Much of the sandwich making takes place behind the counter in the main room, which intensifies the social spin. It makes a difference when you can interact with the person preparing your food, when she asks you afterwards as you pour more coffee from the self-serve bar, “You had the breakfast burrito, right? Was it OK?”
It was way more than OK—delicious, in fact.
The burrito is one of the ten or so breakfast plates on the chalkboard menu, the rest of which is devoted to sandwiches, soups, and salads. Canada-born, Mayhew grew up all over before settling in Michigan, putting down roots in Petoskey before replanting herself in Ypsilanti. With the zeal of one who picked the place she wants to live, Mayhew is an enthusiastic locovore, but not doctrinaire or elitist. The businesswoman in her considers price and quality as well as geography: she’s the first restaurateur I’ve talked to who proudly points to Gordon Food Service as a supplier: “They’re a huge Michigan company with good prices and a lot of great products from here.”
This practical approach helps her keep prices reasonable, but she also shops much closer to home: the tortilla in that $5.95 breakfast burrito comes from nearby Dos Hermanos Market. Mayhew stuffs it with local eggs and wonderfully robust Dos Hermanos chorizo, adds a tangy grated cheddar, and rolls it tightly. A scattering of home fries with a deep shiny cast delivers exotic flavors like cumin and paprika and a pepper blend from Alden’s Mill House in Antrim County.
I liked the breakfast plate, too, a blue-collar start to the day, with eggs, potatoes, crisp apple-wood–smoked bacon, and toast. In a way that makes the place feel like Mom’s kitchen, if you want the eggs any way other than scrambled, you’re out of luck. That’s not to say Mayhew isn’t flexible—she whipped up a good-looking custom vegan tofu burrito topped with sautéed veggies for the table next to ours—it’s just that she has a lot to cook on one four-burner stove.
Every day Mayhew makes two soups, one with meat and one vegetarian. Her chicken soup is exuberant, laced with lots of tarragon and plenty of carrots, celery, and chunks of breast meat. Since the soups are self serve and held in a steam pot, the broth-based soups may be a better choice than the cream soups. The cream of asparagus I tasted had gone a little too thick by late afternoon, but though it lost points on consistency, it still had excellent flavor. On another visit, the mulligatawny really didn’t taste like any mulligatawny I’ve ever had, but it was nevertheless a good concoction, with dark- and light-meat chicken and vegetables in a zippy broth.
For about $7, you can pair a big bowl of soup with any half sandwich or small salad. “Small” is relative—a small “Beezy’s Salad” was plentiful, a deep bowl of mixed greens, thinly sliced red onions, homemade croutons, slices of roast chicken, a scoop of egg salad, lots of crumbled bacon, and just the right amount of ranch dressing.
Mayhew bakes fifteen to twenty-five loaves of bread daily—sourdough, rye, cracked wheat, and veggie—and the sandwich slices are hand-hewn, thick, and uneven. The fillings make liberal use of fresh herbs. I found myself going back for the egg salad on soft cracked wheat, the bread providing a fine platform for a retro mustardy mix reminiscent of deviled eggs. The “Chicksilanti” is delicious, with clean-tasting roasted chicken and lots of celery, mayo, and fresh herbs. It’s “topless”—that is, open-faced—in a nod to Deja Vu across the street.
Mayhew bakes a few sweets from scratch or almost scratch—scones, lemon bars, and cinnamon buns—none of which I tried. She gets brownies and cupcakes from Erin Kelley’s tarte bakery, and coffee cake from Tim Edinger of Old World Bakery. I did sample Beezy’s coffees, which are very good; Mayhew uses Intelligensia coffee beans, roasted in Chicago.
Beezy’s predecessor in this space, the Oasis Cafe, a project of Belleville’s Power Centre Church International, aimed to provide affordable warm meals and a friendly gathering space. For whatever reason, that model didn’t work, but it seems like Beezy’s has taken on a similar role. It’s one of those places, like Zingerman’s (of which Mayhew is an alumna), that can lift a neighborhood. It is already an integral part of the social fabric and even contributes to the neighborhood agricultural scene. Mayhew sends her scraps to be composted to the Growing Hope hoop house a few blocks away. Growing Hope sends back veggies like spinach and cilantro grown right down the street. You may not know all these back stories when you eat at Beezy’s, but their sum shines through in the dining experience.
20 N. Washington Ypsilanti
Mon.–Sat. 7 a.m.–7 p.m. Closed Sun.
Breakfast baked goods $1–$1.85, hot entrees $2.50–$6.25, soup $3.25, salads $2.75–$6.95, sandwiches $4.95–$6.95
Fully accessible to disabled.
This review was originally published in the Ann Arbor Observer, May 2009.