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Meet Me at Bay and Court Street: Roy’s Steakhouse 

“For a Quarter of a century Roy’s Steak House has been noted for truly fine food and drink. . .the meeting place in Saginaw for those who seek friendly and pleasant surroundings. . .that extra something that makes a meal a long remembered event. Roy’s . . where good food is delightfully different.”  

-The Saginaw News, May 22, 1966. 

A May 20, 1941, advertisement announced the opening of Roy’s Bar and proclaimed it was “The newest, most modern spot in Saginaw.”  This was not the first bar to be located at 1810 Court –Roy’s predecessor, Herb’s Bar, had opened in 1936. And next door was the Kozy Korner – an eatery famed for chopped peanut sandwiches.* And we didn’t even research the pre-prohibition history of the site! Roy’s Bar was destined to become a Saginaw destination for several generations. The location was perfect - quite literally where the city and suburbs meet. It was close to neighborhoods and businesses and on the route to many other places.  

It was named after the owner, LeRoy Johnson. Early advertising stressed the quality of the refreshments and the atmosphere of camaraderie. Slogans included: “Meet the Boys at Roy’s” and “Don’t Forget, Neighbor, We Have Pitcher Beer.”  However, it was also clearly noted that food was an important part of the offering. Early menu items included fried fish and chop suey.  

As a bar and restaurant, Roy’s thrived. On October 21, 1960, fire gutted the kitchen and bar portion and caused considerable damage throughout the building. However, now operating as Roy’s Steakhouse, the restaurant was quickly repaired. When it reopened, it featured a party room, new kitchen equipment and all new décor. The Saginaw News described the renovated interior: 

“The bar and restaurant, which have an 1890 decor, utilize a graceful combination of red, black, gold and white accents. All bar and kitchen equipment is new. The building is air-conditioned and adorned with attractive lighting fixtures.” 

The remodeled interior was soon joined by an extensive improvement on the exterior.  

“The lower portion of the building is a combination of paneling and masonry painted a gleaming white. Contrasting appointments are charcoal grey window shutters and wrought iron grill work. Doors have been painted red with white trim.” 

Signs over the front and side entrances are black and of 1890 period style lettering to match the decor of the building.”  (The Saginaw News, October 10, 1963.) 

The restaurant won a Greater Saginaw Chamber of Commerce beautification award in 1963. The décor was fun. A nostalgic assemblage of late nineteenth century design details, it had the feeling of a playful stage set. The restaurant’s logo, a Caricature-like portrait of man – who we assume is LeRoy Johnson – on a high-wheel bicycle continued the theme. A cutout of the logo remained a fixture on the exterior of the building through changing ownership in 1968 and in the 1980s. Also, several members of the staff remained constant. Mary Blakley, who served for years as chief cook, started in the late forties and continued into the 1980s. Constantine “Gus” Makrianis was managing chef for many years – this week’s recipe is one of his.  

In 1986, Roy’s Steakhouse was closed for repairs after a car ran into the building and destroyed the bar area, but it quickly reopened. Competing with nearby competition on Bay Road, by the mid-1990s Roy’s Steak House was struggling, and on Friday, July 25, 1997, The Saginaw News ran an editorial about the then-closed for remodeling Roy’s Steakhouse. The piece called Roy’s Steakhouse an institution and noted: 

“For 56 years, Roy’s has offered the turn-of-the-century ambience suggested by its symbol of a coat-tailed gent atop a high-wheel tricycle [sic], with tablecloths, relative quiet and background music to amplify the solid, real-American culinary fare at Fair prices.” 

Unfortunately, Roy’s Steakhouse did not reopen. 

*Check out our previous blog entry on the Kozy Korner's Chopped Peanut Sandwich.

A Note: For some of us of a certain age, Roy’s Steakhouse brings back memories of a shrimp cocktail coupled with a martini. Both were quite wonderful.  


The Recipe: Roy’s Steakhouse Short Ribs 

We start our exploration of this week’s recipe with an overwhelming challenge, we have found two versions of it. Both come from the same source, Constantine “Gus” Makrianis, a chef at Roy’s Steakhouse 

The recipe for Roy’s Steakhouse Short Ribs that appears in Savoring Saginaw

10  lbs. beef short ribs 

2 onions 

¼ green pepper 

1 carrot 

3 ribs celery 


1 qt. beef or chicken stock 

2 tsp. tomato paste 

2 bay leaves 

2 garlic cloves 

1 c. tomato juice 

Sliced mushrooms, (opt.) 

Salt and pepper to taste  

Potatoes, pared and cut like French fries 


Brown short ribs in 450° oven about 1 hour, turning occasionally. Pour off fat. Meanwhile dice onions, green pepper, carrot and celery. Sauté in butter until barely tender. Add stock, tomato paste, bay leaves, garlic, tomato juice and mushrooms, salt and pepper. Pour over ribs, add potatoes, cover and continue cooking for ½ hour. When tender, pour stock into saucepan, remove garlic and bay leaves. Thicken to a gravy consistency with cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water. Four over ribs. Serves at least 15. 

As it appeared in the Saginaw News on January 6, 1981, confusingly named Makrianis Swiss Steak [And the CTK is uncertain why this recipe for Short Ribs was called Swiss steak*.] 

4 beef short ribs 

Worcestershire sauce 

1 garlic clove, crushed 

6 small onions 

1 bay leaf 

Salt and pepper to taste 

Dash of cinnamon 

4 small potatoes, quartered 

2-3 small carrots, sliced 

4 ounces tomato paste, watered down (optional) 


Braise short ribs just until tender, about. one hour. During the last 30 minutes of cooking add the carrots, onions and potatoes and cook until vegetables are tender. Remove juice from ribs and skim off fat. Combine juice from meat with one glass of hot water (8 ounces) and the remaining ingredients and mix well. To thicken use cornstarch or a flour roux. Pour gravy over meat and cook for an additional 10 minutes. 


The CTK staff compared the two versions and agonized over the inconsistencies. We really agonized. And then we pondered why The Saginaw News Version was called Swiss Steak. At first, we planned on simply preparing The Saginaw News Version – and not calling it Swiss steak. However, it is a related but distinctly different recipe. In the end we decided to make a one quarter batch of the Savoring Saginaw version – actually we made a half-batch of the sauce roughly and used ¼ the amount of meat. (We will let you decide how to use the remaining 7/8 of a green pepper. The CTK staff simply nibbled while browning the short rib. (The CTK does not serve food to the public and we are allowed to do such things.) 



-x-About cooking time: Most recipes for short ribs use a less aggressive braising method and cook them at lower temperature for a much longer period of time. Also, the temperature suggested was based on cooking a much larger quantity. With that in mind, we adjusted the initial temperature to 425 degrees. We used this temperature in both steps of the recipe. (Our decision was finalized by a correction notice we discovered in The Saginaw News: “Opps, don’t burn the pate. When we broke down the Roy’s Steak House recipe for Chicken Liver pate from its original 40 pound beginnings, we neglected to change the cooking time for the smaller amount.”) 


We again agonized – this time about whether to leave the cooking vessel covered or uncovered. We did not do empirical testing. We simply covered it part of the time.  


We were able to retrieve our lost bay leaf and the overall result was quite good. However, it left us longing for a shrimp cocktail and a martini.  


*The CTK staff continued to ponder the definition and history of Swiss steak and found this online: 

Although the version of the short rib recipe that appeared in The Saginaw News probably doesn’t actually meet the definition of Swiss steak, the CTK staff believes they understand why it was referred to as Swiss steak.  


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