500 East Fourth Street, Royal Oak, MI 48067
QISA (4, 4, 3.5, 4), $10-18, Vegetarian (Vegan Friendly)
Royal Oak, Michigan, a tree-laden northern suburb of Detroit, was the home of the infamous 1920s fascist anti-Semitic radio personality Father Charles Coughlin.
There, I said it. Now I can move on.
Royal Oak is also the birthplace of iconic director Sam Raimi, birthplace of bechinned actor Bruce Campbell, early home of Eagles founding member Glenn Frey o.b.m., the setting for 1990s sitcom Home Improvement, and the home of the Detroit Zoo. Add to that resume the Inn Season Café, an elegant, cozy 34-year old vegetarian restaurant that is destined to become one of my new favorite haunts.
It is possible that the restaurant is not nearly as good as I think, but somehow they managed to find, target, and exploit all of my weaknesses. The Budapest mushroom soup, for example, was possibly the best mushroom soup I’ve ever eaten; creamy golden broth, big slices of mushroom, bursting with visible herbs and exotic flavors. Or how about the 4th Street Burger served on an herbed artisanal whole grain bun that is soft but thick with a perfect yeasty flavor. I can’t help but praise stuff like that.
The burger itself was grain-based, comprising oats, lentils, brown rice, millet, cracked wheat, cornmeal, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds, and somehow it held together with just the right chewiness, crunch, and flavor. The banana strawberry smoothie was fairly standard, which is to say it tasted like a very decent smoothie. Even the coleslaw, while a little heavy on the raw onion, was a vibrant mix of cabbage, carrot, red onion, and a light sauce, using fresh herbs to bring out the flavor.
The restaurant defies traditional classification, mixing its elegance with a modern appeal. Interesting still life paintings, including one of floating artichokes decorate the wall. Bottles of olive oil complement the salt and pepper shakers on the wooden tables. Tattooed ladies with multiple piercings cheerfully take your order. And then there is the elderly ladies at the corner table discussing their grand kids. For all I know, they’ve been coming here for 34 years.
To top it all off, the restaurant is kosher certified by Kosher Michigan. Take that Father Coughlin.