September 19, 2012 - Kruse's Deer Lake Inn is the culmination of years of work for the Kruse family.
From left, Casey, Bill, and Alex Kruse of Kruse’s Deer Lake Inn serve up some tasty dishes, calamari, cedar plank salmon, and fish tacos. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
"We've wanted to come to this area for the last 20 years," said Bill Kruse, who opened the first Kruse & Muer restaurant in Rochester with Chuck Muer in 1988.
Bill's sons Casey and Alex will run the Clarkston location, 7504 Dixie Highway.
"They have been doing this since they were old enough to have a job," Bill said. "They know the business inside and out, and have a great following among regular guests. They can do it. They already have."
When the former Deer Lake Inn became available last year, they brought the idea to their father, and worked with Independence Township to make it happen.
"A restaurant in this area, that's a slam dunk," said Casey, 37. "This is a great community. Everyone knows about the restaurants here in Clarkston."
"We're excited about it," said Alex, 34. "Dad's always around to offer guidance as needed. He's a visionary, which we'll need when it comes to the restaurant business. He's a good teacher and chef. I'm confident in our ability to run a solid operation."
Their goal is to make the restaurant a place where you take your friends when they come to town.
"Our goal is to first pay back our father as soon as possible, that's number one, then become a staple restaurant in the community, like we are in Rochester," Casey said.
It was an easy choice to preserve the Deer Lake Inn name.
"Deer Lake Inn has such a history in the area," Bill said. "We couldn't bring a restaurant here without the name. We're very happy we did."
The restaurant is decorated with portrait photos of the original Deer Lake Inn from the 1920s, back in the days of the Model T automobile and train lines from Detroit.
"They added 4-5 railroad runs from Detroit to come up here," Bill said.
They offer a wide variety of dishes, from fancy cedar plank salmon to more casual fare, such as fish tacos.
They're known for their homemade bread, as well as seafood, pizza, and pasta dishes.
"The menu, atmosphere, and pricing satisfy a lot of needs – from $30 bone-in ribeye to $2 tacos," Bill said.
They plan to open more restaurants, but only after the Clarkston restaurant is solid managerially.
"We never open another restaurant if we feel the quality in existing restaurants is in jeopardy," Bill said.
Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday; 12-11 p.m., Saturday; and 12-8 p.m., Sunday. For more information, call 248-795-2077. Check ClarkstonTV.com for a weblog interview with the Kruses at the new restaurant.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.