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Ten chefs from ten regions across America are in the running for Food & Wine's Best New Chef
Did any of your favorite new chefs make the list?
The nomination process for Food & Wine’s fourth annual People’s Best New Chef awards has officially begun, and the public is invited to vote for their favorite talented newcomers. Voting will run from now until 5 p.m. EDT on Monday, March 31.
A total of 100 chefs are currently in the running, covering California, the Great Lakes, the Gulf Coast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, New York Area, Northwest & Pacific, Southeast, and Southwest regions. Food & Wine has provided each chef with a brief biography, including details on the chef’s professional background, where they attended culinary school, and why they’re amazing.
A few of the nominees include Curtis Duffy of Grace because “he’s keeping fine luxurious dining alive and well in Chicago,” Paul Carmichael of New York because “because he revamped Má Pêche's menu with flavors from his childhood in Barbados,” and Jessica Koslow of Sqirl in Los Angeles because “her sought-after jams and pickles…have transformed the way we think about preserves.”
A finalist from each region will go on to compete for the People’s Best New Chef, which will be revealed April 2nd on Food & Wine’s website. The winner will also be featured in the July 2014 issue of Food & Wine.
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.
- 3 large whole russet potatoes
- 2 tablespoons high-heat-resistant vegetable oil, such as grapeseed oil
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 sprigs thyme, plus more for garnish
- ½ cup chicken broth, or more as needed
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Cut off ends of russet potatoes, stand potatoes on end, and peel potatoes from top to bottom with a sharp knife to make each potato into a uniform cylinder. Cut each cylinder in half crosswise to make 6 potato cylinders about 2 inches long.
Place potatoes into a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes to remove starch from outsides pat dry with paper towels.
Place a heavy oven-proof skillet (such as a cast iron skillet) over high heat. Pour in vegetable oil heat oil until it shimmers slightly.
Place potato cylinders with best-looking ends into the hot oil, lower heat to medium-high, and pan-fry potatoes until well-browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
Flip the potatoes onto the opposite ends. As they cook, use a paper towel held with tongs to carefully blot out the oil from the skillet. Add butter and thyme sprigs to skillet.
Pick up a thyme sprig with tongs and use it to paint butter over the top of the potatoes. Cook until butter foams and foam turns from white to a pale tan color. Season with more salt and pepper. Pour chicken stock into skillet.
Transfer skillet to preheated oven and cook until potatoes are tender and creamy inside, about 30 minutes. If potatoes aren't tender, add 1/4 cup more stock and let cook 10 more minutes.
Place potatoes on a serving platter and spoon thyme-scented butter remaining in skillet over potatoes. Garnish with thyme sprigs. Let cool about 5 minutes before serving.
Silverton grew up in Sherman Oaks and Encino, in Southern California's San Fernando Valley. Born into a Jewish family, her mother, Doris, was a writer for the soap opera General Hospital and her father, Larry, was a lawyer. Silverton enrolled at Sonoma State University as a political science major and decided to become a chef in her freshman year after she had what she later described as an epiphany. "I was cooking in the dorms in a stainless steel kitchen, cooking vegetarian food, and I remember this light bulb going off and thinking 'Oh wait, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,' " she said in a 2013 interview.  
Silverton dropped out of Sonoma State in her senior year, and decided to train formally as a chef at Le Cordon Bleu in London. In 1979, following her graduation, she returned to Southern California, where she worked with pastry chef Jimmy Brinkeley at Michael’s, an acclaimed restaurant in Santa Monica. Inspired by his creativity, she returned to Europe to attend Ecole Lenotre Culinary Institute in Plasir, France to further her studies.  
After Silverton returned to Los Angeles in 1982, she was hired by Wolfgang Puck as Spago's opening pastry chef, and in 1986, she wrote her first cookbook, Desserts.  
Campanile and La Brea Bakery Edit
In 1989, Silverton, her then-husband, chef Mark Peel, and Manfred Krankl opened Campanile, about which critic Jonathan Gold would later write: "It is hard to overstate Campanile's contributions to American cooking."  Almost as an afterthought, Silverton and Peel opened La Brea Bakery in a space which adjoined the main restaurant it opened prior to Campanile. Silverton served as the head baker at the bakery and the head pastry chef at the restaurant, which was located on La Brea Avenue in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles. 
Silverton had limited experience from baking bread while a pastry chef at Spago and began to experiment with recipes after she read an article about a San Francisco artisan bakery, Acme. She used grapes, which had natural yeast, and let them soak for days in flour and water. She then mixed the dough, shaped the loaves by hand, and let them rise twice over a two-day period. After six months and "hundreds" of attempts to perfect the recipe, she was satisfied. Artisan bread was then largely unknown in Los Angeles, and within weeks, sales were up to $1,000 a day at the bakery. On Thanksgiving in 1990, the line to buy bread stretched around the block and partway down a side street.  
Campanile was equally successful from the start. Silverton and Peel were well-known through their work at Spago and Michael's, and Campanile was uniformly lauded by the press. Reservations were difficult, and during their first year, annual sales exceeded $2 million. Silverton would bake bread all night, sleep briefly, wake mid-morning to prepare pastries and desserts for the restaurant, and nap again before dinner. In 1991, she won the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Pastry Chef award. In an article on the awards, the Los Angeles Times wrote that she had "not only given Los Angeles great bread, but through her work at Campanile, she has virtually redefined what dessert is." 
Silverton, however, was "frazzled." In 1992, she and Krankl went back to the group of investors who had funded Campanile, and built a much larger, fully staffed, commercial bakery. At the same time, they split the bakery into a separate entity. Silverton became less involved with the bakery in 1993, serving mainly as an advisor. In 1996, her second book, Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoisseur, was published. 
In 1998, Silverton began "Grilled Cheese Night" at Campanile, which became an establishment in Los Angeles. Described as the "godmother of grilled cheese sandwiches," by NBC's Today Show, "Grilled Cheese Night" started a worldwide trend.   Her book Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book: The Best Sandwiches Ever--from Thursday Nights at Campanile was published in 2005. 
In 2001, an Irish investment group, IAWS, purchased La Brea Bakery for a price that was reported as ranging from $56 million to $68.5 million. Silverton earned more than $5 million in the sale, and invested with Bernard Madoff her profits were lost in 2008 with the collapse of his pyramid scheme.  In 2005, she and Peel separated, and Silverton left Campanile after their divorce in 2007. The restaurant closed in October 2012. 
Osteria Mozza Edit
In 2007, Silverton partnered with New York chef Mario Batali and his frequent collaborator Joseph Bastianich to open an Italian restaurant, Osteria Mozza. Reminiscent of the evolution of La Brea bakery, a pizzeria, Pizzeria Mozza, opened in an adjoining space prior to the opening of the main restaurant. It was met with an "instant and outsize swoon." The Los Angeles Times gave it a four-star review, and the New York Times called it a "serious and impressive restaurant." 
Four months after the opening of the pizzeria, Osteria Mozza opened to similar acclaim. Although the restaurant's entire menu was widely praised, Silverton's interpretation of antipasti as a Mozzarella bar won particular recognition, with Zagat's noting that she had "perfected the art of cheese."  It was nominated as Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation the year it opened, and was awarded a Michelin star in 2008.  Osteria Mozza maintained its Michelin star in the 2019 Michelin Guide for California. 
Osteria Mozza later opened restaurants in Newport Beach, California, and Singapore. The main Mozza location has since grown to include Mozza2Go and a third restaurant, Chi Spacca, which focuses on meats. 
Silverton won the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Chef Award in 2014, the Beard Awards' most prestigious honor. 
Nancy's Fancy Edit
In June 2015 Silverton launched Nancy's Fancy. A luxury line of seven flavors of gelato and sorbetto, Nancy's Fancy, is sold in supermarkets. The company's original location was based in Chatsworth, California  however they have since relocated to a 6,000 square foot warehouse in the Arts District of Downtown, Los Angeles. 
Nancy will open a casual Italian restaurant specializing in small pizzas in Fall 2019 located in Culver City, California called Pizzette. 
The Farmhouse at Ojai Valley Inn Edit
Nancy was named Culinary Ambassador of the new Farmhouse food and event space in Ojai, California in early 2019. 
Silverton serves as mentor to the team of pastry chefs at Short Cake Bakery, a bakery she helped her longtime friend, the late Amy Pressman, to open.
She has been a member of the Macy's Culinary Council since 2003 and is involved in the Meals on Wheels programs in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. 
Silverton lost the money she made from the sale of La Brea Bakery in the Bernie Madoff scandal.  She has three children. 
America's Best Cities for Barbecue 2014
Like a lot of people, Jay Metzger draws a line when it comes to his barbecue loyalties&mdashand for him, that line falls along the Mississippi River.
&ldquoWhile it&rsquos nice to enjoy a little Memphis and Carolina barbecue, the real stuff comes from the center of the U.S.,&rdquo says the L.A.&ndashbased advertising executive, who favors Kansas City and Texas barbecue.
Plenty of Travel + Leisure readers agree, ranking KC and more than one Texas city in the top 10. But where there&rsquos smoke, there&rsquos fiery debate. As part of the America&rsquos Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 35 metro areas for such qualities as good-looking locals, great sports teams, and regionally distinct pizza and barbecue. To be fair, since the survey covered only 35 cities, some barbecue hot spots like Lexington, NC, Lockhart, TX, and St. Louis were not even on the table for this particular vote.
But plenty of other hot-button BBQ cities were&mdashand one dark horse (or perhaps pig) even took the top prize. Certainly, the prevailing styles and some gourmet-friendly trends vary from city to city, from the burnt ends in Kansas City, MO, to the mustard-sauced pork in Charleston, SC, or the piles of brisket on butcher paper in Austin, TX&mdashso the definition of best may depend on what you&rsquore used to.
&ldquoCharleston has great barbecue, but any southerner will argue that their city has the best,&rdquo says Boston-based chef Jason Albus, who hails from South Carolina. But good &ldquolow-and-slow&rdquo cooking methods, he says, transcend any regional distinctions. &ldquoYou really can&rsquot rush barbecue&mdashyou can definitely taste the difference when someone puts time and passion into it.&rdquo For the customer, he adds, three other factors are essential: &ldquoGood friends, cold beer, and lots of napkins.&rdquo
The Hot 10 2014: Rose's Luxury, Washington, D.C. (No. 1)
ose’s Luxury opens at 5:30 tonight. It’s five o’clock now, so I decide to do what I always do before visiting a new restaurant: Grab a pregame drink nearby. As my cab pulls up along Eighth Street in Washington’s Barracks Row neighborhood, I notice a line 30-deep. Is someone selling black-market Cronuts? Is it a political protest? No and no: These people are all waiting for a table at Rose’s, which is open only for dinner and does not take reservations.
Later, as I’m finishing my whiskey and paying the bill, I realize why those people were willing to wait two-plus hours for a table in a city whose food culture is otherwise known mostly for power lunches: Rose’s is a game-changer .
There is a lot that sets it apart, starting with the warm, farmhouse-style dining room, kitchen-counter seating, and atrium glowing with string lights. There is the knowledgeable and friendly service. And, of course, the eclectic menu: Southern comfort food threaded with globe-trotting ingredients and ideas from Southeast Asia, Mexico, Italy, and France.
While chef-owner Aaron Silverman is clearly concerned with the food that goes out on his plates, he pays even closer attention to the people eating it. And that’s when it hits me: Rose’s isn’t just in the restaurant business it’s in the making-people-happy business .
If that feels like a revelation in dining, it should. It did to me, and it’s why Rose’s tops our list of this year’s best new restaurants.
To find out what makes a meal here so special, I spent 12 hours trailing Silverman on a weekday in early June. Let’s just say the brilliance of Rose’s isn’t by accident.
11 a.m. “This is where it all started,” Silverman, 32, tells me while standing in the dining room of his well-appointed apartment just a few blocks from the restaurant. Before opening in October 2013, he held several pop-ups here to test out dishes. He’d been planning Rose’s for years, collecting vintage glasses and sterling-silver presidential spoons at flea markets. The restaurant was named for his epicurean grandmother the “Luxury” part speaks to his obsession with hospitality. “It’s not about white gloves and a four-fork table setting,” Silverman says. “It’s about being taken care of, and making people happy.”
Service, the Rose's Way
Hospitality means everything to chef-owner Silverman. Here are just a few of the ways he puts the guest’s experience first:
1. Comfort Is King
Silverman thought the restaurant’s original tables were an inch too high, so he spent several thousand dollars to replace them a week before opening. “Now I have 28 table bases sitting in my parents’ garage,” he says. “But it’s the little things that make a difference.”
2. Let the Freebies Flow
“All of our items have a ‘from us’ version,” Silverman says. If a diner can’t decide between two cocktails, or the server wants guests to try something they didn’t order, the restaurant can send it to the table gratis.
3. Substitutions: Definitely Okay
“We don’t say, ‘Chef doesn’t allow that.’ If a guest wants a Caesar salad, she gets a Caesar salad,” Silverman says. For customers with allergies, Rose’s servers will mark up a menu to let them know which items are safe to eat.
4. Don’t Forget the Loo!
In addition to that rosemary-mint soap, the WC is stocked with bobby pins, a small fix for those with flyaways. “I always think, How can we make our bathroom more welcoming?” he says.
5. Give Good Goodie Bags
For Rose’s private rooftop dinners, each guest leaves with a to-go bag: a house-smoked brisket sandwich, Utz potato chips, and a Capri Sun.
11:30 a.m. Treating customers like kings may be a priority for Silverman, but the guy has serious cooking cred, too. He’s worked with two of the most influential chefs of the past decade: David Chang at Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York and Sean Brock at McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina. We stop for coffee on the way to Rose’s. Silverman orders a large with cream and lots and lots of sugar. He’s got a long day ahead of him.
11:45 a.m. Rose’s is already a hive of activity when we arrive. His mom, Jackie, is in the dining room arranging flowers. (Rose’s is a family affair: Mrs. Silverman and a friend painted the floor upstairs, while Silverman’s dad sealed it, and his uncle built some of the wood tables.) “Aaron called us one day and said he wanted to go to Harvard Business School,” she recalls. “We said we’d do whatever we could to help him out. A week later he called back and said he was going to cooking school. I think he made the right decision.”
Noon Silverman meets with his two managers to go over menu changes: the crab claws with pickled-ramp-and-chive mayo are coming off a peach salad with shiso, mint, and ricotta is going on. Reservations for the ten spots at the roof garden table—the only reservations Rose’s takes—are selling out three weeks in advance. And no wonder: The family-style meal includes off-menu items and a surprise goodie bag.
1 p.m. Silverman and his three sous-chefs discuss the ever-evolving menu. One of them wants to add crab cakes, but Silverman isn’t convinced. (“We won’t sell anything else,” he worries.) Carrot top–walnut pesto is making its debut on fusilli tonight. The kitchen is excited—and that’s key. In two weeks, Silverman will close Rose’s for a staff retreat that includes grilling, drinking, and a Hall & Oates concert. “It’s not just about taking care of the guests,” he explains. “It’s also about keeping the people I work with happy.” (Notice a theme?) After two months, any employee who does four or more shifts a week gets complete medical coverage. But it doesn’t stop there: Community is also important. Rose’s donates 25 cents per diner to the World Food Program USA . They’ve raised nearly $8,000 to date.
1:30 p.m. Silverman’s roommate, Brooke Horn , and Kate Lee , a.k.a. “Farmer Kate,” arrive bearing dill flowers and onion blossoms picked at a nearby community farm. They run upstairs to check on the rooftop herb garden.
2 p.m. Over bags of Nacho Cheese Doritos and Peanut M&M’s, the young, bubbly staff meets for its weekly wine tasting, where the GMs walk through some of the bottles on offer. The camaraderie is palpable. “These aren’t just servers,” Silverman says. “They were hired to make people happy.” (That’s three happiness mentions for those keeping count.) As such, Rose’s overstaffs so that each waiter can interact with guests “without faking it.” They also have permission to give away food and drinks to keep customers in good spirits extras are listed on the check as “from us.” “More important to me than who is in the kitchen is who the servers are—they’re the ones dealing with customers,” he says. “Cooking is only 20 percent of the success of this restaurant.”
__2:45 p.m.__Silverman shows me the bathroom. “Soap is one of the most overlooked aspects of a restaurant,” he says. He’s only half joking. “Two years before we opened, I knew I wanted C.O. Bigelow ’s rosemary-mint soap.” Guests are so into it, they comment on Yelp.
3:30 p.m. Silverman is busy tasting. The strawberry-and-tomato sauce for the spaghetti, one of the restaurant’s most divisive dishes, is a tad too sweet. It also needs more spice. So does the broth for the lemongrass-seafood stew.
4 p.m. Staff meal is served while people fold napkins and polish silverware. Today it’s carnitas tacos, radish salad, and pineapple-mint agua fresca . Unlike many kitchens, the front and back of house here actually communicate. Like a coach on game day, Silverman gives a pep talk: His proudest moment, he says, happened just that weekend, when Billy Shore , founder of Share Our Strength , a nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America, stopped by for dinner—and loved it. He was so blown away by the experience, he sent the restaurant a note, which Silverman read aloud. It mentioned the food, but it was primarily about the hospitality.
5 p.m. Doors open in 30 minutes, and there are already 26 people in line.
__6 p.m.__The restaurant is full and the kitchen pass is stacked with orders. There’s a peanut allergy at table 21 table 14 doesn’t eat cilantro and table eight wants steamed veggies not listed on the menu. There’s no rolling of the eyes from the kitchen—they just do it. “It’s not a big deal to accommodate dietary restrictions,” Silverman says. “It’s just good business.”
6:45 p.m. “Harlem Shuffle,” the original version, comes over the speakers. Whether it’s Bob & Earl, LL Cool J, or Blur, music is important at Rose’s. Silverman built the restaurant’s original 2,000-song playlist Gray V, a music-curation company, added 2,000 more. “We vote on each and every song through a Gray V app on our phones,” he says. “One time I was running some errands and got three frantic texts and four missed calls within a minute. I thought the restaurant was on fire. But it was just my staff telling me to never again play ‘Hey Baby’ by No Doubt.”
7:30 p.m. All solo diners get at least one dish on the house. A gentleman sitting at the chef’s counter receives a salad made with pork sausage, habanero, lychee, raw onions, and whipped coconut milk . He thinks Rose’s has mistaken him for a critic.
__8:30 p.m.__I grab a seat at the counter and order all 12 dishes on the small-plates menu. Nothing tops $14 except the family-style plates offered nightly. Silverman is a frying guru. Chicken-fried oysters are served on top of a raw-oyster tzatziki . Boneless chicken thighs, brined in pickle juice , are fried and served with a drizzle of honey and flurry of benne seeds. It’s some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had—and, as a Georgia boy, that’s saying something.
8:45 p.m. People are still waiting. There are college kids hitting up their visiting parents for a free meal, groups of friends drinking like it’s Friday (it’s only Monday), and couples smart enough to know that early in the week is the best time to get a table.
__11 p.m.__The shift is over. Silverman and I grab Vieux Carré cocktails at Beuchert’s Saloon nearby. He’s a confident guy, but he seems genuinely surprised by all the media attention Rose’s has received. “I just want to make people happy,” he says. Again. Sure, it sounds like a line you’d feed a writer working on a story for Bon Appétit, but seeing is believing. And after shadowing him for 12 hours, I’m sold.
People go out to eat for all kinds of reasons. Some for the dishes, some for the service, and some just because a food magazine told them to. But at the end of the day, everyone goes back to the place they enjoyed the most. The place that is actually, you know, fun. Silverman’s understanding of this is nothing short of a culinary revolution.
From a French-Asian stunner to a veggie revelation—new restaurants shaking up the scene. How many have you tried?
The old adage that says "Nothing succeeds like success" still holds. For confirmation, take a look around at Chicago's newest restaurants. You've got Tru's Rick Tramonto making antipasto plates at Osteria Via Stato there's Gabriel Viti in jeans welcoming his loyal Gabriel's clientele to the casual Miramar Spring's Shawn McClain is flexing some new muscles at the veg-happy Green Zebra. Le Lan-the best new restaurant of the year-is a French-Vietnamese collaboration between two of Chicago's true heavyweights, Roland Liccioni and Arun Sampanthavivat. So many of the year's best arrived with impressive pedigrees, it was easy to overlook promising rookies, such as Paul Virant's dazzling Vie in Western Springs, which seemed to materialize so fully formed it felt as if it had been around for years. Virant's work at Vie has earned him the golden toque for best new chef, but, knowing this year's field, we half expect Virant to be opening another restaurant by the time this hits newsstands.
Photography by Nathan Kirkman
Price Key [amount a diner can expect to spend on dinner without wine, tax, or tip]
[¢] $10 to $19
[$] $20 to $29
[$] $30 to $39
[$$] $40 to $49
749 North Clark Street
|Le Lan's roast duck breast draped over creamy polenta and a disk of seared foie gras, stacked on duck rillette flavored with lemongrass and kaffir lime|
There was so much buzz around the opening of this beautiful restaurant, it seemed destined to disappoint. Early on, the collaboration of Roland Liccioni and Arun Sampanthavivat (with their chef de cuisine, Andy Motto) was better in theory than in practice. Not now dubious creations have been jettisoned for more blissful dishes, and the execution is almost flawless. From an amuse of a delicate noodle-filled spring roll with watermelon relish and crispy shallots all the way to a dessert of sheep's-milk flan topped with crystallized cilantro and garnished with tropical fruit compote, Le Lan is luscious. In between choose a spring roll duo: One is cold and packed with slow-roasted pork and shrimp with sweet and spicy shallot vinaigrette the other is a warm beauty filled with chicken and vermicelli with four-pepper vinaigrette. Then move on to a Le Français&ndashworthy entrée of roast duck breast with green cardamom jus next to a stack of seared foie gras, creamy polenta, and lemongrass- and kaffir lime&ndashscented duck rillette. A bottle of vivid 2003 Seresin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand ($60) off the diverse list answers the call of such bold food. When my party raved about dinner to the manager, Terry McNeese, he smiled and said: "We're tightening up and getting better." Damn right. It's the best new restaurant of the year.
&ndashD. R. W.
1460 West Chicago Avenue
Even the most carnivorous among us can stand to eat a little less meat and a lot more great-tasting vegetables. Chef Shawn McClain's veggie-oriented Green Zebra was an instant hit when it opened last spring, hyped all over the country. Chicago hasn't seen such green-revolution virtuosity since Charlie Trotter innovated his vegetable tasting menus, although McClain's garden creations deliver finesse at much lower prices. While he specializes in intricate presentations of organic vegetables, his GZ is not strictly vegetarian and cleverly avoids preachy health and environment messages. Why worry about labels with entrées as good as a foamy celery-root soup with black walnuts and black truffle essence, a Gruyère soufflé with endive and apple salad, or a Canadian wild rice and barley cake with huckleberry gastrique and braised Tuscan kale?
&ndashD. R. W.
462 North Park Boulevard, Glen Ellyn
There's an air of exotica at Les Deux Autres. Yes, it's in a strip mall and the place is full of stodgy wood paneling, but listen to the staff speak and you know it's different. Louisa Lima, the charming pastry chef/owner, is a Bermuda native our gracious waiter was from Luxembourg. Disappointing by comparison, chef Greg Lutes hails from Malden, Illinois-though his modern French menu has roots in distant settings. Gentle-but-rich dishes such as a flaky napoleon enclosing escargots and wild mushrooms in a garlic-wine sauce showcase the same skills Lutes had displayed at south suburban Courtright's. His entrées are unpretentious but packed with flavor, such as the gorgeous silky scallops encrusted with shiitake dust and set atop lobster-and-potato-stuffed ravioli. Lima's wonderful crème brûlée trio (hazelnut, espresso, and vanilla) is a fresh take on an old warhorse a smoky 2001 Gigondas Domaine Raspail-Ay ($44) served in elegant Riedel stemware more than holds its own. And service is so smooth that even your leftovers get the royal treatment: in lieu of a doggy bag, leftovers go home in aluminum foil shaped like a swan.
814 West Randolph Street
|BEST NEW DISH: De Cero's shareable taco platter|
Randolph Street's modern taquería-the brainchild of Sushi Wabi's owners-has its problems. The place is too loud it charges for chips and salsa the stylized décor is best described as Roadhouse Chic. But you'd have to be an insufferable grump to fault Jill Rosenthall-Barron's food, a savvy mix of regional Mexican flavors, à la Frontera Grill. The name De Cero means "from scratch," and the queso-oozing chiles rellenos with smoked tomato salsa prove it. Even better is the selection of eight diverse fresh tacos (containing everything from braised duck with sweet corn salsa to sautéed salmon with cilantro and pesto) accompanied by three house salsas and warm corn tortillas for $26. It gets my vote for best shareable new dish. Entrées are secondary, but there's a smoky boneless grilled chicken mole, and wonderful cheese enchiladas with queso anejo alongside tomatillo salsa. Desserts are terrific, even the simple bowl of fresh berries in Mexican lime honey. Don't ignore the big tequila list, but go easy on the hibiscus margaritas-one bolsters the smart menu, two obliterate it.
Price Key [amount a diner can expect to spend on dinner without wine, tax, or tip]
[¢] $10 to $19
[$] $20 to $29
[$] $30 to $39
[$$] $40 to $49
5951 North Broadway
This charming BYO spot takes pride in its service, its décor, and-especially-its food. Our solemn waitress was delivering a "crunchy" maki roll (an elaborate deep-fried yellowtail, scallion, and asparagus construction) when a carefully balanced asparagus spear fell from its perch atop the sushi. Distraught, she appeared to be scanning the sushi bar for something sharp to plunge into her gut when one of my companions consoled her. "It's OK," she said. "We saw it." This seemed to please her. Indie's half-Thai, half-Japanese menu pleased us: think delicious buttery tom kha kai (coconut milk soup), outstanding Penang curry flavored with kaffir lime leaves, and wonderful maki named for everyone from Metallica to Popeye. Even desserts, such as a coconut-and-sesame-informed taro root custard with raspberry sauce, are several cuts above usual storefront fare. Every night, it seems half the residents of Edgewater are crammed into the glossy, narrow space, opening their own bottles of wine to toast their good luck.
2032 West Roscoe Street
A proud waiter tells me that the offerings of the three chefs Chan-Macku, Kaze, and Hari, all relatives-are "fine dining fusion." I'm wary until I taste the delicious rare seared bison with red-wine reduction garnished with yamamomo, a flavorful red berry with a cherrylike pit. All doubts vanish when the waiter brings delicately fried scallops atop a "salad" of greens with kiwi dressing wrapped in cucumber and sliced maki-style. Three more hits: unagi (eel) topped with cheese and chives, saké-marinated salmon garnished with crisp salmon skin under white onions and truffle oil, and hamachi (yellowtail) with banana peppers and spicy Japanese black pepper. At the far reaches of nouvelle Japanese lies a signature creation: batter-fried lobster served as inside-out maki topped with sliced strawberries and red tobiko (flying fish roe) on a creamy strawberry purée with enough wasabi to balance the sweetness. After experiencing all that, I was willing to try anything the Chans could dish out.
&ndashD. R. W.
301 Waukegan Avenue, Highwood
Last June, right after Gabriel Viti opened this casual French spot near Gabriel's, his namesake haute restaurant, the waiting crowds spilled out of the lounge and into the street. You would have thought Cartier was giving away jewelry. The no-reservations policy created the mother of all jams-but seats at the best bistro on the North Shore are worth hanging around for. The masses go for generous appetizers such as a platter of saucisson, prosciutto, salami, and cheese a heaping bowl of mussels marinière artichokes in vinaigrette and the roasted half lobster with herb butter. Then they move on to skate grenobloise, a memorable bouillabaisse, and perfect herby-seasoned lamb chops. Once diners exchange promises to hit the gym and confess to their personal trainers, they may indulge in Miramar's rich chocolate mousse with whipped cream and raspberry purée.
&ndashD. R. W.
601 Skokie Boulevard, Northbrook
|Prairie Grass Cafe's rasberry crêpe|
As cheery as cherry pie, this venture by Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris is way down-home compared with their haute years as Ritz-Carlton chefs. The spacious setting teems with boisterous groups gathered around bare wood tables chowing down on terrific housemade lamb sausages with ratatouille and goat cheese, the best moussaka hereabouts, and honest steaks with twice-baked potatoes laced with caramelized onions and Gruyère. For such heartiness, I vote for a peppery, fruity 2001 Lock "Ecluse" Paso Robles Syrah ($44). And if you are in a meat-versus-veggie group, the bottle won't go to waste: it drinks equally well with a dynamite crisp phyllo strudel crammed with mushrooms and Gruyère jazzed by balsamic-braised onions and served over creamed spinach. To start a meal, order crab cakes with roasted sweet-pepper sauce and zesty corn relish or pâté with port wine reduction then finish with cherry pie, baked by Stegner's mom, Elizabeth.
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1952 North Damen Avenue
Scylla, tucked into a snug Bucktown brownstone, may remind you of Shawn McClain's Spring. Stephanie Izard, the 28-year-old chef/owner, is a veteran of the seafood paradise down the road, and her appetizer of creamy whitefish bisque swimming with lobster and sweet English peas is evidence that she soaked up a lot in her two years there. Izard doesn't go overboard with potentially complex dishes such as prosciutto-wrapped shrimp with buttery cauliflower purée, toasted hazelnuts, and pomegranate sauce. And her presentations are quirky: the crisp skate wing looks as though it were in its natural habitat, hiding a treasure of grilled calamari, explosive roasted cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, and spiced tomato aïoli. An eggy lemon custard has a delicious cheesecake consistency and came with an understated olive oil&ndashthyme ice cream that one of my companions said "tasted like something I would rub on my face at a spa." (I assume that's good.) Servers are sharp and pleasant, considering the tight quarters, but the real revelation here is Izard, who seems primed for stardom of her own.
4471 Lawn Avenue, Western Springs
|Paul Virant's pan-seared salmon brushed with herbs and butters nestled on barley, greens, and sherry sauce|
Near the center of a suburb Norman Rockwell would have loved, chef Paul Virant serves up the good life. And he does it as naturally as possible in this French-appointed restaurant. His salad of Bibb lettuce, fresh Hawaiian hearts of palm, and avocado with a citrusy yogurt dressing makes the drive from the city worth the effort. So do dishes such as herb ricotta gnocchi with braised rabbit and salsify, and pan-roasted fluke with mustard jus de poulet on lentils with glazed root vegetables, which show the influence of Virant's mentors (Messrs. Trotter, Joho, and Kahan). But a wood-grilled organic hanger steak with shallot confit and potatoes puréed in olive oil with Tuscan kale and Picholine olives is pure Virant-and it went well with an A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir ($33) from a list selected by Virant and Ambria's brilliant sommelier, Bob Bansberg. The "gooey" butter cake with coconut sorbet, vanilla-roasted pineapple, and macadamia brittle could make the pastry chef, Mary Bodach, a household name.
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1747 North Damen Avenue
|Milk shakes at HotChocolate (vanillamint and chocolate chip stout and caramel milk chocolate malt), with raspberry crumble, fudge brownie, and pecan pie|
This is the sharp urban café you wish were in your neighborhood. The creation of the supremely talented pastry chef, Mindy Segal, HotChocolate is an homage to desserts: even the décor comes in shades of milk and dark chocolate. And, trust me, the desserts are fantastic, bursting with intense flavors and never cloying. As she did at MK, Segal teases your inner child with productions such as a milk chocolate&ndashmalt mousse with layers of salted peanuts and caramel that's a Snickers bar with a halo, embellished with a Reese's takeoff. And then there's "chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate," Scharffen Berger fashioned into an extreme chocolate experience, and rhubarb pot pie-think cobbler-a transcendent warm compote topped with raspberry jam ice cream and garnished with lemongrass sorbet. And desserts are only the tip of the iceberg. Segal's soul-satisfying chicken soup, extraordinarily bright goat cheese&ndashbeet salad, gently spiced steamed green curry mussels, and seared Kobe-style beef skirt steak prove she knows her way around every station of the kitchen. No reservations are taken and the crowd gets younger as the night gets older. Naturally, chocolate drinks abound, and there's a HotChocolate martini on the menu, too.
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620 North State Street
|Cured olives at Osteria Via Stato|
"Sit back and relax," our waiter says. "The olives, chunks of Parmesan with balsamic vinegar, and roasted beets with orange zest are pre-antipasti. Then come four antipasti. For the pasta, we have pappardelle with meat ragù and Parmesan rigatoni with cauliflower and spinach. For your entrée you get a choice from this chalkboard." The onslaught is awesome at this rollicking spot-the brainchild of impresario Rich Melman and his partners, executive chef Rick Tramonto (Tru) and chef-on-the-spot David DiGregorio-and second helpings are yours for the asking. All you have to choose is the entrée (no seconds here), and the whole shebang is $36 per person. After house-cured salmon, chopped radicchio salad, prosciutto, and much, much more, I could have called it a day before hearty entrées such as braised pork shank and seafood stew arrived. Desserts are $5 each a pomegranate granita perked me up after the feast. And the "just bring me wine!" menu of Italian tastings from sommelier Belinda Chang (pick your price point and don't be surprised by refills) are almost necessary to wash it all down.
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1441 West Fullerton Avenue
I can't stop thinking about chawan mushi. No, that's not the latest Asian starlet, although just as alluring. Usually, it's egg custard. Here at Tsuki, it's three saké cups filled with steamed egg and scallop custard-one topped with tiny mushrooms and salmon roe, one with shrimp, and one with crab. Entrancing. The chef, Toyoji Hemmi, presents elegant interpretations of Japanese cuisine at the frosted-glass sushi bar and at high-backed secluded booths with copper tables. Hamachi kama-grilled yellowtail cheek served still attached-is fabulously strange. Go on a weekend when Tsuki has specials just flown in from Japan, and you'll find more exotica, such as a platter of aji (horse mackerel) sashimi served in three styles: traditional, a thicker cut topped with grated ginger on an ohba leaf, and a chopped mound mixed with red miso. When you finish, the bare bones are taken back to the kitchen and deep-fried crisp so you can eat the whole fish.
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1625 Hinman Avenue, Evanston
|Trio Atelier staff Jin Ahn, Lennie Dietsch, and Mike Adaniya|
Innovative owner Henry Adaniya-looking dapper patrolling the room in his suit and spiky hairstyle-is in the groove again at his reborn Trio space. It's easier to swallow the highfalutin "Atelier Artistic Vision" menu spiel now that the creative cooking of the chef, Dale Levitski, has become so polished (even the formerly disorganized service has smoothed out). My hands-down favorite small course is rillettes of potted rabbit, pork, and duck, and a fine savory-sweet medium course is a Parmesan cheesecake made with grape focaccia and pine nuts flavored with rosemary. The large course of grilled venison loin with a fruity, spicy "glögg" sauce and cauliflower-chestnut purée is completely original, and it scores-so does the pear tart with brown butter sauce and almonds from the gifted pastry chef, Mary McMahon. Avoid the too-cute lab flasks used as small carafes, and order a bottle of supple Red X from Napa Valley's X Winery ($39) instead. I don't even notice the peculiar décor-stacks of salt bags, intentionally unfinished floors, and ragged looking ceilings-when I dine this fine.
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3441 North Halsted Street
|X/O bartenders Danny Garcia and Adam Gibbs|
"My mother would hate me if she knew how much I like the meringue here," says our waiter as he sets down the lemon tart. I can empathize. Even an expert farm-raised cook like my mom would have given the nod to this lovely dessert from the pastry chef, Jordan Rappaport-especially after savoring the cooking of chef Bob Zrenner, a veteran of Tru and Tournesol. Dishes such as seared scallops and pumpkin dumplings with sage hazelnut brown butter cross almost as many borders as does the Vietnamese spicy duck leg with roasted Korean sweet potatoes and Thai chilies. Folks slightly more hip than my teetotaling mother pour into this chic Lake View spot late in the evening it's open till 2 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 3 a.m. on Saturdays. This crowd doesn't blink at the wonderful $50 flight of 25-year-old Cognacs, nor at the de-scription of the Kelt XO, which "spends three months on a ship touring the world, adding to its unrivaled richness."
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109 Franklin Street, Bloomingdale
Bistro Solitaire might be a better name for this charming "small house" in quaint Old Towne Bloomingdale. Except for the ebullient owner and host, Franco Serafini, the cozy bi-level dining rooms connected by a big winding staircase were practically vacant on our visits. Not for much longer, I trust. Chef Famous Jefferson's food-French with lots of Italian input-is lusty and fun. I admired his cooking at Cochon Sauvage, and the pâtés at Maisonette brought back fond memories. Serafini recommended a glass of pinot blanc by Hugel (2001) with them, a heavenly pairing. Grilled lamb sausage barese with roast peppers is almost too hearty an opener if you are moving on to major productions like the flavor-packed bouillabaisse provençale or the seared duck breast and braised leg with port-ginger sauce on braised sweet-and-sour red cabbage. Desserts soar, especially two: the crème brûlée chock-full of fresh orange segments and the buttery bread pudding in rum butter sauce.
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1540 North Milwaukee Avenue
In 1998 John Bubala opened Thyme in River West and proved that he could do classy. Now, with equal aplomb, he's taken on drop-by casual in a Wicker Park café. His chef de cuisine, Armando Cabrera, is often visible through the front window making the daily ravioli, which on a recent visit were filled with mushrooms and aged Cheddar in a rich corn sauce. I was surprised to see artichoke fritters with béarnaise sauce on the short, eclectic menu-everybody's favorite appetizer back when Gordon Sinclair ruled River North-until the waitress explained that the sous-chef, Pedro Benitez, used to work at Gordon's landmark restaurant. Pepper steak in red wine sauce with whipped potatoes is a winner, as is the playful dessert of chocolate croque-monsieur with hazelnut filling and warm raspberry jam. The wine list is small, and the drink list is unusual: a Scotch-loving friend was impressed that such a casual café carried six kinds of Bowmore single malts.
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4363 North Lincoln Avenue
|Acqualina: tomato basil salad|
A translucent neon bar that changes colors doesn't often portend talent in the kitchen, but I was swept away by Adam Tanner's enticing Cal-Med cooking at Acqualina. Lincoln Square foodies flock to the place for appetizer rounds of smoky fire-roasted mussels with harissa butter, herbed potato gnocchi with pancetta and Parmesan in tomato salsa, and frittata roulade dotted with roasted peppers, sweet peas, and chorizo seasoned with garlic mayonnaise. A mildly spicy provençale seafood stew of fish and mussels in a light tomato and lobster broth is one of the best soup courses in Chicago. And I sure wouldn't mind a restaurant in my neighborhood that turned out top entrées such as slow-roasted sea bass coated with lemon-and-parsley-sparked panko crumbs on chorizo risotto, or peppered moulard duck breast with truffle-scented honey and celery-root purée. The eye-candy bar harbors rustic Mediterranean wines-like a French red blend 2001 Bertrand Minervois Les Moulins d'Aurora ($36)-that keep everybody happy. And the burnt lemon tart with vanilla bean Chantilly and raspberry sauce is pure pleasure.
–D. R. W.
END OF COMMENTED OUT ACQUALINA -->
4352 North Leavitt Street
Charlie Socher and his sister, Susan, have a hit with their smart-looking Lincoln Square gamble. In a surprise move away from the focused French cuisine of their fine Cafe Matou in Wicker Park, they've set their sights on American favorites punched up with Mariano Aguirre's big doses of bold global flavors. For starters, oysters come bathed in lemongrass-ginger sauce with a zippy red onion relish, and grilled merguez lamb sausage teams up with herb-dressed Belgian endive and avocado. Entrées continue the international beat, and the one I never miss is the tender grilled "burnt chile" pork chop with "tres chiles" coulis, an intense blend of three kinds of Mexican chilies. The à la carte fries served in a paper cone can wave any flag they want-I can't resist 'em. Wines run to selections from small producers such as a 2002 Australian Four Sisters Shiraz ($32) that match the chef's striking dishes, all the way to little strawberry and pineapple tartlets with chipotle cream.
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BEST NEW CHEF: Paul Virant of Vie
Paul Virant, 35, a St. Louis native, has worked in some great restaurants-Everest, Blackbird, and Ambria, to name a few-and now that he's ventured out on his own at Vie, in Western Springs, he's officially become the past year's brightest new star.
Q. How did you get interested in "cheffing"?
A. I grew up on a farm, not a working farm, but in a family where food was very important. We always sat down for dinner. We always had a big garden, so I understood the importance of seasonality. Kids like to blame their parents-and I blame my parents for my job.
Q. What was your early training like?
A. I started working in an upscale place in St. Louis, late in high school: Malmaison. I majored in nutrition at West Virginia Wesleyan College to get the food science background and then went to CIA [the Culinary Institute of America].
Q. After working at Blackbird, how did you end up in Western Springs?
A. I lived in Ukrainian Village, but my wife is a doctor and she took a job in Downers Grove, sowe moved to the western suburbs. I learned that Western Springs was small and charming, and they were looking for a restaurant to have a liquor license. They had been dry since Prohibition. I liked the idea of being the first.
Q. How would you categorize your food?
A. Western European&ndashinspired seasonal American. I see influences from all the different chefs I've worked with. I have an affinity toward sauerkraut-braised meats. Acidity and pickled items are a big part of our food.
Q. For example?
A. We just put choucroute on the menu. We made sauerkraut from local vegetables-a traditional one with cabbage, and we did some with rutabaga and turnips from Henry's Farm, in [Congerville,] Illinois. We prepare it like sauerkraut and serve it with Lake Superior whitefish that we poach in duck confit fat.
Q. What "foodie" things do you particularly enjoy doing at Vie?
A. I'm proud of preserving things that we use a couple of months down the road. We made a bunch of pickled beets from Kinnikinnick Farms [in Caledonia, Illinois] that we used as a garnish on a borscht. We just received 50 pounds of Meyer lemons from a friend's tree in Santa Cruz [California], and I've preserved those for an asparagus soup in late May.
Q. What is best about owning your own restaurant?
A. Just being able to finally do exactly what I want. One of the ex&ndashsous-chefs from Blackbird turned Paul Kahan and me on to a guy who has a 5,000-square-foot greenhouse and he sends us all sorts of microgreens every week. And I don't have to ask anyone's permission to call him up and order stuff.
Best of the Best
Best Restaurant: Le Lan
Best Chef: Paul Virant
Best Dish: De Cero's shareable taco platter
Chuck Hamburg, partner in the tie-dyed pizza joint Flourchild's, on their business plan: "We want to do for pizza what Ben & Jerry's did for ice cream."
(185 Milwaukee Ave., Lincolnshire 847-478-9600).
Most Surprising Closings
Fuse, Saiko, Papagus, and Biggs.
Most Euro Cheese Shop
Pastoral, an "attitude-free zone" packed with salumi, sausage, pâté, and American farmhouse cheeses.
(2945 N. Broadway 773-472-4781)
Most Versatile Chef
Shawn McClain conquered seafood at Spring and vegetables at Green Zebra. Now he's going after meat at the Custom House, due to open this summer.
(500 S. Dearborn St.).
Most International Staff
The crew from Lincoln Square's Essence of India, who hail from Brazil, Morocco, Bulgaria, Nepal, and Mexico.
(4601 N. Lincoln Ave. 773-506-9343)
Spiciest New Burger
The Southwestern Sizzle burger at Sizzle, a half-pound beast with beef and chorizo chopped up together.
(6157 N. Broadway 773-465-9500)
While you were sleeping, MK North, a contemporary American charmer, became A Milano, a contemporary Italian charmer.
(305 Happ Rd., Northfield 847-716-6500).
Most Disappointing New NYC Import
China Grill, a glitzy, overpriced spot in the Hard Rock Hotel that has made more of a dribble than a splash.
(230 N. Michigan Ave. 312-334-6700)
Two high-profile restaurants that are the current box-office buzz around town did not open in time for consideration in this feature: Blue Water Grill (520 N. Dearborn St. 312-777-1400), the spinoff of a Manhattan celeb magnet in the old Spago space, and Alinea (1723 N. Halsted St. 312-867-0110), Grant Achatz's ambitious foray into micromanaged 30-course meals.
- cooking spray
- 1 (11 ounce) package refrigerated pizza crust
- 1 ½ cups elbow macaroni
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ¾ pound processed cheese (such as Velveeta®), cubed
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spray a 10x15-inch baking sheet with cooking spray. Unroll pizza crust and place on the prepared baking pan.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook elbow macaroni in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bite, 8 minutes. Drain.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat cook and stir flour with butter until it has a slightly toasted fragrance, about 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and simmer until thickened, whisking constantly, 2 more minutes. Stir in processed cheese cubes. Let the cheese cubes melt, stirring often, to make a smooth cheese sauce.
Spread about 3/4 cup of cheese sauce onto the pizza crust. Stir cooked macaroni into remaining cheese sauce in the saucepan and spoon the macaroni and cheese onto the crust in an even layer. Sprinkle top of pizza with mozzarella cheese.
Bake in the preheated oven until the crust is lightly browned and the mozzarella cheese is golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Photos from a Stellar Lunch at Strip T's
Almost a year and a half since my first visit to Strip T's I finally made it back to Watertown to try out the lunch I'd been hearing so much about. The lunch menu is more sandwich-focused, along with some entree-sized plates, salads and appetizers. I was also happy to find some of the same menu staples from when Tim Maslow and Chef de Cuisine Jared Forman originally took over the kitchen - I have a feeling the Grilled Romaine salad isn't going anywhere.
The Strip T's experience is a delight from beginning to end. Every item on the menu is creative, unexpected and consistent while the quirky decor, old school bathroom, and friendly staff add to its charm. The only problem? I don't live in Watertown.
- 6 slices bacon
- 1 head cabbage, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 (16 oz) ring kielbasa sausage, sliced thin
Place bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on paper towels and crumble. Reserve drippings in skillet.
Cook and stir cabbage and onion in bacon drippings over medium-high heat until cabbage begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir bacon, salt, and pepper into cabbage mixture cook until cabbage is wilted, 3 to 5 minutes more. Stir kielbasa into cabbage mixture, reduce heat to low, cover the skillet, and simmer until cabbage is lightly golden and tender, about 1 hour.
Zacatlán from Chef Eduardo Rodriguez celebrates the flavors of Mexico and the American Southwest. The restaurant, located just off Santa Fe Plaza, serves up fusion favorites like mole negro chilaquiles, red or green chile breakfast burritos, barbacoa tacos and house-made flan.
Photo courtesy of Zacatlán
The United States is home to more than a million different restaurants, according to the National Restaurant Association, with hundreds of new options opening up each year. We asked our readers to vote for their favorite new restaurants to open in the past 18 months, ranging from chef-driven fast casual concepts to high end dining with a focus on hyper-local and sustainable ingredients.
The top 10 winners in the category Best New Restaurant are as follows:
- Tempest - Charleston, South Carolina
- Knife & Spoon - Orlando
- Wit & Wisdom Sonoma - Sonoma, California
- Water Pig BBQ - Pensacola Beach, Florida
- Island Vintage Wine Bar - Honolulu
- Tempus - St. Louis
- Via Locusta - Philadelphia
- Maker's Mark Hobbit House - Richmond, Rhode Island
- Halekulani Bakery & Restaurant - Honolulu
- Zacatlán - Santa Fe, New Mexico
A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.
Congratulations to all these winning restaurants!
Joe Bastianich is one of America’s preeminent restaurateurs and TV personalities he is also an author, musician and triathlete. In 2005, Joe was recognized as an Outstanding Wine and&hellip
Native Angelena Dahlia Narvaez developed her love for food through after school cooking for her family in Highland Park. Trading the classroom for the kitchen, Narvaez left school for a job at&hellip