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Neighborhood restaurants and bars have to keep things fresh to keep regulars interested. At Gilbert's Lodge in St. Clair Shores, they have a hit on their hands with saganaki pizza. 

The flatbread special is served flambéed at the table like a plate of the Greek cheese appetizer with a holler of "opa!" and a squeeze of lemon to put the flame out. 

Don't expect the same poof of fire that you'd get with regular saganaki, though, where the cheese is in a metal pan and not on bread. Gilbert's saganaki flatbread pizza is more subtle, flame-wise, than the classic appetizer, but it's an easier way to eat the kasseri cheese dish, rather than scraping it onto a piece of pita. 

The cheese-y shareable is found on the specials menu for $10.95. Add sausage or gyro meat for $2. 

"The response has been crazy," said general manager Flip Ulrich about the flaming special dish. "The owner (Louie Bricolas) is Greek, so we do a regular saganaki here, sometimes we do a saganaki burger." 

She said one Sunday morning about two months ago while watching the Lions game, Bricolas' friend chef Bobby Nahra came up with the idea. 

"He and Louie went into the kitchen, they brought it out, lit it on fire and people loved it," said Ulrich, who has been working at Gilbert's since the 1980s. 

It's a unique item that they're having fun with, and the hunting cabin-themed bar and restaurant deserves a little fun after suffering a devastating about five years ago. 

Ulrich said they had to close for nearly an entire year to rebuild, but since then she says she thinks business has about doubled.

"It's been the worst thing that happened to us and the best thing that happened to us," she said. "I think it's one of those things that people are just comfortable here and they didn't realize what they had until it was gone."

Besides sagnaki pizza, Gilbert's serves a large menu of bar food including sliders, wings, burgers, deep dish pizza and comfort foods like ribs and mac and cheese. There's also a kids menu. Kids of all ages can enjoy the model train that moves around the dining room on a track near the ceiling. 

Gilbert's Lodge is at 22335 Harper in St. Clair Shores. Call (586) 772-9720 or visit gilbertslodge.com. 

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