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Household restaurant’s beloved pie recipes are 30-year custom in small Michigan city

FREELAND, MI — There is a standard family-owned restaurant in a small Michigan city that has been serving made-from-scratch pies to loyal prospects for 30 years.

From the best-selling and attention-grabbing coconut cream with its lofty meringue topping to fall favourite pumpkin crunch, Shirley Zeilinger’s recipes, a lot of them dedicated to reminiscence by the kitchen employees, are nonetheless in use day by day at Riverside Household Restaurant. On a median morning, 30 ft in numerous flavors come out of Riverside’s kitchen. And for Thanksgiving, they bake many extra, identical to Zeilinger used to do.

Riverside Household Restaurant, situated at 8295 Midland Highway in Freeland, on the banks of the Tittabawassee River about 15 miles northwest of Saginaw, is a neighborhood establishment. And its pie recipes, which belonged to the late Zeilinger, who based the restaurant together with her daughter de ella, Chris Graebner-Frank, are treasured by her household de ella, who maintain the enterprise going, and the shoppers who maintain coming again for extra .

“When my mother was alive, she would make 100 ft. She may do 100 ft by herself. Ella she’d bake by the evening, ”mentioned enterprise proprietor Graebner-Frank, who operates Riverside with two of her sons from her. “And now I work each bit as exhausting as my mother.”

The mom and daughter opened Riverside Household Restaurant in 1992 and ran it collectively till Zeilinger died in 2004. In the present day, Graebner-Frank’s son Michael Graebner is the overall supervisor, and her son Patrick Graebner is the accounting supervisor.

Within the days main as much as Thanksgiving, they and the remainder of the employees at Riverside work lengthy hours to make sure households of their neighborhood and all through mid-Michigan can take pleasure in Grandma Zeilinger’s pies at their vacation celebrations.

“We cleaned out of right here on Wednesday evening exhausted,” Graebner-Frank mentioned.

It is a number of work, however she loves it.

“We’re actually fortunate.”

‘Freeland must have slightly restaurant’

Riverside Household Restaurant celebrated its thirtieth anniversary this yr. It stays a well-liked spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving locals and guests from all through Michigan.

The restaurant employs between 30 and 40 folks, together with one who has been there since opening day and several other others who’ve been there for 20 years or extra. And, because it opened, all 5 of Graebner-Frank’s sons, Zeilinger’s grandsons, have additionally labored at Riverside at one time or one other.

Michael Graebner, who was simply three weeks outdated when the restaurant opened, would not know a life with out it, and that is true for a lot of in his neighborhood, he mentioned.

“For almost all of people that dwell right here, this restaurant has at all times been right here,” he mentioned, noting that his household’s enterprise has grown along side Freeland.

Graebner-Frank mentioned Riverside stuffed a void Zeilinger noticed all these years in the past.

Graebner-Frank remembers his mother saying, “Freeland must have slightly restaurant the place you may go and have a cup of espresso and a few bean soup and a chunk of pie.”

She admits she was initially skeptical of her mom’s plans to open a restaurant. On the time, she was recovering from surgical procedure, a mom to younger kids and finding out to grow to be a nurse. Opening and operating a small enterprise was by no means a part of her plan.

However, regardless of her reservations, Graebner-Frank agreed. And she or he’s so glad she did.

“Now, I am grateful that my mother had the imaginative and prescient,” she mentioned. “It is a fantastic, fantastic job. …This place and the shoppers and the staff are far more than a enterprise, far more than a method to make a residing.”

A portrait of Zeilinger, “the well-known pie girl,” is displayed in an engraved silver-colored body close to the restaurant’s entrance door, and a letter to prospects printed on the entrance cowl of every menu tells her story.

Pushed, humble and candy, Zeilinger had an unimaginable work ethic and excessive requirements, her daughter mentioned. When she wasn’t working within the kitchen, she was caring for her grandchildren, gardening, or driving her bike.

“That was type of her remedy and her enjoyment, to be within the kitchen,” Graebner-Frank mentioned. “Ella She was actually completely happy working within the kitchen, making pies.”

By way of the years, Zeilinger’s household and the Riverside employees have remained true to her recipes and most well-liked methods of doing issues. They nonetheless serve meatloaf on Tuesdays and pot roast on Sundays and use solely locally-grown sugar within the pies and locally-grown beans within the bean soup.

“The farmers come and help us; now we have to help them,” Graebner-Frank remembers her mom of her saying.

Toes, ft and extra ft

Riverside gives greater than 20 kinds of pie. Prospects can take pleasure in a slice with their lunch or dinner or buy an entire pie to take dwelling and share.

“Every thing’s scratch-made in-house,” Michael Graebner mentioned. “Our large sellers are coconut cream, banana cream, pumpkin, apple… We’ve got an inventory that goes on and on.”

He particularly loves the banana cream and the pumpkin crunch, which he recommends attempting to heat with vanilla ice cream and caramel drizzle on high.

“Not often is there any of that left on the plate,” he mentioned.

In fact, Thanksgiving is peak pie time at Riverside. Within the days main as much as the vacation, the employees works lengthy hours, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to prospects through the day and baking lots of of pies at evening. Graebner-Frank mentioned it makes for “an extremely chaotic week.”

“The week of Thanksgiving, we’ll promote 500 ft,” she mentioned. “Once we’re within the throws of it, I feel, ‘Why can we do that?’ However then, whenever you’re really handing the shoppers the pies, and also you see how completely happy you made them, I am like, ‘Oh yeah, because of this we do it.’”

Graebner-Frank mentioned she feels fortunate to have watched her household enterprise develop these previous 30 years and attributes its success to its loyal prospects and devoted staff.

“Having a core employees like that that sticks with you within the good instances and the dangerous is actually extremely humbling,” she mentioned. “I like this place and the enterprise that we have created.”

When requested what her mom may consider the household’s restaurant in the present day, Graebner-Frank replied, “I feel she’d be proud past phrases.”

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