First Look: Bonhomie
Philip Speer brings a French twist to the American diner
By Thea Newell,
11:15AM, Wed. Mar. 29, 2017
2017 is hardly underway and it has already been an extremely busy year for hometown favorite Philip Speer, who opened his latest project, diner-cum-French bistro Bonhomie, this Thursday, March 23.
Fresh off the opening of his downtown food truck, My Name is Joe Coffee Co., a charitable project to support recovering addicts, Speer wasted no time before opening the doors to his latest, highly anticipated and most independent project to date. No stranger to the Austin food scene, Speer has always taken part in collaborative projects, but Bonhomie is his, through and through. The interior was even designed with Speer’s own motorcycle in mind, resulting in a stark, efficient interior studded with blacks, reds, and diner booths upholstered in the same material as the bike’s seat.
Given Speer’s background with what is now the Hai Hospitality Group, and his proclivity towards Asian-inspired cuisine, French food might seem like a bit of a question mark when it comes to his first solo project. But Speer’s relationship with French cuisine goes back to his Houston roots and the origins of his career as a chef, which began at age 17 when a close friend’s French father encouraged him to learn the craft of pastry making and then take those skills into restaurant work. In a way, Bonhomie is a bit of a homecoming for Speer, a come-full-circle project that allows him to showcase the same cuisine that ignited his passion for cooking.
Speer also opened Bonhomie in the hopes of providing his North Austin neighborhood with something it was lacking; an everyday, full service restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere that serves good food without being extravagant. The menu is reminiscent of a French cafe, with items such as a croque monsieur, bavette steak with ratatouille, or a crispy octopus lyonnaise. As always, however, Speer puts his twist on the the classics, pairing a French dip croissant with pho broth and serving up a reuben made with smoked salmon.
The menu also features six versions of Speer’s pommes rosti (it’s a shame to compare them to hash browns, but that’s the general idea), with toppings such as bacon, a scrambled egg and Boursin or caviar, crème fraîche and garlic candy. All dishes are served on custom made Bonhomie diner-style plates that are once again reminiscent of the understated design and presentation of a Gallic bistro. The menu is affordable, if a bit eclectic. As always, Speer’s desserts are unique and not to be missed, but his banana split profiteroles stand out with caramelized banana, hazelnut, and vanilla ice cream.
Philip Speer’s considerable skill for creating dishes that are as unexpected as they are exciting may not be put to the test here, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he hasn’t succeeded in doing exactly what he set out to do: provide his neighborhood with a reliable everyday eatery. A few opening-week bumps should smooth themselves out, allowing Bonhomie to fly under the radar of trending but not necessarily long-lasting Austin restaurants to establish itself firmly as a reliable neighborhood restaurant with true staying power. Plus, there’s plenty of parking.Bonhomie
5350 Burnet Rd., 512/243-8558
Fri., 11:30am-11pm; Sat., 10am-11pm