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Best of the Best 2015: The Best Food, the Best Chefs, the Best Venue

Best of the Best 2015: The Best Food, the Best Chefs, the Best Venue


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The stars were out at the Fontainebleau at the South Beach Wine & Food Fest’s annual event

Dan Myers

Chef Alex Stupak served shrimp ceviche with gooseberries and chipotle.

With a name like Best of the Best, it’s fair to say that the annual walk-around food and wine tasting, held this year at the legendary Fontainebleau, has some high expectations to meet. And this year, like all years, it certainly lived up to them.

Folks dressed to the nines to experience offerings from 59 different restaurants and 35 wineries in one of the hotel’s lavish ballrooms, and some of the country’s most renowned chefs were on hand to serve them their upscale creations. Tertulia’s Seamus Mullen served beef carpaccio with anchovy emulsion, pickled peppers, Manchego, rosemary, and pine nuts; Greenhouse Tavern’s Jonathon Sawyer served ricotta and semolina gnocchi with black trumpet mushrooms; All’Onda’s Chris Jaeckle served his take on clams casino; Empellon’s Alex Stupak served a sweet, spicy, and smoky shrimp ceviche with gooseberries and chipotle; Ink’s Michael Voltaggio served beet tartare; and Prune’s Gabrielle Hamilton served salt-packed cold roast beef with bread crumb salsa.

“It’s just so much fun to be here,” Annisa’s Anita Lo told us, echoing the sentiment of just about every other chef we’ve spoken with throughout the festival. “All of my chef friends from around the country are here, and it’s great to get away from the cold.”

While it wasn’t under the main tent on the beach (occupied by the Burger Bash), there was more variety in the food offered at Best of the Best than at just about every other event. With great food, great wine, and chefs who are certifiable household names, this event should be high on the list for anyone who plans on attending the festival in the coming years.


BEST of the FEST! What to Eat and Drink at the 2021 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival!

This year’s festival runs March 3rd through July 5th and, like other recent EPCOT festivals, it’s a bit modified to make room for health and safety measures. Still, that didn’t stop us from getting our SNACK on at 20 FOOD BOOTHS (including two new ones!).

Well, we wouldn’t want to disappoint you so we made it through EVERY. SINGLE. MENU. and you know what that means! We now have the HONOR of bringing you the very best of the best. So, without further ado, here is the 2021 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival BEST of the FEST!


50 States of Steakhouses

Though the decor and menus vary from coast to coast, from Western-style steakhouses to old-school Midwest supper clubs to big-city temples of haute beef, these are the best places to sate your carnivore cravings and enjoy a side of local flair.

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Idaho: Chandlers

With blue lighting in the bar and a saxophone riff floating over the raised high-back leather booths, Chandlers looks and feels like the kind of place that would have live jazz nightly and serve a killer martini. It's also earned a reputation in Boise (and at its Sun Valley outpost) for its steaks and seafood, offering 13 different cuts of meat, many sourced from local purveyor Snake River Farms. Idaho's most-famous export gets top billing too, with sides such as leek and fennel au gratin potatoes and pommes frites misted with truffle oil. Oh, and about that martini &mdash it's called the 10-minute martini and was created by locally famous bartender Pat Carden, who, quite by accident, developed a method of slow-stirring the martini, yielding an exceptionally smooth cocktail. (Ask your server to tell you the story while you wait.) If wine is more your thing, Chandlers boasts a Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator (and the highest ranking in Idaho), with a list of more than 750 labels, a team of certified sommeliers and an excellent selection of wines by the glass.

Mississippi: Marshall Steakhouse

When you step into Marshall Steakhouse, it feels more like a hunting lodge than a steakhouse, with white oak tables, taxidermy on the walls and cozy fireplaces come winter. But the menu is all steakhouse, with prime Angus steaks front and center, cooked on the largest charcoal grill in the state. And Mississippians can't get enough, some driving more than 100 miles for a weekend dinner. Locals know to start the night with Marshall's sausage and cheese plate, served with spicy fried pickles, and the fan-favorite crabmeat and crawfish bisque. The rib eye and filet are the top choices for steaks, but there's also a signature shrimp and grits made with local stone-ground grits, and Red Wattle hog pork chops, which come from the Swaney family farm. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, snag one of the coveted seats near the fireplace and sip a mug of Swaney's Famous Homemade Eggnog, crafted from a centuries-old family recipe.

Illinois: Lawry's The Prime Rib

Since Lawry's The Prime Rib opened in 1974, it has earned a reputation as one of Chicago's great steakhouses. It's also housed in one of the city's greatest landmarks &mdash before it was a restaurant, the stately four-story Italian Renaissance building first served as the McCormick Mansion (society maven Constance McCormick is said to haunt the building), then as 1940s fine-dining restaurant The Kungsholm, and finally as the Kungsholm Puppet Theater (if you're lucky enough to snag a tour of the rarely seen second level, you'll see original puppets and a miniature opera workshop). On the main floor, under glittering chandeliers and arched ceilings, Master Carvers wearing towering hats steal the show. As the name implies, Lawry's The Prime Rib is the place in Chicago for prime rib. Each standing rib roast is carefully selected, aged for 25 days and roasted on a bed of rock salt till supremely tender. Master Carvers &mdash who undergo six months of training and wear a medallion to signify their status &mdash slice the locally famous prime rib tableside from massive, gleaming silver carts, which also include accompaniments such as gravy, au jus, mashed potatoes, creamed corn and creamed spinach (be sure to order a Yorkshire pudding to sop up the steak juices). Keep the show going with Lawry's signature Meat & Potato martini, crafted with Chopin potato vodka, shaken and poured tableside, and garnished with olives stuffed with horseradish and prime rib.

Oregon: Urban Farmer

With a restored-farmhouse aesthetic, an eclectic mix of artwork lining the walls and with pantry shelves filled with housemade preserves and pickles on display, Urban Farmer is the definition of rural chic. Executive Chef Matt Christianson embodies the restaurant's name: He sources produce, herbs and honey from its own rooftop garden, hydroponic and aquaponic gardens, and apiary works with local farms, ranches and fisheries and, in true Portland style, forages shiitake and maitake mushrooms from the custom mushroom cabinet in the dining room, which was built by local woodworker Buck Ferro. The mushrooms find their way into a side dish, supplemented with roasted seasonal wild mushrooms such as chanterelles and matsutakes in the fall, black trumpets in the winter and morels in the spring. Beef is just as carefully sourced, with many cuts coming from Oregon farms, such as grass-fed rib eye and tenderloin from Carman Ranch. For a regional twist, opt to finish your steak with Oregon-coast-grown wasabi and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Massachusetts: Smith & Wollensky

Since its founding in New York City in 1977, Smith & Wollensky has sourced its prime steaks from a single source, Double R Ranch and Snake River Farms in the Pacific Northwest, aging them for 28 days and preparing them simply with salt, pepper and fire. Since then, the now-Massachusetts-headquartered company has expanded to multiple locations nationwide, with a menu of signature steaks including a coffee-and-cocoa-rubbed filet seasoned with a Spanish mole-inspired dry rub and paired with ancho chile butter, and a lobster Oscar-style New York strip, an over-the-top surf and turf with poached lobster and hollandaise sauce. It's always a good choice to double down on lobster, particularly if you're dining at the waterfront Boston Atlantic Wharf location. Don't miss the lobster-in-every-bite mac and cheese, in which lobster is tossed in lobster butter, folded with noodles and a three-cheese sauce, and finished with more lobster butter. Save room for the legendary coconut cake, which features layers of coconut sponge cake, coconut mousse and Malibu rum simple syrup, finished with fresh coconut, a coconut tuile cookie, and a drizzle of passion fruit-caramel sauce. It might sound like coconut overload, but it's been known to known to win over even the most coconut-averse.

Colorado: Steakhouse No. 316

Seeing a need for a steakhouse in Aspen, wife-and-husband team Samantha and Craig Cordts-Pearce reimagined their existing restaurant, Lulu Wilson, into what they describe as a super-swanky, film noir-esque steakhouse. Housed in a historic 1888 Victorian home left over from Aspen's mining days, the dimly lit space is outfitted with red tufted banquettes, a sweeping white Carrara marble bar, gilded mirrors and dark damask wallpaper. (The staff believe the old house is haunted by the spirit of Lulu Wilson, a woman who lived there in the early 1900s.) The menu focuses on prime cuts ranging from filets to New York strips to cowboy rib eyes, all served in a cast-iron skillet. Double down on the decadence and top your steak with one of their inventive sauces, such as sherry-mushroom ragout or blue cheese-bone marrow butter. Round out your order with the perennially popular Lulu's kale salad, scattered with currants and pine nuts, or the onion rings, stacked on an actual branding iron, along with creative sides such as miso-glazed haricots verts, sweet potato gratin and curried cauliflower. In late 2018, the pair opened an even grander second location, in a historic 1900s building in Boulder, outfitted with curved black and red banquettes and a wood-burning fireplace.

Nevada: SW Steakhouse

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? But it'd be hard not to brag about having dinner at SW Steakhouse at Wynn Las Vegas. The sleek and sophisticated space is echoed by a lavish menu, with luxe offerings like Russian caviar service a seafood tower featuring Maine lobster, king crab legs, jumbo shrimp, oysters and crab cocktail and a 4-ounce cut of Sanuki wagyu, which are raised on olives and come with a $220 price tag. Speaking of wagyu, the restaurant is one of only four restaurants in the U.S. that serve certified authentic Kobe beef (which come from wagyu cattle), prized for its marbling, juiciness and tenderness. It makes for an exceptionally rich and buttery steak, but if you really want to gild the lily, add on foie gras, Maine lobster or Alaskan king crab. Another steak winner is Executive Chef David Walzog's signature 42-ounce chile-rubbed double rib eye (which was featured on Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate), coated with ancho chile powder and ground cumin, and charred to perfection. You're practically guaranteed dinner and show here, too: The restaurant is situated on the stunning Lake of Dreams, a 40-foot waterfall whose 4,000 lights, holographics and music have made it into a must-see Vegas attraction.

California: Nick & Stef's Steakhouse

Nick & Stef's Steakhouse embodies the traditional steakhouse experience, but with a decidedly California-cool vibe. Snag a perch on the caramel leather window seating or at the walnut-top bar for a predinner old fashioned or a grapefruit margarita (pro tip: weekday happy hour runs from 2 to 7 p.m.) before moving into the coral-and-blue-accented dining room finished with glam touches of brushed brass. Meat is the star of the show here, as you can see from the dry-aging room that's visible from the dining room. The 28-day dry-aged steaks, grilled over oak and mesquite, include signatures such as the showstopping tomahawk rib chop, served tableside, and perennial favorites like rib eyes and New York strips. Can't make up your mind? Opt for the Cut & Whiskey tasting menu, which includes a flight of three steaks &mdash New York strip, American wagyu rib eye and the exceptionally buttery and juicy A5 Japanese wagyu &mdash paired with three whiskeys. Be sure to save room for sides (don't miss the orecchiette mac 'n' cheese and the Szechuan long beans) and salads, which play an important supporting role. Besides the fan-favorite tableside Caesar salad, Executive Chef Megan Logan taps into the bounty of Southern California's produce to create seasonal salads such as Little Gem with Pink Lady apples and shaved fennel, or toasted farro with roasted squash, goat cheese and pomegranate seeds.

Maryland: Voltaggio Brothers Steak House

Maryland natives Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, whose names you likely recognize from Bravo's Top Chef, collaborated on Voltaggio Brothers Steak House as their first joint venture. Despite its location inside the glitzy MGM National Harbor, the restaurant has a design that reflects the family ties with a homey ambiance, and although each room has a different look and feel &mdash a cozy living room, an elegant dining room &mdash each provides a glimpse into the kitchen. The menu exudes sophistication and the refined techniques the pair have honed over the years. To wit, the beautifully marbled 36-ounce Creekstone porterhouse is grilled over coals in a special oven, imbuing the meat with a smoky, complex flavor. The brothers draw inspiration from their home state with signatures such as the shareable 10-ounce jumbo lump crab cake served in a cast-iron skillet and finished with herbs and a housemade "beernaise" sauce. Chicken-Fried Sugar Toads, a fish from the Chesapeake, are fried and drizzled with pepper honey and served with bread-and-butter pickles. And in true Voltaggio brothers style, there are some playful takes on the classics, such as a shrimp cocktail with fermented radish, and oysters Rockefeller prepared with smoked shoyu.

Kansas: Scotch & Sirloin

Since its inception in 1968, Scotch & Sirloin, or The Scotch, as its original location was known by Wichita locals, has earned a reputation as the place for steaks. It still maintains its reputation for serving the best beef in the Midwest, but when the restaurant moved in 1997 it got a design overhaul, cementing its status as a modern steakhouse. Beneath a dramatic curved wooden ceiling, a wine cellar and wine wall filled with over 1,500 bottles of wine make for eye-popping dining room fixtures &mdash and a not-so-subtle nod to the restaurant's stellar wine program. All steaks are wet-aged (vacuum-sealed and refrigerated) for more than 30 days and cooked in a 1,600-degree broiler to ensure juicy steaks with a killer crust signature cuts include prime rib and a bone-in rib eye. If you're looking for date night inspiration, opt for the Dinner for Two special, which includes a four-course menu for $75.

New Hampshire: The Library Restaurant

The Library Restaurant, located in the historical Portsmouth landmark The Rockingham House, is a favorite among locals as well as Boston's North Shore denizens. The Library has earned a reputation for its steaks (the restaurant shares a meat purveyor with many of Boston's top steakhouses) as well as its polished-yet-cozy ambiance, created by decor featuring silver-lined French mirrors, dark wood tones and bookshelves filled with vintage books. Steaks are all cut according to the restaurant's specifications, including the flagship Gentleman's Cut sirloin, a beautifully marbled 16-ounce prime steak whose creamy fat cap imparts a buttery flavor as the steak cooks. Given the New England locale, you'll find local seafood such as New England clam chowder, lobster mac and cheese, and lobster pie, a riff on pot pie. The restaurant's lounge mirrors the warm, clubby feel with a pair of leather chairs flanking a cozy fireplace and a collection of more than 200 types of vodka behind the bar (it's owner Bruce Belanger's favorite spirit), 120 of which are in the bar's dedicated martini list. The restaurant has also won the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator several years running &mdash if you can, peek at the 1,000 bottles on display in the restaurant's private dining room.

South Carolina: Oak Steakhouse

Located in an 1800s bank building on Charleston's historic Broad Street, Oak Steakhouse exudes a stately charm with its arched windows, 20-foot ceilings, fireplaces and 150-year-old heart-pine floors. Despite its storied environs, Oak is firmly in the modern steakhouse category with Chef Jeremiah Bacon's menu of wet- and dry-aged certified Angus steaks and stepped-up sides paired with polished Southern hospitality. Start with the signature oysters Rockefeller or shrimp cocktail, prepared with locally sourced shrimp &mdash this is low country, after all. For an inspired surf-and-turf choice, try topping your filet or strip with additions like grilled shrimp or scallops. Round out your order with the fan-favorite lobster mac and cheese or truffle pommes frites as well as Southern classics like collard greens with lardons or roasted jalapeno cornbread. For a more casual vibe, drop in for happy hour at the downstairs bar, which has earned a loyal following among locals for bar snacks like fried-oyster-topped deviled eggs and crispy shrimp, and signature cocktails such as Curse of the Isle, a ruby red grapefruit moonshine-based tipple.

Michigan: Prime and Proper

Prime and Proper delivers on its name, and then some. Prime cuts of meat are butchered in-house by all-star butcher Walter Apfelbaum and proudly displayed in what he calls a "jewelry case of meats" in the glass-encased aging room, then expertly prepared over live fire on a custom-made, locally designed grill by Executive Chef Ryan Prentiss. The style of hospitality here is helping to redefine what proper service means, as reflected by the one-to-one server-to-table ratio. Servers are trained by Apfelbaum and Prentiss to help steer diners to the cut of meat that best suits their taste &mdash say, a heavily marbled chuck-in rib eye if someone prefers their steak well done. If you're lucky enough to be offered "butcher's butter," a prime, dry-aged, bone-in filet that Apfelbaum describes as "life-changing," don't hesitate. Not only the pristine cuts, but also the accessories, sauces and butters take steaks here to the next level: Think foie gras salt, shaved truffles, roasted garlic ash butter or proper steak sauce, a nod to Detroit's beloved Zip sauce, a glossy, beef-tomato-based sauce that's bolstered here with rendered dry-aged beef fat. Sides are equally indulgent, such as corn creme brulee pommes pave, a crispy, layered take on scalloped potatoes or ash-roasted potatoes with house-churned butter (you can also ask for the off-menu loaded baked potato here). And for the most-luxe happy hour ever, stop by the bar from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday for half off four different types of caviar service.

Pennsylvania: Butcher and Singer

Philadelphia-based Butcher and Singer pays homage to the glitz of fine dining in the 1940s, with low lighting, moody, dark wood tones, semicircle booths, white tablecloths &mdash and service to match. Iconic dishes such as escargots, shrimp and crab Louie, and baked Alaska hark back to the Golden Age, but Butcher and Singer's core menu is built around steaks and chops that reflect modern aging techniques. All steaks are prime grade and wet-aged, such as the signature 32-ounce porterhouse for two. Round out your order with signature sides such as hash browns stuffed with creamy potatoes, sour cream and Vidalia onions, or maple bourbon bacon, a thick slice of slow-cooked, maple-glazed bacon whose woody, smoky flavor is enhanced by aging on barrels that once stored the restaurant's barrel-aged Manhattan. Wash it down with that cocktail or a martini served tableside, or a bottle of wine from the extensive collection stored in what was originally the building's vault when it was home to the Butcher and Singer Brokerage Firm.

Virginia: Hondos

If you're after a classic chophouse experience in Richmond, you can't do better than Hondos. The polished dining room is done up in shades of mahogany and gold-upholstered booths, which line the wall that doubles as equal parts wine storage and decor. Signature steaks include the namesake Steak Hondo, a take on steak Oscar where filet mignon is paired with grilled marinated portobello mushroom, jumbo lump crabmeat, asparagus and hollandaise a peppercorn-crusted New York strip with a brandy-and-green-peppercorn cream sauce and a rarely seen bone-in filet mignon, served with fresh horseradish. There's an equally impressive seafood menu, with standouts including the fan-favorite jumbo shrimp in a garlic beurre blanc jumbo lump Chesapeake Bay crab cakes and a pair of buttery-sweet South African rock lobster tails. For a steak steal, dine on Sunday or Monday night and select the $32.95 three-course dinner, which comes with soup or salad, a petite lobster tail and tenderloin medallions, and dessert.

Rhode Island: 22 Bowen's

22 Bowen's is the rare steakhouse that manages to be many things to many different people. It occupies an 18th-century commercial wharf building in Newport, so you're just as likely to see suit-clad diners feasting on a five-course meal in one of the main dining rooms as you are to glimpse swim-trunk-clad tourists grabbing a beer and a burger on the patio. If you're opting for a steak dinner, you can order typical prime and dry-aged cuts a la carte or take the guesswork out with the 22B Filet Mignon. Its description reads like an ode to the steakhouse, with pommes puree, haricots verts, mushroom bordelaise and whipped blue cheese. Given the restaurant's waterside locale, it's no surprise that there's an excellent selection of New England seafood, too. Start with the fan-favorite local calamari, fried and served with a kicky three-pepper relish or a chilled New England seafood sampler, which includes lobster, littleneck clams, oysters and shrimp. For the best of both worlds, opt for the Surf & Turf Burger: a wagyu beef patty topped with butter-poached lobster, housemade slaw and truffle aioli, all piled onto a brioche bun.

New York: Keens Steakhouse

Stepping into Keens Steakhouse is like stepping back in time &mdash the restaurant has been around since 1885, and its walls are adorned with rare images of old New York and famous local actors and politicians. Each room has a different decor that relates to old New York or Americana the Main Bar, for instance, has a typical saloon girl painting from the late 1800s and images of parties that took place here from the early 1900s, including a fete with the 1908 American Olympic team. From the late 1800s until the late 1970s, Keens was also a pipe club for members &mdash famous New Yorkers who kept their pipes here include the likes of Theodore Roosevelt (the Bull Moose Room is named for him and his party), John Barrymore and Babe Ruth &mdash so you'll see hundreds of old-fashioned smoking pipes lining the ceiling in the upstairs dining room. You can feast on history all day here, but this is a steakhouse, after all. Steaks are aged for 21 days, and the porterhouse, New York sirloin and King's Cut prime rib (which clocks in at 32 ounces) are all perennially popular picks. But Keens most-famous dish is arguably the mutton chop, a saddle cut from a lamb that is older than a spring lamb, which gives it a stronger, gamier flavor.

Alaska: Club Paris

Club Paris may seem like a strange name for an Alaskan steakhouse, but the veteran who opened the restaurant in Anchorage in 1957 was so taken by Parisian sidewalk-cafe culture that he couldn't help but use it as his inspiration &mdash complete with a bistro awning, green shrubs and a brasserie-style bar in the front of the restaurant, and baked escargots on the menu. Since then, three generations of the Selman family have run the place, along with the dedicated butcher, chef and broiler man who have each been with the restaurant for more than three decades. The restaurant has earned a loyal following for signature steaks such as the 14-ounce, 4-inch-thick filet mignon, as well as fresh Alaskan seafood such as poached halibut, scallops or king crab legs served with drawn butter and lemon. Can't decide? Opt for the king crab legs and petite filet, a surf-and-turf match made in heaven. If you stop in for lunch, don't miss the burger, featuring a filet mignon blend patty that's ground in-house daily.

Arizona: Durant's

Durant's was established in 1950 by Jack Durant and Jack McElroy, whose initial aim was to purchase the Central Avenue adobe building that had previously housed a small roadhouse bar, rehab it, and flip it for a profit. They found the process of revamping and creating a restaurant so much fun that they decided to take a cross-country road trip to get inspiration for ways to make the place their own &mdash and landed on a steakhouse concept. Today Durant's, with its red leather booths, flocked red wallpaper and high-end service, is not only Phoenix's original steakhouse but also a local institution. Durant's is particularly beloved among businesspeople and reputed to be the lucky place to close a deal, but it has hosted diners from all walks of life, including generations of Phoenix families, politicians, presidential candidates and even high school promgoers. Perhaps its most-famous customers are Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, who shared many late-night dinners in booth 23 in the bar (one of the most-requested seats). The steaks are just as legendary, with signature cuts including filets, rib eyes, prime rib and a 48-ounce porterhouse. Polish one off by yourself and you'll become a member of the Porterhouse Club and have your name added to a plaque inscribed with over 250 other names. Durant's fame even transcends state lines &mdash because of its longevity and popularity, the restaurant and its owners have appeared in several books, including Mabel Leo's The Saga of Jack Durant, which served as the inspiration for the movie Durant's Never Closes, starring Tom Sizemore.

Oklahoma: Cattlemen's Steakhouse

Stockyard City is home to Oklahoma National Stockyards, the largest feeder and stocker cattle market in the world since 1910. Cattlemen's Steakhouse was started to feed the cattle hands and packing-plant workers and has since become an iconic gathering place for generations of farmers and ranchers. The restaurant has two distinct looks: The original building is fashioned like a diner, with two long counters and red vinyl booths, while the steakhouse side has two dining rooms, The Hereford and The Angus, each adorned with full-length, backlit photo murals of grazing cattle. Given its storied pedigree, it's no surprise that Cattlemen's has close relationships with local ranchers, who supply the beef to the restaurant. Steaks are wet-aged for 21 to 60 days, including a 20-ounce "Presidential T-Bone," named after the late President George H.W. Bush (there's also a President Bush booth named in his honor). Beyond the beef, the most-popular dish on the menu is the lamb fries &mdash thinly sliced, breaded and fried lamb testicles. Unable to find a buyer for cattle or lamb testicles, the packing houses used to give them to the restaurant for free with their meat orders, but the dish has become so popular that the restaurant has to source 15,000 pounds per year from Iceland. Wash 'em down with a Double Deuce, a mild, refreshing wheat beer brewed by local microbrewery Choc Beer Co.

Kentucky: Le Moo

Owner Kevin Grangier says that when he created Louisville steakhouse Le Moo, he wanted the experience to be refined but laid-back. The whimsical name gives the place an air of approachability, while the baroque touches, from the French antiques to the rich velvets to the crystal chandeliers, give the place a dose of refinement. But that doesn't mean Grangier doesn't take his steak seriously. He did a cross-country tasting to find the best cuts, and attended two steak schools to learn about the different cuts and breeds. Order a steak flight &mdash 4 ounces each of prime, choice and wagyu &mdash and you'll get your own lesson explaining the different cuts. The prime jewel of the steak menu is the Japanese Miyazaki wagyu, considered the finest steak in the world and winner of the wagyu Olympics in Japan (yes, it's a thing). If you order it here, it arrives with a certificate of authenticity complete with the cow's nose prints. The sides and desserts get just as much thought, and several were inspired by Kevin's grandma's recipes, such as the lima beans sauteed with bacon and cream, and the pecan pie cheesecake finished with caramel sauce and candied pecans. On the libations front, the bar is stocked with 130 Kentucky bourbons put together a tasting flight, or try one in the signature Moohattan, a riff on the whiskey-vermouth tipple, garnished with housemade candied cherries.

Connecticut: Washington Prime

When Rob Moss opened Washington Prime in South Norwalk in 2013, he didn't want it to be what he calls "your grandpa's steakhouse." So instead of dark wood walls and white tablecloths, Moss chose to give the restaurant an industrial-chic feel, with iron beams along the ceiling (a nod to the building's prior life as an iron factory), floor-to-ceiling windows, Edison bulb lighting and a garden trellis over the bar. The fun, high-energy vibe is echoed by pop art paintings on the wall and a '70s, '80s and '90s mashup soundtrack. To start, don't miss the truffle tartare, in which hand-diced rib eye is folded with fresh black truffles and a Parmesan cream sauce and topped with a raw quail egg. Steaks, such as the signature 40-ounce porterhouse for two, are wet-aged (vacuum-sealed and refrigerated) for at least 21 days, then seasoned with salt, pepper and smoked clarified butter, and cooked beneath custom-designed, ultrahot broilers that give the steaks an exceptional crust. Looking to give your steak the luxe treatment? Add a lobster tail or rosemary bone marrow. In warmer temps, snag a seat on the patio overlooking the water. It's a keen reminder of the state's proximity to fresh New England seafood, like the Copps Island oysters that Moss' friend and Norwalk native Norm Bloom delivers fresh off the boat daily.

Delaware: Walter's Steakhouse

John Constantinou got bit by the hospitality bug early on, growing up working in his dad's Wilmington restaurant. After he finished college, he found a location of his own and in 1993 opened Walter's Steakhouse in Wilmington. He modeled the concept after a classic New York City-style steakhouse, with dark tones and an intimate atmosphere that harks back to an era when you could hear yourself speak in a restaurant, with low ceilings and padded tables and carpet. The prime rib is the specialty here, slow-roasted overnight in a special, dedicated oven that's designed to lock in juices, yielding a supremely tender texture and concentrated flavor. Constantinou's old-school approach is also reflected in the menu: Every steak comes with a garden salad and choice of potato, such as scalloped, twice-baked or sweet potatoes. For a taste of the region, order one of the dishes featuring delicate, briny-sweet blue crab, such as crab cakes or crab imperial, in which jumbo lump crab is folded in a rich, creamy sauce and baked. Save room for classic desserts like bananas Foster, or apple pie served a la mode with cinnamon ice cream and a bourbon glaze.

Louisiana: Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse

Family-owned New Orleans restaurant Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse has been serving steak in the French Quarter since 1998, and it's rightfully earned its reputation as a classic New Orleans steakhouse. All steaks are seasoned with a housemade Creole blend and given the proper cooking treatment &mdash chops are grilled, strips are seared, prime rib is oven-roasted, and filets are broiled. Many are finished with local Gulf seafood, such as the house filet with fried oysters and creamed spinach or the barbecue rib eye paired with New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp. The attention to detail is reflected in the grand hospitality that the Big Easy is known for, with attentive, seamless service and a tableside martini cart. Choose from five luxe combinations, such as the truffle martini garnished with cured and dry-aged Louisiana wagyu, or the Politician, a dirty martini garnished with blue-cheese-stuffed olives. If you're dining here around Mardi Gras time, don't miss pastry chef Katie Anderson's riff on the traditional king cake.

Minnesota: Lindey's Prime Steak House

Though it's located just 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis, Lindey's Prime Steak House feels like it's in another world. Lewis Walter Lindemer, aka "Lindey," started the concept in 1958, selling his steaks at The Rathskeeler before establishing his own restaurant in 1961. He took over a 1920s building whose rustic charm is echoed by the cozy log walls and stone fireplace that evoke the feel of a cabin in Northern Minnesota. It's not far off back in the day, many city dwellers would stop at Lindey's on their way to weekend retreats at their cabins. Generations of Minnesotans still frequent the Arden Hills restaurant, where Lindey's son Mark, and his wife, Tracy Lindemer, are maintaining the easy elegance and pared-back menu for which Lindey's is known. There are four entrees: Lindey's special sirloin (the most popular), Lindey's prime sirloin, Lindey's prime chopped sirloin, and broiled shrimp. Steak dinners are wheeled out on a stainless-steel cart, sliced tableside and served with family-style portions of potatoes, salad and bread. Generations of Minnesotans come to Lindey's to celebrate everything from first dates to weddings to birthdays &mdash in fact, tens of thousands of diners have joined Lindey's Birthday Club, which sends diners a $25 Lindey's gift card in advance of their birthday. Birthday or not, save room for a slice of cheesecake from local bakery Muddy Paws.

Ohio: Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse

Restaurateur Jeff Ruby once said, "People don't come here because they're hungry. They can go to the refrigerator for that. Our guests come here to celebrate life." That mantra has pervaded Ruby's namesake steakhouse, which counts locations in both Columbus and Cincinnati (as well as three in Kentucky and Tennessee), with a high-end experience that combines prime steaks, seafood and sushi, live nightly entertainment and impeccable service. The art deco design mirrors that refined sensibility, with a 30-foot-long original Rothschild & Sons hand-carved bar, Swarovski crystal chandeliers and an eclectic mix of antiques from Ruby's personal collection. Prime cuts include a 30-ounce, 55-day dry-aged tomahawk rib eye, and a 20-ounce, 65-day dry-aged bone-in New York strip, but the signature is the Steak Collinsworth (named for early Jeff Ruby investor and Emmy-winning sportscaster Cris Collinsworth), an 8-ounce filet mignon topped with Alaskan king crab and asparagus, finished with a duo of bearnaise and bordelaise sauces.

Florida: Prime 112

In a city known for its glitz and glamour, Prime 112 is a sparkling fixture in Miami's posh South of Fifth neighborhood. The steakhouse echoes its luxe environs with wood floors, exposed-brick columns and champagne leather-upholstered chairs. On those sultry Miami nights, you'll want to snag a seat on the sweeping outdoor terrace overlooking Ocean Drive Avenue, prime real estate for people-watching and celebrity sightings (the restaurant is notoriously popular among A-listers like Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez and Lebron James). The menu boasts classic prime steaks such as rib eyes, filet mignon and a porterhouse for two, as well as sought-after specialties such as wagyu, which is also featured in a classic tartare preparation, and Japanese A5 Kobe (go all out with the $230 rib eye). Steaks are a draw, but don't miss local seafood such as the blackened swordfish paired with papaya salsa, and (when they're in season) stone crab claws, steamed and served chilled with homemade Dijon mayonnaise. Stepped-up sides such as creamed corn with black truffles, truffle lobster mac and cheese, and Kobe beef and sausage stuffing round out the menu.

North Dakota: Cork' N Cleaver

Cork' N Cleaver opened in Fargo in the winter of 1970 with a simple menu of four steaks, a baked potato and a salad bar, and a reputation for friendly service. The casual, friendly vibe has remained a constant, though the menu has since expanded to include seafood such as Alaskan king crab and walleye pike, a regional favorite, and steaks such as prime rib and the signature Cork's Pride, a 14-ounce center cut taken from the tip of the sirloin swirl that plumps up when grilled (pictured above). Steaks come with several sides, including a baked local Red River Valley red potato, a variety prized for its buttery, creamy texture. Though wine isn't typically associated with North Dakota, it's central to the Cork's identity. Members of the UnCork Club meet for weekly wine tastings, and the grapevines around the restaurant's building and patio are harvested seasonally to make a limited bottling of a Cabernet-Merlot blend. Pro tip: If you're dining here during one of North Dakota's notoriously cold winters, snag a seat by one of three fireplaces.

New Jersey: The River Palm Terrace

Located just across the river from New York City, The River Palm Terrace in Edgewater didn't have to look far for inspiration to create a grand New York-style steakhouse. Since it opened its doors in 1983, the New Jersey restaurant has attracted a loyal following among locals and celebrities alike, and photos of notable A-listers who have dined here line the wall, including Martin Scorsese, Ice-T, Coco, Geraldo Rivera and Mary J. Blige. If you manage to score a reservation &mdash the restaurant estimates that it turns down 500 reservation requests most Saturday nights &mdash you can almost always count on seeing a celebrity (hint: they've likely snagged one of the coveted leather booths in the Palm Room). All steaks are dry-aged and butchered on-site, including the popular Porterhouse for Two, but there's lots more to love here, including the fresh homemade mozzarella, wasabi-sesame crusted tuna, Colorado rack of lamb and stellar sushi. The restaurant also boasts a top-notch wine program and list &mdash it's heavy on the Cabernet Sauvignon, but if you're looking for something different, one of sommelier Joe Iurato's favorites is the 2013 Zuccardi Aluvional "La Consulta" Malbec from Uco Valley, Argentina, paired with a prime New York shell steak.

Georgia: Hal's "The Steakhouse"

Hal's is a Buckhead institution that has been part of Atlanta's dining scene for nearly three decades. It's a classic steakhouse by design, with wood tones and exemplary service, but it boasts a high-energy vibe thanks to nightly live music and a clientele that spans many walks of life, including politicians, business executives, sports stars and movie stars &mdash lately, since many films are shot in Atlanta, film stars such as Jamie Foxx and Robert De Niro have been known to make repeat cameos. Besides earning a reputation around town as a place to see and be seen, Hal's is known for serving the best steak in town, including signature cuts such as a 12-ounce filet mignon and a 20-ounce rib eye, both finished with butter sauce. The restaurant's namesake owner originally hails from New Orleans, so there's a sprinkling of Big Easy-inspired dishes such as shrimp remoulade finished with a Creole sauce, crawfish tails and gumbo. Wash it all down with a signature 10-ounce martini or a bottle from their 700-plus-label wine list.

Indiana: St. Elmo Steak House

When St. Elmo Steak House was founded in 1902, the restaurant was a small tavern anchored by a tiger-oak back bar from Chicago. Over the last century, it has cemented its status as an Indianapolis landmark &mdash it's said that if those walls could talk, they'd spill the stories of businesspeople sealing deals, politicians strategizing and plotting, and coaches and players commiserating over their losses or basking in their wins. Though the space got a facelift in the 1990s, the classic turn-of-the-century Chicago saloon vibe is still present throughout, as is the classic steakhouse experience. Nearly every dinner here begins with the famous St. Elmo shrimp cocktail, four jumbo shrimp paired with a signature spicy cocktail sauce. All steaks are 100 percent USDA Black Angus, sourced from small family farms throughout the Midwest. You can't go wrong with any of them, but the 20-ounce, bone-in cowboy rib eye (pictured) is a showstopper with beautiful marbling and a buttery, rich flavor. Pair it with made-from-scratch sides such as onion rings or creamed corn. Wash it all down with a bottle of wine from the award-winning cellar (tables next to the basement cellar are also among the most coveted) or a single-barrel bourbon, part of one of the largest privately selected selections in the country.

Washington: The Butcher's Table

The Butcher's Table, located in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood, lives up to its name with a retail butcher counter and a best-in-class steak program featuring exclusively Mishima Reserve American wagyu, a richly marbled breed. The main dining room's interior is equally rich, with sweeping windows, dark mahogany tones and a swanky, cascading glass chandelier. (If you're looking for a quieter nook, ask for a table downstairs near the fireplace, or find a spot at the cozy subterranean bar.) From the steak menu, choose your cut and then your grade, say a 5-star center cut rib eye or an ultra filet mignon, or do a taste test by opting for the tasting flight. The menu is rounded out with local seafood, like Seattle's take on surf and turf, a filet mignon topped with Penn Cove mussels (pictured above), as well as seasonal vegetable dishes, many of which are inspired by produce from owner Kurt Beecher Dammeier's garden. He's also the founder of Beecher's Handmade Cheese, so sides such as the twice-baked potato and hen of the woods mushrooms come with the signature nutty Flagship and four-year Flagship cheeses, respectively. Perhaps the only side that could rival anything paired with Beecher's cheese is the beef-fat fries &mdash mashed potatoes that are shredded, baked and double-fried in beef fat, to crisp-fluffy effect.

Hawaii: Buzz's Original Steakhouse

Buzz's Original Steakhouse has earned its reputation as a local institution, as the Schneider family-owned business has operated restaurants in Hawaii since 1962 and Buzz's is the oldest steakhouse in Hawaii. It exudes aloha hospitality, with a beachside locale and friendly neighborhood vibes to match. Locals and tourists alike angle for a spot on the lanai, especially the "presidents' table," where both Clinton and Obama have dined. The prime real estate is just the spot for tiki-style cocktails (try the Mai Tai) and pupus, or appetizers, including the locally famous calamari, lightly breaded in panko and pan-fried in butter, or the artichoke surprise, a steamed artichoke finished with whipped garlic butter and a dusting of Parmesan. Steaks and seafood share equal billing: Steaks are cooked on a wood-fired grill stacked with native kiawe wood, which imbues the meat with a sweet-smoky kiss of flavor, and there are three fresh catches featured nightly. There's also a locally inspired salad bar featuring fresh avocado, homemade sweet pickled onions and namasu, Japanese-style pickled carrots and daikon, which pairs nicely with the house's signature ginger-garlic teriyaki-marinated steak. Looking for a souvenir? If you were admiring the lunar calendars papering the walls &mdash 25 years' worth &mdash you can purchase the current year's calendar, featuring local artists' works, and proceeds will benefit the Hawaii Food Bank.

Nebraska: Ole's Big Game Steakhouse

Just after midnight on August 9, 1933, when Prohibition was lifted in Nebraska, Rosser "Ole" Herstedt opened a tavern in Paxton. Eventually it became Ole's Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge, named for the more than 200 trophy mounts that hang over the bar tables and booths, which Ole brought back from his big-game hunting expeditions around the world. These include a polar bear, which greets you at the door a moose from Canada a black bear from Alaska a red fox from England and even a python from Honduras. And though its larger-than-life presence has been around for over 85 years, it still maintains its mom-and-pop charm. The walls are adorned with old photos of locals and memorabilia from the '40s and '50s, and the vibe is decidedly unfussy. Start with house specialties such as chicken gizzards paired with ranch, or Rocky Mountain oysters, lightly breaded and fried. Then move on to one of the classic steak cuts &mdash Nebraska beef is ordered locally from a third-generation butcher at nearby Hehnke's Grocery &mdash say, an 8-ounce sirloin with jumbo shrimp (pictured) or a T-bone to share. If you're looking to take a walk on the wild side, opt for the buffalo burger or one of the elk specials.

Alabama: George's Steak Pit

Though small in size, the town of Sheffield is big in history &mdash it's home to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, where Cher recorded her debut solo album and the Rolling Stones recorded songs like "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses," and in 1815 it was where General Andrew Jackson and his troops crossed the Tennessee River (the exact crossing site is still called Jackson Hollow today). So, it should come as no surprise that the town's steakhouse is just as storied. George's Steak Pit was opened by current owner Frank Vafinis' parents in 1956 as an upscale steakhouse and quickly earned a reputation for its polished ambiance &mdash think white linen tablecloths, fresh flowers, fine china &mdash and hand-cut steaks, all cooked over an open pit. Whether you order the signature 22-ounce bone-in rib eye, the filet or the ahi tuna, all are imbued with an unmistakable kiss of hickory smoke and a killer sear. Salad gets second billing at most steakhouses, but don't miss it here, if only for the chance to try the housemade blue cheese dressing, which has been made according to the original recipe for over 60 years.

North Carolina: Angus Barn

Owner Van Eure's dad, Thad Eure Jr., and his friend Charles Winston, both fresh out of the U.S. Air Force, felt that Raleigh needed a steakhouse, so they decided to open one &mdash despite neither of them having any restaurant experience. They knew they wanted to serve the best beef, Angus, and decided a barn &mdash in name and design &mdash would embody the rustic-yet-refined atmosphere they sought. Since they opened Angus Barn in 1960, it's become a Raleigh mainstay, serving nearly 20,000 aged and grilled steaks every month, including the perennially popular filet the rib eye (the favorite of Executive Chef (and Iron Chef America winner) Walter Royal and a recent addition, a 42-ounce tomahawk. But the Southern hospitality starts before you even order: Whether you're waiting in the lounge or just sitting down, you'll be offered homemade crackers and crocks of cheddar and blue cheeses made from a proprietary family farm in Wisconsin it's a dish that's become as much of a signature here as the steaks. Angus Barn has garnered national praise, too, winning the Wine Spectator Grand Award every year since 1989, in recognition of its extensive wine program and impeccably trained sommeliers. If you're lucky enough to dine here during the holiday season, you'll be sent home with a gingerbread cookie (baked locally by Neomonde Baking Company) and treated to a dazzling display of Christmas decorations and lights.

New Mexico: Rio Chama

In the Barrio de Analco Historic District, not far from the state capitol, you'll find one of Santa Fe's most-beloved restaurants and bars. The steakhouse has earned a loyal following among locals and tourists alike for the best prime rib, burgers and fondue in town. True to Santa Fe's reputation as an arts hub, each room in the restaurant showcases rare collections of art: the private-dining Abiquiu Room displays a photography collection by Georgia O'Keeffe, the President's Room boasts a collection of 1800s Native American blankets, and Western artist Edward Borein's drawings can be seen throughout the restaurant. The signature prime rib is practically a work of art on its own, a beef rib-eye roast that's brined with herbs and spices for 48 hours, grilled whole over an open flame and then slow-roasted to juicy perfection. There's plenty of regional influence peppered throughout the menu, including Chama Chili, a beef, red chile and pinto bean chili Quinoa Relleno, a roasted chile stuffed with quinoa, vegetables and local asadero (a firm, white Mexican cheese) and a side of green-chile mac and cheese. For a casual meal, pair the fan-favorite buffalo burger &mdash topped with bacon, cheddar and green chiles &mdash with local suds from Marble Brewery.

Wyoming: Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse

Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse, located beneath the legendary Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, is a Jackson Hole institution. The storied charm and Western vibes are a mainstay, but when Chef Paulie O'Connor took over in 2015, he imbued the menu with a modern, luxe touch. For an elevated apres-ski nosh, opt for the beer-and-bone marrow fondue with sourdough rye pretzels for dipping, or the wagyu beef tartare topped with a smoked egg. Steaks feature prime, dry-aged cuts such as a 9-ounce filet or an 18-ounce rib eye, but if you've got cash to spare, ask about the John Wayne & Friends to hear about the butcher's cut of the night, ranging from a 40-ounce dry-aged porterhouse to a 64-ounce cowboy tomahawk steak. This is also a great spot to try wild game, such as an elk T-bone or bison rib eye. Rib-sticking sides befitting a mountain town's appetite include lard-fried french fries, bacon-fat grits paired with 10-year aged cheddar and bacon kung pao Brussels sprouts. Don't miss the hidden happy hour from 8 to 9 p.m. nightly for half off the bar menu (try the crispy pork belly-topped mac) and dinner apps like short-rib nachos, plus half off well cocktails and wines by the glass.

Tennessee: Lonesome Dove Western Bistro

Chef Tim Love opened the original Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2000, where he earned a following for his bold takes on classics and an abundance of wild-game offerings. In 2016, he opened his third location, in Knoxville, home to his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, in the town's Old City neighborhood. The signature dishes are all here, such as the wagyu tomahawk rib eye, rabbit-rattlesnake sausage, and elk loin with candied blackberries, but there are location-specific specialties, too, such as the chorizo-and-sweet-potato-stuffed local trout, and crispy chicken thighs with grilled lemon jus, scalloped potato and fried olives (which proved so popular that Love added it to his Fort Worth and Austin locations' menus, too). The urban Western vibe is echoed in the decor &mdash the building used to house the old Patrick Sullivan's Saloon and is outfitted with real leather hides, restored original hardwood floors and four working, restored fireplaces. For a glimpse of the wood-fired cooking action, snag a seat at the chef's counter opposite the open kitchen, or for a more casual vibe, sidle up to the penny-top bar for a jalapeno cucumber margarita. (Pro tip: Upgrade your tequila to Love's limited Herradura Double Barrel Reposado.)

Texas: Killen's Steakhouse

As Killen's Steakhouse co-owner Deanna Killen says, "As a steakhouse in Texas, you can't throw a rock without hitting another steakhouse." Prime cuts of beef and polished service are de rigueur, but when she and her then-husband, Executive Chef Ronnie Killen, opened this place, they wanted to demystify the fine-dining experience by creating a steakhouse that delivered not only a top-notch menu and service, but an approachable, relaxed environment as well. In doing so, they put Pearland, a town south of Houston, on the map as a dining destination. Everything really is bigger in Texas looking past the floor-to-ceiling wine tower in the cavernous dining room, you can see all the way back into the open kitchen (for an especially good view of the kitchen, ask for the slightly elevated table 80). The steak menu is divided into wet-aged, dry-aged and wagyu, which includes the signature, locally sourced 48-ounce Marble Ranch Longbone. Can't make up your mind? Opt for the New York strip steak flight, which includes 4 ounces each of RC Ranch wagyu, Marble Ranch wagyu, Cabassi Australian wagyu and Japanese A5 wagyu. For a regional twist, don't miss the locally famous chicken-fried rib eye, a prime ribeye that's double-dredged in seasoned breadcrumbs and buttermilk, fried in pork-fat-laced oil and smothered in a creamy, peppery gravy (it's so popular you'll find a version at Killen's Barbecue and the more-casual Killen's STQ).

Vermont: Fire & Ice

Fire & Ice opened in 1974, starting as a small rock-and-roll bar before evolving over the decades into a steak and seafood restaurant with a locally famous salad bar. The decor is equally renowned, and the building could double as a local history, nautical and sports museum. Fishing and boating are family traditions for Paris Rinder-Goddard and his parents, who founded the restaurant &mdash it's hard to miss the 1921 Hacker-Craft speedboat that's the centerpiece of the "salad ballroom," and you'll notice fly rods, canoes, mounted fish and paddles hanging on the walls alongside antique wooden skis, snowshoes and nearly a thousand black-and-white family photos (some contributed by diners). The steak menu features typical cuts such as sirloin, rib eye and filet mignon, but the restaurant has gained a loyal following for its prime rib and steak Rockport, a butterflied filet that's stuffed with lobster meat and finished with hollandaise. Wash it all down with craft suds from Fiddlehead Brewing Company or Frost Beer Works.

West Virginia: The Wonder Bar Steakhouse

The Wonder Bar was opened in 1946 by John Folio, a retired boxer, and his wife, Betty, who got the inspiration for a steakhouse during a trip to Las Vegas in the early '40s. By the late '60s, the restaurant had earned a reputation for having the best steaks around, Big Band-style live music and Italian classics such as homemade meatballs, lasagna and veal Parmesan (a nod to the Folios' heritage). The iconic red carpeted walls, Frank Sinatra-esque music and all the original menu items remain, though current owner Daniel Watts has added an outside dining patio and a lower patio with a fire pit that boast a sweeping view of Clarksburg (dubbed the Champagne City by locals who have seen the city at night from this vantage point). He's also added modern steakhouse classics, such as a seafood tower and crab cakes, and implemented a dry-aging program. All the steaks, ranging from a 20-ounce bone-in rib eye to a 16-ounce center-cut New York strip, are aged a minimum of 28 days, then char-grilled and finished with butter and special seasoning. The wine list has also grown from 10 wines to 200, including the sought-after House Red, a proprietary blend that's bottled in-house. It's just the thing to sip by the fire as you take in views of the Champagne City.

Wisconsin: Five O'Clock Steakhouse

Wisconsin is considered to be the birthplace of "supper club" dining, and Five O'Clock Steakhouse, Milwaukee's longest-running steakhouse, pays homage to those traditions with the style of service it's offered since 1946: Servers take orders while diners are having a drink at the bar (don't miss the signature Brandy Old Fashioned, considered the state's unofficial drink), and when diners sit down, the table is set with a family-style salad a relish tray with olives, onions, pickles, carrots and peppers salad dressings and warm sourdough bread and a honey bear. All steaks, including the signature 16-ounce center-cut filet mignon and the 21-ounce bone-in rib eye, are basted with a signature, top-secret char sauce and finished au jus. The old-school North Woods supper club vibes are echoed in the decor &mdash the restaurant sits in a historic early 1900s building with a hand-cut limestone facade, there's dark wood paneling throughout, and the Christmas lights and decorations are a year-round fixture. Rumor has it that throughout the '50s and '60s the restaurant's Alley Cat Lounge was an underground gambling parlor where people would sneak in through the rear alley entrance these days, though, you're more likely to catch a live show here than a gangster.

South Dakota: Dakotah Steakhouse

Nestled in the Black Hills, Dakotah Steakhouse embodies Western sensibilities in a building outfitted with tree-bark siding and a locally commissioned buffalo sculpture out front, and paintings of cowboys and Native American chiefs lining the walls inside. The menu features a roster of locally sourced steaks that are cut and aged in-house, like the can't-miss, Flintstone-esque Cowboy Bone-in Rib Eye. There are plenty of local specialties, too, starting with housemade fry bread &mdash a simple dough fried like flatbread &mdash which is served with bourbon honey butter during bread service, and houses the Dakotah Burger, which features an 8-ounce ground steak patty. For a taste of the region, opt for the tender, braised whole buffalo rib, paired with a zesty barbecue sauce pheasant poppers, fried beer-battered jalapenos filled with cream cheese and pheasant or chislic, sirloin that's skewered, dry-rubbed and fried, served with a housemade creamy cilantro-lime sauce.

Iowa: The Iowa Chop House

Situated in the historic district of downtown Iowa City, The Iowa Chop House exudes a farmhouse-chic vibe that befits its heartland locale. The decor is equal parts modern and rustic, with hardwood floors, photos of pastoral farm scenes, and tabletops fashioned from reclaimed barn wood from the Seelman Farm, a local farm that's been around since 1838 (and whose grazing cows are the ones pictured on the wall). The menu reflects a farm-to-fork ethos: Beef is sourced from local farms or in partnership with the Iowa Cattlemen's Association cheese curds, a regional delicacy and popular appetizer, come from Amana (here they're fried and served with homemade ranch dressing) and seasonal vegetables are sourced from local farms or grown at the Chop House's own Ernie Found Farm in Iowa City (don't miss the sweet-corn succotash). And while beef is arguably the star of the show, there's also a fan-favorite pork chop that gets equal billing alongside the signature steaks, and a perennially popular starter is the bacon board, in which double-cut bacon is tossed and baked in a pepper maple glaze. The farmhouse vibes extend to the drink offerings, too. It's hard not to notice the Beer Barn, a reclaimed-wood replica of the Seelman family barn, anchoring the middle of the restaurant. It's built around a beer cooler and is outfitted with interactive tablets that allow diners to learn more about the local beers on tap before pouring their own.

Utah: Grub Steak

Grub Steak is one of the few restaurants where you'd feel as much at home in ski gear as you would in a tuxedo or cocktail dress. To wit, the Park City steakhouse has become a favorite among local and vacationing skiers and Sundance Film Festival celebs alike. The iconic steakhouse has been around since 1976, and little has changed in the country-Western decor, with bison and deer taxidermy and old paintings and photos of cowboys and Native Americans lining the walls. Head chef Brian Moody and broiler chef Gregg Moody remain fixtures as well, having worked here for over 30 years each. All steaks are wet-aged for over 25 days and grilled on an open broiler, like the wow-inducing tomahawk rib eye that inevitably results in a social media post. But the dish that garners the most-vocal praise is the slow-roasted prime rib: Almost nightly, someone remarks that it's the best they've ever had, and whenever he's in town, one regular from New York orders an extra portion to take back home with him on the plane. For the best atmosphere, dine here on Friday or Saturday night &mdash owner Simon Shaner says that the restaurant really comes to life when the "singing cowboys" play live music and the manager yips and hollers like he's at an Old West tavern.

Missouri: Jess & Jim's Steakhouse

Jess & Jim's is a steakhouse that's been owned by the VanNoy family for three generations &mdash and the fourth generation is the wings, working full-time at the restaurant. The vibe is casual and family-friendly, more steak joint than rarefied white-tablecloth experience, but generations of Kansas City families have come here to celebrate special occasions big and small, and the spot has been frequented by celebrities, athletes, musicians and even presidents &mdash Harry Truman and his wife Bess are said to have been regulars. And despite all the accolades and press clips Jess & Jim's has racked up over the years, perhaps most notable is the "best steakhouse in the world" designation it received from Playboy magazine in 1972. It inspired one of the restaurant's signature dishes, the Playboy Strip, a 25-ounce strip steak (pictured above). No matter what you order, all the meat is hand-cut daily in-house by owner Mike VanNoy and served on a sizzling-hot plate, and the rest of the scratch-made menu features homey staples such as garlic toast and twice-baked potatoes, and homemade desserts like apple pie and carrot cake.

Maine: Bullwinkle's

Bullwinkle's opened in Waldoboro in 1992 as a family restaurant known primarily for its seafood. Since Todd Mank, a self-described steak-and-potato guy, took over the restaurant in 2006, he's added more steaks to the menu and steadily built Bullwinkle's reputation as a top-notch local steakhouse. The restaurant still maintains a Cheers-like vibe &mdash Mank should know, as he worked as a bartender here for nearly a decade &mdash where locals gather at the tavern for drinks and a round of pool, and generations of families crowd into the dining room's booths or around large round tables to celebrate special occasions and feast on fan favorites such as the teriyaki-marinated hanger steak. Its proximity to the Maine coast makes it a tourist hotspot come summertime, when dishes with Maine lobster, from lobster-topped steaks to lobster ravioli to lobster rolls, are particularly sought after. The seafood selection is rounded out with crab &mdash think melts, rolls and dips &mdash as well as local clams. No matter the time of year, Bullwinkle's has a bright and lively atmosphere, so those seeking a more intimate nook should ask for table 11, a secluded, low-lit four-top known locally as the "mafia table."

Arkansas: Doe's Eat Place

The original Doe's Eat Place was founded by Dominick "Doe" Signa and his wife Mamie in Greenville, Mississippi. It began as a humble grocery store where Mamie sold hot tamales and Doe ran a honky-tonk at the front, serving chili and fish to a strictly black clientele. One of the local doctors began stopping in between calls, and Doe cooked up a steak and fed him in the back. The word about Doe's cooking got around, and Doe focused on the restaurant now known as Doe's Eat Place. In 1988, George Eldridge, an east Arkansas restaurateur and hobby pilot who had flown friends and clients to Doe's Eat Place for steak and tamales for years, brought the name, menu and no-frills eatery to downtown Little Rock in 1988. Though it had long been a regional favorite, what really put Doe's Eat Place on the map was when then-candidate Bill Clinton and his staff made the Little Rock location their campaign hangout during the 1992 presidential election &mdash it's even where Clinton was interviewed by Rolling Stone for a cover story. But for all its press, Doe's maintains that the eats are the true star here. You'll want to bring an appetite&mdashor a friend&mdashas the 30-day-aged steaks are served family style by the pound, starting at 2 pounds. Steaks come with fries or new potatoes, Texas toast and Doe's signature soaked salad, amply dressed in a lemon-olive oil dressing. And don't miss the Delta-style beef tamales, served with homemade chili.

Montana: Lolo Creek Steakhouse

"Rare yet well done" is how Lolo Creek owner Mike Grunow sums up his log-cabin Western Montana steakhouse, which is why he believes dining there is worth the wait (so does Hannah Hart &mdash Lolo Creek was featured on I Hart Food). And you'll likely have to. Diners are accommodated on a first-come, first-seated basis, and it's not unusual to wait up to an hour for a table. Since 1987, Lolo Creek has served a dozen different choice, hand-cut, wet-aged steaks, all cooked on a wood-fired grill in an open pit that anchors the dining room (carefully tended to by grill masters). Dinner starts with a vegetable tray for the table, and all entrees come with a choice of salad, potato and Texas toast. If you're opting for steak, you can't do better than the signature rib eye, offered in 12- or 20-ounce portions, but the seafood selection is also stellar (ask about the catch of the day). If you find yourself on the longer end of a wait, snag a seat in the lounge or on the deck for sweeping views of Big Sky Country &mdash the restaurant is nestled below Lolo Peak in the Bitterroot range of the Rocky Mountains. Or take the golf cart shuttle to the adjacent Lolo Creek Distillery and Tasting Room to sample their vodkas and gins, including seasonal releases such as honey huckleberry vodka and jalapeno vodka.


100 Best Chefs in The World 2019 - See The Full List

The Le Chef compilation of the 100 best chefs in the world for 2019 has been released with chef Arnaud Donckele from the La Vague d'Or restaurant in Saint-Tropez named the best chef in the world (click here to see 18 dishes from chef Donckele's menu).

Staying in France, chef Michel Troisgros was named second on the list, while Jonnie Boer from The Netherlands was third.

Five of the top 10 on the world's best chefs list were from France, with Yannick Alléno, Alexandre Couillon and Emmanuel Renaut all taking top positions. Chef Rene Redzepi once again featured in the top of the list in position 10.

Previous lists have come under criticism for being largely biased in favour of French cuisine and French chefs. The 2017 list has 35 of the 100 chefs from France, for 2018 that number hit 41.

The Le Chef list is compiled by asking two and three-starred Michelin chefs to provide a list of five names they think best represent the cooking profession and one name they would like to see at the top of the list.

1. Arnaud Donckele – Residence De La Pinede (Saint Tropez, France)
2. Michel Troisgros – Maison Troisgros Restaurant (Ouches, France)
3. Jonnie Boer - De Librije (Netherlands)
4. Yannick Alleno - Alleno Paris (Paris, France)
5. Seiji Yamamoto – Nihonryori Ryugin (Tokyo, Japan)
6. Paul Pairet - Ultraviolet (China)
7. Emmanuel Renaut – Flocons De Sel (Megève, France)
8. David Kinch - Manresa (California, United States)
9. Alexandre Couillon - La Marine (France)
10.Rene Redzepi - Noma (Copenhagen, Denmark)


The 20 Wildest, Weirdest And Most Delicious Recipes Of The Year

A few of our favorite dishes of 2015

Lordy, I ate a lot this year, particularly since experiencing FR recipe developer Paul Harrison’s patented In-N-Out grilled cheese. It’s not actually patented — you can’t patent a grilled cheese, let alone one that someone else created. Below are Food Republic’s top 20 recipes of 2015, from the trendy (hot chicken) to the highly unusual (Everything Bagel Nigiri) to the just plain awesome (Ukrainian garlic bread). The selections span contributions from A-list chefs like Daniel Humm and Jamie Bissonnette to our own recipe developer team. Here’s to more creative recipes in 2016!

Pork belly is beloved by the Chinese. This is the dish that truly serves up the natural fresh taste of pork — except in Sichuan, they just can’t help but add a garlic and chile sauce to kick up the taste and heat!

While my desire to eat with the utmost of authenticity was a great way to learn, it wasn’t always very fun. Somewhere along the way, I realized that “fun” is just as important as “fine” when it comes to eating and even more so in cooking. With this in mind, I present this highly sacrilegious snack, a tricked-out sushi-bar version of a bagel and lox.

This recipe has sentimental meaning for me — it is an ode to my childhood nanny, Sol. Both of my parents worked full time, so for the first eight years of my life, my sisters and I were like Sol’s adopted children. Sol came to Israel from Morocco in the mid-1950s, and years later, thankfully, she found her way to the Ronnen household. Her cooking was so different from the food we knew. Sol’s was laced with chilies and spices, and her carrot salad was a mainstay on the table.

The culinary and creative minds behind Eleven Madison Park (plus legendary mixologist Leo Robitschek) come together once more for The NoMad Cookbook, a collection of recipes from the beloved New York City hotel restaurant. And hey, just because the food’s fancy doesn’t mean a bacon-wrapped hot dog can’t make an appearance…as long as it’s smeared with truffle mayonnaise and topped with Gruyère and a meticulously prepared celery relish that involves both celery and celery root.

This taco was born out of a shared opinion among my cooks and friends that a tortilla is as worthy of precious ingredients as any piece of Raynaud china. When I thought about making a sea urchin taco, I knew that working it into guacamole would magnify the briny sweetness the spiky creature is known for — the fat in an avocado can help stretch and carry flavors just like a knob of butter. Its lobes (sometimes called “tongues”) show up three times in this taco: mashed with avocado, piled on top of the guacamole in a bright orange heap and combined with chipotle and lime juice in a simple salsa.

James Beard Award–winning Toro and Coppa chef Jamie Bissonnette knows his way around the vast world of preserved meat and fish. He’s a master of charcuterie (coppa is Italian cured pork neck) and an avid collector of canned Spanish seafood — an enviable hobby if you’ve ever loved a smoked mussel or glistening sardine in your life. Equally praise-worthy: his faculty and creativity with ‘nduja, a spicy, spreadable, melt-in-your-mouth fermented sausage.

“I eat this all the time,” says the chef. “I mean, I don’t necessarily start off my day with that much pork fat, but I love avocado toast, and I love the way this avocado mash gets really sour and flavorful from the ‘nduja and lime juice.”

Creamy sauce and earthy mushrooms is a tried and tested combination that never fails. Some might think it’s a little boring and old-school, but I’ve discovered a fun way of pepping up a classic. Replace boring button mushrooms with some exotic Asian mushrooms and the recipe gets an instant face-lift pair them with lots of bubbling cheese and you are on to a winner.

Even though my restaurant Talde is far from an omelet-your-way kind of joint, I knew toast had to make an appearance on the brunch menu. So why not in ramen, my favorite breakfast food? And boom, a new staple was born: perfectly chewy noodles doused in a broth infused with the flavor of buttered toast. Bacon and soft-boiled egg are the obvious extras.

The word pampushka can be used to describe a gorgeous plump woman and is one of my favorite words. Pam-poo-shka! These pampushki are traditionally served with red borscht. In Ukraine, we would use regular garlic, so if you can’t find wet (new) garlic, it will still be delicious. I have used wild garlic and its flowers.

André Prince Jeffries gave me strict orders: no sugar in the hot chicken. But I also believe part of the fun of cooking your own hot chicken comes from figuring out the spice blend you like best. And following the lead of the folks at Hattie B’s, I do like a touch of brown sugar to balance out the heat. I use red pepper flakes for texture and an added layer of spice, and I like a touch of cumin for woodsy depth. Applying the spicy paste after the chicken has been fried keeps the cayenne from scorching, and it allows the cook to customize the degree of heat per piece of chicken. Go ahead and experiment to make your own blend. And apologies to Ms. Jeffries. I’ll always visit Prince’s to taste the original.

Bell peppers are one of those things that people love to throw on the grill, but they usually end up as part of some skewer. That might have been exciting the first time you tried it, but not anymore. And if all the stuff is pressed together tightly on that skewer, the inner part of the pepper might not get cooked through by the time the steak on there hits medium. So I decided to do pepper on the grill a little bit differently.

If you want to be super-extra authentic, you can track down some Filipino-style fish sauce, known as patis, for this recipe. It’s on Amazon! Otherwise, use what you can get your hands on (nam pla, colatura, etc.). Some types of fish sauce are saltier and more concentrated some are sweeter and some are stinkier. Use what you can find. The idea is just to add an extra layer of umami-laden flavor.

Deviled eggs are having a moment in the culinary spotlight. Like other Southern home foods, they’ve moved to upscale restaurant menus and are getting makeovers all across the South. This version, from Shamille Wharton of Nashville, Tennessee, gets a beautiful, brilliant pink exterior from beet juice.

The eponymous “cups” of this recipe denote equal parts soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. It’s a potent, salty and savory braised chicken dish with these ingredients, but the dish really gets its signature from the sheer volume of garlic cloves, thick pieces of ginger and fresh basil leaves for flavor. This recipe’s name might underscore the fact that most recipes were passed orally in Taiwan, rather than written, until recent generations.

Indians don’t glorify chicken wings the way Americans do, so I’m stepping in to bridge that inexplicable gap. When faced with chicken and the possibility of high-heat smoky cooking, such as any ol’ charcoal grill, there’s only one preparation on my mind. I’ve tandoorified and char-grilled everything from pork loin and tofu steaks to more traditional fare, like shrimp and lamb chops. Brine and baste all you want, but tandoorification (my word for marinating overnight in heavily spiced yogurt) is the way to go if your end game is “juicy and flavorful.”

Every once in a while we just have to pat ourselves on the back for doing something we haven’t seen in other cookbooks. We aren’t entirely sure we’re the first to make a brisket patty melt using corn bread, but we are sure this is the best version out there. A vast improvement on the close-to-perfect patty melt is enough to make us feel pretty good about this recipe. When you start seeing this on the menu of every chain restaurant in America in five years, just remember who thought of it first.

“I add chicken liver to my sauce for depth and flavor,” says chef Ed Cotton. “Most people can’t put their finger on the flavor profile, but when I tell them it’s chicken livers they are usually like, ‘Ahh, okay.’ It needs to be caramelized with the meats and really cooked out well. The addition of the chicken livers was shown to me by Barbara Lynch years ago when I was her sous-chef in Boston at No.9 Park.”

“This dish was inspired by my love for chicken wings and a popular Filipino dish called Kare Kare [pronounced kar-eh kar-eh],” says the chef. “The traditional Kare Kare dish is a stew made with slow-cooked oxtail in a peanut sauce. This dish works great as a snack or even a main course.”

Except for the time in the oven, everything for this quick-and-easy recipe happens in a blender. And don’t miss the freshly chopped tangerine peel garnish to zest things up. These ribs are so finger-lickin’ good!

Use this recipe as a blueprint for infinite possibilities with many vegetables. The main technique here is to char the vegetable in a small amount of oil and introduce a more robust flavor. Use your favorite vegetables: cauliflower, okra, green beans and artichokes all work wonderfully. The anchovy butter is inspired by flavors of bagna cauda, the Piedmontese “hot bath” sauce. This recipe makes an appearance on the menu at Saffron on a yearly basis. It’s a crowd favorite, even for those who aren’t big fans of anchovies.


Top Michelin star restaurants

There are over hundreds of Michelin Star restaurants all over the world. Some are famous, while others have a great history with the locals. While France is understandably the place with most Michelin-award restaurants because of the company origin, many countries and big cities are coming in a close second.

Some of the most popular and well-renowned Michelin fine dining restaurants include Robuchon au Dôme in Macau, Fat Duck in the United Kingdom, Central in Peru, Atelier Crenn in California, and Den in Japan.

Some of these places have been around for decades. While some are somewhat new. However, all of them will give you the level of service and cuisine that proves how worthy they are of those Stars.


COVID-19

We have all witnessed the incomprehensible loss of life and the pervasive economic toll this virus has taken on the entire country. Expectedly, It has ravaged the restaurant industry unlike any earthquake, hurricane or tornado. BCA’s more than 4,600 chefs and their teams continue to experience first hand at almost 9,000 restaurants across the nation, its impact on their families, restaurant families and friends.

The National Restaurant Association has reported that the restaurant industry, more than any other industry in the nation, has suffered the most significant sales and job losses since the COVID-19 outbreak began and is likely to sustain $240 Billion in losses by the end of 2020.

States open and many restaurant owners and staff struggle to overcome adversity and tragedy and manage to do so with enthusiasm and hope. Other owners are faced with the difficult and heart breaking decision of closing permanently. To all of you, thank you for giving us your blood, sweat and tears during an anguishing time. We wish success to those who are bravely forging ahead adapting their business models to try and fit the “new normal”. Those of you who are no less brave, and have tried everything to remain in business, yet have been forced to close we are saddened by your losses but hold optimism for your future. Your customers will miss you. We will miss you. We hope you come back. America needs great food.

BCA is ready to assist with at least one facet of your reopening, which is to let people know that you are still standing. Contact us through our website at www.bestchefsamerica.com/contact or [email protected] to update your profiles with new photos, bios, restaurant and current social media information.

Bill Blalock, President and CEO

Chefs Know Best

“That guy can cook like nobody’s business,” well, there’s no higher compliment in a professional kitchen.
- Michael Ruhlman, Foreword, Best Chefs America: 2013


Restaurant Story

  • Cuisine: Modern British
  • Location: Bermondsey (199 Tooley St, SE1 2JX)
  • Price: £££
  • Al fresco: no

A one-time public toilet at the wrong end of Bermondsey Street, Chef Tom Sellers recognised the potential of a site nobody else had when he opened Restaurant Story in 2013. It won a Michelin star five months after launch and, though it's been controversially overlooked for an upgrade by the inspectors in the subsequent six Guides, you can taste Sellers&rsquos desire for more in every dish he creates. He cooks with imagination, flair and whimsy over six- or 10-course menus that feature mainstays such as his signature beef-dripping candle, which is lit at the table for diners to mop up the meaty molten &lsquowax&rsquo with some of the best bread in London.

Blacklock

  • Cuisine: Chophouse
  • Location: Soho (24 Great Windmill St, W1D 7LG)
  • Price: ££
  • Al fresco: No

Chops. Big piles of charred and juicy, well-aged chops. There really is no other order here, with cutlets coming in sizes 'Skinny' or 'Large', with an option for having the meat carved off the bone and presented as a grilled lattice of smoking flesh. Gather a group of six pals and order everything, taking two of the outrageously good bacon chops. Double down on each of the house-made sauces, paying extra attention to the chilli-hollandaise. A great range of punchy cocktails sit on the all-day £5 menu, while the truncated wine list has a few good options for popular whites, and a much broader selection of red.

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

  • Cuisine: French
  • Location: Chelsea (68 Royal Hospital Rd, SW3 4HP)
  • Price: £££
  • Al fresco: No

The flagship of Gordon Ramsay&rsquos armada, this is widely considered the best fine-dining restaurant in the country. At the absolute pinnacle of luxury, the ingredient list reads like a roll call of finery. Head chef Matt Abe plays fasts and loose with the foie gras, caviar, lobster and langoustine across nine courses, each as elegant as the next. Classic French technique underpins the menu, which features well-timed punches of citrus and pickle, but the real genius lies in the pace of the food: portion sizing and time between the courses is balanced to leave diners always wanting more.

Decimo

  • Cuisine: Spanish / Mexican
  • Location: Kings Cross (10th floor, 10 Argyle Street, WC1H 8EG)
  • Price: ££
  • Al fresco: No

After conquering Bristol with informal tapas joint Casamia, Peter Sanchez-Iglesias has stepped things up several notches with Decimo, an of-its-time new restaurant atop the Standard Hotel. Instagram darlings sit side-by-side with a media crowd, who lap up the ambient DJ, luxe styling and a late-night service that sees artfully arranged plates fly out of the kitchen until 2am. Fusing Spanish and Mexican culinary identities, expect aguachile (Mexican ceviche), suckling pig tacos and Spanish bomba rice. However, the dish gracing the grids of serious eaters and Instagrammers alike is the caviar tortilla: 25g or 50g of Ossetra finery perched on an omelette that, when sliced, oozes criminally runny yolk that&rsquos perfectly cut by the salinity of the roe.

Needoo

  • Cuisine: Punjabi
  • Location: Whitechapel (87 New Rd, E1 1HH)
  • Price: £
  • Al fresco: No

Thought Tayyabs reigned supreme for grilled meats and curries in Whitechapel? Think again. Although it might remain the mecca for many Indian food heads, the more clued-in go a naan's throw away around the corner to Needoo instead. Less rushed-in, rushed-out than its counterpart and without the monstrous queue, Needoo was opened in 2009 by a former manager of Tayyabs, and the whole experience is a little more refined at version 2.0 of the curry house (you still get the pumping Bollywood soundtrack, though). The wafts of smoky mixed grill that hit you on the way in have a Pavlovian impact on your salivary glands, but think beyond the carnivorous options: the chefs also spice up vegetables like okra, aubergine and baby pumpkin. The best bet, though, is to go for the changing daily dish of the day &ndash Monday's Kerahi lamb chop masala and Friday's King Prawn biryani are the standouts.

Rules

  • Cuisine: Traditional British
  • Location: Covent Garden (34-35 Maiden Ln, WC2E 7LB)
  • Price: £££
  • Al fresco: No

Proudly established as oldest restaurant in London, Rules has been doing things properly since 1798. A bastion of fine British service, nights should begin with a classic martini, taken in the Winter Garden cocktail bar. Crimson velvet runs through the interior, with lacquered ceiling fans and banquettes so deep and comfortable, they encourage a return to the three-bottle lunch. Autumn is the best time to book, when the UK game-focussed menu really hits its straps. Roast grouse with game chips followed by a pick from a selection of rib-sticking sweets &ndash sticky toffee pudding, Golden Syrup sponge, bread and butter pudding &ndash is the pro order.

Moxon&rsquos Next Door

  • Cuisine: Fish
  • Location: East Dulwich (151 Lordship Ln, SE22 8HX)
  • Price: ££
  • Al fresco: No

Set on leafy Lordship Lane, Moxon&rsquos Next Door is a restaurant attached to a fishmonger, which can only be considered a very good thing indeed. Provenance is paramount for the parent company, which has been sourcing British fish from UK waters for decades: flatfish from Cornwall, shellfish from Scotland, mackerel from East Anglia and oysters from Essex. Regulars on the small-plate billing are buckets of crisp whitebait with lemon-dill mayonnaise, grilled scallops with garlic butter, taverna-worthy taramasalata and cured salmon from Moxon&rsquos own smokehouse in Wimbledon. The savvy guest checks the day-boat blackboard for a centrepiece before browsing the menu the likes of roasted Cornish hake comes in at £25 and will easily serve three.

Llewelyn&rsquos

  • Cuisine: Modern European
  • Location: Herne Hill (293-295 Railton Rd, SE24 OJP)
  • Price: ££
  • Al fresco: Yes

Lurking in the shadow of Herne Hill&rsquos railway arches, Llewelyn&rsquos is the kind of neighbourhood joint that you find in far too few neighbourhoods. Set in a light-filled Victorian dining room, pared-back Scandi design provides a backdrop for a mostly local crowd &ndash one that&rsquos been trying to keep it under wraps since its 2017 launch. At the pass is Chef Lasse Petersen, whose tenure at Copenhagen&rsquos Amass and 108 comes through in a menu that leans on the New Nordic canon. Expect a concise list of small plates and sharing mains. Mainstays include cavatelli with pumpkin, hazelnuts and salted ricotta, lamb kleftiko and pickled mackerel with pink fir and horseradish crème fraîche. On sunny days, tables trickle out onto the square: arrive early to snag one.

Moncks of Dover Street

  • Cuisine: European
  • Location: Mayfair (33 Dover St, W1S 4NF)
  • Price: £££
  • Al fresco: No

Moncks, at first glance, appears to have been a staple in Mayfair since around the Fifties an elegant sort of place your great aunt remembers fondly as a spot for liquid lunches and clandestine dinners with unsuitable paramours. However, it's a myth of the restaurant's making, as the venue actually opened in 2019, by the same team behind the nearby Park Chinois. Not that it matters, of course, as the retro decor and silver service transports you back to the era of the three-hour lunch perfectly. Old-school favourites like steak tartare, scallop gratin and their signature dish, the truffled mac and cheese, make for the ultimate decadent dining experience, and give you an excellent excuse for ordering a second of their King's Negroni as a post-meal sharpener.

House of MoMo

  • Cuisine: Nepalese
  • Location: Dalston (52 Boleyn Rd, N16 8JP)
  • Price: £
  • Al fresco: No

For the uninitiated, MoMo are Nepalese dumplings, and like every national spin on delicious stuff wrapped in dough, they prove yet again that we've never met a dumpling we didn't like. This busy cafe is perched at the edge of Dalston's Gillett Square, so you might find yourself sharing a bench with a guest DJ at the nearby NTS Radio, and the venue pumps out a steady stream of handmade steamed or pan fried dough balls (from £4), served with either a spicy, nutty jhol achar sauce, or a sweet yet slightly sour tomato chilli sauce to drown them in. Their filling set lunch of thali &ndash curry with dal, rice, and paratha (£8) &ndash is always a great shout too, with a spoonful of pickles giving a little kick to carry you through until home time. There'll be plenty of repeat visits once you get the taste for these little guys.

The Clove Club

  • Cuisine: Modern British
  • Location: Shoreditch (380 Old Street, EC1V 9LT)
  • Price: £££
  • Al fresco: No

Chef Isaac McHale&rsquos philosophy is &lsquoreinventing modern British&rsquo and it is one that has earned him and front-of-house business partner Johnny Smith the highest rank for a UK restaurant in The World&rsquos 50 Best Restaurants list 2019. Having trained at Noma, Eleven Madison Park and The Ledbury, tropes from each are evident in his cooking, which centres on UK ingredients treated simply and plated beautifully. The signature Orkney scallop, Périgord truffle, hazelnut and mandarin comes on both the six- and 10-course tasting menu, quickly followed by Parten Bree, a Scottish spider crab hot pot, that is McHale&rsquos modern take on a traditional Scottish soup. The dining room is beautifully bright and breezy a welcome respite from the greying east London streets outside.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester

  • Cuisine: French
  • Location: Mayfair (53 Park Lane, W1K 1QA)
  • Price: £££
  • Al fresco: No

Helming one of only two Michelin three-star restaurants in the capital, the world&rsquos most decorated chef, Alain Ducasse, considers his only UK outpost one of his best. Designed in emblematic style with neutral earth tones juxtaposed to curtains of crystal which splay light across the dining room, it&rsquos a fine-dining restaurant with a distinctly modern feel. Head chef Jean-Philippe Blondet follows suit with the menu. French classics &ndash pot-au-feu, gougères, confit duck, milk-fed lamb with vegetables &ndash are all treated with a lightness of touch and minimal use of cream and butter that defines the modern French kitchen. Dinners here can run north of three hours, so it&rsquos worth booking flexitime with the babysitter.

Roti King

  • Cuisine: Malaysian
  • Location: Kings Cross (40 Doric Way, NW1 1LH)
  • Price: £
  • Al fresco: No

Before The Standard Hotel and Coal Drops Yard arrived in Kings Cross, the area was a bit of a dead spot for dining &ndash except for one tiny restaurant for those in the know. The simple basement cafe of Roti King hasn't changed much over the years, especially its two features: the best authentic roti canai in London and the queue down the street to get hold of one. The dish everybody is clamouring for becomes obvious with one bite &ndash a rich, flaky, Malaysian flatbread to scoop up a punchy chicken, lamb or dhal curry, served at the meal-deal price of £6.50. The roti can be filled with cheese, egg or minced chicken, or can be sweet, like the dreamy caramelised banana roti pisang. If you fancy going off-piste, the traditional nasi goreng (stir fried rice) or kari laksa (spicy coconut noodle soup) are also worth a look in, but the clue's in the name when you've found the best place in the kingdom for this street-food treasure, stick to what it does best.

Bentley&rsquos Oyster Bar and Grill

  • Cuisine: Traditional British
  • Location: Mayfair (11-15 Swallow St, W1B 4DG)
  • Price: £££
  • Al fresco: No

With shoulders as broad as Marble Arch and the personality to match, Bentley&rsquos chef-proprietor Richard Corrigan has the uncanny ability to read the London diner like no other. At Bentley&rsquos &ndash a grill restaurant with a 100-year pedigree &ndash he does the simple things well. The best evenings start with Champagne and oysters (of which the restaurant always has a selection of six varieties), followed by some of the finest seafood from the British Isles. Its fish pie is the stuff of legend &ndash packed to the gunnels with prawns, smoked haddock and cod &ndash and is best served with just-arrived seasonal vegetables from Corrigan&rsquos Irish smallholding, Virginia Park Lodge.

Toconoco

  • Cuisine: Japanese
  • Location: Dalston (Unit A, 28 Hertford Rd, N1 5QT)
  • Price: £
  • Al fresco: Yes

Sorry estate agents, but as much as you brand this area off Kingsland Road &lsquoThe Haggerston Riviera&rsquo, absolutely no one is buying it. Not that it bothers the quiet and unassuming cafe Toconoco. Tucked away just off the Regent&rsquos Canal, this cute Japanese spot is a total hidden gem and serves up simple, tasty and pocket-friendly meals. The home-cooked daily set menu (£8.10) might offer up pork tonkotsu, broccoli salad, rice and miso, or there&rsquos udon or soba dishes for the noodle fans. Must-tries are also the onigiri rice balls or their black sesame cheesecake for dessert. Kick back with a Japanese tea by the waterside and while it might not quite pass for the Riviera, it will transport you away for your lunch hour nicely.

  • Cuisine: Spanish / North African
  • Location: Farringdon (4-36 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE)
  • Price: ££
  • Al fresco: No

The restaurant that launched a thousand dinner parties, Moro was the first and last word in bringing the heady world of rich Spanish and Moroccan food to Blighty. Married couple Sam and Sam Clark opened up their Exmouth Market restaurant back in 1997, which promptly won Time Out's best new restaurant, and still remains a super-popular dining choice for Londoners &ndash and visiting out-of-towners &ndash more than two decades later. Like Ottolenghi, there'll always be one ingredient you'll need to ask the patient waiting staff to explain, but the new discovery will no doubt be delicious. Recent revelatory dishes for us have been the orange and green chilli-steamed mussels with mograbieh (see? It's a type of Lebanese semolina pearls, like couscous, FYI) or the chargrilled lamb with sumac and fava bean puree (£27.50). The restaurant pivoted to tapas in 2010 when they opened the Barcelona-inspired Morito next door, and carried on the trend with a second outpost in Hackney in 2016. As the Sams have aptly demonstrated, there's always room for more Moro.

Min Jiang

  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Location: Kensington (2-24 Kensington High St, W8 4PT)
  • Price: £££
  • Al fresco: No

High up on the 14 th floor of the Royal Garden Hotel with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over Kensington Gardens, Min Jiang has one of the best restaurant views in central London. Tables at dusk are the plum booking, to watch the sun set over plates of wood-fired Beijing duck served every which way. Dim sum is the ideal way in, made by a chef who&rsquos been practicing the art for half century. Duck follows next, where the crispy skin arrives with a bowl of finely granulated sugar for dipping, before pancakes and a hoisin sauce rich with orange and floral notes. Guests then have a choice of having the duck flesh pulled through hand-rolled noodles or served with rice. Neither disappoint.

Elystan Street

  • Cuisine: Modern British
  • Location: Chelsea (43 Elystan St, SW3 3NT)
  • Price: ££
  • Al fresco: No

Philip Howard is the master of reinvention. Since he left The Square &ndash considered by many the archetypal restaurant of London&rsquos Nineties excess &ndash diners waited to see where he would emerge. Where The Square was all nouvelle cuisine, delicate portions and far-reaching technique, Elystan Street offers a dichotomy in big portions, big flavour and an even bigger welcome. Head chef Toby Burrowes&rsquos cooking follows this mantra perfectly. Truffled chicken soup with a mushroom crumpet is hearty and delicious, best followed by in-season meat, such as loin of roe deer with root vegetables, mustard fruit purée and roasted pear

St John

  • Cuisine: Modern British
  • Location: Farringdon (26 St John St, EC1M 4AY)
  • Price: ££
  • Al fresco: No

Less a culinary hotspot, more a British food institution, St John &ndash through its gregarious founder, chef Fergus Henderson &ndash pioneered the nose-to-tail revolution around the turn of the millennium. Put simply, it chides carnivores to not just enjoy the prime-cuts of animals, but to get stuck into the then less-fashionable other bits: liver, heart, sweetbreads, tripe. This is where the trend for bone-marrow on sourdough toast was born, and the kitchen has birthed a slew of other reinventions that now appear on menu's throughout London. Current favourites on the menu are unsurprisingly not suitable for veggies: robust slices of grilled ox heart with beetroot and green sauce or a delicately crumbed veal cutlet served with chicory and anchovy. Handily set just around the corner from London's Smithfield meat market, and housed in a former smokehouse, the classy and traditional restaurant never feels fussy or pretentious &ndash it just keeps things ever simple by literally going the whole hog and offering high-quality food, excellent wines and outstanding service to every guest.

Padella

  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Location: London Bridge (6 Southwark St, SE1 1TQ)
  • Price: £
  • Al fresco: No

No barbs about carbs here &ndash pasta is well and truly back on the menu, and we've got Padella to thank for a nation binning off any faddy ideas about Keto or Atkins diets. Opening in 2016 on the fringes of Borough Market, it's had a queue outside for just about as long, as fans have no qualms about waiting up to two hours for a plate of its signature thick and cheesy pici cacio e pepe. The petite, two-floor venue &ndash from the same team behind Trullo in Highbury &ndash is an Italian monochrome dream inside, with the best seats being the stools at the marbled bar upstairs, where you can watch the dexterous chefs create the pasta by hand. The quick turnover and cheap prices make it essentially an Italian noodle bar, so this isn't the spot for a long, lazy lunch. Instead to grab plates like ravioli of Westcombe ricotta and sage or the tagliarini with Dorset crab, lemon and chilli snap your photo for Instagram and dig in. Keep things fresh with a sparky rosemary lemonade and, pronto, it&rsquos time to give up your seat for the next salivating customer in the queue.

Black Axe Mangal

  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern
  • Location: Islington (156 Canonbury Road, N1 2UP)
  • Price: ££

Kebabs, but make it cool. Chef Lee Tiernan and his wife Kate arrived at the otherwise unremarkable area of the Highbury Corner roundabout in 2015 with a mission statement of banging meats and banging heavy metal beats, and since then, it's more than justified the opening-day hype. Tiernan took the beloved Turkish mangal and combined it with his decade of experience at the helm of St John Bread & Wine, resulting in dishes as punchy and loud as the restaurant's soundtrack. If you manage to bag one of the 20 seats in the smoky venue, the first port of call needs to be the umami-laced squid ink flatbread with whipped cod roe and a just-about-to-burst egg yolk. Next up on the ever-changing menu will be more doughy pillows of bread, perhaps with oxtail and anchovy, or grilled bone-marrow, or fresh and zingy grilled mackerel with XO sauce and salted mooli. Your eardrums might not thank you after a feast here, but your stomach most definitely will. In the words of two other rock enthusiasts: party time, excellent.

  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern
  • Location: Soho (21-22 Warwick Street, W1B 5NE)
  • Price: ££
  • Al fresco: No

Ottolenghi: say it softly and it's almost like praying. As a recent Desert Island Discs appearance confirmed, the Israeli-born chef is now at national treasure status in the UK, thanks to his service to making vegetables great again. Back in 2002, he made salads a thing of desire with then mostly unheard-of Middle Eastern ingredients at his small Ottolenghi deli in Notting Hill. He then went on to expand his empire with seven cookbooks and four more restaurants, with our favourite being Nopi, a grown-up brasserie in Soho. The signature sight of beach ball-sized plates piled high with vibrant salads, glossy with dressing and bejewelled with pomegranate seeds greets you on entry, and sets the tone for the rest of the restaurant's offering. A creamy burrata ball is spiked with slices of tart blood orange and studded with crunchy coriander seeds, the baked Valdeon cheesecake with pickled beetroot and honey is the fans favourite, while the restaurant was one of the first to start the trend of polenta chips, here served with a heavenly black truffle aioli. Pull up a pew at one of the marble-topped sharing table and dig in &ndash oh, don't forget to take a trip to the mirrored, trapped-inside-a-crystal bathrooms, which co-incidentally win our unofficial prize for London's best toilets, too.

  • Cuisine: Thai
  • Location: Soho (69 Brewer Street, W1F 9TL)
  • Price: ££
  • Al fresco: No

One of the greatest things about living in a city with around 40,000 restaurants is chance to experience more than just a sweeping generalisation of a nation's cuisine. For Kiln &ndash the buzzy Soho bar, where the seats are set just inches away from the fragrant food being tossed around on smouldering hot coals &ndash the specialty is regional Thai, specifically where the country borders Burma, Laos and Yunna. Kick off with some snacks-on-skewers starters, chunky spiced bites of aged lamb and cumin skewers, or a complex northern Isaan sausage. Chef Ben Chapman sources the best seafood from Cornwall, so popping up on the menu might be a lively turmeric curry of cod, or curried monkfish , but remaining a constant is the already iconic clay pot, which arrives steaming full of glass noodles, with chunks of Tamworth pork and sweet brown crab meat embedded within. That the smell lingers on your clothes afterwards is only a good thing &ndash you'll be dreaming of the noodle dish for days afterwards anyway.

Cornerstone

  • Cuisine: Modern British
  • Location: Hackney Wick (3 Prince Edward Rd, E9 5LX)
  • Price: ££
  • Al fresco: No

Thinking about food and Hackney Wick was only ever likely to throw up the suggestion of beers and pizza by the canal, until 2018, when chef Tom Brown turned up and put the area firmly on the culinary map with his first restaurant, Cornerstone. A protege of Cornwall's Nathan Outlaw, Brown became head chef at his London outpost, Outlaw's at The Capital in 2016, and two years later, Cornerstone opened in an otherwise unremarkable building in the warehouse district. The modern venue is centred around the open kitchen at the heart of the room, and Brown's background in fish and seafood shines through the menu. Always on offer will be a dressed oyster perhaps with a spicy seaweed sauce, or the much-lauded comfort of the crab crumpet rarebit, while the monkfish tail in roast chicken butter is a contender for one of our dishes of the year. The restaurant won AA Restaurant of the Year in 2019, and being catch of the day means Brown can probably expect another haul of awards this year too.

Ganapati

  • Cuisine: Regional Indian
  • Location: Peckham (38 Holly Grove, SE15 5DF)
  • Price: £
  • Al fresco: Yes

The skill of a small, neighbourhood restaurant truly reveals itself when it manages not only to become a much-loved favourite of locals, but of an entire city as well. Step forward Ganapati, which, over the past 15 years, has established itself through word-of-mouth as the force behind some of the greatest Southern Indian cuisine in the capital. Located off a residential SE15 street, the cafe is a riot of colour, with bright reds, pinks and greens washing the walls and tiled floor, while a giant golden statue of the elephant-headed god Ganesha looks on approvingly. The menu &ndash which changes every eight weeks &ndash is equally vibrant. On a recent visit, a warmly spiced, Attapadi grilled quail with a vivid pink onion chutney put the star into starters, while the fragrant Pondicherry fish curry was enough of a power-punch of flavour to make us start researching flight prices to Chennai. For anyone who suffers from plate envy, the thali is just the ticket, as from just £12.50, it gives a greatest-hits meal of the restaurant, serving up little fiery bowls of dal, pickles, a chilli-infused broth and curry &ndash make sure you order their home-made, lighter-than-clouds Keralan paratha to mop it all up with.

Smoking Goat

  • Cuisine: Thai
  • Location: Shoreditch (64 Shoreditch High St, E1 6JJ)
  • Price: ££
  • Al fresco: Yes

There&rsquos a very strong argument to say that Smoking Goat serves the most authentic Thai food in London. But chef-owner Ben Chapman also makes interesting ingredient swaps, supplementing impossible-to-source South East Asian ingredients with those he can find closer to home for his well-balanced, puckeringly hot plates. Dishes like chilli fish sauce wings that use British fish and a som tum that pairs green papaya and heritage carrot show this neo-fusion technique perfectly.

Core by Clare Smyth

  • Cuisine: Modern British
  • Location: Notting Hill (92 Kensington Park Rd, W11 2PN)
  • Price: £££
  • Al fresco: No

When Clare Smyth cut the apron strings after eight years helming Gordon Ramsay&rsquos three-star Michelin restaurant, the dining world knew her next move would prove something special. Within several weeks, Core became one of the best restaurants in the capital and has accrued a pair of Michelin stars after just two years in operation. Her style is fine-dining British, but defines luxury in a different way. She elevates humble ingredients, imbuing time and love for plates such as potato and roe, where the basic spud takes centre stage among two types of fish roe (neither of which are caviar).

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El Bulli: 1998 – 2002 by Ferran Adria and Juli Soler

You are only going to be buying this one if you have very deep pockets.

But it’s impossible not to include the cookbook behind what was one of the world’s greatest ever restaurant ventures.

El Bulli was an institution that defied convention and Ferran Adria’s work is innovative and sublime.

There’s not a chef on earth that doesn’t wish, at least a little, that they cooked like this.

Check out El Bulli: 1998 – 2002 online. Get a copy here.


The Best Restaurants in Sarasota

The quest for a great restaurant is endless. And in Sarasota and Manatee, where the restaurant scene changes constantly (only 27 of our Top Restaurants two years ago made this list), we’re always scouring the landscape for the new, the better, the fantastic redo. Here are our favorites right now, from white tablecloth five-star winners to the best BBQ joints. Feeling hungry? Good. There’s plenty for everyone.

(Note: Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, some of the restaurants listed below may have changed their offerings and operations.)

Indigenous

We’re running out of adjectives to describe chef Steve Phelps’ Towles Court cottage, where the tiny kitchen continues to deliver one-of-a-kind plates with an emphasis on sustainability. Phelps has a magical touch with Gulf fish, and whatever the seafood special on the menu is, we recommend it. But Indigenous isn’t just a special occasion spot. Last summer, the restaurant’s casual Sandwich Nights offered one of the best dining deals in town—a creative handheld, a side and a glass of wine or a beer for just $18. It was a great excuse to go to Indigenous more often, as if we needed one.

Jack Dusty

Inside The Ritz-Carlton, 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota, (941) 309-2266, ritzcarlton.com

Hotel restaurants are a tough go. You have to please travelers from morning to night, while also plating up food that’s unique and delicious enough to reel in locals. Jack Dusty does it all. Start with extensive raw seafood options, a well-curated pick of meats and seafood entrées that change regularly, then throw in blissful water views and topnotch cocktails. That’s a winning formula.

1990 Main St., #112, Sarasota, (941) 953-2900, maderestaurant.com

The name Made is an acronym for “Modern American Delicious Eats,” a perfect encapsulation of chef Mark Woodruff’s mission, which is to present soulful comfort food with lux flourishes. His menu is a blend of high and low, containing everything from street food like grilled corn dogs and Nashville hot chicken to fancier fare like scallops seared in a cast-iron skillet or house-cured salmon. It’s all fantastic.

Duval’s

If you spend any time at all downtown, you can’t miss the Duval’s shuttle—an aquamarine van that circles the area, conveying passengers for free to one of the city’s best seafood outposts. Duval’s chef Nils Tarantik rotates his selection of fresh fish throughout the year, meaning you can go each month and still not taste the same filet twice, and he’s just as adept with shellfish. Mussels stewed with onion, garlic, ham, potatoes and a mustard sauce make for a perfect appetizer, and the restaurant’s lunchtime po’ boys, stuffed with fried shrimp or oysters, are fantastic. If you see that van passing by, hop in.

Mélange

You never know what will take your breath away at Mélange. At one recent dinner, it was the soup—a delicate concoction that combined a flan made with Dry Sack sherry, a tangle of blue crab bits and pebbles of ginger “caviar,” with a hazelnut crumpet on the side. Sipping it was a revelation of the kind that executive chef Lan Bradeen has been delivering to diners regularly since the restaurant opened in 2007.

Nancy’s Bar-B-Q

14475 E. State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch, (941) 999-2390 nancysbarbq.com

Nancy Krohngold has a special relationship with the pig, an intuitive bond that results in exceptional Western North Carolina- style smoked pork. Krohngold’s base recipe includes salt, three types of pepper, two types of sugar, dry mustard and cinnamon, plus the patience to let the meat cook slowly. The result would taste good anywhere, but it helps that Nancy’s is also one of the most fun places to gather in the area.

Owen’s Fish Camp

516 Burns Court, Sarasota, (941) 951-6936, owensfishcamp.com

A joy to visit, Owen’s prepares some of the area’s best seafood and serves it in a rowdy Old Florida shack where the boisterous conversation is soundtracked by twangy folk standards from a live band in the back yard. We love whatever’s fresh on the “Naked Fish” menu dressed with either the brown butter Hollandaise or lemon-caper butter. A meal isn’t complete without a side of the restaurant’s perfect collard greens, and the succotash is a home run. Don’t miss the chance to snap a pic on the tire swing out back.

Pho Cali’s pho tom merges beef broth with tender shrimp and vegetables.

Pho Cali

Consistency is a must at every great restaurant, but Pho Cali must be the most consistently consistent restaurant in Sarasota. No matter how many times you order your favorite dish, the talented cooks will prepare it correctly every single time. We love the pho. The broth contains a riot of spices, while the fresh flavorings—bean sprouts, basil, lime juice and sliced jalapeños—are bright and herbal. We like to order our soup with all the trimmings (that means three cuts of beef, tendons and tripe), but whatever proteins you choose, rest assured that it will come out just like it did the last time.

On the back page: One lesser-known gem on the menu is No. 87, pan-fried white fish served on a sizzling platter.

Bubble up: For $4.95, you can get a bubble tea flavored with everything from taro to lychee.

Don’t let the line intimidate you: Pho Cali has some of the most efficient servers in the business, and they’ll free up a table for you in no time.

1216 First St., Sarasota, (941) 445-5660, sagesrq.com

You’ll drop ducats at Sage, where a romantic dinner for two recently cost us $250, but you won’t have any complaints about the food. The menu changes often, but we licked our fingers after polishing off executive chef Christopher Covelli’s lamb—a thick double chop marinated in Indian spices—and a Thai bouillabaisse with an intense red curry base. Even the Caesar salad was impeccable, peppery and assertive. Be sure to make a reservation, and arrive early for a cocktail on the roof, one of the best places to spend a sunset in Sarasota.

Selva

1345 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 362-4427, selvagrill.com

With its extensive ceviche menu and cavalcade of small plates meant for splitting with friends, Selva helped kick off Sarasota’s mania for Peruvian food early in the century, and the restaurant is still going strong. It boasts one of the area’s coolest environments: a dim dining room pulsing with colorful lights and a lush lounge with one of the best happy hour menus in town. The restaurant is also a rarity in that it offers a late-night menu, stuffed with satisfying bites like ceviche and a juicy skirt steak.

State Street Eating House + Cocktails

We already loved State Street, home to one of the city’s best bars, but when the eatery added ramen to its menu in 2017, we fell head over heels all over again. The restaurant makes the noodles by hand and then dunks them in a variety of broths that changes often. Not in the mood for noodles? The restaurant also makes one of the city’s best burgers and some terrific salads.

Blu Kouzina

25 N. Boulevard of Presidents, St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-2619, blukouzina.com

Effie and Dennis Tsakiris took Sarasota Greek cuisine to a new level when they opened Blu Kouzina in 2015. The couple sources many of their ingredients directly from Greece, including the olive oil produced on their Greek estate. By focusing on simple, satisfying ingredients of the highest quality possible, the couple has mastered dishes like stuffed grape leaves, beef kabobs and grilled prawns. If you’ve got time, consider the whole grilled fish, which can take 30 minutes to an hour to prepare. When the food’s this good, there’s no reason to hurry.

Columbia

411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-3987, columbiarestaurant.com

One of Sarasota’s oldest restaurants is still one of its best. Columbia, which first opened in Tampa in 1905, expanded to St. Armands Circle in 1959 and has been a staple there ever since. The Cuban restaurant’s “1905” salad , made with iceberg lettuce, ham, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, olives, cheese, Worcestershire sauce and plenty of garlic dressing, is famous, and the ropa vieja and Cuban-style roasted pork will have you dreaming of Havana.

JPan Sushi & Grill

239 N. Cattlemen Road, Sarasota, (941) 960-3997 3800 S. Tamiami Trail, #3, Sarasota, (941) 954-5726 jpanrestaurant.com

We love both JPan locations, but lately we’ve found ourselves coming back to the University Town Center spot. The restaurant added an incredible new bar area to its space, buttressing its impeccable sushi selection with some of the area’s most innovative cocktails. We like specialty rolls like the “King Cajun,” made with spicy crawfish meat, and the “K-Pop,” topped with Korean seasonings, but don’t hesitate to leave it up to the chef and split a sushi boat with some friends. Killer ramen, too.

Lucky Pelican Bistro

6239 Lake Osprey Drive, Sarasota, (941) 907-0589, luckypelicanbistro.com

One of Lakewood Ranch’s most popular restaurants for a reason, Lucky Pelican delivers outstanding seafood at solid prices. We order from the chalkboard menu, which lists fresh catches that can be either grilled and served with a Chardonnay lemon butter or blackened in a cast-iron skillet and paired with a roasted red pepper sauce. Craving something fried? Consider the buttermilk fried shrimp and oyster plate, a pile of golden crunchiness made for dipping in tartar sauce.

Lila’s grilled tofu is served with the restaurant’s Dragon Sauce and Chinese mustard.

1576 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 296-1042, lilasrq.com

More than any other restaurant in recent years, Lila has changed the face of Sarasota dining. While the city had been home to a handful of vegetarian, vegan and even raw restaurants before the restaurant opened in 2016, it was Lila’s Ryan Boeve and Arthur Lopes who pushed vegetables to the forefront of Sarasota menus. The restaurant’s zingy Burmese bowl will leave you slurping up the dregs of its curry-coconut broth, while the macro bowl’s tahini-turmeric dressing should come by the barrel. Lila proved that Sarasota was finally ready to embrace meat-free cuisine.

The buzz: Lila doesn’t offer a full bar, but it serves excellent aperitifs made with low-proof liqueurs and vermouths.

Wakeup call: In addition to lunch and dinner, Lila serves a killer breakfast with creative pastries.

Best of the best: OpenTable named Lila one of the 50 best restaurants for vegetarians in America last year.

Tandoor Fine Indian Cuisine

8453 Cooper Creek Blvd., Bradenton, (941) 926-3077, tandoorsarasota.net

No one in the area does Indian fare as well as Tandoor, where the lunch buffet ropes in nearby office workers and sets them loose again once they’re stuffed to the gills. We like pretty much everything simmering in the restaurant’s pots, but we go back for seconds for the dense, spinach-based saag bhaji, the braised butter chicken, and the pakora curry. Throw in delicate basmati rice and flaky naan, plus one of the best condiment bars in town.

Bushido Izayaki

It’s not easy to stand out in Sarasota’s crowded sushi marketplace, but Bushido Izayaki has made a name for itself since it opened last December. Owner and chef Jon Woo plates up some of the best rolls in town. We recommend the “Fast & Furious” roll, which includes tuna, avocado, seaweed, roe, jalapeños and cilantro. Simpler traditional dishes, like a spider roll, have been given new life by Woo’s attention to detail. Bonus points for the screens that divide the tables from one another, giving you an intimate, private experience.

Connors Steak & Seafood

3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite 1165, Sarasota, (941) 260-3232, connorsrestaurant.com

A steakhouse that doesn’t feel like a steakhouse, Connors distinguishes itself from other beef purveyors with its emphasis on small plates perfect for splitting with buddies. We dig the grilled pork belly, a lobster dip served with airy prawn “chips” and deviled eggs flavored with truffle oil. Of course, the meat is also on point. You can’t miss with the filet mignon , particularly when it’s topped with a house-made Boursin cheese and crispy onions.

Darwin Evolutionary Cuisine

4141 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 260-5964, chefdarwin.com

Chef Darwin Santa Maria has worked at a number of restaurants over the years, but it seems as if he’s finally made a home for himself at his eponymous midtown eatery. The menu runs through some of his smash hits from previous restaurants—ceviches, tiraditos that feature raw fish, and delectable cuts of beef. Santa Maria’s food is sharp and high in acid, and the chef approaches each dish with an eye for mashing together contrasting textures and ingredients. Great for either a casual dinner with the kids or a fun date night.

Libby’s Neighborhood Brasserie

1917 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, (941) 487-7300 8445 Lorraine Road, Sarasota, (941) 357-1570 tableseide.com

Libby’s opened more than a decade ago, but the Libby’s you knew is no more. In its place stands a brasserie, a casual but stylish hangout that seems destined to serve as a neighborhood gathering place for another decade at least. The food is mostly classic French, with expertly constructed salads, satisfying roasted meats and quality steaks, priced so that you can visit regularly. It also boasts one of the most fetching dining rooms in town.

Marcello Ristorante Italiano

4155 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 921-6794, marcellosarasota.com

The food is just part of the experience at Marcello, where owner and chef Marcello Aquino loves to put on a show for the small cluster of guests that his tiny restaurant can accommodate. Call early and ask for a seat near the open kitchen so you can watch Aquino cook. The menu changes frequently, but there’s an emphasis on Gulf fish like pompano and snapper, prepared according to the one great rule of great Italian seafood: Leave it alone. Other frequent specialties include big veal chops and exceptional fresh pastas.

Michael’s on East

1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-0007, bestfood.com

Michael’s has been a mainstay on lists of the best restaurants in Sarasota for decades now. The restaurant is constantly rolling out new menu items, often with an international theme that lets you explore cuisines you might not be familiar with. We fondly remember a recent Portuguese-themed lunch and a menu celebrating Baltimore, timed to coincide with the Orioles’ spring training season. Michael’s doesn’t stand still, which is why we keep returning.

The Capital Grille excels at huge steaks and traditional sides like green beans, mashed potatoes and an iceberg wedge salad.

The Capital Grille

180 University Town Center Drive, Sarasota, (941) 256-3647, thecapitalgrille.com

There’s something comforting about the old-school high-end steakhouse experience. The tranquil mood lighting, the starched white tablecloths, the Flintstonian-sized hunks of beef—at this point, they’re almost a throwback to an earlier era of dining, when servers all wore ties and your seat was so comfortable you could fall asleep in it. The Capital Grille does this kind of evening out perfectly, with colossal steaks cooked to temp and sides like mashed potatoes and green beans, salads like a classic iceberg wedge and even a killer steak sandwich.

Got a big group? Consider booking a private dining room for extra attention.

For a splurge: A 20-ounce steak with fatty Wagyu beef will run you $85.

Where to sit: In the back, so you can watch the brightly lit stage that is the open kitchen.

Shakespeare’s

It’s not easy cranking out a single impeccable dish year after year, but Shakespeare’s makes it look simple by delivering an iconic burger every time we’ve been. And we’ve been many, many times. The caramelized onion and Brie burger gets most of the plaudits, but the truth is that the entire burger menu is golden. We’ve enjoyed the burger with Cajun spices and blue cheese, the burger with spicy Thai peanut sauce and several others and never felt let down. The spicy beer cheese dip is also legendary. Wash it down with a draft from one of the city’s best beer menus.

Veronica Fish & Oyster

It’s tough to think of a Sarasota restaurant that looks better than Veronica. Gleaming fixed barstools, the cushy velour sofas, the white and blue subway tile accents and colorful paintings make this restaurant a showcase. Luckily, the beauty here is more than skin deep, since the menu lives up to the swanky ambiance. The focus here is on seafood, of course, and we’re devotees of the whole fried fish, particularly the “Thai Crispy” preparation. Don’t pass on the outstanding Brussels sprouts or the rotating specials, like crunchy fried chicken on Mondays .

Walt’s Fish Market

Walt’s has been frying up the catch of the day since the 1940s, proof that sometimes good things do last. The combination restaurant, Chickee bar and take-home seafood market offers all of the best fish and shellfish to be found in the Gulf, with a light touch that lets the bright, briny flavors of our local waters shine. The grouper sandwich is perfect, the fried shrimp irresistible and the fried okra divine. Walt’s will still be here in the 2040s, and surely beyond then, too.

Yummy House

1737 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 351-1688, yummyhouseflorida.com

The best Chinese restaurant in Sarasota, Yummy House has been bustling since it opened in 2012, and the crowds haven’t died down since it moved to its current location opposite Sarasota Memorial Hospital last year. We like the dishes with XO sauce, anything Szechuan and the salt and pepper tofu and eggplant. If you’re lucky enough to live nearby, Yummy House provides some of the best takeout around, perfect for a rainy night when you’d rather snuggle on the couch and watch a movie than go out to eat.

Ophelia’s on the Bay

9105 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key, Sarasota, (941) 349-2212, opheliasonthebay.net

In the first scene of the first episode of the MTV reality show Siesta Key, we met our main protagonist, Alex, while on a date at Ophelia’s. We don’t remember how that evening concluded, but we can’t fault Alex for his choice of a restaurant, because Ophelia’s is one of the most romantic eateries imaginable, particularly when the weather is at its nicest and you can sit on the deck. The menu is heavy on fine dining standards like caramelized scallops, roasted fish and rack of lamb, all of it just as intoxicating as the glimmering waters of the Intracoastal.

Summer House

149 Avenida Messina, Siesta Key, Sarasota, (941) 260-2675, summerhousesiestakey.com

Summer House’s name nods to Summerhouse, a long-gone Siesta Key restaurant institution, but chef Evan Gastman’s food stands on its own. His roasted chicken has been a staple of the menu since it opened in 2018 and is already famous. Using his grandmother’s recipe as a model, Gastman adds a high-tech twist by cooking the half-chicken in a sous vide and then torching the skin until it’s golden-brown all over. Anyone who can breathe new life into roasted chicken is a saint. The steaks are terrific, too.

Bitia’s Taqueria

3436 17th St., Sarasota, (941) 366-8081

You can get one of the best lunches in Sarasota for $4-$5, which is all you need to order a pair of pupusas at Bitia’s, a small Salvadoran restaurant in a 17th Street strip mall. A pupusa is made by mixing a cornmeal dough with a variety of fixings and then griddling it on a flattop until it’s toasted on both sides. The result is a thick pancake about the size of a side plate with a crispy exterior and a gooey interior. We love the vegetarian pupusas, particularly ones that highlight loroco, an herb-scented flower that appears often in Salvadoran cuisine. Curtido, a crunchy pickled condiment, takes the whole package to the next level.

Star Thai and Sushi’s “Ultimate Omakase” experience includes a huge array of fish, both raw and cooked.

Star Thai and Sushi

240 Avenida Madera, Siesta Key, Sarasota, (941) 217-6758 533 U.S. Highway 41 Bypass N., Venice, (941) 485-3981 starthaiandsushi.com

There is nothing else in the area like Star Thai and Sushi’s “Ultimate Omakase” experience, an expensive sushi binge that will leave you reeling. The menu includes up to 20 different small plates, prepared by chef Mike Castro right before your eyes. One recent dinner included grilled octopus, barely torched scallops, raw shrimp, miso soup, baked king crab, fatty Wagyu beef, bluefin tuna, sea bream and some other dishes that, quite frankly, we forgot about in our full-belly stupor. If you’re not looking for that level of indulgence, Star is a great destination for basic rolls and Thai food, too.

What to drink:
Japanese whisky, which tastes great in a fizzy highball.

Noodling around: In addition to sushi, Star offers solid noodle dishes like pad Thai and pad woon sen.

That’s show biz: Star often hosts musicians who perform everything from singer-songwriter fare to Bill Evans-style jazz.

Alpine Steakhouse

4520 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 922-3797, alpinesteak.com

This longtime Sarasota meatery draws in plenty of visitors thanks to its appearance on the Food Network many years ago, when Guy Fieri highlighted its turducken (a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey). We’ve found the turducken to be a bit dry, but that hasn’t stopped us from eating around the rest of the menu, and if you stick to beef, you can’t go wrong. The burger, topped with smoked pork jowl, is unimpeachable, and the aged steaks deliver pure beefy goodness. Be sure to grab a cut to go from the meat counter after dinner’s over.

Napulè

7129 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 556-9639, napulesarasota.com

The Napulè buzz was so deafening when it opened that it took weeks before we could even get a reservation. The wait was worth it. Owners Alessandro Di Ferdinando and Giuseppe Del Sole have earned a strong reputation for their Southern Italian cuisine. The pizzas are a perennial favorite, and it’s a fun experience to sit at the restaurant’s marble bar to watch the pizza and calzone maker work. Pastas, of course, are a specialty, and we drool over the classic carbonara tossed with fresh noodles made with a chitarra, a wooden tool with strings like a guitar.

Phillippi Creek Village Restau rant & Oyster Bar

5353 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 925-4444, creekseafood.com

This Sarasota institution has been delivering plates of quality seafood in a charming Old Florida waterfront cottage for decades, but it’s the kitchen’s surprising inventiveness that keeps us coming back. The restaurant recently added a Caribbean chopped salad topped with skewers of perfectly grilled shrimp. The Hawaiian lobster cocktail, also new, features lobster tossed with green onions, a jalapeño relish, soy sauce and lime, and comes served in a cracked-open coconut shell—a feast for your taste buds and your Instagram followers.

Sardinia

5770 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 702-8582, sardiniasrq.com

The food of Sardinia, a sizable Italian island that sits to the west of the mainland, is unlike any other regional Italian cuisine. The mountainous interior is famed for its hearty peasant food, dishes that feature unusual cuts of meat and offal, while the coasts highlight the bounty of the Mediterranean, much of it flavored with unique items like saffron, bottarga and sheep’s milk cheese. Chef Dino Carta celebrates all of that at Sardinia, his South Trail restaurant, which will do the unthinkable: reintroduce you to Italian food.

Screaming Goat Taqueria

6606 Superior Ave., Sarasota, (941) 210-3992, screaming-goat.com

Chef Malin Parker’s life took a detour when he left a gig as the executive catering chef at Morton’s Gourmet Market to open a Gulf Gate taqueria, and we’re thankful. Parker uses the basics of the fast-casual taqueria style. Create your own tacos , bowls and salads with an infinite number of global mashups that include a mix of proteins and a colorful condiment bar offering staples from Latin America like radishes and queso fresco, as well as add-ins from farther abroad like kimchi.

Casey Key Fish House

801 Blackburn Point Road, Osprey, (941) 966-1901, caseykeyfishhouse.com

Steer your vessel to Marker 32, where you’ll discover this Old Florida hangout with charm to burn. Covered and uncovered patios jut out over the Intracoastal, making for one of the best outdoor dining adventures around, while the tiki bar whips up tropical favorites that keep everyone in a good mood. The food fits the nautical environment, with great grouper and snapper sandwiches, plus pricier entrées like almond-crusted fish and a basil-scented seafood pasta. This place is popular, so plan to hang at the bar before sitting down during the busy season.

Fins at Sharky’s

1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice, (941) 999-3467, finsatsharkys.com

The views alone justify making a reservation at this Venice landmark, an upscale dining room connected to the more laid-back Jimmy Buffett vibe of its sister restaurant Sharky’s. As its fishy name implies, Fins is known for its seafood, particularly for its quality sushi. The lobster nachos—made with potato chips, Gouda, prosciutto, arugula and lobster—make for great sharing, and we also like the grilled octopus. Go around sunset time, snap a selfie and make all your friends who don’t live in Florida green with envy.

Star Fish Co.

A meal on the dock at Star Fish is a bucket list item for anyone who lives or visits here. Order anything that was recently swimming in the Gulf and you won’t be disappointed. The grilled grouper platter and smoked mullet have never treated us wrong, and we leave room for the Key lime pie, made daily by captain Kathe Fannon, whose boat tours depart from the same dock where you’ll be scarfing down your food. Some caveats apply: Star Fish only accepts cash, so stop by an ATM first, and be prepared to wait in line to order.

The Sandbar’s little-neck clams and shrimp are steamed with kale and heirloom tomatoes.

Sandbar

100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, (941) 778-0444, sandbardining.com

Kick off your flip-flops and dip your bare feet into the cool white sand at this longtime Anna Maria fixture, where the vibe is as friendly and blissful as if you were hanging out at a friend’s house. We can’t not order the steamed clams and shrimp appetizer, which features shellfish farmed in Tampa Bay, and while the seafood and grits entrée, made with shrimp, scallops, fish and ham, is a predictable winner, we also go for the surprisingly tasty buttermilk fried chicken and waffle. A great place to host a special event, too.

In a previous life: Before Sandbar existed, people would hang out on the property at a place they called “The Pavilion.”

Recycling program: The restaurant collects discarded oyster and clam shells and gives them to an organization that uses them to restore local marine environments.

New boss: Longtime Sandbar owner Ed Chiles announced last year that he was stepping back from managing Sandbar and his other restaurants. Chuck Wolfe is the company’s new chief executive officer.

Euphemia Haye

5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, (941) 383-3633, euphemiahaye.com

Owned and operated by chef Raymond Arpke and his wife, D’Arcy, since 1980, Euphemia Haye has served as a backdrop for countless date night rendezvous. With its dark, hushed, dreamy atmosphere, it’s a space where you can drop your worries at the door. The food is a greatest hits of fine dining favorites: crispy roasted duck a spicy pepper steak with an orange, brandy and butter sauce sautéed veal sweetbreads and the like. If you’re looking for a less formal evening, head upstairs to The Haye Loft, where no reservations are required.

Maison Blanche

2605 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, (941) 383-8088, themaisonblanche.com

You might drive past Maison Blanche 100 times before you notice it, but once you’ve stepped inside, you’ll never forget it. The restaurant is a temple of French cuisine, where everything from the baguettes that start your meal to the truffles and house-made marshmallows served with the coffee have been perfected. Chef José Martinez, who once worked at a Joël Robuchon restaurant, has made some concessions to popular taste over the years (he admits he’s reduced the sugar and fat in some dishes), but the core of his menu remains unchanged: impeccable soups, flawless fish and meat entrées, and some of the best desserts anywhere.

Mar Vista Dockside Restau rant and Pub

760 Broadway St., Longboat Key, (941) 383-2391, marvistadining.com

Mar Vista was reborn this year after a $2 million makeover and, luckily, the food tastes just as great as it did before. Like all the restaurants in The Chiles Restaurant Group, the eatery emphasizes sustainable Gulf seafood, as well as vegetables grown on Gamble Creek Farm in Parrish. Don’t miss the smoked fish appetizer , which comes with a wedge of crispy fried fish skin, and the baked scallops are divine. If it’s not raining, sit out back underneath the buttonwood trees.

The Waterfront Restaurant & Craft Bar

Wherever you sit at The Waterfront, you’ll find a bit of eye candy. On the large porch, you can gaze out toward the Rod & Reel Pier and the lapping waters of Tampa Bay. Sit inside and you’ll be mesmerized by the glowing fish tank near the bar. We like the food, but we’re just as nuts about the cocktails: The smoked margarita is made with mezcal, while the Mai Tai is a throwback to the drink’s original recipe. The Waterfront offers a tasty twist on fried calamari by tossing the crispy squid with onion, feta, banana peppers and a sweet chili sauce.

Beach Bistro

6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, (941) 778-6444, beachbistro.com

It was front page news when Beach Bistro owner Sean Murphy announced that he plans to open a second location in downtown Sarasota next year. For now, we still have to drive out to Anna Maria Island to visit the original, where the seared foie gras, the extravagant bouillabaisse and the tender rack of lamb all taste as great as they have for decades. The restaurant has an excellent selection of wines by the glass, direct views of the beach and servers who are formal but never chilly.

Eat Here

5315 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, (941) 778-0411, eathereflorida.com

The rambunctious younger brother to the Beach Bistro, Eat Here opened in the midst of the Great Recession, a time when restaurants were scrambling to attract diners with lower prices and a less uptight ambiance. But while Eat Here might be a whimsical hangout, the food is no slouch. The fish tacos, made with whatever’s been biting lately, plus sharp, spicy, crunchy toppings that elevate the fish flesh, are the region’s best. We also recommend the veal meatloaf and the pot roast. Offers a great pick of Florida beers and affordable wines, too.

El Tio Carlos

Inside the Red Barn Flea Market, 1707 First St. E., Bradenton, (941) 201-4610

For years known as Maria’s Restaurant, the taco stand at the Red Barn Flea Market changed names in the last couple years, but everything else is the same. You’ll still get an outrageous pick of tacos, tostadas, sopes, gorditas and burritos. We always go for the tacos with pork al pastor, but the beef barbacoa is great, too, and the cactus tacos make for a satisfying vegetarian option. The bustling flea market setting makes for some of the best people-watching in the area, too.


Watch the video: best food ever buzzworthy BBQ (July 2022).


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