Tequila Blue and 526 Main restaurants are located in the same space on Main Street in Royal Oak. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)
The local restaurant trend may be tilting toward intimate bistros, but that certainly didn't influence the proprietors of the two intertwined restaurants that recently joined the array on Royal Oak's Main Street.
The two, 526 Main and Tequila Blue, fill big spaces and have big ambitions. The handsome two-story complex where the railroad tracks meet Main Street in downtown Royal Oak offers two distinct menus and live entertainment.
One of the menus is American, from burgers and baby back ribs to Cobb salad; the other offers enchiladas, tacos and tostadas. Many of the Mexican dishes are from the recipes of the late Agave Restaurant, brought by general manager Josh Baker, who was a principal in the popular Detroit restaurant.
Walk in and take your choice: a table on the ground floor space named 526 for the address, or the second-floor Tequila Blue, reached by a winding, 30-step staircase and brightened with Mexican art, a variety of seating from cozy booths to high-top tables and enough TV screens to qualify as a sports bar. Between the two elements, 260 may be seated, and with spring will come even more seats, with the addition of a patio.
In two visits, I've been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the fare and with the friendly and accommodating service by the staff that seems genuinely enthusiastic.
Such dishes as Vineyard salad, a mix of romaine and mixed greens, dried cherries, a crumble of blue cheese and chargrilled chicken with cilantro lime vinaigrette from the 526 menu, and tortilla soup, the subtly spicy chicken soup topped with strips of tortilla and a dollop of sour cream, ground beef enchiladas and steak fajitas from the Tequila Blue lineup, were all nicely done.
The Mexican dishes are served with Spanish rice and black beans rather than refried beans, a nice touch.
There's a quite respectable half-pound burger, and some interesting entrees including Cajun spiced grouper and Swedish meatballs, as well as the requisite steaks on the downstairs menu. I like the idea that diners may mix and match from the two menus.
At dinner, both menus are available no matter where diners choose to sit, while at lunch, a smaller combined menu is served only on the first floor.
There are plenty of TV screens there, too, in an airy, high-ceilinged setting that takes advantage of natural light through tall, uncovered windows. That's where performers at dueling pianos take over Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m.
It isn't easy to achieve parity between food and entertainment as this hybrid is trying to do. In the early going — it's only been open a little more than a month — 526 and Tequila Blue seem to be doing a pretty good balancing act.
526 Main/Tequila Blue
526 Main St., Royal Oak
Call: (248) 591-9000
Rating: 2 1/2 stars
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-11 p.m. Sun. Late night menu 11 p.m.-1:30 a.m. every night
Prices: Sharable appetizers $8-$15, burgers and sandwiches $9-$10, soups and salads $3-$10, entrees $12-$30
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Parking: Street or nearby lots
Wheelchair access: No barriers (elevator to second floor)