Food & Drink

Café Muse

Royal Oak restaurant provides an inspired experience.

  • Courtesy photo.

Café Muse
418 S. Washington Ave. Royal Oak
Breakfast and lunch 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Sunday, dinner 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday

When the Greeks sought inspiration, they appealed to the Muses to unlock their creativity evading them. Café Muse is aptly named, because in a landscape of too many “Mexican” restaurants and some longtime staples, Café Muse provides a creatively inspired and extremely high-quality dining experience. 

Owners David Smith and Greg Reyner invited me in one afternoon to sample some of their dinner menu in the hopes I could report back on its merits. They made my mission simple because, as intended, the dishes were inspiring. 

Smith and Reyner were gracious and welcoming. We chatted during the lull between shifts and they brought me several items to taste. The most popular appetizer on the menu is the plate of bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed with chorizo, wrapped in bacon, and sautéed in a chipotle-tomato sauce. They’re soft and succulent, tasting much like bacon candy. You get several and they’re large, so at $9, they’re very well-priced. Reyner also brought me a chorizo taco and a short-rib taco to sample. The chorizo taco includes sautéed sweet potatoes, corn salsa, and sharp cheddar cheese, and the short-rib version is covered in a melted three-cheese blend and “Sauce Ammoglio,” a tomato-based garlic and herb sauce. 

Their wine list includes many Michigan selections and is also French-heavy. It’s worth mentioning that Café Muse holds a Wine Spectator award for their wine list for 2011 through 2013. And thanks to its full bar, Café Muse offers an appealing happy hour, serving the three “M’s” for $5 — a margarita, a Manhattan, or a martini — as well as discounted appetizers. To learn more about their regular wine dinners, inquire about their email list.

I was already feeling full when Reyner brought out two of their more popular dinner entrées: short ribs and homemade gnocchi served in large bowls. The meat is fork-tender and covered in plenty of the same sauce from the short-rib tacos. The gnocchi are light and fluffy, handmade, and served in a cream sauce punctuated with sautéed squash and flavored with saffron. The bowl is topped with toasted walnuts and ricotta cheese. Either dish is simple enough for a weeknight meal or special enough for a Saturday night out.