When Becky Moosbrugger took over Bonnie’s Cafe from her mother, Bonnie Rolle, she never imagined an end to the legacy her mother started 38 years ago. The family-owned diner, which began its humble life on University and Western avenues before moving to its last location on University and Vandalia Street 34 years ago, was a beloved neighborhood breakfast joint where Rolle served anyone who needed a good meal, whether they could afford it or not.
When she died from pancreatic cancer in 2013, Moosbrugger took over, imagining she would pass it on to her own children. But that was not to be. This winter Moosbrugger found out landlord M&J Enterprises would not renew her lease. It was a shock to Moosbrugger and a big loss to the community.
After Bonnie’s lease was not renewed, M&J Enterprises approached the Dubliner about taking over the space.
The pub will open a cafe later this summer. According to proprietor Geri Connelly Scanlon, the space has been buffed up but the old-fashioned diner vibe will remain.
“We are reusing some refinished booths and stools. We kept some of the original items, but put our own touch on it,” she said. “There are artists creating art pieces on the tables.” As a nod to Bonnie’s everlasting imprint on the neighborhood, one of the tables will include photos of some of Bonnie’s past patrons, taken from bulletin boards left behind after it closed.
Chef Bill Nieman has been brought on to offer an approachable, Irish-influenced menu. “There will be some Irish staples like Guinnessbattered fish and chips, but it’s not all Irish food,” Nieman said. “We still want the breakfast diner feel, so I will have standard breakfast fare that everyone counts on.”
He is also bringing in higher level entrees like eggs benedict with salmon, pulled pork, burnt-ends brisket and chicken-fried steak with salsa verde. “I want the essence of home-cooked but elevated,” he said. Nieman plans to bring in a meatand- cheese tray from Red Table Meat Co. and Lone Grazer Creamery from Irishman Kieran Folliard’s Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis. Nieman has hired Kate Mudge, formerly with Colossal Cafe, to craft fresh pies and other goodies daily.
The cafe will open at 7 a.m. for breakfast and lunch and close at 3 p.m., when the kitchen will begin serving the pub for happy hour and dinner until 11 p.m.
Alex Lodner writes about food and community news regularly in the Park Bugle.