Selden Standard on Second Ave. in Detroit is riding a wave of popularity, so dinner visits may begin with a brief wait even if, as I did, you made a reservation in advance (and responded to their call the previous day to confirm). Aisles are narrow because tables fill every available space, plus there’s a huge wood-fired oven at the back of the wood-paneled dining room.

The good news is that just standing at a high-top table near the bar has rewards. You get a close look at the apothecary-like counter of glass jars brimming with deep-hued house-made syrups and bitters made from Concord grapes, berries, citrus, and herbs (kind of like at The Last Word in Ann Arbor). Selden’s craft cocktails have intriguing names like Civil Disobedience and Big-Leaf Daisy. They arrive in elegant thin-stemmed glasses and jewel-like shades to set the tone for a special kind of dinner party.

Presentation is important here but not showy. Labor-intensive preparations with a traditional “from scratch” bent emphasize quality, freshness, and the flavor of the ingredients, many of them sourced from twenty different Michigan farms and producers named on the menu. Entree components tend to be layered rather than combined: a topping dollop of house-made ricotta on chicken and greens, a bed of celery root puree under the seared swordfish.

For appetizers, the layered and molded vegetable carpaccio tower of shaved crudites and Parmesan in soft pinks and beiges stands out for beautiful simplicity. The charred octopus plate is popular for good reason, as chefs manage to keep great flavor and texture in the delectable, just chewy fish, which gets a light Moroccan-style saucing, along with a scoop of garbanzos and a bit of sausage, all atop super-crispy red pepper slivers. However, we should have ordered two of the $16 octopus plates as an appetizer for four, because each has only about six bites to it. (The big platter of pita and veggie purees would be a more economical starter to share, at $10.) Surprisingly appealing salt cod fritters, which pair to perfection with accompanying smoked peppers and aioli, are also filling and generously portioned. In a rare miss, I didn’t love the roasted cauliflower small plate, mainly because the dressing of tahini and pickled chilis overwhelmed the vegetable’s subtle nutty flavor–the sprinkle of cilantro didn’t help, either.

I know people who order short ribs every time they have the chance at Selden–in hash at brunch or grilled at dinner with whatever root vegetable, chimichurri, or mole they meet on that day’s menu. Why? “They just have a way with them–they make them really meaty and filling,” one explained when I asked.

Grilled whole Michigan trout is another very substantial dish, which arrives with head intact (for tender cheek meat aficionados) and crackly, blackened skin. Expertly deboned prior to serving, the very fresh fish is a treat in itself, made even better by accompaniments of grilled lemons, pine nuts, and Brussels sprouts flavor-ripened by intense heat and sweetness from a golden raisin sauce. The plate looks like a Dutch master could have painted it.

Selden manages to pull off a broad canvas of flavors with minimal clashes, and that’s much appreciated when ordering multiple small plates to share. Middle Eastern, African, and Italian touches generally play nicely together here. After two visits and sampling many excellent dishes and some extraordinary ones, I felt confident trying the mundane-sounding pumpkin pasta; sure enough, it was wonderful, with a just-right, barely doughy texture. Grilled scallions in Romesco sauce and kale and date salad with gouda and almonds remain to be tried.

It’s admirable and inspiring how Selden Standard succeeds right to the final dessert course, with savory-sweet rich brown-butter ice cream, light and lovely cider sorbet with sage crumble, even fluffy cinnamon-sugared doughnuts. They’re all made in house, as are the sauces, breads, and pretty much everything we asked about.

Ironically, at the same time I was forking into Selden’s charred octopus plate in Detroit, the New York Times was going to press with a Sunday Travel section mini-review of the “hyper-local” cuisine at Spencer in Ann Arbor, which featured a postcard-size photo of a grilled octopus and garbanzo plate you can get on Liberty St. It had already occurred to me that Spencer was Ann Arbor’s closest counterpart to Selden in the campaign to exalt seasonal fare with the small-plates approach to multi-continental influences.

If you’d like to explore further in that vein and find out for yourself why Selden Standard is the reigning Hour Detroit magazine restaurant of the year, consider adding a couple hours for a meal there on your next DIA visit or other Detroit cultural excursion. Don’t forget to make a reservation well in advance.

Selden Standard

3921 Second Ave., Detroit

(313) 438-5055

Pasta and vegetable small plates $7-$16, meat and fish main dishes $12- $30, dessert $6-$11.

Dinner daily 5-10 p.m.; lunch Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; brunch Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Wheelchair accessible