How Bumbo’s became a finely tuned arts-weirdo bar in Hamtramck

Dive redux

Oct 5, 2016 at 1:00 am

Tucked one block off Joseph Campau on Holbrook in a mixed residential and business neighborhood, Bumbo's does little to announce itself aside from a red neon sign that reads "BAR," visible through a row of glass bricks.

But it doesn't need to herald itself noisily. Its customers know it's quite nearly the platonic ideal for a modern, cozy corner bar. Inside the rectangular space, which has been a bar nearly continuously since it opened in 1928 there are leather bucket seats, an original tin ceiling, and a wonderful old-school wooden bar with a generous railing in case you need to grab hold.

The place was originally known as Hank's Lounge, and then by the next family who purchased it as Hank's Bar, because the owners each time were named Hank. Last April, it was bought by husband-and-wife team Brian and Tia Krawczyk, and since they aren't named Hank, they were free to change the name. The two grew up in Michigan, spent their adult lives in the Detroit area, and, after a brief sojourn to Los Angeles, returned home to open Bumbo's.

Hamtramck's walkability and diversity suits the Krawczyks, who live above the space, are open every day, and have just two employees. "It has a feeling of a bigger city, but you don't have to go far to find what you need," Brian says.

Hank's had a storied history; the Krawczyks are fairly certain they patched up bullet holes while cleaning up. To paraphrase Serena Maria Daniels in these pages, it was once the kind of bar where the front door used to always be locked, and the side doors open, well into the night. And while by local standards, it's a little upscale, by Royal Oak standards, it (thankfully) is a total dive.

There is no reclaimed wood here, no tasteful modernisms, no mustachioed Portlandia decor. "Everything here is claimed!" Tia agrees. "This is the original bar, the original cooler and storage area." You're far less likely to get vomited on here, or wind up smothered in clandestine cigarette smoke. This fine line feels very intentional.

"We aren't a cocktail bar, but we are a neighborhood bar that has cocktails," Tia says. "Everything is really approachable, but nothing is $12, or flipped over our shoulders. That's not what we like, and we are creating a place we wanted to be at. We have a nice selection of beers, from fancy crafts to $2 beers."

The food served here is a delicious update of Polish cuisine. Pierogi might be stuffed with potato, charred scallion, ginger, garlic, and sesame, and then topped with a wasabi-hoisin cream. The soup could be a miso-glazed prune soup, potato, chiles, black vinegar, scallion, and mint. But it's only served on Wednesday evenings, in a pop-up style, as the space lacks a kitchen. "Our food is made in a commercial kitchen off-site and brought in," Brian says. "Doing it once a week makes it special and makes it an event."

Tia says: "Essentially, we get to cater our own bar and take the time to grow the bar as we figure out its identity."

The music heavily favors the finest in post-punk with a Midwestern spin: Pere Ubu, Mirrors, the Cows. It's never played too loud, so it functions as both a pleasant din and reason for music nerds to hear "Wayne County Roads" and perhaps discuss which is the best version of Tyvek's signature song. This makes sense, as Brian was in a series of serious local bands, including the eclectic and excellent Druid Perfume.

"We have a great mix of ages," Tia says about the clientele. "It's youngish, but thankfully not a kiddo bar. We have typically arty, musician types, but that's maybe just because of the content of the jukebox or the proximity to galleries. When it fills up after an opening, I'm stoked."

And though they opened in time for the Hamtramck Music Fest last year, they never intended to be a venue because there are so many in the area already. Patrons are "happy to come here and not hear another live band, or worry about paying a cover," Tia says.

Bumbo's is open 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday, and 12:30 p.m.-midnight Sunday, at 3001 Holbrook St., Hamtramck; 313-285-8239.