Longtime Corktown café becomes a fresh, yet still inexpensive, Bobcat Bonnie’s
Photographs by chris and michelle gerard
Although Tiger Stadium is “looooong gone,” it’s been a whole new ballgame in Corktown recently. Even the Michigan Central Station looks moderately spiffy now that it has some new windows.
So it was no big surprise that when O’Blivions Corktown Café threw in the towel, there was a new eatery waiting in the on-deck circle.
Enter Bobcat Bonnie’s.
Gone are the green-topped tables. Ditto the Tiffany lamps and drop-ceiling tile. In their place is a fresh look, including yellow/gray “zig zag” patterns from Detroit Wallpaper Co. that give the place a quasi 3-D feel and paintings by the Golden Sign Co. team (that’s their mural outside Carhartt’s digs in Midtown).
Bonnie’s managing partner is Matt Buskard, a former Gold Cash Gold general manager who had done stints at places like The Winchester gastropub and its “What the Truck” mobile unit in his native Grand Rapids.
Buskard didn’t want to only appeal to the new crowds. “Corktown, as much as it is growing, is still a blue-collar area. I wanted a place where people from the local community can go and get really great food and good service, and not pay an arm or leg.”
So they didn’t change everything. There’s a dedication on the menu to “Mike and Rosie … who poured their heart and soul” into O’Blivions for 20 years. Lunch specials also make old regulars comfortable, including Buffalo chicken, grilled salmon, and fish and chips “exactly as they used to make them.”
That’s where the homage to O’Blivions ends. The rest of Bonnie’s eclectic menu is all over the place — but in a good way. Bologna sandwiches (Montreal style) sit side by side with vegetarian offerings like a mushroom dip or a sweet bean burger. Fried goat cheese and Kung Pao Brussels co-exist with a new take on chicken fingers, coated with Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal, no less (and so good that Food & Wine magazine recently featured them).
There are beef sliders with kimchi, lamb meatballs, mussels and frites, and a mushroom ceviche. Salads are crisp and fresh — especially the kale with chickpeas, golden raisins, cauliflower, avocado, and flax seeds.
And the prices? They range from bar snacks for $5 and under to entrée items like Lamb Ragu in the $10-$12 range. Top end? A teres major cut of wagyu beef for $14. Easy on the pocketbook, indeed.
There are dollar bottle beer nights and a Tuesday “sausage party” with a build-your-own station of treats from Little Town Jerky Co. near Cadillac.
The restaurant also hosts $3 build-your-own Bloody Marys or mimosas during brunch. The weekend fare is ambitious, too. Good old “S*** on a Shingle” gets an upgrade. Instead of creamed chipped beef on toast, a peppercorn-mushroom gravy with ground lamb sits on house-made biscuits. Cap’n Crunch makes an appearance on French toast. Other items we’ve yet to try (but are interested in sampling) are an Israeli egg and tomato casserole called Shakshuka and smoked salmon eggs Benedict.
Bottom line? From dollar beers and craft cocktails to burgers and inventive shared plates, Bobcat Bonnie’s has a little something for everyone.
Oh, and bring the kids, too. There are board games and a back room arcade/pinball area.
1800 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-1383. L & D daily, Br. Sat.-Sun. $12