By Sheryl Oswalt
This month’s drive took us south to Gibby’s in Mendon. While the kitchen looks small, they can really put out the food. If you stop in at lunch, you’re likely to find the guys and gals from our farm (Oswalt Family Farms) there. While Michelle Crouch, part owner, might comment if we smell a little like we came from a barn, she hasn’t kicked us out yet! Lunch hour is actually busy with lots of the local farmers and ag business workers stopping in to fuel up for the day.
Being a regular there, I wasn’t sure what I would learn that was new to report. Imagine my surprise when I realized that Michelle and I went to the same high school! Steve Crouch was a 1982 graduate of Vicksburg. His wife Michelle graduated from the Lakewood School District; just a few years after this writer. Years after graduation, Steve found himself working to set up a plant for Eaton Corporation in Mexico. Michelle was working at Stryker Medical. After two years of going back and forth and three more living in Mexico, Steve was ready to find something a little closer to home. He had always enjoyed cooking and had often thought he would like to own a bar. While Michelle was supportive of the idea, she fully intended to keep her job and focus on raising the children.
In the summer of 2009, Steve began managing JJ’s Bar & Grill in Mendon. It had been a few years since he managed the Tasty Freeze in Vicksburg but like riding a bike, it all came back to him. By October of that year, they were the owners and in November Michelle answered Steve’s call for help and left her job at Stryker. Owning an eating establishment is more than just cooking food and perfecting your menu; it’s about finding the right help and setting up rules and operating procedures.
Having been a big baseball fan, Steve was particularly fond of Kirk Gibson; thus the name “Gibby’s”. They like to think they own a restaurant with a bar in it and not the other way around. We particularly like dining there because we can enjoy a beverage with our meal but it still feels like a family eating place. They don’t keep bar hours and the eating areas are large and bright.
The big draw is their daily specials, their burgers and broasted chicken. Wednesday’s lunch special is a bacon cheeseburger with fries for $5.75. Steve says his record is 85 burgers in one lunch period. Again– – this is a small kitchen with 3 people pushing out 25 burgers in 25 minutes–pretty impressive. These aren’t micro-burgers either; I’m a hearty eater and I can never eat more than half my burger. Not only is it HUGE–it’s good quality meat. It’s definitely the place to go for large portions and consistent quality food. Not only do they provide a great value with their daily lunch specials, they have a large following with their daily dinner specials.
Thursday nights are particularly busy with their Brehm broasted chicken dinner special where you can get two 4-piece meals for $14.99. Being that they can only make eight chicken meals at a time with the specialty broaster, Steve makes sure to keep the servers aware of the wait time. Unlike your large chain restaurants, you won’t have to wait for a table with your buzzer but you might have to have a beer or two while he makes your meal especially for you. The fish and ribeye steak dinners are also very popular, bringing in the locals and regulars from Marshall to Gobles.
The Crouches are big supporters of the Mendon Little League teams and Rocket Football and particularly enjoy being part of the Father-Daughter Dance at school. “Couples” and their families can enjoy a meal before the dance and 15% of the proceeds go back to the Mendon PTO.
If you’re looking to frequent places owned by locals that give back, try Gibby’s!