FLINT, MI – Tom Campbell remembered working alongside Dwayne Wright at Big Boy restaurant decades ago.
Campbell talked about wanting to open a restaurant in the future, tired of having to report to others.
“One of these days, if I do, I’d like you to come help, come work for me,” he recalled asking Wright while speaking to an MLive-The Flint Journal reporter.
While the offer was met with some skepticism, Wright said he would hold provide his services should the day come.
A year after Grandma’s Recipes opened in August 1995 off Richfield Road on Flint’s east side, Campbell went to find his former coworker, who held the kitchen manager job at Big Boy.
Campbell maxed out 12 credit cards and pulled together his life savings to open the restaurant 25 years ago.
“I said, ‘You remember a long time ago, I said that when I get my own restaurant, you’d come work for me,’” recalled Campbell while flipping through a scrapbook outlining the restaurant’s origins. “I said I got my own restaurant… He was shocked. He said, ‘Yeah, I’ll come and work for you.’ He came here and he’s been here ever since.”
It’s those familial connections with cooks, waitresses, and customers that have kept the restaurant in business while others have fallen by the wayside in the neighborhood and other parts of the Vehicle City.
The brick fireplace inside Grandma’s Recipes — where Tom and wife, Vicki, were married in front of in 1996 by a biker preacher — and exposed wood beams offer up a cozy, at-home feeling that matches the hearty, homey menu punctuated by its claim of “darn good food” with offerings under playful titles such as “Plate Lickin Dinners,” “Gone Fishing,” and “From the Coop.”
Having worked in kitchens across the country from Flint to a hotel resort in Key West, Florida, where he learned around different cuisine, Campbell reminisced on the options from past days at a city diner that featured a few items, but all were well done.
“I learned a lot of different things but just that basic Angelo’s menu on the wall, it was like the ideal thing,” Campbell said.
Some of the staples at Grandma’s Recipes include the cream soups, chicken noodle and beef vegetable soups, and fried chicken and chicken strips made in a classic fish fry style batter, or “Tom Style,” which dunks the chicken in an egg wash and powders it with seasoned flour.
Other items on the menu crafted by Tom and Vicki range from a hot roast beef sandwich served up with mashed potatoes smothered in homemade gravy on an oblong platter for $7.95, farmers and western omelettes for $6.45, burgers, as well as pies and shakes for dessert.
While the restaurant closed for five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Campbell mentioned they have installed ionizers to help purify the air, placed tables six feet apart, and plan to stay open for the long haul out of loyalty to their clientele and eastside neighborhood where he grew up.
“That’s why I’m staying. We have a lot of regulars,” he pointed out, while sharing a story about a neighborhood kid that has grown up, has four children of his own, but still stops in for a meal. “His mom used to bring him in when they were younger. Vicki brought him out a peanut butter sandwich and that’s what he and his brother had…he still talks about that to this day.”
Located at 3538 Richfield Road, Grandma’s Recipes is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily with dine-in services or take-out and curbside pickup available by calling 810-736-7078.
The full menu can be found on the restaurant’s Facebook page.