Elevating an old favorite

rendering of The Butler’s new double-decker Patio Photos: RedWater
rendering of The Butler’s new double-decker Patio
Photos: RedWater

New double-decker patio brings vacation vibes to Saugatuck’s The Butler

By Courtney Birchmeier 

A staple in downtown Saugatuck for more than six decades, The Butler restaurant has long been recognized for its quality dining, spectacular views of Kalamazoo Lake harbor and the Saugatuck boardwalk, and of course, its signature Butler Burger.

the  butler  burger
the butler burger

The charm of the longstanding waterfront restaurant is one of the things that captivated RedWater Restaurant Group, which purchased the establishment last summer. 

“Our main goal is keeping The Butler’s legacy and traditions alive,” said Brian Behler, regional manager at RedWater. “RedWater is always looking to find those perfect hidden gems and iconic locations that’ll fit in with our portfolio of properties in Grand Rapids and the lakeshore. We’re excited to bring our RedWater way of operations as well as our food and beverage components to enhance and elevate The Butler experience.” 

New summer cocktails
New summer cocktails

Behler was quick to address that burning question for The Butler’s loyal following. What does this acquisition mean for the Butler Burger? The answer. It’ll remain on the menu, as it always has. 

“This place is known for the Butler Burger and its other burger offerings,” Behler said. “We want to honor the local community and the loyal following in any decision we make — whether it’s a change to the menu or décor.” 

If patrons are dining inside at The Butler, they may notice some subtle changes, like cloth napkins and glassware on the tables. The walls are a little less cluttered to expose more of the historic building’s warm woodwork. The menu still holds old favorites but is now mixed with some RedWater signature dishes as well. But the biggest difference diners will find at The Butler is its new, two-story patio. 

Twice the patio fun 

A much-anticipated addition to The Butler is its new double-decker, covered, open-air patio, which should be fully operational in early July. Behler said the new patio space, which can seat 220-plus, is nearly four times as large as the restaurant’s previous outdoor space. 

The patio features two wrap-around bars, one on each level, as well as a dedicated, state-of-the-art kitchen. 

crab cakes
crab cakes

“We’ll be able to offer more selection on the patio than before,” said Leanne Stoll, marketing director at RedWater. “Previously, it had a pretty limited menu, but we’re adding a new kitchen which will help us keep up with all these new options out there and some really great cocktails.

“We have extremely talented bartenders in the company who helped us create some amazing, fresh and refreshing cocktails for the summer that really add to the experience of dining out there on the patio.” 

Patrons will find the patio menu to be very similar to what’s offered inside, with classics and new dishes like pizza and calamari to enjoy in the open air. 

As for the patio’s design, Behler said the goal was for the patio to blend in with its surroundings. 

“The corner where The Butler is situated in downtown Saugatuck is a very park-like setting with a huge old willow tree,” he said. “When we began designing this new patio space, we knew we wanted to keep the setting intact.

“The patio space has a very nautical feeling — lots of cedar wood, black iron, clean lines and it just fits really well. We didn’t want it to stand out, although it really does stand out. It is a big enhancement to the property and a complete transformation from what was here before.”  

The main level of the patio is open for patrons, with the second level nearing completion soon. During the peak season, all patio dining will be first come, first served. 


The deck will feature live music throughout the summer, too. 

“When dining on the patio, we want our guests to feel like they’re on vacation, even if it’s their hometown,” Stoll said. “It’s The Butler everyone knows and loves, just elevated — quite literally elevated above the water and the boats.” 

“We’re keeping that historic charm and character of what The Butler is and staying true to the authentic roots that the past owners have created,” Behler said. “But we also want guests to step away saying ‘Hey, this is a great new spot.’”

The Butler
40 Butler St., Saugatuck