By Charlie Kadado
The recipe of success for the Elnachar family of Sterling Heights includes a lifelong dream and plenty of hard work. Prompted by ambition and a determined work ethic, the family of 6 worked assiduously until their aspirations became a reality.
In November 2003, in hopes of providing more desirable opportunities for their four children, Claude and Henriette Elnachar immigrated to the Detroit area with nothing more than an ambitious dream.
Although it didn’t come easy, the Elnachar family spent years improving their talents by working several jobs in diverse industries. Finally, after 8 years of private sector experience, they decided to combine their skills and open Courthouse Café and Grill in Downtown Mount Clemens.
The Elnachar family opened the restaurant in March 2013, after spending two months prior remodeling, purchasing appliances and equipment, and refining their menu.
“Just like every immigrant’s dream to come to the United States and achieve their goals and plans – we wanted to be successful,” said Wadad Elnachar, one of the restaurant managers. “We’re all hard workers in the family, so instead of working in separate places, we decided to combine our skills and open up our own place. Each one of us had a role in doing something.”
The family’s patriarch, Claude Elnachar, beams from ear to ear when he talks about his life growing up in Lebanon. Elnachar served in the Lebanese Army and Lebanese Forces militia, where he learned how to prepare authentic Lebanese dishes for himself and fellow soldiers.
“I used to watch and see how other people cook and follow what they did,” Elnachar said. “We follow recipes that are passed down from our parents and grandparents.”
Claude and his wife Henriette have perfected their culinary talents over several decades. They offer 67 years of combined culinary experience, from preparing holiday luncheons at home to providing catered meals for hundreds.
Courthouse Café and Grill is all about one family’s desire to fulfill the American dream. In May 2013, the restaurant rebranded by excluding their original breakfast menu and enhancing authentic Lebanese dishes for lunch and dinner.
Sisters Wadad and Rachelle Elnachar worked together to design the menu, train servers, and ensure superior customer service. Their older sister Eliane Elnachar helped select furniture and decorations. And according to Wadad, “Eliane’s job is (also) to come in and look pretty.” Finally, their older brother Bachir helps with paperwork and financial-related aspects of the restaurant.
“We go months and months without a day off, but at the end, it feels like home,” says Wadad. “We see our family everyday, we work together and we get to know each other more. In the end, we’re always thinking about how to become better – how to grow, satisfy, and make everyone happy.”
Working together sometimes meets its challenges, according to Wadad. She says the long working hours are “physically and mentally tiring.” Although she admits family stubbornness, they learn to work together for the best of the business.
“My mom wants to play Fairuz, my dad wants Abdel Halim Hafez, I don’t want any of it, but I have to listen to it,” she told Lebanese Examiner.
Courthouse Café and Grill has become a signature Lebanese restaurant and one of the few open-late restaurants in the business district of Downtown Mount Clemens.
Wadad says their most popular items are chicken shawarma and fattoush. They also sell garlic paste and salad dressing in high quantity.
“Our customers absolutely love it. They love the idea of the whole mom-and-pop shop,” she said.
Longtime customer and local business owner Bobby Staszak picks up a smoothie and salad on many evenings. He says their salad dressing is “definitely addicting.”
“It adds it’s own little character and you get a different style food – different flavors for sure,” Staszak said.
These are the same flavors that native Lebanese immigrants also enjoy.
“There are a lot of Lebanese people who come in and always tell us that the food tastes exactly how their mom or grandma used to cook it at home,” Wadad said.
For this large, striving family, their success story didn’t come easy. Despite daily obstacles, the Elnachar family says they feel “accomplished.”
“It’s always been our dream to have our own business. Not only have we opened it, but we also kept it, and grew it.”
For more information about Courthouse Café and Grill, visit courthousecafeandgrill.com