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The 16 Best New Restaurants in America

Eater logo Eater 7/10/2019 Hillary Dixler Canavan
a plate of food on a table

Los Angeles is spoiled for taco choices — there’s the sublime carne asada at Sonoratown, the unrivaled crispy shrimp tacos at Mariscos Jalisco, really too many others to name — but around midnight on a chilly January Saturday in Koreatown, there was only one that I cared about: an adobada taco from Tacos 1986, a stand that had been open for all of two months.

I’d seen its fire-kissed charms splashed across my Instagram feed: the Tijuana al pastor taco showcasing spit-roasted pork, chopped onions, cilantro, and a daub of guacamole on a handmade corn tortilla. I apparently wasn’t the only one; the line that night stretched across half a block. The lead taquero, a magnetic performer who calls himself El Joy, smiled, flexed, and made kissy faces for cameras in front of a trompo stacked tall with glistening pork. As he waved his knife, slices of roasted pork rained down onto the flattop, each destined for a pliant tortilla made by a pair of women working just off to his right.

I came with a crew of five, and after a 25-minute wait, we split some tacos — carne asada, adobada, and mushroom — along with a quesadilla and a mulita for good measure. It was a roller coaster of you-have-to-try-this excitement and how-dare-you-take-this-away-from-me resentment. We marveled over the char on the chile-and-citrus-marinated pork, the cooling avocado, and the toasted sweetness of the tortillas. The tacos were the best I’d had in ages — the smoldering trace of mesquite on the carne asada alone would be enough to demand a return visit. More than that, I was overwhelmed by a feeling: Standing on a K-Town sidewalk, huddled in a crowd with jackets zipped against the winter air, leaning over paper plates, our heads cocked to the side for just one more bite, was the only place to be that night.

That feeling, more than any unifying trend or overarching theme, is what defines the best new restaurants for 2019. As Eater editors across the country dined at restaurants that opened between May 2018 and May of this year, what moved us wasn’t merely virtuoso cooking or totally of-the-moment interior design. It was the feeling that a restaurant, whether a noodle shop slinging Laotian specialties in East Dallas or a tasting menu championing the overlooked delights of the Oregon coast in Portland, was the right place at the right time — right now.

— Hillary Dixler Canavan, Eater restaurant editor

Eater’s Best New Restaurants of 2019

Adda, Long Island City, NY

Atomix, New York,NY

The Baker’s Table, Newport, KY

Call Your Mother, Washington, DC

Erizo, Portland, OR

Fox and the Knife, Boston, MA

Indigo, Houston, TX

The Jerk Shack, San Antonio, TX

Khao Noodle Shop, Dallas, TX

Kopitiam, New York, NY

Marrow, Detroit, MI

Musi, Philadelphia, PA

Nightshade, Los Angeles, CA

Tacos 1986, Los Angeles, CA 

Verjus, San Francisco, CA 

Virtue, Chicago, IL

Adda

Long Island City, NY

What: A Queens restaurant that’s helping to abolish the long-running joke that the best Indian food in New York City is actually in New Jersey.

Why: What makes Adda different from other high-profile new restaurants is owner Roni Mazumdar and chef Chintan Pandya’s dedication to simple homestyle cooking — they eschew the flash and fusion of Rahi, their formidable other Manhattan restaurant. Pandya, who previously worked in fine dining, breathes new life into classics that have become ubiquitous and, too often, mediocre in New York: Here, a goat curry called junglee maas comes with the bone left in and a fiery, uncompromising sauce. The greens in the saag paneer change seasonally, and paneer is made in-house, a rarity in the city. The menu also doesn’t shy away from ingredients that are less common in the Western palate. A goat brains snack, for instance, has become a standout.

Mazumdar, an immigrant whose family runs restaurants in New York, pursued the project in hopes of making straightforward, regional Indian home cooking just as celebrated as the stuff with twists. It’s thrilling to see that their unapologetic commitment to tradition is being welcomed with such enthusiasm and with few of the caveats typically, and unnecessarily, shrouding restaurants serving South Asian fare. It’s a reception that deserves to be replicated everywhere. | AddaNYC.com

— Serena Dai, Eater NY editor
a close up of a bowl of food: Broth being poured into a bowl holding baby corn, a dish at Atomix in New York City Broth being poured into a bowl holding baby corn, a dish at Atomix in New York City

Atomix

New York, NY

What: A new pinnacle of Korean fine dining where food and design work together to deliver a whimsical lesson in the country’s cuisine.

Why: At the end of a dinner at Atomix, the menu — composed of illustrated flashcards — is packed in a box for the diner to take home. In different hands, this could seem a bit overwrought, a presumption that the dining experience was special enough to merit a keepsake. But Atomix is that special.

The structures of the meal are familiar: 10 courses, each beautifully arranged, served to 14 guests seated around a U-shaped counter. But in their followup to New York hit Atoboy, married couple JungHyun “JP” Park and JeongEun “Ellia” Park have taken the formal tasting menu and refashioned it as a playful education in Korean cooking. There’s the food itself, none of it strictly traditional, but much of it making reference to classic or even historic Korean techniques and flavors. All of it is elegant and playful: A dish on the restaurant’s opening menu, for example, paired golden osetra caviar, baby artichokes, and fresh curd — this last ingredient a direct reference to soo, a dairy product once enjoyed by Korean elites.

And then there’s the carefully considered design, full of elements meant to showcase Korean artists and artisans, like handmade pottery, chopsticks displayed for the guests’ selection at the start of the meal, and that set of abstract cards, each with an explanation of a dish. Together, the Parks present a new vision of Korean cuisine, and a compelling take on the future of fine dining in New York City. | AtomixNYC.com

— Monica Burton, Eater associate restaurant editor
a close up of a sandwich on a plate: Fried chicken sandwich with cole slaw sits on a plate at the Baker’s Table Fried chicken sandwich with cole slaw sits on a plate at the Baker’s Table

The Baker’s Table

Newport, KY

What: A homey daytime cafe from a husband-and-wife team offering rustic American dishes that capitalize on top-tier bread baking.

Why: What makes a restaurant a tourist magnet and what makes it a standby? Many travelers long to find a gem tucked away on a small-town main street — the kind of place you want to linger in and then brag about to your Instagram followers. Locals, however, may find that what they actually need is a restaurant with a well-priced menu that outshines a home kitchen and rewards return visits. When a new restaurant like the Baker’s Table hits both marks, it has the makings of an essential.

Visitors to (and from) Cincinnati should head over the Taylor Southgate Bridge to dunk fluffy ricotta doughnuts — made by chef, baker, and co-owner David Willocks — in bright strawberry-lemon curd, to carve into a fried chicken sandwich served on a textbook buttermilk biscuit, and to nurse an Amaro spritz from the bar. The cozily eclectic room, designed by co-owner Wendy Braun, invites the midday lazing that defines a vacation’s lunch. But if I lived nearby, I’d wander in for the easy comforts of a full-bodied tomato soup served alongside a grilled cheese on Willocks’s glorious sourdough, a kale Caesar studded with brioche croutons, and a chewy, salted chocolate chip cookie. Even a regular might feel like they’re on holiday — as long as there are still a few bites left on the table. | BakersTableNewport.com

— Hillary Dixler Canavan, Eater restaurant editor

Call Your Mother

Washington, DC

What: The self-described “Jew-ish” deli that ended D.C.’s much-kvetched-about bagel drought.

Why: Call Your Mother isn’t the first D.C. restaurant to try to translate old-world deli culture, but based on the fanatical response and nearly hour-long weekend waits, it’s done it better than any before. With Eater Young Gun Daniela Moreira (’17) leading the kitchen and her partner, Andrew Dana, running the on-point branding, Call Your Mother nails the basics, then takes them a step further.

There’s a za’atar-dusted bagel bursting with candied salmon schmear and piled with cucumbers, crispy shallots, and peppery greens sourced from local farmers. (It’s winkingly named the Amar’e, as in Amar’e Stoudemire, the fashionable former NBA star who’s taken to studying Torah.) There’s the city’s best latke, a bronzed disc of crunchy and creamy potato, that comes with a vinegary apple jam instead of Mott’s slop. Moreira, an ace baker from Argentina, makes black-and-white alfajores cookies and babka that appears as both a muffin and a mini loaf. Offbeat menu items, like challah “cheesesteaks,” each filled with pastrami and brisket, sometimes threaten to outshine the bagels, but even amid the tongue-in-cheek dishes and the Saved by the Bell color scheme, Dana and Moreira’s serious commitment to appetizing-store culture is unmistakable. | CallYourMotherDeli.com

— Gabe Hiatt, Eater DC editor
a hand holding a piece of food: Two hands delicately plate a seafood dish in a bowl at Erizo Two hands delicately plate a seafood dish in a bowl at Erizo

Erizo

Portland, OR

What: An eco-conscious seafood restaurant whose tasting menu reveals the potential of the abundant fish and shellfish we aren’t eating — yet.

Why: Tasting menus generally exist to showcase rare and precious ingredients, often accompanied by an appealing story. The cloudberries are foraged from a Swedish island above the Arctic Circle. The wagyu is sustainably raised in the Australian outback by a Japanese cowboy. The bluefin is bluefin, but it’s caught sustainably using nets originally designed by the Phoenicians off the coast of Spain, okay? But these luxury ingredients’ backstories sometimes feel like attempts to justify a price — or to make you feel better about consuming an endangered product — rather than offering pleasure.

In Portland, Oregon, Erizo makes the case for a new kind of tasting menu. From Eater Young Gun Jacob Harth (’19), business partners Nicholas Van Eck (the chef de cuisine) and Nate Tilden, and beverage director Treva Willis, the restaurant is the first to bring Portland’s DIY approach to fishing in a meaningful way. The meal consists almost entirely of different bites of seafood — aged, sauced, occasionally cooked — focused on bycatch and other sustainable (Harth calls them “oddball”) species. A dish of chopped-up local horse clam is fresh and sweet; the clam is abundant, but there is no commercial market for it, so the restaurant harvests its portion itself. The geoduck is supplied by the Quinault tribe, who have the right to forage this luxury ingredient in the Pacific Northwest. Both arrived as part of the meal’s showstopper, a massive shellfish tray, which puts all others to shame for both beauty and inventiveness. By the time the final savory course — a colossal halibut collar with a soft pillow of Parker House rolls — arrives, sustainability doesn’t just sound like a worthwhile compromise.

Erizo’s approach recalls the kaiseki tradition more meaningfully than most Western tasting menus, by embracing supposedly imperfect ingredients to give diners a new understanding of a specific season and place. It’s also a persuasive argument that we’ve been done a disservice by flying all that luxury fish across the ocean when there are so many riches just off our shores. | ErizoPDX.com

— Meghan McCarron, Eater special correspondent
a close up of food on a wooden table: A tower of tigelle breads stacked on top of a plate at the Fox and Knife A tower of tigelle breads stacked on top of a plate at the Fox and Knife

Fox and the Knife

Boston, MA

What: A bustling enoteca in South Boston that draws inspiration from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.

Why: Boston is awash in red sauce joints, especially in its traditionally Italian-American North End neighborhood, but regionally specific Italian restaurants are far rarer. So James Beard Award winner Karen Akunowicz cut her own path with her solo debut, a lovely ode to Emilia-Romagna.

Fox and the Knife pays special attention to Modena, where Akunowicz took a year to study pasta making, including with her must-order tigelle — distinctively patterned, disc-shaped bread that is almost like an English muffin, served warm with butter. Instead of buying an electric tigelle maker, Akunowicz makes seven at a time on a tigelle iron she brought back from Italy a decade ago. The effort is worth it: Nearly every table opts for an order. For her pasta menu, Akunowicz roams further afield, offering a beautifully light tagliatelle Bolognese and an earthy parsnip tortelli — a pasta shape common in Emilia-Romagna — with Gorgonzola cheese, which originates just northwest of the region in Milan. Loud, busy, and fun, Fox and the Knife feels like a party. Boston didn’t know it needed another Italian restaurant, but it’s so lucky it got this one. | FoxAndTheKnife.com

— Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Eater Boston editor
A stick holds a grilled salmon and lemon wedge; a bowl holds an oyster on top of straw at Indigo A stick holds a grilled salmon and lemon wedge; a bowl holds an oyster on top of straw at Indigo

Indigo

Houston, TX

What: A tasting-menu destination in Houston that explicitly tackles themes of racism and oppression.

Why: Chef Jonny Rhodes started making preserves and fermentations for the restaurant years before it opened, so every course at Indigo tastes like it’s rooted in time, layered with deep flavors that tell a story. At a dinner in April, that meant a potato grown in the restaurant’s neighboring garden patch and aged in ash; dry-aged duck delicately dressed with mustard-tinged barbecue sauce and edible flowers; and a long-simmered stew of oxtail, collard greens, and Carolina Gold rice. The 13-seat restaurant relies on a wood-fired hearth instead of a standard oven, and its smoky signature creates a captivating throughline.

Rhodes and his wife and co-owner, Chana Rhodes, aim to challenge systemic racism and oppression in America with their restaurant. Rhodes delivers monologues between courses on weighty topics ranging from mass incarceration to the Great Migration, but even without them, Indigo’s very existence is part of the work: a fine dining restaurant in a historically underserved neighborhood, serving food that unabashedly claims its purpose. In a more equitable dining culture, none of this would be revolutionary, but today it is; diners simply don’t see restaurants like this very often. | HTXIndigo.com

— Hillary Dixler Canavan, Eater restaurant editor
a plate of food and a cup of coffee: Four crispy chicken wings sit atop a newspaper, surrounded by four dipping sauces at the Jerk Shack Four crispy chicken wings sit atop a newspaper, surrounded by four dipping sauces at the Jerk Shack

The Jerk Shack

San Antonio, TX

What: A walk-up window serving Jamaican favorites, best enjoyed at the communal picnic tables on the shady patio.

Why: A row of perfectly crispy jerk fried chicken wings and an array of equally fiery jerk sauces for dipping sit on a tray lined with fake newspaper. On another tray are the sturdy Jamaican patties, which can be sandwiched between torn pieces of buttery coco bread. But this is Texas, so there are tacos too, a worthy vehicle for piquant jerk-seasoned jackfruit. On the speakers, Bob Marley covers play to the crowd, some in fatigues, maybe on a break from Joint Base San Antonio or Camp Bullis, digging into braised oxtails or mac and cheese as fans blow toward the patio. This is the Jerk Shack, and it’s chef Lattoia Massey’s love letter to Jamaica.

Known by her professional name, Nicola Blaque, Massey, a U.S. Army veteran, opened the Jerk Shack with her husband, and fellow vet, Cornelius Massey. It’s her first brick-and-mortar restaurant, which she started only three years after graduating from culinary school and a short stint cooking as a private chef. The restaurant doesn’t take up too much real estate along the quiet Matyear Street, but it’s enough to leave a lasting impression. | Instagram.com/TheJerkShackSATX

— Nadia Chaudhury, Eater Austin editor

Khao Noodle Shop

Dallas, TX

What: A detail-oriented, modern Laotian restaurant steeped in tradition.

Why: In recent years, Dallas has become home to one of the world’s largest Lao populations of outside of Laos. As a result, the city has seen a small explosion of exciting new restaurants serving khao poon and larb salad. One of the brightest stars among them is Khao Noodle Shop, where chef Donny Sirisavath builds on the success of his ad hoc Southeast Asian pop-up dinners and delivers modern iterations of Laotian dishes like tripe chicharrones and Laotian sukiyaki in a tiny, casual space. No order here is complete without Sirisavath’s savory boat noodles, which he makes over the course of 24 hours by charring and simmering beef bones with garlic, anise, and other aromatics, before finishing the rich broth with pork blood.

The tall stacks of empty bowls on Khao Noodle Shop’s tables offer proof that Houston isn’t the only city in Texas with a multifaceted, diverse dining scene. Sirisavath’s electrifying fare should finally show the rest of the country that there’s more to Dallas’s culinary identity than steakhouses — and there always has been. | KhaoNoodleShop.com

— Amy McCarthy, Eater Dallas editor
a table topped with different types of food on a plate: Several dishes take up a tabletop at Kopitiam in New York City Several dishes take up a tabletop at Kopitiam in New York City

Kopitiam

New York, NY

What: An energetic yet personal Malaysian all-day cafe that’s an antidote to the boring, scalable restaurants proliferating across New York (and other high-cost cities).

Why: Chef Kyo Pang and partner Moonlynn Tsai give a master class in how to combine counter service and homestyle hospitality. Kopitiam fits New Yorkers’ lives, providing a quirky, colorful place for a breakfast meeting, a quick lunch, or a catch-up dinner with a friend, all while challenging the repetitive nature of too many fast-casual menus.

Instead of staid tossed salads or more roasted chicken plates, Kopitiam serves pungent anchovy noodle soup, thrillingly flavorful shrimp-paste chicken wings, and understated milk toast sandwiches. That anchovy noodle soup, or pan mee, is representative of what goes into Pang’s food. It’s a labor-intensive, umami-packed dish that she learned from her grandmother, who learned it from her mother, consisting of handmade chewy, flat flour noodles with wood ear mushrooms, spinach, minced pork, and crispy fried anchovies in an anchovy broth. All of Pang’s meticulously rendered food stands on its own as some of the city’s best — which is why the restaurant has become a go-to for both local and visiting Eater editors. That she and Tsai can make it work with no dish topping $16 is a welcome revelation. | KopitiamNYC.com

— Stefanie Tuder, Eater NY senior editor
a bowl of food on a plate: A composed dish of beef tongue with mustard seeds, puffed rice, and carrots in a dish from Marrow A composed dish of beef tongue with mustard seeds, puffed rice, and carrots in a dish from Marrow

Marrow

Detroit, MI

What: A neighborhood butcher shop by day and a vibrant restaurant by night.

Why: While diners are more accustomed to whole-animal butchery and offal now, there are still relatively few cities where a butcher can generate enough business to sustain itself. Marrow stands firmly between these dueling forces, at once embracing the opportunity to offer residents of Detroit’s West Village a place to buy impeccably sourced meat and also recognizing that not every customer wants to cook it themselves.

Beneath red-and-white vintage posters hawking bologna and steak, Marrow’s dinner tables beckon guests to commune over plates of seared corned-beef tongue, bowls of crunchy pork skin “popcorn,” and glutinous rice dumplings stuffed with juicy ground beef and topped with slivered radishes and either whitefish or salmon roe. Each meal nimbly challenges notions of what butcher-style fare can be by largely ignoring steak in favor of tart jars of pickled shrimp and yakitori skewers.

Owner Ping Ho and chef Sarah Welch are committed to establishing a more sustainable work environment for kitchen staff that includes competitive salaries with access to health insurance, paid vacation, and maternity leave. Consider it of a piece with their mission of transparency: At Marrow, you can learn the provenance of the pork on your plate while also appreciating that the person who cooked it for you makes a living wage. Diners of today are more invested than ever in animal welfare and local farms — it’s a pleasure to support a business that extends the same concern to its people. | MarrowDetroit.com

— Brenna Houck, Eater Detroit editor
a plate of food on a table: A close-up photo of bow tie pasta in a white dish at Musi © Provided by Vox Media, Inc. A close-up photo of bow tie pasta in a white dish at Musi

Musi

Philadelphia, PA

What: A BYOB dinner spot in Philly that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Why: When a devilishly clever rendition of kids’ menu buttered noodles hits the table at a buzzy new restaurant, it’s clear that at least one hot spot has an allergy to pretension. Musi prioritizes the things that diners ought to demand — a menu informed by local product and a kitchen connected to the region’s best purveyors — but the restaurant doesn’t beat you over the head with it. It’s just the baseline upon which former pop-up chef Ari Miller builds a dinner, and the meal can wend its way through an expert country pate, an earthy beef-heart tartare, and, since it’s BYOB, wines and beers as trendily weird or tried-and-true as you like. Even when every seat is filled with a hip, age-spanning crowd, the space itself remains a pretense-free zone.

Musi presents a bare-bones vision of what a ground-floor space on a city block needs to become a restaurant, a show mounted in a black-box studio rather than a grand auditorium. There is an open kitchen, but it’s a mere 250 square feet. There are tables, chairs, and photos on the walls, but to call the room decorated is a stretch. As a setting for ambitious, playful cooking, that simplicity — just like those buttered noodles — is utterly charming. | MusiPhilly.com

— Hillary Dixler Canavan, Eater restaurant editor
a close up of food on a plate: Rectangles of prawn toast in a curry sauce, sitting in a pink plate from Nightshade Rectangles of prawn toast in a curry sauce, sitting in a pink plate from Nightshade

Nightshade

Los Angeles, CA

What: A chic ode to the craveable flavors of Asian and American mashups.

Why: For her long-awaited debut restaurant, Eater Young Gun Mei Lin (’14) proudly declared her place in a new wave of young, Asian-American chefs who want to rewrite the script of their childhood flavors, recognizing that it’s their turn to employ Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Thai, and Japanese techniques and ingredients as they see fit. Lin does it with big, impressive swings, putting out plates that have Angelenos dissecting and debating like no other restaurant has this year. I’ve enjoyed her instantly famous mapo tofu lasagna — a stellar creation where Lin lets the meaty part of the Sichuan dish stand in for Bolognese. One dining companion of mine loved the dish enough to order another helping right after polishing off the first plate. I know there are others, including other Eater editors, who find it underwhelming. Yet everyone would tell you to order it and decide for yourself.

What separates Nightshade is Lin’s uncanny ability to mine the intersection of American comfort food and Asian ingredients, as in a tom yum-seasoned fried onion that delivers the lowbrow satisfaction of a chain-restaurant Bloomin’ Onion and the creative punch of a light-as-air coconut dip. She’s no less adept at working with Asian starting points, as with her golden-brown prawn toast, which pays homage to a dim sum cart classic, but comes atop a substantial, curry-tinted sauce that takes it to the next level. Lin’s beef tartare refashions the slightly obscure Korean yookhwe with neat dabs of egg-yolk jam and thickened soy sauce. Even with the most surreal-looking of desserts from chef de cuisine Max Boonthanakit (another Eater Young Gun, from the class of 2019), the palate stays relatable, like coconut and lime, cherries and cola, or guava and cream cheese. Plenty of chefs have tried this balancing act before, but few have made the case for modern Asian-American cooking with as much style as Lin and Boonthanakit. | NightshadeLA.com

— Matthew Kang, Eater LA editor

Tacos 1986

Los Angeles, CA

What: The taco stand that took LA by storm, combining Tijuana-style carne asada and more than a touch of LA branding and bravado.

Why: There are thousands of taco stands in Los Angeles, but there is only one Tacos 1986. The instantly cult-status spot for carne asada and adobada, a regional interpretation of al pastor, emerged in 2018 as a firebrand capable of uniting street, food, and club culture with late-night stands that shuffled between Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Koreatown. Not since Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ has a taco so thoroughly galvanized this city.

Owner Victor Delgado and the affable evening maestro, Jorge “El Joy” Alvarez-Tostado, don bright red shirts emblazoned with the company’s wavy logo, pulling in customers right off the street with their smiles and, well, a whole lot of mugging for the many iPhone cameras and first-time line-waiters eager for a taste of Tijuana. El Joy — hype man, taquero, and customer service lead all in one — plays the part to perfection, rolling up his sleeves to flex as he proclaims himself the best taquero in the world. A flick of the wrist for a fresh swipe of adobada pork, pounded thin and marinated in citrus before being vertically roasted and dropped onto a wide handmade tortilla, and it can be hard to argue in the moment.

For even more bliss, opt for the off-menu perrón, a broad taco offered with any meat of choice (or, if you prefer, some killer mushrooms) and laced with beans, meat, and cheese and served on a flour tortilla as an homage to the oceanside stands of Baja. Add salsa, take a few bites (there are never enough), and then get back into the queue to watch the taco show unfold all over again. Find Joy, Victor, and the crew at one of the team’s roving stands outside of nightclubs, near the beach, or at their only-just-opened standing-room-only (literally) taco shop right in the heart of Downtown. | Tacos1986.com

— Farley Elliott, Eater LA senior editor

Verjus

San Francisco, CA

What: A dreamy approximation of a European wine bar that brings together natural wine, tinned fish, and a menu of well-executed staple dishes.

Why: Many chefs’ travels inspire them to open restaurants, but it’s all too rare for that inspiration to yield a worthy result. Chef Michael Tusk and restaurateur Lindsay Tusk, the husband-and-wife team behind San Francisco’s three-Michelin-starred Quince and its more casual offshoot, Cotogna, avoided that trap when they opened Verjus in the shadow of the Transamerica pyramid, on a storied street long known for its Gold Rush-era brothels and gambling dens. Here, highlights from the couple’s extensive travels through France, Italy, and Spain have merged to create a wine bar for the ages, immune to the city’s fast-casual craze. It’s a place to drink and dine, without the pressure of whatever else is happening next on the horizon; dinner will be eaten, but luxuriously, and with one of the city’s most accomplished chefs in charge.

Beverage director Matt Cirne’s list of natural wines is on trend for 2019, but features longtime producers from storied regions in addition to California’s up-and-comers. Pet nats, orange wines, and high-acid wines made with less-common varietals like mondeuse and charbono pair well with Tusk’s tightly curated menu that dips into the European canon of wine bar greatest hits. Cheese, charcuterie, and an array of conservas make for exemplary companions to an afternoon drink, but it’s easy to make a hearty meal from the classic bistro-cut steak, served slathered in herby butter and topped with a stack of crispy onion rings, or the perfectly blonde omelet, cradling a puddle of boursin and sprinkled with chives, or a delightfully plump manchego sausage resting atop a crunchy nest of sauerkraut. For dessert, pain perdu is a required order: crack the bruleed crust to reveal a custardy slice of brioche, swimming in melting vanilla ice cream. It’s not that any of these dishes, nor the black-and-white-tiled dining room, don’t transport; even better, they make it clear that you are somewhere, and that there’s no better place to be than right where you are. | VerjusCave.com

— Ellen Fort, Eater SF editor
a bowl of food on a plate: Cauliflower steak and vegetable pickles on top of a red sauce at Indigo Cauliflower steak and vegetable pickles on top of a red sauce at Indigo

Virtue

Chicago, IL

What: A thoroughly Chicago restaurant with a multicultural approach to Southern cuisine.

Why: There’s plenty of new construction in Hyde Park, Chicago’s South Side neighborhood that’s home to the University of Chicago. Locals are protective of this traditionally progressive and diverse neighborhood. They worry that out-of-town chains and cookie-cutter restaurants will decimate the area’s unique character. Virtue is not one of their concerns.

At Virtue, veteran chef Erick Williams honors his family’s Southern roots, drawing as much from his experiences as a born-and-bred Chicagoan as from his grandmother’s recipes, which come by way of Mississippi. Diners looking for Southern classics will find much to love on Virtue’s menu, whether in cornmeal-covered fried chicken gizzards or blackened catfish with Carolina Gold rice.

But Virtue’s most potent dish is the cauliflower, its seemingly humble meat-free option. It reveals Williams’s layered approach to cooking, which combines culinary inspiration from the South, Chicago, his fine dining background, his family history, and the world. The braised cauliflower steak is finished on the grill, creating a crisp crust over the vegetable’s fork-tender innards. Williams plates it with cashew dukkah (an Egyptian spice blend) and “root cellar vegetables” presented as giardiniera — the pickle blend Chicagoans enjoy most on Italian beef sandwiches.

There’s a welcoming energy inside the dining room, with locals celebrating the arrival of a top-notch restaurant, one that represents them. And at the end of the day, these are the customers who make Hyde Park one of Chicago’s quirkiest neighborhoods, and Virtue one of the country’s best new restaurants. | VirtueRestaurant.com

— Ashok Selvam, Eater Chicago senior editor

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Credits

Editorial lead

Hillary Dixler Canavan

Editor

Erin DeJesus

Creative director

Brittany Holloway-Brown

Video director, producer, and shooter

Gary He

Video editor

Mariya Pylayev

Writers

Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Monica Burton

Nadia Chaudhury

Serena Dai

Farley Elliott

Ellen Fort

Gabe Hiatt

Brenna Houck

Matthew Kang

Meghan McCarron

Amy McCarthy

Ashok Selvam

Stefanie Tuder

Photographers

Dina Avila

Hillary Dixler Canavan

Patricia Chang

Caroline Fontenot

Michelle Gerard

Gary He

Nicholas James

Wonho Frank Lee

Louise Palmberg

Jean Schwarzwalder

Kara Stokes

Sarah Storrer

Kathy Tran

Rachel Wisniewski

Fact-checker

Dawn Mobley

Copy editor

Emma Alpern

Engagement

Milly McGuinness

Adam Moussa

Esra Erol

James Park

Research

Olee Fowler

Daniel Gerzina

Gabe Guarente

Brooke Jackson-Glidden

Clair Lorell

Beth McKibben

Greg Morabito

Erin Perkins

Caleb Pershan

Delia Jo Ramsey

Susan Stapleton

Joy Summers

Lesley Suter

Rachel Vigoda

Candice Woo

Project manager

Ellie Krupnick

Special thanks to Matt Buchanan, Carolyn Alburger,

Missy Frederick, and Sonia Chopra

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