A new Wolverine

. February 27, 2013.
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On a recent outing at Wolverine Grill, an old-school Ypsilanti spot, I had an exchange that made me realize what a time machine the diner experience has become for kids today.

“Let’s go look at the jukebox,” I suggested to my daughter while we waited for our food.

“What’s a jukebox?” my five-year-old asked. I froze, suddenly realizing that I was old. “Oh, a juice box!” she deduced before I could answer.
We checked out the music-making artifact for a few moments, also noticing the rock n’ roll posters on the walls. Stepping into the Wolverine Grill in downtown Ypsilanti is a bit like stepping back in time. The jukebox is by the front door, swivel stools at the lunch counter, a tin ceiling overhead, and booths are perched atop a black and white checkered floor. The restaurant oozes history. Food has been served at this location since 1927 yet there’s nothing old-fashioned about the food served at Wolverine Grill. Last fall, new owner Kevin Hill, a retired culinary arts instructor, unveiled a retooled breakfast and lunch menu. There’s an emphasis on diner classics with a fresh twist. Food is locally sourced when possible (during the summer, they use produce from Growing Hope Urban Farm).

My family of four slid into a booth on our recent lunchtime visit. I spied sandwiches, salads and burgers on the lunch menu; pancakes, omelets, and egg dishes on the breakfast menu (served anytime). The daily specials included a spaghetti bowl and root vegetable omelet. The kids’ menu included three breakfast and three lunch choices, all under $4, served with one side and a fresh vegetable garnish.
Half of us ordered breakfast, the other half lunch. My five-year-old daughter chose a scrambled egg with potatoes ($3.25) and my husband selected a Breakfast Burger with Wolverine Potatoes ($6). My son and I selected the kid’s cheeseburger and fries ($3.75) and the Big Club with a cup of chicken and dumplings soup ($7.50), respectively.

“This is really good,” my daughter said of her Wolverine Potatoes, homemade chunks of lightly fried and seasoned spuds. My husband enjoyed his breakfast burger, a beef patty topped with melted cheddar and two eggs, cooked over hard as requested, on multigrain toast. He found it hearty, and sized just right.

My nine-year-old gobbled up his kid’s cheeseburger, which was sized as a slider. I was left wondering if it was time for him to order off the regular menu. He ignored the cauliflower, lettuce, and carrot garnish on his plate while his sister ate her garnish with gusto. My Big Club lived up to its name. Two pieces of lightly toasted multigrain bread covered generous chunks of roasted turkey, iceberg lettuce, tomato, and bacon with a tangy herb mayo on the side. The chicken and dumplings soup boasted plenty of chicken and small dumplings with onions, carrots, and parsley. I found it comforting and good.

There was no time for dessert yet part of me wanted to linger over a root beer float or ice cream sundae in hopes that Fonzie, Richie, and the gang from Happy Days would stop by. With its updated menu and cheerful surroundings, the Wolverine Grill is a fresh take on the classic diner.

Katy M. Clark is a freelance writer from Saline.

 

THE SHORT COURSE
Kid-friendly: Yes
To avoid wait: Saturday and Sunday mornings are busiest for families
Noise level: Medium
Bathroom amenities: Small, cozy restrooms without changing tables
High chairs? Yes
Got milk? Yes, plus lemonade, soda, and juice
Kids’ menu? Yes
Anything healthy for kids? There are vegetarian and pasta dishes, plus all kid’s meals are served with fresh veggie garnish.
Food allergy concerns? The toast is gluten-free. Talk with your server who will work with the cook to accommodate allergies. Food can be cooked separately and ingredients identified.