Nerve Center for Arbor Hills
That seems to be what the developers, Chicago-based North Shore Properties and the local Campus Realty, had in mind. "They came to us and asked us to open a restaurant," says Alan Zakalik.
Zakalik and wife Hediye Batu own downtown's Cafe Zola. Zakalik, a software engineer, until now had been more of a silent partner, but he's sort of an architect wannabe, and Zola downtown is a favorite hangout of the university-affiliated architectural crowd. So Zakalik quit his job at EDS, hired U-M architecture prof Craig Borum and his company, PLY, and embarked on the project to create a second Zola that echoes the earthy, industrial flavor of the downtown Zola but with lighter, more modern lines. "Instead of real bricks, we have these wooden bricks," Zakalik says, pointing to a floating sculpture on the back wall that was assembled onsite by U-M architecture students. And as at the downtown Zola, a substantial counter dominates the room, this one of Carrara marble, rather than poured concrete. Catie Newell, another U-M architecture prof, made the hand-blown glass light fixtures above it.
Zola Bistro's menu overlaps quite a bit with Cafe Zola's, but "we're focusing more on small plates--almost tapas, you might say--at dinnertime," says Zakalik. They're also experimenting with new items--a kale salad, a chili dog, a chocolate waffle.