Gilbert’s Lodge in St. Claire Shores, Michigan has earned a place in the heart of a rock star, who got his start in its kitchen, and many others who have a soft spot for the unassuming lodge.
Rock singer Eminem worked as a cook in Gilbert’s before he was famous. By day, the “very quiet, very nice kid” made burgers and other comfort food. And at night, often very late, he recorded at a nearby music studio, creating his Slim Shady image, says Ms. Flip Ulrich, general manager.
“I’ve been working here for 33 years, and I remember Eminem working in our kitchen,” she says. “He was such a nice kid, but you could tell his music came first. But he never forgot us after he was famous. He still stops in on occasion, but that usually causes a little mayhem.”
Eminem Tweeted about Gilbert’s Lodge in 2014 when a gas leak touched off a fast-moving kitchen fire, temporarily closing the restaurant. The rock star recalled his fond memories of the place, and offered well wishes.
The thing about Gilbert’s Lodge, which reopened, and remains a thriving enterprise, is that it is beloved for what it does. It found its niche in 1963. And its loyal patrons and employees have kept it going gangbusters ever since.
In this week’s Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Ulrich tells us more.
Q: How did Gilbert’s Lodge get its start?
Micky and Shorty Gilbert originally opened it, in a different location, in 1963. The two brothers owned it until 1984, when its current and sole owner Louie Bricolas bought the restaurant and renamed it Gilbert’s Lodge. He moved it to its current location at 22335 Harper Ave., and branded it with a northern Michigan feeling. Our logo is a moose wearing sunglasses, and the idea is that it’s a place where the animals come to play.
Our claim to fame was our burgers, they were famous. But over the years we’ve expanded our menu to include a wider array of menu items, including fajitas, nachos, quesadillas, pizzas, soups, salads, and a heart range of lumberjack sandwiches. We also have a wide range of pastas and fish n chips.
Q: What’s the secret to longevity?
For us, it’s putting the time in to get to know your customers. You can only do that by talking to them, taking complaints seriously, and always striving to do better. Customer service, for us, is a key.
We also try to do something extra every night. For example, we run a special on Bloody Mary’s on Sundays and have a DJ. Mondays is half-off pizza, carry out or dine in. Tuesday’s is Tequila and $1 taco night. Wednesday is our burger and beer bonanza. Thursday is lady’s night and we raffle a Coach purse every Thursday for customer appreciation. And we feature bands and entertainment on weekends.
Q: Rock star Eminem Tweeted about Gilbert’s after a fire in the restaurant’s kitchen.
We had a bad fire in the kitchen in 2014 that started as a gas leak after we’d had it serviced. The fire happened in the middle of the night and caused extensive damage. We were closed for 10 months for repairs. And Eminem Tweeted about us, the fire, and his past experience working for us.
The Detroit Free Press quoted the rock star as saying he worked at Gilbert’s “from the time he left high school until 1998” where he worked as he was establishing himself as the rapper Slim Shady.
Q: Eminem wasn’t the only loyal employee Gilbert’s had.
I was planning to be a teacher when I started working here 33 years ago to put myself through college. I graduated, got my degree, and became a teacher. But after meeting my husband, getting married, and having three children, I decided working for Gilbert’s was better for me, because my schedule was more flexible. So, in a sense, I never left. Gilbert’s is very special to a lot of people. We started out with a tiny grill behind the bar. Now we have a 250-customer capacity, a full bar and menu, and employ 78 people! — Gilbert’s Lodge uses Boxerbrand’s café line menu covers in its table presentation. Thank you!