13 Of The Best New Restaurants In The USA

13 Of The Best New Restaurants In The USA

Plenty of smart, useful articles appear each year directing people to the nation’s buzziest restaurants, highlighting emerging trends and up-and-coming chefs. This list is in no specific order or rank and all are worth the time to visit if you are in the area.

2M Smokehouse – San Antonio

Barbecue and sides at 2M Smokehouse; the restaurant’s exterior

In an ever-more-crowded genre, pitmaster Esaul Ramos and fellow San Antonian Joe Melig transcend the Texas smoked-meats melee by also serving a frictionless combination of dishes that express their Mexican-American heritage. The uniformly blackened, near-custardy brisket rivals the efforts of the Austin superstars; chopped poblanos and blots of queso Oaxaca punctuate their stellar pork sausage. Fold them into speckled flour tortillas, topped with pickled nopales and interspersed with forkfuls of borracho beans and “Chicharoni Macaroni” (mac and cheese dusted with fried pork skins). This is how the leading edge of Lone Star barbecue looks, smells, and tastes.

 2731 South WW White Road, San Antonio, TX, (210) 885-9352, 2msmokehouse.com

Atelier Crenn – San Francisco

Tableside service at Atelier Crenn

With an artist’s sense of constant reinvention, Dominique Crenn has been bending flavors and meditating on design since her flagship restaurant’s 2011 debut. More masterfully than ever, Crenn and her team (including pastry chef Juan Contreras) mine the middle ground between intellect and emotion, between heady presentation and flat-out deliciousness. Crenn focuses the modernist kitchen on seafood and vegetables, using impeccable Bay Area ingredients while musing over her upbringing in Brittany, France, for inspiration. Stunning black-walnut tables, part of the dining room’s 2017 renovation, show off swirling wood grains that resemble turbulent cloud patterns; the effect is mirrored in tableside theatrics like platters of billowing dry ice that soon reveal tiny geoduck tarts.

3125 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA, (415) 440-0460, ateliercrenn.com

Brennan’s – New Orleans

Gulf fish amandine at Brennan’s

Ralph Brennan and his business partner, Terry White, rescued this French Quarter monolith in 2014, shepherding $20 million worth of reconstructive surgery on a building the size of a small cruise ship. Among the city’s Creole restaurant institutions, Brennan’s now takes the lead with its balance of timeless pageantry and relevant, finely honed cooking. Executive chef Slade Rushing nails the classics — eggs Sardou laced with creamed spinach for breakfast, snapper amandine or blackened redfish for dinner, bananas Foster for dessert any time of day — but also rotates in fresh twists like frog legs with basil tempura and tomato escabeche.

417 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA, (504) 525-9711, brennansneworleans.com

Here’s Looking At You – Los Angeles

Beef tartare at Here’s Looking At You

Jonathan Whitener, the chef who owns HLAY with front-of-house ace Lien Ta, is arguably the country’s most creatively energized practitioner of the “global plates” aesthetic. Salsa negra, smoked beef tongue, nam jim, carrot curry, blood cake, almond dukkah, sprouted broccoli, New Zealand cockles: All have a place on his menu; all make sense in his electric, eclectic compositions; all reflect Los Angeles’s wondrous pluralism. The cocktail menu takes cues from Tiki culture but spirals off in similarly wild and amazingly cohesive directions.

3901 West 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA, (213) 568-3573, hereslookingatyoula.com

Himalaya – Houston

Goat biryani, fried chicken, and curries at Himalaya

Effervescent, always-present owner Kaiser Lashkari and his wife, Azra Babar Lashkari, turn out nearly 100 distinct dishes at their boxy strip-mall restaurant in the city’s Mahatma Gandhi District. Numerous curries, including Hyderabadi chicken hara masala coursing with green chiles, evince several regional Indian cuisines, but it’s key to order the gems inspired by Kaiser Lashkari’s native Pakistan. He excels in “hunter beef,” a preparation similar to pastrami, best served cold in thick slices with head-clearing mustard. He links the Pakistani affinity for beef with Texas in specials like his weekend-only smoked brisket masala. The restaurant’s excellent, mildly spiced fried chicken bridges cultures just as successfully.

6652 Southwest Freeway, Houston, TX, (713) 532-2837, himalayarestauranthouston.com

Jose Enrique – San Juan, PR

Jose Enrique’s whole fried fish over yuca

There is no sign outside the self-named restaurant of Jose Enrique Montes Alvarez; there’s also no missing the building, a cottage spangled with Art Deco geometries and painted bright pink. Jose Enrique served as the initial headquarters for José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen, which eventually served over 3 million meals in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria’s destruction in 2017. And it rightly remains the island’s most lauded dining destination. Whiteboards propped around the dining room list the daily-changing menu, a narration of the island’s comida criolla in which local seafood keeps diners rapt. Build a meal around an Enrique classic: whole fish fried into a kinetic sculpture, crowned with a chunky salsa of papaya and avocado and set over mashed yam. The crowd is drinking local rum. Join them.

176 Calle Duffaut, San Juan, Puerto Rico, (787) 725-3518, joseenriquepr.com

JuneBaby – Seattle

Edouardo Jordan grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, with family roots in Georgia, but it wasn’t until he opened his second Seattle restaurant, in the spring of 2017, that he chose to focus professionally on the foods of the South and his African-American heritage. The decision, and the restaurant’s immediate success, has made him one of the nation’s towering figures of Southern cooking. Among the menu’s familiar, gorgeously rendered comforts, the truest treasures (oxtails, vinegared chitterlings, collard greens with ham hock) are the ones that most resonantly invoke Jordan’s upbringing.

2122 Northeast 65th Street, Seattle, WA, (206) 257-4470, junebabyseattle.com

Koi Palace – Daly City, CA

A dim sum feast at Koi Palace; the restaurant’s interior

Dim sum is among my favorite meals.  A Sunday jaunt to the original Koi Palace (the flagship of its three locations) reminded me why it’s the indispensable cornerstone among the region’s many stellar dim sum options. Once you wade through the chaotic crowds, a euphoric whirlwind of food and service awaits. In a blur of dumplings, noodles, congees, sweet and savory cakes, piled greens, and crisp-skinned meats, a through-line of freshness and craftsmanship gives the feast cohesion. Finish with the last dregs of tea and the custardy fritters called “Sugar Egg Puffs.”

365 Gellert Boulevard, Daly City, CA, (650) 992-9000, koipalace.com

Mary & Tito’s Cafe – Albuquerque

Carne adovada and enchiladas “Christmas-style” at Mary & Tito’s Cafe
The foodways of New Mexico are even more regionalized and misconstrued than Texas’s Tex-Mex traditions. In restaurants, New Mexican cuisine boils down to the quality of two dominant chile sauces: the dusky, fruity, slightly spicy red variation, made from dried pods, and the chunkier, vegetal roasted green chile version. There is no better indoctrination into the state’s culinary nucleus than the cafe started by Tito and Mary Ann Gonzales in 1963. Both have died, but their daughter Antoinette Knight, her family, and the restaurant’s longtime cooks keep the recipes and spirit alive. The crucial dishes: carne adovada (pork marinated in bright, silky, near-perfect red chile sauce and then baked) and stacked blue corn enchiladas with both red and green chiles — which is to say, “Christmas” style.

2711 4th St NW, Albuquerque, NM, (505) 344-6266, no website

Momofuku Ko – New York

Foie gras and duck puff pastry; a chef attends to a steak on the grill at Momofuku Ko

The wit and technical command behind the tasting menu at David Chang’s toniest outpost perpetually makes Ko one of Manhattan’s worthiest splurges. A course of frozen foie shavings, melting on the tongue like otherworldly snowflakes, is a forever trademark; it’s hard to look at the split shape of the “Ko egg” and not envision an alabaster Pac-Man gobbling dots of caviar. But this past year the restaurant hoisted itself to another dimension by adding a walk-ins-only bar with a separate, experimental, and sneakily brilliant menu by executive chef Sean Gray and his team. Consistent pleasures have included quadruple-fried chicken legs, served cold. They’re so outrageously good, Harland Sanders only wishes he were picnicking on them in the afterlife.

8 Extra Place, New York, NY, (212) 203-8095, ko.momofuku.com

Palace Diner – Biddeford, Maine

French toast at Palace Diner

In 2014, Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell took over a decades-old, 15-seat restaurant housed in a Pollard train car built in 1927 and turned it into the ideal realization of a daytime Americana diner. Eating here haunts me: I can’t find better light, lemony, buttery pancakes, or a more precisely engineered egg sandwich, and theirs is the only tuna melt I ever hunger after. Location plays a charming role: Sleepy but quickly burgeoning Biddeford, Maine (also home to Rabelais, one of the country’s finest food-focused booksellers), sits about 20 miles south of Portland. It’s all worth the trek.

18 Franklin Street, Biddeford, ME, (207) 284-0015, palacedinerme.com

Park’s BBQ – Los Angeles

Tabletop barbecue and banchan at Park’s BBQ

In America, the meaty magnetism of Korean barbecue restaurants often serves as a gateway to the country’s cuisine. Park’s, ensconced in a Koreatown strip mall, is more of a journey’s culmination — the pinnacle of the genre. Certainly the tabletop-grilled meats (especially the kalbi, or short ribs, and anything offered as an American wagyu upgrade) deliver with sizzling edges and smoky depths. Before the main event, tiny plates of chef-owner Jenee Kim’s meticulous banchan (kimchi; gyeran mari, or rolled egg; battered slices of squash) rev the appetite. The cooking alone distinguishes the restaurant; the engaged, near-telepathic staff propels the experience even higher.

955 South Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, (213) 380-1717, parksbbq.com

Smyth & the Loyalist – Chicago

Smyth’s duck-liver mousse over dried corn
Chicago is a stronghold of tasting-menu restaurants all nearly on par in their intellectual heft. At Smyth, husband and wife John Shields and Karen Urie Shields certainly show off brainpower through 12 courses that uniquely coalesce Japanese, Nordic, and Southern-American flavors and techniques. But their close relationship with a farm 20 miles south of the city in Bourbonnais, Illinois helps give Smyth’s cuisine a literal and spiritual grounding. I taste the honest Midwest in dishes like end-of-summer green gooseberries paired with uni. At the Loyalist downstairs, the duo apply their formidable know-how to the Americana fare, including killer biscuits with cheddar and what may be the most righteous cheeseburger in Chicago.

177 North Ada Street, Chicago, IL, (773) 913-3773, smythandtheloyalist.com

Superiority Burger – New York

The signature dish at Superiority Burger
Brooks Headley departed from his top-of-the-food-chain gig as pastry chef at Del Posto in 2015 to channel his punk-musician origins into a solo project: a seditious, moshing, 270-square-foot Lower East Side restaurant that specializes in a remarkably gratifying vegetarian burger. The place is an ever-rarer reminder of individuality and tenacity in New York City. At its busiest moments, the crowd streams from the six-seat storefront out onto the sidewalk, a breadth of humanity sharing the moment as they consume meat-free sandwiches and spontaneous vegetable creations, straight from the farmers markets. Every menu item costs under $10. Headley doesn’t entirely abandon his previous title: He channels every ounce of his dessert genius into two transcendent gelato and ice cream flavors that change daily and come squashed together in a paper cup.

430 East 9th Street, New York, NY, (212) 256-1192, superiorityburger.com

Via Carota – New York

I’ll just say it: This is my favorite place to eat in New York. While no one “quintessential Manhattan” restaurant exists, Via Carota exquisitely inhabits one version of the mythology. It’s the filtered, shifting light that seeps through the picture windows overlooking a narrow West Village street. It’s the crowd’s smart air (especially at lunch, the ideal time to drop in). And it’s certainly the assured Italian cooking, heavy on vegetable dishes but also with soul-soothing pleasures like tagliatelle showered with Parmesan and draped with prosciutto. An unusually harmonic partnership animates the place: Chef couple Rita Sodi and Jody Williams each started still-successful restaurants nearby before combining forces on their joint darling. I always feel cheered by their doting brand of culinary co-parenting.

51 Grove Street, New York, NY, (212) 255-1962, viacarota.com