New Bohemian Cafe is rolling with the changes
By Jillian Manning | April 16, 2022
Hidden behind sunset orange doors on Northport’s Waukazoo Street is a 1,000-square-foot space filled with the scent of fresh coffee and warm pastries. One of the few restaurants in the town at the end of the Leelanau Peninsula that stays open year-round, the New Bohemian Café has become a meeting place for locals and seasonal visitors alike.
“[We are a] A meeting place, a place to meet the neighbors, a place to read a book,” says co-owner Amy Murphy. “That feel of the café hangout embedded in the New Bohemian Café’s name has really been able to be sustained even in the circumstances of the pandemic.”
A change of pace
Amy and her husband Kevin are from Grand Rapids in southwest Michigan. The duo worked in the food industry from a young age but spent more than a decade in marketing and communications before the hustle and bustle of corporate life became too much. Shortly after the birth of their first child, they knew they wanted to find a slower, more conscious pace of life.
They moved to Northport in 2014, mixing the marketing consultancy that paid the bills with their dream of reconnecting with nature through farming. But even then, there was always an incentive to bring more food and hospitality into their world.
“Throughout our lives, we’ve come back to food and drink as the table setting that really connects people,” says Amy. “That’s what makes me really passionate: that connection between people and offering them the moment to slow down and be together.”
The opportunity to take the plunge into owning a restaurant came somewhat unexpectedly in 2018 when the property on Waukazoo Street went up for sale. It was immediately clear to Kevin that he didn’t want to see a tourist trap, especially when the community lacked a cafe and somewhere to grab a quick – but tasty – bite on a work day.
Thus the New Bohemian Café was born. (The name is a nod to Polish and Czech history in the area, though the menu is more Italian and American.) The Murphys bought the space in 2018 and opened in spring 2019 with a concept centered on wine, cheese, deli, and groceries.
A change of…everything
A year later, COVID changed the game. Wine tasting was not an option. The grocery and deli options disappeared. After the first shutdown in spring 2020, the Murphys even feared that they would have to close the café and file for bankruptcy. But what remained — a breakfast and lunch spot that served exceptional coffee — hit the spot for guests.
“Because of the fact that we were so new even before the pandemic, we sort of figured it out and ditched things that weren’t working and added new things. For three years we have been constantly refining what we do,” says Kevin.
“Our offerings have adapted to the circumstances of the needs in our community,” adds Amy.
After changing the business model and menu, the New Bohemian Café has settled into a delicious groove. The cafe is currently open 7 days a week from 8am to 2pm. Breakfast is served all day alongside a selection of pastries and lunch items.
Kev McMurphin is a hit on the breakfast menu, the café takes the famous McDonald’s sandwich but with upgrades like chilli-garlic mayonnaise and hash browns to complement the classic sausage, egg and cheese combo. The homemade NewBo Cinnamon Roll is a big hit with those with a sweet tooth, and bagels from Bubbie’s Bagels in Traverse City are the perfect grab-and-go meal.
No morning is complete without a cup of coffee, and this is where the New Bohemian Café shines. Your coffee—custom blends from Coffee Express, an independent roaster operating in Plymouth, Michigan since 1975—comes home hot within 24 hours of roasting. Amy says the freshness of the product combined with their quality equipment creates a consistently superior beverage.
“We’re more of a traditional Italian-style espresso than a new-wave espresso,” she explains. “It’s got this really rich, smooth, almost caramel flavor. … It’s a trophy you could have gotten in Italy 50 years ago and it’s a trophy you can get now.”
Guests can enjoy a standard espresso, or step up to a cortado (half espresso, half milk with a hint of foam) or an americano. In fact, Amy says they can make almost any coffee drink you want…just be cool and don’t order a Starbucks wild drink. Two of the more creative offerings on the menu are the Honey Cardamom Latte and the Vanilla Cinnamon Latte, both of which offer the perfect blend of sweet and spice to brighten up your mornings.
At lunchtime, the turkey sandwich (roast turkey, bacon, dill Havarti, lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickle with pesto mayonnaise and honey mustard) is the order of the day. Close contenders for customer favorites are the Italian sandwich with hearty meats and the Figgy Piggy, a special that has made the leap to the full-time menu.
“It’s a really simple sandwich, but with a great balance of flavors: the sweetness of the fig jam, the creamy and slightly tart touch of the brie, and then the salty, meaty sweetness of the prosciutto,” says Kevin.
Last but not least, in the colder months (yes, that means right now) there are soups. The rotating selection often includes gluten-free and vegetarian offerings with flavors from around the world. Pro tip: Grab a cup of curried squash soup before it disappears for the summer.
A change of season
As the New Bohemian Café looks forward to summer 2022, some new offerings are on the horizon. For a treat on a hot July day, the restaurant offers three frozen drink options. While the details are still being refined, Kevin says we can expect a frozen latte or frappuccino, a frosty lemonade, and a version of an Italian ice cream.
A major update brings a coffee truck in the shape of a refurbished 1960s Volkswagen bus. With a condensed version of the cafe’s drinks menu, the truck can visit various locations in the region. His second home will be outside of the Omena Bay Country Store, which is slated for a 2022 reopening and will be operated by the Murphys.
Whether you’re coming to the New Bohemian Café to try a new dish or returning for your favorite sandwich, Kevin says the most important thing is getting the drive.
“I would just encourage people, if you could fit into that category of ‘I don’t even know the last time I went to Northport,’ come Northport!” he says. “We have Mitten Brewing Company; we have an amazing public beach; we have tracks; We have a golf course. It’s a really nice little town to just drop in and browse around and there is a growing number of shops and new businesses. If you haven’t been to Northport in the last five years, you will find that Northport 2022 is very different than it was before.”
You can find them at 110 S Waukazoo St, Northport |(231) 386-1034 | newbohemiancafe.com