Michigan’s Best Local Food: Cleo’s Country Chef Goes Home

Cleo, MI – Dawn Bender and George Gujkaj are entrepreneurs at heart with years of experience in the restaurant industry.

Now, they’ve joined forces as co-owners of The Country Chef of Clio, which opened on Monday, August 1, at 2135 Vienna Road.

Breakfast is served all day, including a “country breakfast,” which includes three eggs, two slices of bacon, two sausage rings, a slice of ham and a pineapple ring served with homemade potatoes and toast.

The best dinner items on the menu are hamburgers, fish, gyros, and roast turkey. Everything is homemade.

“There are no restaurants like this on this side of town,” Bender said. “Good food, great prices. Friendly smiles and friendly service.”

Gojcaj, 58, has owned restaurants since 1988, and Binder has worked with him for the past five years. Gojcaj first came to the United States from Montenegro in 1984 and found work as a dishwasher in Seros.

“When I first came here, it was the easiest way to find a job,” he said of the food industry. “I didn’t know English, so restaurants were the easiest being a dishwasher.”

In 1988, Gojcaj opened Little Deli in Southfield. That was the start of his restaurant career, eventually owning Country Chef in 2015 in Troy, followed by locations in Essexville and Bad Axe. Bad Ax and Troy sites are currently closed.

Gojcaj’s, who drives an hour from his home in Sterling Heights every day, said the opening week exceeded his expectations.

“It’s more than I expected,” he said. “We don’t advertise. We just open the door, and for some reason, people just come in.”

Binder has been a server and hostess for 20 years and has worked with Gojcaj for the past five years in Bad Ax and Essexville.

“He was always someone’s partner, and he told me I was next,” Bender said. “And I took it. He just knows the business and is very good at what he does.”

Gojcaj did not hesitate to partner with Binder.

“Dawn is a hardworking and intelligent worker,” said Gojcag. “She knows what I like to do. I like to open up places and then give it to someone. I told her that if things went well, it would be for her.”

Bender, 40, grew up in Lexington and ran Telly’s Greenhouse for 20 years and a beard oil company. She also once owned a landscaping company.

“I like to go out and talk to people,” Bender said. “I like to see something come out of nothing and then become something big.”

Country Chef is open from 7 am to 9 pm Monday through Saturday and from 7 am to 8 pm on Sundays. For more information, search for The Country Chef on Facebook.

Would you like MLive to feature your favorite restaurant in the best local Michigan restaurants? Send details, including business name, address, and top menu item, to Fouad Shalhout at [email protected].

Read more about MLive:

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Meet Dwight Eichelberg: The Sweet Corn Lover Who Taught Actor Terry Crews

Best Local Michigan Restaurants: Beirut Restaurant is a pillar of the Flint community

Best Local Food in Michigan: Cluck Truck serves up Frankenmuth favorites on the go

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