The 25 Best Restaurants in America

This year, like last year, we did our fair share of dining. We hunted for barbecue in Texas, ate all the burgers in L.A.


Spend enough time with your dog, a house cat or stalking a deer and you get that thought: man, you’re a weird creature, but we’re not all that different — even if scientists tell us that our culture, morality and abstract reasoning sets us apart. Visit us on a Saturday morning and you’ll reconsider that notion. But there is one difference that’s indisputable: while sheep nibble on grass in fields, while lions tear gazelles to pieces in the Mara, we humans tuck in our shirts, travel in safety-inspected vehicles and arrive at much-discussed restaurants to eat pate and oysters, braised short ribs and fried chicken, sausages and choucroute. We have things called “absinthe service” and “dégustation”. We pay quietly and take a receipt.

This year, like last year, we did our fair share of dining. We hunted for barbecue in Texas, ate all the burgers in L.A. and went inside the new American supper club. We found that, like television, restaurants are in the best form they’ve ever been. These are 25 of our favorite restaurants in America, chosen by our editors and writers across the country for their newness, their hospitality and the quality of their food — though not always in that order.

Join us in our humanity. Tuck in your shirt. Go out and eat.

Our litmus test was simple and replicates our process for last year: these 25 American restaurants are the places we’d send a friend if he had time for one meal in New York, Minneapolis, Philly, St. Louis, or any of the other cities on this list. One city, one suggestion, one good meal. You’re welcome.

Now, On to the Restaurants…

The Best Restaurants in America 2014 – Directory
Order does not reflect rank.
TORO – Boston, Massachusetts
AU CHEVAL – Chicago, Illinois
WALRUS AND CARPENTER – Seattle, Washington
TROIS MEC – Los Angeles, California
STATE BIRD & PROVISIONS – San Francisco, California
CBD PROVISIONS – Dallas, Texas
SNACKBAR – Oxford, Mississippi
YARDBIRD – Miami Beach, Florida
BAR LA GRASSA – Minneapolis, Minnesota
SERPICO – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
FOREQUARTER – Madison, Wisconsin
ROW 34 – Fort Point, Massachusetts
RIBELLE – Brookline, Massachusetts
MOPHO – New Orleans, Louisiana
MOXY – Portsmouth, New Hampshire
TAO YUAN – Brunswick, Maine
SUSHI NAKAZAWA – New York, New York
ROSE’S LUXURY – Washington, D.C.
KIMBALL HOUSE – Decatur, Georgia
CHEZ PASCAL – Providence, Rhode Island
DUSEKS – Chicago, Illinois

Every Day Is Friday

You know a food trend is dead when TGI Friday’s catches on. As such, tapas has been over since April 24, 2013, the day the press release announcing their “Taste & Share” menu hit our inboxes. Apparently Jamie Bissonnette wasn’t on the same email list as us, because the James Beard winner and his team at Toro haven’t looked back since opening nearly a decade ago in Boston’s South End. Excelling in both traditional and au courant takes on Spanish-style small plates, the small-but-mighty eatery slings everything from paellas — Jesus, the paellas — to pressed uni bocadillos. Toro may not be the newest kid on the block, but good luck getting a table at a reasonable hour; in here, every day is Friday. Brandon Chuang

1704 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118 | 617.536.4300 | | Directory

Au Cheval
Chef’s Choice

If you want to eat someplace good, you eat where the locals eat. If you want to eat someplace great, you eat where the chefs eat. And when chefs come to the former City of Broad Shoulders, many of them make a stop into Au Cheval. At first blush, it makes perfect sense. What Google Maps describes as an “upscale take on an American diner” is cloaked in dark-stained wood and tufted faux leather booths. A reel-to-reel fuels the soundtrack for the room, which is equal parts diner seating, bar, and exposed kitchen. They have $3 tall boys. It’s no wonder professional cooks are attracted to this place; all of it, together, is just begging to be paired with tattooed, Busch-loving chefs. A match made in culinary stereotype heaven.

But if you can go beyond that, seeing what a chef sees, you’ll find much more. You’ll find a downright ingenious service system, with a wait staff that has perfected the can-I-get-you-a-drink methodology for eager eaters waiting out the door for a seat (read: keep customers happy, keep making money). You’ll see a one-page, one-sided menu that boasts both bologna and bone marrow (read: know what you’re good at and stick to it). And you’ll see what countless chefs around the country agree may be the best burger in the nation (read: the best burger in the nation). Many consider Chicago to be the premier eating center in the U.S. — and Au Cheval is at the center of that, surrounded by many of the city’s best restaurants. But that doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone — especially chefs — from seeking the place out. Brandon Chuang

800 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607 | 312.929.4580 | | Directory

Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co.
Defying Coastal Waters

It’s an exciting time to open a restaurant. Just look around you: a seemingly infinite number of cooking shows on your television; recipe-stuffed websites spilling out of your browser; X-Pro-II-tinted food porn annexing the entirety of your Instagram feed. Today, anyone and everyone (for better or for worse) knows anything and everything about food. That means now’s as good a time as any to open that unassuming farm-to-table gastropub or that combination sushi-shawarma place you and your boys have been talking about forever.

But a seafood shack in St. Louis, Missouri? You’re out of your fucking mind.

Over 1,000 miles from the New England coastline, Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. sounds like the outcome of a badly shaken turn on Urbanspoon. A seafood restaurant locked firmly within the lands of the Midwest: it completely defies your culinary intuition — that culturally curated presumption that says Missouri is about as renowned for steamed blue crabs as Maryland is praised for barbecue.*

Lucky for skeptics, Peacemaker’s area map for regional cuisine is exceedingly generous; it doesn’t hurt to have James Beard Award finalist Kevin Nashan at the helm, either. Almost immediately after the new restaurant was announced, Eater placed Peacemaker on its national list of the 48 most anticipated openings of the summer. And since opening in August, the space has lived up to its billing.

Like the throngs that have already walked through its doors, Peacemaker is highly polished. From the large, high-contrast black-and-white images of fishermen to the century-old stone oyster trough that anchors the restaurant’s raw bar, every piece that exists within the restaurant exists for a reason. The food is equally considered, with Nashan’s crew serving up an ever-changing portfolio of fruits de mer and corn dogs. Yes, you read that right: corn dogs.

Peacemaker makes our top 25 for its novel embrace of the unexpected. Of course the oysters are extremely fresh; naturally, the shrimp boil; and the steamed crabs and lobster rolls are all very good. Better than Maine or Maryland? That’s out of our jurisdiction; but it wouldn’t even be a consideration this far from the coast if it wasn’t high quality and fresh. What we can say is that Peacemaker makes their own corn dogs. The whole thing. They make the dog in house, batter it, and fry it.

Consider that for a moment. The talking head from your favorite cooking maintains that the best seafood is served without much fuss. (How can you improve upon a perfectly fresh raw oyster?) So if an establishment goes as far as to make a corndog completely from scratch because they know it tastes better that way, imagine the care they must take in serving seafood the way it’s meant to be served.

Peacemaker delivers in a number of surprising ways. It’s surprising to find such regionally accurate dishes so far from their respective homes. It’s surprising when separate servers, on separate visits, boldly (but wisely) suggest the pork link po’ boy at a place with the words “lobster” and “crab” in its name. It’s also surprising to find some of the best fried green tomatoes you’ll ever taste here. The one thing that isn’t surprising: finding smoked brisket on the menu. After all, this is Missouri. Brandon Chuang

1831 Sidney Street, St. Louis, MO 63104 | 314.772.8858 | | Directory

Walrus and Carpenter
A Seattle Bounty

Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood once had a fair share of problems: in the early 1900s, trouble revolved around saloons, booze, prostitutes and gambling. Sailors reveled. These days, the problem is selection: where to eat on Ballard Ave, a stretch that’s choked with enough restaurants to feed a fleet? Chef Renee Erickson simplifies the equation with a superlative oyster experience that capitalizes on Seattle’s bountiful seafood. Oysters are the order (try them both raw and fried), and don’t miss the tartares: steak, salmon and scallop. Food that’s fresh, simple, unassuming, and delicious — diners, revel. Matthew Ankeny

4743 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107 | 206.395.9227 | | Directory

Trois Mec
Beyond the Hype

Los Angeles is a city built on hype. So when a restaurant is hyped in LA, it’s not just chatter: that restaurant will be awash in it. The good news is that French chef Ludovic Lefebvre (“Ludo”), an LA transplant, can stay afloat. At Trois Mec (roughly, “three homies”), he partnered with chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo to convert a run-down pizza joint in Hollywood into their own creative playground. Diners buy tickets (sold on alternating Fridays at 8:00 AM) and then leave the rest to the chef. You’ll find dishes like potato “pulp” with bonito, onion Soubise, and Laguiole cheese, or scrambled eggs with Royal Osetra caviar. Sushi rice comes with salt cod-infused cream. A steamed wild striped bass sits alongside white asparagus, elderflower, brown butter sauce, and, naturally, mascarpone. Ludo’s got a pages-deep Michelin star-studded resume, it’s on full display, here. Can anything so lauded be so good? Chef Ludo’s kitchen responds with a clear and crisp oui. Matthew Ankeny

716 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038 | | | Directory

State Bird Provisions
One for the Books

Picking the best meal you’ve eaten is a little like picking a favorite kid. You love them all; and in a city like San Francisco, every kid is on the honor role. But sometimes — with meals, anyway — it’s good to choose, to whittle down and pick one meal that, you know, you just connect with that much more. It’s good to find where your culinary affinity lies — to identify what it is that moves a meal beyond an expert articulation of food and into the realm of lifetime culinary memory.

State Bird Provisions fits my bill. It’s an exemplary place, on paper: In 2012, Bon Appétit recognized it as the Best New Restaurant of the year; in 2013, the James Beard Foundation did the same; in 2014, it earned a Michelin star. It’s been a good three years, but that’s not why it resonated with my taste buds; food’s not about recognition. It’s about landing flavors on the palate, and creating a spirit that celebrates good cuisine. Technically, chefs Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s food achieves an elite level of precision. Refreshingly, the spirit that surrounds it is playful, inventive and unpretentious.

The spot, situated on a rather non-restaurant-centric block of Fillmore, is a playground for food geekery. There are pegboards on the walls, and a large open kitchen at the door. You’ll be more at home entering in a chambray shirt than a Thom Sweeney suit. When we dined, we showed up a few minutes early and were compensated with champagne. It was unnecessary, but bubbly cordiality never hurts.

Once seated, the carts roll table side. The “Provisions”, small plate treats, are dished out dim sum style. Take it on good authority that you should choose generously — or take one of each. A meal at State Bird is not about restraint; it’s about looking, liking, and eating. And if you miss something the first time, fear not: the carts come back around.

The garlic bread with burrata has remained on the menu from the start, which no one questions. Pancakes and toast, along with the Commandables (more in the main plate vein), are ordered from the kitchen. Follow conviction with the cakes and toast: sourdough, sauerkraut, pecorino and ricotta pancakes hit the mark. Then move to the restaurant’s namesake, the California state bird: deep fried quail, equal parts crispy, salty panache and savory, buttery bird. It’s a rite of passage, but don’t let it limit your scope. Eat widely and broadly; this is the full-palate candy shop.

Brioza and Krasinski are a husband-and-wife duo, and it complements their cooking. Brioza leads off with substantials, and Krasinski cleans up with the desserts. It takes a certain resolve to continue on at this point in the meal — as a two-top, we’d tackled five Provisions, a Pancake, and three Commandables — but we weathered the gastronomical storm. This is a meal (and a reservation) that doesn’t circle back often, so don’t deny the sweet tooth: finish with a chocolate olive oil cake with roasted strawberries and caramelized honey yogurt.

Most respectable meals will stick with you. You won’t soon forget that sense of revelry, flavor combinations that arrive as quiet, unsuspected surprises. The food at State Bird Provisions does that, but it also cultivates a charm beyond pitch-perfect dishes. The whole restaurant resonates with a rich celebration of eating, and it asks you in a sophisticated, unostentatious way to come and sit, eat, and enjoy the best meal of your life. Matthew Ankeny

1529 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 | 415.795.1272 | | Directory

CBD Provisions
Authenticity in Dallas

Traveling to a new place demands sampling the local cuisine. The go-to for Dallas is CBD Provisions. Located in historic downtown, the progressive Texas brasserie serves local, sustainably sourced meals from breakfast through dinner, including brunch. The menu features classic American comfort staples like Windy Meadows Fried Chicken and Head On Gulf Shrimp & Grits, primed by Executive Chef Michael Sindoni with a Dallas-Forth Worth flair. And it doesn’t stop there: the restaurant’s cocktail and beer programs showcase the region’s local wines and thriving craft beer selection. Capped with a wraparound bar, a fully exposed kitchen and a modern rustic interior, CBD Provisions promises an authentic Dallas experience. You may even see some cowboy hats. Tucker Bowe

1530 Main Street, Dallas TX | 214.216.4500 | | Directory

Big Bad Smokehouse

With whole racks of meat pulled from their “Big Bad Smokehouse” and fresh raw oysters, the Snackbar is a damn good excuse to steer off interstate 243. Get there on Wednesday for their special Pork Tournedos. Tucker Bowe

721 North Lamar, Oxford, MS 38655 | 662.236.6363 | | Directory

Southern in South Beach

Nothing beats good ole southern cooking. With entrees like Chicken ‘n’ Watermelon ‘n’ Waffles and Mama’s Chicken Biscuits, this acclaimed family-style restaurant specializes in one thing: bird. Tucker Bowe

1600 Lenox Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139 | 305.538.5220 | | Directory

Bar La Grassa
Midwest Fortitude

Credit Minnesotans’ fortitude to their appreciation for a good meal. Warm food in a warm environment is vital to weathering the winter — which is why top-tier (and remarkably affordable) haunts are popping up everywhere in Minneapolis, from the hip river district to suburbs like Brooklyn Park. Chief among them is Bar La Grassa, home to James Beard Award-winning chef Isaac Becker. Affordable Italian dishes abound alongside more upscale fare, with options for omnivores, carnivores, herbivores and piscivores alike; the Star-Tribune counts a total of 51 items on their “placemat-sized” menu, ranging in price from $6 to $50. But locals swear by the soft egg and lobster bruschetta (a mere $18), gnocchi with cauliflower and orange ($10-$20), and grilled sausage ($16). A warehouse-turned-dining hall, Bar La Grassa’s inviting and familial atmosphere alone will stall your departure — not just the cold outside. Nick Milanes

800 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401 | 612.333.3837 | | Directory

Fusion? No, Inspired

We owe the still-burgeoning Momofuku empire many thanks for disassociating “fusion” from cheesy jazz and restauranteurs suffering identity crises. This is why restauranteur Stephen Starr recruited Momofuku’s Peter Serpico to helm his first venture in Philly’s budding southeastern restaurant scene; thanks to him, Serpico shines as another entry in the budding tradition of Asian-inspired New American cuisine. Highlights include: a caper-brined trout with smoked potato salad, pepperoncini, crab, trout roe, and chive oil; bánh mì-style sandwiches (with pork belly, deep fried duck leg, or grilled beef); Korean fried chicken wings (the peach does not fall far from the Momofuku tree). Their vast drinks menu boasts several wines and a discerning selection of craft beers and sake; the dessert menu, meanwhile, is simpler than what New York Momofuku fans are used to (no crack pie here) — but at no expense to quality. Nicholas Milanes

604 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147 | 215.925.3001 | | Directory

Skipping the Trend Chase

The predominant conception of Wisconsin cuisine: everything is beer battered, covered in cheese and best served with a lukewarm High Life, in the parking lot of a stadium, in near-sub-zero temperatures. It isn’t hard to see why; Wisconsinites were among the first to discover that bratwursts taste better when you boil them in Pabst, and if you really want fine midwestern cooking, Chicago is just a couple hours away, right? Wrong. Madison’s Forequarter, by and large one of the small city’s best eateries, puts big city dining to shame.

Forequarter is set aside in a quiet neighborhood, far removed from the dingy college bars and gastropubs that surround the state’s capitol building. It’s small and nondescript; you’d miss it completely if not for the soft, dim glow of candlelight and frosted pennant lights shining through the restaurant’s facade, which vaguely resembles those of urbane, high-end New York or San Francisco restaurants. But the stuffed bear and badger on the wall would take issue with that. The space really takes most of its inspiration from the small-town Wisconsin taverns and hunting clubs that litter America’s Dairyland. Combined with its mere handful of tables (admittedly large bar area notwithstanding), it all goes to make Forequarter’s vibe decidedly cozy. Bring a date.

If you love cured meats (and who the hell among us doesn’t), Forequarter is the place for you. It’s owned by Underground Food Collective, a Wisconsin-based initiative formed by like-minded meat-loving individuals to offer up artisanal meats supplied from local farmers and producers. They also own a catering service, a butcher and a wholesale meat operation. It may not seem any different from your stereotypical Brooklyn-based food collective — but the bottom line is they provide a variety of really, really good meats.

Forequarter’s menu changes around a bit based on the availability of foodstuffs, but you’ll be treated to a selection of cured meat year round. The charcuterie board ($20) and sausage platter ($22) are both worthy of consideration, as are their rotating specials — especially if you like the sound of a Tuscan salami and culatello platter served with two types of mustard (both properly spicy). The melt-in-your-mouth braunschweiger ($14), served on buttered toast with caramelized onion jam, mustard and radishes, is another tasteful way to induce the meat sweats.

Though cured meat seems to be the main draw, Forequarter’s menu makes good use of root vegetables, too. The simple yet incredibly well-seasoned fingerling potato and green bean salad ($8) is an excellent choice, especially if you love the taste of dill. Note also their use of carrots in their cavatelli ($14).

So, no, Wisconsinites do not subsist on a diet of primarily of bratwurst and cheddar. True Wisconsin cuisine is just simple, farm-grown “meat and potatoes”; roots, vegetables and prepared meats that will get you through the winter. It’s refreshing that Forequarter has foregone today’s standard of aging everything in bourbon barrels and topping it with bacon in favor of updating and upscaling classic, rustic, home-cooked cuisine. Andrew Connor

708 ¼ E Johnson St Madison, WI 53703 | 608.609.4717 | | Directory

Row 34
The Working Man’s Oyster Bar

Described as a “working man’s oyster bar”, Row 34 hosts a selection of great seafood, from crab toast and lobster rolls to fried clams and crispy oysters, and combines it with an extensive selection of craft beers from across the U.S. Andrew Connor

383 Congress St Fort Point, MA 02210 | 617.553.5900 | | Directory

Boston Rebel

Ribelle (pronounced rih-BELL-ay, with much gusto) is an Italian term for — you guessed it — “rebel”. It’s the perfect name for Tim Maslow’s restaurant in Brookline, Massachusetts, which serves up a creative take on classic Italian-American staples. Patrons can order items like rigatoni with octopus and fennel, or gnocchi served up with smoked trout. Cocktails are also entirely original and a bit odd. Some might consider Ribelle’s alternative take on Italian faire an attempt to “rustle jimmies”, or be weird for the sake of weird — but Maslow’s joint isn’t exactly struggling for business. Every dish works. If you find yourself just outside of Boston, check out Ribelle, if only just to try the coppa di testa with egg, ramps and pistachio. Andrew Connor

1665 Beacon St Brookline, MA 02445 | 617.232.2322 | | Directory

Pho and Po’ Boys

Purple, green and jazz spill from every cross street in The Big Easy; residents sweat gumbo and crawfish swim in plates of jambalaya. But for those looking for a respite from Creole cuisine, trek a mile out of the French Quarter to MoPho, an unlikely Vietnamese eatery in Mid-City sandwiched between a snowball stand and a Burger King. Adventurous eaters can cash in their cajun sausage and Abita beer for lemongrass and ginger chicken and a vodka-infused bubba tea, while locals will find comfort in MoPho’s hybrid creations inspired by neighboring New Orleans staples: clams served with beignets, or lamb neck and beets in green curry with Creole cream cheese roti. Or, hell, they can stick to the NOLA hot sausage po’ boy — or better yet, the Saturday special: a plate of local hog roasted over pecan wood. Head chef Gulotta, the former chef de cuisine at NOLA’s renowned, upscale Restaurant August, changes his menu seasonally; but you can always expect premiere blends of southeast Asian with southeast Louisianan, everything from pho and noodles to po’ boys and PBR. J. Travis Smith

514 City Park Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119 | 504.482.6845 | | Directory

Little of This, Little of That

In 2012, chef Matt Louis opened the doors to this low-lit and spacious tapas spot in the seaside town of Portsmith, hoping to start something truly American and obsessively local — a down-to-earth place where customers could get a little of this and a little of that without commitment. For $4 to $14, visitors can dine on small but expertly plated creations: short rib marmalade with pickled onions and bleu cheese; bite-sized lacquered pork belly served on a stick with seckel pear and pickled radish; whoopie pie sliders served with warm chocolate sauce; and fried dough with chocolate, maple caramel, apple chutney and blueberry compote dipping sauces. J. Travis Smith

106 Penhallow Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801 | 603.319.8178 | | Directory

Tao Yuan
Asian Street Food, Upwardly

Chef and owner Cara Stadler is only 26, but she’s already scooped a nomination for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year” award. After three years in China studying the local cuisine and working alongside David Laris, one of China’s most esteemed restaurateurs, she returned stateside to bring upscale interpretations of Asian street food and carefully crafted specialities. Situated just 30 minutes north of Portland, Maine, Tao Yuan’s menu rotates continually according to the availability of local ingredients. Small plates range from $6 to $16, meant to be ordered by the handful and shared with friends. Try the lemongrass chicken, fried cauliflower and her famous roast pork buns. J. Travis Smith

22 Pleasant St, Brunswick, ME 04011 | 207.725.9002 | | Directory

Sushi Nakazawa
Yes, It’s Worth It

At night, 23 Commerce Street is a nondescript storefront on a clean and quiet street in NYC’s West Village. But inside, chef Daisuke Nakazawa serves up what some critics say is among the best sushi in the world. The man has become a recent celebrity of sorts in the stateside culture of gastronomy, thanks to his role in the 2012 documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”. He’s since branched off from his place in Japan as the decade-long apprentice of famed sushi master Jiro Ono, landing in the States with his own restaurant and clientele — the joining of which some consider a rite of passage for sushi enthusiasts. Eager patrons flock to sit before him and try the omakase (chef’s tasting menu), putting total trust in his nightly offerings; recurring pillars include both lean and fatty tunas, sea urchin, and his coveted egg omelet sushi. A meal consists of roughly 20 pieces depending on the night, takes two hours to eat, and costs $120 at minimum ($150 at the bar) before any wine or sake pairings. Skeptics might ask if it’s worth it, especially given the difficulty of clenching a reservation. But did you see the movie? Of course it is. Jack Seemer

23 Commerce St New York, NY 10014 | 212.924.2212 | | Directory

Bun-Ker Vietnamese
Weaving into a Neighborhood’s Fabric

Walking into Bunker is my restaurant equivalent of getting under the covers. We all have that place, the local favorite that feels so homey you can forget you’re eating out.

First impressions could argue there’s little that’s significant about this small Vietnamese joint on the fringes of New York City, bordering that gray area between Queens and Brooklyn. The pale facade fades alongside its worn industrial backdrop: across the street, a fence claimed by graffiti circles a metal scrap yard, not a single telephone pole stands straight, and the entire block looks like it just might drop from exhaustion.

Inside, the tableware is plastic and random, green army men are glued to the wall, and Christmas lights hang year-round. But settling in, this is all becomes part of Bunker’s charm: it’s like a birthday party thrown by your seven-year-old self. It’s casual and cool, and no one here seems to care that it’s hard to get to. “We out here”, co-owner and front of house Roy Zapanta says proudly, but that doesn’t stop the queue from accumulating outside its doors every night. It’s also “where chefs come to eat.”

Zapanta and his partner and chef Jimmy Tu (who comes from the kitchen at Eleven Madison) call Bunker a “street-to-table” establishment, “a statement that combines our farm-to-table philosophy but also pays tribute to the roots of our cuisine.” What’s found on their menu is authentic Southeast Asian fare, that which is eaten every day by Vietnamese city-dwellers, prepared by the vendors that line its streets.

Among Bunker’s most popular offerings: the unfailing pho ga ($13.50) — like chicken noodle soup but better — and traditional banh xeo ($11), a crunchy turmeric-laden rice flour crepe filled with shrimp, bacon and crunchy bean sprouts. Unique drinks include a ginger hibiscus tea ($4.50) with juiced shiso leaves and coconut sugar, or the homemade limeade ($4) with basil seeds that soften like chia when steeped in liquid. Also invariably worthy of consideration are the sautéed water spinach ($8) — sometimes called rau muong, common to Vietnamese cuisine — or lemongrass black angus short ribs ($16), topped with peanuts on a bed of organic greens and vermicelli noodles and lightly dosed with a sweet and savory fish sauce. But no matter how full your stomach, no visit to Bunker is complete without just one conclusive bite of coconut and jackfruit tapioca pudding ($5), just for good measure.

Zapanta and Tu have been friends since childhood, when they started skating together in Queens, the original breeding ground of their long-standing partnership. A continued love of the sport is evidenced by the countless skate-wear stickers that adorn the restaurant’s interior. If you were to ask Zapanta if he’d ever consider rolling out of the city, or even simply across the East River to Manhattan, he’d be quick to reject the notion. “We’re not just going to leave those that have supported us”, he says.

On a deeper level, Bunker is one of those hole-in-the-wall establishments that burrows into the fabric of the neighborhood, its people, and spirit. Paired with the quality of the food and reasonable prices, patrons often discover that while it’s hard to find, Bunker is much harder to leave. Jack Seemer

46-63 Metropolitan Ave New York, NY 11378 | 718.386.4282 | | Directory

Rose’s Luxury
Content in Excellence

There’s a deep-seated problem with this whole “new American” restaurant thing, and I think I’ve pinpointed it. Every beef I’ve got with the “heritage” scene seems to come back to the adjective. When restaurants grasp for cred among the farm-to-table crowd, their language seems to balloon exponentially. “Saratoga Springs Heirloom Tomatoes atop a conical bed of hydroponic east-Nantucket micro-greens sprinkled with dry-aged Tuscan ciabatta bread crumbs.”

By contrast:

Ok, so here’s how this works
– Order yourself a nice cocktail or glass of wine
– Choose a couple of Small/Family Style dishes to share
– Eat, go home, come back tomorrow

Right off the bat you can tell Rose’s Luxury isn’t that kind of place. The beautifully lit dining room feels more like a well-decorated kitchen in a nearby Capitol Hill townhouse than the hottest restaurant in the country. The wait staff is accommodating, friendly and just seem to be generally cool people. Their menu (along with the above instructions) includes such choice descriptors as “Some Other Stuff” and “Tomato”. When’s the last time you saw just “Tomato” at one of these places?

The general premise of the Capitol Hill eatery gets at exactly what a restaurant should be: No bullshit, a small menu, exquisite ingredients, perfect preparation and excellent drinks. This is about as good as it gets.

The whole menu of small plates is fantastic, and the easiest way to experience as much of it as possible is to bring three friends and order as much as you can. Don’t sleep on the sausage, habanero and lychee salad, or the caramelized cauliflower. Both dishes are infinitely better than you’d think at first glance, and the cauliflower might be the best preparation of the dish in the U.S. right now.

My one gripe about the place is their no-reservations policy. I know it’s egalitarian or democratic or whatever, but the fact of the matter is that if you’re not prepared to wait two hours to eat dinner, it’s not even worth going. The upside is that it gives you ample time to check out the rest of Barracks Row and pregame with some oysters at Hank’s, or some bourbon at Barrel, until you get your “table’s ready” text message.

All of this is at the core of why I love Rose’s. The restaurant gives off the vibe of a baseball team up by seven runs in the eighth inning. The entire place seems to be content in their excellence, willing to have fun now that they know they’re out of reach of the city’s other attempts at casual fine dining. And if the excellence in the service, ambiance and cuisine isn’t enough to prove it, just ask the 30 people ahead of you in line at 5 PM on a Monday. Henry Phillips

717 8th Street SE, Washington, DC 20003 | 202.580.8889 | | Directory

Kimball House
Atlanta, Anew

Housed in a former railway depot, Kimball House is one of Atlanta’s most interesting new restaurants. The bar is the place to be: go there for an extensive raw bar, cocktails and absinthe service. Jeremy Berger

303 E Howard Ave, Decatur, GA 30030 | 404.378.3502 | | Directory

Chez Pascal
Pork in Providence

Though Providence is best known for its Italian cuisine in the Federal Hill neighborhood, there’s plenty more good food on the tables of Rhode Island’s capital. Chez Pascal is our favorite, a warm and friendly French restaurant on Hope Street opened by two alums from Boston’s Hamersley’s Bistro. Our perfect meal there starts with the escargots or onion soup, followed by one of the specials — usually something made with house-butchered pork — and ends with a ludicrously good pear upside down cake served with blue cheese. Jeremy Berger

960 Hope St, Providence, RI 02906 | 401.421.4422 | | Directory

A Bar, A Hall, A Restaurant

It’s a narrative arc we’ve no doubt heard before, but which tends to work out well: a restaurant opens in an historic building and assumes some of its identity in addition to the location. Dusek’s Board and Beer is an homage to Thalia Hall, a multipurpose building founded by John Dusek in the late 19th century. In fact, it’s still a multipurpose facility: in addition to the eclectic menu (bay scallop crudo, cotechino en croute, roasted half chicken), there’s also a venue for events, which is still called Thalia Hall, and a bar named Punch House. Jeremy Berger

1227 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608 | 312.526.3851 | | Directory

Cafe Jacqueline
Simplicity in Souffles

How many restaurants do you know these days that don’t have a PR team, a mixologist and a chef who goes by Chef? Not many, and that’s just fine — because a lot of those places consistently serve really good food. But eating somewhere that just does its own thing, without it being a thing, is refreshing — particularly when that thing is being a nearly soufflé-only restaurant, like Cafe Jacqueline in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood.

The dining room is a plain room with pale green and white walls, wooden chairs and simple tables covered in white cloth. The service is gentlemanly. The chef, a woman who has cracked more eggs than the most productive short order cook over a whole lifetime. And what you get for sitting and waiting quite a long time after placing your order — slow for those who like to eat and run, leisurely for the rest of us — is perfectly executed, delicate soufflés for one person or two made with ingredients like gruyere, asparagus and lobster. For dessert, it’s more soufflés, made with chocolate, Grand Mariner or lime. We’ll make it simple: lobster, then chocolate, always for two. Jeremy Berger

1454 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133 | 415.981.5565 | | Directory

Mill Valley Beerworks
Rich In Beer, Rich In Portion

It’s not every day you walk into a random restaurant in an unfamiliar town and have best meal of your year, but that’s what happened this year in Mill Valley, CA. Now, Mill Valley isn’t exactly West Bumfuck, U.S.A. It’s an idyllic town just outside of San Francisco, one of the best food cities in America right now. Still, Mill Valley Beerworks is twistedly good. There are redwoods outside and lots of wood inside; the beer list, whether you drink the house-made stuff or the imports, is literary; and the menu is market driven and perfectly cooked. Of special note is the grilled pork spareribs served with summer peppers, sweet corn and cherry tomatoes, a dish so simple, so flavorful and of such ample proportion that it inspires a revelatory state of disbelief, prompting diners to eat until well past full. Since they’re not on the menu anymore, you’ll just have to take our word for it. Better yet, stop in for yourself: we hear they’re cooking a mean short rib agridolce. Jeremy Berger

173 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941 | 415.888.8218 | | Directory

Producer: Jeremy Berger. Writers:Matthew Ankeny, Jeremy Berger, Tucker Bowe, Brandon Chuang, Andrew Connor, Nicholas Milanes, Henry Phillips, Jack Seemer, J. Travis Smith Photographers: Toro: Noah Fecks; Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co.: Spencer Pernikoff, Greg Rannells; Walrus and Carpenter: Geoffrey Smith; State Bird Provision: Ed Anderson, Dylan + Jeni; CBD Provisions: Mei-Chun Jau; Yardbird: David Cabrera; Moxy: David J Murray; Sushi Nakawaza: Daniel Krieger; Bun-Ker Vietnamese: Henry Phillips; Rose’s Luxury: Andrew Limberg

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