Happy 75th, Bonnie Brae Tavern

The Bonnie Brae Tavern turned 75 on Sunday, and celebrated by serving 75 cent beers and plates of spaghetti for $1.75.

"It was crazy in here," says Michael Dire, who co-manages the place with his cousin, Rick.

Michael and Rick are the third generation of Dires to work at the Bonnie Brae, the restaurant that Carl Dire founded at 740 South University back in 1934, when the road in front was dirt and there were few houses around. Michael's kids work there, too. Michael's father, also named Michael, owns the tavern with his brother Hank, who was sitting at the bar yesterday afternoon talking to Gary. Gary's been coming to the Bonnie Brae for 25 years.

"When I first walked in here, Carl asked my name," Gary remembers. "And every time I came in, he always knew it." Although Carl passed away years ago, Gary keeps coming for the atmosphere, which he likens to Cheers. He gets a beer at the bar and sometimes takes home the pizza for which Bonnie Brae Tavern is famous.

That pizza's "nothing fancy," explains Michael Dire Jr. "You're not going to find feta cheese or anything here." Just fresh ingredients and home-recipe sauce and sliced rather than grated cheese. "We've won awards for..." he begins, then pauses as he tries to remember just how long the pizza's been earning accolades before ending with, "...ever."

The popularity of the pizza has helped the Bonnie Brae through some tough times, and the place is doing well even during this latest rough patch, Michael says. He credits the reasonable prices, as well as loyal customers who keep coming back, with parents bringing their kids who bring their kids, and so on.

And on. Happy birthday, Bonnie Brae. Here's to another 75.

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