Cantina Diablo’s Heats Up Royal Oak Nightlife

Vicki Briganti – WWJ-TV Writer / Producer / Editor

Watch your back, Blackfinn Restaurant and Saloon. The devil’s in town, wielding a spicy pitchfork.

Cantina Diablo’s quietly opened in Royal Oak on Memorial Day. Monday morning, I saw contractors put the finishing touches on the sign above the door on Main St. and 11 Mile Road. That evening, patrons were inside eating and drinking. A week of kickoff parties followed, similar to the opening of the Emagine Theatre at Main St. and Troy, albeit with no money raised for charity.

From the tone of the party I attended, it seems Cantina Diablo’s hopes to become the next Blackfinn. “Blackfinn North,” perhaps. Why do I think this?

  • A bouncer cards patrons at night
  • Kickoff fun included scantily clad Diablo Girls offering free shots
  • Thursday-Saturdays feature a DJ and dancing until 2am
  • 76 HD plasma TVs
Cantina Diablo inside

Inside Cantina Diablo's (credit: Vicki Briganti)

Different than Ferndale?

I’ve been to the Cantina Diablo’s in Ferndale. Same owners. That location seems more like a restaurant with music, rather than a nightclub/bar that happens to serve food. According to spokeswoman Regina Stocco of Street Smart Marketing and owner of The Social Connection, in addition to having more square footage, the Royal Oak site has a rooftop deck and an expanded menu of burgers, Tex Mex BBQ, and seafood.

Co-owners Kevin Downey and Brian Kramer launched the restaurant with the deck closed due to construction rain delays. “The rooftop patio will include seven lounge areas, complete with their own fire pits,” says Stocco. “There’s also a private banquet area for 125 guests.”

The deck is scheduled to open in the summer. I’m curious if there will be lines to get in like at Blackfinn since its opening in 2008. Blackfinn doesn’t have a rooftop patio. Ouch. Or fire pits. Double ouch.

Cantina Diablo's in Royal Oak

Cantina Diablo's in Royal Oak (credit: Vicki Briganti)

See for Yourself

From the devil to the pitchfork to the trademarked tag line, I’m not surprised the co-owners plan to franchise the Cantina Diablo’s brand. Hopefully, the concept won’t tank like the now-defunct Rio Bravo chain of Tex Mex restaurants. Cantina Diablo’s chips are extra crispy and the salsa, addicting. The guacamole is tasty and made to order. The ribs I ordered had a smoky flavor, but were dry. It’s worth a try just for the fresh chips.

Cantina Diablo’s building is a total redesign of the former Memphis Smoke. Is it wrong for me to miss Memphis Smoke? The devilish Tex Mex is new and trendy, but I miss the flying pigs. The blues. Live local bands. The unique comfort and feel of a neighborhood friend.  The Reefermen, and people who love the Reefermen, will know what I’m talking about.

Maybe the sheer awesomeness of rooftop fire pits will help us move on.

>> More Motor City Musing With Vicki Briganti


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