A freshly baked baguette brought to the table in a white bag is still a signature at the Kruse & Muer restaurants, and the newest in Royal Oak is no exception. The bread is irresistible, and so hot it’s better to wait a few minutes before touching the long skinny loaf.
There’s a lot of tradition throughout the six restaurants that still bear the Muer name, a name that instantly signals seafood. And although there are many other choices on the menu, the wall of photographs of aquatic creatures here is a more than a subtle nudge toward such dishes as the rich, garlicky oyster stew, steamed mussels and fillets of lake perch.
There’s much more, of course, including spice-rubbed baby back ribs, twin filets at the relatively gentle price of $25, and pan-roasted chicken with house-made potato chips. The menu offers a range of options. Ordering a full traditional spread is only one way to go. There are lots of small plate offerings, including the excellent fish tacos and tuna .
The setting — the former Vinsetta Grill — is broken up into sections, with bar seating and small banquettes on one side and the dining room on the other under a dark-painted ceiling with exposed ductwork. In the early going, it’s been packed most of the time as people check out the highly visible new spot on the block. It’s a mainstream location and the slick facade with its subtle fish sculptures is eye-catching.
The reputation of the well-run Kruse restaurants — the others are in Lake Orion, Clarkston, Rochester and Rochester Hills — gives the newcomer some built-in goodwill.
Casey and Alec Kruse, son of the founder, Bill Kruse, keep an eye on the staff in blue and white checked shirts as the restaurant settles in after its early August opening. Not that I have anything against T-shirts, but it’s nice to see a slightly more dressed up staff.
Two visits, one at lunch and the other at dinner, gave me a chance to try a number of dishes, including the excellent jerk-spiced fish tacos, notably tender calamari with a dipping sauce of lemon/caper beurre blanc, and salt and pepper shrimp teamed with rice pilaf.
While this is certainly a casual place, presentation is attractive, with an eye toward making the colorful fare look good on the variously shaped white plates as they are are placed on tan butcher paper on the tables.
About the Muer name: In 1987, Chuck Muer, with whom Kruse had worked for years, was a financial backer of the first restaurant in the Kruse lineup when he went out on his own. Muer died tragically when his sailboat was caught in a storm in 1993. Bill Kruse continues to keep the name alive.
Kruse & Muer on Woodward
28028 Woodward, Royal Oak.
Call: (248) 965-2101
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., noon-9 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Lunch appetizers $9-$12, tacos and tostadas $10-$12, salads $9-$15, pizzas $10 to $19 (same price at dinner), entrees $14-$21; dinner appetizers $5-$15, pastas $14-$20, entrees $18-$35, desserts $5
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate to high at prime times
Parking: Attached lot and street
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding