STEVENSVILLE — The first customer was served at Grande Mere Inn on July 22, 1980.
On Wednesday, the popular restaurant quietly celebrated 40 years of what the owners describe as offering high quality food, friendly service and a stunning view of Lake Michigan. And it remains a family business.
Charley Racine and his wife, Tricia, took over as owners about five years ago from his parents, Pete and Nancy Racine, when Pete died.
Prior to that, Charley had cooked in the kitchen for 15 years.
Sitting high on a ridge off Red Arrow Highway in Stevensville, Grande Mere Inn features a cottage style dining room with windows that overlook Lake Michigan, and the Cranberry Bog Bar, named for a time when Stevensville residents harvested cranberries nearby.
Racine said Grande Mere prides itself on all the salad dressings, tartar sauce and cocktail sauce all being made in house, and cooking that incorporates locally grown foods.
“Farm-to-table is a big thing now, but we’ve been doing it ever since the 1980s,” he said.
Racine said, regarding his personal favorite menu items, “I go between liver and onions and the seafood platter.”
He said seafood is the most popular among customers.
“Seafood in general, especially crab legs, is out of control. Since we opened back up (after the closure due to COVID-19), the amount of seafood is amazing,” he said.
Some other menu items include chicken dishes, meatloaf, salads, burgers and appetizers.
Racine said the number of return customers is a testament to Grande Mere Inn’s ongoing success.
“We have an extremely loyal customer base,” he said. “We have church members still coming who ate here when we opened. And we have grandchildren of some of our original workers coming through now, washing dishes. This is truly a family place,” he said.