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Wednesday, December 9,2009

Service with a smile

R-Club offers homey food, atmosphere

by Joe Torok

The R-Club in Delta Township embodies a classy kind of Midwest charm that, unlike chain restaurants, sports bars or greasy spoons, truly captures the region’s identity.


The restaurant and bar, just off Creyts Road between I-496 and St. Joe Highway, is tastefully decorated in earth tones, mood lighting and lots of smiling faces that greet regulars and strangers alike.


Owner Kathy O’Neil designed every inch of the building the restaurant calls home, as it made the move a few miles west from its original location about 12 years ago. She’s a hands-on owner — the sleeve of the dress she wore during this visit was faded from scrubbing with bleach earlier in the day — who works seven days a week and prides herself on loyal patrons and employees. When the restaurant closed to move into its present location, O’Neil discovered just how loyal her employees were. “My staff was out of work for a year. They all quit the jobs they had and came back to work for me. Thirteen people, and all 13 came back,” she said.


The “R” in R-Club is short for “our;” when O’Neil first opened the restaurant nearly 20 years ago, she was strapped for cash, and every letter of signage cost money that could be better spent on things like dinnerware, tables and chairs. So, the charm was enshrined from the start, and years later, it’s reinforced with an attention to service and detail.


The consistency of experience at the R-Club is one reason customers keep coming back. “This is a regular clientele; I can set my clock to many people,” O’Neil said, citing an 85-year-old patron who arrives at 2:30 p.m. every Tuesday to meet with his son, 11:30 a.m. every Wednesday to dine with friends, 12:30 p.m. Fridays for lunch with his daughter and, to close the week, his entire family shares a meal at 6 p.m. Saturday.


The food is as homey as the atmosphere.


Dinners, served with two sides, include grilled salmon ($13.99), New York strip steak ($15.99) and chicken Marsala ($12.99), made with “R” homemade mushroom Marsala sauce.


Sandwiches are popular for lunch or dinner. The turkey focaccia ($7.99) is filled with shaved bird, thick slices of tomato, a few leaves of lettuce and a slim schmear of mayo and comes with chips, fries, potato salad, coleslaw or cottage cheese. A similar version of this unpretentious and filling sandwich is served on tasty pretzel bread.


All of R Club’s desserts are homemade. Generously spiced (and portioned) carrot cake ($4.99) is decorated with dollops of whipped cream and Julienned strips of carrot and topped with a rich cream cheese frosting.


Live, local music on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday and a small dance floor occasionally give the restaurant a more festive atmosphere. The entire operation conspires to relax and enchant with a provincial-yetelegant style. And it all works, because the people who run the place know that service with a smile brings more people back than cheap food served fast. “We’re different, because we do this for a living,” O’Neil said. “It’s like I say to people, ‘I built the building, and I can get anybody off the street in here. It’s up to you to keep them.’”


R-Club, 6409 Centurion Drive, Lansing. 11 a.m. – close (between midnight and 2 a.m.) Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday. www.rclublansing.com. (517) 321-7440.

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