Friday, August 21, 2009

2009's Top Ten Best New Restaurants in America

Today's most exciting restaurants have a lot in common. They represent the new standard: simple, satisfying local food—all served with zero pretense. They support local farmers, sustainable agriculture, and regional cuisine. For a taste of our ten favorite n ew restaurants, cook these delicious recipes. Bar Jules, San Francisco, CA
1. Spring Hill

4437 California Avenue SW, Seattle; 206-935-1075;

Without much fanfare, the Pacific Northwest has become one of the most exciting foodie destinations in America. Between Seattle and Portland, there are an increasing number of top-notch, chef-driven restaurants—and Mark and Marjorie Fuller's Spring Hill in West Seattle is at the top of that list. Mark shows respect for the region's amazing seafood (Kumamoto oysters, Dungeness crab), but also has the culinary skill to play with texture and flavors. His food manages to be beautiful without being ornate. The sleek space, which Marjorie works with confidence, and the dazzling open kitchen only add to the lofty dining experience.

Get their recipe for: Black Cod with Fennel Chowder and Smoked Oyster Panzanella

Cakes & Ale

254 West Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur, Georgia; 404-377-7994;

At the age of 27, Billy Allin gave up his job as a money manager and enrolled in culinary school. After graduation, his cooking skills landed him gigs at renowned restaurants, including Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Watershed in Decatur. With his farm-to-table cooking philosophy fully established, Allin and his wife, Kristin, decided it was time to open "the restaurant where we would want to eat," he says. That restaurant is Cakes & Ale (from a phrase in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night meaning "the good things in life"), located east of downtown Atlanta. The couple's ideal restaurant turns out to be a 50-seat neighborhood spot where the kitchen staff often answers the phone when you call to make a reservation, and a chalkboard announces the daily menu, which features simple, precise dishes like braised rabbit grits with saba vinegar and spring onion; buttermilk-rhubarb fool; and the addictive arancine here.

Get their recipe for: Citrus Arancine with Pecorino Cheese

3. Bar Jules (pictured)

609 Hayes Street, San Francisco; 415-621-5482;

"How many bowls of clam chowder can you make before you lose your mind?" That was the question Jessica Boncutter asked herself just before quitting her job at a popular San Francisco oyster bar. After she resigned, she headed for London to take a break and hang out with friends—and that's when inspiration hit. "All of my friends were opening restaurants over there, and I said to myself: If they can do it, I can do it." When she returned to the Bay Area, she got to work on Bar Jules, a bohemian lunch and dinner spot in San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood. The chalkboard menu, consisting of fewer than ten dishes, is big on California produce and sustainable ingredients, which, to be honest, is nothing new in San Francisco. What is new is that there's no mantra on the menu, no stuffiness in the dining room—and there are no reservations. Chef Boncutter's simple food includes everything from a perfectly cooked wood-grilled burger to the lamb stew below. One thing you won't find on the menu? Clam chowder.

Get their recipe for: Lamb with Preserved Lemons

Related: How to Get the Reservations You Want (and Why Restaurants Lie to You for Your Own Good)

4. No. 7

7 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-522-6370;

The walls are brick and plaster. The ceilings are pressed tin. And the waitstaff is straight out of an American Apparel catalog. In short, it's a quintessential Brooklyn neighborhood joint. But the first sign that No. 7 is doing things a bit differently than your average hipster restaurant is the fried broccoli appetizer: an entire head of broccoli covered in an impossibly crisp tempura batter and paired with a hummus-like black bean sauce and a dill and grapefruit salad. It's a mishmash of disparate ingredients that somehow succeeds. The same goes for the deconstructed romaine salad (romaine heart, mozzarella-wrapped quince, lemon) and the pumpkin-seed-crusted tofu featured below. The risk-taking, slightly theatrical menu comes from chef Tyler Kord (left), who worked at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Perry St before opening No. 7.

Get their recipe for: Pumpkin-Seed-Crusted Tofu with Lemongrass Broth, Rice Noodles, and Poached Eggs

5. Woodberry Kitchen

2010 Clipper Park Road, Number 126, Baltimore; 410-464-8000;

In the early 1990s, long before sustainable, local, and organic became the calling cards of chefs everywhere, Spike Gjerde was showcasing the abundance of the Chesapeake Bay. With the opening of his latest spot in the historic Clipper Mill complex—a brick-and-wood space that has the look and feel of a restored farmhouse—Gjerde takes his farm-to-table commitment to the next level. A wood-burning oven is the centerpiece of a kitchen that turns out dishes like roasted Rappahannock River oysters, Roseda Black Angus Farm hanger steak, and fantastic flatbreads.

Get their recipe for: Spiced Pear Flatbreads with Goat Cheese and Mustard Cream

6. Mado

1647 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago; 773-342-2340;

Husband and wife Rob and Allie Levitt are fanatical about local and sustainable ingredients. A chalkboard in the dining room lists all the farms that the restaurant works with, and every two weeks Rob receives a 180-pound pig from Slagel Family Farm, butchers it himself, and uses every bit in dishes like ciccioli (pork cracklin's), charcuterie, and the restaurant's signature porchetta (spit-roasted pork loin and belly). Rob and Allie are also regulars at the Green City Market, which means that if there's something new and seasonal at the market, you'll find it on Mado's menu. "We're not trying to break new ground," says Rob of his savory and Allie's sweet cooking. "All we want is to have fun cooking great ingredients simply." Judging from the crowds at dinner and Sunday brunch, that's really all the locals want, too.

Get their recipe for: Clam and Calamari Seafood Stew with Salsa Verde

Related: 5 Tips for Handling a Bad Waiter

7. Feast

219 Westheimer Road, Houston; 713-529-7788;

The locals didn't have much faith in Feast, a British-style gastropub with a menu that includes bubble and squeak, black pudding, and tons of offal. "They told us that we must put steak on the menu or we wouldn't make it. This is Texas, after all," says co-owner Meagan Silk. Despite the skeptics, Silk, her husband, James, and their friend Richard Knight decided to press on. And it's a good thing they did. Today, the restaurant—and its Brit-centric menu—is a huge hit. For the offal novices, we chose this recipe, which makes good use of beef neck bones and pig's feet. Try it. We promise that it's delicious.

Get their recipe for: Braised Beef with Pears and Fresh Ginger

8. Olivia

2043 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin; 512-804-2700;

There's only one thing on the walls of Olivia: a Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings concert poster that chef James Holmes's grandfather gave to him. The image—two groundbreaking country music legends from Texas—captures the spirit of this sophisticated yet laid-back spot. The restaurant's clean art-gallery-esque interior really shows off the poster—and Chef Holmes's food. He gathers his culinary inspiration from (and in) his backyard vegetable garden. The resulting menu includes produce-based dishes like risotto made with squash and greens, and spinach-potato gnocchi with olives and tomatoes. Holmes is also fond of riffs on comfort-food classics, like spaghetti cooked in red wine and the milk-braised pork shoulder here. The diverse clientele—a tattooed musician on his way to a show or an operagoer dressed to the nines—only adds to Olivia's considerable charm.

Get their recipe for: Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder with Semolina Gnocchi

9. The Greenhouse Tavern

2038 East 4th Street, Cleveland; 216-443-0511

This unassuming gastropub in downtown Cleveland is on the forefront of the green-restaurant movement. Reclaimed barn wood, light fixtures made from old bike rims, and a rooftop dining area/greenhouse are just a few of the environmentally conscious elements that went into redesigning the space. But for the epicurean, all this is moot if the restaurant fails to deliver on the food front. Thanks to chef Jonathon Sawyer, who worked with Charlie Palmer in New York and Iron Chef Michael Symon, it doesn't. Ohio-sourced ingredients are the stars of the modern, snack-heavy menu. Goat cheese tarts with tomato salad (recipe at right); hand-ground beef tartare with a cold poached egg; and crispy chicken wings with roasted jalapeño, scallions, and garlic are just a few of the smart, simple dishes that keep food lovers coming back.

Get their recipe for: Potato-Crusted Goat Cheese Tarts with Heirloom Tomato Salad

Also check out: The Top 10 Brunch Spots in the U.S.

Hungry Mother

233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts; 617-499-0090;

Chef Barry Maiden grew up in Virginia near Hungry Mother State Park, and when he approached his partners with the curious name, it stuck. The South also inspires the food at this smartly designed, low-key neighborhood spot. But gimmicky mama-style country cooking this is not. Maiden's clever cuisine combines southern and northern ingredients with classic French technique. Maine mussels are paired with house-made tasso and cornbread crumbs; grilled Rhode Island squid comes with a side of hominy. The big question is this: Can Bostonians ever truly appreciate perfectly fried cornmeal-crusted catfish served with collards? If they're eating it at Hungry Mother, there's as good a chance as any.

Get their recipe for: Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish with Collards and Creole

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