Sunday, July 24, 2016

Restaurant Review: OWL in Royal Oak

Onion Roll Sign, Redesigned

Small Late Night Dining Establishment 

Big Impact in so many Ways

There are limited option in the wee hours of the morning when you want a meal in the local area. When I was a kid, many moons ago, Denny's and Ram's Horn often served that purpose for providing a meal after winding down for a late night out. Now that I'm older, and a bit of a food snob, that wouldn't work even if it existed, but that doesn't mean that there are times where I have lamented that we weren't just ready to go home and eat a bowl of cereal.
Front side counter dining

Over the years, the nightlife hours have extended in downtown Royal Oak to include some later hours for much of the Main Street strip but with the exception of some small places, like Coney Island, there isn't much in terms of 24 hour establishments. I would add that this goes beyond the standard fare and could even be called more specialized.

Because the menu was limited, and I wasn't sure about how I would feel about another burger, or some other options labeled as "New Mexican", I wasn't overly excited to try this place. The opportunity arose for us this weekend because we were bike riding to the midnight movie so it seemed a good night to sample a few dishes.

While this  isn't downtown, this is close to our house and is located at basically what amounts to 11 1/4 Mile and Woodward. This is the old Onion Roll Deli location which has been empty for years now. It was a local establishment that folks often speak fondly of, specializing in some of the best corned beef, but I digress. Leave it say I still see a glimmer of unshed tears when my husband reminscenses.

Woodward Mural
For those of you familiar with Onion Roll, you won't be surprised at how tiny this joint is and obviously it didn't get bigger, even with all the time we have watched them work on this building in the last year. The cook area is located just where it was before, even if it's updated, and includes bar stools to watch the action closely, just like it used to. However, booths against the wall facing Woodward have been replaced with more bar stools and another built in counter that affords you a view of the moving traffic which made me envision what a great vantage point this would be for the Dream Cruise. If you head towards the restrooms, there are a few high top tables for standing and eating, along with some great eye candy with a mural that features old and new landmarks, in text and bubbles, of Woodward attractions. The whole thing really received a makeover with lot of chrome and some wood accents that really update this and give it a big city feel. I also love that they kept the old Onion Roll sign, simply covering it in black and adding a little pictorial owl, with the name, and a row of lights lighting up the edge of the sign's shape. It's understated in a bright cool white, but effective. The only thing lacking is an outside eating area which would really allow for more patrons to enjoy this little place.

Mexican Pepsi, with a view of Woodward
This place was crowded and it was 10:15 at night. We thought that by avoiding prime meal time, and going before the movie ended, there would be a lull. However, things were in full gear, with lines of people waiting to order. They do have the system down efficiently. You walk up to the edge of the counter, place your order, pay, and then find your seat. A little while later, the staff call your name and hand you your items on a tray.

While I was worried about the limited menu, we were pleasantly surprised about how good this food is and have already figured out what we may sample next. I would be remiss in not mentioning some of the drinks that they have that go a little beyond the standard fare. The soda selection is a little more extensive, with bottles of Mexican Pepsi available, along with Jarritos and IBC Black Cherry. In my house a glass bottle of Mexican Pepsi is an upgrade with the real sugar replacing high fructose corn syryp. They also have beverage dispensers behind the counter with Hibiscus tea, Chorata (it was described as liquid French toast or melted rice pudding) and fresh squeezed lemonade. We tried the Chorata and the lemonade and both were really good. The lemonade was both tart but very sweet, like simple syrup was put in with a generous amount.

Bacon Cheeseburger
The menu has a few options for burgers and other sandwiches, along with tacos and nachos, as well as breakfast sandwiches and a few plates. We ordered two burgers, one with bacon. Now of course, it should be noted that burgers come with cheese, pickles and sauce along with any "extras", standard. That doesn't work in my house, they specific "totally plain - cheese, meat and bun." I did ask and the sauce is an aoili with mayo and garlic. I would have ordered it for myself and I do think you lose some of the chef's vision when you take things off. That being said, they loved the burgers. Think diner/slider type fare but these were a little larger in size. The bacon was cooked perfectly and had quite a kick with the pepper but it was tasty.

Chicken Fried Sandwich
We also ordered a chicken fried sandwich, which also comes as a plate. My daughter thought was was adventurous by keeping the tomato, pickles and lettuce on it, but also vetoed the "sauce". This was a really nice, moist piece of chicken but it needed just a little something. Try dipping it in the sauce from the cheese fries but more about those later. It's the bomb. I may have liked this better as a plate, and then added a side of previously mentioned cheese sauce that they are using on the fries. I could come up with quite a few ideas sitting there, looking at everyone's food in close proximity, and because everyone was friendly, we were able to compare notes on food. I learned I really want to also try the nachos by both examining them up close and the fact that the person who was eating them couldn't stop raving about them. I personally don't like chicken wings but I can see some other family members trying them, especially with them being a $1 a piece.

Avocado Toast and Seared Ahi
I tried the avocado toast. I wouldn't call it guacomole. It was more than that. This features two open faced sandwiches consiseting of grilled sesame bread, topped with a smashed avocado mixed with chunks of hard boiled eggs, topped with radishes, carrots and cilantro. There was an option to add seared Ahi tuna, which I did, which made this quite a pricey little dish. When it arrived I was surprised to see the tuna on the side, rather than put on the sandwich, but it was very good. II think that in terms of the sanwich it was unnescesary in terms of the dish although it was cooked with a nice sear and red middle that was quite good.

Cheese Fries
We also ordered the French fries with I remarked on just a bit earlier but they deserve praise all by themselves. This was so wonderful and was really the highlight of this place for us. The cheese sauce that they are pouring on them is a poblano pepper cheese concoction that might put someone who is afarid of spice in a moment of hesitation. This is NOT spicy but has a wonderful mellow smoky flavor. The kids did not even try to pick out any little bits of green which would have the the standard MO. The fries are the curly kind and on the soft side and they absorb the sauce rather than just being a vehicle to eat it. I loved the sauce so much that we dipped that fried chicken sandwich in it and I'm really contemplating the nachos for more of this sauce. I personally think that they should offer it on all their sandwiches. Did I mention I like this sauce?

We will be back and in fact the kids are asking to go again today (we are not). Things to try next time include the Taco of the Day which features three tacos with a protien main to be identified (last night it was brisket), the nachos (I may ask for the sausage chili on the side for my first go around), and the wings that feature dry rub with buffalo or macha spices.

Family Portrait - 4 Bikes
Because this place is walk-able it would go up a couple of notches in our analysis of it regardless. I like a place we can bike to in the summer. that being said, I would go here even with having to drive because it's that good and it fits a niche that we haven't had in our local area. Try this place. As I say this I cringe to think about how this will increase the traffic in there. I kind of want to keep this one for myself. Not to be selfish, just so I can always sit and eat. As I say this, I should note that we just remarked that we could send kids to get the fries as a carry out order right now and bring them back. That may be part of our solution.


No comments:

Post a Comment