By Alan Richman, GQ: America's food renaissance keeps expanding, in all kinds of creative directions—not all of them fancy. From a $20 million gamble in Manhattan to a desolate block in Oakland, our tireless food correspondent, Alan Richman, crisscrossed the country in search of the best and tastiest this land has to offer. Start booking those tables now.
New York, NY
Almost Instantly, America's Most Intelligent Italian Restaurant
Jonathan Benno has emerged from behind the Iron Curtain—the mercilessly
precise kitchen of Thomas Keller's Per Se, where he labored brilliantly
as chef de cuisine. The word around town was that he was ready to slow
down and cook simple Italian food. Not him. He remains uncompromising
2. Flour + Water
San Francisco, CA
The Neighborhood Restaurant You Want in Your Neighborhood
are tough. Lines are long—half the tables are saved for walk-ins. The
music is too loud; techno the night I ate there. The servers look as
though they're ready to toss aside their order pads and dance. The
design appears to be a mélange of Wild West and Arts and Crafts.
3. The Kitchen at Brooklyn Fare
All of a Sudden, the Toughest Table in New York
a week, chef César Ramirez offers the most outrageously fabulous meals
in New York, prepared and served in a space that also acts as the prep
kitchen of a grocery store on the same block. When I went early last
year, the total number of seats was twelve.
4. The Tasting Kitchen
Free-Form French, with Italian Variants and a Sushi-Style Sensibility
wasn't impressed, not at first. Certainly not by the menu. "Very
confusing. I apologize," the waiter admitted. To be honest, he didn't
seem all that coherent, either. When I told him I had no idea what to
order, he suggested I trust the chef, Casey Lane. You hear that in sushi
bars, where it's generally not about trust.
What's a Restaurant Like This Doing in a Place Like Portland
of the chaos of modern West Coast dining comes an establishment in
touch with Germanic and Alsatian gastronomy. You don't see that in
Oregon. It's incongruous, almost inconceivable. The room doesn't look
Central European—it's austere, with plenty of blond wood, steel, and
glass. The food is all about comfort, the old-world way.
6. The Walrus and the Carpenter
See What the Boys (and Girls) in the Back Room Will Have
pitch-perfect oyster bar, and more. You walk down a long hallway to a
half-hidden door where a cheerful young maître d' seats you in a room
that's joyous, lively, and oh so cramped. It's filled with the same
diners who eat pork belly in New York City, except they're slurping
Fruit 'n' Fish, the New Fun Flavor Combination
Americanization of Japanese food has rarely been so appealing. (Nobu
Matsuhisa invented the concept more than twenty years ago, though his
unsurpassed style was more traditional and somewhat South American.) The
sushi chefs standing before me spoke English to one another, maybe
because one was Thai, the other Vietnamese.
A Chef from the Projects Gets Posh
Long ago, when Barbara
Lynch got her first important job, cooking for Todd English in
Cambridge, she couldn't find her way to work and said to him, "Who puts a
restaurant in this fucking place?" She's changed since growing up in
the Southie projects.
Neighborhood Haute Cuisine on a Most Improbable Block
the street from Commis is Anatoly's Men's Clothing, new suits for $99.
(Not cheap enough? Take advantage of the liquidation sale.) An unlikely
locale for a restaurant with SoHo savoir faire: stark and simple, with
opaque glass and no name on the door.
10. Longman & Eagle
A First: Fine Dining Goes Neo-Flophouse
The way I heard it
from my waiter, Longman & Eagle—the name pays tribute to a statue in
nearby Logan Square—aspires to become a flophouse. You've got to admit,
that's an uncommon ambition.
Read full article at GQ