These 10 venues from metro Detroit's new restaurant class of 2010 might appear to have little in common.
Their menus range from Napa Valley chic and Midwestern bistro to upscale Lebanese and modern Italian. Some are intimate neighborhood places. Others aim for stylish sophistication. A few are big, ambitious, dining hot spots.
But beyond those stylistic differences, the venues share an obvious passion for well-prepared food and excel at creating distinctive, engaging dining experiences for their guests.
Scores of inviting new restaurants opened last year, but these, in our opinion, stand out as the 10 best.
â€¢ Related: Photos: Metro Detroit's best new restaurants
If you missed their arrival, add them to your list for 2011. But don't wait too long or you'll get behind: A whole new crop is ready to sprout.
Restaurants are listed in order of opening, from oldest to newest. Only venues debuting between Jan. 1 and Dec. 30, 2010, were considered; new locations or reopenings of existing restaurants were not included.
Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro
California's wine country doesn't feel so far away when you're dining at Mindy VanHellemont's small, beautifully understated Tallulah. With its airy look, linen-covered tables, serenely white dÃ©cor and show-stopping bar, it was an instant hit when it opened in February. The enticing wine list and combination retail shop and tasting room next door are supposed to make wine the center of attention, but chef Jake Abraham's simple, sophisticated menu more than holds its own. The roasted whole trout is a favorite, but the pappardelle with Bolognese and ricotta never disappoints. Sunday brings brunch, supper (with a children's menu) and music.
155 S. Bates, Birmingham; 248-731-7066 and www.tallulahwine.com. Open 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun.
Toasted Oak Grill & Market
Chef Steven Grostick's long experience and love for Michigan ingredients are reflected in every element of this casually upscale brasserie and market at the Baronette Renaissance Hotel in Novi. The winter dinner menu offers rustic, hearty dishes such as roasted leg of Michigan Whitetail and Faygo root beer-braised short ribs. But there's also lighter fare including steaming bowls of mussels, hearth-fired pizzas, fresh seasonal fish and a memorable burger served in a glossy pretzel roll with Pinconning cheese and roasted shallots. Don't miss Grostick's house-made charcuterie, especially the grilled kielbasa with caraway mustard. Breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch are also served.
27790 Novi Road, Novi; 248-277-6000 and www.toastedoak.com. Open 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-10:30 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-11 p.m. Fri., 7-11 a.m. and 5:30-11 p.m. Sat., 7 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-10:30 p.m. Sun.
In Shelby Township -- where family-dining and old-school ethnic and chain restaurants predominate -- casually sophisticated Metropolitan CafÃ© stands out with its eclectic American bistro menu and stylish
urban-loft vibe. We love the nighttime feel of the place, with its citified views of traffic through two expansive walls of glass and the big, comfortable bar in the center of the room. The menu by chef Alexis Henslee, former sous chef at Tribute, strikes a nice -- and necessary -- balance between familiar and adventurous dishes. Try the rustic braised lamb with pappardelle pasta or the mussels in a luxurious white wine cream sauce.
52969 Van Dyke, Shelby Township; 586-991-6104 and www.themetroshelby.com. Open 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 4 p.m-2 a.m. Sat., 4 p.m.-midnight Sun.
When dispensers at the bar turn out a rainbow of fruit juice-laced margaritas and the restaurant's logo is a short, fat, crimson-colored devil, you know they're not serving haute cuisine. But when you're craving Tex-Mex, this super-casual restaurant and bar in Ferndale is just the spot. Everything's made in house from fresh-never-frozen ingredients, a high standard for a place so casual. The chunky, made-to-order tradicionale guacamole is worth the drive; follow it up with a platter of sizzling fajitas. Since its May opening, Diablo's menu has shifted to a less-expensive, more-Tex-less-Mex style; burgers and steaks have just been added.
175 W. Troy, Ferndale; 248-808-6633 and www.cantinadiablos.com. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., noon-10 p.m. Sun.
It's not just the ultra-thin Neopolitan-style pizzas with their crisp, blistered crusts that wow us at chef Luciano DelSignore's Pizzeria Biga in Southfield. It's the terrific small plates, imported meats and cheeses, creative salads and playful desserts that set its menu apart from every other restaurant we know. The name, pronounced BEE-guh, refers to the natural yeasts that allow him to bake using only flour, water and sea salt to produce crusts with surprising complexity, tenderness and body. The open dining room is exceptionally casual, and service is smart and quick. Pastas were recently added to the menu; beer and wine can be ordered for pickup, along with food. Delivery is available to some areas.
29110 Franklin Road, Southfield; 248-750-2500 and www.pizzeriabiga.com. Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-midnight Thu.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
From the vivid colors and textural materials in its dining room, bar and exhibition kitchen to the wide array of dishes and flavors on its contemporary Italian menu, everything about Zazios in Birmingham is bright, bold and ambitious. Choose from shareable small plates, traditional and contemporary pasta dishes, meat and seafood entrÃ©es, individual pizzas, hearty sandwiches and much more. Go upscale or keep it casual; the choice is yours. Zazios' most unusual feature is its chef's table -- really a small, theater-style kitchen where chef Matt Schellig prepares a multicourse meal for guests while leading a lively cooking lesson. It's engaging and delicious. Brunch is served on Sunday; lunch debuts this spring.
34977 Woodward, Birmingham; 248-530-6400 and www.zazios.com. Open 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
Le George Mediterranean Bistro
Owner George Farah and his wife, Rita, wanted a Middle Eastern restaurant that was "different and unique," he says, with a more refined, modern spin. The result is their stylish, intimate Le George, which opened in August in downtown Northville. Its eclectic dÃ©cor with vintage photos, mirrors and objects from nature was designed by architect Ron Rea. The menu, by Rita Farah, combines Lebanese, French and American influences. Choose the tender lamb chops with bulgur pilaf, or the chicken sautÃ©ed with artichokes and lemon sauce. Everyone loves the dainty pitas served hot from the oven with two kinds of garlic sauce. Lebanese beer and wine are among the bar selections. An expanded menu with seafood is coming soon, Farah notes.
124 E. Main, Northville; 248-924-2016. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon-Thu., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat., noon-9 p.m. Sun.
An old bank building in downtown Royal Oak is the impressive setting for this big, boisterous, always jammed barbecue palace. No cutesy pig pictures here; 'cue gets the serious-art-form treatment. You'll find pulled pork, ribs, brisket, chicken, sausages and ham smoked low and slow over real Michigan hardwood; starters, salads and sides that go beyond the usual Southern clichÃ©s, and a great list of Michigan craft beers. You won't go wrong with the huge sandwiches. Great starters include the smoked gumbo and the mole-sauced tamales stuffed with smoky brisket. Call 30-45 minutes before you plan to arrive to get your name on the wait list.
202 E. Third, Royal Oak; 248-584-4227 and www.lockhartsbbq.com. Open 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 11:30 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat.
Luxe Bar & Grill
Larry Bongiovanni and his family set out to create a neighborhood spot in Birmingham where locals would gather from midday to late-night for simple but excellent food. And Luxe has turned out to be just that. It's a small but handsomely finished storefront space on Old Woodward just a few steps from Salvatore Scallopini, which Bongiovanni also owns. The signature dish is surely the excellent burger, offered in several variations, but there are also salads, fish, daily-changing chicken dishes, sandwiches, ribs and more -- all made in house. It's familiar bistro fare in a comfortable setting at an affordable price -- exactly what most people want.
525 N. Old Woodward, Birmingham; 248-792-6051. Open 11 a.m.-1 a.m. daily.
Cork Wine Pub
A creative menu of mostly small plates, combined with several well-conceived entrÃ©es and luxurious desserts, is complemented by a list of more than 150 individually chosen wines, inspired cocktails and an extensive list of spirits. A retail wine shop and tasting room adjoin the restaurant. Set in tiny Pleasant Ridge, Cork's lively atmosphere, interesting menu and well-priced beverages have kept it packed since its November opening. From the entrÃ©es list, the pork tenderloin with tender-crisp braised cabbage and delicate spatzle is outstanding. So are sophisticated, grown-up desserts like silky butterscotch pudding with toffee sauce.
23810 Woodward, Pleasant Ridge; 248-544-2675 and www.corkwinepub.com. Open 4-10 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 4 p.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat.
Contact Sylvia Rector: 313-222-5026 or firstname.lastname@example.org