The New Bohemian Cafe rolls with the changes
By Jillian Manning | April 16, 2022
Tucked away behind sunset orange doors on Waukazoo Street in Northport is a 1,000 square foot space filled with the smell of fresh coffee and hot pastries. The New Bohemian Café is one of the few restaurants in the town at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula that remains open year round and in doing so has become a community venue for locals and seasonal visitors.
“[We are a] a place to gather, a place to check in with your neighbors, a place to read a book,” says co-owner Amy Murphy. “That sense of the café’s gathering place that’s embedded in the New Bohemian Café’s name has really been able to hold together even with the circumstances of the pandemic.”
A change of pace
Amy and her husband, Kevin, are from Grand Rapids through Southwest Michigan. The duo worked in the food industry in their younger years, but spent more than a decade in marketing and communications before the hustle and bustle of corporate life got too much. Shortly after the arrival of their first child, they knew they wanted to find a slower, more intentional pace of life.
They moved to Northport in 2014, mixing bill-paying marketing consultancy with their dream of reconnecting with nature through farming. But even then, there was always a draw to get more food and hospitality into their world.
“Throughout our lives, we’ve always come back to food and drink as the table that really connects people,” Amy says. “For me, that’s what really excites me: this connection between people and giving them a moment to slow down and be together.”
The opportunity to take the leap into restaurant ownership presented itself somewhat unexpectedly in 2018 when the Waukazoo Street property came up for sale. Kevin immediately knew he didn’t want to see a tourist trap filling the space, especially when the community lacked a cafe and a place to grab a quick but delicious bite on a work day.
Thus, New Bohemian Café was born. (The name is a nod to the area’s Polish and Czech history, though the menu leans more Italian and American.) The Murphys bought the space in 2018 and opened in the spring of 2019 with a concept focused on on wine, cheese, charcuterie, and groceries.
A change of…everything
A year later, COVID changed the game. Wine tastings were not an option. Grocery and deli options are gone. After the first closing in the spring of 2020, the Murphys even feared that they would have to close the café and declare bankruptcy. But what was left – a breakfast and lunch that served exceptional coffee – kept diners happy.
“Due to the fact that we were already so new before the pandemic, we were kind of figuring it out and dropping things that weren’t working and adding new things. We’ve been constantly refining what we’ve been doing for three years now,” says Kevin.
“Our offerings have adapted to the circumstances of our community’s needs,” adds Amy.
After changing its business model and menu, New Bohemian Café has settled into a tasty groove. The cafe is currently open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. seven days a week, with breakfast served all day along with a variety of pastries and lunch options.
The Kev McMurphin is a breakfast menu best seller, the cafe’s version of the famous McDonald’s sandwich, but with upgrades like chilli garlic mayonnaise and hash browns to complete the combo classic sausage, egg and cheese. Homemade NewBo Cinnamon Roll is a big hit for foodies, and bagels from Bubbie’s Bagels in Traverse City make the perfect on-the-go meal.
No morning is complete without a cup of coffee, and this is where New Bohemian Café shines. Their coffee — custom blends from Coffee Express, an independent roaster operating in Plymouth, Michigan, since 1975 — arrives hot within 24 hours of roasting. Amy says the freshness of the product combined with its high quality equipment creates a consistently superior drink.
“We’re more of a traditional Italian style espresso than a new wave espresso,” she explains. “It has this really rich, sweet, almost caramelized flavor. … It’s a cup you could have gotten 50 years ago in Italy, and it’s a cup you can get now.
Customers can enjoy a standard espresso or a cortado (half espresso, half milk with a touch of foam) or an Americano. In fact, Amy says they can make just about any coffee drink you want…just be cool and don’t order a wild Starbucks drink. Two of the most creative offerings on the menu include the Honey Cardamom Latte and the Vanilla Cinnamon Latte, both of which offer the perfect blend of sweetness and spice to brighten up your morning.
At lunchtime, the Turkey Sandwich (roast turkey, bacon, dill havarti, lettuce, tomato, red onion and cucumber with pesto mayonnaise and honey mustard) reigns supreme. Close contenders for the customer favorite include the Italian sandwich stacked with savory meats and the Figgy Piggy, a special that has made the leap to the full-time menu.
“It’s a very simple sandwich, but with very balanced flavors: the sweetness of fig jam, the creamy and slightly tart Brie, then the salty and meaty beauty of prosciutto”, explains Kevin.
Finally, soups are available during the colder months (yes, that means right now). The rotating selection often features gluten-free and vegetarian offerings with flavors from around the world. Pro Tip: Grab a cup of Pumpkin Curry Bisque before it’s gone for the summer.
A change of season
As the New Bohemian Café looks forward to summer 2022, a few new offerings are on the horizon. For a treat on a hot July day, the restaurant will offer three frozen drink options. While the details are still being ironed out, Kevin says we can expect an iced latte or Frappuccino, a frosted lemonade and a version of an Italian gelato.
A bigger update brings a coffee truck in the form of a refurbished 1960s Volkswagen bus. Featuring a condensed version of the coffee’s drinks menu, the truck will be able to visit different locations in the area. Her home will be outside the Omena Bay Country Store, which is slated to reopen in 2022 and will be operated by the Murphys.
Whether you come to New Bohemian Café to try a new dish or come back for your favorite sandwich, Kevin says the most important thing is to make the trip.
“I would just encourage people if you could fit into that category of ‘I can’t even think of the last time I was in Northport’, come to Northport!” he says. “We have the Mitten Brewing Company; we have an amazing public beach; we have trails; we have a golf course. It’s a very nice little town to browse around in, and there are more and more shops and new businesses. If you haven’t been to Northport in the past five years, you’ll find that the 2022 Northport is very different from what it was before.
Find them at 110 S Waukazoo St, Northport | (231) 386-1034 | newbohemiancafe.com