Creativity and nonconformity fuel Studio Grill Lisa Mackinder
raig Dotson had dreamed of owning a restaurant for much of his life. This aspiration started back in high school when he spent summers working at his uncle’s Sterling Heights restaurant. “He would take me there and teach me how to cook,” Dotson says. His uncle was a professionally trained chef. During those summers, Dotson discovered two things he loved about the restaurant business: interacting with people and being creative. After spending 40 years as a general manager in the corporate restaurant world, an arena that Dotson says “doesn’t allow for deviation,” he finally realized his dream in 2010, opening Studio Grill at 312 W. Michigan Ave., in downtown Kalamazoo.
Studio Grill owner and chief chef Craig Dotson with the specials board in his downtown Kalamazoo restaurant.
“I love to play with food — different flavors, combining, and all of that,” Dotson says. “Life gets boring if you’re serving the same thing every day.” At Studio Grill, nonconformity is the norm. Dotson changes up the menu every few months and dreams up unconventional stuffed burgers, such as the Autumn Burger, stuffed with cinnamon apples and topped with bacon and peanut butter, or the Canyon Burger — the restaurant’s top-selling burger, he says — which is stuffed with jalapenos and topped off with cheddar, bacon, a fried egg and grape jelly.
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