Big Rock Chophouse to close by end of year
By Lisa Brody
Birmingham's Big Rock Chophouse, set in the iconic Birmingham Train Station, will close for dinner and private events at the end of December, owners Norman and Bonnie LePage announced on Wednesday, September 8.
Big Rock Chophouse is located at 245 S. Eton Street in the historic Birmingham Train Station. Prior to opening as Big Rock Chophouse, the train station was restored in 1984 and converted into a signature restaurant called Norman’s Eton Street Station by restaurateurs Norman and Bonnie LePage, who began their long tenure in hospitality when they quit their jobs in 1969 and opened a doughnut shop. Their career includes more than 40 years of experience managing and operating some of the area’s most popular dining destinations, including The Squires Table and Nifty Normans in Walled Lake, to overseeing events and the opening of The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham in 1988.
Big Rock Chophouse has offered classic steakhouse fare with innovative twists, and became a popular dining destination, along with its Got Rocks, A Diamond Crown Cigar Lounge, located upstairs from the main dining room.
Big Rock Chophouse will be open for dinner and private events through Friday, December 31, 2021. The restaurant building will reportedly be available for lease after that date.
“We’ve been in this location for almost 40 years and the time has come for a changing of the guard,” stated Norm LePage. “We’re hoping all of our valued customers will want to enjoy dinner with us a few more times before we close. Our entire loyal and dedicated staff are planning on staying with us until the end. We will be working on placing them at some of our other restaurant locations including Lumen Detroit and Griffin Claw Brewing Company.”
To lay to rest unconfirmed reports circulating for the past month that the site will eventually become live/work units like those already in the Rail District, the restaurant building is not planned for removal, according to a spokeswoman for Big Rock Chophouse but will remain for lease. However, the neighboring events space, The Reserve, could well end up as a site for live/work units, a topic now scheduled to be discussed by the city planning commission.
The Birmingham Train Station was first opened on August 1, 1931, as the Birmingham Grand Trunk and Western Railroad Depot. Often compared to being a scaled-down imitation of the Birmingham, England,train station, the building is old Tutor Revival style and, at the time of its opening, was considered “modern” in every aspect. The roof was made from Vermont slate using a blended multi-color design. The structure’s herringbone pattern brick construction with half-timber in the gables became a recognizable trademark. This train depot was the third built to service the city of Birmingham and was a stop on the line between Detroit and Pontiac. Eventually maintenance costs and lack of use resulted in the closing of the railroad depot in 1978.
The building sat empty until 1984, when it was restored and converted into a signature restaurant by Norman and Bonnie LePage. It was named Norman’s Eton Street Station until 1997, when the LePage’s and their partners, Ray and Mary Nicholson, officially transformed it into Big Rock Chophouse. Today, much of the train station can still be found in the décor. The chandeliers hanging in the main dining room and entrance area are the same chandeliers displayed 80 years ago. All the restaurant’s windows are the original train station windows backed on the inside with new double pane windows. Many of the booths used throughout the restaurant were original seating found in the train station that was redesigned. Even the canopy at the entrance of the restaurant is the same one the train station used.