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May 19, 2009

Hot List: 5 U.S. Favorites

One of chef Sean O'Brien's
jewel-like morsels at Zinnia.

Photo: Zinnia

Although Tuscany and Tokyo are perennially enticing, lately we've been getting more excited about our own backyard. And we're not the only ones; this year's Hot Tables list is full of stellar domestic restaurants. Here are some of Condé Nast Traveler editors' picks for low-key charmers:

Spur, Seattle: Helmed by two 20-something chefs, Spur is both playful and and ambitious. Homemade tagliatelle, served with a duck egg cooked sous vide, is topped with oyster mushroom and Parmesan foam; a smoked potato soup arrives in six different pieces. Whiskey is the liquor of choice, with some 90 varieties behind the bar.

Zinnia, San Francisco: After the city's celebrated Myth restaurant closed last year, chef Sean O'Brien found new digs just around the corner. At Zinnia, he continues to serve rustic modern Italian dishes such as rigatoni with foie gras and seared gnocchi with wild boar Bolognese.

Avondale, Avon, CO: Inside the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, this refreshing addition to Vail's après-ski scene has a stylish dining room and massive windows looking straight up the valley. Chef Thomas Salamunovich, of the area's celebrated Larkspur restaurant, has a long, market-driven menu ranging from adobo skirt steak with slow-cooked veal cheeks to roast chicken with crisp onion rings.

Holeman & Finch, Atlanta: It's hard to decide what's best about Atlanta gastro-preneur Linton Hopkins's classy new Holeman & Finch. Is it the food, a bracing hodgepodge of Southern and neo-Southern delicacies like crawfish beignets and griddled hen-of-the-woods mushrooms with Anson Mills polenta? Then again, maybe it's the fact that at 10 P.M. a bullhorn proclaims it's "burger time" and a crowd clamors to order the supremely juicy hamburgers before they sell out (about five minutes later).

The Redhead, New York: The Redhead's bacon brittle may be the year's top (or at least most blogged-about) snack, and with good reason: Salty cocktail peanuts tossed with crumbles of lightly candied bacon are an addictive combo. But that's just the beginning at this cozy East Village charmer. In addition to that famed brittle, chef Meg Grace has a contender for the city's best buttermilk fried chicken, plus smoky duck and andouille sausage gumbo and well-balanced salads.


LOVE the Redhead. The fried chicken is, I am happy to say, every bit as good as reported. I was also happy to see Char No. 4 on the list--one of my favorite new spots in Brooklyn. Nice picks!

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