New Year’s Eve is both a time to look forward and back. Many Saginaw residents of a certain age have fond memories of dining at Treasure Island* - especially during the holiday season and News Year’s Eve.
Meals at the place are a visual delight as well as appetite whetters. The main dining room, which my favorite dining partner and I call The Robert Louis Stevenson Room (it really has no special name but surely Treasure Island deserves RLS identity!) will accommodate 150 diners at a seating. The separate Buccaneer Room has places for 100, and 75 more diners may be accommodated at the banquettes and tables in the bar. Scarlet table cloths, amber glassware, carpeting with treasure chest designs, and furniture evocative of the grande saloon of a 17th century merchantman fit the derring-do name of the place without dragging ‘atmosphere’ in by the hair of its phony head. But the greatest vista in Treasure Island is towards the Saginaw River which flows but a few feet away from the huge windows of the RLS Room. Green and undulating lawns, well-kept trees and shrubs, and probably the prettiest stretch anywhere from Green Point to the Bay is right there.
Not that buildings, grounds and appointments make the whole of dining pleasure; they just add a dimension the chrome, panel, and formica addicts will never have.
No, the big things in dining are food and service. (James W. Henderson, “It is more Treasure than Island in this Writers Opinion,” The Saginaw News, September 7, 1969).
Treasure Island officially opened at 11:00 a.m. on September 16, 1968. Located at 924 N. Niagara, south of the Holland\Remington Street Bridge, it was just north of the river-front parking lot for Saginaw Steering Gear Plant One. The view of the river and Ojibway Island contrasted perfectly with its industrial neighbors. The location was magical – and nearby businesses ensured a steady customer base.
The construction of the restaurant was proposed in 1966. The investors were headed by Lee F. Littlefield. Littlefield also operated the Skyroom at what was then known as the Tri-City Airport. By the mid-1970s Thomas M. Miller was the operator of Treasure Island.
Often appearing on national restaurant rankings, Treasure Island’s live entertainment was a critical part of its success. The restaurant survived the flood of September 1986. However, the business’ perfect location put it in a precarious position. After protective steps were taken to save dry goods and frozen food:
"The restaurant’s waitresses, bartenders and kitchen staff then spent the rest of their time filling 3,500 bags with 70 tons of sand. The bags were installed around the 410-seat facility. (Janet Martineau, “Riverside Entertainment Spots Weather storm,” The Saginaw News, September 15, 1986.)
For three decades Treasure Island was a place to dine, a place to be entertained and place to do business. A conference center had been added. The décor described in 1969 was gone by the mid-80s. However, on February 1, 1998, Treasure Island closed. The Saginaw News reported:
“Saginaw attorney Henry G. Marsh and his wife, Ruth, dined at noon every Friday at Treasure Island.
The couple said they were ‘shocked.’
‘That’s a blow,’ said Marsh, a former Saginaw mayor.” (The Saginaw News, February 1, 1998).
The building was converted to offices. The Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan occupied a portion of it.
We have more stories of entertainers who performed at Treasure Island to share – and of course we have another recipe from the restaurant. However, this is New Year’s Eve and will start with a salad served with Bleu Cheese Dressing.
“All Entrees from Land and Sea Include a Crock of Our Cheese Spread and Liver Pate, Garlic Toast, and Captain’s Salad with House Dressing or Your Choice of Dressing, (Creamy Roquefort 40 c Extra. Rolls, Louisiana Rice and Hot Coffee or Tea.” (From a c. 1975 Treasure Island Menu.)
*These can include late teenage memories of coping with a dining partner’s surprise - and terror- when the elegant presentation of the trout she ordered included the head. Deft handling of lettuce garnish is imperative in the Castle Test Kitchen and a skill perfected when dining out.
The Recipe: Treasure Island's Famous Bleu Cheese Dressing
Note: This recipe appeared in an advertisement for Treasure Island in The Saginaw News on February 25, 1982. Although we believe the menu from which we quote is earlier, we still believe this dressing would have cost at least an additional forty cents.
Our Famous Bleu Cheese Dressing
5 oz bleu cheese, crumbled
½ quart mayonnaise
17 ½ oz. sour cream
½ oz. finely chopped onion
1/4tsp Lawrey’s seasoned salt
¼ tsp. real lemon juice
*dash Worcestershire sauce
*dash white pepper
8 dash paprika
8dash garlic (granulated)
Put mayonnaise in container, add bleu cheese, sour cream and all remaining seasonings, Mix thoroughly by hand util mixture becomes creamy. Cover and chill immediately, this dressing must be refrigerated at all times.
As we type – and contemplate gathering - the list of ingredients, we are reminded there are many good reasons to dine out.