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Posted on Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Downtown Ypsilanti's Wolverine Grill could reopen in the next month after renovations

By Tom Perkins

Ypsilanti resident and chef Kevin Hill said some of his best years were spent getting experience in culinary hot spots like Maui and California’s Monterrey Peninsula. He has catered $20,000 feasts for the wealthy, held a corporate position at Olive Garden, and worked in kitchens at high-end restaurants across the country.

Most recently, he sat on the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority Board after retiring from teaching culinary arts at Howell High School.

Hill said he has seen the kitchens of nearly every type of restaurant imaginable, and he is now taking his lifetime of experience and applying it in downtown Ypsilanti as he reopens the Wolverine Grill.

The diner, at 228 W. Michigan Ave., closed in October but has otherwise offered up food from its lunch counter under several names since 1963. Hill said he signed a lease to reopen the restaurant, which had been placed up for sale in October along with the structure itself and two apartments and office above the restaurant.

The Wolverine, owned by Greg Batianis since 1963, has been located on West Michigan Avenue since the 1930s. Batianis retired in 2008, and his daughter, Debbie, had been operating the restaurant. Due to health complications, the family had to close the business on Oct. 19, Stachler said at the time.

Hill said he couldn’t give a specific timeline on when the Wolverine’s doors may reopen, but he has begun interior renovations and is hoping to be ready in about a month.


Ypsilanti's Wolverine Grill will soon reopen.

Tom Perkins | For

“This is right in my wheelhouse,” he said. “The Wolverine has been an operating institution in Ypsilanti forever. I’m a big time advocate of downtown and felt like it was a good idea to continue the tradition. The timing seemed good and things fell into place properly, so it will be fun.”

While customers can expect the same type of fare as the Wolverine, Hill said he's planning some enhancements to the menu and overall quality.

The details are still being determined, but the breakfast plates, burgers and many diner standards will remain. But they will be done with a different presentation and local ingredients, Hill said, and he wants to “push the envelope” with new takes on old sauces like hollandaise.

“I don’t want have to have seaweed or anything like that, but we will have a different presentation of pork chops, for example,” he said.

“We want to offer good food at reasonable and popular prices. In other words, we’re not shooting to be a high-end place," he added.

The interior will also likely be spruced up to "give it a little more life," but Hill said he intends to maintain the Wolverine's character. The 44-seat diner, which is retaining the Wolverine name, will also feature ice cream specialties during the summer months.

“It will really fit in nicely to the downtown catalog,” he said.

The new Wolverine will also incorporate Michigan’s rich music history. Hill is partners at the AM 1700 radio station and the Michigan Music Hall of Fame, which share an office on Washington Street. Patrons can expect selections from Michigan artists on the stereo and photos or other memorabilia on the wall.

But, like the rest of his ideas, Hill said that element of the new Wolverine is continuing “to evolve gently.”

The Wolverine's renovation and reopening comes around the same time as the announcement of a new Italian restaurant scheduled to open Washington Street in April.

The former Theo's will soon reopen as The Wurst Bar, and Red Rock Downtown Barbecue owners have said they are inching closer to opening.

“The thing is, if we’ve gone through the absolute worst time economically, then downtown Ypsilanti held together pretty well and things seem to getting better here,” Hill said. "Downtown really could stabilize and 2012 might be a pretty good year.”

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for



Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

Kevin Hill is a terrific person, a great chef, a lover of art and a big Ypsilanti booster. In the 1970's Kevin was my neighbor on River Street and even back then he was all about food, fun and community involvement. I'm excited for Kevin and wish him much success in this endeavor.

free form

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 10:24 p.m.

Very good news. I'm excited at the prospect of more quality food downtown! I'm hoping for a great mac n' cheese, individual chicken pot pies, amazing burgers and all the "greasy spoon" classics in an updated atmosphere. Yum!

free form

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

I have been to Haab's many times, actually. (and I'm sad I've never seen this elusive chicken pot pie!) I do enjoy their Happy Hour specials, but it's certainly not what I would consider a "nice" dinner place. No offense...


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 2:34 a.m.

Have you tried Haab's for a nice dinner out? They have featured chicken pot pies, mac and cheese and amazing burgers and all done recently...


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

Great news. I'm an Ann Arbor resident who prefers the culinary diversity in Ypsi. Much easier place to establish an owner operated restaurant which should help these ventures to get up and running. Ann arbor is just too expensive for anyone without corporate theme-park type business models and lots of deep pockets. Good luck Kevin I will be coming by for lunch.

Leslie Leland

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 6:56 p.m.

Kevin is ALL about Ypsilanti, from his part in Crossroads Summer Music Festival to the radio station on Washington Street, his involvement in the downtown business associations, and important to note is the fact that he can often be seen sweeping the parking lots and the sidewalks in downtown Ypsilanti. He is a tireless supporter! And now this? CAN'T WAIT! How wonderful will it be to be able to go out for ice cream sundaes in downtown Ypsilanti on a hot night in July. CONGRATULATIONS KEVIN....let's watch as Ypsi catches fire!

joe golder

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

Kevin is a mad man in the kitchen! His many years in and around the food biz is a great asset! I'm very excited for him and all the other great people making the difference in Downtown Ypsilanti's resurgence!! I can't wait to taste the food he serves up!!


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

This is the best news! Good luck Kevin and I look forward to visiting your establishment.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

good for him.hope he makes it.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:06 p.m.

yes we welcome a "new"Old kitchen with an menu that gives our tastebuds a new and spring feeling.. With barbeue and a good Polish/cabbage/italian menu/ and a nicer surrunding and a friendler waitstaff . ...great ..looking...forard . please Open on a tuesday; IT is the most succesfull day and business stay in businees That opened on tuesdays>Why? just hearsay? I donot know .! ask a resteraunt owner! See you for lunch.

Holly Smith

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

This is great news! Downtown Ypsi is just getting better and better. Between Mix's recent expansion next door, The Rocket, Bower Bird Mongo, Materials Unlimited, Salt City Antiques, RAC, Beezy's, etc., etc., etc., why go to Ann Arbor?


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 3:10 a.m.

Unless you are in the mood for Thai, and then Thai Thai on Washtenaw is THE place to go. Best Thai ever.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 3:01 a.m.

This is great news and I'm not trying to be a downer, but there's really no comparison of downtown Ypsi to downtown Ann Arbor when you consider the availability of quality restaurants, art galleries, museums, and other stores, bars, and coffeehouses in downtown Ann Arbor. Kudos to Kevin, but as free form said, if you want a nice meal out (other than a casual sandwich), Ann Arbor is the place to go.

free form

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

Because sometimes (as much as I LOVE Beezy's) I want to eat more than soup, salad or a sandwich. On occasion, I even like a NICE dinner out, which at present is unavailable anywhere in Ypsi.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

Excited to see the Wolverine with K Hill at the grill back in business. Another piece of a growing Downtown Ypsilanti! Looking forward to many a meal there!!!!!


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

"The Wolverine's renovation and reopening comes around the same time as the announcement of a new Italian restaurant scheduled to open Washington Street in April. " Huh? Did I miss this announcement and article?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.

Craig, we were just laughing about the same thing....Spaghetti Bender...then close and become McLellan's 5 and Dime and then the Food and Drug Mart!


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

Wait, the Spagetti Bender had spagetti? Funny, I only remember poorly mixed drinks in a plastic cup.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.

maybe the spaghetti bender is going to reopen. It doesn't appear a Cunningham is in the cards.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

You go, Cindy Heflin! Thanks!! Got a Italian food craving!

Cindy Heflin

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

We're working on a story about this new restaurant. Look for it in the next few days.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.

Agree - what the heck is it referring to? I want to know! I will eat there ASAP!!!