Detroit-based gastropub Bobcat Bonnie’s is bringing its many beer taps and Cap’n Crunch chicken fingers to Ypsilanti this fall. Owner Matthew Buskard tells Eater that the restaurant group will soon open its fourth location in the city’s historic downtown district in a building currently home to Bona Sera Restaurant.
Buskard says Bona Sera’s owners are in the process of transitioning out of the restaurant business. The restaurant’s last service will be brunch on Sunday, September 15. After that, Bonnie’s team will begin transitioning the property at 200 W. Michigan Ave. to fit with the aesthetic of its other restaurants.
The property features two levels with roughly 3,500-square-feet on the first floor and space for 100 customers. The plans include updating the seating and floors as well as rebuilding the bar. Buskard says the lower level spans 2,500-square-feet and can accommodate up to 150 patrons.
Bonnie’s team intends to transform the lower level into an arcade bar space with around 15 vintage arcade consoles and pinball games as well as Skee-Ball and shuffleboard. The arcade is somewhat of a callback to the early days of Bonnie’s when the Corktown location featured several arcade games; the games were later removed to make way for additional seating. Buskard says he and his partners have yet to decide whether the arcade bar will have a different name.
The menu will be identical to previous Bobcats with options like vegan tofu banh mi, burgers, spicy chicken bowls, and loaded tater tots. Ypsilanti’s restaurant will also have an extensive beer list with between 8 and 12 choices on draft and many more selections offered in cans and bottles.
Ypsilanti has always been in our vision,” Buskard says of the decision to expand beyond metro Detroit. “It’s a cool, hip, artsy kind of area that’s growing a lot and it has a really vibrant restaurant downtown scene.” Many years ago, Buskard says he worked as a manager at Aubree’s Pizzeria and Grill, which was founded in Ypsilanti, and the restaurateur says that he became well-acquainted with the area through that experience.
The Bonnie’s restaurant group has a demonstrated track record of identifying and taking over already operating or recently vacated restaurant locations, which has helped fuel the company’s fast growth. The first Bonnie’s opened in August 2015 after a short renovation of the shuttered O’Blivion’s Corktown Cafe. Two years later, the group expanded to Wyandotte in the former Bourbon’s restaurant and bar and last October welcomed its third location in Ferndale in a space previously home to Zeke’s Rock and Roll BBQ.
When it comes to growing the restaurant business, Buskard says he’s always looking for new opportunities. The restaurant group is currently scouting out a potential fifth outpost to open in early 2020 in the Macomb County area — possibly near Partridge Creek. He’s also considered expanding into Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Toledo. “One of the biggest things is that we really don’t want to become where every city in every corner has one,” he says. “We’re open to opening more. We just want to make sure that the communities we’re opening in get who we are and are receptive to us.”
Meanwhile, Buskard says that he’s beginning to explore other restaurant concepts beyond the Bonnie’s brand. “We also want to start doing some fun one-off projects,” he adds.
Buskard estimates that Bobcat Bonnie’s Ypsilanti will open in the first half of October for dinner service and then gradually introduce brunch and lunch services.
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