The Mulefoot Gastropub is preparing to relocate and transition its current space in downtown Imlay City into a more casual restaurant and bar called Hiram’s Tavern. The restaurant will host its final service in Imlay City on Saturday, April 28 and reopen as Hiram’s on Wednesday, May 2.
Mike and Allison Romine tell Eater they’re making the move in order to offer something more accessible to their community in Imlay City. Many customers living in the area, Allison says, want to come to The Mulefoot more often, but had to treat it as a special occasion restaurant because the prices averaged around $50 per person. “At the end of the day, a lot of our guests are still driving very far and a lot of our actual local community members just can’t afford to be a part of what we’re doing.” Hiram’s Tavern will offer a similar atmosphere, menu, and quality of ingredients to The Mulefoot but at a more affordable price.
“[Hiram’s] is really designed to be a place that’s more like a really kickass local haunt,” says chef Mike Romine. The name and signage is an homage to an Imlay City historical figure and builder of one of the town’s most stunning homes, Hiram Wells. According to documentation and local lore, Wells was a Civil War prisoner of war that, as part of the terms of his release from, was never allowed to cut his beard. Photos at the Imlay City Historical Museum feature Wells with a stunningly long beard measuring at 5 feet 8 inches long. “We wanted to represent some of the historic value of our community, which I think is one of its strongest suits,” Mike says.
The transition will include minor changes to the decor with an expansion of the bar area, according to the Romines, with some of the standard tables being traded out for high tops. As for the menu, the chef says he plans to keep costs down for guests at Hiram’s by rotating the menu on a quarterly bases with weekly specials rather than overhauling all of the dishes on a daily or tri-weekly bases as before.
Hiram’s will offer four different burgers — grass-fed and finished beef, wagyu, pork, and lamb — as well as items like steak sandwiches. Certain Mulefoot favorites are staying, including the filet and the tavern will also serve some “throwbacks” such as smoked trout pate and maple sausage corndogs. Entrees will be offered a la carte with optional large, shareable sides such as cauliflower roasted with schmalz and cabbage roasted was short ribs and mustard.
One thing that the Romines plan to keep at Hiram’s: the service charge. The Mulefoot did away with tipping last summer in order to offer their employees more consistent paychecks. Mike says that despite the initial blowback from customers invested in tipping, the service charge has worked well. “Even right now in the dead of winter when we’re not doing very much business, these guys still make great paycheck,” he says. “What people need to understand about [the service fee] is it does not cost [customers] any more money. It’s the same thing. The only difference is that it allows us to offer healthcare and 401k.”
As for The Mulefoot, the Romines are looking to take their hit destination restaurant closer to customers in metro Detroit. While they still haven’t settled on an official location, Allison says they expect to finalize their plans within the next year.