...and it was probably due to the fact that:
1. It was Restaurant Week, and it was 3 courses for $15, including the clam chowder I wanted to try
2. The chef is leaving mid-month for Chicago, and I wanted to try the clam chowder with him here
So today was the day, and I set out for Royal Joke. Yes, I found an on-street meter. Yes, parking cost me more than $1, which I hate. Yes, I know I normally eschew any dining in Royal Oak, but this time, with the discount, and with the knowledge that I'd finally get to try the clam chowder that I'd heard so much about, I decided to give it a go. I purposefully went late (1:30PM-ish?) in order to give them a chance to do well outside of the lunch rush.
Wow. Did I ever give them that chance. Upon arriving there was one other customer in there. One. I was hungry, and it didn't matter, but still: one other seated person. I asked some of the employees, "Anywhere?" for a seat, and they said, "Anywhere you'd like!" So I chose a seat facing a window outside to watch the world go by. With no one else around me, it was actually quite peaceful in a very real way.
My server, Leslie, approached, and she did a very good job the whole way through the meal. I certainly wasn't rushed, my water glass never emptied, and every request I made (extra napkin, for example) was easily fulfilled. She was very friendly, but not hovering, and did herself proud. Tipped her well.
First course! That clam chowder I'd heard so much about! Very much anticipated!!!! And it was...clam chowder. It was functional clam chowder, a bit on the too-salty side, but I ate every bit of it. I'd heard/read really good things about the clam chowder here, and I have to say, "What's it all about, Alfie?" Again: good enough to eat, nothing wrong with it, but certainly nothing to put it a cut above any other half-decent clam chowder I've ever had. I've had worse, I've had better, but there really isn't anything remarkable about this soup. Don't believe the hype, but don't shy away from the soup as being bad or anything. It's just not all that or anything. It certainly was eaten, but it's nothing to hang one's hat on. C here.
Second course! Chipotle Chicken Sandwich. Served with fries (natch). I am just *way* too sick of fries. I honestly wish there were other choices, and perhaps there was, and I just didn't know about them, but fries were the "come with" on the sandwich plate. There was also a small mogul of cole slaw (about 2 bites that I made into 3) which had some very good flavor, despite being creamy. Wish I'd have had more of that and fewer fries (and I should note that the fries were prepared properly, and were hot, but still: they were fries).
I must say: this sandwich was very, very good, for a grilled chicken sandwich. It actually surprised me a bit, how good it was. The grilled chicken breast was just basically perfect, hot with lots of juiciness, and a decent portion. It was served atop a house-made chipotle mayo with a nice, not overpowering (unless you're my mom), spice level, some fresh arugula, and some tomato slices, on a very-not-shabby grilled pretzel-type bun. The bun really held up well against the ingredients, but each bite of the sandwich was a pleasure, not a chore, to eat. This bad boy was a solid B, and that's a *darned* good grade from me for a grilled chicken sandwich of any type. Bravo.
Third Course! Chocolate tart, which was okay. It functioned, it was a pretty nice presentation on the plate, but it didn't exactly come close to changing my life or anything. For the meal, though, it was a decent finish, but nothing I'd want again. C here. Between this and the Key Lime Parfait, I probably still made the right choice, but who knows?
All things being equal, I was pleasantly surprised. The fact that they kind of wowed me a bit by putting their best foot forward with the grilled chicken sandwich kind of caught me off guard a bit, and the fact that the service was as good as it was, made for a pretty pleasant meal overall. I was out the door for $20 with tax and tip included, and I'd been fed pretty well. Not necessarily going to rush back there, but if someone wanted to go there, I wouldn't mind at all.
It'll be interesting to see what becomes of the place once the chef leaves later this month. He certainly hasn't been there very long, and while the soup I'd heard so much about kind of left me perplexed, I've gotta give credit where it's due on the sandwich: they hit the mark solidly with that thing, and it's honestly *hard* to get me pleased with a grilled chicken sandwich. They're just so often boring or terrible, and this one was neither. That particular thing I'd get again without any issue whatsoever.
Still, being that the place should be known for their seafood, and the clam chowder wasn't anything to write home about, it's kind of perplexing.