Our annual look at the essential restaurants illuminating the city's dining scene

For the nearly 20 years that he's been cooking great meals at G. Michael's, chef David Tetzloff has been following his passion rather than chasing trends. Fortunately for local diners, what Tetzloff is passionate about—a cuisine that features dynamic shareable plates and a commitment to local ingredients that sparks seasonal menu changes—has lately become fashionable.

Just as Tetzloff's muscular, low country-inspired cooking chops—which were honed in the food mecca of Charleston, South Carolina—balance a wide spectrum of flavors and textures, the restaurant that Tetzloff co-owns strikes a nice balance between an upscale fine-dining destination and a breezy spot with a jazzy ambiance.

Credit the highly personable, shirt-and-tie-clad staff for fostering this versatility. Whether customers choose to hang out in the restaurant's lively front chamber with a vintage wooden bar and warm colors or eat in the tastefully restrained, natural-light-flooded, more-formal dining room, the helpful servers exhibit an astute ability to anticipate the needs of patrons.

While perusing the menu, limber up with a classic cocktail or something from the lengthy wine list, which spends about as much time in California as Europe. Then dig into G. Michael's shrimp and grits, an iconic dish with andouille sausage, country ham and lush tomato gravy.

Some recent highlights from the seafood-happy menu, which a server said will be in place “until all the local corn and tomatoes are gone,” include crackly-crusted fried green tomatoes flattered by serious crabmeat and a perky corn salad; tender calamari “Southerned-up” with a cornmeal dusting and tossed with fried okra; luscious pan-roasted octopus with gnocchi, pesto and chili-spiked burrata; and a super-comforting, big and loose duck fritter with tomato marmalade and a nifty little panzanella salad.

Save room for the refreshingly bright lemon gingersnap tart or the addictive, surprisingly light bread pudding.

Did you know?

G. Michael's secluded little brick patio shaded by umbrellas and a large old locust tree, is an excellent spot for intimate dinners.