Review: Gather the gang at Pinky's Rooftop for a glam nosh
The menu is globally influenced small plates while the decor is a wild, pink ride with a charming rooftop terrace
In the famous musical "Grease," a Teen Angel croons to Frenchy, one of the teenage pink ladies, about going to a malt shop in the sky in the classic number "Beauty School Dropout."
This line keeps running through my head as I think of Pinky's Rooftop, a new second-story restaurant overlooking downtown Royal Oak. The tapas bar and restaurant doesn't serve malts, per se, but Pinky's does have a whimsical and glamorous aesthetic with lots of bubble gum, vintage flare. And with an all-season terrace view of downtown Royal Oak, it does seem like you're soaring above the 11 Mile and Main corner.
The restaurant pays homage to Frenchy's tinting class disaster on the dessert menu with Beauty School Dropout, a giant, fluffy pile of pink cotton candy served on a ceramic head like a wig. It's a hilarious way to share dessert among friends, and in case the decor didn't give it away, it really illustrates what Pinky's is all about: fun.
With black and white stripes, animal prints, strings of crystals, big floral moments and lots and lots of pink, the dining room, terrace and lush garden look almost as if fashion outlets Betsey Johnson and Henri Bendel got together in an alternative universe and designed a cosmopolitan restaurant.
In reality, the look is from the minds of Birmingham designers Ron and Roman and Pinky's owner Adam Merkel, a young restaurateur who says he was going for a Los Angeles or Miami feel.
"You feel like you're transported into another place ... a place to have a great time," he said.
It is cheery and chic, and the service style matches it. The staff isn't overly formal, but polished. Care is taken to find out if diners have any allergies or are celebrating something special.
Pinky's is a little reminiscent of a short-lived but gorgeous Royal Oak restaurant, La Dulce, which was known for its extravagantly elegant and busy decor featuring crockery, bold patterns and lots of bric-a-brac. Pinky's is younger and more modern, though, and the menu reflects current trends.
It offers shareable small plates for dinner and brunch, influenced by American, Japanese and Latin cuisine.
Among the most popular are the Brussels sprouts bruschetta with Zingerman's bread, tender surf and turf skewers and a light ricotta gnocchi with house-made pasta, wild mushrooms and a balanced Parmesan cream sauce. Chef Merkel tells me the latter dish comes from one of his other concepts, Cello Italian Restaurant in Howell.
A favored item on one visit was the short rib wonton tacos, which are five canapés made with fried Chinese wonton paper stuffed with flavorful short rib and a dollop of avocado sauce, pickled fresno chilis and shaved radish.
Along the same lines, the Silver Pig nachos (another dish borrowed from one of Merkel's Howell properties) is a big bowl of crunchy, seasoned chips that my dining partner described as "bespoke Doritos." They're doused with melted cheese, large slices of avocado, pico de gallo and shreds of romaine lettuce. Seems simple, but they are more addicting than your average bowl of chips.
One dish recommended by the restaurant is the black truffle ramen. If you're on the fence about truffles, skip this one, because the flavors here are intense. The noodles come in a buttery sauce rather than broth, and are garnished with a generous portion of grated, earthy truffle. I said it was too rich for me, but I kept saying it until the bowl was empty.
A weekend brunch menu has all that's offered at dinner, plus more trendy small plates like avocado toast, biscuits and gravy and a carrot cake French toast. This is recommended, as Merkel's restaurant group is known for its moist, delectable carrot cake, a family recipe that includes a heaping of cream cheese frosting.
The drink and dessert menus are where Pinky's lives up to its name with Instagram-worthy presentations of fun, femme items.
Besides the ice pops cocktails, which is your choice of rosé or prosecco served with a booze-infused frozen popsicle, there's also a "smoking" drink called Dancing Raspberries made with prosecco, raspberries, St. Germaine elder flower liqueur and dry ice.
It's not all girly stuff, though. The 420 cocktail is a stern, bourbon-based drink with ginger liqueur, St. Germaine, lemon and smoked rosemary maple. There's also a New Fashioned made with gin and a dozen beers on tap.
In addition to the aforementioned Cello and Silver Pig, Adam Merkel Restaurants, which have menus designed by Merkle and culinary director chef Craig Myrand, also includes Diamond Steak & Seafood. There's the original location in Howell, and its sister restaurant in Royal Oak just below Pinky's Rooftop on the main floor. Diamonds opened in Royal Oak last fall where Diablo's Cantina was. Pinky's Rooftop followed months later in the space formerly occupied by Red Fox English Pub.
Red Fox made good use of the rooftop patio, but Pinky's really makes it sing, and that facet isn't about to end when the cooler months roll in. About half of the outdoor space can be used year-round, leaving at least 130 seats total inside and out available, even beyond those summer nights.
100 S. Main, Royal Oak
Above Diamonds Steak & Seafood
(248) 291-6506 or pinkysroyaloak.com
Rating: ★★ (very good)
Hours: 5 p.m.-midnight Tues.-Thurs.; 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Fri.; 2 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat.; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Small plates, $8-$25; brunch items, $7-$13; desserts, $7-$12; cocktails $9-$13;
Reservations: Suggested, but not required. Make them through the Open Table app, on the website or by phone.
Noise level: Convivial, but easy to hold a conversation. Music is Top 40 pop hits.
Accessibility: No barriers. An elevator is available for those who can't take the stairs to the second floor.
Parking: New parking deck directly behind restaurant.
What the stars mean
★ — routine ★★ — very good ★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — extraordinary