One birthday, six restaurants.
By Michael Haggerty
When one of those special birthdays came around, I decided to celebrate at the Beverly Hills Grill because I’ve gone there for several years for this occasion. Then I thought about visiting some of my other favorite restaurants in the area when I struck on the idea of celebrating a birthday month, instead of a single day. I love all six of the Roberts Restaurant Group (RRG) eateries owned by Bill Roberts, so a meal at each within the month became the plan.
The interesting thing about Roberts restaurants is that every one of them has that same consistent quality, yet each is a totally different restaurant in terms of food specialties and atmosphere.
The Beverly Hills Grill (BHG), for example, is well-known by gourmets for an oven roasted wild mushrooms appetizer. Mushrooms simmer in white wine and garlic, but the Boursin cheese is what adds the unexpected flavor and texture. Unlike many places where a dish was luscious the first time but not even noteworthy the next time, this dish is consistent every time—like all the RRG meals. Another staple from RRG is the James Beard hash browns, undoubtedly the best in town and available with spectacular breakfast and bunch egg dishes. The Otto’s farm chicken breast entrée is served with fruits or vegetables in an ever-changing farm-to-table menu.
I’d be remiss not to mention the jumbo lump crab cake entrée served with mustard aioli, fingerling potatoes and crisp broccoli flowerets. Crab cakes are available in many restaurants; but for those of us who appreciate the best, the BHG rendition of this favorite should be savored. For the birthday dessert, caramel apple upside-down cake with a scoop of Ray’s vanilla ice cream is a real gift.
In pursuit of my birthday month adventure, I checked out Roadside B&G on Telegraph in Bloomfield Hills the following week. Unlike the downtown feel of BHG, Roadside is like a casual neighborhood restaurant. A large bar accommodates stopping in for an appetizer and beverage but it’s stocked with the usual RRG range of great wines, craft cocktails and beer. We chose the popular starter course Roadhouse short rib tacos served with salsa fresca, manchego cheese and avocado sour cream. Three bite-size delicacies served standing in taco holders are perfect to share. If that doesn’t make you hungry for more short ribs, try cedar planked Skuna Bay salmon with brown rice, green beans and Dijon mustard glaze or the Kobe meatloaf with Yukon gold mashed, portobellos, green beans and cabernet sauce. Roadside was the perfect stop for a second birthday dinner.
Our next stop was the Town Tavern in Royal Oak, when friends invited us to dinner. Since three in our party grew up in Corktown, we were accustomed to Friday night fish and chips. Given how difficult it is to find a good version of this dish, the generous portion of Icelandic cod with slaw and fries was memorable. Another seafood entrée, broiled whitefish served with apple walnut brown rice, broccoli and lots of tartar sauce, was also outstanding. We finished dinner sharing a special chocolate cake with Ray’s vanilla ice cream. The Town Tavern has the true tavern feel, with wooden booths and décor that fits the Royal Oak ambience.
I couldn’t wait for our next stop at the wonderful Café ML where I always know my first course will be the Korean fried chicken with crushed cashews and creamy slices of cucumber to cool down the heat. By the way, the secret meaning for the name ML is Maple and Lahser, the location of the restaurant, which is the former site of a Blockbuster store from which I used to rent DVDs. After Ron Ray’s design, however, complete with outdoor terrace enclosed with lush green foliage, it’s impossible to comprehend its prior use.
ML has a variety of great hot and cold starters ranging from smashed guacamole and tortilla chips to the crispy Brussel sprouts and outstanding mussels with saffron broth, roasted garlic and grilled baguette. The ML burger made with prime Angus, truffle cheese and caramelized onion on a brioche bun is one of the best burgers in Oakland County. The Kung Pao Chicken with peanuts, peppers, bean sprouts, basmati rice snap peas and Kung Pao sauce is big enough and delicious enough to take home for another meal. The menu at ML allows you to choose from a variety of foods from steak frites to seafood selections and Singapore street noodles. ML has a distinct Asian fusion twist to its menu.
Thanks to the Roberts Restaurant Group for opening Bill’s on Woodward and Long Lake in Bloomfield Hills; it’s close enough to my house that I could walk there. Bill’s stands in the area of the old Fox and Hounds for those of you who remember. Instead of a turret, Bill’s sports a large blue awning spread over an enchanting outdoor eating space; guests sit beneath a chandelier in a private world surrounded by greenery. Inside, Bill’s is an elegant but approachable hangout, every bit as classy as Bill Roberts himself.
Patrons come for appetizers such as fried frog legs and escargot stuffed mushrooms. My favorite entrée, Berkshire pork chops with grilled pears, onion rings as big as bagels and maple bourbon sauce, is a stand out. Besides the best food in town, you’re guaranteed to find old friends dining and make new friends while chatting at the bar. This place is my own version of Cheers.
We wrapped up my birthday culinary adventure with a Sunday night stop at Streetside Seafood on Pierce Street in Downtown Birmingham. Normally you’re lucky to get in to this popular 55-seat eatery with the reputation for the best fish in town. It’s full of people from the neighborhood or guests and some sports figures staying at The Townsend Hotel. Streetside is one of Robert’s oldest restaurants, an unpretentious place that has outlasted dozens of Birmingham restaurants that have come and gone. Lobster bisque, wonderful wine and a salad of Streetside greens with blue cheese, red onion, bacon and green beans with mustard vinaigrette hit the spot. It goes without saying that the seafood entrees of sautéed perch, oven-roasted whitefish, large sea scallops and mussels are among the freshest in this area. And please don’t forget that Streetside won the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator for the past five consecutive years.
Oysters Rockefeller from Streetside Seafood. See the chalkboard selection of oysters from the East and West coasts.
The Roberts Restaurant Group has strategically located each of its six unique restaurants throughout Oakland County to serve its clientele with comfort and convenience. Not just good food, but food that exceeds expectations. A great birthday month celebration! NS