With the culinary team assembled and renovations nearly complete, founding partner Matt Buskard tells Eater that Bobcat Bonnie's gastropub is narrowing in on opening day. During a tour of the former O'Blivions space last week, Buskard offered a peek at what he's been up to since announcing his plans to revamp the restaurant in May.
The yellow paint, drop ceiling, and white tiled floors are a thing of the past and formerly green laminate-topped tables are slowly being updated with black enamel and a darker wood-stain. Sleek yellow bar stools have also replaced O'Blivions rounded black-cushioned seats. In the coming weeks, Buskard also plans to install church pews along the wall as well as Edison lights, geometric wallpaper, and a bowling alley-wood table designed Slow's owner Phil Cooley.
Even in its incomplete form, the restaurant's atmosphere already feels relaxed and comfortable, the way a neighborhood bar should be. The team including bar manager Alisha Garlow, and cooks Michael Lloyd and Beren Ekine-Hewitt sit at the bar taste-testing beers from Perrin Brewing near Grand Rapids and discussing the menu, during their weekly meeting.
"For every meat-heavy, in-your-face dish, we're going to do something lighter and healthy."
Collaborating on the menu came easily for Lloyd and Hewitt. Both have experience working on the West Coast (Lloyd in Los Angeles and Hewitt in Portland, Oregon) and met in the kitchens at Gold Cash Gold where they worked as line cooks. "We talked about wanting to do something a little different. Stuff you don't really see here or stuff that reminds us of our childhood. Not every dining experience has to be white tablecloth or aspire to that," Hewitt says.
Bonnie's developing menu includes a mix of vegetable-forward dishes and craveable bar fare with a twist including beet tartare, veggie tempura, grilled fish tacos, deep fried olives, and Captain Crunch chicken fingers. "For every meat-heavy, in-your-face dish, we're going to do something lighter and healthy," Hewitt adds. "Fresh fun and something that is accessible for everybody."
Unlike some cocktail bars with drinks composed of a list of branded liquors, the beverage menu features simple, straightforward descriptions. Alisha Garlow, who previously designed bar programs for Marriott hotels, says diners can expect "fresh, local ingredients and a lot of herbs and infusions" like the mango-peach cocktail made with fruit-infused vodka, Crème de Banana, orange juice, pineapple juice. Keeping in line with the theme of affordability, cocktails and other beverages will ring in at $7 or less.
Moving forward, Buskard hopes to develop a strong culture at Bonnie's with a sense of community both in the restaurant and beyond. "We don't necessarily just want to target the suburbs. We want to target everybody." Bonnie's expects to begin hiring staff in the next two weeks, with the aim of opening at the end of July.