Cantina Diablo’s in Royal Oak [DTW]
I’d be as likely to hate this place as you would be: 1. Royal Oak 2. Long cramped wait 3. Mex-CHIGAN food 4. Stupid drinks chock full of sugar and food coloring 5. Ghosts of Memphis Smoke 6. Corporate ownership 7. I could go on and on.
Regardless, I ate there tonight, for the first time, and actually found things to like about it. But, it didn’t start off well. Arrived at 8pm on a weekday looking for a table for two, and was quoted 45minutes. I agreed to put my name on the waiting list and was told that in order to do so, I’d have to give them my mobile phone number…but that I could decline to be on their text promo distribution list…
Well I got a spot at the bar within ten minutes and the folks working were super nice and motivated, even if not yet too knowledgeable about their employer’s menu. The chips were plentiful and good (IMO), and the salsa was at least average. I ordered three "street" tacos along with beans and rice ($11). Tacos: Carnitas – quite good, Steak – quite good, BBQ Rib Shavings – stupid* and bad. *stupid of me to order and stupid of them to offer.
The Charro Beans side was a great choice, with perfectly done beans, tender fresh onions, and thick broth with a nice touch of liquid smoke. The rice was acceptable, and was augmented with pieces of previously frozen diced veggies in it, for color and nutrition.
I enjoyed the above with a (Traverse City) North Peak Diabolical IPA, which was excellent.
Sorry guys, but I had a decent experience and will be back within a few months…choosing very carefully from the minefield that is their menu, and trying to keep an open mind particularly since Michigan didn’t choose me, I chose Michigan. So, who am I to be crying, “This isn’t as good as Austin TexMex.”
Before I'd left I'd been to the Ferndale location twice, both times the experience was underwhelming and the food was mediocre. The first time for my friends bachelorette party, they messed up a bunch of our orders brought the wrong drinks completely and lost the order for my fish tacos so whilst everyone was eating I waited twiddling my thumbs. The second time I came to Diablo's was against my will, my fiance needed a big screen to watch U of M football on. They brought him a beer that was mostly ice, I have no idea how they managed to turn beer to ice but they did. When questioned about it the server said that it would melt shortly :/ when it didnt, only then did the he bring a new beer. During both of my visits I noticed that their "home made" tortillas tasted of palm kernel oil. This place isn't worth your time. If you want gringo mexican food you're better off at Monterrey's Cantina a few blocks south of the Royal Oak Location. Or try the divey but lovable Margarita's Cafetal on woodward.
I've been to the Ferndale location (several months ago) and had limited expectations, which I'd say were met and/or exceeded. I haven't been back since (it seems I eat a lot of Mexican when I'm out and about, so I'm rarely hungry for it), but they did a decent job for us. The guac was a real attraction for the avocado lovers among us (not me), and when the night was over, I left happy.
Is it anywhere *close* to authentic? Not to me...no, not really. It's not going to be displacing the Tacqueria Alamedas and the La Mexicanas of the area any time soon, or ever. To be fair, though, they're not *trying* to do that, or be that. They are what they are, and they don't apologize for it. I mean, for crying out loud: that place is just stinking *garish* to look at. I believe it can be seen from space.
They're not authentic, but they're not bad, either. We'll see if, in the ensuing months/years, the quality of the fare goes down. I'm hoping it doesn't, but then, there is the Ghost of Memphis Smoke to be considered. ;)