Since The Root Restaurant first opened its doors in May of last year, the White Lake Township restaurant has enjoyed a steady stream of business, which has only continued to grow as customer satisfaction and word of mouth has spread. And after recently being named Restaurant of the Year by the Detroit Free Press, it will only get more difficult to find a table on a Friday or Saturday night.
“The response has been amazing. We’ve never seen our weekends booked so far ahead. We are full from now until March. It’s awesome,” said owner Ed Mamou, who said being named restaurant of the year was “pretty unbelievable.”
“I felt it was humbling for us,” he said. “It was more than just (executive chef) James (Rigato) and I putting this project together. It was our staff, all the local vendors, and the local community. If we didn’t have such a great reception, the word of mouth would not have spread so well. It’s amazing.”
The local community is a prominent theme when dining at The Root, which focuses on using local and seasonal ingredients.
“This project is about the local community, as well as serving delicious food that is made from scratch with local ingredients,” Mamou explained. “That’s not something you are able to find in metro Detroit easily. We kept looking for a restaurant like us. That’s the reason we put this project together.”
Of course, Michigan in the winter poses a challenge with the lack of seasonal produce available, yet that only adds to the fun.
“It keeps us on our toes,” said Mamou, who noted that there are anywhere from 4 to 8 daily specials, in addition to the current menu items available. “But I think it energizes our staff. And it makes it fun for the customers. We want to give them the best experience to get to try different food and drink.”
All current menus can be found online at therootrestaurant.com.
Since opening, The Root has made around 30 changes in what Rigato refers to as a “living menu.”
As such, the staff is always on the look out for not only local but delicious ingredients such as shrimp from Okemos that they now feature with linguine.
“It’s an aggressive menu,” Mamou said. “It’s also based on customer response and demand. We listen to what they are looking for.”
Two appetizers that have received an overwhelmingly popular response have been the pan fried crab cakes and the pan seared scallops. Meanwhile, the braised Michigan pork shoulder with smoked cheddar grits has been a favorite entree.
With seasonal produce difficult to find in the winter, the menu currently features “heartier dishes,” including vegetable stews and a meatloaf made with Michigan beef and a house-made marinara.
“We still keep up with seasonality, but perhaps our ingredients aren’t as local as during the growing season,” Mamou said. “We keep to a radius of what’s closest, such as getting fish from Wisconsin.”
Meanwhile, it’s not just lakes area residents booking reservations at The Root. People from all over metro Detroit come to White Lake to sample the local fare on the weekends. Mamou said he believes their online reservation feature makes it easier for customers to make a long-distance trip.
And as business continues to grow as The Root heads into its sophomore year, Mamou plans to keep the game plan consistent.
“We need to keep the high level of service, need to have great food, and to keep following the course we are on while staying interesting,” he said. “We’re excited for the growing season so we can again begin to find local fruits and vegetables. We’ve been so blessed by the reception of the area, and we love the community around here.”
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The Root is located at 340 Town Center Blvd. in the Village Lakes Complex off of Elizabeth Lake Road and M-59 in White Lake.