Southern-flavored Dottie’s opens up within Café Muse

Molly Abraham
The Detroit News

It’s hardly news that restaurants are opening all around the Metro area, but here’s one with an interesting twist: This is about a restaurant inside an existing restaurant.

Dottie’s adds a Southern accent to the popular Café Muse, filling its adjoining bar with a separate menu and its own more casual spin.

The proprietors call it a Southern modern bistro, and they unveiled it just two weeks ago as the dinner element while Café Muse continues serving lunch and brunch from its own European-influenced menu.

One of many chicken and waffle offerings, this Southern spice chicken comes topped with sweet vinegar slaw. The Strawberry Smash cocktail costs extra.

The headliners at Dottie’s include waffles and chicken (as the single-page menu puts it), an array of chicken sandwiches, biscuits and gravy, and side dishes such as succotash — and you can’t get much more southern than succotash, the mix of fresh corn and lima beans — black-eyed peas with bacon and sweet potatoes with marshmallows.

A number of selections are served with housemade potato chips.

The fried chicken, which is served in three varieties, buttermilk, ginger-marinated or spiced, is the menu standout. It is made in the Japanese karaage style, dusted with potato starch, and it is crisp and tender and much more delicate than breaded chicken. At this juncture, however, the biscuit options need refining. The biscuits are too big, too heavy, and overpower the trimmings they are served with.

The dessert list follows the theme, with a rich double chocolate cake, and butterscotch or banana puddings.

Butterscotch pudding and buttermilk burbon chocolate cake, two dessert options on the menu, fit the Southern theme of Dottie’s.

The menu is a departure from the lineup at Café Muse which leans toward such dishes as grilled duck breast and garlic-rubbed pork tenderloin. However, one dish — the grilled fontina, havarti and mozzarella sandwich — spans both menus. It has been a standout on the Café Muse menu for years, and the proprietors, Greg Reyner and David Smith, were not about to deprive Dottie’s diners.

Dottie’s setting is spare and understated, a high-ceiling space with exposed ductwork, a rustic feeling and just a few decorative touches, like the tall vases filled with bare branches strung with tiny white lights. Open filament bulbs in glass-shaded hanging lamps illuminate the seven-seat bar that offers high-backed chairs paralleling a single row of tables. The tables are uncovered but sturdy linen napkins are provided. Other niceties include the quality barware and china.

The restaurant’s understated high-ceiling and exposed ductwork, along with decorative touches of vases and tiny lights on bare branches, give it a rustic feeling.

Service is friendly and helpful as the staff gets acclimated to the new direction.

An incentive to try either the mac and cheese or biscuits and gravy is that $1 per order will be donated to feeding the homeless in Metro Detroit, a nice touch.

Dottie’s adds another option to Royal Oak dining.

Abraham67@comcast.net

Dottie’s @ Café Muse

418 S. Washington, Royal Oak

Call: (248) 544-4749

Rating:★★1/2

Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 5-10 p.m. Fri. Sat. Closed Sun.-Mon.

Prices: Sandwiches $8.95-$11.50, entrees $8.50-$13.50, sides $4-$5,25, desserts $5

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar

Noise level: Low

Parking: Nearby municipal lots or street

Wheelchair access: No barriers

What the ratings mean

★ — routine

★★ — good

★★1/2 — very good

★★★ — excellent

★★★★ — outstanding