The Royale is an old-time South Side tavern, and how refreshing it is to see it filled with people too young to have ever patronized its model. Of course, we’re sure none of the Royale’s ancestors would have a photo of Nelson Mandela on the wall, accompanying those of Jack and Bobby Kennedy, Lech Walesa, Mother Jones, Joseph Pulitzer, Sr. and Mel Carnahan. And the patio in the back would have been referred to as a beer garden
The patio is a fine place for the Royale’s Saturday and Sunday brunch, clearly aimed at those who had a raucous time the previous night. Not only does it run from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., but there’s a Bloody Mary bar with all kinds of interesting mix-ins. The menu is primarily lunchish, although there’s an omelet and a few other things.
Inside, the interior appears vintage, but this is the sort of place where a couple of television sets may be showing the ball game or a subtitled version of "The Manchurian Candidate" while a band plays, anything from rock to jazz. (The idea of enjoying a drink from the long list of house cocktails while listening to Ralph Butler’s daughter swinging with a little scat, or grooving with Duke Ellington, sounds just right to lots of us.)
Nibbles, not surprisingly, are good. A platter of hummus and tapenade, both great with drinks, arrive with many wedges of warm pita. An empanada of shrimp and two kinds of creamy cheeses, along with smoky chipotle pepper, is utterly charming, sort of a South American improvement on crab rangoon. Even the house salad rises above banal with marinated cucumbers, feta cheese and bits of prosciutto.
Probably the best thing we’ve tried is the smoked brisket tacos. If these are tortillas, they’re square, but that doesn’t make much difference. These juicy guys sport some cooked onions and a dribble of a blue cheese dressing. (Beef and blue cheese are great sandwich mates.) The meat is nicely smoky and tender, and the dish, available at lunch or dinner, is a hit. These days, a grill hums outside, and there’s a second menu for its items. Brats, pork steaks, chicken legs, steak sandwiches and a vegetable tower come with a choice of five sauces all unlike anything seen in one of those old beer gardens. The Royale got some press early on for a hamburger made with Kobe beef, the only one in town we know about. It’s a nice burger, to be sure, and the meat is high-quality, but it doesn’t make us stand up and cheer—and at $10, it should at least lift the butt out of the chair.
We haven’t tried the only dessert on the menu, a flourless chocolate cake. There have been too many specials to tempt us, dishes like a bourbon pecan pie with a crust that stayed flaky overnight or a coconut cake with a tart pineapple sauce.
Service is good, and the available wines are interesting and fairly priced. What’s not to like?
3132 S. Kingshighway
Lunch & Dinner daily
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair access: Poor