The Best New Restaurants in America 2017

Jeff Gordinier


Right now, we just want to break bread with good friends. We don’t want gimmicks or concepts. And we don’t want to be rushed. What we want is to be transported. And yes, of course we want another great bottle of wine. Because we want to toast the return of real restaurants.

Remember restaurants? The ones you keep going back to?

Not the places where you have to wait for three hours until someone texts you. Not places where you drop in once, shave off a lump of your retirement savings, and endure five hours of high-concept origami so that you can brag about your accomplishment on Instagram while you make a beeline for Popeyes because you’re still hungry. Not that. Not those. No.

In spite of (or maybe because of) all the cultural energy surrounding the food movement of the past fifteen years, a lot of people have forgotten what restaurants are actually for. We’re talking about the restaurants that make you want to become a regular, the ones that lure you back for another round of cacio e pepe or okonomiyaki. The ones where you sit down and order and feel, for a couple hours, happier to be alive than when you first walked in. Those are the spots we’re raising a toast to. The list encompasses the past couple years. Following the writer Josh Ozersky’s death in May 2015, our esteemed annual roster went into dormancy for a while, but it’s back now with (we hope) a spirit of celebratory ravenousness. Acclaimed tasting menus have sprouted up during those years: Single Thread in Sonoma County, Oriole in Chicago, Aska in Brooklyn. As much as we admire them, they’re not on this list. Too often, despite exquisite standards, the tasting-menu format fails to deliver the simple pleasures.

To paraphrase an old song, we want to see the bright lights tonight. We want to go out. Are you up for that? If so, these are the very best places in the United States of America to make it happen.


  1. Felix Trattoria | Venice, California

1023 Abbot Kinney Boulevard

The delirium of dining at Felix hits you right away: that first sip of a white negroni, that first hot-to-the-fingertips pillow of sfincione bread. Something is going on here, you think. You watch the chef, Evan Funke, bullish and bearded, rolling sheets of dough by hand in a glassed-in bunker like some ancient Minotaur-lord of pasta. And when that pasta begins coming to the table—perfect tender-chewy waves of tonnarelli, orecchiette, trofie, mezzemaniche—you abandon language and start communicating with grunts and moans. Simultaneously comforting and thrilling, traditional and innovative, Felix is not only the best new restaurant in America; it’s the kind of operation that makes you feel, when you’re lucky enough to be in the middle of it, that it’s the incarnation of everything life ought to be.


  1. The Grill & the Pool | New York

99 East Fifty-second Street

It’s easy to scoff at the swaggering ambition of the Major Food Group, the empire-amassing trio (chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone and entrepreneur Jeff Zalaznick) that, with an invitation from Seagram Building landlord Aby Rosen, took over a Manhattan space majestic enough to be landmarked. But it’s impossible to deny that they’ve restored cultural vigor and culinary glory to the former home of the Four Seasons. Even more impressively, they’ve done so with two separate restaurants: The Grill is all about the lineage of extravagance in which prime rib is sliced tableside and vichyssoise is bejeweled with a quenelle of caviar, while the Pool is a temple to luxury of a different sort, with raw and cooked oceanic delights served up with opulent simplicity. Both remind us of how a Night Out is supposed to feel. Get dressed up and forget, for a few hours, that the world is falling apart.


  1. JuneBaby | Seattle

2122 Northeast Sixty-fifth Street

If we told you that Edouardo Jordan is delivering an American history lesson that’s more crucial than ever, you might get all anxious about “homework,” and that would be a shame. Yes, there’s a glossary on the JuneBaby website, one that gives you the lowdown on everything from burgoo and calalu to ugali and succotash. But all you need to know is that in a city that’s about as far as you can get from the South of his upbringing, Jordan is bringing passionate expertise to the task of reviving the cooking of the African diaspora. He’s telling a story that’s both autobiographical and all-encompassing. Pig’s ears and pimento cheese, oxtails and hummingbird cake—just order everything and then go for a long walk to meditate on the meaning of the beautiful feast.


  1. Coquine | Portland, Oregon

6839 Southeast Belmont Street

Some restaurants shout. Others whisper. Last summer I had a dinner at Coquine that represented the paragon of hushed excellence. I sat outside with old friends in a residential neighborhood seemingly shorn of traffic and noise. We listened to the hum of night falling and marveled at our good fortune as chef Katy Millard, a veteran of Maison Troisgros in France and Coi in San Francisco, composed plainspoken poems with greens and fava beans and squid. The meal crested with a roast chicken, its skin crispy and glazed. If things got quieter at that point, it’s only because we were speechless.


  1. Roister | Chicago

951 West Fulton Market

Go to Roister and you’ll wish you had more than two hands. (If you drop in for lunch, those hands will be occupied by a fried-bologna sandwich in one and a fried-chicken sandwich in the other.) On paper it sounds like a southern restaurant, and the roaring fires (outfitted with a medieval array of hooks and grates) can make it seem like another outpost of the New Pyromania (the movement that explains why every new restaurant you visit seems to have stacks of wood stretching to the ceiling), but in the hands of chef Andrew Brochu, Roister is too complicated and interesting to squeeze into some easy gastro-category. (Which is what you should expect from owners Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, the duo behind Alinea.) Chinese and Japanese touches abound—this is a place where shrimp and grits might be stuffed into a Sichuan-style dumpling—but the most pronounced influence comes down to a radical playfulness: Roister’s sweet-salty-nutty coup de grâce is a candy bar layered with foie gras.


  1. The Morris | San Francisco

2501 Mariposa Street

You’re sipping a slushy made with Chartreuse. You’ve got a platter of charcuterie: jagerwurst and tête de cochon. You’ve got raw oysters and a couple dumplings laced with foie gras. A smoked duck is en route; a few yards away, a cook is chopping it into sections with a cleaver. Your head is spinning. Even the menu is printed out in a typewriter font that gives the words a kind of noir-novel purr: “charred,” “grilled,” “stewed,” “salt,” “offal,” “doughnuts.” The Bay Area worships its produce, sure, but thanks to chef Gavin Schmidt and sommelier Paul Einbund, the Morris serves up a messier, tawdrier spin on the usual California love. It’s San Francisco farm-to-table with muddy knees and hay in its hair.


  1. Flora Bar | New York

945 Madison Avenue

I know people who, while visiting New York from elsewhere, have dined at Flora Bar. After dessert, they have made reservations to dine there again the following night. The place gets under your skin. There emerges a gnawing need to have those lamb ribs again, and the omelet slathered with caviar, and the oysters spiked with Sichuan mignonette. And what is it with that Tuxedo #2 cocktail? So cold, so clear, so balanced—why does it work so well that you find yourself thinking about the damn cocktail weeks later? Thousands of drinks in the world, and yet this is the one you want. Flora Bar, the Estela follow-up from Ignacio Mattos and Thomas Carter in the grand, high-ceilinged, never-too-loud basement of the Met Breuer museum, does not serve fare identified with any specific country. The unifying theme seems to be, instead, Things You Crave.


  1. Han Oak | Portland, Oregon

511 Northeast Twenty-fourth Avenue

Welcome home. We mean the home of chef Peter Cho and wife Sun Young Park and their family, including Cho’s mother, who’s in the kitchen wrapping dumplings. You’re in their backyard. There are babies and dogs; there’s a Pacific Northwest breeze. As the banchan begin to arrive—little heaps of kimchi, asparagus, sweet potatoes—you realize you’ve never felt less rushed in a restaurant. When the pork belly arrives, befunked with koji and roasted patiently toward meltiness, you hope these nice folks will let you stick around all night.


  1. Kitsune | Chicago

4229 North Lincoln Avenue

Iliana Regan is one of the most creatively distinctive chefs in America, and Kitsune is her ode to Japan. That she has never visited the country could be seen as an insurmountable obstacle, but Regan, who grew up on an Indiana farm, taps into the flavor combinations that fascinate her, and the results (an onsen egg floating in a dashi studded with bright-red flower petals, ramen made with nettles aswirl in a basso profundo mushroom broth) are as delicious to slurp as they are lovely to Instagram. As for the service, the word that comes to mind is gentle. Kitsune’s diverse team is enthusiastic and knowledgeable without being shouty. Actually, forget Instagram—the room is so calm that you’ll probably feel inclined to shut off your phone and float away for a few hours.


  1. Alter | Miami

223 Northwest Twenty-third Street

Can’t stand tasting menus? We know. But Alter, which restaurateur Javier Ramirez and other partners brought to the street-arty Wynwood district in 2015, will (ahem) alter your perspective. That’s actually why they gave the place that name. Chef Brad Kilgore knows how to keep you from getting bored and broke: His five-course menu goes for $69. An extra $20 will score you his soft egg with caviar. The poet Robert Creeley once wrote that “love is dead in us / if we forget / the virtues of an amulet / and quick surprise.” I got that quick surprise via Kilgore’s shaved cobia. Olive snow? Mustard oil? Garlic dashi? How’s that gonna work? I thought. One bite and I was smitten. I still have no idea how it works. Love’s like that.


  1. Olmsted | New York

659 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn

At great restaurants like Vicia in St. Louis and the Charter Oak in Napa Valley (both on our list this year), the fussy farm-to-table philosophy is finally letting its hair down. The same goes for Olmsted. Greg Baxtrom and his crew have a whole Blue Hill at Stone Barns pedigree, sure, but they’re not too proud to crank out killer bar snacks. Start off with deep-fried hot pockets of crab Rangoon; wind down with s’mores under a blanket in the backyard garden. In between, every course that comes to the table will reflect the ripe-right-now bounty of the seasons, but you won’t have to endure some pedagogical speech about that. At Olmsted, eating in sync with nature feels natural, never forced.


  1. J. C. Holdway | Knoxville, Tennessee

501 Union Avenue

Hush puppies. Pimento cheese. Chicken wings with Alabama white sauce. Chef Joseph Lenn may have spent a decade at the gastronomic Shangri-la of Blackberry Farm, but at J. C. Holdway he’s more or less throwing a wood-fired Super Bowl party of the gods. But don’t skip that slow-cooked egg with chicken confit and mushrooms and gnocchi. That’s the dish that marries the sophistication of Lenn’s training with his populist desire to please. Although you’ll probably spoon it up so fast you’ll only have time to ponder that later.


  1. P. Y. T. | Los Angeles

400 South Main Street

Vegetable worship—it’s the chic default mode of chefs these days. We hear plenty of toques waxing poetic about flora, but for our money, Josef Centeno (who has built a small fiefdom of restaurants in downtown L. A.) is acing the national vegetable sweepstakes right now. In his hands, a “chef’s salad” becomes an edible Dale Chihuly bouquet. Give the man melons, heirloom tomatoes, squash blossoms, corn, okra, and each dish that he devises seems like nothing less than sorcery. As with Bäco Mercat, Centeno’s trailblazing restaurant a few steps away, the influences are all over the place. This is a menu where you will see the words piri-piri, cavatelli, cotija, yuzu, chapati, and basteeya on the same page. For a lesser chef, that could translate into a miserable fusion pileup on the Hollywood Freeway. With Centeno at the wheel, the tangle of global cues becomes a stirring expression of all the movements that make Los Angeles hum. Like Ignacio Mattos in New York, Centeno is unclassifiable—he’s connected to a sense of place without being hemmed in by it.


  1. Tartine Manufactory | San Francisco

595 Alabama Street

Tartine Manufactory comes across as the utopian cafeteria everyone should have right around the block. Whether you’re craving something familiar (a BLT and a chocolate-chip cookie) or something whose components lead to a group analysis at the communal table (the tiny orblike cucumbers in your bean salad are known as “cucamelons”), you will come away thinking about how Alice Waters was right—the quality of ingredients really does make a difference. Naturally it doesn’t hurt that Chad Robertson, the Pacific Coast’s lord of levain, is the man behind the bread. (The woman behind Manufactory, Elisabeth Prueitt, has an in: She’s married to the guy.) But you can’t run a restaurant on bread alone. The most important part of the engine is the duo’s near-telepathic sense for how to make human beings feel better about their day.



  1. Chumley’s | New York

86 Bedford Street

Plenty of people can do burgers. Plenty of people can do beef tartare, or crudo—hell, just slice some raw fish and pour orange juice and black pepper over it. Victoria Blamey is different. Blamey, a native of Chile, manages to create succulent surprises with everything she cooks. Taste her twist on tuna carpaccio (with a tomato-chutney vinaigrette), her tartare (with ombra cheese, tomato confit, and hazelnuts), her burger awash with bone marrow and crispy shallots, her rabbit in the hole (the recipe for which would probably take up two pages in this magazine), and it’s possible you will deem it the best version of that dish you have ever devoured. A resurrected and renovated literary-progressive hangout in the West Village, Chumley’s could have probably gotten away with serving middling pub grub and weak cocktails. Instead, thanks to Blamey and restaurateur Alessandro Borgognone, it’s got the most captivating and crave-inducing food-and-drink menu of any comparable watering hole in America. It’s also got a barfly in residency, a historian named James DiPaola, who, if you wish, can sidle up alongside your table and regale you with stories about the ink-stained heroes and villains whose portraits line the walls. Maybe Chumley’s is nothing more than a reliquary for a Scott-and-Zelda world that died out long ago. It’s still one hell of a nice world to go back to. (And besides, Ernest Hemingway never ate a burger this good.)


  1. Atla | New York

372 Lafayette Street

Walk by Atla at any time of day and just try to resist dropping in. It’s as though a tractor beam were affixed to the door. Daniela Soto-Innes, overseeing the kitchen in Mexican chef Enrique Olvera’s totally chill follow-up to Cosme, cooks food that keeps beckoning you back, but the space does its share of seducing, too. Around noon, sunshine paintbrushes the room through the high square windows; as night falls, the paseo up and down Lafayette Street becomes a New York City serenade. Stick around and watch. You’ve got a front-row seat. There’s a long rack of mezcals to try, and an agua fresca aswarm with passion-fruit seeds. And the fermented pineapple drink known as tepache. There’s thick, fresh guacamole, and chicken enchiladas yin-yanged with red and green salsa, and a featherweight fried strip of fish milanese that you’ll want to cradle in a tortilla and blanket with spicy, herbed cubes of cucumber. Atla serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I would not pass judgment on anyone for eating all three meals there consecutively.


  1. Vicia | St. Louis

4260 Forest Park Avenue

Earlier this year, Tod Robberson, a columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch penned a screed about Vicia. “Vicia tries hard (way too hard) to emulate West Coast groovy,” he wrote, as if attacking a midwestern offshoot of the Grateful Dead. “Its pretentious grandeur is a metaphor for so much else that’s wrong in America.” Actually, Tod, your geezery parochialism is what’s wrong. Vicia has nothing to do with the West Coast. It was dreamed up by Michael and Tara Gallina, a husband-and-wife team who met while working at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York’s Westchester County, and their place is an eye-opening expression of love for the bounty of the heartland. The service is as unpretentious and friendly as a shaggy dog wagging its tail. Vicia shows us one of the things that’s increasingly right about America: An ever-growing consciousness about where our food comes from and how it’s grown means that unprocessed deliciousness can now be found all over the country. Groovy.


  1. The Charter Oak | St. Helena, California

1050 Charter Oak Avenue

Look at these ribs, will you? On the menu the dish is described as “beef rib grilled over cabernet barrels.” When it comes to the table, it looks both elegant and primal, the so-red-it’s-almost-purple flesh marbled with geologic layers of white fat, the meat cut on the bone so that the dish almost resembles an edible hatchet. I suppose you could cut it with a knife, but everything you’ve learned about life says, “Pick the damn thing up and gnaw.” A lot of the food at the Charter Oak plugs in to this vein of elemental pleasure, which is not what you might expect from Christopher Kostow, the chef behind the Restaurant at Meadowood, holder of three Michelin stars. Three-star joints can be perilously precious, prone to “this egg is not what it seems” trickery, but at the Charter Oak, where chef Katianna Hong (above) commandeers the fires of a raging hearth, eggs are eggs (dusted with salt and cooked right in the fudgy zone between soft- and hard-boiled), ribs are ribs, vegetables are newly plucked from nearby soil. And you? You are hungry, and thirsty for wines that practically beg to flirt with the up-front, unfussy flavors of these ingredients.




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