Although Metro Detroit is not as restaurant-obsessed as New Orleans, we must be coming close. New restaurants continue to pop up right and left to satisfy our seemingly insatiable taste for new dining experiences.
Just in the last few months, we’ve seen the debut of the Stand and Market North End, both in Birmingham, Trattoria da Luigi in Royal Oak, Public House in Ferndale, New Hellas in Farmington Hills, Steelhouse Tavern in Troy, Detroit Vegan Soul and La Feria in Detroit and Marais in Grosse Pointe. And that’s just a sampling of spots so new that some still have their congratulatory opening bouquets.
One of the newcomers is the bright and festive Huerto Restaurant & Tequila Bar in West Bloomfield Township. It debuted just a few weeks ago in the cream-painted, peak-roofed building on Orchard Lake Road north of Maple Road, bringing a casual, sports bar-style menu with an emphasis on the fajitas, burritos and enchiladas of Mexico but with a wider spectrum that includes ribs and burgers.
It’s in an attractive, free-standing structure (formerly Big Daddy’s and before that, Chuck Daly’s) that stands out among the strip malls in the area.
The main dining room with its high ceiling, big fireplace and décor theme of tropical birds and flowers hand-painted on the walls has a convivial feeling, in keeping with the big, communal tables and colorful fare. The price structure is equally appealing, with nothing on the all-day menu higher than $11.99. A delicious little fish taco, made with flaky, deep-fried cod tucked into a soft corn or flour tortilla with cabbage slaw and pico de gallo is $4.49, for instance. Add rice and refried beans — tasty refried beans, in fact — and it is $7.79. One taco, of course, does not make a meal, but a double comes to just $9.79.
Another winner from the taqueria list is carnitas, braised pork in a soft tortilla with chopped onion and salsa verde at $10.79 for the triple.
The tone is set when the requisite tortilla chips and salsa arrive at the table. The chips are freshly made each day, and their salty crunch is virtually irresistible. The house salsa is mild, allowing guests to spice it up with one of several hot sauces on each table. But proprietors Safa Zaraga of the popular Sagebrush Cantina in Lake Orion and Eduardo Mayin have hedged their bets by expanding the typical Mexican menu to include such mainstream dishes as BLT’s, chicken club sandwiches, Black Angus burgers and shrimp cocktails.
On the salad list, the Huerto salad stands out. It’s a mixture of fresh greens, avocado, olives, peppers and marinated chicken breast topped with crisp tortilla ribbons with a choice of six dressings, including the house vinaigrette.
A bar well stocked with Mexican beers and tequilas augments the main dining area, and yes, there are plenty of TV screens. Service is friendly and the staff enthusiastic in the early going.
Huerto (it means “kitchen garden”) is a casual, unassuming addition to the dining choices along Orchard Lake Road. While it doesn’t break any new ground, it offers a good ratio of value to price.
Huerto Restaurant & Tequila Bar
6199 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield Township
Call: (248) 865-2900
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Sat., noon-midnight Sun. (Bar open later on Fri.-Sat.)
Prices: Appetizers $6.99-$9.99, salads $3.79-$10.99, sandwiches $5.45-$6.99, entrees $8.99-$11.99, desserts $3.99-$6.99
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Attached lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers