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Spud burger/ Railside Bar & Grill

Al Parker - November 2nd, 2009
Spud Burger!
Railside Bar & Grill serves it up in Elmira

By Al Parker 11/2/09

“You’re about to enjoy a rite of passage,” says smiling day shift bartender Chris King as he deftly slides a full platter and an ice cold Labatt’s across the table toward a guest.
Like a gaudy oversized jewel nestled in a crown, Michigan’s original potato burger dominates the dish at the Railside Bar & Grill. There’s a side order of hand-cut home fries, but the potato burger is the star of the menu at the Railside, formerly the Elmira Inn.
“It’s a blend of black Angus beef, cheddar cheese, some special spices and grated Kitchen Farms potatoes,” explains chef Randy Troy, an affable culinary veteran who’s well known in the Northern Michigan restaurant scene.
About four years ago, Bob Huppert and Larry Beurkens bought the slightly ramshackle Elmira Inn and sank a lot of cash and sweat equity into it, expanding the kitchen, redoing the rest rooms and updating the furniture.
Huddled right along the railroad tracks, the place had seen its better days, but the new owners worked hard to change its image from a smoky, aging bar into a clean family-friendly eatery. It’s no longer a bar that serves food, but a restaurant that offers drinks.
That plan has paid off.
“We used to do a lot more liquor than food, but now we’re doing more food than alcohol,” says Huppert. “We’re ahead of last year’s sales. It’s been a good year for us.”
And they’re looking forward to the coming winter and the return of snowmobilers. “We’re packed during snowmobiling,” says Huppert. “Our business was up 40 percent last winter.”

The potato burger was the invention of Elmira’s Ellen “Ma” Czykoski, who took the concoction of shredded spuds, ground beef and seasonings and fried the patty so it didn’t fall apart. Then she’d dip it in a homemade beer batter and submerge it in a bubbling deep fryer before it’s plopped on a grilled bun.
A deep fried burger may not be the healthiest meal, but it ranks among the heartiest. And Troy has developed his own version that is not battered and deep fried, but still provides the tangy spices and shredded potatoes. Both versions are accompanied by a tasty and mild horseradish sauce.
“We’ve perfected it,” says Troy, who has opened some 10 restaurants during his career. “We make each potato burger fresh to order, rather than ahead of time. What a difference that’s made.”
A potato burger with fries and dill pickle goes for $6.99. If you’re famished, tackle it alone otherwise, you might want to share one with a friend.
The Railside’s menu offers some other seldom-seen entrees, including a Bleu Granny burger with carmelized onions, Granny Smith apple and melted bleu cheese crumbles ($6.99), roasted duck ($14.99) and a parmesan potato encrusted whitefish ($13.99)
“Our Saturday night prime rib special is popular,” says Troy. “It’s dry rubbed, marinated and roasted all day.”

The lunch bunch can choose from a number of value-oriented $5 selections, including a Polish Plate of one golumki, two pierogies and kielbasa and kraut; a smoked pork chop with braised cabbage and Granny Smith apple and a grilled kielbasa and turkey sandwich topped with swiss cheese and sided with homemade fries.
“While there are a lot of Polish families in the area, there are not a lot of Polish restaurants,” explains Troy. “We offer some authentic Polish cuisine to please our customers. Our pierogis, for example, come from Hamtramck.”
Adding to the Polish flavor above the bar area are a couple of flashy red and white signs reading “Na Zdrowie” (Cheers!) and “Zimny Pivo” (Cold Beer). Pool leagues gather at the Railside three nights a week for a relaxing time.
“Our mission is to provide a friendly, inviting atmosphere filled with fun, food and friends,” says Huppert. “It’s where the trains keep rollin’, the dining car is open and the spirits are flowin’.”

The Railside Bar and Grille is on M-32, two miles east of US. 131 on the south side of the road. For information or takeout orders call (231) 546-3248.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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