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United States Restaurants

21 Federal
21 Federal Street
Nantucket , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 228 2121

A mainstay of the Nantucket dining scene since 1985, this handsome, romantic cluster of rooms in a restored 1847 house is one of the toughest reservations in season (though Tommy Hilfiger doesn't seem to have a problem getting a table). But judging from a dinner visit, the people-watching might be a bigger draw than the food. Stick to the reliable and ever-popular surf-and-turf—a grilled half lobster with braised short ribs. The bar at 21 (as the regulars abbreviate it) is a popular gathering place after the kitchen closes, and the outdoor back bar is a little-known island highlight.

Dinner only. Open mid-May through mid-October.

22° North
Kilohana Plantation
3-2087 Kaumualii Highway
Lihue , Hawaii
Tel: 808 245 9593

The old Gaylord's restaurant at the Kilohana Plantation is no more, but the beautiful patio-style space with an open-air courtyard has been reborn as 22° North. Fresh produce grown on-property (take the Kilohana Train Tour and you'll see the fields) complements local fish, eggs, and meats in whimsical lunch plates like the 22° North "sammy" (house-cured meats, pickled vegetables, fried egg, mayo, lettuce, and tomato) and dinner entrées like beef short rib ravioli or crispy line-caught barracuda. The new taste good/feel good menu hasn't alienated the Kauai ladies-who-lunch crowd or families seeking Sunday brunch. But the simple, hearty, almost Southern-style comfort food is also attracting a younger crowd of eco foodies who come for date-night sparks inspired by fresh-fruit cocktails and meals lit by flickering tiki torches.—Cathay Che

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11:00 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 9:00 pm, Sundays 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.

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23 Hoyt
529 N.W. 23rd Avenue
Portland , Oregon
Tel: 503 445 7400

23 Hoyt is many things to many people. Trendy young urbanites come to socialize at one of the most elegant happy hours in town, with One-Dollar Snacks (house-made potato chips, fried chick peas with hot pepper), Two-Dollar Snacks (bruschetta), Three-Dollar Snacks (two oysters with mignonette; grilled flatbread with leeks, goat cheese, pancetta, and thyme), and so on. After 9 pm Fridays and Saturdays, they settle in for a post-prandial drink to a backdrop of live music. Older couples and singles alike come for chef Chris Israel's legendary cuisine. He deftly blends pan-Mediterranean influences with Northwest ingredients to create unusual dishes like cardamom-spiced quail with a Turkish pistachio-parsley sauce, or grilled halibut with a Moroccan tagine of peppers, charmoula, and preserved lemon. The signature Caesar salad and the spaetzle with braised rabbit, chanterelles, bacon, and crispy shallots are other winners. The cavernous space has a slick New York look—all muted olive green and charcoal gray, with soaring windows. For maximum quiet and romance, ask to be seated upstairs. For the buzzing scene, downstairs by the bar is the place to be.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 4 to 10 pm.

315 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe , New Mexico
Tel: 505 986 9190

Cozy and romantic—whether in the white linen tent or the Provençal-themed dining room—315 worships at the seasonal ingredients altar, perhaps more so than any other place in town. Chef Louis Moskow prepares his all-natural meats, wild fish, and fresh produce with unpretentious bistro flavors: Pork tenderloin with candied walnuts and cassis sauce is typical. Desserts are classic (profiteroles, crème brûlée), and the wine list is notable. There's also a (no reservation) wine bar with a 20-bottle Cruvinet—a great way to sample the wine list's depth

Open daily 5:30 to 9 pm. Lunch offered occasionally; call ahead for hours.

350 Main Brasserie
350 Main Street
Park City , Utah
Tel: 435 649 3140

This restaurant becomes celeb central when the festival kicks off, but Chef Michael LeClerc makes tasty fusion seafood year-round. He's known for his devotion to organic and sustainably farmed ingredients; look for inspired dishes such as the scallop-and-crab seviche and the tower of ahi and hamachi with pineapple shoyu. The place has a L.A.-meets-Utah air to it, but because even the glitterati tend to dress down in Park City, the staff—wary of not recognizing someone important ("Is that Harvey? He's slimmed down!")—tends to treat everyone who walks through the door like a somebody.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 6 pm. Call ahead for hours during April and May.

8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill
136 East Thomas Place
Beaver Creek , Colorado
Tel: 970 827 6600

With a prime location at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain, inside the Park Hyatt, 8100 Mountain Grille is needling to be your new favorite aprés-ski hot spot. Settle into the lounge around the outdoor firepit for small plates of house-made buffalo meatballs and corn fritters with truffle-horseradish aioli. Pair them with a pint of Hops of Prey, an IPA brewed especially for 8100 by Vail Valley's Crazy Mountain Brewing Company, then sit and watch the alpenglow blaze across the peaks. The dinner menu spotlights chef Christian Apetz's farm-to-table mentality, where the freshest of local ingredients are the stars of the plate.—Samantha Berman

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8022 West Third Street
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 653 6359

This pan-Mediterranean wine and food bar, which specializes in small plates, is the baby of Lucques chef Suzanne Goin. Taste the rustic pâtés and the lamb skewers with Feta salsa verde, and you'll know that sample sizes suit her just fine. The room is sleek, the long bar welcoming, and the staff knowledgeable and friendly. There are about 50 wines by the glass and many more by the bottle, nearly all of them well chosen. It's hard to get a bad pour here—and harder still to get reservations. Those who do—upscale foodies and deal-makers—call weeks ahead, especially for Fridays and Saturdays.

2355 Chestnut Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 771 2216

Trendy Marina District spot A16 has it all: great food; an extensive, well-chosen wine list; and a happening scene. The sleek, dark space, all concrete floors and cork walls, draws local singles, who pack the bar. And chef Liza Shaw's seasonal southern Italian dishes—such as pumpkin-ricotta gnocchi with pancetta and kale, and calamari with fiorelli pasta, fennel, and marjoram—score every time. But the real draw? Chewy-crusted pizza baked in a wood-burning oven. It can be hard to book a table, especially on weekends, so plan well ahead. —Updated by John Vlahides

Open Sundays through Thursdays 5 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5 to 10:30 pm.

4511 McKinney Avenue
Dallas , Texas
Tel: 214 559 3111

When this foodie landmark opened in 1999, the combination of celebrity chef Kent Rathbun's Asian-Southwestern-Parisian fusion menu, the wackily geometrized but impeccably finished Miami-meets-Kyoto decor, and the gourmet glitterati crowd seemed almost insufferably chic. But Abacus has toned it down with age. A muted palate of cream, champagne, and brown now highlights new artwork, mostly by servers from the restaurant. The signature starter here is the lobster "shooter," a little lobster-filled deep-fried dumpling chugged from a shot glass full of chili-spiced coconut curry cream and sake. Pork belly is all the rage these days, and here it's crisply seared, with tamarind barbecue glaze and so-called "Thai style" pickled English cucumbers. There's also a full sushi menu in addition to the small plates and big plates. The menu changes frequently based on the seasonality of ingredients.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 6 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 6 to 11 pm.

1170 Howell Mill Road
Atlanta , Georgia
Tel: 404 892 3335

When it comes to the joys of summertime eating, you expect the usual suspects—berries, tomatoes, corn at its peak. You don't really think of tripe, but at Abattoir, Atlanta's newest Anne Quatrano production, the often overstewed offal takes a decidedly featherweight turn. It's braised, sliced thin, and teamed with a chunk of crisp-tender pork belly, fresh romano beans, and tomatoes in a light broth. Texturally, this tripe is similar to oyster mushrooms, with just a wee bit more meaty spring, and represents Quatrano's "snout to tail" philosophy in her new enterprise. The opening menu features a good range of cured meats, bistro favorites (frites with mayo; leeks vinaigrette), pickled specialties served in jars (lamb rillettes; spicy cabbage; shrimp and onions), and a fried pie stuffed with summer berries and cooled with buttermilk ice cream. Abattoir's mod/retro atmosphere fits well in the adapted space—a former meat-packing plant in the city's Westside neighborhood.—Pableaux Johnson, first published on

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 5 to 11 pm.

89 Old Colony Way
Orleans , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 255 8144

Abba's fusion of Israeli and Asian cuisine—on Cape Cod, of all places—is as good as it is unusual. And it's been drawing crowds. Israeli chef and co-owner Erez Pinhas is equally confident pairing poached lobster with Masaman curry as he is marinating lamb in a ras el hanout spice blend, and the wine list is long and global, with a focus on Israeli wines. The unassuming exterior of this converted barn belies the minimalist (and snug) interior lit by flickering candles in Moroccan tea glasses. There's also a covered outdoor seating area that's roomier—a better option when the weather's good. Reservations are encouraged; call a week ahead for dinner on summer weekends.

Open daily 5 to 10 pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day; Tuesdays through Saturdays 5 to 9 pm the rest of the year.

Abbot's Pizza Company
1407 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 310 396 7334

With their delicate crusts and intriguing toppings—think Alfredo sauce, goat cheese, and portabella mushrooms—the pizzas at Abbot's are some of the best in the West. This bite-sized storefront's location—on the main drag in bohemian Venice—is an added bonus. Inside, rock music blasts from speakers, and convertibles, bicycles, and "Peace and Love" are advertised on a bulletin board. You can sit among the tattooed and pierced customers at a stainless-steel counter, but takeout is the big thing here. And why not, when Venice Beach beckons?

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ABC Kitchen
35 E. 18th Street
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 475 5829

Star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten opens new restaurants at a ferocious pace—in Vancouver one week, Barcelona the next. But he saved the best for his home base of New York City. This greenmarket-focused restaurant is two blocks north of the Union Square famers' market and tucked into ABC Carpet & Home, the city's most stylish home-furnishings store. That might explain why it's decked out with reclaimed wood tables and shabby-chic antique silver and china. The ecological ethos at the core of this project might make you feel good about supporting the business, but it's the food you'll come back for. While there's a healthful bent to the seasonal bounty—gorgeous salads of sugar snap peas or sweet roasted carrots—flavor's not sacrificed. And so there are also more indulgent detours, like a top-notch clam pizza and veal meatballs with bowtie pasta and crème fraîche, not to mention the sweet treats on display in the adjoining café at the edge of the store.—Jay Cheshes

Open Mondays through Thursdays noon to 10:30 pm, Fridays noon to 11 pm, Saturdays 11 am to 11 pm, and Sundays 11 am to 10:30 pm.

2600 Poplar Avenue
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 321 0082

Yilma Akilu and his wife, Seble Haile-Michael, are Washington, D.C., transplants who came to Memphis at the urging of a hungry friend to open this reasonably priced, humbly decorated Ethiopian restaurant. If asked, the charming hosts will explain the menu, how their homemade cottage cheese is prepared, and the proper way to scoop up Ethiopian food using strips of injera bread in lieu of utensils. The combination dinner allows the curious to sample a selection of rich lentil and bean dishes, extremely spicy stewed chicken, and mild, sweet cabbage prepared with butter, garlic, and turmeric. For the full experience, request to be served communally at one of the restaurant's authentic woven tables called mesobs.

1722 Sacramento Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 567 5432

The beauty is in the details at elegant Acquerello, San Francisco's top contemporary Italian table. If you arrive wearing black, you'll be offered the option of a black napkin to avoid getting white lint on your clothing. Waiters move in perfect synchronicity, delivering plates in an effortless ballet, whisking them away unseen. But most impressive is the cooking. Flavors positively sprawl across the palate in such dishes as Parmesan boudino, a custardy Italian-style soufflé served with a seasonal garnish such as paper-thin fried-eggplant curlicues or the spring's first asparagus tenders. Lobster panzarotti, a variant of ravioli, is sauced with a lush lobster-stock reduction. The 65-page wine list is one of the best in the country for Barolo and Barbaresco, with 500 selections from Piedmont. A cheese cart stocked with rare Italian varieties rounds out the evening. Reservations are essential.—John Vlahides

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 5:30 to 9:30 pm.

5200 Grand Del Mar Way
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 314 1900

Addison is a destination dining room for serious foodies. Located in the fancy Grand Del Mar resort, the decor looks like something out of an ornate Italian estate (brocade chairs, carved stone columns, Venetian plaster walls). The food, on the other hand, is surprisingly simple. Chef William Bradley's elegant Mediterranean dishes include smoked short rib with red pepper confiture, roasted rack of lamb with a balsamic reduction, and a sumptuous peanut butter and chocolate terrine.—Audrey Davidow

Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 6 to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 to 9 pm.

Ad Hoc
6476 Washington Street
Yountville , California
Tel: 707 944 2487

When Thomas Keller sent a memo to his staff on April 1, 2006, suggesting they take over a recently closed restaurant without any remodeling whatsoever, everyone thought it was an April Fool's joke. The idea was simple: a four-course set menu of American comfort cooking served family-style. The success was instant, and the only change made since day one has been to start accepting reservations. This is soul-soothing food, the place you eat on your second or third night in Napa, after you've had your fill of foie gras and puff pastry. The menu rotates based on the season and whatever's ripe in the restaurant's garden, and you don't know till you arrive what you'll be eating. The only constant is fried chicken every other Monday, when sides include biscuits and sausage gravy, and perhaps ratatouille made from squash picked that morning. Not everyone appreciates the raw simplicity of the place (wine comes in café glasses, not proper stemware), but remember that you are here for sustenance, not splash. And with such little adornment, your attention remains squarely where Keller wants it: on the plate. —John A. Vlahides

Open Thursdays through Mondays 5 to 10 pm, Sundays 10 am to 1 pm.

9543 Culver Boulevard
Culver City , California
Tel: 310 845 1700

Helmed by entertainment-biz caterer Akasha Richmond, this eco-friendly restaurant, bar, and bakery in Culver City serves healthy, surprisingly tasty, organic grub to members of L.A.'s growing green scene. Inside, the construction is sustainable, the appliances are energy-efficient, and the servers wear organic cotton T-shirts and Levi's Eco jeans. Standout entrées range from an earthy bowl of Punjabi Mung beans to a hearty slab of flatiron steak paired with organic fries. Belly up to the bar with the rest of the eco mafia for a signature cocktail mixed with organic lemon vodka, or order earth-conscious takeout from the counter: The containers are all biodegradable, and the cutlery is made from wheat.

Restaurant open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm, and Sundays 5 to 9 pm. Bakery open Mondays through Fridays 8 am to 5:30 pm, Saturdays 9 am to 5:30 pm.

Alan Wong's
1857 S. King Street
Honolulu , Hawaii
Tel: 808 949 2526

This James Beard Award–winning chef (who you might have seen on the season finale of the 2006 Top Chef) doesn't rest on his laurels. His dining room may be modest, but his flavors explode. As the locals say, when food is this delicious, it is "broke da mouth" good. Try his five-course tasting menu ($75 per person), or opt for à la carte originals such as Hot California Rolls (baked lobster mousse with crab-avocado stuffing) and the keawe-wood-grilled mahimahi with spicy wasabi sauce.

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Alaska Salmon Bake
2300 Airport Way
Fairbanks , Alaska
Tel: 800 354 7274

There are those who will say this is pure hokum—it is, after all, a salmon bake outside a theme park—but it's also a pleasant surprise. A salmon bake is an intrinsic part of the Alaska experience, and the recipe for a good one is simple: Get fresh fish, roast it over an open fire, eat outdoors if the weather allows. What make for a great salmon bake are the spice rubs and marinades used, and these are what set Alaska Salmon Bake apart as one of the best. The salmon, seasoned with lemon, butter, and brown sugar, is the main draw, but don't overlook the halibut or cod. (There's prime rib, too, but that's not why you're here.) It's also worth a trip inside Pioneer Park to see the dry-docked S.S. Nenana, a paddle-wheel ship (the type used to ferry gold during the rush) that's the second-largest wooden boat in the world.

They say bears can smell fish cooking from a distance of roughly two miles; it's worth going even further for a good salmon bake. If you have the time to travel a long way into the middle of nowhere, join the locals at the Tok Gateway Salmon Bake (Tok is located on the Alaska Highway, about halfway between Fairbanks and the Canadian border).—Edward Readicker-Henderson

Open daily 5 to 9:30 pm, mid-May through mid-September.

Al Biernat's
4217 Oak Lawn Avenue
Dallas , Texas
Tel: 214 219 2201

Dallas is a city of steak houses, and this is perhaps the most classic. Come here for a look into old-boy Dallas and its cigar-smoking fat cats—though you won't see them lighting up after the city's smoking ban. Steak is the real focus, so steer clear of the seafood options, or try one of the more ambitious game entrées, such as elk fillet with a shiitake port-wine reduction. The wine list here shows an intense New World focus, so there will be no shortage of big California wines to complement your hunk of beef. Keep an eye out for the corporate groups dining at tables of 20; they're hard to miss amid the dark woods and low lighting. Al Biernat himself is a ubiquitous presence, greeting everyone who walks through the door.

Open Mondays through Fridays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Saturdays 5:30 to 11 pm, and Sundays 5:30 to 9 pm.

71 Main Street
Edgartown , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 627 9999

This buzzy (sometimes to the point of earsplitting) bistro with polished wood floors, French café-style rattan chairs, and large front windows seems more SoHo than Edgartown. But locals love the converted onetime grocery store for its eclectic menu—wild mushroom risotto balls, braised short ribs, gnocchi, burgers, just-plucked-from-the-water steamers, and lobster shepherd's pie—and because everyone drops in here, especially when the Red Sox game is on.

Al Di Là Trattoria
248 Fifth Avenue (at Carroll Street)
Park Slope
Brooklyn , New York
Tel: 718 783 4565
Subway: D, N, or R trains to Union Street

The pioneer of the Fifth Avenue scene, this convivial Venetian place, with its wooden tables, rickety chairs, and understated yellow dining room, has held up just fine against ever-increasing competition—in fact, as the long weekend lines and the next-door wine bar suggest, it's still the best. This is due to the passion of the owners, Emiliano Coppa and his wife, the chef Anna Klinger, who has everyone addicted to her braised rabbit with black olives, her classic saltimbocca and calf's liver alla Veneziana, her ricotta gnocchi with brown butter and sage, and the risotto col nero—cuttlefish ink—that takes 20 minutes because she stirs every serving to order.

Open Mondays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm, Tuesdays 6 to 10:30 pm, Wednesdays through Fridays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 3:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm.

Hotel Photo
1723 N. Halstead Street
Chicago , Illinois
Tel: 312 867 0110

Rising star and culinary rocket scientist Grant Achatz (formerly of Trio and Napa's French Laundry) raises the bar on New American cooking at his techno-chic Lincoln Park restaurant. Foodies fly in from everywhere to sample his 12- and 24-course tasting menus; his plates have been known to include squab with huckleberries, sorrel, and peppercorns, and bison with Gruyère, pumpernickel, and wild leeks. Alinea, whose name comes from a typographical symbol meaning "the beginning of a new paragraph," may very well be the start of something new in exhibition cooking.

Open Wednesdays through Sundays 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm.

Allred's Restaurant
Telluride , Colorado
Tel: 970 728 7474

Allred's has no street address—it isn't anywhere near a street. Rather, it's inside the San Sophia gondola station at 10,550 feet. With that on-high view of town, no other restaurant comes close in the scenery department. Then again, you can get the same view just by riding the gondola, so Allred's better deliver the epicurean goods, and it does: Delectables include seasonal dishes like poached apricot–vanilla Maine lobster tail, or the free–range Canadian veal chop with potato-chanterelle hash. Alone up there on an alpine ridge, Allred's has plenty of space, so the chairs are cushier and the tables more private than in town.

Open daily 3 to 10 pm.

187 Columbia Street
Carroll Gardens
Brooklyn , New York
Tel: 718 643 5400
Subway: F train to Carroll Street

The secret may be out by now, but you'll still feel in the know as you sip your Patron Silver premium tequila on the rooftop terrace of this tri-level Nuevo cantina—the drop-dead view of the Manhattan skyline across the harbor is one of the best in the city. Chef Hans Dannerhoj's creative, multiregional Mexican dishes are generally top-notch: Highlights include picada de puerco carnitas (orange-braised pork with pickled onions and guacamole); chicken in the most toothsome mole north of Oaxaca; cazuela Borrego (shredded lamb with guajillo chili, tomato, potato, and zucchini); poblano relleno con picadillo (poblano chili stuffed with pork, raisins, and olives); and sides of spinach with garlic and Cotija cheese. If the deck is packed, try heading downstairs to the convivial main dining room on the second level. B61, on the ground floor, is a mellow affair with a long walnut bar, jukebox, and pool table.

Open Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 2:30 pm, Sunday through Thursday 5:30 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11 pm.

Alpino Vino
Located off the See Forever trail
Telluride , Colorado
Tel: 888 605 2578

To reach this European-style mountain hut at 12,000 feet, diners take a Snow-Coach ride up the slope. This tiny outpost in a European-style mountain hut nearly hangs off the slopes at the top of Gold Hill and has dizzying views of the craggy San Juans. If you are on the mountain for lunch, stop by for superior antipasti and prosciutto panini. Dinner guests take a Snow-Coach 12,000 feet up the slope for a five-course Italian menu with pairings from the stellar wine list.—Samantha Berman

217–219 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia , Pennsylvania
Tel: 215 625 2450

Reinterpreting authentic Spanish tapas is the specialty of chef/owner Jose Garces, who used to work with Douglas Rodriguez (the "godfather" of Nuevo Latino cuisine). Traditional dishes like salt-cod croquette, clams and chorizo, and crab-stuffed piquillo peppers coexist with Garces's inventive cocas, Spanish flatbreads topped with vibrant combinations like duck, figs, and Cabrales cheese. The chef's counter—with a view of the kitchen—and the community tables in the bar are a good place to perch if you're dining alone, awaiting cut-to-order Serrano ham and aged Manchego with truffle-lavender honey. Spanish wines dominate the 40-bottle list, and house-made sangria—like the signature Blanco, a crisp white wine spiked with quince, pear, and lemon—steeps in oak barrels along the wall. Go on a Wednesday or Friday night to catch a flamenco performance.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 pm to midnight, Sundays 4 to 10 pm.

Santa Maria Suites Resort
1401 Simonton Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 293 0304

There was much local breast-beating when off-the-beaten-track sushi place Ambrosia decamped from its longtime home for the Miami Modern porte cochere of the redeveloped Santa Maria Suites Resort. Fortunately, it proved a smart move. The new space is much larger—though reservations are still recommended—and the decor whiffs of mid-century with round wicker chairs, black lacquer, and a soothing jazz soundtrack. But most important, the menu of rolls like lobster tempura has been maintained. Any doubters as to the place's authenticity will be silenced by the condiments. They use the real stuff, so the pickled ginger isn't Day-Glo pink and the wasabi is nice and powdery.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 2 pm and daily from 6 to 10 pm.

American Flatbread
Lareau Farm Country Inn
46 Laureau Road (off Route 100)
Waitsfield , Vermont
Tel: 802 496 8856

A 800-degree clay and stone oven dominates the center of this 19th-century barn-cum-restaurant, which serves inspired pizza combos. The Punctuated Equilibrium flatbread (kalamata olives, red peppers, and Vermont goat cheese—it's named for an evolutionary theory) is a favorite, and the New Vermont Sausage (made with local pork, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and mushrooms) is irresistible. The wait is as famous as the food, especially during ski season, when it seems all of Sugarbush is jamming the place. An hour is common, but they'll stick a beer in your hand and point you outside, where a bonfire sends sparks overhead and keeps you warm. Outposts in Middlebury (137 Maple St.; 802-388-3300) and Burlington (115 St. Paul St.; 802-861-2999; open daily) lack the farm charm but maintain the culinary standards.

Open Fridays and Saturdays 4:30 to 9:30 pm.

The American Hotel Restaurant
49 Main Street
Sag Harbor , New York
Tel: 631 725 3535

The restaurant at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor is as much of a Hamptons classic as the hotel itself, and more vibrant than the somewhat frayed guest rooms. Just past the wood-paneled parlor, with its armchairs and fragrant cigar case, the restaurant opens up into four separate dining rooms. The French-inspired menu changes seasonally; dishes might include duck-liver terrine with black truffles; steak au poivre; and oysters on the half shell from nearby Hog Neck Bay. (The lobster BLT is a popular lunch option.) But the real draw, apart from the celebrated wine list, has always been the lively and unpretentious social scene, which over the years has drawn the likes of Billy Joel, who's been known to play tunes on the house piano, and everyone's favorite Hamptons fixture, Alec Baldwin.—Darrell Hartman

Open Mondays through Sundays 8 to 10 am, 12 to 4 pm, and 5 to 10:30 pm, summer; 5 to 9:30 pm, winter.

American Seasons
80 Centre Street
Nantucket , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 228 7111

With its harvest-scene murals and tables painted in quilt-style patterns, this "regional and seasonal" restaurant evokes old-fashioned Americana. (Sometimes to a fault—the rustic sign outside is so faded that you might miss the place.) Chef Michael LaScola organizes the new American menu into three culinary regions. For "Pacific Coast" he might spice-rub a Long Island duck breast and stuff dumplings with Nantucket-grown shitake mushrooms and foie gras. In a signature "New England" dish, he interprets fish and chips as potato-wrapped rare yellowfin tuna with crushed English peas and lemon confit. And for "Down South and Wild West," he might whip up a smoked tomato and bacon dressing for chicken-fried chicken livers.

Dinner only. Open mid-May through December.

Amici Ristorante & Bar
375 South County Road
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 832 0201

Regulars of this convivial establishment are delighted now that it has relocated up the avenue to a larger space. It still serves northern Italian specialties, and the herb garden behind the new kitchen is probably one of the reasons the pasta dishes taste so good. Antipasti, risotto, or any of the dozen pastas, such as clams sautéed with garlic over spaghetti are standouts, as is the grilled swordfish. The tiramisù deserves special mention, and so does the wonderful service. All in all, a better bet than overrated Bice.

Anasazi Restaurant & Bar
113 Washington Avenue
Santa Fe , New Mexico
Tel: 505 988 3236

Chef Martin Rios has lived in New Mexico most of his life, but he eschews chiles and spices for his flavors and sauce reductions. The result is a menu that you'll find in other quality restaurants in the States, such as a yellow fin tuna dish with a cashew crust and red curry reduction, or the aged beef tenderloin with a coffee and molasses glaze. Seafood is no longer a poor choice in New Mexico, and Rios' lobster dumplings with veal sweetbreads and crunchy haricot verts prove it. The hotel dining room is a single elongated space with hardwood floors, Anaszi brick walls, and Native-American-rug patterned banquettes. Service is mostly invisible and highly conscientious.

Open daily 7 to 10:30 am, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, and 5:30 to 10 pm.

Anchovies & Olives
1550 15th Avenue
Seattle , Washington
Tel: 206 838 8080

Who could resist ordering sausage-stuffed red mullet? The waiter at Anchovies & Olives, the latest in the Ethan Stowell empire, didn't let on that the succulent fish would be served with the head on, or that digital manipulation would be required to extract meat from bones and bones from mouths. Not that I'm complaining—this is a salmonless-in-Seattle seafood restaurant for grownups, and as much as I enjoyed the stuffed mullet and the miner's lettuce and beets with anchovy dressing, the real draw here is the Esca-esque raw plates. Five slices of tender scallop support diced piquillo and serrano peppers and morsels of ruby grapefruit—a perfect composition. The rich Jack Crevalle (aptly described by the waiter as "like hamachi, but more so") is paired with ultra-tart pickled leeks. Plus, A&O has the hottest thing in bivalves (no, seriously): Shigoku oysters.—Matthew Amster-Burton, first published on

Open Sundays through Thursdays 5 to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5 pm to midnight.

Angelini Osterina
7313 Beverly Boulevard
West Hollywood , California
Tel: 323 297 0070

Gino Angelini's sophisticated comfort-food restaurant is where other chefs go when they're off duty—Mario Batali, for instance, tends to drop by when he's in town. It's not that Angelini's menu is particularly nouveau or showy—, but his takes on ordinary-sounding dishes use the highest-quality ingredients and are somehow transcendentally delicious. The menu includes antipasti, thin-crust pizzas, pastas, salads, and roasted meats; his lasagna Nonna Elvira—layers of spinach pasta with béchamel, buffalo mozzarella and Bolognese sauce—is sheer perfection. Angelini also runs La Terza in the newly redecorated Orlando hotel on Third, which is a little more formal (8384 W. Third St.; 323-782-8384).

Closed Mondays.

Angelo's Bar-B-Que
2533 White Settlement Road
Fort Worth , Texas
Tel: 817 332 0357

In business since 1958, Angelo's has managed to become an institution (you can even find its dry rub in supermarkets now) without losing the respect of the notoriously picky Texas BBQ cognoscenti. The barnlike establishment remains no-fuss and a lot of muss. A couple of great big smoky rooms crammed with the stuffed heads of big-horned ungulates find faithful customers queuing up for the signature hickory-smoked pork ribs, crusty on the outside and falling-off-the-bone-tender inside (presented on a Styrofoam plate with beans, coleslaw, potato salad, and the legendary spicy sauce). They serve the ribs until they run out, which can often be before they shut off the spigots on the trademark ultracold beer at 10 p.m.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 10 pm.

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435 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 782 9225

This unassuming little spot, nestled between scruffy delis and bagel bakeries in the heart of L.A.'s kosher district, is full of pleasant surprises. For starters, there's the restaurant's all-out reverence for pork—think buttery braised pork shoulder or balsamic-glazed ribs—which even extends to a delicious chocolate crunch dessert topped off with crumbled bacon. Then there's the fact that this no-frills spot, with its wooden tables and apron-wearing bartender, just might be one of the few restaurants in L.A. where you'll find top-rate food served without a hint of attitude or fuss. Adventurous, delicious dishes include mustard-crusted sweetbreads; braised rabbit served on beans, carrots, and fennel; and poutine (french fries smothered in oxtail gravy and Vermont cheddar). Thanks to sommelier Erik Kelley, the wine selection is well edited and reasonably priced. But you're welcome to bring your own for a small corkage fee.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 6 to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 6 pm to 2 am.

12 Anson Street
Charleston , South Carolina
Tel: 843 577 0551

This chic, gilt-trimmed dining room frequented by society types is the city's finest. Although Anson is adjacent to touristy Old City Market, it's frequented by Charlestonians, who come for the fresh, creative spins on traditional dishes: barbecued grouper, shrimp and grits (ground in Anson's own kitchen), and crispy flounder. The setting is a century-old warehouse jazzed up with plantation shutters, gold ballroom chairs, an authentic cypress fireplace mantle, and planters. Huge French windows provide a passing scene of horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping through the streets. Request a table upstairs.

Apple Pan
10801 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 310 475 3585

Feeling nostalgic for a time gone by (and the low prices that went with it)? Head to this white clapboard shack, opened in 1947 and now surrounded by boxy storefronts that seem about to swallow it whole. Inside, wood paneling and red-and-white plaid wallpaper flank 26 counter seats, for which devoted fans are happy to wait. The rewards are ample, including steak burgers piled high with fixings (everything you'd expect, minus the tomato—they don't like them here) and hickory burgers drenched in barbecue sauce. Whatever you do, save room for the gooey homemade pie.

Closed Mondays.

Aqua Santa
451 W. Alameda Avenue
Santa Fe , New Mexico
Tel: 505 982 6297

This place follows the credo (one that came relatively late to these parts) of everything local and seasonal. Owner and chef Brian Knox changes the menu every few days to keep up with the supply—which he cooks in an open kitchen. A spicy, braised smoked shoulder of lamb with chard is one such dish; appetizers will include heirloom tomatoes every which way, when they're available. His ideas are as simple and pleasing as the decor in this spare, clean room. With only 12 interior tables (and an additional dozen on the patio), reservations are strongly advised.

Open Tuesdays and Saturdays 5:30 to 9 pm; Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays noon to 2 pm and 5:30 to 9 pm.

2708 Routh Street
Dallas , Texas
Tel: 214 871 1924

Sardinian cuisine in Dallas? You'd better believe it. Efisio and Francesco Farris import ingredients to create authentic Italian cuisine. They brag that Sardinian food is the simple food of the simple people there. The menu, however, does feature some dishes that are anything but simple, like handmade semolina dumplings with a ragù of braised baby lamb, or linguine with clams, tomatoes, garlic, and bottarga (the cured roe that's the specialty of Sardinia, nicknamed "Sardinian caviar"). A wood-fired pizza oven makes for a beautiful centerpiece; a bar area appeals to its fair share of attractive Dallasites. Arcodoro shares its space with Pomodoro, a more formal restaurant with a less relaxing ambience, also manned by the Farris brothers.

Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 11 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays 11 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm, Saturdays 5:30 to 11 pm, and Sundays 5:30 to 10 pm.

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3580 State Highway (Route 6)
Eastham , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 255 2575

Arnold's is by far the best of Cape Cod's many clam shacks. Named, regrettably, for the Happy Days diner, it turns out lightly battered shellfish (including whole-belly clams) and truly amazing homemade onion rings piled so high that they're hard to balance on the walk from the counter to your picnic table. The long lines move quickly; credit cards are not accepted.

Restaurant open daily 11:30 am to 9:30 pm, mid-May through Columbus Day; ice cream stand open daily 11:30 am to 10 pm mid-June through mid-September.

Arnold's Country Kitchen
605 8th Avenue S.
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 615 256 4455

For less than a ten spot, you can enjoy what is commonly considered to be the city's best meat-and-three. For those not familiar with the Southern concept, this is a choose-your-own-adventure style of eating in which you select one meat (such as barbecue pork or roast beef) and three veggies (from collard greens to mac and cheese). Located in a less-than-picturesque part of downtown in a red-and-yellow cinderblock building, Jack Arnold's restaurant welcomes a crowd that includes average working Joes, hipster kids, bums, and a bipartisan mix of local politicians (the mayor's a fan). Service is truly democratic: Everyone lines up together and files through, cafeteria-style. Jack is usually on hand, working alongside his wife and sons, carving up perfectly cooked roast beef or dishing out scoops of corn pudding or collard greens.

Open Mondays through Fridays 6 am to 2:30 pm.

41 Berwick Road
Ogunquit , Maine
Tel: 207 361 1100

Green thumbs and green eaters go gaga for this acclaimed coastal restaurant, whose one-acre garden provides 90 percent of the menu's produce. Sprouting from the Maine soil are 15 varieties of lettuce, 25 types of heirloom tomatoes, and enough herbs, apples, carrots, and more to keep Arrows hitting a bull's-eye year-round. Chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier—who've also opened MC Perkins Cove in Ogunquit (207-646-6263; and Summer Winter in Burlington, Mass. (781-221-6643;—oversee a staff of not only gardeners but also on-site fish smokers, cheesemakers, and pastry chefs who have led the sustainable-eating movement since 1988. Maine's bounty dictates the menu, which might include foie gras steamed buns, sea-salt-roasted rabbit loin, and parsnip crème brûlée. The best way to get to the root of what's growing outside? The six-course garden tasting menu.

Open Thursdays through Sundays 6 to 9 pm, April 11 through May 31 and Columbus Day through New Year's Day; Tuesdays through Sundays, July 1 through Labor Day; Wednesdays through Sundays, June and Labor Day through Columbus Day.

A Single Pebble
133 Bank Street
Burlington , Vermont
Tel: 802 865 5200

The best Chinese food in Vermont, without question. Chef-owner Steve Bogart has cooked at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and regularly tours China in search of new inspiration. The mock eel (dangly strips of braised shiitake mushrooms in a sweet-spicy ginger sauce) is a classic, one of many spectacular vegetarian options using centuries-old Buddhist recipes. Lemon sesame shrimp and red-pine chicken are stellar choices for the more meat-minded. A Single Pebble is deceptive—the atmosphere is so casual and the prices so reasonable that it takes a few visits to get just how good the food really is.

Open Mondays through Fridays 11:30 am to 1:45 pm and 5 to 9 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 5 to 9 pm.

137 Main Street
Edgartown , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 627 5850

Named for a star used by sailors to navigate, Atria is the Vineyard's first certified organic restaurant. Christian Thornton, the chef (and co-owner, along with his wife, Greer), sources ingredients from island farmers and fishermen. He changes the menu daily to reflect what's freshest—lightly seasoning and wok-firing a two-pound lobster caught just off-shore one day, and wrapping cod in prosciutto with a drizzle of lobster and lemon butter the next—but the dish the locals praise the most isn't on the menu at all: the island's best cheeseburger. (The big, juicy burger is available only in the Brick Cellar Bar—a local hangout with leather club chairs, saltwater fish tanks, and live music). The large, reasonably priced wine list emphasizes Napa Valley (Thornton's original home), and in addition to the main dining room—with white tablecloths and rustic wooden chairs—there's outdoor dining on a back deck.

Auberge du Soleil Restaurant
Auberge du Soleil
180 Rutherford Hill Road
Rutherford , California
Tel: 800 348 5406 (toll-free)
Tel: 707 963 1211

Auberge du Soleil was a gastronomic pioneer when it opened in 1981, and it still serves the wine-country cuisine that it helped to invent. Chef Robert Curry draws on the cornucopia of fine produce cultivated in Napa Valley to turn out dishes such as pan-seared duck with wild mushrooms, pea tendrils, and cannelloni. The dining room is clubby and compact, lined with windows overlooking the terrace. But the best seats are outside on the terrace. On a clear night, you can see the glittering lights of San Francisco in the distance; daytime diners enjoy panoramic views of the olive groves and vineyards. For the ultimate in ambience, eat at sunset.

Open daily 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 9:30 pm.

4216 Oak Lawn Avenue
Dallas , Texas
Tel: 214 528 9400

Aurora is still a contender in Dallas's superheated dining universe: an intimate, Paris-style food shrine where globe-trotting gourmets can deconstruct a celebrity chef's riffs on cutting-edge culinary techniques. Aurora even adds an element of performance art: You enter the minimalist, 12-table dining room through a velvet curtain to find Avner Samuel and his all-star staff showing off their chops behind an enormous glass screen that presents the gleaming stainless-steel kitchen as the set of a restaurant-based reality show. Mere appetizers can evoke a world tour, like the Iranian osetra caviar on a Yukon potato chibouste. Entrées, such as the Ruti de Colorado lamb rib and saddle fillet with potato truffle galette, combine Samuel's polished French technique with distinctively American fare.

Open Mondays through Fridays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 9 pm, Saturdays 5:30 to 9 pm.

Automatic Slim's Tonga Club
83 S. Second Street
Memphis , Tenneesee
Tel: 901 525 7948

The Caribbean-Southwestern-Southern fusion menu here is not for traditionalists. But if you have an adventure-seeking palate, the choices (and the portions) can be delightfully overwhelming. If you're game, try an oversized sandwich of smoked ham sautéed with coconut milk and topped with Pickapeppa sauce (lunch only), lamb chops in a sun-dried blueberry-mint-jalapeño sauce, or coconut-mango shrimp, perhaps with a voodoo stew of seafood. The fun, splashy colors used in the eclectic lighting fixtures, decorative tiles, and bar mirror the audaciously tasty food.

Dinner daily. No lunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

AZ 88 Bar & Restaurant
7353 Scottsdale Mall
Scottsdale , Arizona
Tel: 480 994 5576

AZ88 is one of the best people-watching places in Scottsdale because its giant windows and deck look out on the Scottsdale town square. The food (burgers, waffle fries, Cobb salad, chicken sandwiches) is all good and fairly inexpensive for this area, but come for the massive drinks (martini big gulps) and the hookup possibilities—both gay and straight.

Closed for lunch Saturdays and Sundays.

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B&G Oysters Ltd.
550 Tremont Street
Boston , Massachusetts
Tel: 617 423 0550

Chef/owner Barbara Lynch's South End hot spot attracts le tout Boston for excellent lobster rolls and, of course, bivalves, shucked to order and washed down with Prosecco. The room is gorgeous and sexy with its ocean-hued mosaics, mother-of-pearl colors, and flattering spotlights, and the joint is always jumping—so much so that you should be prepared to wait up to two hours for a spot at the bar, and without reservations, it's unlikely you'll get a table. Also check out No. 9 Park, Lynch's first restaurant, on Boston Common (9 Park St.; 617-742-9991), or Menton, her French–Italian hot spot in the Fort Point Channel neighborhood, which was a James Beard Award nominee for best new restaurant in 2011 (354 Congress St.; 617-737-0099).—updated by Jon Marcus

Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club
U.S. Highway 89
Babb , Montana
Tel: 406 732 4033 (summer)
Tel: 406 732 4532 (winter)

The best follow-up to a trip through Glacier National Park is a mountain-size cut of beef at this top-notch steakhouse, just east of Many Glacier. Pull up a red captain's chair in the bar and toss back a beer with the Blackfeet Reservation locals before heading upstairs to the cavernous dining room, decorated with taxidermy and Native American art. The 28-oz. rib eye is the most popular item on the menu, but it's not just about quantity: This is some of the best beef and bison in the West. The dress? Montana formal—don't bother changing out of your jeans, but you should probably tuck your shirt in.

Open daily 5 to 10 pm, May through mid-October.

Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca
110 Waverly Place
West Village
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 777 0303

Former American presidents seated at table 3? Check. Beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab liver and black truffles served at table 6? Check. Large-and-in-charge man with red hair in a ponytail, shorts, and clogs walking the aisles? Check. Such is a typical night at Babbo, Mario Batali's perennially hot and rollicking restaurant just off Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Batali launched the place in 1998 with partner Joseph Bastianich, son of Lidia and a renowned vintner-restaurateur in his own right, and it was one of the first restaurants in New York to offer such an inventive and sophisticated take on Italian cuisine—with a voluminous wine list to match. The phones haven't stopped ringing since. Although the team recently opened the garish Del Posto (85 Tenth Ave.; 212-497-8090;, Babbo (with its must-try pasta tasting menu) is still our favorite.

1198 Howell Mill Road
Atlanta , Georgia
Tel: 404 365 0410

Bacchanalia is often called the Chez Panisse of the South, and it's easy to see why: Bay Area–trained chefs Clifford Harrison and Anne Quatrano follow the legendary restaurant's lead, emphasizing simple presentation and fresh, seasonal ingredients. This no-fuss philosophy extends to the renovated warehouse space, which is comfortable and pretty but not distracting. The four-course prix fixe menu changes regularly, but highlights include crab fritter with Thai pepper essence, quail with wild mushrooms, and mouthwatering madeleines that will inspire you to take another crack at Proust. Downstairs, newer and more formal Quinones is also informed by California nouvelle cuisine, with stronger regional undertones, such as trout with local butter beans and tupelo honey. The elegant Southern Gothic dining room is perfect for important client meetings and romantic rendezvous alike. On the more casual end of the spectrum, another Bacchanalia relative, Floataway Café, offers the same focus on flavor without the multi-course commitment.

Dinner only.

Back Forty
190 Avenue B
East Village
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 388 1990

Pioneering locavore Peter Hoffman opened Back Forty in the East Village to spread the good word about New York's Greenmarket produce—and the good food he makes with it—to a younger, more budget-minded audience. (Savoy, his original, pricier Soho restaurant, has been packing them in since 1990.) The low-key neighborhood spot features minimal rustic decor (farm implements on the walls, a country mural behind the bar) and an abbreviated menu of hearty entrées and seasonal sides. Hoffman's superior burger is made with grass-fed beef, farmhouse Cheddar, and thick heritage pig bacon. His whole rotisserie chicken in a green-garlic marinade is a succulent centerpiece of a shareable feast. Among the earthy side dishes don't miss the rich cheese-drenched "drunken potato melt" or the unusual green wheat with minted yogurt. Wash it all down with one of a half-dozen New York beers or Back Forty's own wine, bottled specifically for the restaurant on the North Fork of Long Island.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 6 to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 6 pm to midnight, and Sundays noon to 3:30 and 6 to 10 pm.

Baked in Telluride
127 S. Fir Street
Telluride , Colorado
Tel: 970 728 4775

Telluride's oldest restaurant (opened in 1975) attracts the town's youngest clientele. For calories per dollar, the chocolate doughnuts and ham-and-cheese empanadas at this downtown bakery have no rival. And the Thursday night special—turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce—doles out a little Thanksgiving hominess to the dreadlocked and often transient folks who help the establishment live up to its name.

Open daily 5:30 am to 10 pm.

80 Spring Street
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 965 1785

Balthazar reinvented the downtown hot spot when it opened in the late '90s, and it's already a New York classic. Impresario Keith McNally, still the reigning king of effortless restaurant cool, did such a fine job cloning a Beaux Arts Paris brasserie that Balthazar felt decades old the minute it opened. The spacious restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, still gets its share of high-wattage diners like Kate Moss and Jude Law. Over the years, the straightforward, often delicious, bistro fare has remained as consistent as the crowds. The gargantuan shellfish platters are a dazzling indulgence, particularly with a bottle of chilled Muscadet. The steak tartare, zingy with mustard and capers, is among the best in town, as is the grill-marked steak with silky béarnaise and slim, greaseless frites. Though you'll no longer need a secret phone number to secure a table for dinner, you'll still probably want to book well in advance. The attached bakery offers top-notch French pastries and sandwiches to eat on the run.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 7:30 to 11:30 am, noon to 5 pm, and 5:45 pm to 1 am, Fridays 7:30 to 11:30 am, noon to 5 pm, and 5:45 pm to 2 am, Saturdays 8 am to 4 pm and 5:45 pm to 2 am, and Sundays 8 am to 4 pm and 5:30 pm to midnight.

Banana Cafe
1211 Duval Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 294 7227

This popular brunch spot, on the quieter end of Duval Street, specializes in nearly 20 varieties of crepes, with fillings that include bacon, mushrooms, and béchamel; goat cheese and walnuts; and sea scallops in white wine and cream. Grab a table on the porch to eat.

Bar-B-Q Shop
1782 Madison Avenue
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 272 1277

This little joint, with its no-frills decor, may just turn out the most perfectly spiced cooked pig that Memphis has to offer—no small feat, given that this city of pork barbecue contains more than 100 restaurants specializing in the Southern delicacy. The award-winning Dancing Pigs sauce, available in mild or hot, has become a mighty successful side business for the owners and imparts all it touches with a sweet, tomatoey zest. Come hungry, and the shop will satiate you with juicy pulled pork shoulder or a slab of tangy, succulent ribs (wet or dry) and all the 'cue fixings: baked beans, fresh coleslaw, and buttery Texas toast. If you're feeling bold, try an appetizer plate of barbecue bologna, sausage, and cheese, followed by spicy, rich barbecue spaghetti. Cholesterol watchers, beware!

Closed Sundays.

2442 Hyperion Avenue
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 662 2442

Maybe it's that the outside of Barbrix, located in hip Silver Lake, looks like a burnished version of the 1940s-era house it once was; or that owners Claudio Blotta and his wife, Adria Tennor, have a way of waving hi to every diner as if they've known them forever. But some say that the overwhelming success of this 50-seat wine bar has more to do with the fact that the neighborhood has long needed a spot that serves good food and affordable wine. Either way, as the sun set the other night, it seemed that half the community's residents began threading their way down the hill towards Barbrix as if by mass decree, primed to enjoy the clean, distinct flavors of chef Don Dickman's seasonal menu. We loved our small—but not still-hungry small—plates of delicate Sicilian veal meatballs; a Turkish salad of diced vegetables and tangy dabs of Greek yogurt; and grilled New Zealand lamp chops with mint pesto and eggplant purée. Blotta, whom locals know as the Argentine charmer from Campanile and La Terza, has a way with personal touches: He helped pour the cement in the front dining patio, showed the landscaper where to plant the lemon and olive saplings that will someday grow into fruiting trees, and made sure customers wouldn't have to spend more than $50 for a bottle of wine. "We want Barbrix to be a home away from home," beamed Blotta. "We had regulars the first week we opened."—Margy Rochlin, first published on

Open Sundays through Thursdays 6pm to 11pm, Fridays through Saturdays 6pm to 12am.

231 Center Street
Healdsburg , California
Tel: 707 431 0100

Thanks to the travertine floors and wooden walls of this converted red barn, the dining room can get a little noisy, but it's a happening spot for dinner, and its garden is one of the prettiest spaces in town. The frequently changing menu is organized by "taste profile." "Light" may include tuna poke with a pickled ginger–wasabi mousse; "Spicy" lists dishes like crispy grilled pork belly atop seared scallops; and "Comfort" (read: filling) is for dishes like pan-seared wild halibut with creamy cashew rice and tamarind sauce. The combinations are inventive, and the flavors big. The bar is a destination unto itself and hops nearly every night. Aside from an outstanding selection of Sonoma County vintages and a few European standouts, you'll also find unusual organic spirits, many of which are mixed with house-made syrups for some of wine country's best cocktails.

Open Wednesdays through Saturdays noon to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm, Sundays 11 am to 3 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm.

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Barney Greengrass
541 Amsterdam Avenue
Upper West Side
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 724 4707

That this old-school Jewish appetizing store now has a location in Beverly Hills speaks to the supernal power of sturgeon. Since the original New York shop opened in 1908, no other restaurant has trafficked in such high-quality smoked fish. Add to that toasted bialys, chocolate babka, and excellent chopped liver, and you can see why the timeworn dining room, jammed with rickety tables, teems with Upper West Siders during brunch hours. Once inside, you may spot Anthony Bourdain digging into an omelet packed with caramelized onions and salty lox—if you had come decades ago, you might have seen Alfred Hitchcock or Groucho Marx doing the same.

Closed Mondays.

Barrio Café
2814 N. 16th Street
Phoenix , Arizona
Tel: 602 636 0240

We should probably keep Barrio to ourselves, as it doesn't take reservations and the wait can push an hour on a Tuesday night. Thankfully, there's a wall full of tequila to help pass the time. The place is small, loud, and not in the nicest part of town, but it also happens to be one of the best Mexican restaurants in the entire Southwest. Prettiest dish: tilapia fillet rubbed with achiote (a Yucatán spice) and wrapped in a banana leaf with chunks of onions. Most complicated: Pescado del Mar, with layers of shrimp, scallops, and crab and lobster over a pan-seared halibut fillet, all steaming in a white wine and shallot cream sauce with pieces of chorizo and poblano peppers. Best: four simple, slow-roasted pork tacos that will have your mouth watering for days—guaranteed.

Open Tuesdays through Fridays. No lunch on Saturdays.

Bart & Yeti's
551 E. Lionshead Circle
Vail , Colorado
Tel: 970 476 2754

A local dive that's consistently voted "Best Burger" by Vail's faithful denizens, Bart & Yeti's—named after two dearly departed dogs who served as establishment mascots—is also the place to go for chili, baby back ribs, steak, and fried chicken. You'll probably run into your kid's ski instructor and the boisterous ski patrol crew chilling at the end of the day.

BBs Kitchen
525 East Cooper Avenue
Aspen , Colorado
Tel: 970 429 8284

This spot is Aspen's de facto living room, attracting locals and visitors to the historic Aspen Grove building on Main Street. Almost everything is made in-house—they even smoke with their own fish and bake their own breads. The main menu leans toward creative comfort food (scallops and grits, truffle mac and cheese). Stop by during happy hour, from 3 pm to 6 pm daily, when you can pair $5 glasses of wine and $2 beers with items from the lounge menu, like the house-made charcuterie plate.—by Samantha Berman

Beach Bistro
6600 Gulf Drive
Anna Maria Island , Florida
Tel: 941 778 6444

Hidden among rental properties on the north end, the Beach Bistro is the pièce de résistance of Anna Maria Island's dining scene. The New American and Mediterranean-inflected Floridian cuisine is worth a splurge: Red bell pepper–papaya jam enlivens grouper; capers, caviar, and Key lime crème fraîche dress up Nova Scotia salmon; and roasted duckling is spiked with wild berry sauce. Finish with the decadent chocolate truffle terrine.

Beaker and Flask
727 SE Washington Street
Portland , Oregon
Tel: 503 235 8180

"I've been wanting to combine Riesling and cachaça," said our intense bartender, mixing wine and liquor after a request for an on-the-spot invention. He added grapefruit and lime, tasted the concoction, and scribbled in his notebook before presenting it to the customer, who seemed very happy with the result. I was equally pleased with my Broken Shark (gin, Averna amaro, grapefruit, and absinthe). The food, frequently smoky, tart, and salty, is very cocktail-friendly: An appetizer of grilled romaine was sprinkled with smoked feta; pickled baby octopus (made in-house, of course) and tasso ham flavored a plate of sautéed green beans. The place is not as laboratory-chic as the name would imply, and when we asked the bartender to make us his favorite cocktail, it was nothing beakery or flasky: simply a classic daiquiri made with 15-year-old Guyanese rum.—Matthew Amster-Burton, first published on

Open Mondays through Wednesdays 5 pm to midnight, Thursdays through Saturdays 5 pm to 1 am.

Becky's Diner
390 Commercial Street
Portland , Maine
Tel: 207 773 7070

Fishermen, lobstermen, and little kids watching cartoons on TV sit elbow-to-elbow along the counter on Saturday mornings at Becky's Diner. Although zoning laws on Hobson's Wharf (just south of Old Port) ban all nonfishery businesses, owner Becky Rand successfully argued in 1991 that the boatmen needed a place to eat. The diner does not suffer fools, charging extra for fancy substitutions and serving eggs Benedict only as an occasional special. Instead, this is the place for thick blueberry pancakes, fresh haddock, hash, hamburger patties, and omelets made 14 ways. There's lunch and dinner, too, but don't miss breakfast. In warm weather, ask for a table on the rooftop patio for the harbor views.

Open daily 4 am to 9 pm.

Beijing Noodle No. 9
Caesars Palace
3570 Las Vegas Boulevard S.
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 877 346 4642

Beijing Noodle No. 9, one of the best noodle bars in the western United States, is unexpectedly located just off the casino floor at Caesars Palace. Inspired by Beijing's "Bird's Nest" Olympic stadium, the space is wrapped in thin sheets of white metal, laser-cut with flower motifs. Near the entrance, a Chinese chef hand-pulls noodles (it's okay to stop and watch as he twirls, pulls, slaps, and rolls the dough into shape for your meal). Noodle dishes come in small or large portions—we recommend ordering the small to save room for steamed pork buns, shrimp dumplings, or the pork-and-vegetable wonton chicken soup. Not saying we were, but if you're here for lunch and happen to be hungover, there's an immediate cure on the menu: handmade noodles in a light tomato sauce with a fried egg. We bet it'll do the trick, and that you'll make a dinner reservation on your way out.—David Tyda

Open Sundays through Thursdays 11 am to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 12 am.

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22 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 685 4860

Drawing on his time as chef du cuisine at Napa's famed French Laundry, chef Corey Lee showcases his culinary virtuosity in an elaborate 13-course tasting menu that masterfully blends Eastern and Western techniques. And big flavors come in delicate packages, such as a signature amuse-gueule that includes a flash-fried cigarette of eel wrapped in Moroccan feuille de brick (a nonbuttery filo) with a little spoonful of crème fraîche whipped with lime and salt for dipping. There's also an à la carte menu of dishes that intentionally run small—waiters call them appetizer-size—so diners may sample multiple flavor profiles. But it's not easy to create a cohesive culinary arc with three to four of them; better to opt for the tasting menu. Chef Lee places a premium on the sensory experience of the palate, but the dining room has an austere, almost too casual atmosphere. The chummy waiters, pop-rock soundtrack, and undraped blond-wood-edged tables (which look like high-end Ikea) simply don't match the caliber of the food.—John A. Vlahides

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 5:30 to 9:30 pm.

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2030 Union Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 929 8855

Lipstick-red lacquer counters, rattan-backed chairs, and oscillating palm-frond fans lend a playful tiki-lounge-like atmosphere to this Marina District favorite. Not-to-miss items on the pan-Asian menu include melt-off-the-bone glazed ribs spiked with bits of Thai basil and melted garlic, and succulent pork dumplings with Szechuan peppercorn broth wrapped in fresh, translucent wrappers. You can offset the spiciness via the list of private-label beers and full-bar menu of fresh-fruit cocktails that come served in giant ceramic bowls. Sit at the counter to take in the drama of the kitchen; the clacking and flaming of woks are a fitting backdrop for the happening scene.—John A. Vlahides

Open Sundays through Thursdays 10:30 am to 11 pm and Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to midnight.

1100 New York Avenue N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 216 9550

Madeleine Albright, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg have all been spotted in Bibiana's buzzy dining room (another offering from do-no-wrong restaurateur Ashok Bajaj, who made his name on power-player hot spots like the Oval Room and Rasika). So, what's the draw? Chef Nicholas Stefanelli applies a light touch to pasta dishes such as citrus agnolotti (airy pillows perked up with tangy ricotta) and buttery Maryland lump crab on a rich tangle of squid ink spaghetti. The confident yet unobtrusive service is a welcome plus, too. Try to sit at the best table in the house, which peeks into the main dining room—subtly lit by fractured chrome pendants above glossy wood tables and chocolate leather chairs—from behind a silver beaded curtain.—Colleen Clark

Big Island Candies
585 Hinano Street
Hilo , Hawaii
Tel: 800 935 5510 (toll-free)
Tel: 808 935 8890

Everything is just right in this happy place—the production area is clean and pristine, the goods are beautifully packaged, and most important, the high-quality candies, cookies, coffee, brownies, nuts, etc. (some even sugar-free!), are delicious. Their confections are much imitated but not sold anywhere outside of the factory and the official Web site.

Open daily 8:30 am to 5 pm.

Big Star
1531 N. Damen Avenue
Chicago , Illinois
Tel: 773 235 4039

This Wicker Park crowd-pleaser follows all the rules of a down-home honky-tonk (albeit a fake one). It doesn't take reservations, the decor approximates a dive diner, the music is loud, and it's usually crammed with boys in fedora hats throwing back shots of whiskey and tequila. While you can eat a meal here for under $10, at heart, Big Star is a seriously upscale taqueria that does not mess around when it comes to its food. In fact, it's co-owned by Chicago top chef Paul Kahan. Among the best bites: tacos al pastor stuffed with marinated spit-roasted pork shoulder, grilled pineapple, and cilantro; and tacos de Borrego bursting with braised lamb shoulder, radish, roasted scallion, and queso fresco.—Raphael Kadushin

Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant
Highway 1 (half mile north of the Ventana Inn and Spa)
Big Sur , California
Tel: 831 667 0520

Hidden behind a gas station, this comfort food spot's only view is of a pretty cactus garden (and, okay, a big Shell sign pointing into the sky). But the old-school wooden architecture gives the place an unpretentious charm that mirrors a down-to-earth approach to cooking. Lunchtime pizzas come right out of the wood-burning oven; our favorite comes with chicken, pesto, and sausage. The dinner menu has five changing entrées, mostly grilled or wood-roasted free-range meats (the crispy-skinned, juicy roast chicken is a standout). The adjoining bakery serves to-go sandwiches worth stopping for, fresh-made bread, muffins, and old-fashioned jelly doughnuts.

Closed for dinner Sundays and Mondays.

Big Sur Roadhouse
Highway 1 (across from Ripplewood Resort)
Big Sur , California
Tel: 831 667 2264

If you've spent the day hiking and you'd rather not change clothes for dinner, head to this family-run roadhouse. There's not much in the way of decor: Plain wood tables, linoleum floors, and a small fireplace are about it. The Cal-Latino menu whipped up by young owners Marcus and Heather Foster, however, has spice to spare. Chips and fiery-hot homemade salsa hit the table as soon as you sit down; starters like calamari with pasilla-chile remoulade, and entrees like adobo-marinated steak with peppery potatoes and grilled onions keep the buzz going. Only beer and wine—no harder stuff—is served, but it hardly matters: A cold Corona makes the perfect chaser.

Closed Tuesdays.

Bin #18
1800 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami , Florida
Tel: 786 235 7575

Alfredo Patiño, the onetime wunderkind chef from the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, struck out on his own and opened this neighborhood hangout in December 2006. Patiño's deceptively simple menu consists of sandwiches and salads, plus platters piled high with Italian, French, or Spanish cheese and meats. He griddles figs and pairs them with blue cheese, piles a sandwich with Manchego and Serrano ham, and wraps yet more delicious Serrano ham around a ropelike pile of creamy burrata mozzarella. The space, a few blocks from the new Adrienne Arsht Center, and dressed with vintage wine barrels, crystal chandeliers, and a rotating art gallery, is the best place to grab a casual meal before a show. Plus, there's free parking in the lot out back.

Closed Sundays.

Bina Osteria
581 Washington Street
Massachusetts 02111
Tel: 617 956 0888

The smarty-pants Italophile would say Bina's sophisticated food and flash make it a ristorante, not an osteria (literally, a bar or tavern), and il bastardo would be right. Never mind the language, though: This downtown newcomer serves some of Boston's most exceptional food. Veteran restaurateurs, siblings Babak Bina and Azita Bina-Seibel, infuse Bina's grand, mostly white, angular dining room with an osteria's casual hospitality, but it's the food that warms up the elegantly modern setting. Pastas—like the gnocchi (squid, clams, chorizo chips, and Meyer lemon confit) and an interpretation of spaghetti carbonara (served with a slow-cooked egg, housemade pancetta, pecorino foam, and chitarra-cut fresh pasta)—are refined and skillfully composed. And, while quail roasted on a bed of smoldering hay and herbs might sound gimmicky, it is, in fact, rustic and damn good.—Charles Kelsey, first published on

Open Mondays through Wednesdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10 pm, Thursdays and Fridays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10:30 pm, Saturdays 5 to 10:30 pm, and Sundays 10:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10 pm.

Birch & Barley
1337 14th Street N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 567 2576

Birch & Barley offers one of the best-curated collections of artisanal beers in the States: 50 beers on tap, 500 in bottles, and 5 in casks. Oh, and there's great food, too. The dishes pair perfectly with the many brews; standouts include ahi poke tartare, the hearty brat burger, and bread pudding with a bacon caramel sauce. Four-ounce pours encourage a spirit of exploration, as do the servers, a merry band of bearded or bespectacled beer lovers led by Greg Engert, named a Food & Wine Sommelier of the Year in 2010. If you can't score a table, join the masses quaffing upstairs at ChurchKey, where you can steel your stomachs for a night of boozing with brew-friendly snacks like shrimp corn dogs and cheddar poutine.—Colleen Clark

Bistro St. Michaels
403 South Talbot Street
St. Michaels , Maryland
Tel: 410 745 9111

The Left Bank joins the Eastern Shore in this familial bistro. Owners Phil and Sue Stein installed Parisian ambience into a century-old house, with marble-topped tables, a zinc bar, and walls with mirrors and vintage posters. The seasonal menu created by chef David Stein, their son, fuses French provincial, Mediterranean, and regional Maryland flavors with savory starters such as sweet corn and crab chowder and a chilled peach soup with a dollop of Greek yogurt, cucumber relish, and honey-chipotle sauce. When crab is in season, don't miss the lemon-pepper soft-shells with succotash and country bacon, or the broiled crab cake with corn and Cheddar polenta and tasso ham. Though wine pairings are sometimes suggested for each course, it's tempting to cast off with a Chesapeake martini: vodka, gold tequila, Clamato juice, a dash of Tabasco and horseradish, all of it garnished with…a shrimp. This is a dinner-for-two place, though the formal upstairs loft can accommodate larger groups. There is also seating on the front porch, but be warned that traffic on Talbot Street, the town's main drag, can be busy on summer weekends. With just 75 dining room seats and an eight-seat raw bar, reservations are suggested.

Open Thursdays through Mondays from 5:30 pm.

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619 W. Randolph Street
Chicago , Illinois
Tel: 312 715 0708

The neighborhood surrounding it continues to gentrify, but Paul Kahan's Mediterranean-inspired restaurant remains refreshingly simple. The service is friendly and prompt, and the tables are tucked together so tightly that eavesdropping on the well-heeled young professionals who surround you is inevitable. Kahan's specialty is allowing individual tastes to shine, and his best dishes are those made from just a few perfectly prepared regional ingredients—like venison from Minnesota, locally grown cauliflower, and house-smoked trout. Another option is to duck into Avec, Blackbird's slightly dressed-down sibling right across the street. It's noisier, lined with narrow communal tables, and, thanks to its sleek wood walls, looks something like a sauna. But dishes like chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates wrapped in smoked bacon with piquillo pepper–tomato sauce, and crispy duck leg with plums are every bit as good as what you'll find at Blackbird.

Blackbird is open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5:30 pm to 11 pm, Saturdays 5:30 pm to 11 pm; closed Sundays..

Avec is open Mondays through Thursdays 3:30 pm to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 3:30 pm to 1 am, Sundays 3:30 pm to 10 pm.

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Blackbird Kitchen
140 East Main Street
Bozeman , Montana
Tel: 406 586 0010

It may be in Bozeman, but peasant-chic Italian restaurant Blackbird Kitchen could easily hold its own in Brooklyn, San Francisco, or any other urban hipster center. Here, local foodies and in-the-know tourists gather to recount their day on the ski slopes. Ingredients are local, organic, and fresh, giving bright flavor to otherwise simple dishes; the bucatini and meatballs made with organic pork, beef, and lamb is a prime example. Start with the tricolor salad of pecorino cheese and champagne vinaigrette topped with a drippy fried farm egg or the white bean, olive oil, and herb crostini, both sure to take the edge off your hunger as you wait for round two. The Neapolitan pizzas pack loads of savory flavor onto a thin, perfectly charred crust; the Bianca with Castelvetrano olives, grana padano, basil, garlic, and red pepper is not to be missed.—Isabel Sterne

Open Tuesdays to Thursdays 5 to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5 to 10 pm, Sundays 5 to 9 pm.

Black Dog Tavern
20 Beach Road Extension
Vineyard Haven , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 693 9223

Less known for its food than for the T-shirt Bill Clinton gave Monica (which set off a run on its famous apparel), this island icon has become a touristy cliché—the Hard Rock Café for the Vineyard set. The wait in summer can top an hour, and nary a diner leaves without a black-Lab-emblazoned souvenir from the gift shop, which peddles everything from tote bags to ice buckets. If you must, go for breakfast—the Black Dog has the area's largest menu of omelets—and be sure to snag a seat on the deck for the harbor views. At other times of day, the kitchen turns out serviceable seafood, burgers, chowders, and its famous Blackout Cake.

Black-Eyed Susan's
10 India Street
Nantucket , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 325 0308

Even fancy folks like John and Teresa Heinz Kerry have been known to wait on line for one of the 32 seats at this funky, diner-like café. The lines are especially long for Sunday brunch—the best on the island. Chef Jeff Worster (formerly of Citrus and Tulipe in Los Angeles) works his magic in the tiny open kitchen, changing the dinner menu every three weeks. His dishes span the globe: You might find tandoori chicken, southwestern red-pepper and chile soup, and a couple of Thai choices. Breakfast (served until 1 pm) is exceptional—especially the sourdough French toast with pecans and orange-Jack Daniel's butter. Credit cards are not accepted, and it's BYOB.

Open early April through October.

Black Iron Burger Shop
540 East 5th Street
East Village
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 677 6067

New York is full of great neighborhoods but none more fun than the East Village, where walking around the funky streets on a sunny weekend can convince you that college never really ended. The wall-to-wall bars and restaurants are hit or miss, but one spot, Black Iron Burger Shop, is a jewel in the rough. The place is tiny—a dozen high-top tables with stools—and has sublime burgers, like nothing you've tasted before, unless you, too, cook on a $3,000 grill. The signature Black Iron burger is a pair of patties with grilled onions and horseradish-infused Cheddar on a toasted poppy-seed bun and served on a sheet of tin foil. The patty melt comes on rye. Nobody bothers to ask how you want your meat cooked because it's perfect as is—just brought to medium and greasy in a way that makes "juicy" seem inadequate, soaking up the right amount of flavor into both slices of bread. Onion rings are insane, thick but lightly coated. There are also a few other sandwiches—turkey burger, BLT, a grilled cheese—draft beer (only), and one prized booth, which you can forget about because it's always full. No reservations, no credit cards, no worries.—William Sertl, first published on

Open Mondays through Sundays 11am until late.

Blaue Gans
139 Duane Street
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 571 8880

Kurt Gutenbrunner, by far New York's most accomplished Austrian chef (there's not much competition), runs an ambitious jewel box restaurant in the West Village and an adorable café with superlative Viennese sweets at the Neue Galerie museum in Upper East Side. His third spot, a neighborhood restaurant way downtown in Tribeca, is his most casual and consistently endearing outpost. Wallpapered with art posters, the Austrian bistro traffics in simple hearty food presented with a touch of haute cuisine flair. Swing by weekday mornings for soufflé omelets and plump sugary donuts filled with apricot jam. Come lunchtime, grab a newspaper from the rack, pull up a seat at the oversize tin bar, and settle in with a frothy pint of lemony wheat beer and a plump bratwurst with kraut. More involved dinner entrées include pitch-perfect schnitzel and crisp-skinned trout fillets drizzled in brown butter and bright tarragon sauce. Rich desserts like Salzburger nockerl (pillowy meringue with tart huckleberries) are hard to pronounce but, oh, so easy to finish.

Open daily 11 am to midnight.

450 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 930 9744

This place opened without signage, making it a bit tricky to track down, but word quickly spread and BLD (short for "breakfast, lunch, and dinner") soon became an L.A. favorite. Regulars love the exotic charcuterie plates, the construct-your-own-meal option from a mix-and-match protein and vegetable menu, and the to-die-for yellow cake slathered in chocolate butter cream. It's all served in a minimalist, loftlike atmosphere where T-shirt–clad writers are as welcome as Prada-decked execs—that rare sort of spot (especially in L.A.) that effortlessly straddles the divide between casual lunch and elegant date night. Thanks to the ricotta blueberry pancakes and brioche French toast, BLD is always popular for weekend brunch, but be prepared for the 20-minute wait.—Audrey Davidow

Open Sundays through Wednesdays 8 am to 10 pm, Thursdays through Saturdays 8 am to 11 pm.

Bleu Provence
300 South County Road
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 651 1491

With fresco wall paintings by local artist Alice Ludwig and authentic Provençal furnishings, this bakery cum grocery feels a bit like France. Breakfast goodies include brioche and croissant and café au lait; the apple tart is the best-selling pastry for good reason. Don't leave without checking out the imported gift items that range from tabletop pieces to caviar to specialty honeys and jams.

Closed Sundays.

BLT Burger
3400 Las Vegas Boulevard S.
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 792 7888

Just as hungry burger connoisseurs cabbed it south to Mandalay Bay for French chef Hubert Keller's Burger Bar in 2004, they're now being drawn east to the Mirage for BLT Burger by French chef Laurent Tourondel (BLT Steak, BLT Prime). Ditch your idea of standard ground beef and a bun: BLT has 11 burgers on the menu, so you can go light with salmon or turkey, or dive right in with the BLT or Tex-Mex burger (the latter topped with jalapeños, avocado, salsa, and Jack cheese, then smothered in chili and onion sour cream). If that's not indulgent enough, add a fried egg for $1.50. Milkshakes come spiked—Maker's Mark adds a kick to vanilla ice cream and caramel in the Grandma's Treat, for example. Most burgers are about $12, and appetizers and sides are $5 to $10, making this a fun and affordable dining option considering that dinner tabs at other Strip restaurants often begin at $100.—David Tyda

Open Sundays through Thursdays 11 am to 2 am, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 4 am.

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Blue Duck Tavern
Park Hyatt
24th and M streets N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 419 6755

Completely revamped by restaurant design guru Tony Chi in summer 2006 this restaurant at the Park Hyatt, once a prix fixe, white-linen affair, now sports a rustic open kitchen with a wood-burning oven and Shaker-style decor. Chef Brian McBride is still here, cooking a seasonal, locally sourced menu of regional American cuisine. He wood-fires steaks, wraps monkfish with prosciutto, and braises house-made bratwurst alongside beer and white-wine sauerkraut. For dessert, there's flambéed bourbon chocolate cake, spiced mandarin compote, and hand-cranked seasonal fruit ice cream.

Blue Ginger Café
409 Seventh Street
Lanai City , Hawaii
Tel: 808 565 6363

Homemade pastries, fresh mahimahi sandwiches, grilled pork chops, and ensemada (a fresh twirled bread brushed with butter and dipped in sugar) keep this little café jumping from morning till night. It's an excellent—and cheap—alternative to Lanai's expensive hotel restaurants.

Blue Heaven
729 Thomas Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 296 8666

Caribbean-themed American and veggie fare draws tourists and locals to this legendary eatery, which served its first meal in September 1992. The menu is heavy on the local seafood, with staples like barbecued shrimp or seared scallops Provençale. The building that houses Blue Heaven has been through many iterations—most of the tables are situated in the outdoor courtyard, where Hemingway refereed boxing matches and customers watched cockfights (there are still chickens pecking about). The patio surface is paved with slate pool-table tops from the restaurant's days as a billiard hall and ice-cream parlor. Diners with more risqué tastes should request a seat in the second-floor gallery, formerly a dance hall and bordello (you can still peek through peepholes into tiny rooms). Reservations are not accepted for breakfast or lunch and there's usually a line, especially for Sunday brunch. It's worth the wait for fragrant house-made banana bread.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 8 am to 3 pm and 5 to 10:30 pm, Sundays 8 am to 2 pm and 5 to 10:30 pm.

Blue Inc.
131 Broad Street
Boston , Massachusetts
Tel: 617 261 5353

In a town that doesn't usually go for flashy, Blue Inc. is an ostentatious exception to the rule. Chef Jason Santos is a Hell's Kitchen regular who doesn't so much cook food as invent it: smoldering salsa, a gel that transforms into noodles when it's dipped in broth, "hot" ice cream. The honey-and-hoisin-glazed duck confit and pork loin with spicy chipotle cornbread pudding are standouts on the dinner menu. Even the bar mixes up concoctions that seem less cocktail than chemistry. (The bar manager's title is "mad scientist.") The space was designed by Taniya Nayak, host of some—and frequent guest on other—HGTV shows. A meal here is not only fun and entertaining, it's good, with enthusiastic service and constant surprises, including milk shakes that come with a "crust" to poke your straw through.—Jon Marcus

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 3 pm and 5 to 10 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 3 pm and 5 pm to midnight, Saturdays 5 pm to midnight. Bar open Mondays through Saturdays from 4 pm.

Blue Moon
4405 W. Tradewinds Avenue
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 267 9888

This massive, upscale eatery right on the Intracoastal Waterway caters to an older, more local crowd than many of the fashionable new joints. Try to snag a table on the terrace, with its superb views (don't worry if you're caught in a Florida thunderstorm, as it's fully enclosed). The menu, unsurprisingly, is heavy on fish; portions are generous and dishes are rich. Try the Hawaiian spiked tuna poki as an appetizer and follow up with an entrée like lobster and shellfish pan roast or herb-crusted swordfish; meat lovers shouldn't miss the dense, sweet, veal tenderloin doused in red-onion jam.

Open daily 11:30 am to 3 pm and 6:30 to 10 pm.

Blue Ribbon
97 Sullivan Street
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 274 0404

Blue Ribbon serves its entire enormous menu until 4 in the morning to night owls and chefs coming off of work. The Soho spot is the most popular of the Blue Ribbon empire, a chain of six Manhattan restaurants (plus three in Brooklyn) focusing on everything from sushi to comfort food to pastries. The candlelit brasserie with dark wood booths and a raw bar up front is the perfect place to indulge your nocturnal cravings, whether they be for raw oysters, roasted marrow bones, Southern fried chicken, or paella with chicken, chorizo, and lobster. Though the scene is rambunctious and the menu all over the map, the cooking is of a remarkably high quality, and we're not just talking by middle-of-the-night standards.

Open daily 4 pm to 4 am.

BO's Fish Wagon
801 Caroline Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 294 9272

This local institution is another only–in–Key West landmark. It doesn't look like much (if you can say that a building that looks like it was cobbled together precariously from wrecked trucks isn't much), but the sandwiches of fresh-caught fried fish are legendary. The best time to stop by is Friday night, when you can enjoy your sandwich and a cheap beer while listening to an impromptu jam session by local musicians.

Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.

Boarding House
12 Federal Street
Nantucket , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 325 7109

Compared to sister restaurant the Pearl, the Boarding House is more traditional in both decor and cuisine and has a more casual tone (encouraged by the lively bar). Unfortunately, the wait for a table is only slightly shorter. There's outdoor seating, but given the line of hungry diners wrapping awkwardly around it, request a table inside. The kitchen turns out simple, organic, largely local ingredients (principally fish and shellfish) prepared with Asian and Mediterranean influences, such as grilled swordfish with creamy eggplant; walnut-crusted salmon in a roasted tahini sauce; and seared sea scallops with asparagus, sunchoke, and jasmine rice cakes. For dessert, do as the locals do and order the cinnamon-sugar doughnuts with melted chocolate. The night doesn't end after the kitchen closes—this is where the staff members of other restaurants congregate after work.

Open May through September.

The Boathouse at Breach Inlet
101 Palm Boulevard
Isle of Palms , South Carolina
Tel: 843 886 8000

This is the best spot to watch the sunset, making it well worth a jaunt over the bay to the Isle of Palms. The cozy Boathouse feels like a comfortably sprawling beach house, with views of lush marshland, the intercoastal waterway to the west, and the Atlantic to the east. Request a table on the enormous screened-in back porch to enjoy the warm salty breezes off the water, then go upstairs to grab a pre-dinner cocktail at the roof bar. When the sun goes down, if you're still waiting for your table (and you might be even if you have a reservation), head down to the friendly dockside bar to spy boats heading back to their piers in the twilight. The mostly seafood menu is full of local favorites, simply prepared: Get the catch of the day grilled, with collards and a creamy blue cheese slaw; or the can't-miss crab cakes with grits. The same owners also serve up local seafood at the Boathouse on East Bay Street in Charleston, but the relaxed vibe of the waterfront location is a better way to wind down after a day of exploring the dunes.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 5 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays, 5 to 11 pm, Sundays 11 am to 2 pm.

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181 West 10th Street
West Village
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 488 2626

Bobo may be the most accessible of New York's glitzy insider restaurants. Unlike Freemans (hidden in an alley) and the Waverly Inn (co-owned by Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter), there's no need to know a guy who knows a guy. Mere mortals can score prime-time reservations with relative ease by calling a week or two in advance. The bi-level brownstone jewel box feels like a shabby-chic European apartment, with mismatched antiques in the dining room, old family photos on the walls, a few inviting tables on a backyard patio, and lively greenmarket food served on hand-me-down china. Though they nailed the style down immediately, it took awhile to back it up with substance, going through three chefs in the first year. Patrick Connolly, on board since August 2008, seems to have gotten it right, focusing on seasonal ingredients, such as crispy veal sweetbreads paired with pear, lentils, and Serrano ham, or duck lavished with a date puree, hazelnuts, and chorizo. Many dishes reference Asia, from pork chops with curry and carmelized fennel to daurade with miso consommé and ginger butter. Desserts range from homespun (plum-blackberry crisp) to luxurious (panna cotta with huckleberries and white chocolate), just like the decor.

Open Sundays through Wednesdays 6 to 11 pm, Thursdays through Saturdays 6 pm to midnight.

710 Montgomery Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 982 2622

Regardless of what time of day you sit down at the Financial District tapas bar Bocadillos, Gerald Hirigoyen's menu provides just the right treat: baked eggs with chorizo and Manchego at 7 am, grilled ham and cheese bocadillos (small sandwiches) and amazing lamb burgers at noon, and sautéed pimientos de Padrón (green peppers popular in Spain) at 10 pm. There's a solid Cal-Med wine list and fun sodas like sugarcane cola, blackberry, and that retro favorite, Fresca. The brick walls, wood floors, intimate lighting, and jovial young crowd generate a warm vibe, and the prices are extremely reasonable for the caliber of cooking. But if you want to avoid the dining masses (no reservations here), go at off-hours, between regular mealtimes. —Updated by John Vlahides

Open Mondays through Wednesdays 7 am to 10 pm, Thursdays and Fridays 7 am to 10:30 pm, and Saturdays 5 to 10:30 pm.

9 W. Victoria Street
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 730 1160

One meaning of the French word bouchon is wine cork, so it's no surprise that you can sample 40 Central Coast varietals by the glass at this cozy downtown restaurant. Chef/owner Mitchell Sjerven pairs wines with dishes using produce from the local farmers' market, meat and poultry purchased from neighboring micro-ranches, and lots of freshly caught fish. Offering a French-inspired take on California cuisine, Bouchon turns out starters such as pumpkin soup with chanterelle mushrooms and hearty entrées like venison loin with wild-chestnut puree and local organic arugula, or a bourbon- and maple-glazed duck served with a succotash of fava beans, apple-smoked bacon, and butternut squash, a menu favorite for nine years. Ask for a table on the patio or by the glassed-in kitchen, where you can see everything.

Open nightly at 5:30 pm.

6534 Washington Street
Yountville , California
Tel: 707 944 8037

An offshoot of the celebrated French Laundry, Bouchon is a classic French brasserie, right down to the mosaic tile floor, zinc bar imported from France, and red velvet banquettes. Likewise the cooking, from giant plateaux de fruits de mer (seafood platters) to succulent roast chicken to a perfect steak-frites. But more than anything, it's great fun to dine here—the room buzzes with activity, and you never know who might walk through the door, from famous vintners to Hollywood celebrities. Bouchon serves continuously all day, making it ideal for a late lunch. Though there's patio seating, the real excitement is in the dining room. If you're only in the mood for a snack, pop into the neighboring Bouchon Bakery for goodies or to gather picnic supplies, including sandwiches, pain au chocolat, and of course, crusty loaves of bread.

Open daily 11:30 am to 12:30 am.

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235 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 310 271 9910

The original Bouchon, just outside Napa, is a quaint, bustling bistro with a standing room–only bar and elbow-to-elbow seating. But Thomas Keller opted for a grander version for the Beverly Hills outpost of his famous Yountville eatery. Here, in the airy, high-ceilinged dining room, L.A. hotshots can't get enough of Keller's duck confit, terrine of foie gras, or sous-vide short ribs. Of course, there are plenty of bistro basics, too, like perfectly crisped fries and tiered seafood trays piled high from the raw bar. Downstairs, the more casual (read: less pricey) Bar Bouchon serves wines by the glass and small—but rich—plates of potted meats, charcuterie, and caviar. If you can't score a reservation, belly up to the curved zinc bar (imported directly from France) where the menu—and the doting service—is the same.—Audrey Davidow

Open Mondays through Fridays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10:30 pm.

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Bourbon House Seafood & Oyster Bar
144 Bourbon Street
French Quarter
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 522 0111

This informal yet stylish space shows that it's possible to eat on Bourbon Street without giving in to the hard-drinking stigma associated with the city's infamous party strip. An outpost of the Brennan's empire—the family also runs Commander's Palace and eight other restaurants across the city—the Bourbon House's oyster bar might be one of the French Quarter's best, with fresh-shucked bivalves served on the half shell or topped with a salty dollop of "Louisiana caviar" (roe from a local fish). The bar has floor-to-ceiling windows, a solid menu with plenty of informal Louisiana classics (po'boys, gumbo), and a silky frozen "milk punch" spiked with just enough bourbon to blur the line between dessert and cocktail.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.

106 Matheson Street
Healdsburg , California
Tel: 707 431 2962

This order-at-the-counter rustic trattoria on the Healdsburg town plaza is the perfect wine country lunch spot. Big antipasti platters of earthy salumi come served with sides such as a tangy beet salad, fresh figs, roasted garlic, pungent cheeses, and crusty bread—just right for the medium-bodied zinfandel you bought just up the road at Dry Creek Valley. Thin-crusted pizzas with toppings like you'd find in Italy (think prosciutto, arugula, and fontina), hearty sandwiches (the pork cheeks with roasted peppers and salsa verde is a standout), and salads (go for the tuna conserva) round out the menu. There are a handful of tables inside, but for maximum romance, sit outside in the sun-dappled shade of olive trees. Save room for the richly flavorful house-churned gelato. Bovolo is more of a lunch than dinner spot, due to its conservative closing hours, even on weekends.

Open Mondays and Tuesdays 9 am to 9 pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays 9 am to 6 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays 9 am to 9 pm.

Bowens Island Seafood
1870 Bowens Island Road
Charleston , South Carolina
Tel: 843 795 2757

The menu at Bowens—a local institution near Folly Beach—couldn't be simpler: fried seafood year-round and fire-roasted oysters when the chill hits the Lowcountry salt marshes. The local favorite had the ultimate roller-coaster year in 2006, when owner Robert Barber accepted a James Beard award as an American culinary classic, and the old cinder-block structure that housed the restaurant caught fire and burned to the ground. The temporary digs—essentially a huge screened-in boathouse—make for magical evenings in warmer weather. (A full-scale renovation of the main building is expected to be completed in the spring of 2009.) Get a beer and hang out on the docks anytime around sunset and watch water-skiers skim by as shrimp boats chug along the dockside canal. Until they rebuild the old dining space, the waterfront work-around will do just fine.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 5 to 10 pm.

Bradley Ogden
Caesars Palace
3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 731 7410

Ogden built a mini-empire in California (One Market in San Francisco, Lark Creek Inn in Marin County) by searching out the best small farms and using their high-quality produce to update classic American comfort food. In 2003, he brought the farm-fresh concept to Caesars Palace, flying ingredients in daily so foodies could get a taste of Northern California steps from the casino floor. The menu offers everything from fish to grilled redeye steak in red-wine butter sauce. There are surprises, too, such as an airy foam of lavender that serves as a cloudlike bed for sea bass. The menu changes almost daily at the hands of Ogden's son, who runs the kitchen while Dad jets around to the other restaurants. Located near the box office for the Colosseum theater, it's also convenient for a pre- or post-show dinner.

Open daily from 5 pm.

The Bramble Inn
2019 Main Street (Route 6A)
Brewster , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 896 7644

The Bramble Inn offers traditional Cape Cod dining at its best: fresh, local ingredients prepared and served in a 19th-century farmhouse. The four-course prix-fixe menu (around $60, depending on what's being served) changes every three weeks and is influenced mainly by the chef-owners' off-season travels. (The unusual specialty of boneless roasted chicken and shelled lobster drizzled with Champagne sauce is, however, consistently available.) Seafood comes from neighboring Chatham, and many of the vegetables and herbs are plucked from the owners' daughter's garden. There are four dining rooms, but ask for a table overlooking the Inn's backyard garden in the equestrian-themed Hunt Room (landing a table facing the constant whir of traffic on Route 6A will sap the romance from your meal). If you're not up for four courses, you can order from the (still pricey) à la carte bistro menu or the bar menu in the courtyard garden or Bay Side bar. If you like your meal so much that you don't want to leave, the inn also has five guest rooms furnished with canopy beds and antiques, with Wi-Fi and smallish bathrooms; breakfast for overnight guests is surprisingly plain. Reservations are encouraged; call several days in advance for dinner on summer weekends.

Open daily from 5 pm, mid-June through October; Wednesdays through Sundays, mid-April through mid-June; and open overnight and for dinner, Thanksgiving weekend and New Year's Eve.

Breakfast Club
4400 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale , Arizona
Tel: 480 222 2582

Breakfast all day—that was the idea of owner Kyle Shivers when he opened up this airy, pleasant eatery. Here, you choose between chocolate-chip pancakes served with whipped cream, or cinnamon French toast made with challah, dusted with powdered sugar, and strewn with sweetened walnuts, almonds, and fresh berries. Pancakes and Belgian waffles arrive gussied up with candied nuts, blueberry preserves, or strawberries with whipped cream. And if you want something a little more south-of-the-border, they serve huevos con masa and breakfast burritos.

Open every day until 3 pm.

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The Breslin
Ace Hotel New York
16 W. 29th Street
Midtown West
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 679 1939

British chef April Bloomfield launched the gastropub craze in New York City when she opened the Spotted Pig back in 2004. The Breslin, Bloomfield's meat-centric sequel in the Ace Hotel, moved the Anglo theme into hunting lodge territory when it opened in 2009 with woodsy knickknacks filling the dark bilevel space. There's often a long wait for a table (like the Spotted Pig, the Breslin does not take reservations), but you can head to the bar for fried lamb-belly scrumpets and a frosty pint of Spotted Pig Bitter. Dishes here are hearty, to say the least, including a gargantuan pig's foot for two that serves a minimum of four. If possible, save room at dessert for British boarding-school treats like the extra-gooey, sticky toffee pudding. Looking for something from the sea instead? Bloomfield also runs the hotel's John Dory Oyster Bar.—Jay Cheshes

Open daily 7 am to midnight.

Brigtsen's Restaurant
723 Dante Street
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 861 7610

It's hard to avoid being swept up in the convivial vibe while dining at this Uptown "house bistro." The tablecloths are white, but waitresses bring a diner-friendly warmth to the three dining rooms, while James Beard Award–winning chef Frank Brigtsen clanks away in the rear kitchen, plating up some of the city's best seafood dishes. A New Orleans native and avid sportsman, Brigtsen artfully blends Louisiana's two indigenous cuisines—sophisticated Creole and rustic Cajun—with an eye toward lesser-known fish. Black drum and red snapper are staples, but Brigtsen works magic with rarities like tripletail or triggerfish, grilling them to tender perfection and topping them with summer shrimp and sweet corn. Duck fans should try the roasted duck, deboned and served with savory corn-bread dressing.

Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Brophy Bros. Restaurant & Clam Bar
119 Harbor Way
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 966 4418

Action central on the harbor, this long-established seafood spot jumps all year, especially on weekends, when the wait for a table can be an hour or more (they'll give you a pager so you can wander around the marina; no reservations are taken). The biggest complaint here is the noise level, but no one gripes about the legendary Bloody Marys, clam chowder, or West Coast cioppino—California's interpretation of the Italian tomato-based stew filled with mussels, red snapper, and clams, topped with Parmesan cheese. In addition to a regular menu, there's a daily fresh-fish selection. For kicks, try an oyster shooter: a fresh bivalve served in a shot glass with cocktail sauce, Tabasco, and Parmesan cheese. The best seats are on the balcony overlooking the wharf.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 11 am to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 11 pm.

Brotherhood of Thieves
23 Broad Street
Nantucket , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 228 2551

Reopened in 2001 after a fire, this friendly 1840s whaling bar in the basement of a Federal-style house is great for lunch and notable for its native quahog clam chowder, charbroiled burgers, and famous curly fries, which are thin, not too greasy, and perfectly salted. Lubricated by pints of local Whale's Tale Pale Ale and Dark and Stormy cocktails, residents and visitors mix easily here (a rarity in Nantucket town during the summer). Waits for a table are long at lunchtime, but a seat at the bar is more fun, anyway.

Bubba's Bar-B-Que Restaurant
515 W. Broadway
Jackson , Wyoming
Tel: 307 733 2288

Ranchers, families, and aromatic ski bums jam into Bubba's for the amazing barbecue. No cowboy shtick here: just succulent chicken, pork, and beef. You'll wait. It's worth it. Open for breakfast, too.

The Bubble Room
15001 Captiva Drive
Captiva Island , Florida
Tel: 239 472 5558

A swap meet's worth of Americana on the walls, overstuffed food portions, and affable, khaki-clad staff make the Bubble Room one of Captiva's longest-running hits. It's especially popular with multigenerational families: After ordering "Tarzan"-size prime rib or Guava Gabor (sautéed scallops, green peppers, and mushrooms with a guava barbecue dipping sauce), grandparents can explain wind-up toys and black-and-white movies—as well as the Gabor Sisters—to a generation raised on Wii, HDTV, and the Jonas Brothers. Even with 150 seats, there's usually a wait during the dinner hour: Folks who take in sunset at Turner Beach often drive a further three miles to the restaurant. At lunchtime, however, there's seating available and lighter fare, like pineapple-and-ginger-marinated tilapia, that leaves room for a ginormous slice of homemade red-velvet cake.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 3 pm and 4:30 to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 3 pm and 4:30 to 9:30 pm.

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Buck's T-4
46625 Gallatin Road
Gallatin Gateway , Montana
Tel: 406 995 4111

Don't let the location fool you. Although Buck's T-4 is part of the Best Western on Highway 191, any carnivorous epicurean within a few hundred miles will point you in this direction. Originally a base camp for hunters, Buck's was established in 1946, and it's been serving up steaks and chops ever since. The main dishes usually consist of a thick slab of wild game—perhaps New Zealand Red deer or Great Plains bison—augmented with an ambitious side, such as golden beet–truffle risotto or Amaltheia goat cheese gratin. You could just stop in for a quick beer after a long day of hiking (the bar menu is passable), but the menu served in the main dining room—a timber lodge adorned with taxidermy examples of the entrées—is why you're here. The extensive wine list includes a number of well-priced Burgundies and Bordeaux.

Dining room open daily 6 to 9:30 pm; bar open daily 5 to 10 pm.

75 Ninth Avenue
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 989 6699

New York's Buddakan outpost—offshoot of the Philadelphia original—is the biggest, splashiest, most visually stunning of the big-box restaurants that have invaded the theme park–ish Meatpacking District. It is also among the most accessible with its intended-for-sharing pan-Asian fare and inviting lounge with less pricey bar menu. This gorgeous $13 million maze of a restaurant—the work of French design star Christian Liaigre—features an enclosed soaring centerpiece courtyard with baroque chandeliers and a communal table fit for Louis XIV. Request a seat downstairs in the library, lined in faux-golden books like Goldfinger's lair, then order up a feast of delicious lobster-stuffed egg roll cigars, chicken-filled General Tso's soup dumplings, and chile-glazed tempura rock shrimp.—Jay Cheshes

Open Sundays and Mondays 5:30 to 11 pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 5:30 pm to midnight, and Thursdays through Saturdays 5:30 pm to 1 am. Bar and lounge open Sundays through Tuesdays until 2 am, Wednesdays through Saturdays until 3 am.

Buena Vista Bistro
4582 N.E. 2nd Avenue
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 456 5909

Claude Postel, a seventh-generation chef originally from Paris, ran restaurants in Montreal and South Beach before opening this stamp-size foodie haven in May 2008. Located in Buena Vista East, an artsy enclave fringing downtown's Design District, this casual European-style bistro is the kind of place where locals sit at outdoor tables with dogs leashed at their sides and the owner's wife scoots up on her skateboard.

Postel's concept is simple—fresh, market-sourced food at pleasing prices. The menu changes daily and is scrawled on chalkboards and mirrors in the narrow restaurant, an effect that adds to the ambience along with black-and-white photos of the neighborhood hanging on the walls and low crooning tunes from Edith Piaf and Amy Winehouse. Starters might include a carpaccio of scallops sliced razor thin and marinated in lime; main courses are of the French comfort food variety like salmon with ratatouille and steak frites. The wine selection is creative and vast for such a small place, with old- and New World wines priced from $8 per glass.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11 am to 12 am and Mondays 1 pm to 12 am.

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Burger Joint
Le Parker Meridien Hotel
118 W. 57th Street
Midtown West
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 708 7414

Hidden behind a floor-to-ceiling curtain in the lobby of an anonymously upscale midtown hotel, this retro café won locals' hearts by serving nothing but juicy burgers, crisp fries, beer, and brownies, all at bargain prices and for cash only. Vinyl booths, 1950s basement wood paneling, and prominently displayed bags of supermarket buns just add to the appeal.

1638 Post Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 440 4959

While Asian fusion is starting to feel old-fashioned, the innovative Cal-French cuisine with a Japanese accent at Bushi-Tei seems decidedly nouveau. The Japantown restaurant serves intriguing creations that don't feel forced. To start, try big-eye tuna tartare with tobiko and wasabi crème fraîche, or seared foie gras atop pumpkin pot de crème. Plates include coq au vin with mushroom polenta and cress, and seared scallops with saffron-infused potato chowder. The cool interior matches the style of the food: Candlelight and paneled walls, made from 150-year-old wood sourced from Nagano, add warmth to the narrow space, which is dominated by an 18-foot glass communal table and floor-to-ceiling storefront windows. —Updated by John Vlahides

Open daily 11 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm.

The Butcher and the Baker
217 East Colorado
Telluride , Colorado
Tel: 970 728 2899

A hit with the locals since opening in 2010, this down-to-earth deli plates up fresh sandwiches, salads, soups, and pastries in a friendly downtown location. Pop in for a quick breakfast sandwich en route to the slopes or pick up a late lunch on the way back.—Samantha Berman

Buttermilk Channel
524 Court Street (at Huntington Street)
Carroll Gardens
Brooklyn , New York
Tel: 718 852 8490
Subway: F train to Smith & Ninth Street or Carroll Street

Meals get off to a sweet start at Buttermilk Channel, when warm popovers dripping with honey and sea salt arrive instead of a bread basket. Named for a nearby canal that was once used to transport milk from Brooklyn's farms to Manhattan's markets, the restaurant makes liberal use of the dairy product in Southern-influenced dishes like buttermilk fried chicken and flatbread coated in the house-made buttermilk ricotta. This is the Italian end of Carroll Gardens, and Buttermilk Channel pays homage to the neighborhood by getting its mozzarella, pasta, and sausage from nearby institutions Caputo's and Esposito's. Weekend brunch starts at 10 am (an hour earlier than at most neighborhood spots) and is packed with families until about noon, when late risers come for pecan-pie French toast and fried pork chops with cheddar waffles.—Danielle Contray

Open Mondays through Thursdays 5 to 11 pm, Fridays 5 pm to midnight, Saturdays 10 am to 3 pm and 5 pm to midnight, and Sundays 10 am to 3 pm and 5 to 11 pm.

Ca' Dario
37 E. Victoria Street
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 884 9419

Old World ambience plus a chef from Lake Como add up to a perfect pasta experience. Dario Furlati has been rolling out gnocchi dough since he was a small boy in Italy, where he learned to cook from his two grandmothers. One taught him fish dishes and risotto, and the other shared her secrets for preparing poultry, biscuits, and gnocchi. Naturally, Grandma Ida's gnocchi is a signature dish, though it's served only on Thursday nights. Other favorites include the house ravioli with browned-butter sage sauce, and osso buco (braised veal shanks, paired with saffron risotto). Furlati goes over the top when it comes to specials, offering 12 each night.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Sundays 5 to 10 pm.

Cabbage Key Inn
Cabbage Key , Florida
Tel: 239 283 2278

Rumor has it that the inn's big, fat, juicy cheeseburger inspired Jimmy Buffett to write his hit "Cheeseburger in Paradise," but make up your own mind. Either way, you won't forget your visit to this quirky 100-acre Pine Island home built in 1938, as the walls and ceiling of the dining room and bar are covered with more than 65,000 signed dollar bills. (Buffett himself signed a bill back when he was an unknown piano player). Order the cheeseburger, grouper, or stone crab (when it's in season). The affordable prices here should leave you a spare dollar to sign and tape to the money wall, and when it falls, know that it will be donated to a worthy charity. Cabbage Key is only accessible by boat (call for details about water taxi service). Come early for supper because the kitchen closes at 8:30 p.m.

Canyons Resort
Park City , Utah
Tel: 435 615 8060

Among Park City's ski resorts, Deer Valley is known to have the best dining, but chef Joe Trevino of the Canyons' restaurant is attempting to shift the balance. The contemporary, log-cabin-styled room is punctuated with mountain scenes hewn from wrought iron—a great backdrop for innovative, Western-influenced comfort food. Trevino melds Israeli couscous with pecorino romano, lobster, and truffles for a spin on mac and cheese; tops a mixture of mâche and endive greens with Point Reyes blue cheese and Chambord dressing; pairs buffalo tenderloin with a side of cheddar and leek gratin; and stuffs local trout with leeks and mushrooms, fries it tempura-style, and tops it with a dollop of caviar rémoulade. The result is as sinful as anything you're likely to find in Utah.

Open daily 7 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 9 pm.

Cache Cache
205 S. Mill Street
Aspen , Colorado
Tel: 970 925 3835

Sitting down at one of Cache Cache's white-clothed tables is one of the more relaxing dining experiences in Aspen. But it's not the warm mustard-yellow walls or the genuine service that eases you into your chair—it's opening a menu without “fusion” elements. Pork tenderloin with an apple reduction over mashed potatoes, roast chicken with French fries, or an osso bucco so tried and true it's been on the menu for 20 years. Cache Cache is one of Aspen's longest-running dining establishments, with food and wine designed to be sophisticated and classic, but not fussy. Chef Christopher Lanter brings his years of experience working in France, and sommelier Alex Harvier crafts wine lists that offer a wide range of options in every category—with bottles from $18 to $1,800. The diverse clientele, from ski bums to celebrities, is testament to Cache Cache's approachable atmosphere.

Opens nightly at 5:30 pm.

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Café Boulud
The Brazilian Court
301 Australian Avenue
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 655 6060

This is one of the few spots on the Island where the food justifies the sky-high prices. Daniel Boulud opened this branch of his Manhattan restaurant in the Brazilian Court hotel in 2003. The rich menu here follows the four-category setup at Boulud's original: There are classic French dishes like coq au vin or chocolate gâteau under the "La Tradition" banner; "La Saison" features seasonal dishes like chestnut-crusted winter venison. "Le Potager" lists vegetarian options, while "Le Voyage" showcases Boulud's Frenchified take on global dishes (think caramelized salmon, Vietnamese-style; or a brisket-and-beet borscht). The warm gold and terra-cotta dining room has a 60-seat terrace amid the fronded plants of the hotel's front courtyard—book a table there for maximum romance and privacy.

Café Castagna
1758 S.E. Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland , Oregon
Tel: 503 231 9959

It's Sunday night. You want to go out, you want to be fed well and treated nicely, and you may even want a fancy cocktail to prolong the festive weekend. But you're not in the mood for a scene or attitude or overly pedigreed dishes, and you want something more civilized than a burrito down the street. Try Café Castagna. This friendly neighborhood spot in southeast Portland delivers upscale Mediterranean comfort dishes at lean prices: thin-crust pizzas with arugula and prosciutto, a zingy Caesar salad, flatiron steak with fries, and house-made seasonal sorbets. The spare triangular room and garden patio manage to be both chic and casual. Simple, unpretentious, and always spot-on, this is the sort of place you'll want to return to again and again. For special occasions, turn to next-door neighbor Castagna. Chef Matthew Lightner, who ranks among the country's rising culinary stars, creates elegant tasting menus that make excellent use of seasonal Pacific Northwest ingredients. The menu is a pleasant puzzle: Descriptions are generally a simple list of ingredients (perhaps green almonds, sour plum, salted black cod, dill, cream) that coyly nod toward dishes whose flavors unfold in subtle yet unexpected ways.—Updated by Colleen Clark

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to close, Sundays and Mondays 5 pm to close.

Café Chloe
721 9th Avenue
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 232 3242

Sitting proudly on a corner just down the street from the new PETCO ballpark, this tiny French spot, opened in December 2004, is the realization of the owners' dreams to create a neighborhood bistro that locals could call their own. Café Chloe serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between. The menu is a cross between dainty cuisine and comfort food in modest, European-sized portions: an ahi niçoise plate, steak frites, smoked trout cakes, and a macaroni, pancetta, and Gorgonzola gratin (three-cheese macaroni). With a sea of bistro-style chairs and small round tables packed inside the dining room and spilling out onto the sidewalk, it can feel a bit cramped at dinnertime.

Café Marquesa
Marquesa Hotel
600 Fleming Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 292 1919

With its white tablecloths and hushed ambience, this is one of the poshest places on the island. The intimate, 50-seat restaurant adjoins the Marquesa Hotel, and the food is vaguely Floribbean or fusion. Dishes include a macadamia-crusted yellowtail snapper or conch and blue crab cakes. In addition to the extensive wine list, there's a fun, full martini menu, from Gibsons to dirty to blue cheese–olive versions. Come here if you're craving something a bit more serious than the anything-goes, no-worries-man vibe of most down-home joints nearby.

Open daily 6 to 9:30 pm.

Café Martorano
3343 E. Oakland Park Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 561 2554

Don't stop by for a romantic date here. Chef and owner Steve Martorano is a former DJ from Philly, and he fills his restaurant with loud music and strobe lights every night, not to mention a celebrity-heavy, Sopranos-style crowd of snappily dressed gents like James Caan and Danny DeVito. But as long as you can handle the restrictions (curt staff, no reservations for anyone), it's one of the city's best spots to eat. The South Philly Italian food is served family-style; try the lobster francese, fettucine Alfredo, and Martorano's unmissable meatballs (tennis-ball-sized and drenched in marinara sauce). If you're not a celebrity, expect to wait up to three hours for a table on the weekends. Go on a Tuesday if you want to miss the scene and just sample the food.

Open daily from 5 pm.

Café Pasqual's
121 Don Gaspar Avenue
Santa Fe , New Mexico
Tel: 800 722 7672 (toll-free)
Tel: 505 983 9340

This casual one-room restaurant has long been a local Santa Fe icon. Opened in 1979, it was working the organic-fresh angle long before the rest of the world caught on, and it continues to be busy from 7 a.m. till closing. At the center communal table, you'll find local hippies having a late-afternoon breakfast of red-chile huevos rancheros, as well as tourists trying the iconic salmon burrito with goat cheese and cucumber salsa. Chef Katharine Kagel, who calls herself the Luddite Chef, keeps the fusion factor low. But the casual vibe also makes it a hurry-up-and-eat kind of place: Tables are few, and the staff keeps them turning.

Open May to November, Sundays 8 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Mondays through Thursday 7 am to 3 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 7 am to 3 pm and 5:30 to 10:30 pm; December to April, Sundays 8 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 9:30 pm, Mondays through Thursday 7 am to 3 pm and 5:30 to 9:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 7 am to 3 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm.

Café Spiaggia

While the more formal Spiaggia is one of the restaurants that helped turn the Gold Coast into an haute buffet line, its Trumpified dining room (all soaring marble columns and tipsy, tilting topiary sculptures) and stratospheric prices (more than $20 for one wood-roasted sea scallop) mean you have to be in a dressy mood. If you're not, the better option is just across the hall at Café Spiaggia, where the pizzas and pastas come relatively bargain-priced and the walls are painted with frescoes of Renaissance noblemen decked out in pageboys and pillbox hats. If they all seem to be eyeing your dinner, that's no surprise: The prosciutto and arugula pizza flaunts a cracker-thin crust, and a clean toss of pasta, olive oil, poached tuna, and capers makes for one of the best lunches in town.

Open Sundays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 9 pm; Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 9:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10:30 pm.

Caffe Boa
398 S. Mill Avenue
Tempe , Arizona
Tel: 480 968 9112

Located right in the midst of Arizona State University's bar scene, this is not where you would think to find a worth-the-trip restaurant. But Caffe Boa is just that, and has been since 1994. Owners Jay and Christine Wisniewski injected new life into the restaurant in 2008 by hiring chef Payton Curry, a ballsy and outspoken young talent who was advised to shake things up. His menu includes handmade pastas like fettuccine saltimbocca with braised sweetbreads, crispy pancetta, and a sage-tinged cream sauce, plus comfort food dishes (try the killer fried chicken). There is a locavore bent, as well, with olives and oil coming from Queen Creek Olive Mill and produce sourced from area organic farms. The wine list is global, but forgo the Italian bottles and ask your server what Jay is drinking. It will likely be something from his homeland of Croatia.—David Tyda

Open Mondays through Wednesdays 11 am to 10 pm, Thursdays and Fridays 11 am to 11 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to 3 pm and 4 to 10 pm.

California Grill
4600 N. World Drive
Disney's Contemporary Resort
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 939 3463

Disney's modern-cuisine showpiece, located on the 15th floor of the Contemporary, overlooks the Magic Kingdom and its Castle and serves elegant fare from an open kitchen. An ample selection of California wines overseen by multiple certified sommeliers, a slate of sushi and sashimi, and season-specific, produce-focused dishes (like warm Delta asparagus with hazelnut vinaigrette, golden raisins, and St. George cheese) make it a splurgy night out. The only downer is the decor, which has the geometric, primary-colors mentality of an early 1990s music video. Reserve three months ahead for the dinner seating that coincides with the nightly fireworks display—the kitchen temporarily halts service so diners can enjoy the show without interruption from outdoor observation decks.

Camille's Restaurant
1202 Simonton Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 296 4811

From dive masters to drag divas, every Key Wester knows Camille's. Despite the down-home feel of the cloth-under-glass tabletops and banquettes plastered with palm-frond patterns, the menu is big-city good. Spots like Blue Heaven may get more attention for brunch, but Camille's is just as delicious: Try the eggs Benedict topped with stone-crab claw meat and Key West pink shrimp, or creative twists on homey favorites, like yellow-corn cashew waffles topped with fresh passion fruit and coconut sauce. Dinner is downright gourmet, with good local seafood selections a constant, including cashew-encrusted Florida grouper pan-fried in banana butter or mahimahi with papaya and tomato scallion cream sauce.—Terry Ward

Open daily 8 am to 3 pm and 6 to 10 pm.

624 S. La Brea
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 938 1447

In this monastery-like building that was once owned by Charlie Chaplin, chef-owner Mark Peel serves up top-notch rustic Mediterranean cooking. A perennial lunch favorite is the crisp baked chicken paillard flavored with lemon and garlic and served with mashed potatoes; a dinner standout is the prime rib, which comes with an olive tapenade, bitter greens, and flageolet beans. Peel keeps himself amused and challenged with nightly specials: on Wednesdays he offers special tasting menus based on that morning's finds at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market; Thursdays are grilled-cheese sandwich night, and Fridays feature wine and small-plate pairings. The adjacent La Brea Bakery (Peel and his ex-wife Nancy Silverton started the hugely successful bread company, now used by many L.A. restaurants) sells baked goods, cheeses, olives, and cured meats.

Closed for dinner on Sundays.

Campo de Fiori
100 E. Meadow Drive
Vail , Colorado
Tel: 970 476 8994

It is a good sign that both the owner and head chef of this Northern Italian restaurant, which has a sister establishment in Aspen, are Italian. Their food is as authentic as they are. Try the Ravioli all' Odore di Funghi—homemade ricotta ravioli in a Champagne mushroom cream sauce and finished with white truffle oil—and the worth-every-calorie tiramisu.

Dinner only.

2576 Aurora Avenue N.
Seattle , Washington
Tel: 206 283 3313

This elegant restaurant, just north of the Downtown core, has been serving Pacific Northwest cuisine for over five decades. It seems to have undergone a subtle transformation lately, reminding residents that it is still a contender for the city's premier dining experience. The service is flawless, the view over Lake Union is impossible to top, and live piano music tinkles through the hushed, Asian-accented dining room. Try the famous copper-grilled steaks or the spicy Peter Canlis prawns, and save room for the Grand Marnier soufflé. The restaurant has a 15,000-bottle wine cellar and three full-time sommeliers. Despite the place's formal reputation—it's the only restaurant in town with an enforced dress code—and a few pricey entrées (a $70 Wagyu steak), Canlis is not as prohibitively expensive as it seems. Reservations are essential; if you can't secure one, drop by and try dining at the bar, which is first-come, first-served.

Closed Sundays.

Cantinetta Luca
Dolores Street between Ocean and Seventh streets
Carmel-by-the-Sea , California
Tel: 831 625 6500

Breaking ranks with the intimate French restaurants that for decades have defined the Carmel dining scene, Luca serves stellar trattoria-style Italian cooking in a big, buzzing dining room. The salumi and pastas are made in-house (try the Bolognese) and make an ideal lunch while shopping downtown. But the best dishes come from the wood-fired oven: Try any of the crispy-thin pizzas or family-style meat and fish dishes, particularly the pan-roasted lemon-garlic chicken. Because the menu is so big and many of the dishes so appealing, it's easy to over-order. Take it easy: Portions are huge. The bar scene hops at sunset, when local luminaries show up to swill wine. If you're looking for a quiet dinner, Luca may not be a good fit, but the food is some of the best in town.

Open daily noon to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10 pm.

Canyon Southwest Café
1818 E. Sunrise Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 765 1950

This unusual Southwestern spot in gentrifying Victoria Park is located at a confusing intersection with the Federal Highway—make sure to follow along Sunrise and park at the rear. The restaurant is done up in tones of mustard and burnished bronze, and the booths are made even more private thanks to the gauzy curtains drawn around them. As for the food, entrée standouts include a shrimp-and-scallop burrito and a marinated Chilean seabass with tomatoes, crab meat and mussels; the white-chocolate-and-berry bread pudding is worth breaking any diet for. Whatever you do, order a signature prickly pear margarita: The Day-Glo pink drinks are made from fresh cactus fruit that's steeped in top-grade tequila for three days.

Open daily 5:30 to 10 pm.

Hotel Photo
Capitol Grille
Capitol Grille
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 888 888 9414
Tel: 615 244 3121

The Capitol Grille is where you'll find high-powered lobbyists celebrating the passage of a major bill on Capitol Hill, just a few blocks north, as well as old-money couples toasting to a golden anniversary. The dining room has a stately grandeur with plush banquettes and white-lined candlelit tables sitting beneath vaulted ceilings. Since this is the in-house restaurant for the stately Hermitage Hotel, the service is low-key but attentive (note that this isn't a member of the Capital Grille steak house chain). Dishes are traditional with a Southern twist: The osso buco comes atop a mélange of sweet potato, black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts, and apple; and Kobe beef short ribs get a down-home touch with rice "middlins" and chicory, tomato gravy. Can't decide? The chef will happily entertain on-the-fly requests for tasting menus. At breakfast and lunch, the dining room attracts a downtown business crowd who use it as an impromptu office.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 6:30 to 10:30 am, 11:30 am to 2 pm, and 5:30 to 10 pm; Sundays 11 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm.

Capogiro Gelato Artisans
119 S. 13th Street
Philadelphia , Pennsylvania
Tel: 215 351 0900

Following yet another trip to Italy, Stephanie and John Reitano decided to remedy the lack of gelato in their lives by producing small batches of their own, using Pennsylvania produce and milk from grass-fed, hormone-free cows. The results have garnered national raves. Flavors rotate but pineapple mint, Turkish coffee, pistachio siciliano, and ginger sesame are always available. The cafés—one in the up-and-coming area east of Broad Street, and the other off Rittenhouse Square (117 S. 20th St.; 215-636-9250)—also stock an array of artisanal confections such as taffy-like caramels, vanilla and cinnamon marshmallows, and sugar-dusted Italian gelatine.

3325 Las Vegas Boulevard S.
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 789 4141

It tries to have a scene (there could be a Saudi princess and her boy toy weekending at the table next to you), but deep down we know why everyone's at Carnevino—delicious, Mario Batali–style comfort food. The aim-to-please menu reads like a greatest hits of both traditional Italian and classic steak house fare, but with a Mario twist: soft, warm lardo drizzled over beef carpaccio; mouthwatering cannelloni filled with braised duck smothered in amarone cheese; and slightly charred dry-aged rib eye for two. If the restaurant's packed, ask to sit in the wine room, a seven-table space just beyond the main dining area with noticeably lowered ceilings. The intimate corner feels less like Vegas and more like a true New York Batali spot like Babbo—fun and personal. Something we also appreciated: printing the 300-plus bottle wine list on the menu so everyone could chime in.

Open for lunch daily 3 to 5 pm; open for dinner Mondays through Wednesdays 5 to 11 pm, Thursdays through Sundays 5 pm to 1 am.

Casamento's Restaurant
4330 Magazine Street
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 895 9761

"A couple of dozen raw and a couple of beers to wash 'em down" used to be standard after-work fare in New Orleans's working-class neighborhoods, where shuckers popped open the plentiful oysters for hungry stevedores and doctors alike. On the Uptown stretch of Magazine Street, Casamento's still does things the old way, from frying the seafood in unadulterated lard (the chef's choice for flavor and crunch) to closing during the summer months. Nothing fancy here, but everything's fresh and cool, especially during the winter months, when fat, meaty bivalves slide across the bar, chased by cold Abita beer in a dainty pony glass. Slurp 'em back, and don't forget to tip your shucker.

Open for lunch Wednesdays through Sundays; dinner, Thursdays through Saturdays. Closed June through August.

3900 Las Vegas Boulevard S.
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 262 4228

Any chef can appear to be having a good time by putting "Pigs in a Duvet" and steak tartare on the same menu, but Kerry Simon (late of Iron Chef) is one of the few who can actually pull the gimmick off. Since closing his Simon Bar & Kitchen at the Hard Rock, Simon has lured many loyal fans here for his fanciful twists on classic dishes: Asian-inspired chicken wings freshened up with watermelon and cucumber salad, tuna tartare with tequila-and-lime-soaked caviar, smoked-salmon sliders that look like minibagels and lox. Part of the Luxor's transformation into a party-centric hotel—the rebirth includes Lax Nightclub and Noir Bar—the sexy, bordello-inspired Cathouse is one part restaurant and one part nightclub (albeit a small, loungy nightclub). Cozy up to the small bar and watch the action buzz around you, or request a semi-circular booth separated by gray sheer curtains. In the lounge, "coquettes" perform burlesque-like shows, which captivate revelers every time they take to the raised platforms.

Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 10:30 pm to 4 am.

1212 Coast Village Road
Montecito , California
Tel: 805 969 8500

Cozy banquettes, sunflower-yellow walls, a brick fireplace, and live Spanish guitar music set the mood for tapas at this lively, family-friendly restaurant. Chef Onofre Zuniga serves Nuevo Latino cuisine (a blend of Mexican, Spanish, and South American flavors), and entrée favorites include paella valenciana (saffron rice mixed with chicken, clams, mussels, shrimp, and chorizo) and rock-shrimp soft tacos with papaya salsa and homemade tortillas. There's outside dining, and La Cavita, a private dining cottage and terrace, can be reserved for groups of up to 40 people. Bar specialties include mojitos, sangria, and hand-shaken margaritas made from blue-agave tequila.

Open Mondays through Fridays 11 am to 11 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 8 am to 11 pm.

Hotel Photo
1001 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. #106
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 626 0015

Michel Richard made his name serving serious French at serious prices at the iconic Citronelle. But $190 prix fixe menus don't quite square with the Obama era. So while Citronelle still draws power brokers and old-money Georgetown, Richard now offers a counterpoint with Central, a bustling bistro where the food comes with a sense of humor, not to mention a more affordable price tag. A teetering tower of plates and a bubbly hostess welcome you at the entrance; in the dining room, glass walls dotted with wine bottles resemble Lichtensteins, and purple-and-white Warholian portraits of Richard peer out at the tables. The best seat in the house is in front of the open kitchen, where you can watch Richard protégé Cedric Maupillier create haute takes on American standards, such as a lobster burger slathered in scallop mousse and topped with potato tuiles for an unexpected crunch. Desserts offer a similar riot of textures: Richard's take on a Kit Kat bar—rich chocolate ganache layered on top of crispy hazelnut praline wafers—will put you off the vending machine version forever. The restaurant's downtown location makes it equally as popular for weekday lunches as for dinner. Though it occasionally has room for walk-ins, it's best to reserve a few days in advance.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:45 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10:30 pm, Fridays 11:45 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 11 pm, Saturdays 5 to 11 pm, and Sundays 5 to 9:30 pm.

Central Bbq
2249 Central Avenue
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 272 9377

Opened in 2001, Central is just a baby in the barbecue universe, but it's a legend in the making. Quality and variety are the order of the day here: There's sweet, slow-smoked pulled pork, succulent dry-rubbed pork ribs that 'cue aficionados can slather with four tangy sauces (locals pick a tomato-based sauce every time), and, unusual for swine-centric Memphis, pulled chicken. As for fixin's, you'll find better fries at Young Avenue Deli and better beans at the Bar-B-Q Shop. But Central doesn't disappoint with its homemade potato chips, turnip greens, buttery mac and cheese, and creamy slaw flecked with chunks of peppers. Order your food at the counter and carry it to the wooden-beamed, white-tablecloth dining room or—when it's not sweltering—the patio. In November 2006, a 225-seat sister location opened at 4375 Summer Avenue.

Centre V
The Arrabelle at Vail Square
675 Lionshead Place
Vail , Colorado
Tel: 970 754 7777

Hunkering under the towering Bavarian architecture of the Arrabelle in Lionshead, this French bistro evokes the Old World romance of a Parisian brasserie. The handcrafted mosaic tile floor glitters; wineglasses stand at the ready on top of antique cabinets; heavy red drapes dress the arched windows and doorways; and the soft leather chairs invite you to settle in for a pleasant evening. Centre V synthesizes sophistication with comfort by serving unfussy, hearty fare. Mull over the menu with a signature hot apple-cinnamon martini and a sizzling cast-iron skillet of Râclette with fingerling potatoes and garlic toast points, or succulent fruits de mer. Can't decide between the steak-frites with Roquefort crust or the gnocchi à la Parisienne? You can't go wrong with the traditional plat du jour, such as sole à la meunière, boeuf bourguignon, or coq au vin. Follow up with a coffee (served in a French press, of course) and warm chocolate soufflé laced with vanilla-bean custard sauce. Centre V is also heating up Lionhead's once-sleepy après-ski scene; ask for a table on the Great Room terrace.

Open daily 7 am to 10 pm, November through March; Tuesdays through Sundays 3 to 10 pm, April through October.

339 N. Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 951 0039

Marrakesh meets MOCA at this sleek French-Moroccan treasure. The design of the place is a breath of fresh harissa in a neighborhood not exactly known for novelty; the entryway is blue-lit and the small dining room's walls are decorated with colorful, futuristic-mod patterns. The crowd is refreshingly diverse (young, old, hip, not), and the room pulses with the hum of happy feasters. Many start their meals with tangy preserved-lemon dip, olives, and bread, before moving on to tagines, grilled merguez sausages with grilled onions and caperberries, and dorado stuffed with peppers and leeks. You know you're in for a serious treat when the chef makes couscous from scratch.

Closed Sundays and Mondays.

The Chanticleer
9 New Street
Nantucket , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 257 4499

When the Chanticleer closed its doors in 2004 after three decades of serving the hautest French cuisine on the island, old-guard Nantucketers wrung their hands in despair. How could any restaurant ever replace the Chanti, an ivy-covered Sconset landmark that turned out perfect poisson grille and canard rôti? Luckily for them—and everyone else—Susan Handy and Jeff Worster, who reopened the Chanticleer in 2006, know exactly what they're doing. Worster and Handy (of Black Eyed Susan's, one of the hottest tables downtown) have preserved the classic French bent of the menu, but given it a less fussy, more modern spin. Alongside moules frites and steak au poivre are more adventurous dishes such as wild king salmon with coq au vin ravioli, and light-as-air cod beignets made with beer batter and served with red pepper aioli. The vibe has mellowed, too; while old-schoolers will still feel comfortable in their seersucker suits, jackets (and snooty attitudes) are no longer required.

Open June through October, closed Mondays in spring and fall; call ahead.

Charleston Grill
224 King Street
Charleston , South Carolina
Tel: 843 577 4522

Bob Waggoner's inventive New South cuisine, consistently a favorite among critics, is showcased in this plush dining. Tucked into Charleston Place hotel, the grill is a magnet for executives and celebs who flock here for the cushy atmosphere (club chairs, dark wood paneling, and nightly jazz), hearty food, and impeccable service. Wagonner, a culinary rock star, has been lauded for bold takes on old favorites: collards cooked with pigs' feet in amber beer; a version of Frogmore Stew that uses homemade sausage and lobster tempura on lemon grits. The wine list features 950 selections, and is among the state's most extensive; two sommeliers assist with pairings. For a quieter meal, choose the more secluded bar area over the bustling main room.

Hotel Photo
Charleston Restaurant
1000 Lancaster Street
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 332 7373

Charleston is the anchor of chef Cindy Wolf and husband Tony Foreman's restaurant empire, which also includes the nouveau Spanish Pazo. Located between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point in Harbor East, Charleston's menu of earthy Lowcountry cuisine with a sophisticated French influence changes daily. In summer, you'll find dishes like roasted sweet corn, bacon, and tasso chowder or grilled sea scallops with zucchini-flower beignets. Colder temperatures bring hearty fare, such as buffalo tenderloin with crispy grit cakes. Diners choose from three to six items to build their own tasting menus, including selections from the 600-label wine cellar. This is very much a grown-up place in cuisine, price (the prix-fixe menu starts at $74), and attire (jacket and tie recommended). The top-notch staff creates a charming sense of occasion, seamlessly laying out the procession of new flatware between courses and discreetly changing napkins when you step away from the table. The decor similarly mixes class with comfort, with cozy booths and cranberry-colored chairs setting off the dark wood and low lighting. Free valet parking is available.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 5:30 to 10 pm.

Charlie Trotter's

Celebrity chef and local hero Charlie Trotter's shrine to "New American" cooking is still the hottest dining ticket in Chicago. Foodies from all over gladly shell out $145 per person to sample his seven-course tasting menus made with globally available organic ingredients. Plan way ahead for a table at this Lincoln Park town house (three months for weekends). Sample dishes include poached skate wing with red curry, 20-hour braised fennel, razor clams and herb oil, lamb loin with quinoa and black cardamom mole, and organic pears with caramelized endive and burnt-hickory-syrup ice cream. Trotter still tends the stoves, despite his culinary fame (including seven awards from the James Beard Foundation); watch him in action from the Kitchen Table (one of the most coveted spots in the house—it's set right inside the kitchen). And be prepared to linger; dinner here can take up to three hours. Sample the cuisine without the cost at Trotter's to Go.

Seatings Tuesdays through Thursdays from 6 to 6:30 pm and 9 to 9:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6:30 pm and 8:30 to 9:30 pm.

Chef Mavro
1969 S. King Street
Honolulu , Hawaii
Tel: 808 944 4714

One of Oahu's top restaurants is the domain of chef George Mavrothalassitis (who thankfully used his nickname). Set in a residential neighborhood of Honolulu, it attracts a nice mix of local couples, dedicated foodies, and in-the-know tourists ready to have the best meal of their trip. Set menus of three and four courses and an 11-course tasting menu are offered with optional wine pairings. The marbled tako, for example—finely sliced octopus with ponzu sauce, salmon roe, and green-papaya salad—finds its perfect foil in a glass of 2004 Leasingham Riesling. Specialties such as cursinade (sea urchin bouillabaisse) reflect Mavro's roots in Marseille, as well as his love for his adopted home, where he moved in 1988.

Dinner only. Closed Mondays.

Chez Henri
1 Shepard Street
Porter Square
Cambridge , Massachusetts
Tel: 617 354 8980

Chez Henri, located between Harvard and Porter squares, looked to Cuba to spice up its traditional bistro fare, so prepare to enjoy a Mojito with your steak frites. But skip the formal dining room, which can feel like an extension of the Harvard faculty dining hall—stuffed with tweed jackets, outdated sweater sets, and theoretical conversation. Instead, settle in at one of the few tables in the more relaxed, sometimes boisterous bar area, where the separate, wallet-friendly menu includes a perfectly pressed Cubano and warm spinach salad with duck tamale.—updated by Jon Marcus

Mondays through Thursdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm, Sundays 5:30 to 9:30 pm.

Chez Panisse Restaurant and Café
1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley , California
Tel: 510 548 5525

When Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971, she sparked a "green" revolution that spread around the world. And though focusing on local, artisanal ingredients is now de rigueur in California and elsewhere, Waters is still the master. Her strictly limited (only one option per course) seasonal menu changes daily, so each visit is like dining at the home of a friend who happens to be an incredibly talented chef. One night, the entrée might be an oven-roasted veal chop with fresh herbs and spring vegetables; another, a dish of unadorned, pristine black figs might serve as petits fours. Warm, earth-toned decor adds to the sophisticated-homey feel, and a more casual upstairs café with an à la carte menu catches the overflow.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 6 to 10 pm. There are two seatings per night.

Chez Philippe
Peabody Hotel
149 Union Avenue
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 529 4000

Unlike at many eateries in laid-back Memphis, jackets are suggested at Chez Philippe, the self-consciously refined restaurant of the Peabody Hotel. Although the restaurant lost its longtime chef-celeb, José Gutierrez in 2005, the establishment still turns out fine French fare, but now with subtle Asian variations. Chef Reinaldo Alfonso combines Harris Ranch short ribs and strip steak on one plate with sweetened carrot purée and Thai basil coulis, for example. The gold tablecloths and borderline-obsequious service is a nice change of pace, but we bet you'll head back to the barbecue shacks before long.

Dinner only. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

2449 Main Street
Brewster , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 896 3640

Julia Child celebrated several of her birthdays at this antique-filled, 17th-century home, and it gets our vote for the best restaurant on Cape Cod. Service is flawless throughout the seven-course dinner of impeccably prepared French and American cuisine. Your meal might include escargots on grilled brioche, foie gras salad drizzled with truffle vinaigrette, lamb dressed in a tomato-olive-caper relish, or basil-crusted slow-baked salmon. Depending on the weather, predinner cocktails are served in the garden or around a cracking fireplace. Both the mood and the menu are less formal in the Bistro (where lunch and Sunday brunch are also served). Reservations are essential for dinner and brunch; call at least a week ahead of time in summer.

Open Mondays and Tuesdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Wednesdays through Sundays 11 am to 3 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, mid-May through November.

2400 E. Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 712 0580

This relatively new spot is a South Florida replica of a buzzy São Paulo steakhouse. The idea is simple—a $44 all-you-can-eat upscale buffet ($25 for lunch). Don't load up too much on the lavish salad bar, though—cheese, prosciutto, and smoked salmon are staples—as the main course is the real draw. Follow your nose as waiters wander through the dining room brandishing massive skewers of more than a dozen different meats, from which they'll carve chunks for any diner. The skewers are all cooked churrascaria-style, over flaming pits; make sure to try unfamiliar offerings like picanha (that's a Brazilian cut of sirloin) or linguica (a sort of chorizo). Use the casino-chip-like baton to indicate whether you're still working on appetizers (leave it red-side up) or if you want the wait staff to serve up the meats (turn it to green).

Open daily 5:30 to 10 pm.

368 Main Street
Park City , Utah
Tel: 435 649 6222

With all due respect to vegans, the spareribs at Chimayo—glazed with caramelized pineapples and chipotle peppers, and served with a warm corn slaw, ancho chile onion rings, and buttermilk potatoes—are preposterously good and should not be missed. The duck enchiladas are also a perennial favorite. This warm retreat from the bustle of Main Street also serves decent vegetable enchiladas, and a queso fundido of melted Gruyère, Manchego, and provolone that will thaw even the most frostbitten toes after a day on the slopes. The margaritas could be stronger and service more consistent (plus, prices are more Manhattan than mountain), but it's a nice bit of spice in vanilla land.—Sarah Tuff

Open daily 5 to 10 pm.

China Poblano
3708 Las Vegas Boulevard S.
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 698 7900

Not long after opening L.A.'s sleek multi-concept Bazaar, José Andrés is taking on Sin City with a restaurant that marries Chinese and Mexican food. Andrés's friend and mentor Albert Adrià says, "The best street food comes from China and Mexico, and China Poblano has both—and of the highest quality." In practice, Andrés's restaurant is less about fusion than about serving the cuisines side by side: In addition to the main kitchen, two separate kitchens turn out dan dan mian (hand-cut noodles with spicy meat and peanuts) and sui mai, scallop seviche, and cochinita tacos (entrées, $8-$17).

Must eat: The Rou Jia Mo Street Sandwich, a traditional braised meat burger.

Chef José Andrés' favorite new restaurant: Max Levy's Apothecary, Beijing

Chop House
262 South Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs , California
Tel: 760 320 4500

A longtime favorite of Clint Eastwood, this sexy candlelit steakhouse of cherrywood paneling and curved booths dishes out huge portions of beef, seafood, and lobster mashed potatoes. Try the grilled 14-ounce bone-in filet mignon and one of the signature London Fog cocktails (a mixture of gin and Pernod with a lemon twist). Advance reservations are recommended.

Dinner only.

Chops City Grill
837 Fifth Avenue South
Naples , Florida
Tel: 239 262 4677

At Chops, you can get an awesome New York strip or T-bone steak that's been dry-aged in the restaurant's aging room and other house specialties, such as hand-rolled sushi and seafood. Steaks and lamb chops are served with onion rings and a choice of baked potato, French fries, baked sweet potato, or smashed new potatoes; the grilled swordfish in a fresh peach-and-mango barbecue sauce is served with seared diver scallops. A 300-bottle wine list includes 32 vintages served by the glass.

Dinner only.

Chowning's Tavern
109 E. Duke of Gloucester Street
Williamsburg , Virginia
Tel: 800 828 3767 (toll-free)
Tel: 757 229 2141

Next to the courthouse, this is the rowdy one, complete with balladeers in the evening and interactive entertainment. From 5 pm on, expect to be roped into games and sing-alongs—sort of Revolutionary karaoke. It's the best place for families, with its draft root beer and casual food barely trying to be authentic (Brunswick stew and Smithfield ham biscuits are as 18th-century as it gets). After 8 pm, though, the entertainment takes a turn for the bawdy. During the day, Chowning's is a BBQ joint serving "Gunpowder Chili," dogs and burgers (also in kids' sizes), beef brisket, and pulled pork, either inside or from speedy garden and cider stands.

Snack bar open daily 11:30 am to 5 pm ; cider stands open 10 am to 6 pm, weather permitting; dinner 5 to 9 pm daily.

Christiana Campbell's Tavern
101 S. Waller Street
Williamsburg , Virginia
Tel: 800 828 3767 (toll-free); 757 229 2141

Installing her tavern in the spot Jane Vobe abandoned for the King's Arms was a good move for tiny, rotund Christiana Campbell—hers became George Washington's favorite place. The tagline on the "Bill of Fayre" is "Giving Satisfaction to TRAVELERS and TOWNSPEOPLE with a Taste for SEAFOOD," which means the way to choose between this and the King's Arms is by what you feel like eating: You get a similar experience at either. The $35 "Waterman's Supp'r" includes clam stew, herb-crusted codfish, and ice cream. Oyster dishes are the only ones to be avoided. As at Mrs. Vobe's, a stack of sides comes free; here it's cabbage slaw, spoon bread, biscuits, and sweet-potato muffins.

Open daily 5 to 9 pm.

Church & State
1850 Industrial Street
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 213 405 1434

Americans love the idea of a second chance, of watching someone persist until they get it right. So there's something especially thrilling about the successful rebooting of Church & State, a French bistro in downtown L.A. that opened to sullen reviews back in 2008. The place always had a great look—carnival lights, antique mirrors, brick floor, and a great location in the vintage Nabisco building—but it wasn't until the talented chef Walter Manzke (formerly of Bastide) arrived earlier this year that the food began to match the charming atmosphere. For lunch we had a moist, bacon-y roasted chicken à la Bourgeoise with pearl onions and carrots, and a croque-monsieur so light and fluffy it could have doubled as a tea sandwich. After a summer job at a cannery in Alaska many years ago, I thought I never wanted to see a shrimp again, but a plate of sweet Santa Barbara spot prawns, accompanied by garlic aïoli and topped with a handful of English peas and fresh wild arugula from Manzke's parents' garden, had me rethinking my boycott. The place was noisy, the tables full, the prices reasonable. Church & State is in a somewhat dicey neighborhood, but who doesn't want to support a comeback, especially in this town?—Margy Rochlin, first published on

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30am to 2:30pm and 6pm to 10pm, Fridays 11:30am to 2:30pm and 6pm to 11pm, Saturdays 5:30pm to 11pm, Sundays 5pm to 9pm.

1728 Barton Springs Road
Austin , Texas
Tel: 512 474 4452

Velvet Elvises papering the walls and hubcaps on the ceiling set the mood; the Hatch green chile sauce provides a caliente kick to the enchiladas and burritos; the potent margaritas—made with fresh limes, not sour mix—keep the buzz going. (Yes, this is where First Daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush got busted for underage drinking in 2001.) Chuy's food is pretty straightforward Tex-Mex but it compensates for a lack of surprises with gargantuan portions and gregarious service. Three other locations have sprung up around town, but the original on Barton Springs remains the classic.

126 Riverfront Lane
Avon , Colorado
Tel: 970 790 5500

At Cima, star chef Richard Sandoval aims to combine Rocky Mountain ingredients with Latin American flair. Sandoval looks for the freshest ingredients from local farms and ranches, and sources sustainable seafood. Standouts on the menu include the brightly flavored ceviches and rack of lamb with chorizo meatballs and pomegranate–mint salsa. The hand-muddled cocktails combine pisco, cachaça, and, of course, tequila.—Samantha Berman

Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne
455 Grand Bay Drive
Key Biscayne , Florida
Tel: 305 365 4500

The large, family-friendly Ritz-Carlton on Key Biscayne, a posh island community just south of downtown Miami, may seem an odd spot for a superb restaurant, but don't be put off—it's worth a detour, wherever you're staying. A luxe take on a traditional Tuscan trattoria, Cioppino has a warm, homey vibe, and the food is largely made from ingredients flown in from the motherland. Burrata mozzarella arrives twice weekly, and the namesake stew, a soupy seafood mash-up of shrimp, clams, and calamari, is made with imported Italian tomatoes.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.

Hotel Photo
1330 Maryland Avenue S.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 787 6006

Chef Eric Ziebold previously worked at D.C.'s Vidalia (1990 M St. N.W.; 202-659-1990;, but it was the eight years under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in California's Napa Valley that truly informed his cooking style. In an elegant dining room at the Mandarin Oriental with 20-foot ceilings and modern appointments, Ziebold serves an outstanding modern American menu based on pristine ingredients and inspired combinations. Foie gras risotto comes with a counterpoint of astringent roasted apple; pork sausage is accompanied by Perigord truffles, Italian pistachios, and a ragout of French green lentils; Chatham Bay cod is paired with celery root puree, little onions, and a whole-grain mustard sauce. For dessert, there's a chocolate-chip-cookie-dough soufflé with chocolate-milk ice cream.

Dinner only; closed Sundays and Mondays.

Clam Bar
2025 Montauk Highway
Amagansett , New York
Tel: 631 267 6348

Less flashy and storied than the Lobster Roll, just a stone's throw down Montauk Highway, the Clam Bar serves up quality fried clams, burgers, and, to some minds, a superior lobster roll from a diminutive red roadside shack. Eating this close to the road is like driving in a convertible—the wind blows your hair, and it really feels like summer. Plus, there is something comforting about the non-ambience and limited charms of picnic tables shaded by umbrellas and the posted signs warning against letting children wander freely.—Updated by Darrell Hartman

Open daily from 12 pm until dark, April through November.

The Clam Shack
Route 9 (at the bridge)
Kennebunkport , Maine
Tel: 207 967 2560

C'mon, bickering over the best seafood stand in Maine is a bore: There are many fine finger-food establishments strung like Christmas lights up the coast. But if you're in the Kennebunks, staying at the White Barn Inn or Captain Lord Mansion, walk the five minutes to the Clam Shack. You can't miss it on Route 9 at the bridge. The fried clams are summer in a paper pint, and the lobster rolls could move the heavens. Owner Steve Kingston plucks the meat from a one-pound lobster and piles it onto a lightly crisped roll. Your choice of mayo, butter, or both. Want a fork? Bring your own—it's utensil-free here.

Open May to October.

6100 Annunciation Street
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 895 1111

Buried in the maze of the side streets in Uptown's Riverbend neighborhood, Clancy's is one of the more unassuming restaurants in the city, which seems to suit its loyalists just fine. It's another of the "secret clubhouse" restaurants that locals often keep to themselves—and on any given night, the older crowd reflects a genteel, somewhat subdued ambience. The fried oyster starter with melted brie would be considered rich by any standards, but the addition of lemon beurre blanc puts it over the top. The pan-seared veal topped with a silky béarnaise sauce melts on the tongue. And in keeping with local evening tradition, a rich meal can be bookended with cocktails that don't skimp on the active ingredients: A perfectly made Sazerac works well as a predinner warm-up or a postprandial simmer-down.—Pableaux Johnson

Hotel Photo
1001 S.E. Water Street
Portland , Oregon
Tel: 503 235 2294

Stepping into this converted warehouse, with little more than a few votive candles for decoration and Chet Baker tunes playing in the background, you'll feel like you've stepped into a black-and-white photograph. What could have been austere is sexy, and the unfussiness allows you to focus your attention on the top-notch Northwest cuisine with Tuscan influences. The menu changes daily depending on what the chef found at the market. You'll find experimental riffs on contrasting flavors and textures: shaved fennel with cannellini beans, roasted almonds, and pecorino; tuna with black rice, pomegranate, and mint; as well as more traditional items like flatiron steak with chanterelles. You may find a few people who've dressed for the occasion, but as this is Portland you'll blend in better with the locals if you go casually stylish. It's worth reserving ahead on Friday or Saturday nights, but otherwise you shouldn't have trouble snagging a table.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 5:30 pm to close.

Eliot Hotel
370 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston , Massachusetts
Tel: 617 536 7200

Put simply, Clio chef Ken Oringer is one of the best in America. His French–Asian hybrids (heavy on the French) astonish everyone, however jaded. Reading the menu clues you in: cassolette of lobster and sea urchin with yuzu and Japanese pepper; lacquered foie gras with sweet-and-sour lemon and bee pollen; roast suckling pig with fresh bacon-and-endive confit. The setting is elegant, the service, flawless. Consequently, Clio, in the Eliot Hotel can be one tough table to score, especially on a weekend. Book ahead, or try Oringer's other spots—all very different from this and one another—including Uni a sashimi bar, just a few steps away, in a corner of the Eliot; Toro a Spanish-style tapas restaurant in the South End (1704 Washington St., 617-536-4300) Coppa a South End enoteca (253 Shawmut Ave., 617-391-0902), KO Prime a steakhouse inside the Nine Zero Hotel (90 Tremont St., 617-772-0202,), or La Verdad a Mexican taqueria near Fenway Park (1 Lansdowne St., 617-351-2580).—updated by Jon Marcus

Open Mondays through Saturdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm.

Clyde Common
1014 S.W. Stark Street
Portland , Oregon
Tel: 503 228 3333

Upon entering Clyde Common, you'll find yourself in a sea of designer jeans, eyewear, and messenger bags, the uniform of the handsome creative professionals who have appropriated this hot spot as their home away from home. Buzzing day and night, the industrial-chic space in the Ace Hotel has several long communal tables sparkling with rows of votive candles, an open kitchen, a second-floor mezzanine with private tables, and a long bar. A European gastro pub-inspired menu features bright and simple ingredient-driven dishes such as grilled corn salad with lime, chile, and bitter greens; whole grilled fish with roasted garlic and caramelized onions; and a half chicken with chanterelles. The wine list focuses on Europe but also includes some reasonably priced regional picks. The bar is a raucous and thriving scene unto itself, and it can get seriously noisy when the place is packed—which it often is. Try the barrel-aged Negroni, which is mixed and then aged for six weeks in whiskey casks. While the service is friendly, the timing can be off and can feel a bit rushed. But the arty types who hang here don't seem to mind a bit.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to midnight, Fridays 11:30 am to 2 am, Saturdays 5 pm to 2 am, and Sundays 5 to 10 pm.

230 Ninth Avenue
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 243 1105

A pizza revolution has been brewing in New York, with Neapolitan-style thin-crust beauties edging out the classic street slice. Co., in north Chelsea, helped kick off the trend, with fine, blistered pies handcrafted by cult baker Jim Lahey (longtime supplier of bread to some of the city's top restaurants) and finished off in an 800-degree oven. Though the food comes out fast and furious from the no-nonsense kitchen, you should still expect a considerable wait (up to 20 minutes) for a seat. Those seats, by the way, are strictly no-frills: picnic benches around communal wood tables. But the pizza, not the ambience, is the reason to come here (the menu also offers a smattering of salads, crostini, and charcuterie plates). Lahey's chewy crust, showered with toppings both classic (sausage, buffalo mozzarella) and newfangled (asparagus, black truffle, quail eggs), is among the best in New York.—Jay Cheshes

Open Mondays 5 to 11 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays 11:30 am to 11 pm, and Sundays 11 am to 10 pm.

Coastal Cold Storage
306 Nordic Drive
Petersburg , Alaska
Tel: 877 257 4746

Known as Alaska's "Little Norway," Petersburg is a fanatically tidy fishing town, the kind of place where shopkeepers put out cookies for their customers at Christmas and houses are decorated with rosemaling, a floral motif brought over from the old country. It's also home to a uniquely Alaskan dining experience. Coastal Cold Storage is exactly as the name implies—a cold-storage plant where fishermen store and prepare the day's catch for shipping. But inside, you'll find a tiny restaurant where, for less than ten bucks, you'll get the best beer-battered halibut or fish and chips you'll ever eat. Okay, so the place really does look like an industrial fish plant with a food counter. One taste, and you'll know it's worth waiting in line with the fishermen (quite possibly the same guys who pulled the fish you're about to eat from the water). This is the real Alaska: simple and well done, and nobody blinks if you walk in wearing gum boots.—Edward Readicker-Henderson

Open daily for lunch and early dinner, June through August.

Hotel Photo
930 Tchoupitoulas Street
Warehouse District
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 588 2123
Tel: 504 588 7675

Donald Link of Herbsaint fame opened this Warehouse District restaurant in the spring of 2006, and it's been one of the city's enduring "hot tickets" ever since. The menu is an homage to the rustic Cajun boucherie (meat market) tradition that Link grew up with in rural southern Louisiana. Start with the deep-fried rabbit liver appetizer or the meaty fried boudin balls (crispy globes of rice-based Cajun sausage). The entrées include a sophisticated take on catfish sauce piquante, a flawless presentation of a home-style Cajun dish. The airy, well-lit room—a former electrical warehouse—plays exposed brick off stylish blond wood, though the flat-seated chairs take their toll on the backside during longer meals. Link and partner Steven Stryjewski recently upped the ante with the addition of Cochon Butcher next door; it hawks house-cured meats and homemade pickles next to a "swine bar" that serves wines by the glass along with outstanding sandwiches and small plates (their single-serving muffuletta might be the best in town). Fans of Cochon's charcuterie selection—duck rillettes, salumi, and smoky andouille sausage—can pick up a pound or two to bring home.

Open Mondays through Fridays 11 am to 10 pm, Saturdays 5:30 to 10 pm.

Commander's Palace
1403 Washington Avenue
Garden District
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 899 8221

If you doubt the concept of "elegant excess," book a long weekday lunch at Commander's, in the relaxed Garden District. The legendary flagship of the Brennan's restaurant dynasty hosts the local ladies who lunch as they celebrate their birthdays with a flood of 25-cent martinis (one of the best hidden lunch specials in town). The ambience of the new main dining room has shifted from restrained and clubby to playfully extravagant, with life-size feathered songbird dolls peeping out from the avian-themed wallpaper. The second-story Garden Room looks out onto the iconic oak-shaded courtyard. In both rooms, the efficient, brigade-style service never disappoints. Chef Tory McPhail, working the kitchen that launched Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, artfully blends varied local influences in dishes like pan-seared Gulf fish with Louisiana citrus; crawfish and grits perfumed with cognac; and an earthy seared duck breast with Cajun dirty rice and roasted tomatoes. Eternal Commander's classics such as rich seafood gumbo, sherry-spiked turtle soup, and ethereal bread pudding soufflé provide a comforting sense of continuity.

Open Mondays through Fridays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 6:30 to 10 pm, Saturdays 11:30 am to 1 pm and 6:30 to 10 pm, and Sundays 10:30 am to 1:30 pm and 6:30 to 10 pm.

Comme Ça
8479 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 782 1104

It's the classic L.A. dining conundrum. You want some good grub, but you don't feel like dropping an entire week's salary on some paparazzi-infested scene and the shirt you're wearing is too nice to waste on the IHOP. Comme Ça, a neighborhood brasserie courtesy of Sona chef David Myers, is Hollywood's happy medium. It's a chic French bistro with an easygoing vibe, and nothing on the menu—a flavorful potpourri of French favorites such as steak frites, coq au vin and duck confit—that will cost you more than $30. For maximum good times, let the bartender mix you a Dealer's Choice. Tell him the spirit of your choice and he'll whip up a potent surprise with his stash of fresh ingredients.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5 pm to 12 am, Sundays 5 to 11 pm.

Company of the Cauldron
5 India Street
Nantucket , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 228 4016

The candlelit tables fill up quickly at this tiny, refined restaurant where a harpist serenades the dinner crowd three nights a week. The prix-fixe dinner menu changes daily (it's posted on the Web site a week in advance), but loyal followers know that whatever chef All Kovalencik makes is bound to be good. Recent dishes have included pan-seared halibut over avocado salad with a coriander vinaigrette and Maine lobster-and-leek stuffed crepe with smoked shiitake emulsion. The portions are large and the prices (comparatively) reasonable, starting at $50 per person. There are either one or two seatings per night.

Dinner only. Open mid-April through mid-October.

Copley's on Palm Canyon
621 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs , California
Tel: 760 327 9555

Cary Grant's former estate is now the home of this popular New American bistro. Award-winning chef Andrew Copley, who has tended the stoves at prestigious dining rooms around the world, gets high marks for his SoCal and Pacific Rim–inspired comfort food. Signature dishes include lobster pot pie, macadamia nut Australian barramundi, roasted butternut squash soup, prime New York steak in a shallot Cabernet reduction, and roasted tandoori breast of chicken filled with shrimp and mango. Grab a table on the delightful patio and watch the kitchen staff pick fresh herbs from the gardens.

Dinner only. Closed August and Mondays off-season (May to December).

Cora's Coffee Shop
1802 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica , California
Tel: 310 451 9562

Regulars were disturbed when longtime west-side restaurateur Bruce Marder bought this tiny coffee shop; it had remained virtually unchanged since its inception in the 1920s. But patrons needn't have worried, as the upscale comfort food on the new menu isn't all that much pricier than it was, —and it's much better. Breakfast here is worth making a trip for: The orange-infused blueberry pancakes, frittatas, huevos rancheros, and a delicious Caprese omelette are all stellar. There are salads and sandwiches at lunch, and dinner includes pastas and entrées. Service is so friendly you'll feel like a regular even before you become one.

239 West Broadway
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 219 2777

Tribeca restaurateur Drew Nieporent discovered chef David Bouley and helped put Nobu Matsuhisa on the New York food map. His latest show pony is wunderkind Paul Liebrandt. The star-crossed young British chef—he was best known for receiving three stars from The New York Times, then promptly losing his job—has hit his stride at Corton, a minimalist space that showcases his complex cuisine. Within the dining room's barely adorned white walls, you'll find some of the most assured haute cuisine in New York: gorgeous, delicious, and—at $85 for three courses—surprisingly reasonable (the wine list has many good values as well). Though the menu changes frequently, it always features the chef's signature In the Garden appetizer, a seasonal medley of boutique vegetables that's so inventive it'll win over even the most ardent carnivore. Liebrandt works wonders with meat and seafood as well, transforming squab breast into an ethereal slow-poached roulade (with black truffle and ginger jus) and combining candy-sweet scallops with shaved Marcona almonds and sushi-grade uni. Pastry chef Robert Truitt (an El Bulli veteran) offers desserts like passion-fruit brioche with brioche-infused ice cream, which easily keep pace with Liebrandt's savory magic.—Jay Cheshes

Open Mondays through Thursdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 to 11 pm.

300 West San Juan Avenue
Telluride , Colorado
Tel: 970 728 1292

A hip date-night spot popular with both locals and tourists, Cosmo excels at true fusion—the menu reflect the flavors of the Pacific Rim, parts of Europe, down South, and the American West. New this season: a small plates selection at the Cosmo bar paired with a fun cocktail menu.—Samantha Berman

Hotel Photo
105 First Avenue
East Village
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 982 5870

Yes, vegetarian restaurants are cheap, but few of them are fun. That's not the case at Counter, an East Village café that bills itself as a Vegetarian Bistro and Wine Bar. Sit at the semicircular bar or in a booth, sip a glass of wine from a surprisingly long list of organic and biodynamic bottles, and prepare to be impressed by dishes like potato-almond gnocchi in a lemon-thyme sauce, tornados of seitan with mustard sauce, and a root beer float martini dessert—sarsaparilla-infused vodka with vanilla ice cream.

The Counter
2901 Ocean Park Boulevard
Santa Monica , California
Tel: 310 399 8383

This mod-style diner in Santa Monica serves fun burgers with grown-up appeal. Choose a beer or wine chaser, customize the toppings to your liking, and get ready for a sloppy mess—you won't be able to resist overstuffing your burger with So-Cal options like sun-dried tomato vinaigrette and avocado. Kids get their due as well, with mini sliders, thick milkshakes, and great shoestring fries. (Adults: Dip yours in garlic aïoli.)

Cowboy Ciao
7133 E. Stetson Drive
Scottsdale , Arizona
Tel: 480 946 3111

The unique (some say odd) combo of Southwest and Italian translates into heavy dishes that shun simplicity. For example, as if rubbing a filet mignon with espresso weren't enough, it's also prepared with a cabernet demi-glace. Or how about the really tasty elk strip loin served over mushroom risotto? Two guarantees: You will walk away stuffed, and you will have trouble deciding on a wine from the 3,000-plus list. Avoid the Bordeaux blues by asking for the Nifty Fifty, narrowing the cellar down to 50 guest favorites. Witty and attractive servers keep this spot high on our "restaurants with personality" list.

W Hotel - Victory
2440 Victory Park Lane
Suite 100
Dallas , Texas
Tel: 214 397 4111

Tom Colicchio isn't just a cutting-edge practitioner of the ingredients-first movement, he's practically the founder. This, the second outpost of his NYC institution, is one of the hottest tables in town. Soaring windows and muted natural colors flow through the big open space, but the mix-and-match minimalist menu is famously laissez-faire, putting all the focus on the ingredients. Your ordering task is to pick your protein and your sauce, so much of the meal's success is in your hands. Many of the more savory dishes are particularly good; pork belly melts in your mouth, and wild boar short ribs are impressive, but sweetbreads can come out slightly dry. Service is spotty, giving you the definite sense that success has gone to the staff's heads. Our last visit saw the dining room at a frigid temperature, and we had a server who seemed indifferent to the vintages listed on the wine list. And keep in mind that the bill is inevitably pretty steep. Still, the hot-table designation is deserved; this is Dallas's ante for the 21st-century game.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 6:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 6:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm.

10100 Constellation Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 310 279 4180

Angelenos love a buzzy restaurant almost as much as they love being celebrity sightings. Craft, star chef Tom Colicchio's 300-seat restaurant on the first floor of power agency CAA, delivers on both counts. The seasonal fare (bar and dining room menus change twice daily) offers an almost overwhelming selection that covers just about every conceivable category of foodstuff, including an entire section devoted to mushrooms (roasted Trompette Royale champignons, anyone?). Food is served family-style and servers do everything in their power to please. Sure, locals love to feel like they're getting a taste of New York sophistication, and that's certainly part of the draw at this chic Manhattan import, but the walk-in-only Craft Bar on the terrace, decked with canvas cabanas, fire pits, and agents trying to impress their clients, is pure Hollywood.—Audrey Davidow

Open Mondays through Thursdays from 5:30pm to 10pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30pm to 11pm, Sundays 5pm to 9pm.

3400 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 791 7355

Is it wrong to visit Vegas and not eat at a buffet? Up to you, but if you must, go for the one that cost $20 million to build. Designed by Adam Tihany, the man behind dozens of Vegas restaurants, including Spago, Aureole, and Le Cirque, Cravings in the Mirage was modeled after buffets in Asia, where diners get cooking stations instead of mountains of stringy shrimp and soggy French toast. There are around a dozen of these stations here, with chefs making Italian, Japanese, Mexican, barbecue, and so forth. The food itself is on par with most reasonably priced white-tablecloth restaurants, making the $25 all-you-can-eat price tag at dinner one of the best food bargains in Vegas. Cocktails are not included, but if you grab a seat at the bar in the back, you won't have to deal with the dizzying striped carpet as you hike to your table far, far away.

Open Mondays through Fridays 7 am to 10 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 8 am to 10 pm.

Cuban Coffee

There's a never-to-be-settled debate as to who makes Key West's best Cuban coffee, a sugary shot of espresso called buchi. Inexplicably, the two top rivals for the crown are in a grocery store and a laundromat. Five Brothers is a café and food market crammed with provisions and pots dangling from the ceiling (930 Southard St.; 305-296-5205). Besides buchi and café con leche, they also offer daily specials like ropa vieja (Cuban shredded beef) that go fast—get there before 2. At Sandy's Café inside the M&M laundry, you can linger at one of the outdoor stools and sip a buchi along with one of the killer Cuban sandwiches (1026 White St.; 305-295-0159).

Cucina dell Arte
257 Royal Poinciana Way
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 655 0770

This Italian restaurant opens at 7 am, so it's the perfect place to get some fuel for Worth Avenue shopping. The signature egg dishes are the best bet: eggs Imperial (a spin on eggs Benedict with jumbo crabmeat), or eggs with black truffle hollandaise sauce and asparagus. Wash them down with the breakfast Bloody Mary, lavishly garnished with chilled shrimp and Gorgonzola-stuffed olives. The two other meals of the day are solid as well: At lunch, try the chunky chicken-and-Gorgonzola salad. The dinner menu focuses on pastas (homemade ravioli) and pizzas, including a killer spicy tomato and smoked-bacon Romana. After hours, the tables are cleared away and the restaurant becomes a popular all-night bar.

1400 Union Avenue
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 276 8015

Visions of fried green tomatoes and rightly seasoned turnip greens dancing in your head? You'd better make your way to this Deep South soul-food institution. The veggies alone (22 varieties daily) are cause enough to visit, with the eggplant casserole and the sublime mac 'n' cheese seeming straight from the pages of How to Make the Richest Side Dish at Your Church Potluck. Proprietor Charles Cavallo's meats and desserts also fit the bill nicely, notably the country fried chicken and gooey pecan pie.

Custom House

Local favorite Shawn McClain is known for tinkering with tradition. His Spring adds a subtle Asian accent to seafood, and the homely vegetable won a glamorous makeover at his Green Zebra, with dishes like roasted spaghetti squash served with crispy chestnuts and savory yogurt. But it's Custom House that truly earns the title of new wave standard bearer. The Printers' Row kitchen establishes its heartland heart quickly with a wall of Wright-like limestone that's both homespun and chic. The same double-barreled sensibility drives the menu, ­an homage to the sheer glory of meat that includes steak, of course, but also a juicy roasted Berkshire pork chop with an unexpected side of grilled plums, and braised short ribs that are so tender they slide off the bone if you look at them wrong, or right.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 10 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 10:30 pm Saturdays 5 to 10:30 pm, and Sundays 5 to 9 pm.

Hotel Photo
Beverly Wilshire Hotel
9500 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills , California
Tel: 310 276 8500

The steakhouse scene has been multiplying at a fast clip in L.A., but few are as exclusive—or pricey—as CUT. Chances are pretty good you'll be dining in the vicinity of A-listers, agents, and studio honchos, but celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck makes sure the beef is the star at this sleek Richard Meier–designed restaurant in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. All the steaks, including a fantastic Japanese Wagyu, are first seared over a hardwood and charcoal grill to seal in the juices, then finished in a 1,200-degree broiler for results that are indecently juicy. Sides are fairly standard—creamed spinach, potatoes gratin, tempura onion rings—and are served à la carte. You'll have to pay extra for the sauces, too, which seems a touch penurious given the markup on the meat. But just consider it the price of admission to this celeb-studded hangout.

Open daily 5:30 to 10 pm.

Cyril's Fish House
2167 Montauk Highway
Amagansett , New York
Tel: 631 267 7993

Timing is everything at this Caribbean-style seafood shack. At lunchtime, families sit under umbrellas, taking plastic flatware to citrus-accented broiled bass fillet and lightly fried squid with Buffalo-style sauce and blue cheese dressing. In the late afternoon and evening, crowds of beach-tanned singles in flip-flops and tank tops quaff rum punch and frozen margaritas, transforming the roadside eatery into a buzzing pickup scene. Cyril, with his white beard, funky sunglasses, straw hat, and (if you're lucky) flowing sarong, works the crowd. The bohemian proprietor is quick to accept a drink, but he doesn't accept credit cards—so bring cash or you'll be saddled with his high ATM fee.

Open daily 11 am to 10 pm, mid-April through early October.

Le Mars Hôtel
29 North Street
Healdsburg , California
Tel: 707 433 3311

Helmed by chef Douglas Keane and owner/maître d' Nick Peyton (the team behind St. Helena's popular Market) the dining room at Cyrus has soaring vaulted ceilings and tables laid with the finest linens, silver, and crystal. The staff moves through the room as if in a ballet: A plate of canapés arrives first, followed by a glittering cart bearing Champagne and caviar, where roe is weighed on a scale counterbalanced by a single gold coin; then it's a round of amuse-gueules. At first it feels a bit over the top, but the service is performed with such tongue-in-cheek levity that it's absolutely charming. Guests design their own prix-fixe meal, choosing three to five courses off the French-Californian-Asian menu, which uses locally grown organic produce. Standouts include Thai marinated lobster with avocado and mango and tempura-battered mussels in a saffron-flavored broth. Let the sommelier suggest wines from a smart list of lesser-known local and international vintages. If you can't secure a table, stop by for some of California's best cocktails, made with local herbs, freshly squeezed fruit juices, and top-shelf spirits, including vodka from Napa's Charbay Winery & Distillery.

Open daily 5 to 9:30 pm.

D.K. Steakhouse
Waikiki Beach Marriott
2552 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu , Hawaii
Tel: 808 931 6280

Dry-aged steaks cooked to perfection, plus a view overlooking Waikiki Beach, have made this place a major hit since it opened in the fall of 2004. D.K. Kodama is one of Hawaii's most ambitious chef-entrepreneurs; in addition to this steak house at the Waikiki Beach Marriott, he owns the islandwide chain of Sansei sushi bars and the conjoined Honolulu hot spots Vino and Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas. Kodama may have a lot of pots boiling, but what's cooking is undeniably good. D.K. Steakhouse's double-broiled, butterflied filet mignon, for example, served with shiitake mushroom demi-glace and a side of asparagus Milanese, is satisfying to both the local and tourist palate. There's also a special menu of dessert martinis, including the well-named "Bomb" (Godiva white chocolate, Baileys, and Kahlúa). The portions are big here, so unless you've hiked Diamond Head or surfed Pipeline all day, consider sharing.

Dinner only.

Hotel Photo
60 E. 65th Street
Upper East Side
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 288 0033

Why go to Daniel? Because you owe it to yourself to experience the real thing at least once. French haute-cuisine restaurants are vanishing from New York, but Daniel, on the Upper East Side, remains and flourishes because chef Boulud is almost always in the kitchen, ensuring that the dishes balance classic technique with new culinary influences. What other kitchen wraps shrimp in kadaifa, the Arab shredded wheat? Or puts crispy calf's head "ballotine" on the $96 prix-fixe? If you don't want to commit to a whole meal, you can choose from a shorter, à la carte menu in the lounge, where you'll be as coddled as you would be in the opulent dining room.

Closed Sundays.

Daniel Thiebaut
65–1259 Kawaihae Road
Waimea , Hawaii
Tel: 808 887 2200

Formerly a general store and feeding stop for local ranch families, this unlikely venue is one of Waimea's top tables (the other is Merriman's). Just as chef Daniel Thiebaut renovated this country house with antique furniture and Sig Zane tropical prints, a decade of island life has transformed the chef—Thiebaut's heavily Asian-flavored dishes belie his French roots only in structure and presentation. He might wok-fry sea scallops then sauce them in a warm coconut crab dressing; or spice up bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin and herb spaetzle with a Thai curry. The heartiness of the menu pairs well with the area's crisp, often wet, days and misty nights, and it's worth the drive to sample it—even if you're staying an hour away in Kailua-Kona.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11:30 am to 9 pm, Sundays 10 am to 9 pm.

Dan Tana's
9071 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood , California
Tel: 310 275 9444

With its old-school Italian waiters, red leather booths, and checkered tablecloths, Dan Tana's ought to be just another Rat Pack–themed tourist trap. But somehow, this local landmark, serving martinis and red sauce since 1964, remains one of a kind. A baby Drew Barrymore had her diaper changed in one of the booths. The Eagles wrote the lyrics to "Best of My Love" here. Phil Spector left a $500 tip the night he allegedly committed murder. These days, hungry stars and starlets are known to drop in for a steak or the chicken parmigiana.

David Burke's Primehouse
James Hotel
616 N. Rush Street
Chicago , Illinois
Tel: 312 660 6000

Celebrity chef David Burke's Primehouse (part of the James Hotel) is a playful and more sophisticated interpretation of the classic steak house formula. Translation: You won't find any iceberg lettuce salads or gloppy vegetable side dishes here, but rather crab cakes encased in layers of thin Japanese pretzels and an impressive raw bar. Nor will you find wet-aged steaks, like you do at nearly every classic steak house in town. Every cut here is dry-aged in the restaurant's Himalayan salt–lined drying room, a flavor-enhancing process that gives the meat a subtle mineral flavor. But that's not all. In characteristic headline-making fashion, Burke bought his own 2,500-pound premium Black Angus bull—­named Prime, naturally—­to be the resident stud/progenitor for all the future steaks here. Over-the-top? For sure. Tasty? You bet.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 7 am to 3 pm and 5 to 10:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 7 am to 3 pm and 5 to 11:30 pm, and Sundays 7 am to 3 pm and 5 to 10 pm.

299 Bowery
East Village
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 933 5300

Daniel Boulud is best known for his haute cuisine palace, Daniel, on the Upper East Side, but the French chef pretty much invented the high-end burger when he introduced a foie gras–stuffed version back in 2001 at his DB Bistro Moderne in Midtown. Now there's DBGB, Boulud's full-fledged foray into even more accessible fare. The enormous menu at this populist restaurant—the name is a play on legendary rock club CBGB, which was just up the street—features a few new Boulud burger creations (one features pork belly and melted Morbier cheese). But the headliners here are the international panoply of house-made sausages. The plump, flavorsome links, designed for tapas-style sharing, include earthy boudin, fiery merguez, and a smoked pork and Vermont cheddar creation. As befits a sausage and burger joint, beer is the big seller at DBGB, not wine. But those in the mood for more classic bistro fare can get their escargots and steak-frites fix as well.—Jay Cheshes

Open Mondays 5:30 to 11 pm, Tuesdays through Thursdays noon to 11 pm, Fridays noon to 1 am, Saturdays 11 am to 1 am, and Sundays 11 am to 11 pm.

Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
6902 E. Greenway Parkway
Scottsdale , Arizona
Tel: 480 624 1030

There are plenty of quality sushi restaurants in the Valley that prove raw fish is not an anomaly in the desert. But Latin-minded Deseo proves that the fish doesn't have to be inside a roll, either. Sit at the Ceviche Rail (like a high-chair sushi bar) and chat with the chefs about whether the garlic chips are appropriate for the lobster ceviche or how the beer sorbet is made. Then order a rainbow ceviche—akin to a rainbow roll, except that the yellowfin, ahi, and salmon are cured in lime juice alongside jalapeños. Go early and have a drink at the Muddle Bar, where you can choose ingredients such as mint, berries, mango, or basil—think of a Subway-style operation, only with rum.

Dinner only.

Dick and Jenny's
4501 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 894 9880

You just can't get any homier than this renovated Creole cottage steps from the landmark Tipitina's nightclub. With hand-painted plates on the wall and oilcloth-covered tables, this Uptown restaurant seems rustic enough, but don't let the grandma vibe fool you. The daring menu serves down-home American standards, but it also blends a few eclectic influences to create innovative comfort food. Though the menu changes seasonally, expect inventive dishes like savory crawfish and sausage cheesecake, seared duck breast with chorizo, and pecan-crusted Gulf fish, sautéed and paired with smoked mushrooms and cheese grits. If it's on offer, the mile-high lemon meringue pie packs just enough tang to raise a pleasing post-meal pucker.

Open for lunch Tuesdays through Fridays, dinner Mondays through Saturdays.

Dimillo's Floating Restaurant
25 Long Wharf
Portland , Maine
Tel: 207 772 2216

A total tourist trap—but who cares? DiMillo's is an old Rhode Island car ferry that is now permanently docked in Portland Harbor as a seafood and Italian restaurant. Burgundy-and-brass decor and flickering lanterns make for a tony (if boisterous, as birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated here) atmosphere. The seasonal opening of the second-floor outdoor Bow Deck, which juts over the harbor, is a big event around town: It's simply the best view around. The other big draw is the scrumptious lobster—served steamed, sautéed, stuffed, fried or Fra Diavolo. The Fisherman's Platter is also the perfect storm of fried haddock, scallops, shrimp, clams, and onion rings. Top it off with a couple of drinks at DiMillo's Port Side Lounge, and you can blame your wobbliness on the water.

Lunch and dinner daily.

Dim Sum Go Go
5 East Broadway
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 732 0797

Chinatown's most playfully modern dim sum parlor offers the traditional Chinese brunch from morning till night. The red and white facade may scream fast-food joint, but Dim Sum Go Go is a serious restaurant with a serious chef at the helm (Hong Kong– trained Guy Lieu). During the busy lunch rush expect long waits for a table in the spare bi-level dining room—followed by well-worth-it waits for the food, steamed to order instead of paraded on carts. Among the 45 savory dim sum options you'll find traditional offerings like pork shiu mai and plump shrimp har gow along with some of the city's most unusual, and visually stunning, dumpling creations. Delicate wrappers in hues of pink, yellow, and green encase bamboo heart, shark's fin, and roast shredded duck. Overcome option paralysis with the personal-steamer ten-dumpling sampler.

Open daily 10 am to 10:30 pm.

Dining Room
Four Seasons Resort Lanai, Lodge at Koele
1 Keomoku Highway
Lanai City , Hawaii
Tel: 808 565 4580

The Dining Room at the Lodge at Koele is imbued with the ambience of a holiday dinner party almost every night: Flames blaze in giant stone fireplaces, and a pianist/vocalist zings between mellow jazz standards and contemporary Hawaiian faves. The menu reflects what's freshest and the chef's whims; wine pairings are suggested upon request. Playing off the theme of rustic luxury and the local passion for hunting, a venison preparation is always on the menu (perhaps a seared macadamia-crusted local venison loin over pureed parsnips and sliced brussels sprouts), along with traditional—often heavy—European fare (such as seared quail breast and quail leg confit over artichoke puree in an orange balsamic sauce). You'll likely be dazzled by the level of service; the waiters here are seemingly selected to handle the most discriminating guests.

Open Daily, dinner only.

The Dining Room
413 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach , Florida
Tel: 305 397 8444

Brothers Zack and Brian Lieberman—the duo behind popular Ola restaurant in Miami Beach—were looking to bring something with a more local vibe to South Beach's SoFi district when they opened this intimate restaurant in early 2011. The Lieberman family has deep ties to Miami; the brothers' grandmother was social director at the Fontainebleau back in its heyday. The Dining Room has a European café-style interior with Lieberman family photos on the walls and a vintage chandelier. There are only six outdoor tables on the café-packed block of Washington Street and another six tables indoors, so reserving your spot is a must. Inside, all tables face the postage stamp–size kitchen (little more than a set of gas burners and countertop space); miraculously, the tiny galley turns out dishes such as crispy braised pork with a tangy mustard sauce and grilled scallops wrapped in Serrano ham with a foie gras sherry sauce. Don't miss the baked Patagonia (dulce de leche ice-cream with Italian meringue and passion-fruit coulis) for a lovely Latin American dessert.—Terry Ward

Open Tuesday through Sunday 6 pm to 11 pm.

795 S. 3rd Street
Philadelphia , Pennsylvania
Tel: 215 625 0556

The grandfather of Philadelphia's B.Y.O.B. movement was born in 1990, when Dmitri Chimes decided to abandon the kitchen and prepare all meals from the counter of this old soda fountain. By limiting his cooking techniques (mostly to grilling), he made simplicity his signature—to wit, the grilled octopus and fresh whole fish finished with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of herbs. The limited seating (and the typical 45-minute wait) create a convivial community with the New Wave, a bar across the street where you can have a drink until a waitress fetches you.

Open daily 5:30 to 10 pm; cash only.

Dock at Crayton Cove
845 12th Avenue South
Naples , Florida
Tel: 239 263 9940

This casual open-air eatery in the center of Old Naples evokes the carefree lyrics of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay." The restaurant dates from 1976 but the crowd-pleasing menu is very current, with items such as black peppercorn–seared yellow-fin tuna niçoise salad, Black Angus cheeseburger, Bahamian conch fritters, banana macadamia nut–crusted grouper, and a raw bar shellfish tower for two. A couple of surefire time-wasters: Order the Dock Walloper, a mix of light and dark Puerto Rican rums, Galliano, Triple Sec, banana liqueur, and Florida orange juice, or the Dock Slider, a concoction of Kahlua, vodka, and Bailey's Irish Cream.

Don Dae Gam
1145 South Western Avenue
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 373 0700

Don Dae Gam, a brand-new offshoot of L.A.'s esteemed beef-centered Park's Barbeque, is a restaurant that takes the original's reputation for grilled prime-meat selections and focuses that same level of attention on the pig. Located in a Koreatown strip mall and patterned after the pork-and-soju joints that are the latest rage in Seoul, Don Dae Gam is all about lean pork neck meat, marinated deboned pork ribs, ribbons of pork belly, and pork intestine (spiced just seconds before hitting the grill, it's so delicious it should be given a different name so as not to be passed over by the innards-phobic). You cook your meats on gas-powered charcoal braziers set into the small, round tables that somehow give the place an air of late-night cafe cheeriness. (Long tables for larger parties dot a separate room.) A Combo #1—three types of pork for grilling, a nightly selection of banchan (customary little side dishes), kimchi jigae (a bubbling, bright red stew), and a choice of soju or beer—costs $39.99 and can feed two to three people. "There are so many all-you-can-eat places in Koreatown right now, but they don't serve high quality," says owner Jenny Kim. "That's who I'm targeting."—Margy Rochlin, first published on

Double Crown
316 Bowery
East Village
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 254 0350

As much of a draw for the scene as for the food, Double Crown is a restaurant homage to the British Empire in Asia and a sprawling follow-up to Public and Monday Room in Nolita. Chef Brad Farmerie draws culinary inspiration from both Mother Britain and her former East Asian colonies, offering up elegant riffs on bangers and mash (featuring boar sausage and beet relish) and a classic Wellington (stuffed with elk instead of the usual tenderloin). The Raj gets a nod in a spicy side of garam masala potatoes. There are Singaporean laksas and Hong Kong–style steamed buns with duck. The eclectic cuisine reflects the decor, which features a vibrant hodgepodge of far-flung knickknacks (Fu dogs, soapstone lanterns from India) courtesy of restaurant designers du jour AvroKo, who also co-own the joint. The party in the annex bar—a cozy shoebox dubbed Madam Geneva, where hip young things huddle around shareable nibbles and potent old-school libations (Pimm's Cups, Singapore Slings)—often spills into the main dining room. On weekends, hungover brunches segue into afternoon parties with boozy high teas, complete with crusts-off sandwiches, clotted cream scones, and gin-spiked Earl Grey.—Jay Cheshes

Open Mondays through Thursdays 6 to 11 pm, Fridays 6 pm to 12 am, Saturdays 11 am to 12 am, and Sundays 11 am to 11 pm.

103 W. 77th Street
Upper West Side
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 362 3800

Beyond bagels and lox, the Upper West Side has long been one of New York's least exciting food neighborhoods. Though a few high-end restaurants have survived and thrived over the years, it wasn't until John Fraser opened Dovetail near the Museum of Natural History that the area really got New York foodies buzzing. You'll have to reserve at least a week ahead to score a seat in the low-slung modern space behind a barely marked door with tablecloth-free candlelit tables and a casual jeans-with-heels vibe (it's still the Upper West Side after all). Fraser's upscale American food is just safe enough to captivate even the most timid neighborhood palates. A delicious gnocchi starter, featuring corned beef and cabbage, plays to his audience while still managing to be refined and distinct. Beautifully seared cod in a bowl of deconstructed chowder is mostly an excuse to spoil us with bacon, bacon, and more bacon. Desserts, like a peanut butter candy bar on a bed of crumbled pretzels, are equally crowd-pleasing, if a tad on the quirky side.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 5:30 to 11 pm, Sundays 5:30 to 10 pm.

149 Broadway
Brooklyn , New York
Tel: 718 384 6343
Subway: J train to Marcy Avenue

This New American standout in South Williamsburg undoubtedly raised a few eyebrows when it set up shop across the street from hallowed Peter Luger in 2006. But chefs Polo Dobkin and Cal Elliott, both alums of Gramercy Tavern, helm a kitchen that's just as consistent and certainly more creative. Seasonal specials can include the likes of smoked squid with barbecue glaze over bitter endive, with delicious acidity provided by a tangerine accompaniment. Entrées are dressed-up versions of classics, such as monk loin wrapped in Benton's bacon over kale, beluga, lentils, and red wine, or grilled, aged rib eye with onion jam, spinach, and bordelaise. The Art Deco interior is undeniably atmospheric, with filigreed ironwork crafted by local Navy Yard sculptors that pays homage to the brasserie's industrial surroundings. Service is spot on—some of Dressler's staff decamped from the Keith McNally and Jean Georges empires, so there's a polish that can be hard to come by in these parts.

Open Monday through Thursday 6 to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday 6 to midnight, Sunday 11 am to 3:30 pm, and 5:30 to 10:30 pm.

Driskill Grill
Driskill Hotel
604 Brazos Street
Austin , Texas
Tel: 512 391 7162

Ornate chandeliers, dark-wood paneling, and etched-glass partitions make a trip to Driskill Grill feel a bit like traveling back to the days of Wild West outlaws. But chef Jonathan Gelman's kitchen is as innovative as any in town. You'll find refreshing takes on classic dishes like lobster with pineapple carpaccio, watercress, and passion fruit, in addition to well-excuted standards like steak with bleu cheese potato confit and roasted asparagus. The wine list covers a lot of ground with an impressive range of prices and regions. Consistently named as one of the best restaurants in the city, the Driskill is the ideal place for a romantic night out as well as a worthy anchor to the city's grandest hotel.

Dry Creek Kitchen
317 Healdsburg Avenue
Healdsburg , California
Tel: 707 431 0330

If you're loath to surrender high heels and urban style just because you're in ag country, you'll appreciate celeb chef Charlie Palmer's Sonoma County outpost, Dry Creek Kitchen at Hotel Healdsburg. The architectural elements—vaulted ceilings, towering columns, and a wall of windows overlooking the town plaza—look out of place in this small town of white picket fences, but they set a dramatic backdrop for a night out. Palmer is usually at New York's Aureole, so instead the stoves are manned by Chef de Cuisine Michael Ellis, whose rich, hearty comfort cooking often relies on heavy ingredients such as pork bellies, fatty cheeses, and foie gras. Otherwise, if it's in season right now, it's on the menu. Most ingredients are sourced from within Sonoma County, arguably America's finest growing region for heirloom meats and produce and artisanal cheeses. Even the wine list includes only Sonoma vintages, and there's no corkage fee for Sonoma County wines (two bottle maximum). Menu standouts include California lamb two ways: a mustard-crusted double chop and a lumpia (think giant egg roll) of ground lamb. One complaint: The staff is young and inexperienced—when Michelin awarded Dry Creek one star, it did so on culinary merit alone. If polished service is as important as great food, choose Cyrus instead.

43 Middle Street
Portland , Maine
Tel: 207 774 8080

If you're going to eat fries, you might as well eat twice-fried-in-duck-fat Belgian frites that come in a paper cone. That's what you'll find at Duckfat, a tucked-away counter-service and take-out spot with only a few tables that's been expanding Portland's belts since 2005. Condiments include truffle-laced ketchup, duck gravy, and curry mayo whipped with Maine eggs. Want to go whole hog? Pair the fries with a malted milk shake. There's also a short menu of panini, such as meat loaf with red onions, horseradish mayonnaise, and Cheddar. But if you want to tuck into a full dinner, head down the street to sister restaurant Hugo's, where chef Rob Evans (formerly of the French Laundry) cooks up Gallic dishes using locally sourced ingredients (88 Middle St.; 207-774-8538;

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11 am to 8 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 9 pm, and Sundays 11 am to 5 pm.

Duke's Waikiki
2335 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu , Hawaii
Tel: 808 922 2268

You might scoff at the idea of a surfing-themed restaurant, but Duke's (named after Hawaiian legend Duke Kahanamoku) is actually one of the best bets in town. The food is tasty and fuss-free: macadamia-and-crab wontons, hulihuli (BBQ) chicken, grilled fresh fish, chocolate-and-macadamia "hula pie" for dessert. But the scene is more important here, anyway—beach girls and boys, happy families, daily live music, and the backdrop of Waikiki Beach, with palm trees swaying in the balmy breeze.

Dumpling House
118 Eldridge Street
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 625 8008

Hardly a restaurant, this sliver of space in the part of Chinatown that bleeds into the Lower East Side makes and sells fabulous dumplings. These little parcels are notable not only for their impossibly crisp bottoms and luscious pork-and-chive filling but also for their unbeatable price-to-tastiness ratio: Five cost just $1. Compared with that deal, a triangular slice of puffy, golden sesame pancake split horizontally and laid with preserved beef, pickled carrots, and cilantro sprigs seems like a splurge at a buck fifty. The decor is not just no-frills but virtually nonexistent, so hunker down at one of a half dozen stools at the counter in the back if you must. Or better still, lug your cheap feast a block west to the park.

Dunbar Tea Shop
1 Water Street
Sandwich , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 833 2485

Located in a 1740 carriage house, the Dunbar Tea Shop is an Anglophilic oddity that serves imported teas, finger sandwiches, fresh-baked scones, and the like in a dainty room that looks like your grandmother's kitchen. There's also a gift shop that sells British jams, clotted cream, teas, and chutneys.

Open daily 11 am to 4:30 pm.

Hotel Photo
200 Fifth Avenue
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 229 2560

This 42,500-square-foot food and drink complex—part grocery store, part high-end food court—is an Italophile's fever dream. Inspired by the original Eataly just outside Turin, the New York City outpost was launched in 2010 by Mario Batali and business partner Joe Bastianich (their other collaborations include Babbo), along with Bastianich's über-chef mother, Lidia. The collection of Italian ingredients is comprehensive, and among the aisles of pasta, olive oil, anchovies, salumi, and cheese are a half-dozen great spots to hunker down for a bite. Manzo, the only one that takes reservations, features ambitious white-tablecloth fare utilizing top-shelf red meat from Eataly's butcher case (try the delicate ravioli filled with evanescent braised beef). The casual seafood spot—next to the beer aisle—is run by Batali cohort Dave Pasternack (of Esca in midtown) and serves lightly cured crudo and simply grilled fish that are just as remarkable as Manzo's meats. Rounding out the space are two espresso bars and a gelato counter that draw crowds, to the point that on weekends there can be a wait just to enter the building.—Jay Cheshes

Open daily 10 am to 11 pm.

Edelweiss Bakery
2909 E. Commercial Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 772 1529

A seemingly nondescript bakery in a beachside strip mall, this spot is in fact a great, low-key find where the German owners offer favorites of their homeland. In addition to the fresh breads and glistening pastries filled with dried fruit or custard, there are jars of pickled sauerkraut, imported chocolate and cookies, and cured meats to take home. The stiff, Austrian-style espresso is also delicious.

Open Mondays through Fridays 8 am to 5 pm and Saturdays 8 am to 4 pm.

El Agave Tequileria
2304 San Diego Avenue
San Diego , California
Tel: 619 220 0692

If you're looking for bottomless baskets of chips and salsa and enchiladas swimming in cheese, look elsewhere. El Agave serves delicately and artistically prepared fine Mexican nouvelle cuisine (dinner for two will run upwards of $60). Ask for fresh corn tortillas for dipping with the rich and creamy Sopa de Cilantro, a fresh cilantro Mexico City soup. Moles are what they do best here—try the Mole Rosa de Taxco, pink cream sauce over a moist chicken breast. There's also a menu of more than 1,700 tequilas (the most extensive collection in the U.S.). Most are fine sipping tequilas, though, so it'd be a travesty to have one made into a blended margarita.

El Chubasco
1890 Bonanza Drive, #115
Park City , Utah
Tel: 435 645 9114

This Mexican food joint sits in a nondescript strip mall, but the location has two bonuses: First, you'll actually meet a legendary but rarely sighted Park City local, and secondly, you'll find respite from Main Street's $30-plus entrées. Even L.A. transplants agree that the piquant Mexican dishes are excellent; order the particularly tasty mole when it's available, and on chilly winter days, the spicy posole (hominy with tomato and pork) goes down warm and delicious.

El Dorado Kitchen
405 First Street West
Sonoma , California
Tel: 707 996 3030

At the El Dorado Hotel's surprisingly sceney restaurant (located in low-key Sonoma), large parties gather at a communal table fashioned out of wood from a 200-year-old Vermont bridge, while couples huddle at candlelit tables around the periphery. The kitchen of chef Ryan Fancher, previously at Thomas Keller's French Laundry and the Auberge du Soleil, turns out Mediterranean-meets-California dishes (lamb loin roulade with saffron potatoes, artichokes, olives, and rosemary; a risotto topped with white truffle foam) that are available à la carte or in a six-course tasting menu.

98 Mill Street
St. Johnsbury , Vermont
Tel: 802 748 8400

Inhabiting a renovated mill on the banks of the fast-flowing Passumpsic River, Elements is all brick, golden wood, and gleaming glass, reflecting the graphic-design background of co-owner Keith Chamberlin. The menu is enlightened American nouveau, with an emphasis on local ingredients and seasonal variation (it takes part in the Vermont Fresh Network). The smoked trout and apple cakes are a perfect celebration of what's good about Vermont, and the venison pie and pumpkin risotto also have local roots. Vegetarians will be pleased with the shiitake–blue cheese dumplings.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 5 to 9 pm.

Ellington's Jazz Bar & Restaurant
937 East Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island , Florida
Tel: 239 472 0494

Think New York supper club on a Gulf Coast barrier island. Ellington's is very sexy, with black tablecloths over white, a dance floor, and a white Yamaha grand piano that's been signed by jazz greats, including Dave Brubeck, Sweet Georgia Brown, Mindy Abair, and Johnnie Mae Dunson, one of the first female jazz percussionists. Heavy hitters perform here: Dan Miller, a trumpet player who toured for years with Harry Connick, Jr., plays on weekend nights, and the annual New Year's Eve Gala brings the Brubeck Brothers Quartet (sons of Dave Brubeck). The food's great, too—spiced-rubbed grouper, filet mignon, pistachio dusted duck, and other crowd-pleasers.

El Quinto Pino
401 W. 24th Street
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 206 6900

El Quinto Pino may be New York's most authentic tapas bar, as frenetic and cramped as the best spots in Madrid. An offshoot of the larger Tía Pol, this sliver of a restaurant offers few surfaces to dine on (just a bar-top and ledges) and even fewer places to sit. Still, the small plates of fried, grilled, and marinated morsels are hard to resist, particularly after a few glasses of chilled Txakoli (an effervescent Basque vintage from the all-Spanish wine list). You'll come for a snack but end up staying for dinner. Share crisp salt-cod beignets, anchovy fillets, and the irresistible signature sea urchin panino. Though there are no sweets scribbled onto the menu above the bar, insiders know to request the unadvertised casadielles, delicious fried ravioli with walnuts and honey.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 5 pm to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 5 pm to 1 am.

El Siboney
900 Catherine Street
Key West , Florida
Tel: 305 296 4184

El Siboney has been the island's premier Cuban joint since 1984. Located in a low-slung building on a residential corner, the restaurant was taken over by new owners in 2004. Thankfully they haven't changed a thing. The menu still includes staples like ropa vieja (shredded flank steak with a tomato-based sauce) and a fragrant picadillo (ground beef), as well as a perfect Cuban sandwich. Daily specials like avocado salad or grilled snapper are posted on the whiteboard outside by the front door. No matter what you order, you will get a red plastic basket of crisp-toasted Cuban bread oozing with melted butter. The best time to come is lunchtime, when El Siboney doubles as a local gathering place-cum–gossip hub.

Open daily 11 am to 9:30 pm.

231 Mott Street
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 966 1234

I hate the menu at the sort-of-Roman downtown restaurant called Emporio—hate it because choosing just a few things from it is all but impossible. Whipped baccalà with crispy polenta; roasted beets with pickled onion and smoked ricotta; risotto with wild mushrooms and fava beans—how to decide? Here, I'll narrow it down a little: Forget the bland mozzarella-stuffed squash blossoms and the gristly porchetta. Otherwise, you're golden. Baby favas with mint, wisps of pecorino, and tangles of pea shoots; plump sardines with panzanella; tender grilled octopus with tiny, perfectly cooked risina beans flavored with preserved lemon (the best beans I've tasted in New York City in years); offhandedly excellent pizza with Tuscan kale, guanciale, and pecorino cream; exquisite Frascati-braised rabbit with olives… This is vivid, confident, often unusual Italian cooking. Added value: a warm, wonderful dining room beneath a peaked glass roof (the space used to house François Payard's short-lived InTent), lots of local and/or organic products, and, for now at least, a BYOB policy with no corkage for the first two bottles.—Colman Andrews, first published on

150 Peabody Place
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 528 1415

After a 22-year-tenure at the Peabody Hotel, celeb-chef José Gutierrez set out to go it alone. He didn't go far (just around the corner), though he dropped a lot of Chez Philippe's stately pretense in favor of a more modern ambience: dark woods and dimmed lights. The menu is primarily French, but Italian, Spanish, Southern, and Asian influences creep in. In the cooler months, Gutierrez prepares homemade sausages and blends them into a creamy lentil soup, and fills flaky puffed pastry with hearty chicken stew. When the weather gets sticky, he tops fluffy pizza crust with smoked salmon, Mascarpone, sweet onions, and arugula.

Closed Mondays.

Enoteca at Bari (Bari Ristorante e Enoteca)
22 South Cooper Street
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 722 2244

When Bari opened in 2001, Memphians were skeptical: To them, Italian food meant pasta with meatballs, eggplant Parmesan, and fried mozzarella, not whole branzino stuffed with fennel and orange. Yet the cooking of Jason Severs—a Tennessee native who grew up in a household with four Italian women—won them over and generated enough buzz to open this all-Italian wine bar. Pair a glass of Ruffino Modus, a dry, full-bodied blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet, and Merlot, with an antipasti plate of prosciutto, salami, soppressetta, and grilled veggies, or Argiolas Vermentino, a fruity warm-weather white from Sardinia with the Bianco Sottobosco, a rich, semisoft cow's- and goat's-milk cheese with black truffles.

2830 N.E. 2nd Avenue
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 573 4681

Ask your hotel concierge where to go for authentic Cuban food in Miami and you'll be sent to the venerable (and worthy) Versailles. Ask a local, however, and they'll point you to Enriqueta's, a greasy spoon that sits next to an auto repair shop on a nondescript road in Wynwood. It's a low-ceilinged shoebox of a space with bars on the windows, an open kitchen, and a small take-out window for cortaditos (tiny cups of sweet café con leche) on the run. The regulars in guayaberas prefer the red vinyl stools at the bar, while the small tables with plastic swing-around chairs (reminiscent of a 1980s Burger King) are filled with doctors in scrubs, office workers, and creative types from the nearby Design District. They all come here for the same reason: cheap, authentic Cuban food. Daily lunch specials include vaca frita (shredded beef) with beans and rice, lechón asado (roast pork), and bistec à la milanesa (breaded steak with cheese). And there's always the Cubano, Cuba's classic pressed sandwich with ham, cheese, and pork. The side of shoestring fries is not exactly an old family recipe, so instead opt for the tostones—plantains pounded and fried golden yellow and served with a zingy lime-and-garlic mojo sauce.

Open Mondays through Fridays 6 am to 4 pm and Saturdays 6 am to 2 pm.

21 W. Victoria Street
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 564 7100

This low-lit restaurant in a 19th-century house feels a bit like a wine cellar, with its brick walls and archways. But its hidden nooks, fireplace room, private dining area, and patio cabanas also create the perfect venue for an intimate meal. Formerly owned by Kevin Costner, the restaurant is now run by Michelle Mastrangelo, with chef Ron True, former chef of Gramercy Tavern in New York, cooking the cuisine du jour. Try the Limo Ride, a $55 chef's tasting menu (six courses), or sample from the raw bar. Alternatively, order the free-range Uruguayan filet mignon or the carpaccio of beef on a bed of arugula with truffle vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan. The lounge serves a bar menu until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Specialty drinks include a tiramisu martini (Godiva chocolate liqueur, crème de cacao, Frangelico) and a Cosmo-piphany, a variation on the cosmopolitan made with mango juice.

Open daily 5:30 to 10:30 pm.

Erling Jensen, the Restaurant
1044 S. Yates
East Memphis
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 763 3700

Presided over by Danish chef Erling Jensen, this East Memphis restaurant works hard to impress its clientele with a French-inspired, seafood-heavy menu. The kitchen uses seasonal ingredients in artistic combinations, and you'll pay for the guarantee of quality. Filled with savory dishes such as lobster pancakes and rack of lamb with pecan, mustard, garlic, and molasses crust, the menu alone will start your mouth watering.

Dinner only.

402 W. 43rd Street
Midtown West
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 564 7272

You might not expect an austere-looking fish place near the Port Authority Bus Terminal to be a hot table for six years running, but Esca—the name means "bait"—is still reeling in the foodies. Its success has as much to do with its big-name backers (Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich) as it does with its chef/owner: David Pasternack grew up fishing on Long Island and still catches much of what he cooks up in the kitchen—if it's cooked at all. His specialty is crudo, best described as the Italian love child of sushi and ceviche: bite-size pieces of raw big-eye tuna with unfiltered olive oil and chives, say, or sweet Nantucket bay scallops with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and chervil. From there, things get progressively hotter, both in temperature and kick. Our favorites include the grilled octopus with preserved lemon and corona beans; spaghetti with lobster, chilis, and mint; and the day's catch, grilled and served with salsa verde. The all-Italian wine list promotes lesser-known varietals, but the sommelier is as approachable as you'd expect from a branch of the populist Batali empire.

Esca is our top choice for pre- and post-theater dining, but if it's booked solid (call up to a month in advance), avoid Restaurant Row, the block of W. 46th St. between Eighth and Ninth avenues, lined with brownstones and mediocre food. Head slightly farther afield instead: ViceVersa has interesting but solid pasta (325 W. 51st St., 212-399-9291;; Sushi Zen flies in fish daily from Japan (108 W. 44th St., 212-302-0707;; and the ethnic joints on Ninth Avenue—Thai, Puerto Rican, Greek, you name it—are cheerful, reliable, and cheap.

1520 14th Street N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 319 1404

Tapas restaurant Estadio's handsome dining room—all rough-hewn timber and curving wrought iron—and serious culinary chops are reason enough to go. But this place also has a sense of humor that makes it the standard-bearer for a new generation of D.C. restaurants (see also: Proof, Birch & Barley). From your perch at the tapas bar, you can hear kitchen staff tossing saucy quips while skewering jamón-wrapped figs and then turn to see patrons passing around porrons, pitcher-size cocktails poured straight into the mouth via glass containers that resemble the love child of a carafe and a bong. At a long communal table, groups share spicy chorizo or blood sausage bocadillos (tiny sandwiches) and eggs stuffed with meltingly creamy potatoes, washed down by grown-up slushies of quince paste, paprika, lemon, sherry, and Scotch. Even the bathrooms take a cheeky approach (hint, look at the murals). Finally, D.C. has a restaurant worthy of its work-hard, play-hard masses.—Colleen Clark

Euphemia Haye
5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive
Longboat Key , Florida
Tel: 941 383 3633

The signature global dishes of this romantically lit downstairs dining room include tuna sashimi over rice noodles; citrus-marinated shrimp in coconut curry; and flambéed cracked-pepper steak. The Haye Loft, a casual dessert bar upstairs, serves a wider selection of goodies than you can get in the restaurant—from homemade pies à la mode to made-to-order specialties like bananas Foster and cherries jubilee.

Hotel Photo
440 S. La Salle Street
Chicago , Illinois
Tel: 312 663 8920

Top-of-the-world views and nosebleed prices match Chef Jean Joho's lofty Alsatian creations at this restaurant on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange. Power brokers and foodies alike are drawn to this swank dining room for the slow-braised veal shank with wild chanterelles and Maine lobster in Gewürztraminer butter and ginger. Sharing the spotlight is Everest's 1,400-label wine list managed by sommelier Stephen McGinnis. The seven-course tasting menu is the best way to sample Joho's creations; a three-course pretheater dinner is also available.

Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 5:30 pm to 9 pm, Fridays 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm, Saturdays 5 pm to 10 pm.

EVO Wood-Fired Pizza
1075 East Montague Avenue
North Charleston , South Carolina
Tel: 843 225 1796

It might be borderline sacrilege to suggest pizza in a coastal town full of fresh seafood joints, but EVO's featherlight, cracker-crisp pies would be required eating anywhere. This North Charleston pizzeria started out when two flatbread-crazed chefs traded high-end culinary gigs at FIG and Normandy Farms for a wood-fired pizza cart at Marion Square's weekly farmers market. Now in permanent digs in historic North Charleston, EVO uses locally grown ingredients on top of a complex, bready crust that melts on the tongue. Start off with crisp salad and a cold pint of Highland Brewing's locally brewed oatmeal porter, then choose between the classically simple tomato, basil, and cheese Margherita pie or the meaty pork trifecta (topped with house-made sausage, pepperoni, and smoky bacon).

Open Tuesdays through Fridays 11 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10 pm, Saturdays 6 to 10 pm.

Farmhouse Inn
7871 River Road
Forestville , California
Tel: 707 887 3300

Sonoma County's Farmhouse Inn looks and feels like a classic New England country inn with a sunny clapboard exterior, big whitewashed porch, and a dining room simply adorned with wrought-iron chandeliers, ladder-back chairs, and filigree-patterned carpet. The menu mirrors the decor: Expect accessible New American dishes impeccably prepared without unnecessary pretense. The chef is a whiz with game meats. His signature dish is rabbit three ways: confit of leg, bacon-wrapped loin, and a perfectly chined rack. Other dishes reflect the seasons; in late summer, you might find soft-shell crab with an updated version of creamed corn, or feather-light fried squash blossoms stuffed with brandade. Service is spot-on: Here, you'll never have to endure the disappointment of learning that an appealing dish has sold out; once something is gone, the maî'tre d' reprints the menus for arriving diners. The wine list includes a terrific selection of half bottles, as well as some compelling New World and European labels, but be careful—the winding drive home will require your full attention.

Open Mondays and Thursdays through Sundays 5:30 to 8:30 pm (last seating).

Farm Stands in the Hamptons

The East End is loaded with gourmet grocery stores peddling the stuff of fabulous dinner parties ($100/pound lobster salad, anyone?) But there's also great local produce at the area's farm stands, which make good bicycling pit stops as well as prime prospects for surreptitious celebrity sightings. The Halsey family sells apples, peaches, and cider donuts from the Milk Pail Country Store on Montauk Highway near Bridgehampton, and from September through October at their nearby U-Pick Apple and Pumpkin Farm (631-537-2565). Round Swamp Farm, in Springs, is popular for its fresh juices and homemade salsas (631-324-4438). Fairview Farm on Horsemill Lane in Bridgehampton has cheese from local Mecox Bay Dairy, fresh iced ginger tea, and other local treats; the farm also runs a cornfield maze each year between September and November (631-537-6154). Pike Farms, located on bucolic Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack, is known for its tomatoes and corn, which are sweetest during late summer.—Updated by Darrell Hartman

Fatty Crab
643 Hudson Street
West Village
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 352 3590

Before building a cult following in New York, Chef Zak Pelaccio lived for a time in Malaysia. The country's street food, served up at this casual West Village roadhouse, caters directly to his fan base. The squeamish and spice-averse might look elsewhere for dinner; these dishes are rich, fiery, complex, fatty, and messy. Intense, tangy aromas infuse the cramped dining room, with its lacquer-red walls and lazily spinning ceiling fans; the hip young waitstaff delivers small plates—perfect for sharing—from the tiny kitchen as soon as they're ready. Tart pickled watermelon contrasts with luscious cubes of crispy pork belly; various spicy sambals top delicate quail-egg shooters; and slices of green mango are served with an evilly addictive dipping powder of chili, sugar, and salt. The delicious main courses, like the pile of sticky-sweet chicken wings, or hunks of Fatty Duck (steamed, then fried), are ten-napkin affairs. Indeed, the specialty of the house, chili crab, nearly requires foul-weather gear; there's nothing to do but surrender to the mess, lick your fingers, and wash everything down with a cold, economy-size Hitachino beer.

2121 McKinney Avenue
Dallas , Texas
Tel: 214 922 0200

Chef Dean Fearing has transferred his trademark Southwestern style from the Mansion on Turtle Creek to the Ritz-Carlton. You can have your dinner (or lunch) in any of the seven uniquely designed rooms that make up the restaurant. They span styles: One room is a trendy spot with flashy art and grown-up Southern belles decked out in their best gold jewelry, while another is a more muted grown-up version featuring beige furniture with classy black stripes. An outdoor section—which should never be attempted during the summer months—features low seating around a cozy fireplace. Tortilla soup, famous at the Mansion, is still on this menu, as are other south-of-the-border-infused offerings, including buffalo tenderloin on jalapeño grits and chicken-fried Maine lobster on Queso Fresco corn potatoes.

Open Mondays through Thursdays, 6:30 to 11 am, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, and 6 to 10:30 pm, Fridays 6:30 to 11 am, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, and 6 to 11 pm, Saturdays 6:30 am to 3 pm and 6 to 11 pm, and Sundays 6:30 am to 3 pm and 6 to 10 pm.

Federal Jack's
8 Western Avenue
Kennebunk , Maine
Tel: 207 967 4322

Federal Jack's is the birthplace of Shipyard Ale and sits high above the hullabaloo of Kennebunk (hence the tagline "A Brew with a View"). But there's great food, too, starting with burgers, pastas, Reubens, and chunks of claw meat swimming in the thick lobster bisque. (Oversized salads and hummus plates sate the Lipitor set.) Entrées include a New England seafood paella and "Jack's Feast," with clam chowder, a whole lobster, mussels, fries, and coleslaw. Shipyard now brews in Portland, but Jack's still makes its own tipples, such as Goat Island Light and T'aint Town Pale Ale. At Sunday brunch, try the shrimp Bloody Mary—but skip the Belgian waffle, as Federal Jack's charges extra for real maple syrup. Boo.

Lunch and dinner daily.

Felicia Suzanne's
80 Monroe Avenue
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 523 0877

If Felicia Willet's downtown restaurant has a bit more pomp and circumstance than most Memphis establishments, it's because this haute down-home chef-cum-restaurateur spent her formative years in New Orleans, working alongside Emeril Lagasse. Located in what was Lowenstein's department store, the space has dark lilac walls, red velvet chairs and banquettes, and abstract paintings by artists from Jonesboro, Arkansas (Felicia's hometown). Willet prepares her menu of Southern favorites with local ingredients such as Alabama crab, Arkansas White River caviar, and Louisiana oysters. She might fry catfish, give it a spicy tang with Tabasco, and then turn up the heat with jalapeño tartar sauce.

Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Ferry Building Marketplace

The iconic whitewashed Ferry Building, standing proud at the water's edge behind a row of statuesque palms, is a sight in itself. Situated on a sunny patch of the Embarcadero, this sweeping, huge building opened in 1898 as a water-transportation hub for the city, but these days it's a foodie mecca. Weekdays, it draws Financial District types for lunch on the patio at MarketBar and arty freelancers skateboarding or chowing down at Gott's Roadside, a 1950s-style all-natural burger joint that also serves nouveau diner food like pistachio-espresso milk shakes. Locals come for loaves straight from the oven at Acme Bread, one of the best bakeries in the Bay Area; succulent, locally harvested oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company; and artisanal cakes from Miette, a tiny pâtisserie selling exquisite macaroons and cannelés (their candy shop in Hayes Valley is likewise a local favorite). Saturday mornings are prime time to shop for farmstead cheeses, heirloom tomatoes, homemade jams, herbs, and flowers at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market (open Tuesdays and Saturdays year-round, Thursdays and Sundays seasonally). The focus is, of course, on local, seasonal, and sustainable produce, with hard-to-find fare like wild nettles, fresh lavender, and free-range eggs in shades of mint and baby blue.

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232 Meeting Street
Charleston , South Carolina
Tel: 843 805 5900

The name stands for Food Is Good, and nightly crowds at this hip local hot spot can attest to that statement. Rich but unfussy dishes are prepared with fresh organic produce and farm-raised meats. Chef Mike Lata focuses on seasonal ingredients for the daily menu, like a dessert of blueberry peach crisp studded with roasted pecans served with a custardy lemon ice cream. A stable of favorites are always on offer as well; the Wagyu bistro steak dripping with herbed butter is not for the fainthearted. The bar scene is lively on weekends, when the kitchen stays open until midnight.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 6 to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 6 pm to 12 am.

3900 Paradise Road, Suite A
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 369 3971

This is where hip, in-the-know locals eat when they don't want to trek through a casino. One block east of the Strip, it was the first true tapas restaurant of note in Vegas and still attracts artists, musicians, and media types. The classic duo of manchego cheese and thinly sliced Serrano ham is served as warm, gooey croquettes; chorizo sausage is integrated into the white-wine sauce for steamed clams. A few non-Iberian dishes, such as beer-battered shrimp tempura with ponzu dipping, lend an international feel. The wine list has some good Argentine malbecs and Chilean merlots, but most folks order red or white sangria—the recipe calls for three days of marinating.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2 am, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 3 am.

First Food and Bar
The Palazzo
3327 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 607 3478

Sam DeMarco practically invented the playful small plate genre, but he's refined the concept and taken it to new heights at his 10,000 square-foot Vegas outpost, a chic loft space with graffiti-strewn walls and a postmodern, almost Gothic decor. What's especially noteworthy about this Strip-facing restaurant and bar is the fact that it is open 23 hours a day, possibly the only venue in the city offering an after-club alternative as well as a first-quality breakfast. Innovations like the breakfast Martini and spreadable danish, served with a four-schmear sampler, give way during the day to clever conceits such as pastrami Reuben tacos, mojito lamb chops, and Croque-Monsieur pops, but there is both method and technique in this madness. The joke is that almost everything shows the chef's good taste, down to the Peet's coffee that slaps you in the face like a Vegas sunrise.—Max Jacobson, first published on

Fleur de Lys
777 Sutter Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 673 7779

French is the language of romance and cuisine, and Fleur de Lys is fluent in both. Open 45 years and counting, this is the last of the great Continental restaurants, and it's looking younger than ever. After a fire in 2001, the restaurant was completely renovated, with rich red fabrics, a dazzling crystal chandelier, and cozy alcoves. The canopied dining room now resembles a tent at Versailles, an appropriately regal setting for chef Hubert Keller. His menu is priced by the number of courses chosen, letting you create your own dégustation menu. Perhaps a tasting of foie gras, followed by roasted squab with truffles and a sweet ginger and Sauternes sauce. Or—and it's not often that these words occupy the same phrase—the Vegetarian Feast.

Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 6 to 9:30 pm, Fridays 5:30 to 10:30 pm, and Saturdays 6 to 10:30 pm.

Fleur de Lys
Mandalay Bay
3950 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 632 9400

As a not-so-subtle version of chef Hubert Keller's intimate San Francisco restaurant of the same name, the Vegas Fleur de Lys inside the Mandalay Bay is designed with soaring ceilings and massive stone walls. And while the menu contains tame French and Continental dishes such as a slow-roasted king salmon with caviar, there are nods to Vegas excess, too. The $5,000 burger is a Kobe beef patty topped with foie gras and truffles and paired with a bottle of 1995 Château Pétrus served in Ichendorf Brunello stemware (yours to take home, naturally). Or try the "Black Jack," an arrangement of creamy cod brandade, osetra caviar, cucumber gelée, and tomatoes formed into playing card shapes. If you see a distinguished Frenchman wearing a chef's jacket in the DJ booth, that's chef Keller redefining the term mix master.

Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm.

Floataway Café
1123 Zonolite Road
Atlanta , Georgia
Tel: 404 892 1414
Fax: 404 892 8833

The à la carte cousin to Bacchanalia, Floataway is a more affordable take on Harrison and Quatrano's signature fare. Local, organic ingredients play a big role in this kitchen, and the restaurant's quotidian salads, pizzas, and pastas are just as satisfying as Bacchanalia's special-occasion dishes, though more casual. The Italian-accented menu changes daily, but look for two long-standing favorites: piccolo fritto (crispy shrimp, oysters, and green tomatoes with basil aioli) and Medjool dates with Parmesan. Most dishes are priced under $20, making Floataway Café the best gourmet bargain in the city. (Tip: This restaurant is tucked inside a labyrinthine industrial park and can be quite difficult to find; get detailed driving instructions from your hotel concierge.)

Dinner only. Closed Mondays and Sundays.


The Floridian
1410 E. Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 463 4041

A glorious holdover from Fort Lauderdale's past, the Floridian (opened in 1937) packs in hungry diners day and night—whether blue-haired retirees or dawn-bruised nightclubbers. It's huge, so you'll never have to wait for a table (except perhaps on Sunday mornings); the interior is reassuringly unfussy, with its original counter, 1980s Formica furniture and walls covered in autographed, if peeling, celebrity pictures. As for the menu, it's diner-vast: you can order French toast and pancakes for breakfast or one of dozens of deli sandwiches and entrées like meatloaf and fried clams all day.

Open 24 hours daily.

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Flour + Water
2401 Harrison Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 826 7000

Few San Francisco restaurants better typify farm-to-table cooking than Flour + Water, in the once-gritty, now-gentrified Mission District. The kitchen receives an entire pig every Tuesday—as well as a handful of small-game meats such as rabbit—and the chefs make use of the entire animal, making trotters, sausages, and fabulous salumi. Antipasti may include California sardines flash-fried in an elegantly light batter, served with a salty-tangy anchovy aïoli, while speck and balsamic-braised-radicchio pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven that blisters the tender-to-the-tooth, thin crust with smoky bits of char; whole wheat strozzapreti comes tossed with hunks of perfectly cooked, licorice-hued anise-braised rabbit. The vibe is likewise dynamic and fresh, with linen dish towels serving as napkins on the exposed walnut tables. The restaurant is small, so it's best to book at least a week ahead, or expect a wait. Thankfully Flour + Water serves dinner until 11 pm weeknights and midnight weekends—a rarity in early-to-bed San Francisco. —John A. Vlahides

Open Sundays through Wednesdays 5:30 to 11 pm and Thursdays through Saturdays 5:30 pm to midnight.

Flying Fish Grill
Mission Street at Seventh Avenue
Carmel-by-the-Sea , California
Tel: 831 625 1962

Seafood's the thing at this tiny Cal-Asian spot, down a flight of stairs from street level. The space feels Japanese, with low ceilings and lots of dark wood, but the menu goes further: Beyond the usual seared ahi tuna and tempura you'll find almond-crusted sea bass with a rock-shrimp stir-fry (the house specialty) and steamed halibut cooked in parchment with Chinese spices. The fact that owner Kenny Fukumoto works the floor every night means the service is terrific—a rarity in this resort town.

Fonda San Miguel
2330 W. North Loop
Austin , Texas
Tel: 512 459 4121

The haciendalike Fonda San Miguel has been an Austin eating institution for over 30 years and is well worth the detour off South Congress. There may be more conveniently located taco joints in central Austin, but none offer Fonda San Miguel's authentic Mexican cuisine or atmosphere—or, for that matter, its potent, frozen fruit–filled red sangria. The warm sunset-orange walls are adorned with distinctive artwork by Mexican artists, and most of the produce comes from Fonda San Miguel's own garden, one of the largest restaurant gardens in Austin. The menu, with signature Mexican dishes from seven regions, includes the Yucatán specialty cochinita pibil (pork baked in banana leaf) and camarónes Tikin Xik (achiote-seasoned shrimp). All entrées come with a side of divinely buttery frijoles that will make you forget every pasty lump of refried beans you've ever been served elsewhere. Finish off your meal with two scoops of the house-made sorbets (ask for the guanabana).—Carolina Santos-Neves

Open Mondays through Saturdays 5:30 to 9:30 pm, Sundays 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Food Trucks
Los Angeles , California

L.A.'s roving food trucks are popping up all over the city—from Hollywood to Malibu—and are proving to be a big hit with foodies and night owls looking for tasty dishes for only a few bucks. Twitter has played a major role in helping Angelenos track down the latest on the mobile gastronomic scene (when we don't give an exact location, check Twitter to see where these trucks will be on any given day). Here's a guide to our current food-truck favorites.

Kogi serves Asian-Mexican fusion. The Korean BBQ short-rib taco and kimchi quesadilla are so good, people don't mind standing in line for over an hour.

Dosatruck's amazing South Indian street food with a twist is prepared by Brooklyn-born chef Leena Deneroff. Try the masala fries with tomato chutney.

FishLips is located outside the chic shopping mall Malibu Lumber Yard, where two sushi chefs slice up your favorite California, spicy tuna, and rainbow rolls.

Flying Pig Truck has been a trial run of sorts for Cordon Bleu grads Joe Kim and James Seitz's Asian/Pacific Rim-meets-French restaurant (scheduled to open in 2010).

Border Grill's taco truck sports a similar design motif as Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's upscale Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica. Their award-winning tamales are also on board.

Baby's Badass Burgers has made its name for gourmet burgers served up from a hot pink truck by even hotter women in sexy uniforms. Order the half-pound Cougar with aged beef.

Let's Be Frank parks in Culver City across from the old Helms Building. The delicious hot dogs are grass-fed, organic beef—and guilt-free.

Dogtown Dogs also serves gourmet dogs, but offerings here include a "trailer trash dog," with chili and crushed Fritos.

The Grilled Cheese Truck usually parks by the Brig in balmy Venice. Chef David Danhi's Harvest Melt with roasted butternut squash, sautéed leeks, and agave syrup is typical of the tasty combos on offer.

The Buttermilk Truck, a 1950s comfort food diner, is also a regular at the Brig most nights. Try the chicken and waffles, one of its big crowd-pleasers.

Green Truck, which runs on vegetable oil rather than gas, is where to go for all things organic, gluten-free, and veggie. Try the meatless burger on a toasted whole-wheat bun with goat's milk feta and tomatoes.—Carole Dixon

Fore Street
288 Fore Street
Portland , Maine
Tel: 207 775 2717

When people who don't have a date with the bingo table start lining up for dinner at 5 pm, you've probably found a first-rate restaurant. Fore Street is a superpopular Old Port joint steered by superstar chef Sam Hayward, who has earned acclaim from the James Beard Foundation and Gourmet, among others. A discreet metal sign outside marks the brick-and-wood façade; inside, an open kitchen with an 800-degree oven and a glassed-in cooler brimming with organic salad greens is the focal point. Hayward designs a new menu every day, but it's a good bet there'll be mussels roasted in almond-and-garlic butter, and dry-rubbed pork loin with tangy sauerkraut. As for that oven, he uses it to cook specialty dishes such as a whole-roasted Atlantic sea bass stuffed with herbs. Finish things off with the cheese course of New England triple-cream and Maine Caprino. And leave the finery in your hotel room: The servers wear jeans and you should, too. Sister restaurant Street & Company is another good bet, where Hayward's fellow chef and business partner Dana Street prepares what is arguably the city's best local catch (33 Wharf St.; 207-775-0887).

Open Sundays through Thursdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm.

Foxnut Asian Fusion and Sushi
The Plaza
Beaver Creek Village
Beaver Creek , Colorado
Tel: 970 845 0700

With hot-pink walls, whimsical chandeliers, and cutesy menu items like "sushitini," Foxnut (oh, yeah—and that name!) is not what you'd expect in luxurious Beaver Creek. But it's a welcome change from the usual Western-themed, "casual elegant" joints. Come straight from the slopes for happy hour, when everything from sushi to sake to Sapporo beer is half-price. Some of the rolls on the menu are suspect (the NYC Big Apple with cream cheese, apple, and eel?), but the portions are huge and the fish is delivered fresh daily from Denver. Some of the fusion offerings, such as pot stickers, moo-shu duck, and glazed pork ribs, are comfortingly familiar. The staff is friendly to a fault. This is a nice place to take off your ski boots and kick back.

9411 Culver Boulevard
Culver City , California
Tel: 310 839 6800

Culver City is one of those up-and-coming L.A. neighborhoods that always scores points for its buzzy galleries, cool artists' lofts, and newfound luster. But until Fraîche opened its doors in early 2007, few Angelenos were really willing schlep over to this small city just south of Beverly Hills. It's an appealingly casual, open space with large windows and a welcoming patio lit with twinkling lights. Chef Jason Travi, a Spago alum, turns out Mediterranean-influenced dishes like lamb stew with ricotta gnocchi and Kurobuta pork chop with potato and chive puree, while his wife, Miho (the two met in the kitchen at Spago), handles breads and desserts. Best of all, the restaurant's away-from-the-fray location means you'll shell out only half of what a similar meal would cost a few miles up the freeway.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 6:30 to 11 pm, Sundays 6 to 10:30 pm. Bar open daily until 1 am.

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3870 17th Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 621 3870

After a rapid rise in the San Francisco restaurant world, culminating in the Michelin-starred Fifth Floor, Melissa Perello took a break. But she's back in a big way with her 46-seat Frances, in the Castro. Admirer Gabriela Cámara says, "It's extraordinary food in a casual restaurant, cooked by people who obviously know all about fine dining." The modern Californian menu changes weekly and might include bacon beignets with maple crème fraîche or lamb with butter beans, artichokes, and olives. The thoughtful wine list includes a house red and white; blended by sommelier Paul Einbund and wine maker Marco Cappelli, it's priced at $1 an ounce (entrées, $18-$25).

Must eat: If they are on the menu, the sardines.

Chef Melissa Perello's favorite new restaurant: Corey Lee's Benu, San Francisco

Frankie's 457 Spuntino
457 Court Street (at Luquer Street)
Carroll Gardens
Brooklyn , New York
Tel: 718 403 0033
Subway: F train to Carroll Street

A spuntino, according to Frankie Falcinelli's nonna, is a snack and also a place that serves them—so what else could Falcinelli and Frankie Castronovo call their brick-walled, tin-ceilinged restaurant? As you might have guessed, the Frankies have impeccable Italian-American roots; before opening this tiny Carroll Gardens restaurant in 2004, they did stints behind the stove in both achingly hip (specifically, Falcinelli's days at Moomba) and perfectly serious (Aureole, Bocuse, Bouley) restaurants. The food here is rustic, fresh, and shareable: roasted vegetables, plates of cheeses and salumi, amazing sandwiches on Sullivan Street Bakery focaccia, superb salads with micro greens, a few hot dishes such as meatballs in "gravy" (Italian-American for marinara) and pork braciola (braised pork shoulder slow-cooked for four hours in spices). Add to this a short but excellent wine list, good cocktails, and a sizable garden out back, and you have the perfect restaurant for a hip neighborhood. You'll probably have to wait for a table unless, like some smart locals, you go at 11:30 am or 5:30 pm). Alternatively, try Prime Meats, another restaurant from this team, just a few doors down.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 11 am to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to midnight.

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295 Flatbush Avenue
Park Slope
Brooklyn , New York
Tel: 718 230 0221
Subway: B or Q train to Seventh Avenue

At first glance, this unassuming trattoria on the northern fringe of Park Slope might seem an unlikely candidate for what some glossies (most notably New York magazine) have christened the Best Restaurant in Brooklyn. Its humble vibe (butcher-block bar, stroller-heavy clientele) takes some easing into, but nibble on one of the starters and you start to realize what the fuss is about. Not only is the pancetta sourced from Eden Natural farm in Iowa, it's cured in-house in a separate room downstairs. Owners Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens take Franny's earnest mantra of sustainability as seriously as any restaurant in the borough—just about every ingredient is sourced on the back of the menu—but it's also backed up with surprisingly accomplished cooking. Feinberg trained at some of Manhattan's top kitchens, and his pizzas, such as the tomato, buffalo mozzarella, and basil, or the clam, chile, and parsley, are pitch-perfect. The comprehensive wine list is Piedmont-heavy, and there's an adventuresome cocktail list—try the Quince, made from homemade quince grappa, Carpano Antica Formula (red vermouth) and fresh lemon sour. The garden out back is lovely during the warmer months.

Open Tuesdays through Fridays 5:30 to 11 pm, Saturday and Sunday noon to 10 pm.

Fratelli Lyon
4141 N.E. 2nd Avenue
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 572 2901

Fratelli Lyon lures Design District denizens, European expats, and members of the Latin American art world for some of the best Italian food in town. Dapper servers in gray henleys lend knowledgeable advice as you choose which Italian cheeses to round out a sampler appetizer (semihard montegrappa pairs well with triple-milk la tur and gorgonzola di montagna) or the best selection of marinated vegetables for an antipasto. Main dishes include the house specialty ravioli evelina (homemade pasta stuffed with herbed ricotta, asparagus, and brown butter) and branzino alla francesina (Mediterranean sea bass with lemon-caper sauce). The restaurant is located at the front of design shop Driade, which means the haute-design salt and pepper shakers, French café–style wine tumblers, and whimsical spongy place mats on the tables are all available for purchase. The long utilitarian tables mirror the open ductwork and high ceilings in the main dining area, which can be noisy at capacity. There's a more intimate dining room off to the side and seats in the bar area, but the place to be is obviously the outdoor patio.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 10 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 11 pm, and Saturdays 12 to 11 pm.

French Laundry
6640 Washington Street
Yountville , California
Tel: 707 944 2380

At this culinary mecca, perfectionist chef Thomas Keller coaxes otherworldly flavors and textures from familiar ingredients. His famous salmon tartare "ice cream cone" is the first clue that there's alchemy in the kitchen, and the subsequent parade of nine courses confirms it. Service is flawless, and the pace is languorous—allow at least three hours. The French Laundry has won almost every award a restaurant can get, which accounts for the strict reservations policy: You have to call at least two months prior to the day you want to dine. The wine list is possibly the best in the region, but don't finish all those little pours or you won't remember what you ate. If you can't score a reservation but still want to try Keller's cooking, either book a table at his brasserie, Bouchon, or at Ad Hoc, an informal eatery serving his favorite comfort-food dishes at far more affordable prices.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 5:30 to 9 pm, Fridays through Sundays 11 am to 1 pm and 5:30 to 9 pm.

Frontera Grill/Topolobampo
445 N. Clark Street
Chicago , Illinois
Tel: 312 661 1434

Locals and tourists line up for gourmet Mexican fare at these lively River North twins (Topolobampo's the upscale one). Rick and Deann Bayless have been wowing diners with their pioneering new takes on tacos, beans, and sauces since 1987. The dishes, all made with fresh organic ingredients, include made-to-order tortilla chips with two salsas, pato pibil (slow-roasted duck cooked for hours in banana leaves with sour orange and achiote), and arroz a la Tumbada (a brothy Mexican paella of fresh Florida shrimp, Dungeness crab, scallops, and baby octopus simmered with roasted tomato salsa). Don't miss the fabulous raw bar, Saturday brunch, or Topo's $75, five-course tasting menu. A local crowd also gathers for the wide selection of margaritas and Mexican beers. Not surprisingly, the Baylesses have built a mini empire around their award-winning cuisine; you can buy cookbooks, sauces, and more in their on-site stores.

Frontera Grill open Tuesdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:20 pm to 10 pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 pm to 10 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 pm to 11 pm, Saturdays 10:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 pm to 11 pm.

Topolobampo open Tuesdays 11:45 am to 2 pm and 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm, Saturdays 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm.

Hotel Photo
Front Street
230 Commercial Street
Provincetown , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 487 9715

While there are many restaurants in Provincetown, there are surprisingly few standouts. Front Street is a reliable mainstay that serves both Continental cuisine—filet mignon and swordfish surf-and-turf, for example—and Italian salads, pastas, and mains. There's a very good wine list, and the breadth of the menu is surprising, given the restaurant's small size: You'll find it in the low-ceilinged basement of an old Victorian at the end of an alley. Expect to squeeze past people at the bar to get a spot at the usually packed booths and tables, and don't be surprised if service is brusque. Reservations are encouraged at least a day or two ahead of time in summer; while tables open up occasionally for walk-ins, there's limited room to wait at the bar.

Open Wednesdays through Mondays 6 pm to 10 pm, mid-May through mid-October.

G & M Restaurant & Lounge
804 Hammonds Ferry Road
Linthicum Heights , Maryland
Tel: 410 636 1777

While several old-line Baltimore crab houses pack in the out-of-towners, locals make a 15-minute drive from downtown to an unlikely suburban spot two miles north of BWI Airport. It can't be for the view—a busy intersection with a pair of gas stations and a donut shop—or the rec-room decor and cafeteria-weight cutlery. Here, it's all about the crab—thick, saucer-size balls of lump crabmeat big enough to choke a shark and bound together with little more than a whisper. The accomplished waiters can handle big parties with aplomb inside the 300-plus-seat space, but expect to wait for a table in the summer, even on a Monday or Tuesday night. Or do the next best thing: Order online for home delivery. G&M ships nearly two tons of crab cakes a week. Yes, they're that good.

Open daily 11 am to 11 pm.

209 Bourbon Street
French Quarter
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 525 2021

For locals, Friday lunch at this sophisticated Creole standby is a weekly tradition; for visitors, it should be a once-in-a-lifetime culinary event. With its windows facing Bourbon Street's seamy club zone, Galatoire's first-floor dining room oozes old-world gentility with tiled floors, lace curtains, and mirrored walls (the better to people-watch, my dear). The menu is classic Creole: impossibly light soufflé potatoes, crackling oysters en brochette layered with bacon, pan-fried fillets of delicate speckled trout drizzled with drawn butter and pristine lump crabmeat. Given the semiformal surroundings—gentlemen's jackets required at dinner, suggested at lunch—you'd expect a stuffy atmosphere, but the crowd here gets borderline rowdy, especially after a few midday cocktails. Arrive early and follow their lead.

Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Mondays.

Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market
398 N.W. North River Drive
Miami , Florida
Tel: 305 375 0765

Located on an out-of-the-way stretch of the Miami River (the reason even some longtime residents have never heard of this place), this very basic restaurant with an outdoor patio right on the river serves some of the freshest and most reasonably priced seafood in town. Dolphin sandwiches; grilled, fried, or blackened shrimp; and stone crabs are among the specialties. Go on a Sunday afternoon, when local families tend to congregate, and there's a lively feeling on the patio. That will help you pass the time while you wait for a table.

Lunch and dinner daily.

Gary Danko
800 North Point Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 749 2060

Gary Danko is the city's favorite culinary son; his restaurant is both a serious dining destination and a local favorite that's convivial, never stuffy. The intimate rooms, adorned with well-chosen artwork, natural woods, and flattering spot lighting, exude a warm, neighborhood vibe. But the menu, which combines French, Californian, and Mediterranean elements, indicates a more expansive vision. Principal ingredients such as foie gras, roasted lobster, and farm-raised lamb change accompaniments with the seasons: Summer brings cherries and chanterelles; winter, earthy truffles and root vegetables. Add details like the restaurant's custom-built cheese refrigerators and the professional yet friendly service, and you have a dining experience that works on every level and appeals to everyone from casual diners to New York food snobs.

Open daily 5:30 to 10 pm.

1728 Soniat Street
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 899 7397

Although you might not expect it from a TV-savvy celebrity chef, almost everything about Sue Zeminack tends toward utter understatement. After many accolades for her performance on Bravo's Top Chef Masters, Zeminack returned to this hidden gem of an Uptown restaurant to refine her culinary identity. Her style is precise in execution and far-reaching in influence. Her flash-fried sweetbreads balance nicely with savory waffle sticks and a slightly sweet maple-syrup gastrique. Asian and Moroccan influences permeate the current menu with entrées such as the spiced lamb shank with apricots and fried chickpeas. The dining room, dominated by subtle trompe l'oeil draperies, has a clubhouse ambience with a slightly formal feel, which is apparently just how the steady crowd of Uptown locals likes it.—Pableaux Johnson

19 Main Street
Bar Harbor , Maine
Tel: 207 288 5077

If you go to Acadia National Park to escape chaos, then you go to Geddy's to reenter it—in a good way. A Bar Harbor institution since 1974, the cheeky pub is better known for its kitsch than its kitchen: The restroom doors read "inboards" and "outboards," while a sign above the bar, amid the various license plates, water skis, and lifejackets, proclaims "this mess is a place." Among the menu items is Spam on the half-shell. But after a couple of days in the park, nothing tastes better than Geddy's wood-fired pizzas topped with roasted garlic, or the bacon-and-blue-cheese burgers. (Uh, pass on the Spam.)

Lunch and dinner daily.

George's at the Cove
1250 Prospect Street
La Jolla
San Diego , California
Tel: 858 454 4244

Reopened in February 2007 after a gut renovation, the dining room (now called George's California Modern) at this three-level place set blissfully on the ocean is regarded by many as San Diego's best restaurant. Chef Trey Foshee was an enthusiastic pioneer of the move to patronize local farmers and producers, as evidenced by the freshness of his inventions such as Peking-style duck breast with ginger-coconut rice, sugar snap peas, and rhubarb-fennel salad. One floor up, the soigné George's Bar serves a full menu with its cocktails, while the casual Ocean Terrace bistro does ceviches, tacos, and "George's Signature Soup" (smoked chicken, broccoli, and black bean), followed by the likes of Thai curry, marinated skirt steak, and grilled mahimahi. At every level, it's an institution, but a worthy—verging on unmissable—one.

Gertrude's Restaurant
Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 889 3399

Institutional cooking rarely gets raves, unless that institution is the Baltimore Museum of Art, where chef and cookbook author John Shields has run this elegant, relaxed space since 1998. Despite the serious surroundings, the white-linen tablecloths wink at stuffiness—they're covered with butcher's paper and accessorized with crayon-filled cups. Shields, a Baltimore native, has created a regional seasonal menu with heaps of Chesapeake seafood and Eastern Shore produce. Down-home entrées include pulled pork in a citrusy barbecue sauce with sweet-potato fries, rockfish stuffed with crab and topped with toasted-pecan butter, and, of course, crab cakes, which come with a choice of sauces, such as orangeૻchipotle pepper or mango-chutney aîoli. In fair weather, outdoor tables are set up overlooking the BMA's Sculpture Garden, which holds works by Alexander Calder and Henry Mooreૼthe place to be for a weekend brunch of crab-cake eggs Benedict. Reservations recommended.

Open Tuesdays through Fridays 11:30 am to 9 pm, Saturdays 10:30 am to 9 pm, Sundays 10:30 am to 8 pm.

Girl & the Goat
809 W. Randolph Street
Chicago , Illinois
Tel: 312 492 6262

When Stephanie Izard won season four of Top Chef, the victory was a tribute to her faultless sense of style as well as seamless cooking. Both skills pay off, handsomely, in her big, sexy beast of a restaurant, a Chicago West Loop It girl that distills every current dining trend. The requisite goth-goes-industrial (with a hint of barnyard) dining room is dressed up, or down, with beamed ceilings and the postapocalyptic touch of one charred wall. The clubby crowd finds its match in the endless team of athletic servers sprinting by in black T-shirts, and the menu is an all-things-to-all-hipsters smorgasbord—a scramble of locavore meets esoteric nose-to-tail-and-back-again butchering anchored by a subtle Mediterranean backbeat. Characteristic dishes include roasted cauliflower with pickled peppers and pine nuts, grilled baby octopus in a pistachio-lemon vinaigrette, goat chorizo flatbread, a full complement of innards and crudo, and pork fat doughnuts. While some of these busy plates need editing, the Girl & the Goat itself is already a perfect model of a smart, contemporary brasserie.—Raphael Kadushin

Open Sundays through Thursdays 4:30 to 11 pm and Fridays and Saturdays 4:30 pm to midnight.

Stein Eriksen Lodge
7700 Stein Way
Park City , Utah
Tel: 435 645 6455

Glitretind (say that fast five times in a row) is Park City's culinary totem: It has the most imaginative fare around, and visitors vie for seats, so make reservations when you book your hotel room. Located inside the Stein Eriksen Lodge, it turns out pricey specials like Alaskan loin of caribou with a sweet shallot tart and Niman Ranch pork osso buco. If you're a particularly high-roller, throw your weight around to get one of the fireside tables—it'll impress the chairlift companion you asked to dinner.

Open daily 7 am to 3 pm and 6 to 10 pm.

Gotham Bar and Grill
12 E. 12th Street
East Village
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 620 4020

After more than 20 years, Greenwich Village institution Gotham Bar and Grill still feels like New York's most expertly run bustling restaurant. A destination for birthdays, anniversaries, and expense account feasts, the lofty dining room—with light fixtures festooned in white parachute fabric—remains as inviting as the day that it opened. Though founding chef Alfred Portale has neither an empire (Gotham is his only restaurant) nor a show on TV, he is widely recognized by his peers as one of the most influential chefs in America (half the restaurants in New York are manned by Gotham alums). Portale, who all but invented vertical food presentation, is best known for his precarious, towering, seasonal compositions. A slice of silky pistachio-studded foie gras terrine leans, like a charcuterie Tower of Pisa, against a boutique lettuce mountain; roasted butter-drenched lobster in its split shell stands tall atop a jasmine rice molehill with fragrant puddles of coconut nage and bouillabaisse sauce. Desserts—like an indulgent pair of chocolate peanut butter bars—tend to be more homey, and horizontal. Service here is as precise as a German automobile but never fussy or formal.

Open Mondays through Thursdays noon to 10 pm, Fridays noon to 11 pm, Saturdays 5 to 11 pm, and Sundays 5 to 10 pm.

Gott's Roadside
933 Main Street
St. Helena , California
Tel: 707 963 3486

The quintessential 1950s hamburger stand, Gott's is a great family pit stop in Napa Valley with picnic tables on a big, grassy lawn. The menu is full of kid-pleasing standbys (cheeseburgers, fries, milkshakes, and hot dogs), but there are also gourmet variations like raw ahi burgers with ginger-wasabi mayonnaise, and white pistachio milkshakes. Wash the meal down with Roto—a locally made, unsweetened red soda that's slightly bitter and vaguely citrusy. Gott's is no secret; expect huge waits on summer weekends. If you don't have the patience, but still want to try the burgers, there's a second location at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Open daily 10:30 am to 10 pm in summer; 10:30 am to 9 pm in winter.

Graham Elliot
217 W. Huron Street
Chicago , Illinois
Tel: 312 624 9975

Perhaps Graham Elliot Bowles's stint at the Peninsula Hotel's relatively formal Avenues restaurant created a pent-up need for culinary whimsy, but whatever the backstory, the chef's eponymous restaurant in River North's Gallery District is playful enough to verge on giddy. Blasting rock music, crayon-colored light fixtures, a clubby bar and lounge, and the exposed bricks and beams of this former printing warehouse set the tone for a menu full of gastronomic gags and puns. Emblematic of the house style (which Bowles dubs "bistronomic") is the foie gras lollipop rolled in watermelon and strawberry Pop Rocks, and a drumstick-size buffalo chicken wing crowned with a foam made from Budweiser. Entrées, such as braised pork with cheddar grits, collard greens, and redeye gravy, are more restrained (some dishes don't need a punch line). Main course prices hover around $30, a price point that tends to draw the expense-account crowd; the fairly reserved demeanor of the business set is at odds with the restaurant's otherwise rowdy vibe. —Raphael Kadushin

Open Mondays through Saturdays 5 to 10:30 pm.

615 N. State Street
Chicago , Illinois
Tel: 312 265 0434

Graham Elliot's latest project is all about the humble sandwich—and, says admirer Michael White, "bringing his whimsical culinary style to a fast-casual setting." The shop smells like popcorn (in a good way) and has chalkboard bathrooms where self-expression—and toilet humor—are encouraged. Waiters call out orders for pastrami on rye and house-made sodas while Graham, in white-framed glasses, greets customers. It's the most fun you'll have pre-cocktail hour, and that's before you've tried his take on grilled cheese: Wisconsin cheddar, prosciutto, tomato marmalade, and cheese curd on Pullman bread (sandwiches, $10).

Must eat: Beef short rib with baby watercress, shoestring potatoes, and pickled shallots on pretzel bread.

Chef Graham Elliot's favorite new restaurant: Giovanni Passerini's Rino, Paris

Hotel Photo
Gramercy Tavern
42 East 20th Street
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 477 0777

Before Tom Colicchio hosted Top Chef, he was cooking bold and creative New American food at Gramercy Tavern, the place that took the starch out of New York fine dining and became one of the city's best-loved restaurants. Colicchio exited in 2006, but executive chef Michael Anthony, previously with Blue Hill at Stone Barns, has taken the helm of this dual-personality establishment (raucous and no-reservations in the front; more sedate, with white tablecloths and prix-fixe menus, in the back) and continues to put out seasonal dishes with an emphasis on fresh, local vegetables and ingredients. Much of the fare is delicate and considered: A "risotto" made with farro grains and carrot juice, sprinkled with pine nuts and edamame; an "open" ravioli of tender crabmeat and herbs, surrounded by exquisite mussels removed from their shells. There are still a few choices that evoke the gusto of the Colicchio days, such as a massive meatball stuffed with fontina and served over a potato puree, its richness cut by a tart onion marmalade. As always, the service is precise and astute, but never stiff or pretentious. New Yorkers and foodies everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief.

Open Mondays through Fridays noon to 2 pm, Sunday through Thursdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 to 11 pm.

Great New York Noodletown
28 1/2 Bowery
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 349 0923

Everyone knows the real deals are in Chinatown, from fake designer bags to restaurants like this fluorescent-lit feeding pit that's crowded till the 3 a.m. closing. Compensating for the dingy decor and slapdash service are authentic Hong Kong–style dishes such as salt-baked soft-shell crab, duck with flowering chives, wonderful noodle dishes, and killer suckling pig with fragile, crunchy skin.

Green Goddess
307 Exchange Alley
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 301 3347

Located in the heart of the French Quarter, yet worlds away from the main tourist drags, this pedestrian-only, back-alley spot seems both blessed and cursed in the local restaurant scene. In recent years the compact storefront has housed a cake bakery and a Honduran taco joint, and has served as the launching pad for several ambitious young talents. Since May 2009, it's been home to chefs Chris DeBarr and Paul Artigues, both of whom arrived with their own enthusiastic followings (DeBarr came from Delachaise Wine Bar; Artigues was a veteran of Surrey's Juice Bar). Working the dinner shift, DeBarr pursues a style that's aggressively eclectic, incorporating exotic ingredients from every conceivable culinary culture into a wide-ranging menu. Griddle-seared boudin patties sneak into a ploughman's lunch, along with locally made chorizo and a chunk of Manchego; his "Cochon du Lait/Lei" is a banana-leaf packet filled with tender pulled pork and served with sesame seed–encrusted sweet potatoes and a pile of adobo-laced collard greens. Artigues, who runs the lunch and brunch shifts, helped DeBarr develop a cocktail list (alcoholic and non) that matches the tiny kitchen's inventive streak. Cashew fruit juice, for example, anchors a savory-sweet rum drink chilled with coconut juice ice cubes; the Bloody Mary is made with roasted Creole tomato purée. Until the weather cools, diners have a delicate choice: Opt for indoor seating and you'll get A/C but very little personal space (the four tables are essentially elbow to elbow) or choose the alleyway experience if you prefer open-air dining in the city's sultry historic center.—Pableaux Johnson, first published on

Open Mondays and Wednesdays 11 am to 3:30 pm, Thursdays through Sundays 11 am to 3:30 pm and 6 pm to 11 pm.

Green Leaf
418 Eighth Avenue S.
Seattle , Washington
Tel: 98104

Stylish bamboo accents, artsy ceramic ware, and the lack of fluorescent lighting put Green Leaf in a class above most Vietnamese joints in the International District. So does the cooking—the food here is as delicious as it is authentic. Pho glistens with rafts of fresh herbs and liberal layers of lemongrass; other standouts include omeletlike scallion pancakes with shrimp and the house-made spring rolls. Best of all, you won't have to pay extra for the ambience—prices are on par with the neighborhood's simpler takeaway spots.

Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.

Building A, Fort Mason
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 771 6222

This vegetarian favorite eschews the common practice of trying to make tofu taste like meat. Instead, expect a satisfyingly rich combination of textures and flavors, like an artichoke and sunchoke gratin, layered like a mini-lasagna, with Fromage Blanc custard and tomato coulis. A quirky list of mostly local, biodynamic wines skews more toward Sonoma and Mendocino than Napa, a subtle revelation of the San Francisco locavore's food politics. Though the dining room's redwood-burl fixtures and excessive use of beige feel dated, it occupies a knockout location jutting into San Francisco Bay with a wall of windows overlooking the yacht harbor, framed by the Golden Gate Bridge. If you're bicycling through Fort Mason and the surrounding Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Greens also operates a to-go counter, where you can pick up sandwiches and salads. —John A. Vlahides

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11:45 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 9 pm, Sundays 10:30 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 9 pm.

Grocery Shopping
Key West , Florida

Stock your minibar or condo kitchenette with gourmet groceries from Fausto's Food Palace. There are two branches, but the Fleming Street location will deliver as long as your purchase is over $25 (522 Fleming St.; 305-296-5663 and 1105 White St.; 305-294-5221). If you buy delicious mangrove snapper—or catch it yourself—the Schooner Wharf Bar will grill, broil, or fry it up for you.

527 S.W. 12th Avenue
Portland , Oregon
Tel: 503 241 7163

The Pacific Northwest's produce and climate are an ideal match for the hearty, earthy fare of Germany and its surrounding regions. At least Christopher Israel, a star chef credited with helping to put Portland's food scene on the national map, thinks so. In Grüner's spare, wood-clad dining room on the first floor of downtown's slick Skylab Architecture building, Israel takes guests on a sophisticated culinary tour through German, Austrian, Hungarian, Romanian, and related fare. In true Portland fashion, produce goes from farm to table daily, in dishes such as short rib goulash and buckwheat spaetzle with rabbit, as well as house-made pretzels, rye bread, kraut, sausage, and pickles. The equally tempting bar menu includes one of the city's best burgers: a dripping indulgence of Cascadia meat with currywurst ketchup, house-made bacon, pickled onions, and cucumbers on a poppy seed bun that pairs perfectly with the German and Oregon beers on tap.—Colleen Clark

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 4:30 to 9:30 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 4:30 to 10:30 pm, and Saturdays 5 to 10:30 pm.

Guadalupe Café
422 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe , New Mexico
Tel: 505 982 9762

New Mexican food is often at its best when it's at its simplest, and Guadalupe Café keeps its dishes, such as egg burritos and enchiladas, as simple (and hugely portioned) as can be. A short amble from the Plaza, it has the best breakfast in town; eat it on the pleasant patio, which has large umbrellas to keep the intense sun off.

Open Tuesdays through Fridays 7 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 9 pm, Saturdays 8 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 9 pm, Sundays 8 am to 2 pm.

Gulf Drive Café
900 Gulf Drive
Bradenton Beach , Florida
Tel: 941 778 1919

Hugely popular, kid-friendly, and informal, the Gulf Drive Café serves up Reubens, tuna melts, Greek gyros, rib-eye steaks, crab cakes, and all-day breakfast with waterfront views of Bradenton Beach. Grab a seat in the breezy patio area, even if the clouds look menacing overhead—when the sky opens up, shades roll down to keep out the rain.

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken
310 S. Front Street
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 527 4877

Gus's casual checkered tablecloths and concrete floors hint at this location's humble past as a machine shop, and you might lift an eyebrow at Gus's self-proclaimed "world famous" status, but the poultry haven has indeed cultivated an enviable reputation. The recipe for Gus's success: bone-in chicken coated in a somewhat spicy, special-recipe batter, and then fried in peanut oil to a state of crispy, brown perfection. Once you visit, you'll understand why many visitors skip the side items to save room for more bird. But if you're intent on sides, try the not-too-mushy potato salad or the Cajun fried rice. (Isn't everything better fried?) For dessert, there's chess pie, with a rich filling that resembles a room-temperature custard—but with a tad more sugar and butter. In February 2007, Gus opened a second shop in Collierville, east of the city (215 Center St.; 901-853-6005). A word of caution: Avoid the imposter Gus places around town. As the staff here will tell you, "They just ain't the real deal."

Guy Savoy
Caesars Palace
3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 731 7286

When three-star Michelin chef Guy Savoy was lured stateside by Caesars Palace, he insisted on replicating his eponymous Paris location precisely—everything from the artichoke-and-black-truffle soup on the menu to the intimate dining room with contemporary art. (Funnily enough, the Vegas outpost has a view of the Eiffel Tower, while the Paris restaurant does not.) A meal here is a staggering (and staggeringly expensive) haute cuisine experience that includes a bread sommelier, cheese-, dessert-, and candy carts, and main courses such as roasted duckling with turnips, and veal chops with black truffle-topped potato purée. Appetizers can push $80, so the best way to do Savoy is the ten-course tasting menu for just under $300, which ensures you'll hit all the major French food groups (shellfish, foie gras, gelée, and truffle); there's also a three-course pre-theater menu for $98. This is refined dining, so leave the kids behind, and avoid the Caesars casino by using the valet off Flamingo Road. Oh, and despite the price, don't expect to see Guy himself; he's left son and protégé Franck Savoy in charge.

Opens Wednesdays through Sundays 5:30 to 10:30 pm.

Haliimaile General Store
900 Haliimaile Road
Makawao , Hawaii
Tel: 808 572 2666

This is the showplace of Hawaiian regional cuisine chef Beverly Gannon—an old general store located up-country in Makawao, converted into a picturesque restaurant serving the freshest, most delightful meals (lunch, dinner, and cocktails). Be aware that "fresh" doesn't necessarily mean spa cuisine—in fact, Gannon has a penchant for dishes dripping with melted Brie. The desserts (especially the pineapple upside-down cake) are highly recommended, and children are more than welcome—there's a special menu for kids (keiki in Hawaiian).

Open daily 5:30 to 9:30 pm and Mondays through Fridays 11 am to 2:30 pm.

Hamburger Heaven
314 S. County Road
Palm Beach , Florida
Tel: 561 655 5277

This local staple has been dishing up diner favorites like burgers, shakes, fries, and wedges of home-baked cakes for more than 60 years. The classic green awnings and tin-sign-cluttered interior are charmingly retro, and it's one of the places you're likely to rub elbows with year-round residents. Be aware that early afternoon brings a swarm of tony teens dressed in navy blazers and pastel uniforms from nearby Palm Beach Day School.

Hamersley's Bistro
553 Tremont Street
Boston , Massachusetts
Tel: 617 423 2700

A mainstay since 1987, Hamersley's Bistro has been serving up unpretentious, seasonal French cuisine since before most of the other restaurants on this list existed. In a wood-beamed dining room in a South End neighborhood that has gradually become one of Boston's hippest, chef Gordon Hamersley serves up the requisite pâtés, cassoulets, and soufflés, and his roasted garlic chicken has achieved cult status. All dishes use ingredients from local farms and fishermen—even mushrooms foraged in the fields of western Massachusetts. While Hamersley has won awards from James Beard, Food & Wine, and countless others, perhaps the biggest tribute to him is the success of the chefs he trained in his kitchen: Jody Adams, now the chef–owner of the equally renowned Rialto, and Steve Johnson, who took over as sous chef when Adams left and now owns and runs the Mediterranean-influenced Rendezvous in Cambridge's Central Square (502 Massachusetts Ave.; 617-576-1900).—updated by Jon Marcus

Open Mondays through Fridays from 5:30 to 9:30 pm, Saturdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Sundays 11 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 9:30 pm. Closed first week of January.

Hamura Saimin
2956 Kress Street
Lihue , Hawaii
Tel: 808 245 3271

The first thing you will notice about this hole-in-the-wall lunch shop, honored in 2006 by the James Beard Foundation in the America's Classics category, is that it looks like it was designed only for people of short stature. The Menehune-size (Menehune are Hawaii's little people) S-shaped counter seats about two dozen people when the place is packed, which it is most of the time. The much-buzzed-about saimin (homemade ramen noodles served with chives, egg, and fish cake in a homemade soy-based broth) comes fast and cheap (the basic bowl starts at $6). Adding an order of beef or shrimp skewers makes it a more filling meal. Just be prepared for the hunt to find it on Lihue's backstreets, and for very limited parking once you do.—Cathay Che

Open daily 10 am to 10 pm.

Hanapepe Café
3830 Hanapepe Road
Hanapepe , Hawaii
Tel: 808 335 5011

This humble hole-in-the-wall in Hanapepe, a little plantation town just west of glitzy Poipu Beach, promotes a purposefully healthy take on food—which is refreshing in an area where steaks, burgers, and fried seafood are the norm. The signature dish is the local catch, grilled and served with steamed rice and fresh, Hawaii-grown greens. Breakfast orders (muffins, scones, fruit plates, etc.) are mostly to go, but this place gets packed at lunchtime. It only opens for dinner on Fridays (when there's also live Hawaiian slack-key guitar music). It's difficult to find budget-friendly food on the south shore, and even harder to find vegetarian options, so this has been a welcome addition to the scene.

Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dinner only on Fridays. Closed Saturdays and Sundays.

Hank's Oyster Bar
1624 Q Street N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 462 4265

Jamie Leeds made a name for herself at 15 ria (1515 Rhode Island Ave. N.W.; 202-742-0015;, but she longed for her own place in her own neighborhood. In May 2005, she opened this seafood joint on Dupont Circle near her house and named it for her father, an avid fisherman. It's not perfect—the tables are close together, the noise level can get thunderous, and the kitchen is so small, there's no dessert, just a few chunks of chocolate with the check. Still, Hank's is a reliable, casual place to stop in for oysters and clams on the half shell, lobster rolls, popcorn shrimp and calamari, and crab cakes cooked on a griddle. Of course, that might just be your idea of perfect.

Dinner daily; lunch on weekends only.

Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster
36 Main Street
Freeport , Maine
Tel: 207 865 4888

Let's face it: Racing around among Freeport's outlets can be exhausting. Heck, even just stepping foot into L.L. Bean's gargantuan headquarters after finding a parking place can zap the calories. And while there are plenty of places to eat around town, few restore both body and soul like Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster. At this low-key lobster shack with picnic tables for decor, diners get to drink in views of South Freeport Harbor while cracking open crustaceans that were swimming just minutes before. Fresh lobster is best followed with the signature whoopie pies, round disks of chocolate cake filled with cream.

Open daily 11 am to 7:45 pm, May 1 through June 15 and Labor Day through Columbus Day; 11 am to 8:45 pm, June 16 through Labor Day.

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Harry Caray's
33 W. Kinzie Street
Chicago , Illinois
Tel: 312 828 0966

Steaks are secondary to sports at this old-timey "clubhouse," named after the Cubs Hall of Fame broadcaster. Only Cooperstown boasts more baseball tchotchkes than this veritable museum of the game, with its own walk of fame out front and four seats from the original Comiskey Park inside. After the 2003 playoffs, the restaurant paid $114,000 for the infamous foul ball that eliminated the Cubs—then blew it up during its 6th Annual Worldwide Toast to Harry Caray. The shards are now displayed in a permanent case. The restaurant actually serves a decent slab of meat. But many fans prefer to kick back with a beer and homemade chips in the 60-foot 6-inch Bar (the distance from pitcher's mound to home plate) and watch a game on one of many big-screen TVs.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 3 pm and 5 pm to 10:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 3 pm and 5 pm to 11 pm, Sundays 11:30 am to 10 pm.

Hash House a Go Go
6800 W. Sahara Avenue
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 804 4646

The world needs more restaurants like Hash House a Go Go, where customers ask each other, "What's that you ordered?" or share with strangers at the counter. It's an industrial-looking diner 20 minutes west of the Strip and about halfway to Red Rock State Park. An array of farm-fresh ingredients go into the unfathomably long list of choices on the menu. Breakfast is a highlight, with five types of scrambles served in skillets and five Benedict choices, from sage fried chicken to smoked bacon to pork tenderloin. Portions are massive—locals say every dish at Hash House is really a two-for-one.

Open for breakfast daily 7:30 am to 2:30 pm; open for dinner Mondays through Thursdays 5 to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5 to 10 pm.

6703 Melrose Boulevard
Hollywood , California
Tel: 323 935 2977

The minimalist decor featured in the second, much larger Hatfield's space does nothing to distract from Quinn and Karen Hatfield's innovative American cuisine—and that's a good thing. The Hatfields (he's the chef, she does desserts) honed their skills in the kitchens of Spago, Jean Georges, Bouley, and Gramercy Tavern; here, their ever-changing menu emphasizes local fresh ingredients and slow cooking. Appetizer choices might include smoked trout with apple and avocado in a grainy mustard dressing; entrées might be along the lines of past dishes such as duck with creamy Bengali rice and roasted porcini, and Arctic char with Dijon-infused sweet potatoes. For dessert, you might choose a chocolate ganache tarte with espresso cream or a baked lemon-custard tartlet with a wild huckleberry compote.—Updated by Audrey Davidow

Open Mondays through Thursdays 6 to 10 pm, Fridays 6 to 10:30 pm, Saturdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm, and Sundays 5:30 to 10 pm.

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Hawkers Asian Street Fare
1103 N. Mills Avenue
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 237 0606

Orlando's Little Saigon district has long drawn adventurous eaters to its authentic Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai restaurants. But Hawkers Asian Street Fare, which opened in 2011 on the edge of downtown's Asian zone, wins for both authenticity and atmosphere. Co-owned by Malaysian and Cantonese families ("and one white guy," as the waitstaff likes to tell you), the restaurant has an industrial feel. There's corrugated iron on the walls, along with black-and-white photos of Kuala Lumpur food hawkers; tabletops are covered with Chinese newspapers under a shiny coat of resin. The large menu incorporates Vietnamese, Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, and Thai flavors with a spread of small, shareable plates that are actually quite ample, and best of all, overwhelmingly affordable. Pass on standard items like lettuce wraps and pad thai in favor of more interesting fare such as the Korean bulgogi beef sliders wedged in a crunchy baguette, and Malaysian-style prawn mee, a spicy soup laden with boiled eggs, jumbo shrimp, and egg noodles. There are a few outdoor tables under umbrellas on an enclosed patio, if you don't mind the din of passing traffic with your dinner.—Terry Ward

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11 am to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 11 pm, and Sundays noon to 10 pm.

Hen of the Wood
92 Stowe Street
Waterbury , Vermont
Tel: 802 244 7300

Just as some of France's Michelin three-star restaurants are found in the most obscure country towns, so, too, has Hen of the Wood outshined its humble surroundings. Opened in 2005 in the town of Waterbury (a tourist trap for Stowe-bound skiers) and housed in a 19th-century grist mill, Hen of the Wood defines Vermont farm-to-table dining. Chef Eric Warnstedt, formerly of Burlington's Smokejacks, now forages for the freshest local ingredients and cooks them with co-owner Craig Tresser. Down a double set of stairs, the rustic-elegant dining room mixes exposed beams and fieldstone walls with white linens and tea lights. Servers are professional—not the distracted college students of some other Green Mountain eateries—and subtle, allowing the cuisine and boutique wines to sparkle. Hen of the Wood's menu changes with the season, but if Warnstedt is cooking up smoked LaBelle Farms duck breast with mustard spaetzle, don't miss it. And save room for the artisanal cheeses and the desserts (like lemon-curd tartlets) crafted by Mystic Pie pastry whiz Laura Nedich (877-588-7437;

Open Mondays through Saturdays, seatings from 5 to 9 pm.

14590 N.E. 145th Street
Woodinville , Washington
Tel: 425 485 5300

You'll have to plan your entire day around dinner at the Herbfarm. Not only is it out in the suburb of Woodinville, but dinner here is a four-hour, nine-course affair, which includes a garden stroll and lessons from the proprietors on the origins of the food you're enjoying. The restaurant, in a building that looks like a century-old farmhouse, is adjacent to a farm and garden that supply much of the menu's raw ingredients. The menu changes not only seasonally but almost daily; ask what's being served when you make your reservation, as meals are strictly organized around a theme and may include all seafood or all meat. Northwest wines are matched to five courses.

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701 St. Charles Avenue
Central Business District
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 524 4114

Chef Donald Link started his local empire with this gem of a bistro in the Central Business District. His trademark small plates balance substance with finesse, while his excellent cocktail selection predated the mixology craze. Link's take on shrimp and grits goes crunchy instead of gooey: Slabs of grits with diced green chiles are fried and then drizzled with a rich cream sauce spiked with smoked pork. A native of southern Louisiana, Link always offers a rich daily gumbo (varying by season) as well as brasserie favorites like perfectly seared hanger steak with frites. But he really shines when he mixes the two idioms in dishes like duck-leg confit with dirty rice or chile-glazed pork belly. The ambiance is airy and minimal without being too fussy. Street-level windows dominate the main room and give a relaxing view of the classic St. Charles streetcars rumbling past. Can't get enough? Book a table at Cochon, Link's Warehouse District restaurant, which serves modern takes on rustic Cajun fare.

Open Mondays through Fridays 11:30 am to 10:00 pm, Saturdays 5:30 to 10 pm.

Highland Park Pharmacy
3229 Knox Street
Dallas , Texas
Tel: 214 521 2126

The Highland Park Pharmacy is proof that the culinary avant-garde is not completely sweeping Dallas. There are still any number of distinguished retro-food spots dishing up artery-assaulting home-style cooking, traditional favorites like chicken-fried steak, and big greasy breakfasts and lunches. But it doesn't get any more authentically retro than the Highland Park Pharmacy, a working drugstore that has been in business at its quaint street-corner location since 1912. Take a stool at the old-fashioned soda fountain–lunch counter for a grilled cheese on white bread along with a chocolate soda, thick shake, or root beer float. It's nothing less than time travel.

Open Mondays through Fridays 7 am to 6 pm, Saturdays 9 am to 5:30 pm.

Hilo Bay Café
315 Makaala Street
Hilo , Hawaii
Tel: 808 935 4939

This is Hawaii regional cuisine at its most accessible, familiar enough to appeal to locals (the vast majority of diners at Hilo restaurants), and yet inspiring enough for visitors. So, what's an ambitious restaurant doing in a hideous mini-mall? When owner Kim Snuggerud opened it in 2003, she wanted it near her health food store, Island Naturals. Self-taught chef Joshua Kettner's blackened ahi Caesar salad, slow-cooked pork ribs, and molten chocolate "lava" cake keep patrons in shorts and flip-flops happy. So do the reasonable prices.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 9 pm, Sundays 5 to 9 pm.

Hilo Farmer's Market
Corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue
Hilo , Hawaii
Tel: 808 933 1000

This bustling little scene of local vendors is a great place to stop and get cheap, tasty snacks such as tamales, Vietnamese spring rolls, bento boxes, and fresh juices. The best days to visit are Wednesdays and Saturdays, when about 250 stalls are open for business; a handful of vendors set up shop on other days as well. Things get pretty picked over by noon, even though some sellers stay as late as 4 pm.

Open Wednesdays, Saturdays, and occasional weekdays from 6 am to 4 pm.

Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas
500 Ala Moana Boulevard
Honolulu , Hawaii
Tel: 808 533 4476

As the name implies, the draw here is small plates meant to be shared. Chef Hiroshi Fukui's menu has lots of sample-worthy creations, such as filet mignon topped with foie gras ponzu sauce, pan-roasted shrimp with roasted-garlic aioli foam, and panko-crusted ahi with yellow-mustard foam (warning: the meal can get pricey very quickly). Many of the inventive cocktails also benefit from Fukui's penchant for foams; the Sex and the City, for example, is a concoction of vodka and triple sec with lemongrass foam. The restaurant shares its green-walled, green-upholstered space with a lively wine bar, Vino.

8385 Beverly Boulevard
West Hollywood , California
Tel: 323 653 0470

Hollywood up-and-comers head down from the Hills for quality sashimi and bargain prices at this poor man's Matsuhisa. They compete with twentysomething shoppers from the nearby Beverly Center and serious sushi lovers for a seat in the minuscule space (we're talking ten tables), where Chef Hiroji Obayashi delights with exciting daily specials such as black cod teriyaki and grilled oysters with ginger sauce. The place is too noisy and bright to be sexy, but then again, darkness would not inspire confidence in a restaurant serving raw fish.

Hogfish Bar and Grill
6810 Front Street
Stock Island , Florida
Tel: 305 293 4041

You'll get some of the freshest fish at this waterfront bar and grill on the working shrimp docks of Stock Island, the next island up from Key West. But the challenge is actually finding it. You wind through rows of trailer parks—dodging the odd dog sunning itself in the middle of a quiet street—before happening upon an open-air, tiki-roof restaurant surrounded by bobbing boats. The next challenge, of course, is leaving: With so much great food and a bar scene that draws in tipplers no matter the hour, your picnic table is likely to become a permanent perch for the better part of an afternoon. Named for one of spearfishing's tastiest Florida catches, the restaurant specializes in the tender white-meat fish. Hogfish comes in tacos piled with fresh cabbage and a tangy sauce, or blackened in what's arguably the best fish sandwich in the Keys. Shrimp's on the menu, too, in the form of po'boys and the beloved lobster and shrimp pie.—Terry Ward

Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.

Hog Island Oyster Company
20215 State Route 1
Marshall , California
Tel: 415 663 9218

Hog Island Oyster Company is not strictly a restaurant, but rather an outdoor shack on Marin's Tomales Bay, built right next to the beds where the oysters grow (it might be the only shack you'll ever visit where reservations are essential, though). They don't sell anything else (except lemons), so bring your own wine, and maybe some charcoal for the grills. Oysters are plucked from the troughs—varieties range from Kumamotos to Hog Island's own Sweetwaters—and handed to you on a cafeteria tray. There's a shucker attached so that you can open them yourself. Settle in at one of the outdoor picnic tables and savor the briny flavor of the freshest mollusks you've ever gulped down. (If you can't get out of town, you'll have to content yourself with visiting Hog Island's smaller location in San Francisco's Ferry Building.)

Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.

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Hominy Grill
207 Rutledge Avenue
Charleston , South Carolina
Tel: 843 937 0930

Chef Robert Stehling shocked genteel Charlestonians with his irreverent take on traditional Lowcountry fare when he opened Hominy in 1996. Since then, he's ingratiated himself with the locals and garnered national raves for such tweaked classics as grilled soft-shell crab with apricot almond slaw, creamed collard greens, fried chicken with spiced peach gravy, and rich buttermilk pie. The prices are equally delicious: Most dishes are under $15. Housed in an old barbershop off King Street, Hominy's tin ceilings, hardwood floors, oak tables, outdoor patio, and blackboard menus add to the down-home appeal. Breakfast is popular, so get there early for the country ham, hominy grits, and homemade ginger pumpkin bread (they take reservations for dinner only).

Open Mondays through Fridays 7:30 am to 9 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 9 am to 3 pm.

Honey's Sit 'n' Eat
800 N. 4th Street
Philadelphia , Pennsylvania
Tel: 215 925 1150

When Honey's opened in March 2005, the kitchen closed down at 4 pm each day, but fans demanded the restaurant's Southern-Jewish comfort food after brunch hours and owners Ellen Mogell and Jeb Woody acquiesced. Now, tattooed Northern Liberties hipsters and a handful of Old City dwellers file in from 8 am to 10 pm on weekdays (sadly, weekend hours haven't changed) to fill up on chicken-fried steak and house-made biscuits, latkes with applesauce and sour cream, challah French toast, and plate-sized pancakes. The best way to pick your meal is to ogle what the waiters are trotting across the dining room's pine floor (the wood was salvaged from an old barn, the countertops came from a sewing factory). Just choose quickly, especially on weekends: The hungry folks on the line snaking out the door all want a piece of the rollicking, high-calorie action too.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 8 am to 10 pm, Sundays 8 am to 4 pm.

Honga's Lotus Petal
133 S. Oak Street
Telluride , Colorado
Tel: 970 728 5134

Telluride's toughest reservation is an Asian-fusion bistro specializing in organic Thai and Japanese cuisine. Tokyo-trained sushi chef Shige Shibuya slices and dices a variety of sashimi-grade fish to create specialties like the Caterpillar roll: avocado, eel, and flying-fish roe. Hot dishes include red and green curries with shrimp or tofu. Beware of Honga's mojitos: The restaurant goes through more Bacardi rum than any other establishment in Colorado and has ruined many a powder morning.

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Huckleberry Cafe & Bakery
1014 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 310 451 2311

Jonesing for a homey café? Head to Huckleberry, where everything on the menu—from the doughnuts to the O.J.—is made fresh in-house. The Santa Monica café feeds comfort-food cravings with a seasonally driven, locally sourced twist. Swing by for breakfast (the prosciutto-stuffed croissants and maple-bacon biscuits are dangerous), lunch (hello, warm turkey-meatball sandwich), or an after-school snack (grilled Nutella sammies) in colorful surroundings. If sweets are your thing, the bustling bakery counter sells decadent éclairs, salted caramels, blueberry cornmeal cake, and more. Wash it all down with a creamy vanilla latte (and yes, the vanilla syrup is homemade, too).—Audrey Davidow

Open Tuesdays through Fridays 8 am to 7 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 8 am to 5 pm.

Hudson's on the Bend
3509 Ranch Road N. 620
Austin , Texas
Tel: 512 266 1369

This stone cottage, about 20 miles west of town in the Hill Country near Lake Travis, offers the quintessential Austin experience: It's sophisticated, but not ashamed to be a little bit country. Chef-owner Jeff Blank wows foodies and good ol' boys alike with his inventive use of wild game, such as the rattlesnake appetizer served with a pistachio crust and creamy chipotle dressing. The entrées change seasonally, but the mixed game plate with venison, quail, and buffalo is a staple and a great place for first-timers to start. With white tablecloths, twinkling candlelight, and a plentiful wine list, Hudson's is plenty romantic, too.

Hungry Cat
1134 Chapala
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 884 4701

Owned by husband and wife team David Lentz and Suzanne Goin (who also own the original Hollywood version of Hungry Cat in addition to L.A.'s favorite small-plates joint, A.O.C.), this bistro is something of an upscale seafood shack for foodies. The menu offers a raw seafood bar, excellent cocktails, and seafood specialties from local waters, including the elusive Santa Barbara spot prawn and sea urchin. Drinks could be a little stiffer and the portions a little larger, but the food itself, from the fresh-caught monkfish to the piled-high onion rings, is sublime.

Open Tuesdays and Wednesdays 5 to 11 pm, Thursdays through Saturdays 5 pm to midnight, and Sundays 10:30 am to 10 pm.

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The Hungry Cat
1535 N. Vine Street
Los Angeles , California
Tel: 323 462 2155

Revitalized Hollywood has its share of nightclubs, burger joints, and Thai restaurants. But until the Hungry Cat opened in 2004, the neighborhood lacked a casual yet seriously good seafood spot. This pet project of married chefs Suzanne Goin (Lucques, A.O.C.) and David Lentz (formerly Opaline) fills the void with small plates from the sea. With its industrial room, tiny open kitchen, and gutsy fare, it's quickly become a favorite with family brunchers, young couples, and off-duty chefs. You'll be tempted to order everything on the menu, from the oyster chowder to the halibut cheeks with morels and grits to the addictive lobster roll. Can you hear the sound of a metropolis purring?

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76 Queen Street
Charleston , South Carolina
Tel: 843 577 2500

Local hero Sean Brock is the most award-winning chef in Charleston, and Husk, his labor of love, topped Bon Appétit's list of the best American restaurant debuts of 2011. The menu, which changes daily, focuses on fresh, exclusively Southern ingredients and invigorating reinterpretations of Southern and Lowcountry cuisine, from fried green tomatoes with pimiento cheese and country ham to knockout crispy pig ears and fried chicken skins. There are some all-American classics on the menu, too, including the signature Husk cheeseburger, a kind of haute upgrade of In-N-Out's. Much like the cuisine, the restaurant's digs—on Queen Street, at the tip of downtown Charleston's main shopping drag—combine the traditional with the new. The two-story, columned exterior is straight out of Gone With the Wind, yet the airy main room presents diners with an open kitchen and minimalist glass artwork. If weather permits, request a table on the second-floor porch. And be sure to arrive early (or stay late) enough to sip a cocktail at the bar next door—the Herbal Tea cocktail, made of chamomile-infused vodka with a splash of fresh lemon juice and lime caviar, is particularly recommended, as is the Carrot Apple Slaw, with house-made apple brandy, rum, Pernod, and carrot and lemon juice over ice with fennel fronds.—Carolina Santos-Neves, originally published on

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm, and Sundays 10 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm. Bar open daily 4 pm to close.

246 DeKalb Avenue
Fort Greene
Brooklyn , New York
Tel: 718 789 2778
Subway: G train to Clinton & Washington

Fort Greene's abundance of 19th century brownstones and French expats can lend it a decidedly European feel. This haute bistro certainly plays a role as well, with its spare, whitewashed interior, heavily accented waiters, and good rosé selection. When Ici's menu quotes Alice Waters, it's not just lip service: Owners Laurent and Catherine Saillard are keen on using fresh, naturally grown ingredients from local farms. And while the Gallic bent here is pronounced, they've thankfully had the good sense not to bog the freshness down in heavy sauces. Dishes change seasonally, but might include a wilted dandelion salad with poached eggs and bacon in an anchovy cream. Entrées are spare but flavorful—try the sautéed skate with collard greens and brown butter. The outdoor patio's herb garden and white picket fence are a delight; the ample space between tables unheard of in this town. Service is competent and assiduous, with just the right touch of French attitude. The restaurant is a good spot for pre- or post-BAM performances, and also serves a popular brunch on weekends.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 9 am to 10 pm.

Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay
1 Manele Bay Road
Lanai , Hawaii
Tel: 808 565 2296

Although the over-the-top decor (handblown Italian crystal chandeliers, Chinese-style antiques, and a glass ceiling) has been toned down, Manele Bay's Ihilani restaurant is a bit fussy for a beach resort where most of the guests are wearing designer flip-flops. The chefs combine local produce with fine ingredients from around the world (it's no small feat to get white truffles to Lanai!) in contemporary Italian cuisine. For something light, the chefs might candy grapefruit, roast beets, toss them both with goat cheese, and top the salad with a dollop of Maui onion mousselline, or roast lobster in white vermouth and garnish it with vegetable ribbons. On the more decadent side, they'll prepare a hearty portion of oregano-rubbed milk-fed veal. As the high prices reflect, it's always a memorable venue for a special-occasion dinner, especially given the undeniably romantic ocean views.

Dinner only; closed Sundays and Mondays.

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The Impudent Oyster
15 Chatham Bars Avenue
Chatham , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 945 3545

This simple, boxy restaurant makes up for what it lacks in decoration by packing in a lively crowd that seems to fill it to the (very high) rafters. The creative menu gives a global spin to the local catch, such as seafood Fra Diavolo over fettucine or sesame-soy-ginger-marinated tuna fillet, pan-seared with a sesame crust. The central Chatham location attracts both regulars and visitors, and the service is friendly and familiar. Reservations are encouraged, but it's also fun to eat or wait at the genial bar.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11:30 am to 3 pm and 5 to 10 pm, Sundays noon to 3 pm and 5 to 9:30 pm.

157 Route 6A
Yarmouthport , Massachusetts
Tel: 508 362 5522

Inaho prepares its fish in a way not typical of Cape Cod: raw. The ultrafresh sushi and sashimi is served in a dining room with shoji screens and woven mats behind the deceptive facade of a colonial-style house in Yarmouthport. There's also an extensive sake selection.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 4:30 to 10 pm.

1550 Church Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 641 4500

If Incanto was in your neighborhood, you might eat there several times a week. The vaulted stone ceilings and blond wood furniture create a feeling of casual comfort. The ever-changing Cal-Ital menu is short but always seems to have just what you want: house-cured olives with salumi, a creamy bowl of polenta, or seasonal vegetables dressed in a veil of olive oil and lemon. But what Incanto does best is meat; they call it "whole beast" dining. Think Atkins goes Italian, with lots of fresh-from-the-garden veggies—you can even order an entire shank of beef, provided you call a week ahead. The wine list is lovingly crafted to show off the breadth and depth of Italy's enological bounty. So go ahead: Order that second bottle of Brunello di Montalcino and make yourself at home.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Sundays and Mondays 5:30 to 9:30 pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays 5:30 to 10 pm.

98 Rivington Street
Lower East Side
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 614 0473

First there was 'ino, a tiny, charming West Village panini bar (21 Bedford St.; 212-989-5769; Then there was 'inoteca, a newer, larger, equally charming crosstown sibling with huge windows, wooden tables, and shelves stocked with well-priced Italian wines. It was so successful, it spawned yet another outpost on 3rd Avenue and 24th Street. Order a carafe of Sicilian red and enjoy a plate of eggplant lasagna, fried shrimp wrapped in pancetta, or a voluptuous grilled sandwich of chocolate Nutella spread on firm white bread. Hangover sufferers swear by the breakfast panino of scrambled eggs, mortadella, and basil pesto.

8115 Jeannette Street
French Quarter
New Orleans , Louisiana
Tel: 504 299 3944

After a few years of plying their trade on a tiny Uptown side street, chef Ian Schnoebelen and co-owner Laurie Casebonne moved their award-winning operation to larger digs in the French Quarter's Bienville House hotel. The airy, light-filled room is perfect for early evening dining before a night on the town or a romantic tryst once darkness settles in. Schnoebelen's offerings are linked to the season and market, so springtime brings fresh shrimp paired with pickled ramps and house-made tapenade; a satiny guacamole subtly infused with kaffir lime; and savory duck confit with a salad of baby greens and roasted baby beets. Seasonal flavor themes even extend to the cocktail list, which uses a broad palette of herbal flavors and complex preparations to wonderful effect. We recommend the Winter Lily, an inventive take on the traditional margarita with cranberry, cardamom, and flamed orange.

Open Mondays, Wednesdays through Saturdays from 6 pm until 10 pm, Thursday and Friday 11:30 am to 2 pm.

Iron Horse Brew Pub
501 N. Higgins Street
Missoula , Montana
Tel: 406 728 8866

Maybe it's Missoula's northern latitude and long summer evenings that call for lingering downtown, getting an outdoor table, and grabbing a simple grilled burger with a local pint from Kettle House Brewing. The Iron Horse, near Missoula's historic rail station, is a fine place to eat, kick back, and watch the crowds pass. While a 2004 renovation brought a new lounge upstairs and an expanded menu with highfalutin' dishes such as sashimi tuna salad and wild mushroom ravioli, the classic Griz Burger—a half pound of Black Angus topped with bacon, blue cheese, and mushrooms—is still the best thing on the menu.

Island Creek Oyster Bar
500 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston , Massachusetts
Tel: 617 532 5300

Boston has gone nutty for oysters, and among the many local favorites are the ones harvested by Island Creek Oysters in the South Shore seaside town of Duxbury. In addition to the spread from a top-flight raw bar, the Island Creek Oyster Bar at the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square serves chef Jeremy Sewall's distinctive New England–style comfort dishes. Sewall's cousin in Maine supplies the lobster, the owner's mother provided the seafood stew recipe, and the chef brings creativity to dishes such as seared Scituate scallops in a roasted mushroom ragù with lentil and lobster cream. All of this plus a buzzing bar scene means there can sometimes be a wait for a table. Sewall's other fine-dining restaurant, Lineage, is just a few blocks away (242 Harvard St., Brookline; 617-232-0065).—Jon Marcus

Open Mondays through Saturdays 4 pm to 1 am, Sundays 10:30 am to 1 am.

803 Washington Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn , New York
Tel: 718 398 3575
Subway: 2 or 3 train to Brooklyn Museum

You might think you've wandered into someone's kitchen by accident at this Caribbean hideaway across from the Brooklyn Museum—the exposed oven, narrow wood countertop, and three stools certainly don't encourage you to linger. Stick around, though: Islands does a fabulous, fiery jerk chicken that fairly melts off the bone and comes accompanied with a humble veggie slaw and short-grained rice that soaks up the jerk juices perfectly. The curried goat is also superb, particularly when paired with a side of roti, a kind of doughy, homemade tortilla. Wash your meal down with a sorrel—a tart, herbaceous beverage made from the roselle plant.

Open daily noon to 10:30 pm.

The Ivy
113 N. Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood , California
Tel: 310 274 8303

More stage than restaurant, this is where the stars go when they want to be seen making deals, making friends, or breaking up. Paparazzi have permanent posts outside, ready to capture our celebrity friends after a grueling day of shopping at nearby boutiques. Cutesy decor—ruffly curtains, girly flower prints—serves as proof that money can't buy taste, so ask to sit outside, which is where the action is anyway. The menu—bland American comfort food like burgers, salads, and crab cakes—can seem as much of an afterthought as one of J. Lo's marriages.

Jai Yun
680 Clay Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 981 7438

This San Francisco Chinese mainstay may have improved its ambiance by moving from its old spot on Pacific Avenue, but Jai Yun's eccentric service remains the same. The chef, Nei Chia Ji, speaks almost no English, and you get whatever he decides to make that day, ordering by price. At lunch, you'll do well for $20, but at dinner, the minimum is $55 a person, cash only, and reservations are now required. But you'll forget all these aggravations when the food arrives—an endless stream of epicurean tidbits, including wisps of jellyfish, crispy orange-scented beef, and glistening stir-fried eggplant. Most banquets on this scale would leave you groaning, but Jai Yun's fresh, delicate cuisine will send you out into the night deliciously sated rather than stupefied.—Updated by John Vlahides

Open Mondays through Fridays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 6:30 to 9:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 6:30 to 9:30 pm.

The Mirage
3400 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 792 7979

If you've got tickets to Love (the Cirque du Soleil/Beatles show) or are headed to Jet nightclub—both in the Mirage—and you don't want to be too stuffed to power through your night, this is a good option. The special rolls are some of the most creative on the Strip—one has raw scallop slices on top of a roll stuffed with seared scallops. Shared plates are mostly worthy: The "Hot Rock" appetizer is thinly sliced soy-ginger-marinated steak you cook at the table on a 700-degree rock. For dessert, try the apple pie, reinterpreted as toban yaki—apple slices in a hot clay pot with clusters of ginger oatmeal and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But be prepared for spotty service: We were told the sommelier was "too busy to stop by" our table and that one of the special ingredients in the octopus roll was "rice." A prime example of solid recipes traveling well to a new location (the original is in Chicago), but service getting lost.

Open for dinner Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays 5 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5 to 11 pm.

300 Grove Street
San Francisco , California
Tel: 415 861 5555

Jardinière is the epitome of fine dining, San Francisco–style: polished in front, organic-sustainable in back. The beautiful split-level Art Deco room features velvet drapes and a sparkling domed ceiling, while the kitchen relies on ecologically minded suppliers to produce its California-French cuisine. Dine happily, knowing your duck confit with candied kumquats (a succulent harmony of gamy-salty-sweet) was sustainably produced. If you can't commit to a full meal (or can't score a table), cozy up in J Lounge, a small alcove adjacent to the U-shaped bar with modern sofas and deep armchairs ideal for sampling bar bites and concoctions like the absinthe daiquiri (a mix of rhum agricole, fresh lime, and locally produced absinthe). Note: This is the most popular pre- and post-theater spot in town. To avoid the crush, book a time when the curtain's up. —Updated by John Vlahides

Opens daily at 5 pm.

Java on the Rock
75–5828 Kahakai Road
Kailua-Kona , Hawaii
Tel: 808 329 9262

Alii Drive is pretty insufferable, especially at night when hordes of spring breakers are on the prowl. That's why it's best to experience Kona's oceanfront main drag in the morning. Java is pricey for what it serves—simple breakfast foods like bagels, eggs, and fruit salad—and the service is slow, but there are great views and an opportunity to imagine what a special spot this once was. The place turns into Huggo's on the Rock, a fine lunch and dinner option on the strip, after 11:30 am.

Open daily 6 to 11 am.

Javier's Restaurant
6621 Midnight Pass Road
Sarasota , Florida
Tel: 941 349 1792

Decorated with bright tapestries and murals depicting llamas and villagers bearing flowers, this Peruvian-American restaurant in Sarasota draws a devoted following, so call ahead. The traditional Peruvian dishes such as tacu-tacu con pollo, a succulent chicken breast over black beans and rice, or seafood puteria, a spicy broth laden with shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari, olives, and capers, are best paired with an imported Peruvian beer.

Jawz Tacos
1279 S. Kihei Road
Kihei , Hawaii
Tel: 808 874 8226

Jawz started as a roadside taco truck outside Makena State Park. You can still get killer fish tacos there (in fact, there are two trucks now—one inside the parking lot, and one along the road), but we recommend this air-conditioned sit-down version inside one of Kihei's mini-malls. It's a booming business that serves up fresh-catch tacos, salads, and burritos (especially good when smothered in sauces from the salsa bar) that you'll dream about when you get back home. The restaurant itself is bare-bones—a typical cheap and cheerful joint with surf movies playing in the background. But you get heaps of food for under $10, which is a real deal for Maui.

Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.

Jean Georges
1 Central Park West
Midtown West
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 299 3900

Open since 1997, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's signature restaurant on Columbus Circle remains one of the world's greatest, despite the fact that the jet-setting chef's ever-expanding empire now comprises 17 restaurants across the globe. The nexus of this greatness springs from the master himself, who is often in the kitchen, checking plates as they go out. In the elegant dining room (resplendent in quiet beiges and whites with floor-to-ceiling windows), Vongerichten's army of impeccably trained waitstaff flits about, spooning Château Chalon sauce over turbot and rich jus over squab. The experience is swoon-worthy and you're charged accordingly, though thanks to the gently priced lunch (one of the city's best bargains) and the more casual Nougatine next door, even mere mortals can join the fun.

1204 West Lynn Street
Austin , Texas
Tel: 512 477 5584

A venerable neighborhood bistro that's a favorite among celebs and politicos, including a former Austin resident named George W. something-or-other. They come partly for the low-key atmosphere—it's in an old storefront in the artsy Clarksville neighborhood just off downtown—but mostly for the imaginative yet always reliable menu. The food is hard to categorize, with elements of Latin, Southwestern, and Continental cuisine. Some have called it "New Texan," but we simply call it tasty. The menu changes daily, but crispy oysters on yucca root chips (reportedly a W favorite) and venison loin with corn-truffle pudding are among the stalwarts.

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Jestine's Kitchen
251 Meeting Street
Charleston , South Carolina
Tel: 843 722 7224

Everything's cheap, hearty, and fried at this funky blue-plate café decked out with vintage kitchen utensils and featuring old-timey jazz music. Comfort food is concocted from family recipes handed down to its founder, Dana Berlin, by Jestine Matthews, the woman who cared for her family. Jestine's artery-clogging fare didn't hamper her health—she passed away at the age of 112 in 1997. Popular items include signature fried green tomatoes, a slab of meatloaf, and pecan-fried whiting; almost everything comes with a side of fried okra. The Coca-Cola Cake is a must. Get there early for dinner; Jestine's doesn't take reservations and the line forms at 5 p.m.

Jewel Bako
239 E. Fifth Street
East Village
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 979 1012

Gorgeous sushi, superb sake, and impeccable service keep drawing diners to this pricey-but-worth-it bamboo-lined tunnel. It's owned by entrepreneurial cute couple Jack and Grace Lamb, whose rapidly expanding East Village empire also includes Degustation Wine & Tasting Bar (239 E. Fifth St.) and Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar (101 Second Ave.). If you can score a seat at the sushi bar, you're golden. (Reservations for all three: 212-979-1012.)

205 S. Mill Street
Aspen , Colorado
Tel: 970 925 6020

Jimmy's is known as a place that folks like to linger. It's got a heavy curtain over the door, cozy tables lining the windows, and a dining room in the back. It's also known for its Chesapeake Bay blue-crab cakes and certified Angus steaks, sold à la carte with comfort-classic sides such as mashed sweet potatoes with roasted marshmallows and creamed spinach. (In summer, get a table on the patio, and get your fill of watching glitterati parading down the sidewalk.) After dinner, migrate back out to the bar area, which is filled nightly with Aspen's liveliest locals. If the atmosphere doesn't entice you to pull up a bar stool, the tequila certainly will: Jimmy's boasts what may be the largest selection in the country.

Open daily 5:30 to 11:30 pm.

Joe's Stone Crab
11 Washington Avenue
South Beach
Miami Beach , Florida
Tel: 305 673 0365

What started as a lunch counter in 1913 is now a block-long institution with a who's-who history—everyone from J. Edgar Hoover to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor has come to Joe's. The restaurant is open only during stone crab season (mid-October to mid-May) and doesn't take reservations; we recommend going for lunch to avoid the horrendous wait at dinnertime. Be warned, though, that crab quality can be inconsistent—sometimes fabulous, other times waterlogged and mushy. One Miami chef divulged that you sometimes get better stone crabs if they know you. (An alternative for out-of-towners: Monty's. It's not as famous, but the quality is consistent: 300 Alton Rd., Miami Beach, 305-672-1148;

Open Mondays 5 to 10 pm, Tuesdays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5 to 11 pm, and Sundays 4 to 10 pm, mid-October to mid-May.

Joël Robuchon at the Mansion
MGM Grand
3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas , Nevada
Tel: 702 891 7925

Dining here feels like a privilege, and it is. While the restaurant can be reached from the casino floor of the MGM Grand, it officially "belongs" to the Mansion section of the hotel, a cluster of Italianate villas reserved for high rollers. There are only 64 tables, and soft classical piano music fills the void between silverware clinks and light laughter. There are several prix fixe options starting at $89, but the best option is the 16-course degustation menu—but be prepared to spend nearly $400 per person (without wine) and more than four hours. (Hey, it's a better deal than bottle service in a nightclub.) The menu dashes all over the place: Kobe beef cooked on a bed of rock salt with a vegetable fricassee; Japanese snapper floating in a rich broth made of lily bulbs; French hen with roasted foie gras. All are phenomenal in taste and presentation. For a higher-energy and lower-cost dinner, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon is the chef's bistro-style eatery next door. Sit at the counter, where you can interact with the team of French chefs. There's a tasting menu here too, but it runs ten courses and costs considerably less; there's also a three-course "bento box" for only $39.

Both restaurants open Sundays through Thursdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm.

196 S. Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Springs , California
Tel: 760 778 0017

Austrian-born chef-owner Johannes Bacher delivers delicious new twists on home-country classics at this blond-wood bistro that's at the top of every concierge's list. Bacher's most popular dish is the Wiener schnitzel, but escargots in garlic-herb butter, a lobster, shrimp, and scallop ménage à trois, and veal scaloppine with Gruyère cheese Spaetzle are also faves. A hip waitstaff, outstanding wine list, and high-flying prices bring some big-city taste to this reemerging destination.

Dinner only. Closed Mondays.

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John's Roast Pork
14 E. Snyder Avenue
Philadelphia , Pennsylvania
Tel: 215 463 1951

The South Philly corner of South 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue is the neon-heavy carnival setting of the Philly cheesesteak wars—and the destination of many a college road trip. The main contenders are Pat's King of Steaks (1237 E. Passyunk Ave.; 215-468-1546; and Geno's (1219 S. 9th St.; 215-389-0659;, but true connoisseurs wind up at John's, a sandwich shack squeezed between big-box stores just off the Delaware Expressway. It may look like a good place to dump a body, but this family business (since 1930) makes the real deal, folding cheese and onions into seasoned meat while it's still on the grill, then bundling it all into a seeded crusty roll from South Philly's Carangi bakery. The only drawback? John's hours are geared toward the working man, so while the joint opens at 6:45 a.m., the grill shuts down at 2:30. For those hankering for a nighttime fix, Pat's and Geno's are open 24 hours a day.

Open Mondays through Fridays 6:45 am to 2:30 pm.

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John Dory Oyster Bar
1196 Broadway
New York City , New York
Tel: 212 792 9000

April Bloomfield has a strict no-condiments policy when it comes to burgers. In fact, she's quite specific about many things, from the dress code for her sous-chefs to the proportion of nuts to greens in her salads. But Bloomfield's precision is what makes her food so dazzling: Since opening the Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village in February 2004, she has turned out hit after hit, amassing a cult following and earning two Michelin stars. Her latest endeavor, a turn-of-the-century-style oyster bar, is a departure from her porcine obsession, but don't expect tepid flavors—there's smoked haddock terrine, eel and parsley pie, and of course her famous oyster pan roast with uni butter crostini (entrées, $11-$21).

Must eat: The bar's happy hour special (5 p.m.-7 p.m. or midnight-2 a.m.) includes a half-dozen oysters and a 20-ounce pint of stout or a glass of cava ($15).

Chef April Bloomfield's favorite new restaurant: Michael White's Osteria Morini, New York City

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Johnny V's
625 E. Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
Tel: 954 761 7920

Johnny Vinczencz is one of the boldest boldfaced names from South Beach to make the move north. After reigning over the menu at the Hotel Astor for several years, he decamped to Fort Lauderdale to open a namesake eatery downtown. Vinczencz was an early champion of so-called Floribbean cuisine (think bikini-friendly combos of meat or fish plus fruit), and the menu here features favorites like cinnamon-crusted pork tenderloin as well as his signature dish, a short stack of meaty Portobello mushroom "pancakes." Both service and furnishings are understated and flawless; the latter features dark walnut, backlit mirrors, and plush red upholstery.

Open daily 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5 to 11 pm.

Jo-Jo's Anuenue
5 Pokole Road
Waimea , Hawaii

There are two shave ice (Hawaiian snow cone) places in Waimea called Jo-Jo's. And, oddly, the bright yellow Jo-Jo's Clubhouse on the main highway isn't the real thing (though it is the original location). For the legendary 60 flavors of this local delicacy and mind-boggling combos, including some with macadamia nut or coffee ice cream hidden inside, you have to turn off toward the ocean on the easy-to-miss Pokole Road to find Jo-Jo's Anuenue. To get the full, complicated backstory on the two locations, pick up a printed card that explains everything when you go to Jo-Jo's Anuenue (and you must go). But all you really need to know is that this is the best shave ice on Kauai.—Cathay Che

700 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia , Pennsylvania
Tel: 215 223 5663

Taking its design cues from The Brady Bunch, this Stephen Starr enterprise has a see-through fireplace, fieldstone walls, and swivel chairs—and an equally familiar menu. Work on an order of monkey bread while deciding between American classics such as fried chicken and waffles and traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The no-reservations policy and location just west of Independence Park guarantees lines of impatient locals and map-toting tourists on the weekends. But the BMW pancakes (caramelized banana, maple syrup, and toasted walnut) and protein plates (ham, turkey sausage, and applewood bacon with cheddar scrambled eggs) are worth the wait.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11:30 am to midnight, Sundays 10 am to 3 pm.

Joseph's Table
Hotel la Fonda de Taos
108A South Taos Plaza
Taos , New Mexico
Tel: 505 751 4512

As high-concept a restaurant as any in New Mexico (some locals call it pretentious, and they may have a point), Joseph's is located in a windowless space in the Hotel la Fonda de Taos. The decor is eclectic—Southeast Asia meets Morocco?—and has deep, curtained banquettes along the wall. Chef/owner Joseph Wrede changes the menu daily and mixes his culinary influences just as freely: You're likely to see the delicious signature appetizer of lobster with masa bread pudding and Mexican corn. Fresh fish is flown in from Hawaii weekly, and Wrede slips in Asian influences such as sashimi of marlin on a fried crisp of kale sprinkled with orange soy vinaigrette. All that invention means that dishes can be a bit hit or miss—in a trio of gazpacho soups, for instance, two are tangy and tasty, while the third seems like a cold muddle of flavors.

Open daily 5:30 pm to 10 pm