We try to reinvent ourselves every few years,” said Greg Reyner, executive chef and co-owner with marketing specialist David Smith of adorable Café Muse in Royal Oak.

Clearly, the partners don’t adhere to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought.

The ambitious pair opened in March 2006 with a 22-seat operation across Washington Street. Gaining a well-deserved reputation as one of the city’s best spots for breakfast and lunch — offered till 3 p.m. seven days a week — necessitated Café Muse’s move less than three years later to its current, roomier site. The partners designed the casual, comfortable European-style bistro boasting an original tin ceiling. About 75 diners can be accommodated.

More change came when Café Muse obtained a liquor license in 2010 and added dinner service, currently 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Now the partners are a few weeks into the opening of their bar expansion next door. It exudes a minimalist European chic, not adorability, for drinkers who enjoy an evening out. The café’s many choices should satisfy coffee lovers, too.

“We’re not just ‘the brunch place,’ Reyner stressed. “We want people to realize we’re open for dinner and do serve alcohol.”

Boasting more than 200 selections of wine, Café Muse earned Wine Spectator magazine’s Award of Excellence both this year and last. Guests also have their choice of 60 Michigan craft beers, including Jolly Pumpkin from Dexter.

“I don’t think anyone else in Royal Oak has craft cocktails to the extent that we’re doing,” he added. Specialties include Boulevardier (sweet Vermouth, Compari liquor and bourbon) and Dark and Stormy (ginger beer and spiced rum over ice with twist of lime). The bar side offers “happy hour,” including 12 appetizing small plates, 5-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.

A graduate of Culinary and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, Chef Reyner started his career in catering. His recipes are inspired by food he’s enjoyed in great restaurants around the world. Reyner uses fresh, locally produced and organic ingredients as often as possible and lists local farm suppliers on the dinner menu.

Brad Walters of West Bloomfield, dining with wife, Carol, said that “Oprah [Winfrey] was dead-on” for featuring the Café Muse grilled cheese sandwich on her former talk show. Composed of havarti, fontina and fresh mozzarella cheeses, with tomato, basil and honey, the sandwich merited a mention in
Esquire Magazine in 2008. That attracted the attention of Oprah BFF Gayle King, who had a television crew visit Café Muse for Oprah’s “Sandwich Showdown.” Oprah gave the grilled cheese a “5,” her highest rating.

Weekly specials supplement regular offerings at Café Muse. Among the breakfast “sweet” selections for fall is Challah French Toast with Cinnamon, Pumpkin-Spiced Mascarpone and Candied Pecans. Carol Walters tried Ricotta and Lemon Pancakes, pronouncing them, “Very light.” I agreed from experience when Reyner called Exotic Mushroom Scramble with Boursin cheese and truffle oil the favorite “savory” choice of customers at breakfast.

I recently sampled healthy and smoothly satisfying Curried Celery Apple soup. My Hangar Steak Sandwich on a toasted sourdough bun was very juicy. Accompanying it was lightly dressed couscous mixed with diced pumpkin, green apple and cranberry. Delicious!

Diner Marcy Abramson of Southfield said, “They gave me a lot” of the warm goat cheese and pears atop her organic greens. The house-made balsamic vinaigrette provided a perky counterpoint.

Miles McVee is chef de cuisine at dinner, when short ribs are especially popular. The entrée comes with truffled white bean puree, roasted garlic, spinach and crispy shallots. Ahi tuna and grapefruit-marinated tofu are more evening choices. Customers ask Reyner to bring back his slow-braised rabbit entree.

Christian Stachel, director of wine and spirits, can help with selections. RSVP now for a five-course wine dinner on Nov. 7. It’s $75 before tax and gratuity.

Café Muse
418 S. Washington
Royal Oak, MI 48067
(248) 544-4749
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