Rest in Peace, Jim Bril, a longtime business and civic leader in Auburn. Jim and his wife, Trish, have owned downtown Auburn’s The Monkey Cat restaurant for around the past 15 years. We have known Jim for a decade and, while out of town this week, are heartbroken to learn that he has passed.
Like the late John Kane of Kane’s Restaurant or Ty Rowe of Bootleggers in Auburn, Jim was an iconic local restaurateur. (He and Ty were longtime acquaintences; Jim and Trish used to stop at Bootleggers during roadtrips to the foothills, and Ty helped them discover The Monkey Cat was up for sale).
Besides owning The Monkey Cat, Jim helped open Auburn’s Tre Pazzi Trattoria, another popular downtown restaurant, with his friend Gary Capps.
Jim also was one of Auburn’s civic leaders. In the past, he had been president of the Auburn Downtown Association and a board member of the Placer County Visitor’s Bureau. He was passionate about helping to bring visitors to Auburn, whether for a weekend or a “pit stop” while en route from the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe.
Jim was a wonderful person: generous, entrepreneurial and full of wisdom. We often had lengthly conversations about what I called the “new Gold Rush,” or a new era of culinary and cultural prosperity in our region.
Jim had a keen sense of humor too. As he told me and others: “I started washing dishes when I was 14 years old and I’m still in the restaurant business, except I own the dishes now.”
“I love Auburn,” Jim said in an article when he bought The Monkey Cat and relocated to the foothills from the Bay Area in 2005. “I love the people, the realness of the area. The physicality with the river, canyon, mountains, excites me also.”
Before settling in Auburn, Jim was the principal of the famed Fior d’Italia restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. He enjoyed returning to the Bay Area — for Oakland A’s baseball games, for example.
We are in Hawaii, but I spoke to Gary Capps this afternoon to reminisce about Jim and to express our condolences. A memorial is planned for Thursday, June 13, at 1 p.m. at Chapel of the Hills in Auburn. A celebration of life will follow at The Monkey Cat.
An article about Jim and The Monkey Cat from our magazine in 2015 is here. Jim was proud of this review in the Sacramento Bee. “Monkey Cat restaurant was part of Jim and Trish Bril’s exit strategy from the Bay Area,” the article observed.
This photo, which captures Jim and his adventurous spirit, is from The Monkey Cat’s Facebook page. An interview with Jim on YouTube is here: