The North Bend Eagle

 
Broc Vyhlidal and head chef Brain Jurgens put together meals during the last week of business for Leroy's Steakhouse.

Leroy's Steakhouse turns off the grill

by Nathan Arneal
Published 7/6/22

One night last week the cramped kitchen at LeRoy’s Steakhouse was buzzing. Two people were assembling and dressing salads. Brian Jurgens and Broc Vyhlidal were doing pirouettes as they grabbed items from the cooler and placed them on the grill. A new batch of onion rings went into the firer.

“I got your mushrooms right here,” one said to the other.

“I have mushrooms here, too.” They looked at each other for a moment, shrugged, then went right back to work.

The level of focus and orchestration going on in the kitchen was impressive. It can be a bit of an adrenaline rush, Jurgens said.

“I love it,” he said. “The busier the better.”

Saturday night, the grill cooled down and went silent for the last time. LeRoy’s Steakhouse, a staple in North Bend through multiple decades and generations, is now closed.

While Jurgens was bouncing around the kitchen, Sara Bishop was doing the same in the dining room. She started working in the restaurant at the age of 14 and worked there throughout high school in the early ‘90s and during college breaks. The social aspect of seeing friends – both co-workers and customers – kept her coming back.

When Bishop and her family moved back to North Bend nine years ago, she started working at LeRoy’s around her nursing job. Three of her kids have also worked at LeRoy’s, continuing a rite of passage for area teens getting their first work experience in the local steakhouse.

LeRoy and Barb Bird bought the Frontier Steakhouse in 1978 and renamed it the Rawhide. The Birds retired in 2003 and sold the restaurant. Its replacement did not do well and soon went into foreclosure. The Birds then bought it back, unretired and reopened the Rawhide in January 2006.

When LeRoy was ready to retire a second time, his son David bought the steakhouse in early 2012 and brought in Jurgens as the chef.
Jurgens was one of the Rawhide’s first employees when LeRoy Bird opened it, and he worked there through high school. In college he got a job at Gorat’s Steak House in Omaha, famous for being one of Warren Buffet’s favorite hangouts.

“I cooked a lot of steaks for Warren back in the day,” Jurgens said.

Gorat’s was undergoing an ownership change when David Bird came calling, and Jurgens and his wife Julie decided they would move back home and run the Rawhide. Bird said he got lucky finding such an experienced chef who already had roots at the Rawhide.

“It is difficult to find someone like Brian,” Bird said. “He’s not only a good chef, but he’s a jack of all trades. If some piece of equipment breaks down, he can fix it. I couldn’t ask for a better chef.”

Bishop said the Jurgenses kept LeRoy’s culture and tradition alive.

“Brian and Julie care just as much as LeRoy did,” she said. “It was always important for everybody to have good customer service and to make sure orders are right.”

Soon after his second retirement, LeRoy Bird tragically died in a river accident. In 2013 his son renamed the steakhouse in his honor, and the Rawhide became LeRoy’s.

A decade after David Bird and the Jurgenses took over, they are ready to pass the baton to someone else.

 

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