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Father’s memory inspires NFM eatery

June 21, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Michael Dunaj and his father, Butch, shared a love of sports, food, and "Friends." And when Butch died of cancer in late 2015, Michael could think no better way to honor his memory than to name his hamburger place after him.

Butch's Famous Burgers, Chili and Dogs opened Jan. 3, and it serves as not only a great place for lunch, but also as an homage to dad, from the brownish, clay-colored paint to the episodes of "Friends" that run nonstop on the television to the pictures of father and son's Detroit roots.

After less than six months in business, Butch's has already won a Best of North Fort Myers award for best burger, which it received last week.

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From left, Taylor Cain-Cross, owner Michael Dunaj and Dannielle Zinderman at Butch’s Famous Burgers, Chili and Dogs at 4521 Bayshore Road.


Dunaj said he's always been a big foodie and watched cooking shows even as a kid. He was in auto repair for 20 years and "hated it with a passion."

"My wife and I talked about a restaurant in the past and when my dad passed, we used it as an opportunity to share what a great guy he was and pass it along with the food," Dunaj said.

Dunaj, who moved to Florida with his family in 2008, got the space at Weaver's Corner Shopping Center, facing Bayshore Road last April. It took eight months dealing with contractors before he was able to open.

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Butch's is designed to look like his father's living room.

"The color of his living room is called "Hitching Post," it's a really ugly color but he loved it. The pictures on the wall have to do with his work and the food we used to eat together," Dunaj said. The Tellway Restaurant in a picture hanging on the left-hand wall, a favorite place to eat which also served as an inspiration.

"They used to have those greasy little burgers that were cooked with onions, kind of like White Castle. These burgers are like that, but they're not small," Dunaj said.

Butch's got off to a fast start, as it opened at the peak of season. Even now, it has maintained a steady, if slower, flow of traffic, thanks to the wonderful reviews it has gotten.

"It reminds them of burgers their parents made when they were kids. We have people in their 70s and 80s who say their mom made burgers like that when they were kids. That's what we're going for," Dunaj said.

Butch's offers all sorts of burgers, as well as hand-cut fries and tater tots, as well as hand-battered onion strings, fried Oreos and Twinkies, chili dogs and more to keep the price point low. Burgers start at under $5.

Among the specials include $2 chili cheese dogs on Tuesday, tavern burgers, patterned after the White Castle burgers, garbage burgers with everything on them, three patties with skewers to hold it together, which is meant to serve three or four.

As for the "Best of" award, Dunaj said it came as something of a pleasant surprise.

"We were very excited about that. We proudly display it on our wall. It means a lot to us. To hear people say they really enjoy your food, that means a lot It's not about pushing food out the door, we want people to enjoy what we're doing," Dunaj said.

Butch's is at 4521 Bayshore Road. For more information visit their Facebook page or call 599-4165.



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