25 new restaurants that gave us a menu of reasons to believe.
It’s been a year. While 2017 may not have panned out as we might have expected, it did seriously deliver in the restaurant department. We saw the openings of dozens of impressive, innovative, never-seen-this-before spots all around the country, from big cities to small towns and everywhere in between. Iconic, historical restaurants were reimagined, fine-dining titans entered the fast-casual game and a pastry mastermind went savory. We were super excited to see some of our favorite first-time chef/owners from the past few years open completely unique second ventures, while seasoned vets proved they still have much more to give. Though we may be uncertain about everything going on in the world, 2017’s dishes like Texas brisket ramen have given us hope that the future of food is brighter than ever. Here's our look at the 25 restaurant openings that brought a spark of joy to the food scene this year.
The Grill and The Pool – New York City
Perhaps the most anticipated opening of the year was, in a sense, a reopening. After the Four Seasons shuttered its iconic Seagram Building restaurant that celebrated over fifty years as the power lunch epicenter of the city, Major Food Group had big shoes to fill when it was tasked with manufacturing its replacement. Rather than trying to recreate the original, Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick decided to open two distinctly New York restaurants. The Grill and The Pool have more than filled the Four Seasons-shaped hole in the heart of Manhattan, reviving the magical buzz and ornate theatrics (think tableside service on rolling carts, like spit-roast prime rib sliced to your liking) fit only for rooms with such rich history.
Cote – New York City
In the basement of this sleek, clubby Flatiron restaurant is the room that sets Cote apart from other Korean barbecue places. When you walk down the stairs towards the bathroom, you’ll see a red, glowing meat locker filled with beautiful rib-eyes, porterhouses and sirloins hanging behind the glass to your left. Those dangling cuts of beef rival offerings from the city’s best steakhouses and can be sampled with the $45 set “butcher’s feast” menu. It takes already-great Korean barbecue to a whole other level.
Made Nice – New York City
We already knew Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, the duo behind The NoMad and Eleven Madison Park, had fine dining on lock. This year, they added fast-casual to their list of conquests. Made Nice is a counter-service spot that turns out restaurant quality, artfully plated dishes like frisée salad with smoked salmon, a soft-boiled egg and dill-caper relish at Chipotle speed and prices, which will make you seriously reconsider your next burrito bowl.
Ugly Baby – Brooklyn, NY
A narrow, brightly-colored room in neighborhood-y Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn is the city’s newest way to escape itself. Chef Sirichai Sreparplarn, who built a cult following for his Northern Thai cooking at Kao Soy and pop-up Chiang Mai in Red Hook, is now serving up dishes from all over Thailand so spot-on that you may feel the Southeast Asian humidity along with the mouth burn.
Rooster Soup Co. – Philadelphia, PA
A fever dream of a midcentury luncheonette powered by Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook, Rooster Soup Co. is the first restaurant we know of to donate 100 percent of its profits to charity—it’s a partnership with Broad Street Ministry’s Hospitality Collaborative, a community center that offers food and social services to Philadelphians who need them. With smoked matzo ball soup and a Southern ham biscuit with pimento cheese on offer, you’d be doing yourself a favor by eating there, too.
Palizzi Social Club – Philadelphia, PA
For old school, red sauce Italian, no one is doing it more authentically than Chef Joey Baldino of Philly hit Zeppoli. He recently took over the members-only club he grew up in and has revamped the space only subtly, keeping alive the traditional speakeasy vibe. Once only accessible to Italians from a certain region, now a limited number of $20 membership cards are available at the door each night, allowing fortunate diners to indulge in Baldino’s family recipes like stromboli and braised tripe. If the red neon sign is lit, it’s on.
Brenner Pass – Richmond, VA
Named for the Alpine mountain path that forms the border between Italy and Austria, Brittany Anderson’s 4,000-square-foot brasserie is an homage to its titular region with a menu heavily influenced by flavors from Northern Italy, France and Switzerland. Anderson, whose popular Germanic cuisine at Metzger Bar and Butchery put her on the map, is now dishing out Lyonnaise salad, steak frites and killer fondue.
HaiSous – Chicago, IL
Thai and Danielle Dang have gone through a lot, with the disappearance of their dubious former employers at Embeya, but they’ve come out on top. Determined to bring unparalleled Vietnamese food to Chicago, the Dangs put everything they had left into HaiSous, which literally means ‘two pennies.’ Apparently, revenge is a dish best served with caramelized fish sauce and crispy garlic, like the fried chicken wings are here, or with lemongrass and dried chili, like the grilled whole dorade.
Kitsune Restaurant and Pub – Chicago, IL
2016 Best New Chef Iliana Regan’s intimate, Japanese-inspired restaurant uses Midwest ingredients and sensibility to turn out casual yet compelling dishes, including a tonkotsu and a miso yuzu ramen. After seeing Regan’s dough skills at her Michelin-starred Elizabeth, it’s no surprise that there is a whole section of the menu reserved for bread. Toasted koji sourdough with beef tartare and fudge yolk is probably the best thing that happened this year.
Bresca – Washington D.C.
With a super-quick turnaround, Ripple vet Ryan Ratino opened his first solo venture just a few months after his former Cleveland Park restaurant closed. The name of his new 14th Street NW spot, Bresca, means ‘honeycomb’ in Spanish, but the menu is focused on bistronomy, which Ratino feels is the best way to showcase his experiences and passions. If you pay attention, though, you’ll notice a bee theme throughout the decor and perhaps taste Ratino’s own fermented mead.
Bellecour – Minneapolis, MN
Chef Gavin Kaysen first left New York City’s Café Boulud and returned home to Minnesota to open now highly esteemed Spoon and Sable in 2014. He continues to impress diners in Minneapolis with Bellecour, his new French bistro and bakery named for a town square in Lyon, home of his mentors and inspirations Daniel Boulud and Paul Bocuse. Located in the suburb of Wayzata, Bellecour warms and welcomes in a multi-part space, including an open kitchen, grab-and-go cafe and outdoor patio, all reminiscent of the French countryside.
Eight Tables by George Chen – San Francisco, CA
After an illustrious career as a teenage waiter known for his detailed dish descriptions and opening over a dozen restaurants in the Bay Area and Shanghai, George Chen has created China Live, a Chinese market and restaurant similar to Eataly, with Eight Tables by George Chen, a 10-course tasting menu concept just upstairs. Though he has no formal chef training, Chen certainly has the years under his belt and he’s stacked his team with fine-dining all-stars. Offering shi fan tsai, elite Chinese cuisine, Eight Tables riffs on classics using lavish ingredients and theatrical presentation to complete the $225 experience.
Kismet – Los Angeles, CA
The Los Feliz all-day, Middle East-meets-California spot from 2017 Best New Chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson is a crowd-pleaser in every sense of the term. The modern, minimal space characterized by blonde wood has an effortless L.A. aesthetic and simultaneously acts as the perfect canvas for Kramer and Hymanson’s clever cooking. From “Turkish-ish” breakfast to brilliant potatoes with labneh, macadamia nut, cured scallop and urfa pepper, we could (and probably will) spend all day here.
Vespertine – Los Angeles, CA
2017 Best New Chef Jordan Kahn has the extraterrestrial mind that conjured up and precisely executed the otherworldly dining experience that is Vespertine. Inside a monstrous, steel and glass Eric Owen Moss-designed structure in Culver City, right across the street from Kahn's creative daytime-only operation Destroyer, Vespertine is a work of immersive performance art. From the space station uniforms to the custom synth acoustics to the food that looks and tastes like nothing else on this planet, Vespertine is the enigma worth exploring.
189 by Dominique Ansel – Los Angeles, CA
If you want to visit the first ever sit-down restaurant from the pastry genius who brought us the Cronut and the Cookie Shot (of course you do), you’ll have to head to The Grove shopping complex in L.A. It is there that Dominique Ansel, along with executive chef Hyun Lee, is expanding his horizons beyond brilliant sweets and bringing his signature innovation to cuisine from around the globe. From reimagined clam chowder with littleneck clam tortellini in Spanish ajo blanco soup to Mexican sweet-corn milk bread topped with cotija cheese and Tajín, there is acute artistry in each dish. While Ansel’s savory creations are nothing short of remarkable, you’d be remiss not to save room for dessert.
Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room – Kansas City, MO
Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room is a clear triple threat. As its name suggests, there are two dining options, a la carte and a $100 tasting menu, but it’s also a venue for nightly live music. Kansas City chef Michael Corvino and his wife Christina know the importance of jazz to their city and expertly employ it to create an effervescent culinary experience. The focus is undoubtedly on the food, though, with a modern American menu where you can find anything from fried chicken ssam to a cheeseburger.
Tavernetta – Denver, CO
Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey and chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson of Boulder sensation Frasca Food & Wine have been dreaming of their new Denver spot for three years. Clean, spacious and approachable, Tavernetta greets diners with a lounge, two dining rooms and an open kitchen that turns out comforting Italian fare. The menu glides smoothly from salumi, formaggi and antipasti to primi pastas like ravioli alla norma and secondis like Berkshire pork shoulder with lemon and capers.
Xochi – Houston, TX
The newest addition to Chef Hugo Ortega’s Mexican restaurant empire in Houston is Xochi, where he is serving up straight-up Oaxacan cuisine. Located in the Marriott Marquis Houston Downtown, Xochi transcends its hotel setting and transports you straight to Oaxaca with masa-based dishes like memela (a toasted masa pancake with roasted pork rib and refritos) and tetela (blue masa triangular envelope with hoja santa, quesillo, huaxmole and cactus salad). The best part, though, might be the whole menu section dedicated to traditional Oaxaca moles, many of which are made with chocolate and chilis.
Theodore Rex – Houston, TX
2014 Best New Chef Justin Yu closed down his Houston fan-favorite Oxheart to open his next project, Theodore Rex, in the very same space. Instead of a tasting menu, the new spot affectionately nicknamed T-Rex is serving Yu’s modern, local food a la carte. With small plates “great for sharing” like fried, pakora-style Indian Creek oyster mushrooms and others “not great for sharing” like stewed beef cheek in pickle juice, the menu may change daily on the basis of “availability, quality or boredom”—aside from the tomato toast, for which Yu has a particular attachment.
Kemuri Tatsu-Ya – Austin, TX
A Texas Japanese izakaya in East Austin, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya comes to us from Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto, the chefs of the two of city’s most celebrated ramen shops. Proving that beautiful things can happen when Austin barbecue and Tokyo pub fare come together, Kemuri creates stunning flavor marriages we can’t believe didn’t exist before. Of course, their popular brisket ramens are stellar, but pay special attention to munchies like the brisket and gouda “hot pocketz” and anything from barbecue eel to duck breast in the “smoked” section. If you’re not too busy with the party going on in your mouth, you may be able to take in the full-on party going on around you.
JuneBaby – Seattle, WA
Your next stop for soulwarming Southern food is actually in the Pacific Northwest. 2016 Best New Chef Edouardo Jordan’s new Seattle spot JuneBaby, named after his father’s childhood nickname, is a homecoming for the chef who gained serious recognition with his global cooking at Salare. Raised in St. Petersburg, Florida with roots in Georgia, Jordan is looking to the dishes and ingredients that informed the lives of his ancestors who came to the Southern United States from West Africa. While Jordan perfects classics like fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese, personal plates like Momma Jordan’s oxtails are where you can really taste the history.
Nomad.PDX – Portland, OR
What began as a hyper-popular pop-up and underground dinner club operated by chefs Ryan Fox and Ali Matteis is finally, to Portland’s relief, a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Nomad.PDX offers both 10-course and 20-course modernist tasting menus full of visionary dishes with minimalist descriptions like “steelhead, turnips, bacon clam nage.” The third dining option is Ash Bar, an a la carte bar menu that is an affair of its own, giving the signature modernist twist and high quality ingredients to burgers and sandwiches. Combined with a thoughtful cocktail menu by bartender Jen Rae, it’s pretty tough to beat.
Tu – Charleston, SC
From the Xiao Bao Biscuit team that serves casual Asian-inspired food out of a hip converted gas station comes Tu, a Meeting Street restaurant that takes influences from around the world. Small plates meant to be shared include everything from agua chile with kombu-aged beef to fried corn with bitter greens and blue crab sauce. Fans of XBB will be happy to know that there is a pancake on the menu—this one is made with pastrami, sauerkraut and scallions.
Hello, Sailor – Cornelius, NC
After charming the country with their family-forward, small-town Davidson, NC restaurant Kindred, restaurateur couple Katy and Joe Kindred have taken to Lake Norman to spread their feel-good magic. Hello, Sailor is a warm, retro space with a giant deck right on the water, which lends itself to the updated fish camp menu, an ode to the Carolina tradition. With plates like salt and pepper NC catfish and king crab broiled with ghee and chili salt, this spot is already drawing diners from all over the state and the country.
DTB – New Orleans, LA
DTB, which stands for Down the Bayou, is executive chef and owner Carl Schaubhut’s modern take on the coastal Cajun cuisine of Louisiana. Comfortable and relaxed, much like New Orleans culture, the new Oak Street restaurant serves the food you want to eat like charbroiled oyster gratin and LA 1 gumbo with blue crab, collard greens and crab fat potato salad, taking the traditional local flavors and reworking them to become something totally new.