Tally-ho, Roger Monk!
Erik Kay replaces an anachronism
by Sally Mitani
"I was selling ten burgers for every beef Wellington," says Erik Kay. "I can take a hint."
Kay--that's the name he uses, though his business card says K. and his legal name is Kolodzinski--bought the fine-white-tablecloth roadhouse the Lord Fox three years ago, after working there as manager for a number of years before that. Kay is not from Dixboro, the tiny, close-knit community the Lord Fox sat at the edge of that makes kind of a fetish of its history. "I'm an eastsider--696 and 94--but I've always been in restaurants." At thirty-nine, he's also fairly young to have the weight of a venerable but incredibly stuffy roadhouse on his shoulders, so he shut it down for a few months this summer and gamely made some big changes.
The name Lord Fox--a double word score of dated foppery, managing to evoke in just seven short letters the British aristocracy and riding to hounds--had to go. When it reopened on August 27, the restaurant was rechristened Roger Monk's. "It's a made-up name," Kay says. He chose "Monk" hoping it would remind customers of a more congenial tradition of northern Europe: the fine ales made in Belgian monasteries. "But you can't just call it Monk's. So I chose Roger to make it sound like a person."
Classic roadhouse that it was (the building's history is complicated, but the site has been a restaurant more or less since 1928), the place surprisingly never had a bar designed for people to sit at--just a short functional counter where drinks were made. It also had a lot of dead space around a front foyer, so without sacrificing any seating, Kay was able to create an ample bar, which is now stocked with high-end liquor. (It's especially heavily stocked with New Holland spirits, from the Holland, Michigan, brewery and distillery that's quickly making a name for itself with its "Hatter Royal Hopquila," a tequila-tasting spirit distilled from the operation's own beer.) Most of the carpeting
has been replaced by a gleaming cherry floor. Outside, overgrown hedges were jettisoned, making the rooms bright and airy in the daytime. Also gone are the white tablecloths. "People were intimidated," Kay says. "They would leave rather than mess up a table if they just wanted a cocktail."
Roger Monk's is not exactly what you'd call a burger joint, but the menu is long on burgers, and Kay has brought the prices on non-sandwich entrees down to the $12-$18 range. He also hopes the bar and TV suggest that it's okay to hang out and eat (slightly upscale) snacks: instead of chicken wings, he offers "duck drummettes."
Roger Monk's, 5400 Plymouth Rd., 662-1647. Tues.-Fri. 3-10 p.m., Sat. noon-10 p.m., Sun. noon-9 p.m. Closed Mon. rogermonks.com
[Originally published in October, 2010.]