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Alden Bar

Al Parker - November 8th, 2010
In Alden: a facelift revitalizes the ‘AB’
By Al Parker
In many communities, the largest employer is a factory, hospital or
maybe a school.
That’s not the case in Alden, according to Walt Owens, who owns and
operates the newly-remodeled Alden Bar & Grille in the friendly little
village that hugs the east shore of Torch Lake.
“With 32 employees, I think we’re the largest employer in town,” says
Owens, with a laugh. “We have three shifts, including our own cleaning
crew. And we’re only closed for four-and-a-half hours a day.”
When Owens and his wife Dee bought the landmark bar – known to locals
as the AB - in 2001 it had a reputation as a comfortable neighborhood
tavern where summer visitors and locals mingled over drinks. They
continued that legacy until 2008 when they developed a plan to turn it
into more of a family-oriented eatery that happens to serve alcohol.
Between February and June of this year, the Alden Bar & Grille
underwent a major expansion that more than doubled the size of the
place, from 1,300 square feet to 3,300 square feet. The Owens used
local financing and local contractors to revamp their business. “Our
kitchen is 20 times larger than it was before,” says Owens. “It went
from 40 to 800 square feet. Our deck outside had five tables, now it
has 15.”

LIGHTER, BRIGHTER
The AB’s original bar top was retained, but most of the interior is
sparkling new, giving the place a lighter, brighter atmosphere. It now
seats 99 customers comfortably inside, and many of them are folks
lured to the eatery by its family-friendly atmosphere. Inside are
crane games, a high-tech juke box, shuffleboard and pool tables. Owens
is working to get wi-fi up and running soon.
“The prior owners had it as a bar for 46 years,” recalls Owens. “Prior
to that it had been a store and a restaurant combined. When we bought
it, we used to do 70 percent alcohol and 30 percent food. Now it’s
unusual if we don’t do 60 percent in food. And we’re shooting to do
even more food.”
In addition to enlarging the building, Owens expanded the menu,
highlighted by all-new breakfast offerings beginning each day at 7
a.m. Under the direction of manager Pete Stephenson, there are a
number of selections that are popular among early risers.
“The Sandbar Salmon (three eggs served with fire-grilled salmon,
spinach and a house white sauce for $7.99) and Pete’s Homemade
Biscuits and Gravy ($5.99) are really popular,” says Owens. “A lot of
our breakfast customers are folks who remember Pete when he owned the
Country Kitchen.”
Other satisfying breakfast items include a pair of three-egg AB
Skillets – The Mex, with spicy beef, tomato, onion, green peppers and
topped with salsa, cheddar cheese and sour cream, plus toast and the
Original Alden Red Neck featuring cheddar cheese hash browns and
smothered with sausage gravy, plus toast. Both skillets are $6.99.

WHAT’S COOKIN’
The AB dining options went from a two-page menu of pub grub to a
five-page publication that features an array of taste-tempting
options, ranging from salads, sandwiches, burgers and the
crowd-pleasing Friday fish and chips with a side of coleslaw ($10.99).
“We make a British-style batter for our fish fry, using Short’s Autumn
Ale,” says Owens. “It’s been very popular.”
The AB is a haven for hamburger fans. The most popular is the AB
Burger, featuring two hefty 1/3 pound patties of Angus beef, American
cheese, grilled onions, lettuce and 1000 island dressing ($7.99).
Can’t decide between a hotdog and a burger? Try the Freakin’ Frank
Burger, with two 1/3-pound patties, grilled mushrooms and onions, jack
cheese and topped with a hot dog and lettuce and tomato ($8.99)
The biggest appetites of all might want to tangle with Walt’s Monster
Burger, a stack of three 1/3 pound patties with four pieces of bacon
and four slices of cheese topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and
pickles on a homemade bun ($12.99).
Pizza lovers may want to try one of the AB’s 8 or 14-inch pies.
There’s an assortment of specialty pizzas and even an AB deep dish
version.
“Our pizzas have done real well,” says Owens. “Before we offered
pizzas, a business appraiser estimated that we’d do about 800 pies a
year. This year we’ve sold 3,500 already. We have a lot of people who
order pizza from their boats out on Torch Lake, then dock and pick up
their pies.”
During the summer, the AB has entertainment seven nights a week,
including euchre tourneys, karaoke and live bands.
The big remodeling effort was well worth the effort, according to Owens.
“We’re drawing people from Traverse City, Bellaire, Kalkaska,
Mancelona,” he says. “We’ve gone from being a corner bar to being a
destination.”

The Alden Bar & Grille, at 9149 Helena Road in Alden, is open seven
days a week.
For more information or takeout orders, call (231) 331-6214.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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