From cornhole leagues to corporate events, craft cocktails, and cauliflower enchiladas, the plans for Sam Hill are as expansive as its six-plus-acre site along Honey Creek.

“Really what drives us, it’s just creating really cool spaces for people to have a great time,” says Sam Hill’s Zack Zavisa (center, holding Duncan). Others from left: Armando Lopez, Nick Dean, Zan Dean, and Carrie Hatfield. | Photo: J. Adrian Wylie

“My perfect summer day definitely involves a frozen daiquiri and throwing some bags and listening to a local band out in the sun, so we’re trying to build that out here as many days of the year as we can,” says Nick Dean, general manager for the full-service restaurant/outdoor bar venue set to open Labor Day weekend.

The Jackson Rd. property—previously Standard Bistro & Larder, and Creekside Grill before that—represents the most ambitious project yet for the local BarStar Group, which also owns Monty’s Public House on Packard and Babs’ Underground, Nightcap, and Lo-Fi downtown.

CEO and co-owner Micah Bartelme came up with the name, a reference to the nineteenth-century surveyor instrumental in the development of Michigan’s copper mining industry. The copper-clad bar inside is a nod to the famously foul-mouthed man whose name became a euphemism to replace expletives. Its use here is more “for just the playfulness. It’s kind of a curiosity that it creates,” explains Zack Zavisa, the group’s director of operations. “Really what drives us, it’s just creating really cool spaces for people to have a great time, so this certainly fits the bill.”

A new hardscape outdoor seating area features a shipping container converted into a bar. Outdoor patrons can order from the pizza kitchen or bar from their phones. A German beer hall–styled lager called Sam Helles is an exclusive offering from Wolverine State Brewing Co. “We were trying to make something perfect for drinking out in the lawn there,” Dean says, “and I think we nailed it.”

Besides cornhole, the large yard backing to the wooded banks of the creek will play host to bocce ball and giant versions of Jenga and Connect Four, as well as that campus favorite, beer pong. They hope to continue deep into the fall. “Michiganders are pretty hardy about fire pits and cornhole in sweatshirts,” Dean says, “so as long as people want to be out there…” 

Sam Hill can accommodate 180 inside the restaurant and on its second-floor deck overlooking the yard with table service. The ground-level events space can host another 150. “We’ve already got two high school reunions planned, and we haven’t even opened our reservation system yet,” Dean reports.

Culinary director Armando Lopez, a veteran of Frita Batidos, Sava’s, Aventura, Eve, and Sidetrack, says he’s aiming to “use Michigan products for this as much as possible” as he puts his twist on regional American comfort food, along with a separate weekend brunch menu. The mole-braised short ribs derive from his Mexican grandmother’s recipe, and there’s a version of the Hot Brown sandwich that originated in Louisville, Kentucky; it’s prepared on a skillet with sourdough bread, bacon, tomato, and béchamel sauce. Other offerings include goat cheese grits, Minneapolis-style stuffed burgers, charbroiled oysters, and mini-pasty appetizers. Entrées are in the $15–$28 range, and there are vegan and gluten-free options.

Sam Hill plans to celebrate its grand opening with a September 30 benefit for the Humane Society of Huron Valley, with family- and pet-friendly activities and outdoor live music.

Sam Hill, 5827 Jackson Rd., (734) 369–8202. Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.–midnight, Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Closed Mon.