Royal Oak

573. Bowlero – August 10, 2022 – Royal Oak, MI

Bowlero is a place to be! What a delightful time warp this bowling alley/bar is.

The locally-owned, Royal Oak-based Bowlero has been around since 1957. But its age isn’t the sole reason for its cool vintage looks; Bowlero was renovated in 2019. It’s intentionally retro, in a ’70s-heavy way, incorporating groovy design motifs, lots of orange, and throwback programming playing on the TVs (Grease the night I was there). The women’s room alone is a selfie-lover’s dream with its flashy pink-and-orange wallpaper, mirrors with cartoonishly-shaped frames holding cans of Aqua Net, and a Ms. Pac Man arcade game.

The area of Bowlero that has a decidedly more contemporary feel is the lounge. Retro elements are incorporated into the decor of the long, narrow room, but it has a more hipster than hippie feel. The bar serves up wine, beer and hard cider (including multiple Michigan brews), and specialty cocktails featuring Michigan-made spirits (Two James, Valentine, Detroit City Distillery, Petoskey’s Gypsy Vodka). One such cocktail is Bowlero’s take on a White Russian, The Bowlero Orange Russian: a blend of Gypsy Vodka, Tia Maria, Cointreau, and vegan creamer.

Besides offering 16 lanes of bowling and seasonal bowling leagues, Bowlero regularly features no-cover live music (every Friday and Saturday), themed nights (Punk Nite and 80s Video Night being two examples), karaoke, and other events. Check this calendar for the current line-up, then boogie on over to Bowlero!

4209 Coolidge Hwy.

Royal Oak, MI 48073

www.bowlerodetroit.com

567. La Roche – July 2, 2022 – Royal Oak, MI

Stepping into La Roche means entering a sweet treasure trove of goodies! The shop based in downtown Royal Oak proffers plenty of items that make ideal gifts: candles, jewelry, figurines, fancy soaps, incense, apparel, and more. The “more” includes Michigan-centric items and an impressive selection of air plants.

509 S. Washington Ave.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

548. Royal Oak Roast – February 7, 2022 – Royal Oak, MI

What a gem Royal Oak Roast is! A gem with multi-faceted charm: delicious drinks, friendly baristas, and mega-watt ambiance.

During a remote work session at the Royal Oak-based coffee house, I basked in the brilliance of all that charm. I sipped two of its decadent drinks, a cappuccino and an Almond Joy latte (an espresso-based drink infused with coconut, almond, and chocolate). I engaged with the baristas, who were cheerful and welcoming. And I soaked up the ambiance: the glistening tile and gleaming copper, the granite countertops and golden-bright lights. It all melded together to induce a pleasant flow state of productivity, and my couple-hour visit flew by.

As with all good things, my visit to Royal Oak Roast ended much too soon. The silver lining: it’s here for me, awaiting a revisit whenever I’m ready! All I have to do is follow the mantra emblazoned in neon light on one of its walls: “Wake up. Drink coffee. Be awesome. Repeat.”

25070 Woodward Ave.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

(With an additional location, Birmingham Roast, in Birmingham)

www.drinkroast.com

518. The Proving Grounds Coffee & Ice Cream – August 12, 2021 – Royal Oak, MI

I’m primed for a revisit of The Proving Grounds Coffee & Ice Cream! Fickle fate cut short my original visit to The Royal Oak location of this family-owned coffee brand.

Actually, fate wasn’t so much to blame for my premature departure as technology. I couldn’t get my work computer to connect to The Proving Grounds’ guest wifi (the laptop’s security protocols didn’t seem to like the way it was configured). Alas! I had to abandon The Proving Grounds’ inviting, rustic-chic interior for home (where the interior is less chic but the wifi connection is generally reliable).

At least I had the parting gift of the iced lavender latte I ordered before I left – which was definitely not a consolation prize. The rich espresso laced with creamy milk and subtle floral sweetness was delicious!

When I return to The Proving Grounds, I’d love to try another of its lattes. The coffee shop offers that iconic combination of espresso and steamed milk in a variety of flavors, including Beetroot, Caramel Maple, and Activated Charcoal (that last one has my mind going all, “???! I must try it!”). Other compelling items on The Proving Grounds’ coffee menu include the Cafe Miel (espresso infused with steamed milk, honey, and cinnamon) and the Nitro Cold Brew Coffee. These drinks are made from The Proving Grounds’ roasted-in-house beans.

Also made in-house is fresh, flavorful-sounding food. The Proving Grounds’ menu includes breakfast fare, salads, and sandwiches such as the Pere Marquette (turkey breast layered with radishes, roasted red pepper, a vegan garlic-and-roasted-red-pepper mayo, and McClure’s Sweet and Spicy pickles) and the James Cracked Cheese (a grilled cheese made with gruyere, cream cheese, and sourdough bread). Pastries are offered from Fenton’s Crust Bakery. And, as The Proving Grounds’ name suggests, there is ice cream! It’s from locally-owned, artisan ice cream makers Brown Dog Creamery, so you know it has to be good.

As you can see, there’s a lot for me to return to at this delightful indie coffee shop. May fate – and the technology gods – smile upon my next visit to The Proving Grounds!

417 S. Washington Ave.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

(With an additional location in Milford)

www.provinggroundscoffee.com

406. Pinky’s Rooftop – May 4, 2019 – Royal Oak, MI

May2019Pinkys2 (2)Mannequin heads topped with cotton-candy beehives and drinks crackling with dry ice: these were items available for order at Royal Oak-based restaurant Pinky’s Rooftop during my visit on a Saturday night in early May.

The trendy restaurant with its Instagram-worthy pink-hued dining room and rooftop patio is at the site of the former Red Fox English Pub (which happened to be Visit Number 48 for 100 Places in the D – check out this vintage post on it!). Worth noting: to enter Pinky’s, you must go in through its ground-floor sister restaurant, Diamonds Steak & Seafood, which is at the same address. Pinky’s is above it.

Pinky’s had recently opened at the time of my visit, and to be honest, it showed: food took quite a while to come out. But our server was wonderful, earnest and friendly, and it was fun to soak in the sassy ambiance and watch those cotton-candy beehive desserts sail out into the dining room. (BTW, if you look closely at the lower-right-hand corner of the above photo, you can spot one of the black mannequin heads with its pink hairdo: it’s against the wall, nearly blending into the mural.)

Pinky’s menu boasts a plethora of elaborate cocktails, including the Pink Circus with its cotton-candy topper; the Frosé, All Day frozen rosé drink; the Pinky’s Ice Pops (a glass of prosecco or brut rosé with the boozy popsicle of your choice plunked into it); and the afore-referenced cocktail, the Dancing Raspberries with its billowing plumes of dry-ice clouds. It also offers a wine list and selection of craft beers and spirits.

The food menu proffers a variety of small plates, including the items I indulged in during my visit: the Lime Chip Trio with its pots of mango salsa, pico de gallo, and guacamole and surprisingly seasoned chips (reminiscent of barbeque potato chips) and the Short Rib Wonton Tacos with their petite, deep-fried shells and toppings of pickled chilies, avocado, and radish.

A brunch menu is available at Pinky’s on Saturdays and Sundays and includes such intriguing-sounding dishes as Eggs in Purgatory and Cake Batter Red Velvet Waffles (Wow!).

100 S. Main St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.pinkysroyaloak.com

325. O.W.L. – May 4, 2018 – Royal Oak, MI

May2018Owl1 (2)May2018Owl2 (3)May2018Owl3 (2)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

www.owlwoodward.com

250. KouZina – June 2, 2017 – Royal Oak, MI

20170602_135821 (2)20170602_132001(1)I’m especially excited about today’s post because I especially LOVED this place. OMG, KouZina!

How had I NOT been to KouZina before? I became aware of it on Yelp but realized upon visiting it that I’d passed it on Main St. in downtown Royal Oak jillions of times. It’s set slightly apart from the strip where most of the Main Street businesses are clustered, just north of 11 Mile Road and across from the Emagine movie theater.

KouZina is what some might liken to a Greek Chipotle: a fast-casual establishment that allows you to create your own signature bowl with the meat, rice, and topping options you choose. I had the KouZina Large Signature Bowl, which contained all three meats that are offered (gyro-style lamb, chicken, and pork), rice (I chose brown), and my chosen toppings: fresh spinach, cubed beets, cucumbers, banana peppers, chickpeas, red onion, feta, and a spicy feta sauce. OH YEAH. It was delicious with a capital “D” and in 12-foot letters! That spicy feta sauce . . . MMMM. So, so good – and even better enjoyed outdoors on KouZina’s open-air patio.

Besides giving patrons the option to create their own signature bowls, KouZina offers gyros (of course!) and classic Greek salad, soup, and side-dish options such as Greek salad, lentil soup, Spinach pie, pita chips, from-scratch Greek yogurt (yum!), and this insanely amazing-sounding dessert called a Bougatsa, which is described on the menu as “Warm custard wrapped in phyllo dough, topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon” (!!!). I badly wanted to try one, but I was so full after the meat-rice-and-veggie-bowl that I knew I would have to save that for another visit – because I will DEFINITELY be back to KouZina.

121 N. Main St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.gokouzina.com

241. La Dulce – April 8, 2017 – Royal Oak, MI

20170408_180021 (2)20170408_185207 (2)20170408_18244120170408_182656 (2)Hi guys! I am popping on before a Detroit Day (~SQUEAL!~) to recount my visit a few weeks ago to La Dulce, a Spanish tapas place in Royal Oak.

The interior of the restaurant is light and airy, sophisticated, done up in blues and whites. In addition to standard table seating, there are also clusters of upholstered chairs and couches situated around low tables, so that if you are eating at one of those (as we were), you feel as if you are at an intimate dinner in someone’s living room.

I enjoyed a glass of rosé with the tapas spread my friends and I shared: a bowl of green olives, the Ibérico Ham Tosta (thinly sliced cured ham on toasted bread spread with garlic, grated tomato, and olive oil), Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes smothered in a white cheddar sauce, spicy red sauce, and more Ibérico ham), and Gildas (skewers loaded with anchovies, tuna, olives, peppers, and cornichon pickles).

OK, if my 30s mean sitting in elegant restaurants sipping wine and enjoying flavorful tapas with good friends, then I am all about this life! Who said being an adult had to be boring, anyway? If you are looking to treat yourself to a fancy, grown-up-yet-not-dull night out, La Dulce is definitely worth a visit.

115 S. Main St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.ladulce.com

239. Rebel Café – March 26, 2017 – Royal Oak, MI

20170326_110900 (2)20170326_121723 (2)20170326_113306 (2)Sunday brunch has become a regular thing for me and two of my best friends, and Royal Oak is a routinely agreed-upon meeting spot. I thought we were running out of new places to try – until I stumbled upon Rebel Café!

All of my friends have been incredibly accommodating of my desire to visit locally-owned, new-to-me places for this blog. It’s at the point where many of them will automatically ask when we’re planning to hang out, “Where have you not been yet?” For this I love them more than they could possibly know. After three-plus years, I was afraid this obsession of mine with the novel would be getting tiring for them. But they have wholeheartedly embraced it, and I’m loving it. So cheers to my lovely pals! I’m glad to know they were getting sick of the same ol’, same ol’ corporate chains, too.

Sorry – little tangential love-fest there. But speaking of love, I can pretty much say I heart Rebel Cafe’s Asian salad. It is DELICIOUS – and I appreciate that they are not shy with the proportions on this one. This bad boy is loaded with shredded cabbage, carrot, jicama, crispy wontons, edamame, onion, and cucumbers and tossed in a sweet sesame dressing – and there’s the option to add chicken to it, too (yes, please!).

I had assumed that the Rebel Café was solely a breakfast and lunch joint – maybe because it features the kind of eats you would typically consume at those times: a slew of early-morning items such as pancakes and breakfast burritos, plus popular noontime items like sandwiches and salads. But it’s open in the evenings, too – until 3 a.m. (Coney Island competition!) on Fridays and Saturdays and until 9 p.m. every other day  of the week.

This is one of those casual joints where you order at the counter. The food was tasty and the place was clean and pleasant during my visit, so it’s getting my vote for a quick and affordable meal option whether morning, noon, or night.

410 S. Main St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.rebel-cafe.com

229. The Morrie – February 5, 2017 – Royal Oak, MI

20170205_122447-2Today is a special day for 100 Places in the D, because it’s the first day of Blog Year 4!!!

I honestly can’t believe I’ve been posting on this blog for THREE years. I started 100 Places in the D in February 2014 with the daunting goal of visiting 100 new-to-me and locally-owned restaurants, bars, shops, parks, etc. within the Tri-County Metro-Detroit area over the span of a year, and somehow, I achieved and exceeded that goal with 102 visits.

My goal going forward was not to aim for 100 new visits each additional year, but to maintain the blog simply because I enjoy the hell out of it – it’s an excuse to make sure I continue to explore the area, get out of my comfort zone, and discover new-to-me local establishments. Thank you for following my journey, and if you’re intrigued by the prospect of starting your own version of the 100 Places Challenge whether you live in the D or elsewhere, I encourage you: please do it! Making exploring a priority has so brightened my life and expanded my horizons, and I hope it does the same for you if you’re inspired to follow in suit.

The Morrie restaurant in downtown Royal Oak has the distinction of being the last place I visited within Year Three of the blog. I didn’t achieve all of my goals set for Year Three (as always, I wish I had went further afield from my East Side environs more frequently than I did – there’s always Year Four for that), but I’m pretty pleased with what I did accomplish and mostly, with the fact that I’ve kept this all going. I’ll share a Year Three review soon.

Mostly, I have this rich and lively area to thank for the longevity of 100 Places in the D. D and Metro-D, I heart you! You never cease in unveiling intriguing new places for me to visit. 🙂

Take downtown Royal Oak, for one. It’s a fount of new establishments lately. What the heck is going on down there with the crazy turnover these last few years? Every time I go down to Main Street, I discover that a few more places have closed and new ones are slated to take their places. I hope for the sake of the businesses involved that it stabilizes down there. But one upside is that there are always new places for me to try despite the fact that I’ve been regularly visiting downtown Royal Oak since my teenage years.

The Morrie is one such recently opened establishment. It’s down near Bigalora, and according to a Detroit Free Press article I found online, it was formerly the Franklin Wine Store, which I kind of remember but never visited. I discovered The Morrie on Yelp when searching for a new brunch spot.

The rock-n-roll-themed restaurant/bar is a sleekly modern, beautiful space. There’s a wall plastered in classic vinyl and record sleeves. The Morrie’s big pull is that it hosts live music a few times a week: on Fridays and Saturdays and sometimes Thursdays, according to its website. A small stage juts out from the far end of the restaurant, intimately close to guest seating – an awesome vantage point from which to experience live music.

Live music wasn’t in the cards on my visit, because I was there for Sunday brunch. So were a lot of other people – specifically dudes, which my friend noticed, commenting, “Have you ever seen this many men at brunch?” There were two large tables of young guys near us. Apparently The Morrie is bro-brunch approved! We joked about getting her husband on board.

The restaurant’s brunch menu has such an eclectic mix of items that it’s easy to see how it would appeal to everybody in some way. There are classic breakfast items (French toast, pancakes, chicken-and-waffles) and iconic brunch items with a unique spin (three different varieties of Eggs Benedict, including one with pork belly and a five-space hollandaise and another incorporating potato skins). There’s a Croissant ‘Wich and bagels-and-lox, and there are items encased in bowls: the Smoked Salmon Bowl, Southwest Bowl, the Veggie Bowl. There’s a jazzed-up order of avocado toast sprinkled with pepitas, sunflower seeds, and chipotle-and-lime-infused salt, and there’s a sandwich called Chick Norris.

As someone who goes to brunch quite regularly but is not really a brunch person (conventional breakfast foods don’t especially thrill me), I so appreciate the vibrance, creativity, and extensive nature of this menu. I ended up getting the Asian Ramen salad, a filling bowl of shredded cabbage and carrots, thinly sliced red bell peppers, radishes, bean sprouts, orange segments, and crispy breaded chicken in a peanut curry dressing. I also ordered a side of beautifully fresh fruit and a whipped cream-topped Spanish coffee, the latter because the waitress suggested it and because Spanish coffees are one of those drinks that I love and always forget about.

Royal Oak has loved and forgotten many a restaurant, but I can’t see The Morrie succumbing to turnover anytime soon. It’s obvious a lot of care has been put into curating the interior design, the menu, and the bands (you can see a list of the scheduled live acts on The Morrie’s website under the “Music” section).

511 S. Main St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.themorrie.com