Raise the Bar
Royal Oak piano bar offers classy entertainment.
Published: June 10, 2014
Found on the corner of Main and Sixth Street, smack dab in the middle of downtown Royal Oak, 526 Main is much more than just an address. A classy piano bar nestled among a bevy of bro-tastic nightclubs, this dining and drinking establishment offers a respite from the pounding music of Top 40 DJs and standing-room-only environs.
With its floor-to-ceiling windows that open to a sidewalk patio, 526 Main is outfitted in mahogany tables and black leather seating; the walls are adorned from top to bottom in beige stone tiles, adding a Mediterranean flair. Located beneath sister bar Tequila Blue, 526 offers a menu with a decidedly Mexican theme, but pizza, sandwiches, and other more American dishes are available as well.
Invited by the establishment’s management to review the bar, we made our way into 526 Main on a Thursday afternoon, finding the place just about to key up for the evening. A few patrons were enjoying the patio, and several trickled in to sit at the bar, ordering up a colorful margarita or two.
We sat and spoke with the bartender as well as 526’s nighttime operations manager Zach Burbridge. Friendly and accommodating, they poured us two of their newly improved margaritas, a freshly made mojito, and their signature martini. Bright and florid, the margaritas have recently gotten an upgrade, with house-made fruit puree used in addition to flavored liquor. We sampled the peach version, which was sweet without being overpoweringly saccharine and just darn pretty.
Other cocktails here include an American Mule made with Tito’s Vodka, as well as a Mexican version that can be made with whatever tequila you choose. A Spanish coffee here features Kahlua and rum mixed with a hot cup of coffee, topped with whipped cream, and a Perfect Peach is as simple as Absolut’s Apeach mixed with soda. Three Champagnes are on the menu, as well as a thoughtful selection of red and white wines.
Of course, perhaps a bigger draw than the bar’s liquid offerings is the entertainment. Now the only piano bar in southeastern Michigan, 526 Main features both national and local players. According to Burbridge, the vibe in the bar can get “almost raucous at times, with lots of interaction.”
The entertainment available here makes the establishment something of a destination, he says, noting that patrons are often celebrating some big life event, be it a birthday, graduation, anniversary, or promotion.
While the players do interact with the crowd, Burbridge says the show is only as communal as you make it, adding that the players are tasteful and obliging, not obnoxious or rude.
“If anything, they’re self-deprecating like a comedian would be,” he says.
A popular place on the weekend, 526 encourages reservations, as the place books up quickly. By Thursday night, there already wasn’t a seat available for the weekend.
A stimulating deliverance from bass-thumping clubs, 526 Main offers delicious drinks, an upscale-yet-chill atmosphere, and interesting entertainment for the nightlife lover.
> Email Alysa Offman