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Bungalow Inn

Ross Boissoneau - May 16th, 2011
Bungle in to Manistee’s Bungalow Inn
By Ross Boissoneau
There’s no pretension at the Bungalow Inn. But if you’re looking for
service with a smile and excellent food – award-winning food, according to
various surveys – then you’re in the right place.
Owner Dave Gunia is justifiably proud of his restaurant. After
consistently winning awards from local publications, including Best Prime
Rib and Best Burgers from the Express, it’s easy to see why.
While the Bungalow Inn has been guarding Manistee’s southern border for 20
years, it didn’t start out as an award-winning restaurant. In fact, it
didn’t start out as a restaurant at all, but as a bar catering to
nightlife, with live music and DJs.
But changes in lifestyles and a desire to serve a broader part of the
public led Gunia to change the Bungalow Inn’s focus, first adding burgers
and sandwiches, then a full menu. When the local Big Boy closed a few
years ago, he expanded the menu by adding breakfast.
“We changed from a club to a food and drink establishment,” he said.

GOING STRONG
Now he calls it a family restaurant and sports bar, with a separate
banquet room. And even in these challenging economic times, the restaurant
is still going strong.
“We’ve had the support of the community,” said Gunia, enjoying a break
after a lunchtime rush that included a full house in the main dining room
and serving a party in the restaurant’s banquet room. “The support of the
locals is crucial. We’re very fortunate.”
While he personally has been recognized for tending bar, you’ll also find
him in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, often working alongside his head
chef, Eric “Big E” Lockhardt. He is still rather amused at the thought of
being in the kitchen.
“I never thought I’d be a full-blown cook,” he said with a smile, ruefully
shaking his head.
But the transition in the restaurant’s business model, which he said began
10 years ago, mandated that change as well. Now he’s at home not only
flipping burgers, but cooking eggs, steaks and seafood.
The menu also boasts salads, ribs & steaks, even Mexican dishes such as
burritos and quesadillas. The latter feature grilled onions, sauteed
mushrooms, and a choice of beef, chicken or seafood.
Among the most popular dishes are the gourmet charbroiled burgers,
including the Southwestern Burger with jalapeno peppers, pepperjack cheese
and salsa, the seafood, and the restaurant’s signature prime rib. “That’s
our most popular item,” Gunia said. “Every year we win awards for it.”

TREMENDOUS STAFF
While Gunia is pleased to win awards for his food, he’s most proud of the
awards recognizing his staff. He says the staff, including Big E, are the
best part about working at the restaurant. The Bungalow Inn employs 40
people altogether, according to Gunia.
“They are tremendous,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without them.”
Gunia also recognizes the challenge of owning and operating a restaurant
in the area, with so many having closed and the downtown part of Manistee
host to many empty storefronts. But having been in the business for the
better part of his life (he owned another restaurant before the Bungalow
Inn), he says he’s not going anywhere. “It’s the American dream, owning
your own business,” he said simply. “You do the best you can to succeed.”
If the popularity of the place, reflected in those awards and the
satisfied smiles of the patrons, is any indication, then Gunia and his
staff continue to succeed.
The Bungalow Inn is located on US-31 just south of Manistee.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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