Thursday, February 17, 2022

Cabin comfort

Karl’s marks 50 years of history in community

The log building opened for the first time on
Jan. 31, 1947 as Rusceak's Rustic Tavern
 and included an attached market for meats and groceries
The shotgun is no longer nestled behind the bar and the illegal gambling has long been a thing of the past. The tradition of great food served in a rustic atmosphere remains, however, as one of the oldest dining establishments in the Plymouth area marks more than a half century of operations.

The abandoned, rustic log cabin that transformed into the polished structure than now houses Karl's Cabin on Gottfredson Road first caught the eye of Karl Poulos in 1981. Built on the corner of a farm in Salem Township, the craftsmanship of the authentic log structure intrigued Poulos, as did the somewhat checkered history of the various businesses once housed there. 

The log building opened for the first time on Jan. 31, 1947 as Rusceak's Rustic Tavern and included an attached market for meats and groceries. That tavern, operated by Katie Rusceak, earned a legendary reputation as a rough and tumble bar. Rusceak was known to keep a shotgun behind the bar and had no compunction about using the weapon, according to police accounts. The tavern, hosting live music and dancing, continued for more than 20 years and Johnny Cash was the entertainment in 1956, according to area lore.

Rusceak sold the tavern in the 70s and it became Hefner's Hideaway, a biker bar with a notorious after-hours illegal gambling operation, an upstairs brothel, and a disreputable and disorderly clientele familiar to law enforcement agencies. When the Hideaway was closed, the building became The Stock Yard, a fine-dining steak house with an open pit grill. 

Neither of those businesses survived and the restaurant building was abandoned in 1978. When Poulos discovered it in 1981, he was determined to bring homemade comfort food in a restaurant of his own to the area. His plans met the strong objections of his wife, Sophia, who held little hope for restoration of the abandoned building.

Poulos' persistence succeeded, however, and the couple opened Karl's Family Restaurant in November of 1982 and while Karl Poulos worked in the kitchen refining his recipes and producing popular meals, Sophia Poulos charmed patrons at the door as she seated them. 

For the last quarter-century, the restaurant, now known as Karl's Cabin, has been operated by a second generation of the Poulos family, Karl and Sophia's sons, Peter and Louis.  The restaurant has survived the pandemic, being one of the first in the area to offer a complete take-out menu to keep patrons safe. 

Peter and Louis Poulos credit the success of the restaurant to hard work and their “incredible staff.”

“It's been a complete honor to serve this amazing community in this magical log cabin for nearly four decades,” the brothers said in a prepared statement. “We thank our wonderful patrons for all the support and loyalty throughout the years, especially over the last 21 months, with a special shout out to all of our past employees who are forever part of the Karl's family.

“Here's to 75 years of colorful history. Happy birthday to “The Cabin,” the brothers said.