Clover Bar – A place where friendly people hang out

Story and photos by Elizabeth Granger

Braxton Wilson tosses dough for the thin-but-not-too-thin crust
Braxton Wilson tosses dough for the thin-but-not-too-thin crust

The ambiance at the Clover Bar in Grand Haven is most definitely of the past. Think 1960s, when things were done differently. Think bellbottoms and paisley shirts, said co-owner Steve Musial. 

The décor, for sure, speaks of that time. So does the cuisine. And that, in essence, is the charm. And the Clover Bar’s continuing culinary triumph.

While the pizza toppings and crust ingredients have grown to satisfy 21st century tastebuds, the making of those pizzas remains right out of the mid-20th century, when food was real, and fresh, and made to order. Nothing here is instant except, perhaps, the service. 

Brothers Steve and TJ Musial went to work at the Clover Bar in the late ’60s. It was downtown on Washington Street at the time. Steve made pizzas; TJ tended bar. 

About eight years later the bar moved to the Beechtree Street location. The Musials made the move with it. And then, sometime in the late ’70s, the brothers bought the business. 

Even then it was known for its pizza. With that thin-but-not-too-thin homemade crust. It’s kept people coming back for years. Les and Donna Henderson of Spring Lake are among the regulars. 

“We’ve been coming here since before we were married,” Donna Henderson said. They’ve been married 52 years.

The Hendersons were at the bar on a recent evening, waiting for their pizza. A large deluxe. 

‘If there are four of us, we eat it all,” Les Henderson said. “If just two of us, we take half of it home. We like it cold as well as hot.”

He continued, “We enjoy the people. We enjoy the food. It’s a nice family atmosphere. The kids always wanted to come here for birthdays and holidays. And we see a lot of friends.”

Donna Henderson added, “It’s a place where friendly people hang out.” 

Musial smiled, nodded, and said, “The new customers are welcome — and the old ones keep coming back.”

And as with most businesses, Musial said they are glad to be open again after the COVID closings. There was take-out of pizzas. “We still haven’t bounced back,” Musial said. But a full house definitely looks positive.

Clover Bar pizza

There’s a full bar, separated from one of the dining areas with a half wall supporting a long row of thick red spindles. Black-and-white photos are propped up on a ledge. One pictures the original Clover Bar on Washington, with a ’50s-era auto parked in front. There are athletic shirts from Grand Haven High School. Shirts from decades ago. One was signed by Howie Bailey, who went on to pitch for the Detroit Tigers. A neon “Clover Bar” sign – in green, of course – is on a wall. 

Arcade games for the kids fill an alcove near the entrance.

The busy kitchen hums with an assembly line that turns out hundreds of pizzas, each one individually made. On a recent evening, high school sophomore Braxton Wilson patted out a ball of dough and then tossed it into the air. Yes, there’s hand-tossed pizza here. 

Junior Hart Gasser spread sauce — the Clover’s secret recipe sauce — on the flattened dough. A line of additional workers topped each with customers’ requests.

There are more than 15 available pizza toppings. The best seller is the deluxe, with sausage, pepperoni, green pepper and mushroom. There also are veggie, gluten-free, low-carb and cauliflower crust options. 

Thursdays are pasta night with lasagna and spaghetti. There are always sandwiches, too, which include Italian beef, ham, turkey … as well as salads and breadsticks.

Take-out is about 50% of sales, Musial said, with the other half in-house dining. 

“We don’t go to any other pizza place in town,” Les Henderson said. 

Clover Bar
601 S. Beechtree St., Grand Haven
(616) 846-3580
cloverbar.com

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