"It doesn't get any better than a sunset across the lake.” For Charles Shattelroe, a spectacular view of Walled Lake with its “gorgeous western sunset” was key to opening the Driftwood Bar & Grill on Novi’s northern boundary four years ago.
Shattelroe is general manager at both the Driftwood, located at 1103 East Lake Drive and 14 Mile, and the Oakwood Bar & Grille in Dearborn. His sister Buffy Gil owns both restaurants, but initially wasn’t interested acquiring the Novi property which at that time was home to the Sundance Grill & Cantina.
A real estate broker had encouraged them to expand their business beyond Dearborn and suggested they look at the site. The Sundance was in operation when the siblings toured the building.
“It was outdated and antiquated, really rough,” Shattelroe described the former restaurant. “The TVs were from the 70s. The tap system wasn’t any good. They had kegs in the cooler. It was beat up, but that’s why you’ve got to have a vision. You have to envision something being operational, being clean.”
Shattelroe saw potential in the aging building and convinced his sister to look beyond its pastel blue façade and rotting wood. The lake was a major selling point.
“It was the ambiance,” he said. “If you have good food you can be in the middle of the woods and people will drive to you, but if you have this, the view, the patio, and good food…case closed.”
Gil signed a 20-year lease in June 2016 and Shattelroe took over operations. He made no major changes the first few months at the new Driftwood Bar & Grill because he wanted to evaluate the Sundance menu, customer
preferences and employee capabilities. He closed the restaurant in October that year for painting, and improvements that included a new bar top, a 16-handle tap system, new coolers, furniture, and television monitors. Windows were added to a west exit to enhance the view of Walled Lake and what a view it is.
Shattelroe said the interior upgrades cost approximately $150,000. Exterior improvements, including landscaping, expanded parking, and the addition of an outdoor deck, were made over the past three years at a cost of $250,000.
“We’re still going to reskin the exterior with shiplap wood which will make a huge difference. I have this motto that you never quit improving.”
Charles Boulard, community development director for the City of Novi, appreciates the investment.
“I can’t think of a lot of others who have done that. We’ve seen properties change over to new uses. A bank building turns into a doctor’s office or something like that, but this amount of reinvestment for an existing business, it’s great to see.”
He describes the Driftwood as a “unique spot” in Novi’s northern lake area that is zoned mostly for residential use.
“They’ve got a niche,” he said. “It serves all the residential area around there. It’s great to have it.”
Driftwood draws most of its customers from a radius of five miles during the week and from as far away as Plymouth and Brighton on weekends. According to Adam Dessoye, Driftwood manager, the dining room, bar and patio fill with business clientele during the day and a mix of customers at dinner.
“We have everything, from people coming in for drinks to families, and we’re seeing a lot more kids in here,” Dessoye said. “We’re not just known for being one thing.”
The restaurant’s improved appearance and outdoor deck have attracted new customers from surrounding
neighborhoods. One man told Shattelroe he had lived in the area for 20 years but hadn’t considered dining at
any of the Driftwood’s three predecessors.
“He said ‘I’ve seen the changes outside and I thought I’d give you a shot.’”
According to Shattelroe, about 85 percent of Sundance Grill & Cantina’s business was beverage sales and 15
percent was food when his sister leased the building. Food now accounts for more than 60 percent of the Driftwood’s business.
Shattelroe slowly expanded the Driftwood’s menu, finally launching its current version in March 2019. About
80 percent of the selections are from the Oakwood Bar & Grille where Shattelroe first pushed the notion of serving “fine food in a bar.” He suggested that Gil hire a “real chef” when she opened the Oakwood in 2012.
Last fall Shattelroe and Gil asked Oakwood Chef Tyler Mackle to head the Driftwood’s kitchen. Mackle, a graduate of Schoolcraft College’s culinary program, has worked in the restaurant industry for 30 years, and previously owned a catering company and two restaurants.
“I wrote this menu,” Mackle said. “It’s nice to surprise people. When you come through that door you have the bar atmosphere, that bar look, and then you come in and have rack of lamb or lobster ravioli or fresh ahi tuna.”
“Everything is made in-house, fresh. We don’t order anything pre-made. We cut our own steaks. We cut our own salmon. All our soups are made fresh on a daily basis. Everything is locally sourced.”
Mackle’s crab cakes, which are served with watercress sauce, and the tenderloin medallions with crab, asparagus and bearnaise sauce, are among the most popular menu items. The lamb chops are prepared with Mackle’s own blend of seven seasonings and the coconut shrimp is “better than anything you’ll get in Florida,” according to Shattelroe. In addition to more than a dozen entrees, the menu also offers sandwiches, wraps, an extensive selection of appetizers, burgers, fish and chicken platters, jumbo chicken wings, daily specials, and desserts such as peanut butter mousse and crème brulee cheesecake.
“Consistency is the key. If it’s great food and consistent you’re home free," Shattelroe noted.
“In the end, Novi is a beautiful community, so I felt we could deliver some beautiful product. It’s a happy marriage.”
Driftwood is located at 1103 E. Lake Drive and is open from 11-12 a.m. Monday-Wednesday and Sunday and from 11-2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. Check out the menu online at driftwoodnovi.com.
Also be sure to look for their ad in the August-September Engage. They are offering a lunch special where if you buy one burger or sandwich you get a second one half off.