It was my second time both in Ferndale, a city in the Detroit metro area, and in Om Cafe, a local vegan and vegetarian eatery. Located on Woodward Avenue, the restaurant was originally started over two decades ago by a self-proclaimed pioneer in the frontier of what was a meat and potato country. The starter’s son took over the cafe when she retired so it is still a family-run business.
While I found present-day Detroit (and Michigan in general) to be quite friendly for us non-carnivorous types, Om Cafe still stands out in that it provides a creative and cultivated array of meatless options.
The menu at Om Cafe features a number of vegetarian, vegan, and vegan-optional salads, sandwiches, stir-fries, sides, and brunch dishes, plus plenty of desserts and juices.
Since I went there on a rather hot day I craved something on the colder side, so much so that I went for something raw and ordered the Raw Kale Salad. For protein purposes, I requested the sauteed tofu add-on.
The plate was a huge hodgepodge of different ingredients, largely dominated by the fibrous kale, but also flavored with creaminess from the tahini sauce dressing and sweetness from the dried apricot bits. Ginger, walnuts, broccoli, and red peppers were also included. The tofu, though freshly fried, was slightly bland, but I solved that minor predicament with a salty soy-on-soy solution by dripping some table tamari sauce on the bean curd.
Personally, I enjoyed my time spent crunching through the giant salad, but I could see how other diners might interpret the motley mix of ingredients as incongruous. Nevertheless, there are plenty of other dishes suitable for different tastes. Last time I went to Om Cafe I found their heartier concoctions like the tempeh burger and the seitan tacos to be quite to my liking.
Things went pretty smoothly here considering how busy the cafe was for lunch. The servers were attentive to me, even though I was just one person who was not ordering anything frivolous. Also, they kept my lemony water freshly filled.
Outdoors, the facade of Om Cafe is painted in a minty green shade. On the inside, greens are omnipresent throughout the restaurant’s dishes, from side salads to kale-loaded vegan mac & cheese to shredded parsley garnishing to avocado slices.
Appropriate to the cafe’s name, there is a green Om symbol painted on the white wall, and to top off the meditative effect, a Buddha head sculpture sits on a shelf by the door. The interior walls are also currently decorated with a selection of for-sale art, including some vibrant floral acrylic paintings by one artist and a series of subtler watercolor portraits by another.
Om Cafe is quite small and intimate, so much so that it’s easy to tune in on other patrons’ conversations. The dialog I overheard at the time was between a pair of Taiwanese ladies chatting with an American biker guy, who was bald and clad in black overalls with tattoos showing all up and down his arms. He seemed fascinated by their accounts of midday meals in their homeland, as they discussed in detail the customs of compartmentalized Taiwanese lunch boxes and fish-infused soy sauce.
All in all, I’d recommend Om Cafe to anyone traveling to Detroit and interested in trying veggie fare.
Photos by Tanya Silverman.