Molly Abraham, SPECIAL TO THE DETROIT NEWS
Twenty Detroit-area restaurants have been named among "America's Top Restaurants" in the 2011 edition of the influential national Zagat guide. The slim maroon book, which rates 1,552 restaurants in 45 major cities, arrives in bookstores today.
The rankings represent the opinions of ordinary diners who register on Zagat.com to comment about the food, decor, service and cost of restaurants selected by editors of Zagat, one of the best known but most mispronounced names in the world of restaurant ratings — zuh-GAT (rhymes with cat) is the way to say it.
"Anyone who is passionate about food can be one of our surveyors," says Tiffany Herklots, communications director at Zagat.com. The 2011 guide ($15.95) represents a cross-section of the views and comments of more than 153,000 diners who have visited the restaurants they vote for in the past year.
Ten Detroit area restaurants achieved the top tier ranking of 28, 27 or 26 points out of a possible 30. That's pretty much as difficult as batting over .400. Another 10 local restaurants receive the designation of "other noteworthy places." That might seem akin to coming in second in a beauty contest, but it's solid recognition nonetheless.
Bacco Ristorante in Southfield and the Lark in West Bloomfield Township are the only local spots to get 28 points out of the possible 30. In the Zagat guide, Bacco fans call it "superb" and a place to "see-and-be-seen," while the Lark draws such comments as "still the top of the heap" and "old-school elegant."
Bill Roberts, the only local proprietor with not one, but two, restaurants in the top tier — the Beverly Hills Grill in Beverly Hills, which has made the list before, and Streetside Seafood in Birmingham, which shows up for the first time — says it's "thrilling" to be included.
"It's great to be acknowledged by our guests, who are the ones who write in and get the ratings to the guide," he says. "Our staff does such a good job. We tweak and change and try to make things better, and this sort of recognition makes it all worthwhile."
Guests of Streetside Seafood quoted in the guide call it "happening," "a neighborhoood favorite" and say it has "fantastic seafood."
Craig Common, chef/proprietor of the Common Grill in Chelsea, also is not a newcomer to the Zagat ratings yet excited to be included.
"This will probably be the sixth or seventh time, but I'm never tired of it," he says. "It's nice to be recognized, and it's a good feather in the cap of the staff. The guests who've supported us all these years will be excited, too." Comments from Common Grill patrons include "worth the drive" and "uncommonly good."
The Zagat guide originated in 1979 as a hobby for husband-and-wife team Tim and Nina Zagat, but now rates hotels and resorts as well as restaurants and has a staff of 100 in New York, an online shop and international scope.
With an e-mail address and ZIP code, diners can register at www.zagat.com to provide feedback about restaurants from a list created by Zagat editors in that area. There are two ways to contribute: by participating in surveys throughout the year, or going to a restaurant's Zagat property page and providing feedback after a dining experience. Restaurants with a lot of positive feedback are included in the "America's Top Restaurants 2011" guide, with some editorial discretion to include restaurants that are particularly well-known.
Zagat's Detroit top food rankings
The Lark, 6430 Farmington Road, West Bloomfield Township. (248) 661-4466. www.thelark.com
Bacco Ristorante, 29410 Northwestern Highway, Southfield. (248) 356-6600. www.baccoristorante.com
Common Grill, 112 S. Main St., Chelsea. (734) 475-0470. www.commongrill.com
Zingerman's Delicatessen, 422 Detroit St., Ann Arbor. (734) 663-3354. www.zingermansdeli.com
Cafe Cortina, 30715 W. 10 Mile, Farmington Hills. (248) 474-3033. www.cafecortina.com
Beverly Hills Grill, 31471 Southfield Road, Beverly Hills. (248) 642-2355. www.beverlyhillsgrill.com
Saltwater, 1777 Third St., Detroit. (313) 465-1646. www.mgmgranddetroit.com
West End Grill, 120 W. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. (734) 747-6260. www.westendgrillannarbor.com
Streetside Seafood, 273 Pierce St., Birmingham. (248) 645-9123. www.streetsideseafood.com
Logan, 115 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor. (734) 327-2313. www.logan-restaurant.com
Other noteworthy places
Assaggi Bistro, 330 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale. (248) 584-3499. www.assaggibistro.com
Atlas Global Bistro, 3111 Woodward Ave., Detroit. (313) 831-2241. www.atlasglobalbistro.com
Capital Grille, 2800 W. Big Beaver Road, Troy. (248) 649-5200. www.thecapitalgrille.com
The Earle, 121 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor. (734) 994-0211. www.theearle.com
Eve, 1415 N. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor. (734) 222-0711. www.evetherestaurant.com
Hong Hua, 27925 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills. (248) 489-2280. www.honghuafinedining.com
Rattlesnake Club, 300 River Place, Detroit. (313) 567-4400. www.rattlesnakeclub.com
Roast, 1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit. (313) 961-2500. www.roastdetroit.com
Rugby Grill, 100 Townsend St., Birmingham. (248) 642-5999. www.townsendhotel.com
The Whitney, 4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit. (313) 832-5700. www.thewhitney.com