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Shay‘s Chop House

Danielle Horvath - June 7th, 2010
Shay’s Chop House livens up Onekema’s dining scene
By Danielle Horvath
For Rick Shay, it was time to come home. He left the high profile life
he had as a race car driver to pursue his other passion – cooking good
food at his own restaurant: Shay’s Chop House in Onekema.
Shay has traveled and lived all over the country, and always wanted to
come back to Northern Michigan. He has fond memories of canoeing the
Pine River as an Eagle Scout and his family had a place near Wellston.
“This is home, I feel blessed to be here,” Shay said.
As the owner of Rick-A-Shay Racing, he led his team to championships
in the Viper Racing League in 1999 and 2000. In 2000, he had two cars
in the endurance race that finished first and second. He was rubbing
elbows with the likes of Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. Yet after a
divorce and some soul-searching, Shay walked away from the sport and
went looking for a business in Michigan. In May of ’06, he opened
Shay’s Chop House in Onekema on M-22, overlooking Portage Lake.
“It’s a place where families have taken care of the area for over 150
years and everyone is intertwined in some way,” Shay says. “The
summer people have been coming here for five generations; no matter
how high gas goes, they will still come. Everyone knows each other and
they all look out for each other. It’s hard to find many places like
this anymore.”

Shay decided he would give the new business three years and if he made
it that long, he would stay. “Last May was three years and I’m still
here, so I guess my decision has been made,” he says with a laugh.
He has been quick to listen to his loyal customers and offers a bevy
of specials that change, sometimes daily. But if he knows what you
like, chances are he will have a few extra in the freezer and will
cook them up. “If someone wants bluegill, I get bluegill.”
A self-taught cook who loves to entertain – he has a commercial
kitchen in his house – Shay recently renovated the main dining room
and is in the process of transforming the restaurant to a more
multi-faceted establishment.
Shay’s offers an impressive array of specials, including
all-you-can-eat fish fries, Detroit-style Coney dogs, broasted
chicken, apple-smoked NY strip, parmesan encrusted whitefish, topped
off with homemade key lime pie, and a yummy authentic Italia cannoli.
Shay prides himself on using fresh, local ingredients when available,
smoking his own meats, making all the sauces and soups from scratch,
offering over 40 wine choices and a variety of domestic and imported
beers, including the specialty Chop House Ale on tap.
Shay has also begun hosting a Comedy Night every other month and so
far it’s been a huge hit; so much so that he recommends making
reservations two weeks in advance. Tickets are $30 per person and
include entertainment and dinner. Show tickets alone are $15. Recent
acts included Dave Dyer, who has contributed material for ABC’s
Politically Incorrect, and Steve Purcell who has been doing clean
stand-up comedy since 1990.

Offering affordable dining with lunches $5-7 and dinners under $20,
Shay’s Chop House is open year around, Tues – Sat 11am – 10 pm and
Sundays, noon-10. Closed on Mondays. Located on Crescent Beach Road
(M-22) in Onekema, call for specials and entertainment updates:
231-889-3121 or check out their website at

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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