Roadside diners encapsulate a kind of romance for many people, that whole freedom-of-the-road, classic Americana vibe. While O.W.L. is located in a suburb (Royal Oak), its perch along Woodward Avenue, that distinguished Detroit thoroughfare, makes it feel like it’s part of that roadside romance.
From the ’50s-esque exterior sign with its namesake bird outlined in neon lighting to the cheeseburger-meets-avocado-toast menu, O.W.L. exudes classic diner vibes with a contemporary, hipster bent.
The restaurant’s interior is tiny, and true to diner form, the seating options are counter-centric: you can either sit along a window-fronting counter with a view of Woodward Avenue or one that faces the kitchen line. The ordering system is counter-centric, too: you give your request to the cashier at the end of the kitchen-fronting counter, pay your tab, and your food is delivered to you.
About half of O.W.L.’s compact menu consists of breakfast items, boasting five different kinds of egg sandwiches (including Chorizo Sausage and Cheese and Habanero Bacon and Cheese varieties) and other egg-centric dishes such as egg hash, chicken fried-chicken topped with eggs, and chilaquiles (a traditional Mexican dish made in this case with tomatillo salsa, cotija cheese, jalapeños, radishes, eggs, and cilantro). Wings, burgers, sandwiches, nachos, the Tacos Del Dia (tacos of the day), and other breakfast-centric (grilled cinnamon rolls, habanero bacon) and Mexican-influenced items (Chips and Pico, Torta Ahogada) round out the menu.
Upon perusing O.W.L.’s menu, I went with those nachos – a.k.a. the Double Layer Nachos. The thick, crispy slew of homemade chips layered with poblano cheese sauce, sausage chili, shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, fresh jalapeños, pico de gallo, and cilantro were rich, greasy, delectable deliciousness. While they may not be a standard on the average diner’s menu, these babies deserve to be; they are the ultimate in comfort food!
I’m not an egg person, but if I was, the aforementioned Chicken Fried Chicken and Gravy breakfast dish topped with eggs, Texas toast, and a poblano cheese gravy sauce and accompanied by peas and cilantro potatoes would’ve been my bet. My friend who accompanied me to O.W.L. ordered it, and wow, does that dish proffer a weighty portion! The Double Layer Nachos was no slouch with its portion size (as you can see from the photo above), either, and I happily had leftovers to enjoy the next day.
Eating at O.W.L., I found myself reminiscing over the Royal Oak-bar-hopping nights of my twenties; the diner would’ve made the perfect closing-time stop during those evenings of revelry. It’s rare that I stay out late enough anymore that I’m looking to hit a restaurant after the bars are shuttered, but if I do happen to find myself in the Royal Oak area into the wee hours and am jonesing for some gratifying grub, I know where to go! O.W.L. offers its particular brand of roadside romance 24 hours a day, six days a week (it closes at 10 p.m. on Sundays).
27302 Woodward Ave.
Royal Oak, MI 48067