Eating Out With… Armen Darakjian
Darakjian Jewelers in Birmingham
By Chuck Bennett
I was first made aware of the Darakjian family in the early 1970s. I had several friends, members of affluent African American families, who used to praise the family’s late patriarch, John Darakjian. I remember Marjorie Harris, who at the time was the president of Lewis College of Business (and is still a Darakjian client today) saying she’d never buy jewelry from anyone else. “and neither should you,” she’d say. “They’ll teach you how to buy good, quality pieces. The Darakjians are simply the best in jewelry.” Because of Harris’ passion, along with that of several others, I felt compelled to go check out Darakjian in the Advance Building on 9 Mile and Greenfield.
I started with gold chains. Remember this was the era of Nik Nik shirts opened almost to the waist with layers of gold chains. I indulged heavily. Amazing. I have no idea where any of those chains are today.
Fast forward. About 15 years ago, I began associating with the Darakjian boys – Ara and Armen – through mutual friends. Today, Armen is the owner/operator of Darakjian Jewelers and the store has moved to a very posh location in Birmingham. Armen and I remain friends, and always enjoy when we see each other.
Armen Darakjian and I are both happily admitted food junkies. Deciding which restaurant to go to was a lot harder than you would think. Finally, at the suggestion of someone else, Forest in Birmingham was the agreed upon destination. Forest is elegant and contemporary with Samy Eid (you might know him from Phoenicia in Birmingham) at the helm. The food is innovative and a little daring, created by the talented Executive Chef Nick Janutol. On this particular Wednesday during dinner hour, the restaurant was filled to capacity.
Armen isn’t a huge fashion guy, but he likes what he likes, and sometimes that means some very bold statements. For instance, on this night, he showed up in a steel grey cotton shirt trimmed in red, red pants, red Donald Pliner shoes, and a sweet Audemars Piguet rose gold offshore red rubber clad watch. We love how — on most business days – he effortlessly teams his beautiful custom-tailored shirts with the monogrammed A.D. to perfectly complement one of the cool watches from his extensive collection (of course, along with a pair of fine cufflinks).
“I’m really excited about our business, Darakjian Jewelers,” Armen explains. “We’ve been in business for 52 years, and we’ve been in our beautiful new location in Birmingham for three years now. We designed that store to give our guests an absolutely unique shopping experience. Our showcases open toward our guests, and we work together side by side. There are no counters separating us from our guests. I love that. It excites me to work with people in that one-on-one manner.”
“The love is Bergy Darakjian, baby,” he states emphatically. “She is so cool. She has her own hashtag — #mommabergy. I love my mom. She is just the best. There’s just the three of us now – my brother, Ara and mom and me. Yeah, for me, the love is all about my family.
Even though we’re always a sucker for a pretty plate – Presentation. Presentation. Presentation. – we kinda dig the way Chef Nick keeps it simple. No flowers or artistically dispersed sauces on these plates. Just good looking food. And believe me, we had a feast (thank you, Rachel Lachover from Near Perfect Media, who ordered for us). We shamelessly had way too much food to mention, but the two dishes that Armen and I loved most were the Black Rice with roasted tomato, sesame and cobia; and the Bronzino that is served with quinoa, pine nuts and pomegranate. We also really enjoyed the duck breast, the aged New York strip, and the feta and Brussels sprouts.
“I love to cook,” says Armen. “Cooking is my therapy. But I probably eat out five nights a week. When I do, I like to support local proprietors and people who support me. I’ve known Samy and his family a long time. He runs a good, strong business with good food, good service and good ambiance. I support and recommend him one hundred percent.”
101 Willits St, Birmingham, MI 48009
735 Forest Ave, Birmingham, MI 48009
Photos by Raphael Goudy