Personal and Individual Reviews
Citysearch rated it 9.2/10
This vegetarian treasure in Royal Oak is a must-visit landmark on the local cuisine map.
Micheal Imperioli, noted actor (“Sopranos” and “Detroit 187″ television show) and screenwriter, says the Inn Season Cafe is his favorite restaurant in Detroit (Aug 2010 Detroit Free Press):
Discover Good Food radio show on WJR radio:
Health Magazine rated the Inn Season Cafe among six nationwide independent restaurants with an innovative healthy menu:
Monica H: Who’d a thunk that in the Detroit suburbs you’d find one of the best vegan/veggie restaurants! Well, here it is and it’s amazing! And (its) just 15-20 mins from downtown Detroit. We went for brunch. I had my usual “monica’s vampire juice” (beets, carrot, lemon, ginger) and it was made perfectly, had a cup of the mushroom soup, that was delicious (a must) and then my non-vegan friends and I shared three vegan entrees. The Samosa plate was exceptional, the Inn Season Salad was the best salad I think I’ve ever had and one other dish that I can’t remember. This place is worth going to if you are road-tripping and passing Detroit…get off the highway and drive here it rocks!
Ella K: Really tasty vegetarian food and great brunch menu, made nicer by really friendly servers and a relaxed environment. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a great spot for good, fresh food.
Jerin W: Inn Season is the best vegetarian and vegan haunt around. Although the menu isn’t huge, everything on it is tasty. They also have daily specials and their brunch is exquisite. Recent remodeling gives Inn Season an open and airy atmosphere. The food is all well-prepared and well-presented. The staff is mostly very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and about healthy eating in general. A very diverse clientele proves that Inn Season is a comfortable environment. And don’t forget dessert!
25 years fresh
Inn Season celebrates a silver anniversary of vegetarianism.
By David Moss 5/8/2006 11:13:00 AM
Sometimes, it’s good to check back on an old friend. And Inn Season Cafe has been a Royal Oak mainstay.
While other vegetarian eateries have come and gone and the country’s health-food phase fizzled and returned, Inn Season has served up fresh, organic cuisine without skipping a beat. The homey, cozy (read: close seating) atmosphere is still alive, along with the restaurant’s down-to-earth waitstaff, who still serve comfort foods like pizza and several Mexican items, too.
But the level of sophistication has been turned up a notch, with offerings that treat the eye as well as the palate.
Mushrooms are a highlight in quite a few dishes, so my companions and I began with mushroom soup that was chock full of chopped mushrooms and carrots and blended with a nice helping of dill. The soup was thick but not as heavy as bisque. Other appetizers include hummus with roasted red peppers, sauteed mushrooms and several salads.
Among the entree offerings are seven different pizzas, including spinach-walnut and portabella-
walnut. All pizzas come with dairy or soy cheese atop an herbed whole-grain crust. We tried the Thai Coconut Peanut Stir Fry — a mix of broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, sweet potato and tempeh (cultured soy patty, a healthy source of protein) in a Thai ginger sauce — alongside a mound of saffron basmati rice. This dish was full of flavor and spice, without being too hot. We also chose the Brown Rice Salad, which mixed organic brown basmati rice with sweet red pepper, cucumber, carrots, pine nuts, currants and herbs in flavorful vinaigrette.
Other entrees include Mexican classics, like quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos and botanas; and stirfries, with peanut sauce and tofu, sea vegetable or ginger and cashews. Noodles may be substituted for brown rice.
A trip to Inn Season wouldn’t be complete, though, without the original Fourth Street Burger, a hearty whole-grain patty with or without cheese, served with your choice of a tangy BBQ sauce, Dijon mayo or sesame tahini dressing. This burger is filling and delicious. Now, if you’re hankering for Johnny Rockets, you may be disappointed, but this healthy option is still filling and delicious — and leaves more calories for dessert.
Inn Season bakes its own treats, made with the freshest ingredients and organic flours and sugars. Favorites include the carrot cake, apple crisp, Grandma’s Vegan Chocolate Cake (although my grandma wouldn’t have known a vegan if she bumped into one) and a rich brownie drenched in hot fudge, served with either Soy Delicious or Stoneyfield Organic ice cream.
Inn Season is a friendly and lively place that serves up vegetarian fare satisfying enough for even those who look for a meat meal. After 25 years, they still know what it takes to satisfy an ever-growing clientele of happy diners.
The sizzle, not the steak
Review by Elissa Karg
Eats: 4 Stars out of 4
Experience: 4 Stars out of 4
Good news: Inn Season Café — a rare provider of vegetarian cuisine in metro Detroit — has gotten better as it has gotten older. Fine, organic ingredients have always been its hallmark, but the health food nature of the cooking has been eclipsed; now you are eating vegetarian haute cuisine.
Nick Raftis purchased Inn Season two years ago from chef and owner George Vutetakis, who had been running the place since 1985 (it opened in 1981). Chef Thomas Lasher is the co-owner, and has cooked at Inn Season on and off for 20 years. The menu is more the same than different: Many of the old favorites still appear — the Mexican-inspired dishes, the stir-fries — but gone is the focus on Indian cuisine, and the food is more sophisticated.
An appetizer of thinly sliced Japanese eggplant — pan-fried with ginger, sesame seeds and shoyu (soy sauce) — was interspersed with squares of seared tofu. It was garnished with matchstick strips of nori — the Japanese seaweed wrapped around sushi — and served with Chinese broccoli. An outstanding dish, it was original, inventive, beautifully presented and delicious. An appetizer of guacamole was assertively seasoned with garlic and cilantro, and came with a house-made fresh salsa.
Every day Chef Lasher prepares a supplemental menu for the daily specials, which includes several appetizers, one or two seasonal entrées, and a complete meal. Creativity prevails in these items. One evening I had a wonderfully creamy risotto that was cooked with fresh corn kernels and garnished with sweet red peppers (here’s one place where this dish could have been improved — the peppers were more wilted than roasted, and artlessly presented).
The complete meal one evening was harvest pie. Your choice of soup or salad comes with it; I had a house salad, which was simple and absolutely fresh. Inn Season has always excelled with its homemade dressings, and still does. The harvest pie was fashioned from layers of whole wheat phyllo (if you’ve ever worked with this flaky thin dough, you can imagine the challenge of working with a coarser, whole wheat variation) and filled with cauliflower, corn, spinach, onions, leeks and herbs. It was served with a delightful cold green bean salad, mixed with julienned strips of carrot and a garlicky mayonnaise, and a stuffed sweet yellow pepper filled with basil pesto, wild rice, tempeh and vegetables.
Twice I dined with timid eaters who opted for one of seven pizzas. A 4-year-old at our table was delighted with the basic pizza made with only tomato sauce and cheese; she didn’t even seem to notice that the crust was made with whole wheat flour. Other pizzas feature spinach and garlic-roasted walnuts, Mediterranean vegetables with feta cheese, or portobello mushrooms with garlic-roasted walnuts.
Desserts are all organic, made with whole wheat flour and no refined sweeteners, yet they taste wonderful. Pastry chef Ajisa Selimagic has created a line of rich desserts that fit in a vegan or macrobiotic diet. The chocolate mousse is made with fine Belgian chocolate and tastes almost too rich. An opera cake had light-as-air layers and indulgent amounts of whipped cream. The blueberry tart, made from Michigan’s own sweet berries, was sugared just enough.
Among the things that haven’t changed: the hummus with roasted red peppers, lace-covered front windows, the homey atmosphere with mismatched tables and chairs, and fresh flowers on the tables. Our servers were genuinely enthusiastic about the food, and offered knowledgeable descriptions, as well as personal favorites. All these factors explain why the regulars keep coming back to Inn Season, and why new folks are always checking it out.
Open Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 9:30 p.m., Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed on Mondays.
Elissa Karg dines for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veg out Inn Season Cafe stands out with vegan menu
BY LANA MINI
Vegetarian? That’s passé. Old hat.
A vegetarian is someone who eats vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and sometimes dairy products and eggs — and that means no fish, no pork, no poultry, no beef. If you eat fish, but no other animal … that still doesn’t make you a veg-e-tar-ian.
A vegan consumes no animal products whatsoever. No flesh, no dairy, no eggs, no gelatin, no casein (that’s the stretchy protein put in even some soy cheeses to make cheese melty and gooey).
I’d bet that most people today who aren’t living under a rock know at least one vegan.
When you meet one, you’ll discover that vegan diets actually aren’t limited — they’re expanded because most vegans are willing to seek out the most exotic, interesting herbs and vegetables from every ethnicity. No limitations.
Nearly every restaurant (but always call first) offers something to vegetarians, usually at least a pasta with marinara or a vegetable stir fry. More and more throughout metropolitan Detroit are offering vegan dishes too — so hold the cheese on top of that pasta.
One of the most popular vegetarian/vegan restaurants in metro Detroit is Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak. Gourmet meals are served in a cute little building just steps away from the Main Street chaos. Ingredients there come from local farmers, organic items whenever possible.
Inn Season serves no meat whatsoever, and offers just a few dishes with dairy cheese.
Experiment if you go there,. Try the soy-based, casein-free cheeses. The flavor is rich — sometimes nutty but never bland.
It’s my favorite Sunday spot because of its brunch. I recently enjoyed an incredible, filling, tasty vegan omelet.
The dish is $9.95 and is often served as a special, but not every week. The “egg part” of the omelet is soy-based and stuffed with soy cheese, chick peas, tomatoes, mushrooms and olives. Most of it is organic.
It was served with a big portion of herb-roasted potatoes, an interesting organic ketchup, a tempeh maple patty and fruit. Tempeh is also soy-based, but unlike some tofu, it’s not slippery. It’s dense. The meal was incredible.
Inn Season is also known for gourmet pizzas topped with items like artichoke, soy cheese and gourmet mushrooms; there’s cheeseless cheesecakes, vegan chocolate cakes and ice cream sundaes. The Inn Season Salad (see information box) and the Big Baprawski vegan burger are the most popular, according to owner Nick Raftis (they also happen to be my favorites, too).
But there’s also less conventional dishes like Udon Noodles with Tofu. The daily specials often have an Indian flair — samosas, curries and more. Don’t ever pass on the soup, especially the Budapest Mushroom or the Ginger Carrot.
With such exotic dishes, meat and dairy aren’t even missed. Much of Inn Season’s clientele are not vegetarian or vegan, rather those who want interesting meals.
The ambiance is casual — dark wood floors, hardy wooden tables and booths topped with little vases of fresh flowers, candles at night, and walls adorned with original Peter Max paintings.
The clientele is eclectic and casual: senior citizens, families, hipsters, skate kids, business people, hippies. On any day you might find local fashion designers, executives and local rock bands — they all dine there. The friendly atmosphere is enhanced by the impeccable service of a knowledgeable staff.
email@example.com | (248) 901-2572
Originally published August 3, 2006
Vegetarian fare is always on the menu at Inn Season Café
By Cathy Nelson
In the competitive, sometimes cutthroat, restaurant business, lasting a quarter of a century is something of a rarity. To survive that long without the people behind the scenes losing sight of why they opened in the first place is rarer indeed.
But that’s exactly the case with Royal Oak’s Inn Season Café. Since 1981, its mission of offering healthy vegetarian and vegan world cuisine using organic, seasonal and locally grown ingredients has kept the restaurant thriving.
Stop by the brick building at the corner of Fourth Street and Knowles just off downtown any day of the week except Monday, when the café is closed. There you’ll find vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike sitting at the high-backed booths and wooden dining tables, enjoying both classic and unique, inventive dishes in a non-smoking environment, against a backdrop of walls graced by the works of local artists.
Owner and head chef Thomas Lasher – who’s worked at Inn Season for 23 years, and bought the establishment five years ago with partner Nick Raftis – has a hands-on philosophy and makes it a point to be in the kitchen every day. Everything on the menu is homemade, from the dressings to the popular Budapest Mushroom Soup, an Inn Season mainstay for years. Diners can choose from the regular menu, where highlights include salads, Mexican cuisine, pizza, stir-fries, and P.E.T.A. award winning Big Baprawski tempeh double-decker burger, or a special menu with seasonal-themed dishes that changes daily.
Or try Sunday brunch, when selections include vegan French toast and crêpes, frittatas made with organic free-range eggs, and the Inn Season Special of scrambled tofu with smoked maple tempeh, served with Yukon gold potatoes and corn bread. Even the beverage choices are unique, with smoothies, fresh juices, natural sparkling sodas and hot kukicha, a Japanese twig tea served in fine china.
Inn Season also serves vegan desserts (dairy desserts are also available) rich enough to satisfy any sweet tooth. Try not to drool over the Pumpkin Cheeseless Cake, served with candied pecans and apple cider sauce, or Grandma’s Vegan Chocolate Cake with peanut butter fudge frosting and vegan hot fudge garnish.
In keeping with Inn Season’s theme of offering dishes chock-full of in-season ingredients (hence the café’s name), this month’s featured recipe is Shiitake Butternut Ragout. The dish is a mélange of winter favorites such as butternut squash, shiitake mushrooms, leeks and shallots. Serve it with rice, pasta or couscous. And if you really want to enhance the wintry feel, enjoy noshing in front of the fireplace or by candlelight.
A place where veg*n food is always ‘Inn Season’
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
One of my favorite, exclusively veg*n restaurants in southeast Michigan is Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak, Mich. There’s nothing particularly “wowing” about it, but I think that’s why I like it. The restaurant is small and quaint. The decor is modest yet comfy-feeling. And the food is a veg*n’s delight! All items on the menu are considered vegetarian, which does include dairy. But, vegans never fear! Inn Season Cafe clearly marks which items are completely sans animal products with an asterick, making the dishes easily recognizable while perusing the menu.
This past weekend, I opted to try the vegan-marked Cashew Ginger Stir-Fry. This dish was chock FULL of a variety of tasty veggies, served over brown rice. Broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, snap peas, cauliflower, cashews… I know I’m forgetting some of the veggies! The bowl was HUGE. The picture above does not do the bowl justice! The meal completely filled me up, and I took home a carry-out with enough leftovers for a light lunch the following day. Not bad for $10.50.
Inn Season Cafe offers daily specials, and my dining companion opted for one of those–Bourkeri at $15.95. She enjoyed it very much. I made my first faux pas of restaurant-review blogging–ALWAYS take a pen with you to jot down details! I thought memorizing the name of the dish would be enough to find it on Google later on, for a basic description. Wrong. So, I apologize for that. I will do better in the future!
In addition to stir-fries and daily specials, the Cafe offers items like appetizers, pizzas, burgers, burritos and wraps.
Overall, Inn Season Cafe is a must-stop for veg*n dining when in the Royal Oak, Mich. area. It’s located at 500 E. 4th St., about three blocks east of Main St. There are plenty of shops within walking distance of the Cafe, including a Salvation Army shop, if you’re into browsing for items to recycle!
Five questions with Inn Season Cafe chef and co-owner Thomas Lasher
Inn Season Café, Royal Oak
October 18, 2007
This is National Vegetarian Awareness Month, and this is the time to harvest late summer and early fall fruits and vegetables — the kind that are likely to make delicious appearances on the menu of Inn Season Café in Royal Oak. At 26 years old, the restaurant is something of a pioneer among places where vegetarians and people who simply want to eat better can get their grub on with gusto. Its primary chef and co-owner, Thomas Lasher, 51, has been there for 23 of those 26 years. He prides himself on offering international cuisine that’s fresh, flavorful and as good to our taste buds as it is for our bodies.
QUESTION: How did you learn to cook?
ANSWER: I was in college at the University of Michigan, studying zoology. I became a vegetarian because that was a time ripe for experimenting. There were a lot of ethical and social questions about eating meat and questions about the environment. So I started cooking for myself out of necessity, and I found I had an affinity for it — and I liked doing it.
Q: What vegetables are in season and great to prepare now?
A: There’s so much. All the winter squashes, a lot of peppers, broccoli and cauliflower; a lot of leafy greens like kale, endive. Among my favorites this time of year are endive and radicchio. I like the sharp flavor, sauteed with a little garlic.
Q: What’s one of your favorite desserts this time of year?
A: I make a raspberry tart. There are a lot of raspberries out now. I bake them in a cashew cream sauce that’s non-dairy and sweetened with maple syrup.
Q: What do you advise others to do to get more fresh produce on their kitchen tables?
A: Go to the local farmers markets, including the local farmers at the Eastern Market, the Royal Oak market, the Ann Arbor market and other produce stands that are popping up. It takes a little more effort to go to them instead of just going to the grocery store, but it’s worth it. It’s nice to support the local farmers and it’s fresher.
Q: Where do you eat out — beyond the Inn Season Café?
A: I don’t get out as much as I should. But I like the Beverly Hills Grill, Bastone, which is just down the street, and Greektown.
BY CASSANDRA SPRATLING, DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER