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Stateside Podcast: Ypsi diner serving ‘Bomb’ food since WWII

Outside the Bomber Restaurant. A yellow awning with "The Bomber" written in red lettering next to the image of a bomber airplane.
Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio

At The Bomber Restaurant in Ypsilanti, you’ll find a classic spread of breakfast staples: biscuits slathered in warm gravy, peppered corned beef hash, and silver dollar pancakes piled with berries. It’s the kind of place where the same group of friends have frequented for the past twenty years.

But unlike your average diner, the Bomber brings a formidable collection of mostly World War II era memorabilia, paying homage to the restaurant’s roots which date back to that time. Framed newspaper clippings, old photos of soldiers, and a sizable collection of Rosie the Riveter posters adorn the walls. Overhead, model airplanes dangle from the paneled ceiling. Even the restaurant’s namesake itself is the B-24 bomber aircraft, which was manufactured at the Willow Run Bomber plant in Ypsilanti Township during World War II.

“I've always been a World War two buff. I love the era. I love the music, the movies, everything about it. So I had some newspapers that we had framed and we got a lot of stuff at, like, garage sales or estate sales,” said Bomber Restaurant owner Joanna McCoy on the growing collection of memorabilia.

 WWII era memorabilia at the Bomber, a gallery wall with many frames of old photographs, yellowed newspaper clippings, and rifles.
Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio
One customer described eating at the Bomber like "eating in the display area of a museum."

McCoy and her late partner John Sebestyen have owned The Bomber since 1986, but she said the original shop was owned by a Mrs. Baldwin, who catered largely to the Bomber plant workers who migrated from southern states.

“[Mrs. Baldwin] would allow [the workers] to buy coupons so they could purchase the breakfast or lunch or whatever they wanted to do. … They could pre-pay for all of their food, and then they could send the rest of their money back home down south,” McCoy said. “She thought it was kind of perfect for them to call this ‘The Bomber’, like [a] second home.”

 A large mural outside one of the walls of the Bomber that depicts Rosie the Riveter and reads "The Bomber Restaurant."
Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio
There's lots of Rosie the Riveter iconography at the Bomber, including this large mural painted on one of the building's outside walls.

The original southern-flared menu featuring cornbread, red eye gravy and southern style grits has since evolved, but the sense of belonging and community has stood the test of time. It’s why McCoy thinks The Bomber has lasted all of these years.

“I feel like this is kind of like a no judgment zone,” McCoy said. “I don't care what their religion is, what their ethnic background is, what their sexuality is; this is home for everybody, and if they don't like it, then, you know, I'm sure there's other places that they can go, you know, but we just don't judge. We welcome everybody.”

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Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of <i>Stateside</i>.
Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Public in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the summer of 2020.