Bonnie’s Diner in Phillips, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Apple Pie

Bonnie’s Diner

126 South Lake Avenue, Phillips, WI 54555
(715) 339-3404

I used to have a list an arm long of excellent small cafes around Wisconsin. I’d wend my way all round the state and revel in great coffee, great, simple food, and wonderful banter with the friendly locals.

Alas, so many of them have either been bought out, or gone out of business, that I’m literally down to my “short list” of cafes. It seems those plastic-fronted chains, where the pert little server uniforms normally are too tight, and too emblazoned with color and decorative trim; and where the “country” specials lack anything special, while the prices make you think you’ve just eaten in a five star Michelin restaurant in Paris or Lyon, have now taken over the cafe industry.

But. . .there is one that I still cherish: Bonnie’s in Phillips. Phillips is located in Price County right on Highway 13, and is easy to find. Bonnie’s is open early and late. Bonnie herself has been in the restaurant business for years, and now has branched into catering. And, while she’s no longer at the restaurant full time, you can be sure she’s always calling or running in at various times of each day to make sure things are running smoothly.

Great cafes have much in common, and Bonnie’s is no exception. An excellent cup of coffee. Breakfast served any time, without a sneer. Homemade breads and pies. Great soup. Simple, American food, done the way grandma used to. Modest prices. Large servings, and plenty of friendly banter, because the locals all hanker to these places.

Some of Bonnie’s “masterpieces” include huge bowls of different types of scratch soups. I very much enjoy the chicken dumpling (a northern Wisconsin mainstay) or the beef-vegetable. Plenty of crackers, and, when served with a sandwich, makes a great daily special for a couple of bucks.

The pies run the gamut from apple to banana cream, and most everything in between. Omelets, waffles, pancakes all are scratch made, and uniformly good. Daily specials (and there always are), include things like roast chicken (normally a Sunday special), meatloaf and mashed potatoes, hot beef sandwiches, spaghetti, tacos, sub sandwiches, and soup. The variety is endless. Bonnie’s always has some type of senior citizen’s special. I like that. It makes me feel good to know that most anyone can afford to eat in this place.

The place has that small town Wisconsin flavor to it. Clean bathrooms. Two separate dining areas. One for smokers. One for non-smokers. There’s a counter… true Americana. Scratch malts, shakes and sundaes, made the old fashioned way… .literally.

The folks in Phillips are wonderful and friendly. I’ve yet to go into Bonnie’s without striking up some type of conversation with locals. Lots of flavor of the area here, and the rich heritage of the people is evident. You’ll be hard pressed to spend more than five or six bucks for a meal, unless you want a steak or
something like that.

The only thing that saddens me is that Bonnie’s is one of the last of these types of places I know, and I continually travel the entire width and breadth of the state looking for them, without much success nowadays. I’ve known many, and now, like in Paris, the small cafe and bistro is quickly going the way of the buggy whip.

Wisconsin is the poorer for it.

[Image: Courtesy of Flickr user design boner]

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About the Author

Ray Smith is an author, lecturer, creative director and Senior Associate at Creative Brilliance, a full-service advertising and marketing communications company. He has been involved with northern Wisconsin tourism promotion and economic development for more than 20 years.

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