Drive along Old Homestead Street between Beaconsfield and Kelly Road in Harper Woods and in the midst of the well-kept bungalows on the tucked-away side street is a surprising sight: a serene and beautiful monastery surrounded by luxuriantly blooming gardens, splashing fountains, and mosaic shrines.
The first glimpse of St. Sabbas Orthodox Monastery could stop traffic — if there were any on the quiet street. Rich blue and gold onion domes rise from the cluster of buildings behind a wrought-iron gate that leads to the six-acre complex.
It’s as if a bit of old Russia has been dropped into the suburban setting.
It’s likely that only the parishioners and neighbors would know about this oasis, were it not for the Royal Eagle restaurant, which was opened by the monks last year. Dinner is served on Thursdays only, and tea on Tuesdays and Thursdays in a setting of antique silver samovars and traditional art in the high-ceilinged, fancifully decorated room.
Tall, arched windows allow diners at the linen-covered tables to see the gardens. Included in the décor are portraits of Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov of Russia, in whose memory the place is dedicated. On a screen above the fireplace, a silent video showcases Moscow’s architecture and history.
The dinner menu follows the Eastern European theme, with such dishes as chicken breast stuffed with herbed garlic butter (the classic chicken Kiev), chicken paprikash with dumplings, Bulgarian lamb kebobs, and a platter that includes potato pancakes, house-made sausage, stuffed cabbage, pierogi, and sauerkraut.
There are also a few daily specials more suited to hot weather.
At tea, which is really more of a luncheon, cucumber and other tea sandwiches, smoked salmon, and Russian crêpes, as well as an array of sweets and a choice of more than 40 loose-leaf teas are served.
Everything is prepared in-house by Czech-heritage chef Petr Balcarovsky, who studied culinary arts in Europe and is one of the St. Sabbas parishioners.
Menu prices are listed as donations, since all the funds are used for the upkeep of the monastery, which has been carved out of the neighborhood, step by step, over the course of a decade.
Royal Eagle Restaurant, St. Sabbas Orthodox Monastery, 18745 Old Homestead, Harper Woods; 313-521-1894, theroyaleagle.org.