There is nothing in Metropolitan Detroit like the Morrie. It is, far and away, the most unique concept to open in the market in years, and that’s no small feat.
That’s not just superlative bluster — it’s the praise Aaron Belen’s AFB Hospitality Group has earned after pouring years of hard work into developing the roadhouse-style restaurant in the old Franklin Fine Wine space in downtown Royal Oak (511 S. Main St.).
In an impressive and immaculate 8,000 square feet, the Morrie is part-restaurant, part-neighborhood bar, part-concert hall. The space is contemporary, open and convertible, which accommodates its dual nature. On a Tuesday, it’s the perfect place for a casual dinner with coworkers, family or friends. On a Saturday night, it’s a party you wouldn’t dare miss, with top-grade talent trying to blow the roof off the joint.
But don’t compare it to Saint Andrews Hall or the Royal Oak Music Theatre. This isn’t the kind of place where someone spills a beer on your date and the popcorn was popped four nights ago.
Servers bring you the menu in the sleeve of an old vinyl record, and it’s broken down into “Opening Acts,” “Headliners” and “Encores.” Some of the greatest albums ever produced also hang on the walls, along with a number of hand-signed original paintings from Steven Tyler (yes, that Steven Tyler).
The food is upscale, but certainly approachable — you could manage a three-course meal for two for under $50, but you might not want to. There’s a slew of appetizers, entrees and desserts worth sharing and a drink menu that’s beyond reproach — think nearly 50 unique beers on tap or by the bottle, across all price points.
We started with the Kung Pao cauliflower, which was easily one of the best appetizers I’ve had in a long time — large chunks of cauliflower seasoned with dried chili, ginger, scallion and sesame seeds. The “big ol’ meatball” isn’t just huge; it’s delicious — stuffed with provolone and herbed polenta, smothered in tomato-basil sauce. The rub on the smoked and fried chicken wings is phenomenal.
You may be surprised to find matzah ball soup on the menu, but it’s as good as you’ll find at any deli, if not better. The soup is hearty, with the vegetables and chicken that give it so much flavor in the broth when served, rather than strained out and replaced with noodles or rice.
For dinner, three of us split the eponymous Morrie burger and the Nashville hot chicken sandwich. The burger is two 4-ounce angus reserve patties, lettuce, tomato, American cheese and a house sauce on a toasted Morrie roll. It’s a next-level slider that at a reasonable $11 easily competes with some of this town’s best burgers. But the chicken sandwich is in a league of its own — words don’t do it justice, so I’ll leave you to taste it for yourself.
For dessert, you can’t skip the ice cream sandwich. There’s something truly special about the house-made Heath cookies surrounding a superb salted caramel ice cream. We were talking about it for days. You’ll also want to try the “Death by Chocolate,” a fitting title for a chocolate fudge brownie served layered with a French chocolate pudding, chocolate curls, chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream.
From start to finish, entry to exit, you’ll be taken in by the many charms of the Morrie — oh, and rushing back. *