flipping a burger.”
Valiant Bar & Grill, 1120 S. Main (Chelsea Shopping Center). (734) 475-7714. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun. noon-10 p.m. Karaoke Sat. evenings. valiantgrill.com