2018’s 20 Most Talked About Restaurants In T...

2018’s 20 Most Talked About Restaurants In The U.S.

Plenty of smart, useful articles appear each year directing people to the nation’s bussiest restaurants, highlighting emerging trends and up-and-coming chefs. The one-word mantra that steers thinking, and also the city-based list is modeled, and is essential. Which places become indispensable to their neighborhoods, and eventually to their towns and whole regions? Which ones spur trends, or set standards for hospitality and leadership, or stir conversations around representation and inclusivity?

 Here is a list of the most talked about Restaurants in the U.S. For 2018 

1. Atelier Crenn San Francisco
With an artist’s sense of constant reinvention, Dominique Crenn has been bending flavors and meditating on design since her flagship restaurant’s 2011 debut. More masterfully than ever, Crenn and her team (including pastry chef Juan Contreras) mine the middle ground between intellect and emotion, between heady presentation and flat-out deliciousness. Crenn focuses the modernist kitchen on seafood and vegetables, using impeccable Bay Area ingredients while musing over her upbringing in Brittany, France, for inspiration. Stunning black-walnut tables, part of the dining room’s 2017 renovation, show off swirling wood grains that resemble turbulent cloud patterns; the effect is mirrored in table side theatrics like platters of billowing dry ice that soon reveal tiny geoduck tarts. 3125 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA, (415) 440-0460′

2. Brennan’s New OrleansRalph Brennan and his business partner, Terry White, rescued this French Quarter monolith in 2014, shepherding $20 million worth of reconstructive surgery on a building the size of a small cruise ship. Among the city’s Creole restaurant institutions, Brennan’s now takes the lead with its balance of timeless pageantry and relevant, finely honed cooking. Executive chef Slade Rushing nails the classics — eggs Sardou laced with creamed spinach for breakfast, snapper amandine or blackened redfish for dinner, bananas Foster for dessert any time of day — but also rotates in fresh twists like frog legs with basil tempura and tomato escabeche. 417 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA, (504) 525-9711

3. Here’s Looking At You Los AngelesJonathan Whitener, the chef who owns HLAY with front-of-house ace Lien Ta, is arguably the country’s most creatively energized practitioner of the “global plates” aesthetic. Salsa negra, smoked beef tongue, nam jim, carrot curry, blood cake, almond dukkah, sprouted broccoli, New Zealand cockles: All have a place on his menu; all make sense in his electric, eclectic compositions; all reflect Los Angeles’s wondrous pluralism. The cocktail menu takes cues from Tiki culture but spirals off in similarly wild and amazingly cohesive directions. 3901 West 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA, (213) 568-3573

4. JuneBaby SeattleEdouardo Jordan grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, with family roots in Georgia, but it wasn’t until he opened his second Seattle restaurant, in the spring of 2017, that he chose to focus professionally on the foods of the South and his African-American heritage. The decision, and the restaurant’s immediate success, has made him one of the nation’s towering figures of Southern cooking. Among the menu’s familiar, gorgeously rendered comforts, the truest treasures (oxtails, vinegared chitterlings, collard greens with ham hock) are the ones that most resonantly invoke Jordan’s upbringing. 2122 Northeast 65th Street, Seattle, WA, (206) 257-4470

5.  Momofuku Ko New YorkThe wit and technical command behind the tasting menu at David Chang’s toniest outpost perpetually makes Ko one of Manhattan’s worthiest splurges. A course of frozen foie shavings, melting on the tongue like otherworldly snowflakes, is a forever trademark; it’s hard to look at the split shape of the “Ko egg” and not envision an alabaster Pac-Man gobbling dots of caviar. But this past year the restaurant hoisted itself to another dimension by adding a walk-ins-only bar with a separate, experimental, and sneakily brilliant menu by executive chef Sean Gray and his team. Consistent pleasures have included quadruple-fried chicken legs, served cold. They’re so outrageously good, Harland Sanders only wishes he were picnicking on them in the afterlife. 8 Extra Place, New York, NY, (212) 203-8095

6. Park’s BBQ Los AngelesIn America, the meaty magnetism of Korean barbecue restaurants often serves as a gateway to the country’s cuisine. Park’s, ensconced in a Koreatown strip mall, is more of a journey’s culmination — the pinnacle of the genre. Certainly the tabletop-grilled meats (especially the kalbi, or short ribs, and anything offered as an American wagyu upgrade) deliver with sizzling edges and smoky depths. Before the main event, tiny plates of chef-owner Jenee Kim’s meticulous banchan (kimchi; gyeran mari, or rolled egg; battered slices of squash) rev the appetite. The cooking alone distinguishes the restaurant; the engaged, near-telepathic staff propels the experience even higher. 955 South Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, (213) 380-1717

7. Smyth & the Loyalist ChicagoChicago is a stronghold of tasting-menu restaurants all nearly on par in their intellectual heft. At Smyth, husband and wife John Shields and Karen Urie Shields certainly show off brainpower through 12 courses that uniquely coalesce Japanese, Nordic, and Southern-American flavors and techniques. But their close relationship with a farm 20 miles south of the city in Bourbonnais, Illinois helps give Smyth’s cuisine a literal and spiritual grounding. I taste the honest Midwest in dishes like end-of-summer green gooseberries paired with uni. At the Loyalist downstairs, the duo apply their formidable know-how to the Americana fare, including killer biscuits with cheddar and what may be the most righteous cheeseburger in Chicago. 177 North Ada Street, Chicago, IL, (773) 913-3773

8. Via Carota New YorkI’ll just say it: This is my favorite place to eat in New York. While no one “quintessential Manhattan” restaurant exists, Via Carota exquisitely inhabits one version of the mythology. It’s the filtered, shifting light that seeps through the picture windows overlooking a narrow West Village street. It’s the crowd’s smart air (especially at lunch, the ideal time to drop in). And it’s certainly the assured Italian cooking, heavy on vegetable dishes but also with soul-soothing pleasures like tagliatelle showered with Parmesan and draped with prosciutto. An unusually harmonic partnership animates the place: Chef couple Rita Sodi and Jody Williams each started still-successful restaurants nearby before combining forces on their joint darling. I always feel cheered by their doting brand of culinary co-parenting. 51 Grove Street, New York, NY, (212) 255-1962

9.  Xochi HoustonEach of Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught’s four Houston restaurants lend distinction to the world-class greatness of the city’s dining scene. Since opening in early 2017, Xochi quickly ascended as the finest of their bellwethers. Ortega and his chefs delve into Oaxaca’s earthy, exhilarating, spicy-sweet cuisine, with its color wheel of moles and its masa-based specialties shaped into irresistible geometries. Look for memelas (a thicker tortilla cradling roasted pork rib), tetelas (blue-masa triangles stuffed with house-made cheese), and molotes (crisp oval cakes painted with creamy and spicy sauces). Lunch ranks equal to dinner in excellence, a blessing for Downtown’s visitors and local workers alike. 1777 Walker Street, Houston, TX, (713) 400-3330

10. Benu San FranciscoNo culinary leader in America deserves the honorific of “chef’s chef” more than Corey Lee. Easy labels don’t stick to his visionary cooking. Lee runs three San Francisco restaurants, including the bistro Monsieur Benjamin and In Situ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, but it’s at his flagship where his virtuosic talents most hold sway. Lee was born in Korea, and he most often summons the cuisines of China, Japan, and his native country for his intricate, striking dishes. Lobster coral soup dumplings, mussels stuffed with glass noodles and layered vegetables, a combination of potato salad and caramelized anchovies that recalls two staples of banchan: After thousands of meals consumed for Eater, I don’t know another place in America that serves food more dazzlingly, gratifyingly singular than Benu. Master sommelier Yoon Ha’s beverage pairings keep pace with Lee’s kitchen — another of the restaurant’s near-impossible achievements. 22 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, CA, (415) 685-4860

11. Bateau SeattleAt Renee Erickson’s revolutionary overhaul of the American steakhouse, she and her partners dry-age the beef they raise on nearby Whidbey Island. Servers maintain a nightly running list of steaks on a chalkboard; lesser-known cuts like gracilis (the lean top round cap) receive equal billing with New York strips and ribeyes. Gallic-accented sides (kale gratin) and desserts (baba au rhum) trumpet the country’s renewed obsession with French cuisine. 1040 East Union Street, Seattle, WA, (206) 900-8699

12. Highlands Bar & Grill Birmingham, ALA victorious year, with James Beard Awards for Outstanding Restaurant (after nine previous nominations) and a long-deserved win for pastry chef Dolester Miles, only emphasizes the timeless relevance of Frank and Pardis Stitt’s affable Southern-French haven. 2011 11th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL, (205) 939-1400

13.  Mud Hen Water Honolulu

Hawaiian food exists in its own delicious, swirling cosmos. In dishes like his version of grilled squid lūʻau, whole fish cooked in coals, and chicken long rice croquettes, O‘ahu native Ed Kenney connects the cultural dots like no one else on the islands. 3452 Waialae Avenue, Honolulu, HI, (808) 737-6000

14. Parachute ChicagoBeverly Kim and Johnny Clark’s dishes crisscross continents in their exceptionally vivid flavors, but the road always leads back to Korea with seasonal journeys like dolsot bibimbap and sesame-laced beef stew. 3500 N Elston Avenue, Chicago, IL, (773) 654-1460

15. Staplehouse AtlantaRyan Smith crafts the right-now model of the mid-priced tasting menu, serving a dozen or so constantly evolving courses; dishes might involve modernist mousses and powders but never spiral too far from an end goal of accessible pleasure. Co-owners Jen Hidinger and Kara Hidinger (Smith’s wife) lead the front of house with Southern graciousness. 541 Edgewood Avenue Southeast, Atlanta, GA, (404) 524-5005

16. Zahav Philadelphia, PA

The recent limelight on Middle Eastern foods in America, which is overdue and still very much emerging, can in part be traced to Michael Solomonov, the chef who owns Zahav (and about a dozen other restaurants) with Steve Cook. Solomonov, born in Israel, brings a respectful and contemporary translation of that nation’s clearinghouse adaptation of its region’s varied cuisines. Dinner should always begin with salatim — warmly spiced vegetable salads that light up the table in their shades of red, green, gold, and purple — and Solomonov’s justly lauded hummus, maybe in a Turkish variation bathed in melted butter. Grilled duck hearts, roasted carrots with labneh, the signature smoked lamb shoulder lacquered with pomegranate molasses, riffs on kanafeh (a shredded phyllo dessert) with seasonal fruits: These communal plates all foster kinship, further cultural understanding, and of course bring immense enjoyment. 237 St James Place, Philadelphia, PA, (215) 625-8800

17. Spoon & Stable Minneapolis

This is the Twin Cities’ restaurant of the decade. Gavin Kaysen brought New York star power back to his native Minnesota but keeps himself grounded with local ingredients and compelling yet comforting plates. Pastry chef Diane Moua echoes the Midwest charm with creations like root-beer semifreddo. 211 North First Street, Minneapolis, MN, (612) 224-9850

18. N/Naka Los Angeles

Reservations open three months in advance and book out instantly, but tenacity rewards with the country’s most poetic kaiseki meal. Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida’s menus careen through cooking techniques (sashimi, steaming, frying, searing), but the whole is a meditation on the ties between culinary tradition and individual imagination. 3455 Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, (310) 836-6252

19. Kachka Portland

Bonnie and Israel Morales recently moved their Belarusian-Georgian-Russian restaurant to a larger, splashier space without displacing an ounce of its inimitable spirit; their new lunch service offers the same signature dumplings, caviar, and newly supersized blini, and world-class vodkas. 960 SE 11th Avenue, Portland, OR, (503) 235-0059

20. Compère Lapin New Orleans

Nina Compton, a native of St. Lucia, revives New Orleans’s often-forgotten connections to the Caribbean; at her three-year-old restaurant, she knits together cultures with dishes like snapper with vinegary pepper escovitch and carrot beurre blanc. 535 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA, (504) 599-2119

By John Cicioni












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