Soon, beer lovers will be able to enjoy a frosty pint surrounded by fragrant blooms on tall hops plants growing around a patio outside O’s Pub & Grill in Auburn.
Marc and Laura Owczarzak, who have owned O’s since 2014, added a patio and fire pit to the side of the building last fall. Tall wooden poles surround the patio, prompting much speculation among customers.
Marc Owczarzak spent most of the winter evading questions about the space. Now, though, he said he’s ready to share his plan and start planting. By mid-summer, the fast-growing plants should be tall enough to enclose the patio.
“It will be really cool out there,” Owczarzak said.
Other changes have already happened at the popular bar and restaurant at 123 E. Midland Road in Auburn. An awning has been removed and floor-to-ceiling windows have been added to fill the interior with light. The windows replace the current front door and customers will use a side door that’s much closer to the parking lot. Owczarzak hopes the building will closer resemble photos he has from 1908.
“It will look more original,” Owczarzak said. “It won’t be identical to what it was in 1908, but it will have the same feel it had then. It will go back to its roots.”
The mix of old and new should be familiar to O’s customers. The family extensively re-modeled the facility, but tried to retain its basic character. For example, they bought new chairs, but kept the old tables. “It’s got that old building feeling. People like the new, but with the old feel. We clean it up enough and fixed it up enough to make it feel fresh and clean, but left things that were imperfect.”
They doubled the parking lot size and expanded the kitchen. The kitchen itself is open, so customers can watch as their food is prepared.
“We do a lot of really handmade, fresh food,” Owczarzak said. “We have a meat grinder on site. We buy fresh meat and grind it daily. Our lunch meats are un-cured, nitrate-free. … It’s not quite farm to table, but it’s close.”
Customers sign the praises of O’s Signature Burger, featuring pepper jack cheese, pastrami, dill pickles, a fried egg, stone-ground horseradish mustard, and a homemade maple mayonnaise. Another local favorite is The Roxy, which pairs uncured, natural pastrami with a fried egg, Swiss cheese, coleslaw and bistro on marbled rye bread.
Surprisingly, the most popular item at O’s isn’t even on the regular menu. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, O’s offers a steak dinner that has people lined up outside. Some of the biggest hits on the menu came from customer suggestions. If someone mentions something, the cooks are quick to try it and perfect it, Owczarzak said.
“I like to serve things that people really enjoy,” Owczarzak said. “It really makes me feel good knowing that I can serve a steak dinner or a hamburger to our customers and have them really love it. I take pride in that.”
He also loves the relationships he’s developed with his customers. “I think that really is at the root of it. Taking care of the customers is what we really like.”
The whole family gets involved in creating those relationships and taking care of the customers.
Mark Owczarzak grew up in Bay City. His family owned several small businesses over the years, including meat markets, bars, and restaurants. He earned a degree in engineering from Michigan Technological University and works for Consumers Energy now. His wife, Laura, is originally from Auburn. She holds a degree in hospitality from Northwood University and handles the day-to-day business of O’s.
Their youngest daughter, Morgan, is a junior at John Glenn High School in Bangor Township and sometimes works as a hostess.Their two oldest children are in college, so they only occasionally work at the restaurant. Malorie studies engineering at Saginaw Valley State University. Riley is at Grand Valley State University studying Human Resources.
The restaurant has won several awards for its food, including:
Honorable Mention in the 2015 MLive Best Steakhouse in Michigan contest
Best Steak Dinner in MidMichigan from WNEM in 2015 and 2018
Best Appetizer for its O’s Famous Pretzels and Cheese by Best Things Michigan
Learn more about the restaurant on its Facebook page here.