For months now, daily travelers along metro Detroit's main thoroughfare Woodward Avenue have speculated about the mysterious renovations at the old Onion Roll Deli. The shuttered restaurant with its retro signage has slowly been undergoing a transformation, receiving a fresh coat of black paint on the exterior and neon signage declaring the name of the forthcoming restaurant: O.W.L. Today, around 11 a.m. to the eatery quietly opened its doors with painted sign "Opening Today" scrawled on the restaurant's mirrored siding. Eater stopped by this morning just as the doors swung open to learn a little bit more about Royal Oak's newest addition. Here are eight things to know about O.W.L.
1. About the owners: Restaurateurs Joe, Kristin, and Larry Bongiovanni are behind O.W.L. The concept began to develop three years ago, around the same time they opened Market North End in Birmingham.
2. On taking over the Onion Roll Deli: "When we saw this space we just really bought a sign," Kristin tells Eater. While many of the iconic landmarks along Woodward have disappeared over the years, the Bongiovanni's wanted to preserve the distinctive curved sign at the deli and made that issue a priority in proposals to the City of Royal Oak. The rest of the 1,000-square-foot space was gutted and rebuilt.
3. About the concept: O.W.L.'s owners' developed the concept as an alternative to fast food. "The drive-thru life is no fun," Joe tells Eater. Diners can stop in and eat their meal at the Mexican-American fast-casual eatery's counter or grab takeout. An added benefit: the restaurant is open 24-hours a day, six days a week (they close at 10 p.m. on Sundays).
4. About the name: O.W.L. is an acronym but those hoping to be enlightened as to the meaning are destined for disappointment. The owners are mum on what the letters stand for. While there is an official (secret) name, "we're letting our guests decide," Joe says. Feel free to speculate on O.W.L.'s true moniker in the comments.
5. On the design: Ron & Roman were tapped to design the 15-seat restaurant. O.W.L. feels like a diner for the 21st Century with shiny metallic counters, cedar paneled ceilings, and walnut stools. It's efficient in the way a fast-casual restaurant should be but clearly didn't cut corners on materials.
6. About the restaurant's indoor mural: One particularly distinctive feature in the interior of the restaurant is a black and white painted mural. Kristin recruited New York-based artist Timothy Goodman to create a special art piece that integrated different facts and landmarks along Woodward Avenue, from a mention of the Onion Roll Deli to Dutch Girl Donuts.
7. About the menu: In developing the menu, Joe says he gave the staff (veterans of their other restaurant) the opportunity to create something entirely their own. The result was a combination of Mexican-American dishes and diner staples like burgers. Customers can come in at any time of day and order anything off the breakfast and lunch menus.
The choices range from perfectly crisp and flavorful dry-rubbed chicken wings to habanero bacon, cheese, and egg sandwiches, chilaquiles and avocado toast. The beverage options are equally diverse and distinctive. O.W.L. pours nitro coffee as well as the regular brew and makes house-crafted lemonades, ice teas, and horchata. Today's lemonade was infused with mint and vanilla. There are also bottled sodas.
8. About outdoor seating: Customers stopping by may also notice several large white orbs outside spelling out "O.W.L." Kristin tells Eater they were rescued from a shuttered bowling alley and repurposed as outdoor signage. The owners plan to add an informal seating area near the signage for who want to enjoy the nice weather.
Check out the menu below:
O.W.L. is open 24-hours a day Monday through Saturday and closes at 10 p.m. on Sundays. Dine in or takeout. Call 248-808-6244.
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