Dining in the D: Ferndale’s OM Cafe
Encouraging optimal health and respecting all species of the Earth are twin philosophies behind Om Cafe’s focus on vegetarian, vegan and macrobiotic cuisine.
Om Cafe — “just a peaceful-sounding name,” according to founding owner Colleen Smiley — opened in December 1985 on the east side of Woodward Avenue, north of Nine Mile, in Ferndale.
Smiley’s son, Jason Thibodeau, took over when she retired. He sold the business to Bill Blondy in October 2014, who continues today with business partner/chef Jessica Norwood.
A vegan, not eating dairy products or meat, Norwood was an Om Cafe diner since childhood, later hired as a waitress and mentored by the previous owners. Om Café became her first chance to cook professionally.
“It’s always been my dream to own my own restaurant,” said Norwood, who appreciates partner Blondy’s “constant support and cooperation since we began this journey.”
For Om Cafe’s made-from-scratch food, “we try our best to shop local as much as we can,” Norwood said. Produce comes from vendors at Eastern Market in Downtown Detroit as well as independent farms. The restaurant has an herb garden.
Vegetarian food shouldn’t be thought of as just salads and steamed vegetables, says the chef. She makes things more interesting by serving “plant-based comfort cuisine, such as pasta dishes, nachos, tacos and stir-fries.
“A lot of my inspiration just comes from what I feel like eating that day and the season and ingredients that are available,” Norwood said.
A lifelong carnivore, I’m especially fond of prime rib in a fine-dining setting, but the items I’ve tried here have convinced me to go vegetarian more often.
I recently ordered a Friday night entree featuring house-made barbecued seitan — a meat substitute made with wheat protein and seasoned with tamari. My Seitan Tacos with Romesco sauce were delightful. Crispy-crusted seitan squares were placed over mixed greens in three grilled-edge pita pockets. Then came the sauce, comprised of roasted red pepper, almond, scallion and smoked paprika. Guacamole and cilantro were garnishes.
I chose Chocolate Coconut Layer Cake for dessert, a customer favorite. I left Om Cafe feeling healthy, virtuous and well-fed.
On future visits, I will try Nori Roll, a menu staple since the beginning; El Mexicano, with pinto beans, veggies and lots of add-ons; and Loaded Vegan Mac, definitely not a traditional mac and cheese with its added kale and tofu, and a coconut-curry sauce.
Sunday and Tuesday are off days at Om Cafe, which otherwise opens at 4 p.m. A vegan brunch, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, includes blueberry pancakes, organic eggs, scrambles, and vegan biscuits and gravy.
23136 Woodward, Ferndale
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