Ale Mary’s matches seasonal dishes with beers

Molly Abraham

It should be pretty obvious that beer is the dominant beverage at Ale Mary’s, a snappy Royal Oak spot carved out of what had been the overflow dining room at Tom’s Oyster Bar. No less than 140 or so choices are offered, from the 28 taps to the 100-115 gleaming bottles from craft brewers around the world, and each is served in the correct glassware. But don’t be mislead. The menu is worth checking out, too.

Executive chef Geoff Woodman has designed the fare to be compatible with the lagers and Pilseners and stouts on the list. Similar to the more familiar wine pairings on menus, Ale Mary’s also offers suggested beer/food pairings.

With bacon-wrapped meatloaf, for instance, it teams Dunkelweizen, and suggests that Irish bangers and mash pair up well with dry stout. The bangers are among the four excellent housemade sausages that include bratwurst, Italian and duck, each with its own trimmings, typified by the sauteed red onions, bell peppers and mustard aioli with bratwurst, one of the dishes I sampled. While I loved the sausage, the aioli definitely needed a mustard boost. Another small glitch – the too-sweet cinnamon butter served with cornbread.

The beer list is printed daily to reflect incoming and outgoing brews. Yes, they do run out of one or two on a regular basis. While not printed daily, the menu is seasonal and reflects the chef’s extensive background in restaurants in Cincinnati, Boston and Nantucket before he returned home to his native Michigan.

Although joined at the hip with its sibling, Tom’s Oyster Bar, Ale Mary’s has its own style and ambiance, with one long communal picnic table at the entrance, and high-top tables along the wall across from the relatively small bar, adding up to total of 77 seats in the slim space. The room has a woodsy feeling and exposed ductwork, and it’s done up in what could be called beer colors from deep brown to golden. The design was dreamed up by the owner, Nick Ritts, with input from general manager Justin Pries and the chef.

Food is attractively served on paper-covered metal trays, and includes a number of sharable dishes from cheese and charcuterie boards to fried pickles and beer cheese dip with pita chips and pretzels. And there are sturdy sandwiches, served with beer-battered fries, typified by the Godfather, a heap of mortadella, sopressata and provolone cheese with roasted red peppers, onion, arugula and a touch of basil, a value at $9. And the chef has just added a Cuban sandwich to the array.

Entrees range from chicken pot pie — who knew that dish would team well with Pilsener? — and a prettily served trio of lobster tacos to fish and chips.

Even desserts are beercentric. Chocolate cake is made with stout, and the dainty tiramisu — here beeramisu — uses vanilla porter instead of liqueur.

Although wine drinkers are given short shrift, Ale Mary’s stocks a nice selection of bourbon, scotch and Irish whiskeys.

Even those who haven’t caught the current craft beer frenzy should find something to like at Ale Mary’s.

Ale Mary’s

316 S. Main, Royal Oak

Call: (248) 268-1917


Rating : ★★★

Hours: 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon-Wed., 11 a.m.-midnight Thurs., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fri., 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., (bar later)

Prices : Appetizer $5-$11, salads $6-$7.50, sandwiches $9-$12, sausages $12-$14, entrees $10-$19, desserts $6

Credit cards : All major

Liquor: Yes.

Noise level: Moderate

Parking: Nearby structure and street

Wheelchair access: No barriers