When Au Bon Pain opened in 2004 at Campus Martius Park, it was wintertime and the view through the expanses of glass overlooking the park was of the glittering Christmas tree.
The new regime that took over in June got the benefit of a different sort of view - colorful umbrellas shading patio tables, emerald green grass and the splashing fountain that gives the restaurant its name.
Welcome to summer in Detroit, Fountain Bistro.
After Au Bon Pain closed in February, the space was nicely renovated for a softer look emphasized by some graceful chandeliers overhead and contemporary artworks. Window walls on three sides make it an integral part of the park.
This time, the venture includes table service, both indoors and on the patio outside. The previous ownership required diners to pick up their orders at the counter and self-serve their beverages.
John Lambrecht of Bookies Bar & Grille and partners Kevin and Matthew Moran are the new proprietors, and they've made the space more conducive to leisurely dining, giving the carryout section its own entrance on the south side of the building apart from the tables. And that really improves the atmosphere for those dining in.
The simple café-style menu is just right for the space. The kitchen doesn't try to do too much, but it does make everything in-house, from soups like clam chowder and gazpacho to the several good salad dressings including balsamic vinaigrette and smoked tomato.
Early in the day, Fountain Bistro offers dishes such as breakfast burritos filled with egg, bacon, potatoes, Cheddar and herbs, and quiches filled with classic ham and cheese or broccoli and cheese. For the coffee and sweet roll set, there is a wide choice of fruit bars, scones, biscotti and muffins from Avalon International Bakery in Detroit and the excellent bagels from New York Bagel in Ferndale.
That's just part of the local approach. The proprietors say they are going to take advantage of the fresh produce at Eastern Market as much as possible as summer progresses, and that's a good thing, because in two visits last week, it was clear that the tomatoes were not at their prime.
Other lunchtime choices include attractive salad plates heaped with tuna, chicken or egg salad atop gourmet greens, cucumber slices and a couple of slices of tomato. The three salads - chicken is notable with its slivers of apple and scattering of golden raisins in a honey-Dijonaise dressing - may also be had as sandwiches that include a side of pasta salad or potato salad or potato chips. Service is friendly and upbeat.
As you might expect, dessert choices are Avalon cookies and brownies, but crème brûlée is promised when the proper ramekins arrive. Lavazza coffee and espresso are the featured drinks.
In the early going, Fountain Bistro is getting a warm welcome from residents and visitors alike.
By the way, the Au Bon Pain location in Dearborn also has closed, leaving only the outposts in the Renaissance Center and Detroit Medical Center to uphold the name in Michigan.All images and content courtesy The Detroit News.