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What we can expect from the Metro Detroit dining scene in 2021

Melody Baetens   | The Detroit News

Last year, the restaurant industry took a turn that no one could have predicted, and many of the changes we saw food businesses go through will continue in 2021. 

This means outdoor dining is here to stay — after all, the domes, tents and heaters have been purchased, so why not keep using them to expand a dining room's footprint even after indoor dining is allowed again? (As we stand now in Michigan, indoor dining at bars and restaurants is set to resume on Jan. 15.) 

Even as the vaccine is dispersed throughout the year, until COVID-19 is gone, a large number of diners will want to get carryout or dine outdoors versus inside. 

Because of that, I believe restaurants will continue to lean on curbside carryout, delivery (third-party aps and in-house service), to-go cocktails, family meal packages and other deals. We'll also see more "ghost kitchens" — chefs operating for carryout, catering and delivery without a storefront or dining room — and cottage chefs, those cooking out of home kitchens to sell food via farmers markets, word of mouth and other avenues. 

Most exciting, though, is 2021 will bring new restaurants to the scene. 

We're going to see some familiar names expand into new locations, as Supino Pizzeria in Eastern Market expands to a second location in New Center this year. Southwest Detroit favorite Taqueria Mi Pueblo is also gearing up for a new express location in Clinton Township. 

Also in New Center, Baobab Fare restaurant, market and juice bar is expected to open very soon. I think we'll see more market-restaurant hybrids in the future, too. Instead of allocating a few square feet for more tables, it seems to be more cost-effective to have retail items or grab-and-go meals instead. 

Craft beer fans should be excited about the debut of the downtown Detroit location of the Beer Exchange, a bar and restaurant with "dynamic pricing," where the cost of beer rises and falls with demand. Founded in Kalamazoo in 2010, the Beer Exchange's Detroit location will open "soon" at Washington and Grand Boulevards, just steps from the city's three major sports stadiums. They'll have the main bar and restaurant, a pizza joint that will start carryout soon and bar and game area with pinball, skee-ball and more called Grand River Ballroom.

Saucy Brew Works, a Cleveland-based brewery, will open a Brush Park brewpub and coffeehouse soon in Bedrock's City Modern building. It was originally scheduled to open in the fall of 2020, but the pause on indoor dining pushed that plan back a bit.

In more beer-related openings, a craft beer and biscuit concept — what a cool pairing! — is being planned for the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood later this year. Little Biscuit Brewery will serve its suds with biscuits, jams, beer cheese and biscuit sandwiches. Details are still under wraps, but it is currently crowdfunding investor support online via the Honeycomb Credit platform

Rest assured there will be more new restaurant openings in spite of the pandemic, as well as closings because of it. I'll continue to keep you posted as we ease into the new year. 

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More: The Detroit News restaurant critic's picks for top new restaurants of 2020

Twitter: @melodybaetens