Monday, 17 January 2022 12:21

Bobcat Bonnie's: The Cat's Meow

Written by  Josh Veal
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Bobcat Bonnie's. Bobcat Bonnie's. Courtesy Photo

Despite being an Eastside institution, Bobcat Bonnie’s was born and raised in West Michigan.

That is to say, founder Matt Buskard comes from Allendale and has tons of connections to Grand Rapids, but he began his growing restaurant in 2015 in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. The name came from Matt’s partner Joey and his legendary grandmother, Bonnie, who got her nickname from driving a Bobcat around their farm in Ohio. 

Since then, they’ve grown to six locations, including Grand Rapids at 1968 Breton Road. Taking over the former Houlihan’s Restaurant + Bar location, Buskard is excited to return home, in a sense, bringing Bobcat Bonnie’s unique approach to food, drinks and vibes to the West side of the state.

The restaurant’s initial goal was to bring something both affordable and delicious to Corktown, when the options were limited to expensive eateries like Gold Cash Gold and greasy spoons like Coney Island. We’re a fan of both, but the area needed a middle ground — snazzier food with better value.

Since then, Bobcat Bonnie’s has been providing creative eats with a variety of influences, using fresh, quality ingredients at a reasonable price — the average entrée price is $13, which is extremely reasonable in 2022. Burgers, bowls, sandwiches, salads, large plates, they have it all.

On top of that, the restaurant has a slew of vegan options and an iconic brunch. Personally, Bonnie’s has been my go-to brunch spot every time I’m in Detroit. The menu is huge and full of savory and sweet options, from waffles to bennies and beyond. Then there are the Bloody Mary and Mimosa bars, which are bigger than anywhere else I’ve ever eaten. 

Even more unique is the Cereal Shooter Flight, with a selection of alcoholic cereal shots to choose from, such as the Cinnamon Toast Crunch, with vanilla rum, Rumchata and almond milk.

“I love breakfast. I love brunch spaces,” Buskard said. “Every time I go anywhere, that is always like, my big goal, is to find a place where we can have breakfast or brunch. It’s always been a little, mini obsession of mine — and I always wanted to have a brunch that was really fun, really flavorful, and kind of over-the-top, which is really what we’re going for.”

Of course, there’s much more to Bonnie’s than brunch. Dinner is excellent too, featuring dishes like Buskard’s personal favorite: the Spicy Chicken Bowl. This is a hearty meal, but balanced as well. Grilled BBQ chicken, corn, black beans, pico, edamame, cheddar, bacon, brown rice and jalapeno ranch all come together to create a bowl that’s both filling and well-rounded. And that’s for only $12! 

Buskard also recommends the Bobcat Burger, with an onion ring, BBQ sauce, cheddar and bacon, for $13.50 — and the Everything Soft Pretzels shareable, which is just what it sounds like. On top of that, the desserts are all made in-house by pastry chef Lindsay Love.

Six locations in six years is amazingly successful, especially in the midst of a global pandemic and staffing shortage. But Bobcat Bonnie’s was simply waiting for the right moment to pounce in Grand Rapids, and that moment arrived when Houlihan’s closed their doors.

“We wanted to wait for Grand Rapids. We took our time, becaue we really wanted to make sure that we found the right spot,” Buskard said. “Like, when we were looking at downtown, there are so many places opening that you almost get lost in the shuffle of it all. We really wanted to come to an area that we could actually have an impact on. So when we got this opportunity to come into the Houlihan’s space, it was our ideal situation. I mean, we really wanted that space.” 

Since opening, Bobcat has been a smash hit. Sure, they’ve had the usual bumps in the road of opening a new restaurant — including the wind carrying away two outdoor igloos like kites on the beach — but overall, the staff is excited to be there and the community is glad to have them.

If you’re looking for a lively, colorful spot with creative drinks and food for an affordable place, not to mention weekly specials, vegan options and fun events, Bobcat Bonnie’s is the place to be. All Buskard asks is that you’re understanding of any potential ups and downs as they continue to make the restaurant the best it can be. “We’re so pumped and so excited to be here. And if anything happens, if an experience isn’t positive, please, please let us know. We genuinely care and we genuinely want to make it right immediately.

“We’re just really excited to be here, and we’re excited to be a part of the community.” 

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