Dining: Ale Mary’s adds vegan twist to menu

Molly Abraham
The Detroit News

This beer-centric spot adjacent to Tom’s Oyster Bar just added a vegan menu to its offerings, so two menus are presented to those who take one of the seats at this skinny-as-a-breadstick place.

But in truth, there are three menu possibilities, since Tom’s is more than just a neighbor. It shares a kitchen with Ale Mary’s, and when things aren’t too hectic, and you happen to have a helpful server, Ale Mary’s diners may choose something from Tom’s menu too. And oysters are always available. Yes, a bit confusing, I know.

The space was originally the banquet room for Tom’s, and it sat empty most of the time. So a couple of years ago, proprietor Nick Ritts turned it into a second restaurant, dedicated to beer and beer-friendly food. Not one to stand still, he added the vegan element. It focuses on vegan comfort food.

That means such dishes as penne pasta, made with chickpea pasta tossed with asparagus, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and vegan cheese sauce, and roasted cauliflower, one of several sharable dishes, along with roasted garlic hummus and fried pickles.

Vegan or not, the dill pickle soup is a dish that crosses all lines, with just enough spice and tender potatoes in a savory broth, my favorite dish on the vegan menu along with the sea salt fries. The fries on the regular menu are beer-battered and cooked in duck fat, and prepared separately from those on the plant-based menu as my waiter made a point of emphasizing, as are all of the vegan dishes.

Of course, there’s no mistaking that the name of the game here is beer, and among the 90 or so bottles and the 24 on tap, are familiar and mostly not-so-familiar names, from Atwater Lager to Old Nation Boss Tweed, on an almost daily-changing basis. It’s an overwhelming selection, but the bartenders are knowledgeable and can help with narrowing down the choices.

Beer-compatible food choices are much wider on the regular Ale Mary’s menu, sturdy stuff typified by Cajun shrimp tacos and Southern fried chicken and of course the four burger options. They are what put this place on the downtown Royal Oak map.

The vegan approach is going over well, according to the staff. But is it really necessary? Apologies to my vegan friends, but I think it distracts from the basic premise.

Ale Mary’s

316 S. Main Street, Royal Oak

(248) 268-1939

Rating: ★★

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.- Wed., 11 a.m-11 p.m. Thurs.-Fri, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat., 11 a.m-10 p.m. Sun. Brunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.- Sun.

Prices: Appetizers $5.50-$17, soups and salads $7.25-$12.75, sandwiches and burgers $11.50-$16, entrees $14.25-$19, desserts $6-$8

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar, with an emphasis on tap and bottled beer

Noise level: Moderate

Parking: Street or nearby structure

Wheelchair access: No barriers

What the ratings mean

★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good

★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding