August 13, 2013
Gaylord Herald Times
Chef Randy Troy has the perfect gig at the Railside Bar and Grill. “Bob gives me free reign,” said Troy, referring the eatery’s owner, Bob Huppert. Huppert and his business partner Larry Beurkens purchased the former Elmira Inn in 2005 and have turned it into a destination for great bar food, pizzas, Polish specialties and the one-of-a kind Elmira potato burger.
After graduating from the Oakland Community College culinary program, Troy cut his cooking chops at Marsh Ridge Resort, before opening the White Wolf Inn in Vanderbilt, the Tyrolean Restaurant and Lounge in Gaylord, and helping open the Ugly Bar and Grill in Vanderbilt. He credits his grandmother
for inspiring his love of cooking. “She would go out and harvest a chicken and throw it into a pot.” Troy said. “Sometimes, she would cook for 25 people. I don’t know how she did it. That was my influence.”
When Troy arrived at the Railside four years ago, his Polish genes felt right at home.
“I knew we needed a niche,” Troy said. “I’m Polish and being Polish in a Polish community — I thought we’d try some authentic Polish dishes. It’s worked out well.” Troy’s Polish platter, or “Polski talez,” with
kielbasa and sauerkraut, golumpki, pierogies, fresh vegetables and braised cabbage ($13.49), and Polish nachos, boasting a base of thick cut potatoes, with kielbasa, bacon and melted Cheddar Jack cheese, shredded cabbage, diced onion and tomatoes drizzled with horseradish sour cream ($7.99), are perennial favorites.
“I know better not to mess with Randy’s menu,” Huppert said. “We are one of the few bars around that has a full menu. We have a wonderful local following from Gaylord and Elmira and return travelers heading to Boyne. Our snowmobile business is incredible. We are near the trails.”
Huppert added there are times when people are lining up to get in. “They come for the quality and the consistency of the food,” Huppert said. “It’s so important.” So is the service, and guests at the Railside
are always served with a smile.
“They’ve got good food; this is my kids’ favorite restaurant,” said Kari-Visser-Robel, who frequents the Railside. “They like the black ‘n bleu steak Caesar salad and they like to play the music. It’s a nice family atmosphere. We do carryout, too, on the way home from work when I don’t feel like cooking.”
Everything on the restaurant’s menu is made from scratch and cooked to order, from the homemade fries and potato chips to the zippy horseradish sauce. “A local farmer from Ferguson Farms has
been dropping off fresh produce all summer,” Troy said. “We get our sausage and bacon from Plath’s in Rogers City.”
Troy enjoys creating sandwiches, entrées and seasonal dishes like the “Polish torpedo” and “Jordan Valley chicken.” “We get ideas from our customers, too,” he said.
Then there is the famous Elmira potato burger, a Railside staple and tradition in Elmira. Troy believes that over the years, he has perfected the substantial sandwich. “We mix ground beef, shredded potatoes, spices and shredded Cheddar and grill it to order, then if you’d like it done the traditional
way, we dip it in beer batter and deep fry it,” he said. The giant patty is topped with a slice of Cheddar cheese and horseradish sauce and served on a pretzel roll. There is no chance that guests will leave
Troy has the easy answer to what keeps guests coming from near and far to the Railside. “Great food, good times, we’re so casual and friendly here,” he said. “Folks can come to see Randy Troy and g
August 3, 2012
In a small town situated along M-32 just east of 131, not far from the back way into (or out of, depending which way you’re going) the Upper Jordan is a medium-sized building housing the Railside Bar and Grill in the town of Elmira which prides itself on its potatoes. So when I saw the sign advertising “potato burgers”, well, you guessed it, I had to check it out.
“She Who Must Be Obeyed” was with me and reluctantly agreed to have lunch there, despite the initial impression of a typical hole-in-the-wall small town bar.
The first test was trying to read the signs nailed to the ceiling, one of which was the original sign when it was called the Elmira Inn. Beyond that, once you got past the smell of last night’s beer, it was …well, what was to be expected.
But this out of the way, hole-in-the-wall place turned out to be a honey hole. It was anything but typical. Like throwing a patriot into a film-covered piece of slack water and being rewarded with the biggest brookie of the day, we were soon educated into the world of potatoes.
The potato burger, as it turns out, is made from 75% ground beef and 25% potato. It’s grilled or deep fried (I had it grilled) smothered with cheese and topped with all the trimmings served on a pretzel bun. It comes with their homemade potato chips which are worth the stop alone.
Once we realized the food wasn’t the usual frozen this and that, a closer examination of the menu revealed a surprising array of choices from regular burgers topped with blue cheese and Granny Smith Apples to bluegill dinners to a polish platter consisting of perogies imported from Hamtramck. Man, if the fish aren’t biting, you might as well eat.
The food at the Railside Bar and Grill is a little over the top as far as your typical bar food goes; in fact, it’s nothing like bar food. But there are others that put a smile on my face too like Spikes in Grayling where eating a Spike Burger is a tradition on opening weekend and the fresh ground burgers at the CLuB in Central Lake. The moral of this is ……even a bad day of fishing can have a good ending; at least a tasty one.
I had a few comments about the hopper pattern I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Yes, it’s almost like a Dave’s Hopper pattern. Its variations are slight, yet enough to make it different. But that’s the beauty of any pattern, a change of this or that can make it irresistible to trout, or any fish for that matter, but that can change daily. Never be afraid to improvise, you just might be on to something. I’m sure Dave will forgive me for not copying him exactly.
Just a heads-up; steelhead and salmon are being caught in the Little Manistee River. Like everything else this year, they’re early. The Pere Marquette and Big Manistee won’t be far behind if they’re not there already.
It’s all good. See you on the river.
November 2, 2009
“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.
Elmira, MI 49730 (231) 546-3248