Restaurant Review: Bonnie Jean’s

Before heading to Bonnie Jean’s in Southold, I checked out the website to preemptively decide what I might like to order. The tagline succinctly reads “Food. Coffee. Ice Cream.” It’s the perfect description, as Bonnie Jean’s has so deftly mastered all three.

A casual American eatery serving breakfast all day as well as lunch and dinner, Bonnie Jean’s is your true neighborhood joint with a far-reaching appeal thanks to its eclectic menu and inviting, down-home ambience.

“My goal is to be a place where people feel comfortable and everyone knows you,” said owner Jenni Morris, who took over the business, which used to be called the Country Corner Café, in November 2010 and has steadily been putting her mark on the place. “There’s a strong presence of hospitality here.”

The restaurant is named after Morris’ older sister Bonnie Jean, who lives in a group home in Miller Place.

“She’s such a pure, honest and simple person,” said Morris. “That’s how I think people should live their lives. To her, everything is fun.”

I started off my meal with a cappuccino, as Morris explained that she and her boyfriend Greg Heinz also own and operate Long Island Coffee Roasters.  As I tasted what may have been the most delicious cappuccino I’ve ever had, it was obvious that coffee is Morris’ true passion, and it’s a huge part of the restaurant. The drink was naturally sweet, and achieving that flavor is clearly the byproduct of someone who knows a thing or two about coffee.

Long Island Coffee Roasters is a small batch, artisanal coffee roasting company, and they hope to open a roastery and coffee shop next door to Bonnie Jean’s.

“It’s been a challenge to break into the business, but we need to set an example,” said Morris, with what I assume is her signature positive attitude. “We need to get people to taste our coffee and say ‘I want to serve coffee like that.’”

Coffee…check. Now, to try the food and ice cream.

After hearing that burgers are one of Bonnie Jean’s specialty – the meat is prepared fresh daily – I ordered one with cheddar and mushrooms, with a side of sweet potato fries. And when my waitress noticed that I had neglected to order a chocolate shake, she promptly remedied the situation.

Here, especially, was where “the fun part” came in – a burger and a milkshake?! I felt like I was a kid at a summer backyard barbeque, and it was hard not to smile while chowing down. The food was phenomenal, and I couldn’t have asked for a juicier burger.

The chocolate shake was the perfect complement. Not too thick or too runny, it was easily drinkable with a straw and was garnished with a whipped cream hat.

I should note that prior to landing in burger heaven, I tried the daily flatbread special. If my main course proved that Bonnie Jean’s could serve up some of the best hearty fare around, my appetizer showed that Morris is a true culinary master with a knack for tantalizing the taste buds with unique flavors. The Mediterranean flatbread was served with pesto, feta cheese, artichokes, onions and black olives.

Morris, who holds a degree from the Institute of Culinary Education, experiments with the menu and daily specials every Thursday, as she spends the entire day in the kitchen.

“I’m willing to take ideas,” Morris said of her menu. “Really, this feels like everyone’s place, not just mine.”

Combine that idea with the awesome food, and Bonnie Jean’s truly is a grown up version of the neighborhood soda shop.

Bonnie Jean’s is located at 55765 Main Road in Southold. 631-765-6766. www.bonniejeansnofo.com. Go to www.kickstarter.com to help Morris and Heinz raise money to open a Long Island Coffee Roasters roastery.

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