A mainstay of the Ypsilanti restaurant scene, the Wolverine Grill has been serving customers diner style for over seventy-five years. John Batsakis, a Greek immigrant, bought the restaurant in 1938 after enduring much hardship during the Great Depression. He lived in an apartment above his business for twenty-five years until he sold it to his nephew Greg Batianis. The diner remained in the family for another four decades until, sadly, it closed in October of last year. Greg’s daughter, Deb Comer, the last family member to run the business, and her husband, Mike, still own the property and are currently renovating the apartments above.
Enter current proprietor Kevin Hill, who began his cooking career at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids and went on to hone his chef skills in Hawaii, California, and Marquette, Michigan. He retired from the culinary arts field as a vocational instructor in Livingston County. A big booster of the Ypsilanti business community, Hill could not sit idly by when a once-bustling eatery closed its doors. But the “old girl” needed a bit of sprucing for round two. After more than a half century of serving the public, the daily grind had taken its toll on the Wolverine. Hill jumped in with both feet and began the rejuvenation of the restaurant.
The high tin ceiling remains, along with the ceiling fans, which give the place a vintage feel. The too-bright fluorescent lights have been muted, fresh paint applied, and the old chrome lunch-counter stools cleaned up. The menu has been elevated above simple coney-dog diner fare to showcase some of Kevin›s favorite dishes. Ingredients will be locally sourced, when possible. The Ugly Mug Cafe and Roastery is providing the java and Growing Hope the fresh produce and greens in season. Business is returning to the Wolverine, and the future may bring some evenings of family-style dining. Kevin Hill has abandoned his retirement to bring a historic Ypsilanti business back to life.