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Bust Out Your Knives and Pitchforks

The two-avocado guacamole and nine margarita choices that took Ferndale by storm can now be enjoyed at a second and larger location of Cantina Diablo’s in restaurant-friendly Royal Oak. For a fan like me, two has got to be better than one!

Co-owners Brian Kramer and Kevin Downey showed off their “devilishly good Tex-Mex eatery” in style June 1 at a splashy, grand opening reception for officials and business owners from both cities. The following evening, everyone could see the exciting results of transforming Memphis Smoke restaurant into Cantina Diablo’s, at the southwest corner of Main Street and 11 Mile Road.

As in Ferndale, the devilish colors of red and black are everywhere at the new 10,000-square-foot restaurant in Royal Oak, and the ambiance is lively with a long bar with red footlights and all tables and step-up booths in sight of high-definition plasma TVs (76 in all). Live and DJ entertainment will be offered and also a rooftop patio opening in July. The space will feature seven fire pits surrounded by lounge seating.

Executive chef Brian Hussey Jr., former owner of Mesquite Creek restaurant in Clarkston, creates dishes that showcase the flavor, heat, texture and personality of authentic Tex-Mex. The hybrid menu is derived from centuries-old Mexican traditions, as well as family recipes originating in El Paso and towns along the Texas-Mexico border.

Under Hussey’s direction, staff prepares pressure-marinated and mesquite-grilled Texas beef, fresh seafood (delivered daily), sauces and salsas from Rio Grande Valley produce and house-made tortillas. Only ice cream and margaritas get frozen.

I was wowed by Cantina Diablo’s, winner of several media awards for “Best Mexican” and “Best Tex-Mex.” I started with creamy roasted corn and poblano chowder, and it just got better from there with the made-to-order guacamole (four styles are available) and chicken enchiladas, accompanied by a choice of two sauces.

My beverage was a tasty strawberry margarita prepared with real fruit puree. It came with a little red devil skewer of fresh strawberry and pineapple. Others might prefer mojitos, sangrias, cocktails, premium liquor and long-necked beer. Cantina Diablo’s is notable for offering Michigan’s first Chill-Rite 32 draft beer system, which keeps beer at an optimal 32 degrees.

Another innovation is a linked state-of-the-art call-ahead seating system meant to ensure prompt, efficient seating and service for patrons between the two restaurant locations.

Open for weekend brunch, Cantina Diablo’s offers traditional American breakfast options alongside southwest favorites, including huevos rancheros and a breakfast-style burrito.

The co-owners are longtime restaurateurs. Downey owned and operated the venerable Fox & Hounds Restaurant in Bloomfield Hills and remains a board member of the Michigan Restaurant Association, which he once helmed.

Kramer’s restaurant career began in Royal Oak with Duggan’s Irish Pub, Payne’s Woodward Inn and Woody’s Diner. RT



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