The Sawmill Restaurant
Delivers Top Notch Dining, Innovative Cuisine, & Live Entertainment to the Public Amidst the Serene Setting of Nature
By Robert E. Martin
If you’re looking to score a hole-in-one during these frigid months of winter, The Sawmill Golf Club & Restaurant is a clear shot off the tee when it comes to warming up spirits and satisfying appetites restless with cabin-fever.
Tucked away in a serene and peaceful setting at 19 Sawmill Blvd. directly off Midland Rd., the expanded and ever-evolving restaurant offers a quality package of top-notch dining, a divergent selection of fine wines and martinis, and live entertainment on Thursday evenings.
Best of all, it affords all the amenities one would expect from a private club, yet is entirely accessible and open to the general public.
When it comes to quality dining, The Sawmill offers cuisine that is entirely in a league of its own. Chief Chef Mark Passariello possesses a pedigree that includes five years of study at the Hospitality Institute of Chicago, a stint at the Brookfield Zoo conference center in Chicago, serving as the personal chef for a family for over a year, and even preparing dinner for the Obamas on the day the President announced his candidacy.
With signature items such as coconut shrimp served with mango and roasted red pepper chutney, crab cakes served with Remoulade sauce, Chicken Carbinara, and a focus on fresh seafood during the winter months, Mark feels a key element that distinguishes The Sawmill is his knowledge in dealing with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
“We use things that are local here in the tri-cities, from the fish that we get at Reggie’s to the produce that we obtain from local farmers in town, I believe in using fresh, seasonal, local ingredients.”
Another standout plate at The Sawmill is the Great Lakes Perch, which at $9.95 can be lightly breaded and fried or un-coated with breading and pan-seared on each side, containing nothing but fresh seasonings.
According to Sawmill co-owner Bob Bordeaux, he encourages Mark to change the menu seasonally. “When the golf season is on, we have a whole different program out here, focusing on a lot of barbecue and smoked meats. Mark’s one-pound pork chop is in a league of it’s own,” he notes. “Plus there is a tendency to eat lighter in the summer, so the focus is also on grilled vegetables and kabobs.”
In addition to the impressive resume noted earlier, Mark also oversaw the food production for the school district of Wheaton, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago - that was very cutting-edge. “We never served fried foods to any of the students and everything was very healthy,” notes Mark.
And how did Mark come upon the opportunity to serve the President of the United States? “I got to travel for Obama the night he announced his candidacy,” he recollects. “The Secret Service came in, asked me to put my knife on the cutting board and step back, and then Obama came in and said he was very excited to have us cooking for him. He requested an Italian Beef Sandwich with pulled rib eye, slow-roasted, thinly cut and dipped in au jus. Michelle didn’t want any meat, so I prepared a pasta dish with roasted vegetables for her.”
Given the caliber of food & presentation, dining at The Sawmill carries the added bonus of presenting an incredible value. “Our price points are comparable to the many chain restaurants in town, only our food is much fresher and prepared at a higher level,” reflects Mark. “Coming from Chicago, I sometimes think our prices are too low for what people get; but sandwiches average around $8.00, with most dinner in the $10 to $13.00 price range.”
The Sawmill has undergone considerable evolution since its first days of opening. “When we first opened this was just two house trailers put together,” recalls Bob, “and then we blew the tops off and added a basement and porch, enclosed the porch, built over the top, and now we can comfortably seat 150-200 people. With the deck outside we can handle 250 people and are going to be building a bar outside so we can do Jimmy Buffett events in the summertime.”
“We’ve also remodeled the bar, added wine and martinis to our drink menu, and are going more upscale, but still keeping things affordable. Class reunions are also very big for us because of the amount of people we can handle; plus when the weather is nice, it’s great to be able to go outside and not have all the street traffic and noise to deal with.”
True to form, the wine list at The Sawmill has a focus on Michigan wines, in keeping with their goal of supporting the local economy. “We have a lot of award winning wines right in our backyard,” and will be doing at least one wine tasting party per month here for awhile.”
In terms of upcoming events, Seafood Dinner specials are available every Wednesday – Saturday from 3:00 – 7:00 PM, plus The Sawmill pulls together an excellent Happy Hour featuring $1.00 off wine, beer and well drinks, and half off all appetizers from 3-7 PM.
Wine Wednesdays feature half off bottles of wine with dinner and Thursdays are Martini Night & Ladies Night with live entertainment by The Mysterians from 8 to midnight on Jan. 7, 14 and Saturday, Jan. 16th from 9 pm to 1 am.
Perhaps one of the most novel attractions at The Sawmil, however, centers on their Cooking Clinics. Chef Mark is featuring cooking classes and thus far has conducted one on pastas & homemade sauces, and is doing another on January 19th that will focus on homemade soups. “The average class runs two hours and they’ve been very successful,” notes Mark. “Each person gets input on what they are making and we start from scratch and with this next clinic, will do 4 soups in two-hours. We have video cameras connected to all the TV’s so everybody can see what we’re doing, and then we have a wine tasting in-between.”
People can pre-register for the clinics at $25.00 per lesson, or $30.00 at the door; but Mark also adds that he will conduct private cooking clinics in peoples’ homes at $25.00 per lesson.
“Most people taking the classes have come back to experience more of our restaurant,” adds Bob, “and we had 33 people in the original class with 27 coming back for the other two.”
“Every week I keep adding something different to our menu,” concludes Mark, “so it is an ever-evolving work in progress. You need to keep things constantly flowing and I believe in tweaking the menu here and there, pulling one or two items off, and adding one or two new items here and there, depending upon what people respond to.”
With so many good and cutting edge things happening at The Sawmill, Bob admits the biggest challenge is overcoming the perception that The Sawmill is a private club. “People think its just all about golfers, and we are off the beaten path a bit; but with all we’ve got going right now, the value and quality is undeniable.”
Indeed, during the winter months especially, The Sawmill Restaurant is a hidden gem, offering libation, quality food that will tweak your taste buds, entertainment and camaraderie, all tucked away and surrounded by the splendor of nature.
For more information or to make reservations, call 989-793-2692.