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On a snowy night on January 31, 1947, Rusceak's Rustic Tavern opened its doors with the motto Drink, Dine & Dance. Built on the corner of a 220-acre farm in Salem Township purchased for one dollar from the Union Stock Land Bank of Detroit in 1936, the tavern boasted a unique framed log cabin design with a beautiful fieldstone fireplace from granite boulders dug on the property itself. Having traveled all through northern Michigan to plan for the layout of their new tavern, it was a dream come true for Romanian immigrants Alex and his wife Katie Rusceak.

Inside the rustic walls was a bar, dance hall with a stage, a short order kitchen and a supermarket for meats and groceries (our banquet room today) including a small apartment above the store. The tavern housed a 1947 Seaburg Model 147 Jukebox, an upright piano, a shuffleboard table, and later pool tables. Air conditioning was added in the hot summer of '48 and a brand-new Zenith TV with a giant circle screen was added in 1949. Country steaks and chops were featured as "complete meals" on the menu and only beer and wine were available, including Drewrys's Beer and Pabst Blue Ribbon sold for .35 cents. Later gas pumps were added. 

The tavern quickly became the perfect spot to hang out after World War II with guests dressing elegantly in suits, ties, dresses and heels. They eagerly lined up to dance with Chick, Chet & Bob known as The Blue Jay Orchestra four nights a week. As the years went on, the roadhouse earned a bit of a hard-nosed reputation as a rough and tumble bar with regular calls made to the police to break up customer disputes. Burgers and pizzas replaced steaks on the menu, square dancing and modern dancing replaced old time dancing and the live shows now included country and rockabilly, even once hosting an appearance by the legendary Johnny Cash on a Sunday afternoon in 1956. As the 60's progressed, the roadhouse gained notoriety as being biker friendly and obtained somewhat of an outlaw feel. Motorcycles lined the parking lot, and the bar was known to be dangerous territory.

The Rustic Tavern survived for 22 years with Alex's wife Katie at the helm who was known to carry a leather braided "blackjack" police slapper baton and was not afraid to settle any argument with it. She retired to the family farmhouse behind the cabin in 1969 and sold the tavern first to George Hefner who opened Hefner's Hideaway, a notorious biker bar with pool tables, live music, disorderly clientele and a after-hours operation of illegal gambling including a rumored brothel up the stairs in the apartment above. And then to Joe Hazamy who opened The Stock Yard, a fine dining steak house with an open-pit grill, a salad bar, and an upscale wine list that only lasted about a year in business. The restaurant was abandoned in 1978 and soon returned to Katie.

Left in poor condition with weeds growing in the parking lot, it wasn't until 1981 when Karl Poulos, who immigrated from Greece, discovered and fell in love with the log cabin design. Against his wife Sophia's wishes, he purchased the cabin from Katie, sold his restaurant, Monahan's in Birmingham, and moved his family to Salem Township. And on their wedding anniversary on August 24, 1982, Karl and Sophia opened Karl's Family Restaurant serving homemade comfort food with a Greek twist including breakfast on the weekends.

The restaurant was unsuccessful at first. The couple struggled to make ends meet with a poor economy and an absence of a liquor license, Karl and Sophia nearly lost the cabin back to Katie. But with the help of the Township Board and other fine members of the community, they were able to obtain a liquor license in 1985 helping boost business dramatically. And with hard-working Karl creating delicious meals in the kitchen and charming Sophia making cocktails at the bar, it soon became the recipe for success! Karl's dream continues to live today with his two boys, wife and amazing staff carrying on his legacy in their 42nd year of business as an independently owned and operated business. 

We are so proud of the cabin's rich history and pay special tribute to previous owners of the tavern, especially to Katie, who was so helpful during our most difficult years when Karl's first opened in 1982. We are truly honored to serve our community and loyal customers in this beautiful historic log cabin roadhouse.

The Poulos Family
Peter, Sophia & Louis 

the poulos family posing for a photo