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Restaurants

What's the best restaurant near you? Check out ˽ýӳ's 2024 Restaurants of the Year.

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We get the question all the time: What restaurant should I try? It comes from friends looking for the latest and greatest, family visiting from out of state and readers who trust our expertise.

For the inaugural list, there are 47 ˽ýӳ Restaurants of the Year 2024.

As journalists, it’s a question we love, a point of pride. We know our communities. From the Des Moines Register and the Bergen Record to The Arizona Republic and Florida Today, we’re embedded across the country, always in search of the next best bite.  

That's why when we set out to spotlight the ˽ýӳ Restaurants of the Year, we didn't select the places you would find on your average roundup of best restaurants. We’re not just spending a few days passing through a city in search of what it has to offer. We’re here. We know.

The Restaurants of 2024 include buzzy Instagram-worthy spots backed by award-winning chefs, tried-and-true small-town standbys, and pantheons of fine dining worthy of foodies pilgrimages.

They’re the places we love — a mix of old, new and in between. They’re places with stories to tell, places that should be on your dining bucket list and, lest we forget, places serving delectable  dishes we can’t stop talking about. 

Here they are, the 47 ˽ýӳ Restaurants of the Year for 2024.

Urban Bar & Kitchen | Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Details: 2321 University Blvd., Tuscaloosa, Ala.; 205-248-7162,

Urban Bar & Kitchen restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends Southern comfort food with a twist.

"Minimalist boho meets industrial" is how Urban Bar & Kitchen describes its downtown Tuscaloosa interior, a revamped spot that has offered Italian, Mexican, pub food and fusion over the decades. Southern comfort food blended with tastes of other longitudes and latitudes summarizes the UBK menu: gumbo to salmon, surf 'n' turf pasta to honey garlic pork chops, and gumbo worthy to stand with anything from south Louisiana. Hands-on warm service, where co-owners will likely stop by to ask about your meal, and variations on down-home standards such as mac 'n' cheese and sweet potato fries, make patrons feel at (a slightly better version of) home. Though it opened only three years ago, it has fast become not only a Druid City hit but the place you take visitors to show off. − Mark Cobb, The Tuscaloosa News

Cocina Chiwas | Tempe, Arizona

Details: 2001 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, Ariz.; 480-916-3690,

Cocina Chiwas restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends mesquite-fired Mexican cooking — comfort food taken to new heights.

At Cocina Chiwas, a wall of windows opens onto a patio nearly as large as the modern dining room. It is anchored by a sleek bar showcasing unusual agave spirits on one side and an open kitchen built around a mesquite-fed grill constructed by co-owner Armando Hernandez himself. He and Nadia Holguin co-own other Phoenix restaurants, including James Beard Award nominee Bacanora, but opening Cocina Chiwas in February 2023 was especially personal, a chance to play with the flavors of their childhoods. Bright Mexican seafood aguachiles and seasonal salads shine ahead of the main event: wood-fired parrillada featuring tender skirt steak carne asada, sweet-spicy al pastor and chorizo con papas served with diner-style rice and beans and fresh corn tortillas. It’s comfort food taken to new heights. − Felicia Campbell, The Arizona Republic (Phoenix)

Glai Baan | Phoenix, Arizona

Details: 2333 E. Osborn Road, Phoenix, Ariz.; 602-595-5881,

Glai Baan restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends this spot on permanent rotation for food lovers in Phoenix.

Glai Baan means "far from home" and is an ode to chef Pornsupak "Cat" Bunnag’s homeland in northern Thailand. She and Dan Robinson opened the intimate restaurant in 2017, and it has been packed ever since with diners eager to enjoy dishes like kanom jeeb pork dumplings and yum het tod tempura oyster mushrooms and cocktails infused with Thai ingredients. The charming patio is adorned with flapping flags and string lights, and the cozy dining room feels like stepping into Bunnag’s childhood home. Consistently excellent, Glai Baan was a 2023 James Beard semifinalist for its outstanding wine and beverage program and is on permanent rotation for food lovers in Phoenix. Word to the wise: The restaurant’s popularity warrants making a reservation to avoid long waits. − Bahar Anooshahr, The Arizona Republic (Phoenix)

Alps Village | Palm Desert, California

Details: 77734 Country Club Drive, Palm Desert, Calif.; 760-200-5400,

Alps Village restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends a German favorite with old European charm.

A taste of Europe is never far away when you sit down at Alps Village in Palm Desert. Not only does the interior evoke old European charm with its wooden tables and barrel-like chairs, but chef Milka Damjanovic worked in German kitchens in the former Yugoslavia during the war in the 1990s. After the family immigrated to the United States, her daughter Blanka Sanin opened the restaurant in 2016, and it has become a staple in the Coachella Valley. There are several German favorites on the menu, such as Wiener schnitzel and spätzle (egg noodles), alongside Balkan staples like cevapcici (sausages), shopska salad and cabbage rolls. No visit is complete with a piece of the not-too-sweet white cake. − Ema Sasic, The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, Calif.)

Beijing Noodle | Fort Collins, Colorado

Details: 1005 W. Stuart St., Fort Collins, Colo.; 970-999-5757,

Beijing Noodle restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends a hidden gem with from-scratch Chinese food from Henan province.

Tucked inside a squat strip mall in west Fort Collins, Beijing Noodle solidly falls into “hidden gem” territory, serving comforting, authentic Chinese fare not often found in northern Colorado. Walk into the cozy restaurant with dark wood paneled walls, and you’ll often find Tianxi “Dennis” Zhang smiling behind the counter and his wife, Yirong Sun, back in the kitchen. She's whipping up everything from rou jia mo, a common, daily meal in northwest China known stateside as “Chinese hamburgers,” to Henan gravy noodles, which are a favorite in Sun’s home province of Henan. Not sure what to order? Try Beijing Noodle’s fan favorite: oil spill noodles, poured over with hot oil to make a spicy garlic topped with house-made Sichuan sauce. − Erin Udell, The Coloradan (Fort Collins)

Harry's Savoy Grill | Wilmington, Delaware

Details: 2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, Del.; 302-475-3000,

Harry's Savoy Grill restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends this special occasional steakhouse.

Delaware's best ambassador of hospitality is easily Xavier Teixido. His classy Harry's Savory Grill has been setting the bar high for the state's dining since 1988. Teixido, who worked at the Brennan family’s legendary Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, has been honored by the National Restaurant Association. His business partner Kelly O'Hanlon started as a Harry's bartender in 1995. Harry's, known as "Delaware's premier steakhouse," is the place to go with a gathering of friends, a dinner with parents, a birthday or anniversary celebration, or a night out on the town. Start with icy cold raw oysters and make sure to order either the signature prime rib or a 45-day aged rib-eye. You won't be sorry. Patricia Talorico, The News Journal (Wilmington, Del.)

Brother Fox | Pensacola, Florida

Details: 415 N. Alcaniz St., Pensacola, Fla.; 850-208-6913,

Brother Fox restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends this Spanish-influenced favorite from a 'Chopped' champion.

At Brother Fox, the bones of the Old Mount Olive Baptist Church assembled in 1928 come back to life. Now, friends gather in fellowship to break Catalan-style toasted bread and sip Spanish sangria. The menu merges the city’s history as America’s first settlement with the modern expertise of executive chef Darian Hernandez, a Food Network “Chopped” champion. Dishes like the Low Country shrimp boil “a la España” — with Florida Gulf shrimp, Spanish chorizo, charred corn and potatoes — are the menu’s heart. But you can’t miss the dishes made on the fire, from cabbage baked in embers to sous vide coal-fired chicken with anticucho. Once finished, meander inside speakeasy Sister Hen − abbreviated "S.H.,” pronounced “shh” − for a nightcap under candlelight. − Brittany Misencik, Pensacola News Journal (Fla.)

The Daley Trade | Titusville, Florida

Details: 330 S. Washington Ave., Titusville, Fla.;

The Daley Trade restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends this ever-changing menu with out-of-this-world food.

In a town better known for rocket launches than out-of-this-world food, diners are over the moon for The Daley Trade. Glass walls, lush greenery and midcentury decor give the airy dining room the feeling of a mod terrarium, while the tropical back bar offers a secret garden escape. Chef Terrence Daley, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who worked in fine-dining kitchens across the country, landed in wife Laura’s hometown during the pandemic. He began making bread and pasta for home delivery. Now located in a historic downtown building, The Daley Trade has transitioned into a marketplace and restaurant. Look for an ever-changing menu inspired by the Daleys’ world travels and featuring seasonal, locally grown ingredients, often served with house-made pasta and sourdough bread. − Suzy Fleming Leonard, Florida Today

Star Fish Company | Cortez, Florida

Details: 12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, Fla.; 941-794-1243,

Star Fish Company restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the exceptional Gulf seafood with a view of the bay.

Nestled along Sarasota Bay in the fishing village of Cortez, Star Fish Company offers exceptional Gulf seafood with a generous serving of Old Florida charm. Credit Karen Bell, a third-generation Cortezian dedicated to preserving her family's commercial fishing heritage. She not only owns Star Fish and its adjoining fish market but also a fleet of commercial fishing boats and the adjacent “fish house.” While dining at her dockside restaurant boasting a century of history, you'll be captivated by the fishermen working alongside seabirds and the occasional dolphin. Star Fish serves expertly prepared Florida favorites like grouper, shrimp and oysters. However, the restaurant is particularly renowned for its mullet, a fish best enjoyed fried or blackened with a side of cheese grits. Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Fla.)

Stage Kitchen & Bar | Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Details: 2000 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; 561-408-3685,

Stage Kitchen & Bar restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the creative modern Indian fare.

Stage, with the clean, modern lines of its spacious dining room and leafy outdoor patio, brought big-city buzz to a once monotone patch of Palm Beach County. A lively vibe spirits you through the dining experience, but it is chef/co-owner Pushkar Marathe’s creative, modern-Indian plates that will bring you back. Those bites include a bruleed chicken liver pate spiced with cardamom, green ginger and fenugreek, local fish served in Bengali-style sauce, tandoori churrasco, plus an eclectic array of small plates. Marathe’s innovative cooking earned Stage national acclaim, including a 2023 James Beard Award semifinalist nod. He and Stage partner Andy Dugard defied the odds, having opened just days before the 2020 pandemic shutdown and rebounding into destination status. Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post (Fla.)

Cotton & Rye | Savannah, Georgia

Details: 1801 Habersham St., Savannah, Ga.; 912-777-6286,

Cotton & Rye restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the elevated comfort food that nod to Savannah's long history as a global port city.

A cheese and wine shop was just one of the many ventures that tried and failed to take hold in the midcentury bank building until Savannah native Zach Shultz captured lighting in a bourbon bottle in 2015. With Cotton and Rye, Shultz created a warm industrial space in which to savor elevated comfort foods that seem both achingly familiar and entirely new with each bite. Executive chef Caleb Ayers assembles artful charcuterie boards filled with house-made sausages and cured meats. His curry-infused chicken and dumplings winks and nods at Savannah’s long history as a global port city. Ayers’ chicken thighs and mac ‘n’ cheese are worth the caloric splurge. − Amy Paige Condon, Savannah Morning News (Ga.)

Ardor Breads and Provisions | Peoria, Illinois

Details: 301 SW Water St., Peoria, Ill.; 309-431-7801,

Ardor Breads and Provisions restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends dishes cooked over the crackling flames of a live-fire hearth.

Food cooks over the crackling flames of a live-fire hearth at Ardor Breads and Provisions. The idea of fire and burning is carried into the restaurant’s name. Ardor has roots in the Latin word for burning and describes an intense passion. Founder Cody Scogin opened the business as a “small, humble bakery” in 2020.

As community support grew, though, Scogin said it became evident that “Peoria wanted more.” So Ardor melded its original bakery with a new, full-service restaurant. The business continues to offer its staple baked goods and pastries but now has a seasonal menu for dining. Don't miss the wood-grilled swordfish, corned beef tongue and a kimchi fried chicken sandwich. − Cassidy Waigand, Peoria Journal Star (Ill.)

The Elm | Bloomington, Indiana

Details: 614 E. Second St., Bloomington, Ind.; 812-407-4339,

The Elm restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends seasonal small plates, including pork two ways.

Nestled in the Elm Heights neighborhood next to a 70-plus-foot American elm that gave the restaurant its name, owners Martha and David Moore created a gathering space that invites guests to sit for a cup of coffee and pastry, a cocktail and small plates to share or a meal crafted to excite. Photographs of worldwide adventures adorn the walls while plates are filled with seasonal fare presented in unique ways, from the small plate of Ararat-roasted carrots with chickpea hummus to the pork dish with crispy pork belly and cochinita pibil with orange corn grits, braised and crispy kale and pickled red onions. Carol Kugler, The Herald Times (Bloomington)

Tinker Street | Indianapolis, Indiana

Details: 402 E. 16th St., Indianapolis, Ind.; 317-925-5000,

Tinker Street restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends this celebration of food, meticulously crafted to delight.

Head chef and owner Tom Main brought more than two decades of restaurant experience when he opened Tinker Street in 2015, but it's Main's lifetime of loving food that shines through. The twinkling lights of Tinker's patio entrance welcome diners to a celebration of food, starting with flutes of complimentary champagne dubbed the Tinker Toast. Where a lesser restaurant might call good enough good enough, Main and company fastidiously experiment and, fittingly, tinker with every dish until it's meticulously crafted to delight. Be it crunchy hazelnuts dotting the fried Brussels sprouts or pickled cranberries bursting amid whipped butternut squash, every forkful is a loving ode to all things wholesome and delicious. − Bradley Hohulin, The Indianapolis Star (Indiana)

Harbinger | Des Moines, Iowa

Details: 2724 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines; 515-244-1314,

Harbinger restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the vegetable-forward small plates influenced by the chef-owner's annual trips to Southeast Asia.

Five-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest Joe Tripp opened his vegetable-forward small plates menu restaurant Harbinger in Des Moines in 2018 with an emphasis on advanced cooking techniques and Asian influences. Tripp takes yearly trips, often with staff, to Asia — specifically Vietnam, Korea and Thailand — and brings back ideas to create new seasonal dishes that incorporate farm-to-table ingredients from Iowa. Chef Ryan Skinner makes dishes such as soured farm carrots with a house-made lemongrass sausage, a duck breast roasted with hoisin, and three varieties of steam buns. For a taste of what’s to come, order the tasting menu, seven experimental courses that may end up on the next iteration of the frequently changing menu. — Susan Stapleton, Des Moines Register

The Webster | Iowa City, Iowa

Details: 202 N. Linn St., Iowa City, Iowa; 319-800-0720,

The Webster restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends sharing several plates and stealing a bit from every dish.

Less than a mile away from Iowa City’s crowded bars catering to college students is the Webster, providing patrons an elevated dining experience in the city’s historic Northside neighborhood. Chef and restaurateur Sam Gelman, whose culinary experience includes years with the Momofuku group established by chef David Chang, operates his restaurant at the site of what was a drugstore he visited for lunch with his father and grandfather as a youngster. The Webster, named after his grandfather, offers guests a menu reflective of the seasons with a focus on sourcing products from the Midwest. Small portions encourage diners to order several plates for the table — and to steal a bite from every dish. — Paris Barraza, Des Moines Register

Barn 8 | Goshen, Kentucky

Details: 10500 W. Highway 42, Goshen, Ky.; 502-398-9289,

Barn 8 restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends this destination restaurant set on a modernized old horse farm where you can dine right in a stall.

Barn 8 sits on the 600-acre Hermitage Farm, where visitors can take in the sights of rolling equine farmland, edible gardens and greenhouses. Since Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, known for founding 21c Museum Hotels among other ventures, opened Barn 8 in 2020, the place has become a go-to for locals and visitors alike. And why not? What could be more Kentucky than tables available inside horse stalls and surrounded by stacks of bourbon barrels? While the 19th-century structure maintains the frame of a barn stuck in time, the space is modernized with decor, artwork, leather chairs and upscale details. From the seasonal menu, consider the cast iron cornbread, which requires a 15-minute wait to be made from scratch, and go from there. Simple dishes such as house-made bread, spaghetti and burrata shine, while the pork loin and duck breast entrees are favorites. Dessert options also change frequently, but a banana date cake is a top recommendation during the winter. − Amanda Hancock, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.)

Nami | Louisville, Kentucky

Details: 835 E. Main St., Louisville, Ky.; 502.690.2067,

Nami restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends this modern Korean steakhouse from the city's best known food personality, Edward Lee.

After 20 years in Louisville, the city’s best-known food personality, Korean American chef Edward Lee, opened a Korean restaurant here. Lee last opened a Korean restaurant as a 25-year-old first-time owner in New York City. Louisville, which has championed the chef for the success of 610 Magnolia and his many awards, was ready for a look at Nami, which means “I am beautiful” in Korean. The modern Korean steakhouse arrived last May, and it’s clear people like what they see and taste. Between the welcoming atmosphere and menu, featuring Korean barbecue dishes, bibimbap rice bowls and kimbap hand rolls, there are many reasons to return. Amanda Hancock, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.)

Dakar NOLA | New Orleans, Louisiana

Details: 3814 Magazine St., New Orleans; 504-493-939,

Dakar NOLA restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the menu that makes delicious connections between Senegalese and Creole cuisine — where diner is as much a performance as a meal.

Serigne Mbaye grew up in Senegal. When he arrived in New Orleans, he found familiar flavors. The city’s Creole cooking, like the food he grew up eating, often relies on layered, slow-cooked dishes. At Dakar NOLA, his first restaurant, Mbaye mines the connections between the two cuisines. Guests sit at communal tables, and the prix fixe dinner is as much a performance as a meal. With each course, Mbaye comes out of the kitchen and offers a story. The intensely flavored black-eyed peas with palm oil, for example, were inspired by the last meal fed to enslaved Africans before crossing the Atlantic. His jollof rice, an African staple, is delicious evidence of the origin of Louisiana’s jambalaya. Mbaye, a quiet perfectionist, can also leave the room speechless with the confidence of his cooking. − Todd A. Price, ˽ýӳ Network (South)

Fat Calf Brasserie | Shreveport, Louisiana

Details: 3030 Creswell Ave., Shreveport, La.; 318-351-2253,

Fat Calf Brasserie restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends seasonal French-inspired Southern dishes, including crispy Brussels sprouts.

A brasserie is a small, informal and unpretentious neighborhood restaurant. Owners Anthony and Amanda Felan fulfill that definition with their small but welcoming restaurant serving French-inspired Southern cuisine. Customers can expect a variety of shareable appetizers and hearty entrees, a nice selection of craft beers, specialty cocktails and wine. The menu, with plates such as a crispy Brussels sprouts and crispy duck breast, changes with the seasons and uses locally sourced ingredients. − Makenzie Boucher, The Shreveport Times

Black Goat Test Kitchen & Supperclub | Warren, Maine

Details: 310 Main St., Warren, Me.; 206-276-5231,

Black Goat Test Kitchen & Supperclub restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the special-occasion multi-course feasts that are very much a taste of Maine.

Overlooking the scenic St. George River in the sleepy midcoast town of Warren, dinners are treated to an intimate meal served at a long, rustic table set for 12. Candlelight provides ambience while aromas waft from the adjacent open kitchen. There, chefs Derek Ronspies and Cat Biggar prepare the multi-course feasts of Black Goat’s supper club. The pair moved to Maine from Washington state in August to run their special event restaurant. They collaborate with a local brewery, winery or cidery for a four-course pairing dinner. Their menus are very much a taste of Maine, from local oysters to freshly caught arctic char to native mushrooms or black garlic. Ronspies' dishes are layered with flavors and textures: contrasting meats and vegetables, greens and grains. Biggar’s desserts are sampler plates likely to include, but not star, macarons and ice cream. − Gail Ciampa, The Providence Journal (R.I.)

Selden Standard | Detroit, Michigan

Details: 3921 2nd Ave., Detroit, Mich.; 313-438-5055,

Selden Standard restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends seasonal ingredients, housemade pastas and breads and Michigan-raised meat charred at a wood-fired hearth.

When it opened in 2014, Selden Standard brought a fresh culinary perspective to midtown Detroit, a neighborhood better known for its fast-casual spots and takeout joints than upscale dining establishments. In the decade that followed, the New American restaurant has become a pillar in midtown, which is now a hotbed for some of the city’s most popular restaurants, and a beacon for Detroit’s culinary scene at large. The Selden Standard team has racked up six James Beard nominations and in 2015, the restaurant was named the Detroit Free Press/Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Restaurant of the Year. The space’s modern aesthetic serves as an ideal backdrop for a rotating menu of simply prepared seasonal ingredients, house-made pastas and breads and Michigan-raised meat charred in a wood-fired hearth. − Lyndsay C. Green, Detroit Free Press (Michigan)

Owamni | Minneapolis, Minnesota

Details: 420 South First Street, Minneapolis, Minn.; 612-444-1846,

Owamni restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends delicious, healthful menus featuring food native to North America.

Owamni overlooks its namesake on the Mississippi − Owámniyomni is the Dakota name for the only waterfall on the river, known as St. Anthony Falls in English. At the downtown Minneapolis restaurant, chef Sean Sherman provides a vision of what modern Indigenous food can be. It's not about re-creating traditional dishes but rather removing colonial ingredients and supporting Indigenous food producers through delicious, healthful menus featuring food native to North America. That looks like tepary bean dip, pheasant tacos and a smoked bison ribeye dripping with flavor that shouldn't be missed. Go ahead and order a selection of the tasty sauces to take everything to the next level. By its nature, much of Indigenous food is plant-based and friendly to restricted diets. Sherman has won multiple James Beard awards and is executive director of his nonprofit that seeks to build an entire economy around Indigenous foods. − Liz Schubauer, The Tennessean (Nashville)

Stamps Super Burgers | Jackson, Mississippi

Details: 1801 Dalton St., Jackson, Miss.; 601-352-4555,

Stamps Super Burgers restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends massive burgers served with a friendly smile.

Stamps is a well-known burger joint that offers massive beef burgers, along with turkey burgers, and a portobello burger that weighs 11 ounces − sometimes even more. The family-owned business has a popular, walk-in atmosphere that serves all with a juicy burger and a vibe anyone would love to feel. Owner Phil Stamps Jr. is known to give everyone a greeting when they walk into Stamps Super Burgers, which has been operating in the Washington Addition neighborhood since 1986. − Kiara Fleming, The Clarion Ledger (Jackson, Miss.)

Louis' Basque Corner | Reno, Nevada

Details: Louis' Basque Corner, 301 E. Fourth St., Reno, Nev.; 775-323-7203,

Louis' Basque Corner restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends rustic Basque fare served at communal tables — a quintessential Nevada experience.

Louis' Basque Corner is not up-and-coming; it's not trendy like some Las Vegas dining experience. Sometimes you're seated a little too close to the kitchen. But what Louis' does offer is a taste of Old Nevada, where customers dine at communal tables on fare that sustained the Basque shepherds − soup, beans and bread, lamb, steak and oxtail with fries to sop up the savory juices. The atmosphere is rustic, inviting you to relax, dig in and strike up a conversation with your tablemates. This is the place to bring out-of-state guests for a unique Nevada experience, and it never disappoints. − Peggy Santoro, The Reno Gazette-Journal (Nev.)

Al-Basha | Paterson, New Jersey

Details: 387 Crooks Ave, Paterson, N.J.; 973-345-8558,

Al-Basha restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the incomparable hummus, delicious mezze and meat platters served on wooden boards.

Food lovers will drive for hours, even get on a plane, to dine at the most recent, most fashionable, most buzzed-about spot they've read about, but they never step foot, and thus dine, in one of the most interesting cities in New Jersey: Paterson (America's first industrial city, home of the Great Falls, birthplace of Lou Costello). Big mistake. Paterson has one of the largest Arab American populations in the country and some of the most delicious Middle Eastern eats. The best of them all? Al-Basha, a quarter-century-old Palestinian restaurant, which arguably offers the best hummus in the region, if not, well, the planet. Scoop it up with torn pieces of warm, fluffy pitas. They are reason enough to trek to Al-Basha. But then again, nearly every mezze item is a standout: the crisp falafel, the flavor-packed muhammara, the creamy labneh, the refreshing tabbouleh. Fans know to leave room for the generous array of grilled meats that arrive on big wooden boards. They also know that this is a strict no-booze spot; reward yourself instead with a tall glass of delicious mint lemonade. Bring along the family and lots of friends. This food is meant to be shared. Odds are, however, you’ll still go home with leftovers and a deep desire to return for more. — Esther Davidowitz, The Record (Bergen, N.J.)

Heirloom Kitchen | Old Bridge, New Jersey

Details: 3853 County Road 516, Old Bridge, N.J.; 732-727-9444,

Heirloom Kitchen restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the high-end fare served in an approachable, airy space. You'll never be served the same dish twice.

Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge sprouted from a cooking school tucked in a strip mall into a bustling BYOB dining destination with James Beard semifinalist and “Top Chef” contender David Viana in the kitchen. The restaurant serves creative and colorful renditions of classic dishes with a four-course prix fixe menu and a vegan prix fixe menu. Each week, one dish comes off each menu, never to return, and is replaced with something new. But in the best of both worlds, this high-end fare is served in an approachable, airy space with an open kitchen, chef’s table, mismatched chairs, pops of greenery and a book nook packed with beloved cookbooks, making Heirloom Kitchen a true hidden gem that remains in the unassuming strip mall, even on the heels of astronomical success and two additional restaurants. − Jenna Intersimone, Courier News (Somerville, N.J.)

Sushi by Sea | Ridgefield, New Jersey

Details: Address provided upon reservation, Ridgefield, N.J.;

Sushi by Sea restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the intimate, 12-seat spot that serves 17 courses of globally-inspired sushi to two rounds of guests a night.

Good luck finding Sushi by Sea from the street − New Jersey’s most hush-hush omakase restaurant has no signs, no parking lot and no address on its social pages. As far as the outside world is concerned, the place doesn’t exist. But snag a referral or an invite and you’ll be welcomed into a culinary paradise. Led by an anonymous sushi chef who goes only by the name of “Cris,” the intimate, 12-seat spot serves 17 courses of globally inspired sushi to two rounds of guests a night. Imagine international sashimi from Spanish akami to Korean fluke (with a welcome appearance from Japan’s buttery uni), and you’re just scratching the surface of what the secret restaurant can do. − Kara VanDooijeweert, The Record (Bergen, N.J.)

Mariachi Mexico | Armonk, New York

Details: 405 Main St., Armonk, N.Y.; 914-273-6805,

Mariachi Mexico restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends farm-to-table Mexican dishes served in an intimate setting with simple decor.

Mariachi Mexico in Armonk is not your average Mexican restaurant. You won’t find hanging papel picados or colorful Frida Kahlo murals. Instead, you’ll discover a simple decor and the motto "Eat. Drink. Smile. Love. Cheers to Life" handwritten on a beam near the bar. But it’s not just the interior that sets this intimate, 47-seat restaurant apart. It’s the commitment to local and authentic Mexican ingredients that makes it a standout. Chef-owner Joana Herrera is passionate about using what’s available from local farms and what she finds on her "día de plaza," market days, all of which are listed on the dining room blackboard. Herrera also grows some of her own ingredients on-site. Her commitment to her Mexican birthplace − and its food − is contagious, making for a memorable meal that she often comes out of the kitchen to briefly educate you about. Two things to try: the guacamole with fresh crudités and the shrimp tacos, which features plump shrimp nestled alongside salsa tatemada de molcajete, herbs and lime. − Jeanne Muchnick, The Journal News and lohud.com (Westchester, N.Y.)

Redd | Rochester, New York

Details: 24 Winthrop St., Rochester, N.Y.; 585-483-7333,

Redd restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends wood-fired pizzas and pork belly with apple puree prepared by a Michelen-starred chef.

In what was originally home to a horse-drawn ambulance company, Redd has been serving upscale globally inspired fare in an airy, comfortable environment since 2019. Michelin-star chef and co-owner Richard Reddington had worked in some of the world’s best kitchens before starting his eponymous restaurants Redd, which closed in 2018, and Redd Wood in Napa Valley. His Rochester location, now his home base, is co-owned with Dennis Wilmot. The seasonal menu changes often, and seafood dishes are a highlight. Perennial favorites include wood-fired pizzas; Thai-inspired chicken wings; lobster risotto; and pork belly with apple puree and soy caramel. If you don’t score a reservation, it’s an equally fun experience to sip cocktails and dine at the bar. − Tracy Schuhmacher, Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.)

Neng Jr's | Asheville, North Carolina

Details: 701 Haywood Road, Asheville, N.C.; 828-552-3880,

Neng Jr's restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends this avant-garde Filipino-meets-Southern eatery, a shining star in West Asheville.

Neng Jr’s, an avant-garde Filipino-meets-Southern eatery, is a shining star in West Asheville. Neng Jr’s hidden entrance, in a back alley and up a set of stairs, leads to an unassuming, intimate, 18-seat dining room. Sit at a table or get a front row seat to the kitchen from the counter-style bar. The rotating menu features comforting and delightfully delicious food and exquisite cocktails. Executive chef/co-owner Silver Iocovozzi transports diners to his family’s origins in the Philippines and North Carolina with dishes like adobo oyster, duck adobo, scallop and peach inihaw, pickled shrimp and pork belly lechon. − Tiana Kennell, The Asheville Citizen Times (N.C.)

Catch | Wilmington, North Carolina

Details: 6623 Market St., Wilmington, N.C.; 910-799-3847,

Catch restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends dishes inspired by the Carolina coast prepared by a Bravo 'Top Chef.'

Proof that great things can be found in otherwise nondescript shopping centers, Wilmington native Keith Rhodes, along with wife Angela, opened Catch in 2006 and created a cozy and classy space with a bar and dining room. From his appearance on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” to two − and counting − nominations from the James Beard Foundation, Rhodes has become a well-known proponent for local ingredients, especially seafood. Look for dishes inspired by the Carolina coast (like shrimp and grits and Gullah Geechee seafood stew) as well as those with an international flair (like drunken noodles and Korean-style grilled octopus). Plus, Catch serves great casual fare with its food truck and the Tackle Box Kitchen concept. − Allison Ballard, Wilmington, N.C., StarNews

FYR | Columbus, Ohio

Details: 404 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio; 614-484-5286,

FYR restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends dishes cooked over six different types of fire.

Don’t expect dinner at Fyr to arrive at your table with deep, dark grill marks. Although chef Sebastian La Rocca estimates that at his Latin American-inspired restaurant fire touches 90% of the food, it’s not cooked like food at 90% of other open-fire restaurants. Instead, Fyr serves dishes using locally sourced ingredients that are cooked with techniques he learned in his native Argentina. That includes six types of fire: direct or indirect, in embers or on them, in a wood-fired oven or smoked. The result is dishes such as a 45-day dry-aged tomahawk steak, cooked for three hours near indirect flame and finished on the grill. Even Fyr’s popular chilled tomato is first oven-roasted; it’s served with panela honey, goat cheese, charred onions and sumac. − Bob Vitale, The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

Ma Der Lao Kitchen | Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Details: 1634 N. Blackwelder Ave., Oklahoma City, Okla.; 405-900-5503,

Ma Der Lao Kitchen restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends Laotian dishes such as crispy rice salad, grilled beef and laab, love letters to chef-owner Jeff Chanchaleune’s heritage.

Lao for “come through,” Ma Der is chef-owner Jeff Chanchaleune’s love letter to his family and heritage. Opened in September 2021, Ma Der has been named to top-restaurant lists by The New York Times and Bon Appetit, and Chanchaleune received his second James Beard nomination in 2023, becoming a finalist for Best Chef: Southwest. The menu more than satisfies with family-style service that allows guests to sample various Laotian dishes at a wallet-friendly price point. Freestyle Fridays and regular pop-ups bring new and off-menu ideas and collaborations to the table. The crispy rice salad, grilled beef and laab (available in a vegan option) are must-haves, and keep an eye on the daily specials, which are delicious flavor bombs unique to each weekday. — JaNae Williams, The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City)

Doro Bet | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Details: 4533 Baltimore Ave, Philadelphia, Pa.; 215-921-6558,

Doro Bet restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the life-changing fried chicken.

Not everyone can claim to have invented a cuisine. But before Mebruka Kane made her first batch of berbere-spiced, wafer-crisp and unendingly juicy Ethiopian fried chicken in the spring of 2021, it’s fair to say nothing like it existed in the world. “Fried chicken is not traditional in Ethiopia,” she said. But her American-born children loved Chick-fil-A, so she added her own twist. Sure, you could die of tender heartbreak while tasting Kane’s fresh-built shawarma or long-simmered doro wot chicken leg at Doro Bet, the clean-lined West Philly fast-casual Ethiopian chicken house Kane shares with her sister, Hayat Ali. But it’s their fried chicken that made them famous for hundreds of miles: breaded with the nutty pop and crackle of teff and tapioca flours, marinated in buttermilk with earthy-fiery berbere spice mixed by a sister in Ethiopia. Like it mild? The gentle turmeric in the mild “alicha” fried chicken, also found in Doro Bet’s heavenly collards, will soothe you into submission. Even better, for those long denied their fried chicken fix? It’s all gluten-free. − Matthew Korfhage, The News Journal (Wilmington, Del.)

The Speckled Egg Cafe | New Hope, Pennsylvania

Details: 6326 Greenhill Road, New Hope, Pa.;

The Speckled Egg Cafe restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the ever-changing menu of breakfast and lunch.

Open Tuesdays and Saturdays at Rice’s Market, The Speckled Egg Cafe feels like stepping into a cozy kitchen where customers are welcomed like long-awaited houseguests. The laid-back and charming owners, Tony Artur and Chef Megan Loos, originally opened their cafe in 2021 across the river at the Golden Nugget Antique Flea Market before landing at Rice’s in 2022. The cafe features a regularly changing menu of breakfast and lunch items, showcasing the pair’s creativity at turning locally sourced ingredients into unexpected dishes. Recent specials have included sticky pork belly congee, tomato eggs Benedict atop a zucchini waffle, and a honey-brined chicken thigh on creamy mascarpone polenta. And if it's available, don't miss their sought-after rosewater-glazed sesame doughnuts. − Michele Haddon, The Intelligencer (Pa.)

Viet Thai Cafe | York, Pennsylvania

Details: 2535 E. Market St., York, Pa.; 717-846-9302,

Viet Thai Cafe restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends this pioneer of Asian fusion dining in central Pennsylvania.

A pioneer of Asian fusion dining in central Pennsylvania, the Viet Thai Cafe has grown under the care of the same family since 1996. Originally trying to run a neighborhood diner serving American food, Yen Nguyen suggested to her son Hoa that they try cooking what they know. Yorkers tasted Thai food for the first time and kept coming back with the personal touch of the family. Today, in a larger location, daughter Jennifer and Joseph DiMarcello, who started as a dishwasher in 1998 and married into the family, manage the restaurant with Jennifer's brother Francis. They offer a large menu of Vietnamese, Thai and Loa fusion and a sushi bar. − Lena Tzivekis, York Daily Record (Pa.)

Sly Fox Den Too | Charlestown, Rhode Island

Details: 4349 South County Trail, Charlestown, R.I.; 401-642-7350,

Sly Fox Den Too restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends this spot where Sherry Pocknett became the first Indigenous female chef to win a James Beard Award.

Tucked away in a rural corner of Rhode Island, the red façade of Sly Fox Den Too looks more like a home, with a little herb garden and a lot of picnic tables, when visitors first drive up to it. Chef Sherry Pocknett opened the cozy spot in 2021, and just two years later she became the first Indigenous female chef to win a James Beard Award. The menu is a reflection of Pocknett’s cultural roots and creativity, with dishes like Fire Cracker Shrimp & Nausamp topped with a spicy garlic sauce, the Three-Sisters Succotash with an East Coast mix of corn, squash and beans, and the Cape Coddah’ featuring cranberry walnut hotcakes. Restaurants where you can order authentic Indigenous cuisine are rare, and this spot will leave you wishing there were more of them. — Katie Landeck, The Providence Journal (R.I.)

Gift Horse | Providence, Rhode Island

Details: 272 Westminster St., Providence, R.I.; 401-383-3813,

Gift Horse restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends local catch served in a convivial environment with a U-shaped bar.

The prominent U-shaped bar makes clear Gift Horse is meant to be a social environment. Guests have views of the raw bar, the busy kitchen and the bartenders making their drinks. Ben Sukle’s restaurant has a clean, modern look that pairs perfectly with chef Sky Haneul Kim’s menu. The focus is on the local catch served in dishes ranging from seafood towers to smoked fish dip with puffed seaweed chips, along with a huge lineup of oysters on the half shell. Caviar and doughboys is an homage to the state's deep-fried savory treat. The smoked scallop rolls spiced with jalapeños will make you forget lobster rolls. Paired with desserts like a cake in a cup and refreshing cocktails, Gift Horse makes a meal to remember. − Gail Ciampa, The Providence Journal (R.I.)

Potchke | Knoxville, Tennessee

Details: 318 N. Gay St., Knoxville, Tenn.;

Potchke restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends Babkas, lox bagels and matzo ball soup at this Jewish deli with a Ukrainian chef-owner.

Tucked behind a towering downtown condo building is an unassuming storefront, branded with just seven cutout letters hanging like an art project in its window: “Potchke.” The word means to fuss or waste time in Yiddish, though dining at this Jewish deli is always time well spent. What’s all the fuss about? At Potchke, chef Laurence Faber, an alum of Tennessee's renowned Blackberry Farm, explores his roots in Ukraine through delicious food with a story in a relaxed environment. Babkas, lox bagels and matzo ball soup are among fan favorites at this pop-up-turned-permanent fixture of Knoxville’s dining scene. — Ryan Wilusz, Knox News, Knoxville, Tenn.

Locust | Nashville Tennessee

Details: 2305 12th Ave. S., Nashville, Tenn.;

Locust restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends exceptional dumplings, clams on buttery toast and oysters with far too much caviar.

Everything about Locust is disarming by design. The chefs, who will also turn out to be your affable, knowledgeable servers, shout boisterous “Hellos!” from the open kitchen as you walk through the door. The 36-seat dining room of blond wood and big windows feels airy and open. The soundtrack ranges from The Pogues to Pantera. You might be encouraged to have a bracing shot of horseradish vodka at lunchtime. You should. James Beard-nominated chef Trevor Moran is behind the tiny restaurant with the huge following, all chasing after a menu so mutable it could change a couple of times in one day. But you can bet on reliably excellent tartare to roll in toasted nori, exceptional dumplings, and some other sumptuous thing such as clams on buttery toast or oysters with far too much caviar. But beyond the stellar ingredients and obvious talent is an X-factor that makes Locust special: It's a really fun place to be. − Mackensy Lunsford, The Tennessean (Nashville)

Mum Foods Smokehouse and Delicatessen | Austin, Texas

Details: 5811 Manor Road, Austin, Texas; 512-270-8021

Mum Foods Smokehouse and Delicatessen restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends the brisket, ribs and sausage that make Mum one of the best barbecue joints in the city.

Geoffrey Ellis’s Mum Foods has been drawing lines for more than a decade, beginning with local farmers markets. But late last year, the chef opened a full-size restaurant serving, yes, his market-famous brisket and pastrami, but also peppery pork ribs, fiery sausage links, corned beef and more. The brisket, ribs and sausage make Mum one of the best barbecue joints in the city, and the corned beef and pastrami sandwiches make it one of the city’s best delis. The pastrami is popular, but the coriander-buzzed corned beef is my favorite. It’s steamed to a tender finish but doesn’t hit the smoker, giving it a purer, beefy, deli meat taste. Stacked high, draped with Swiss cheese and served on a slightly malty and sweet house-made sourdough rye, it makes for the perfect sandwich. − Matthew Odam, Austin American-Statesman (Texas)

Odd Duck | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Details: 939 S. Second St., Milwaukee, Wis.; 414-763-5881,

Odd Duck restaurant review: Our local food writer recommends this vibrant small-plates restaurant with a globe-trotting menu.

For more than a decade, this vibrant small-plates restaurant has effortlessly blended a crafty, globe-trotting menu with pure Midwestern charm. You see it in the handwritten notes left at your table on a special-occasion dinner. You feel it in the vibrant dining space filled with perky potted plants and dozens of duck figurines tucked into the decor. You taste it in the ever-evolving menu, where dishes like Filipino-style pork belly lechon kwali with peanut kare-kare, Haitian beef short rib joumou and chicken-fried oyster mushrooms with Nashville hot sauce share space in artful cohesion. A 2022 James Beard Award semifinalist for outstanding restaurant, the eatery effortlessly doubles as an after-work hangout or a celebration spot where everyone can feel at home. — Rachel Bernhard, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Other restaurants that make our food team swoon

Though most of the restaurants on our list are in the communities in or near where we live and work, our writers love to travel, and when they do, they seek out great meals.

The following are places our writers continue to crave, months after vacation is over.

Holbox | Los Angeles, California

Details: 3655 S. Grand Ave. Unit C9, Los Angeles, 213-986-9972,

Does a restaurant need to be white-tablecloth fancy and over-the-top expensive to earn national accolades? No, and certainly not if that restaurant is Holbox. The counter-service eatery in a Los Angeles food hall serves fresh California seafood inspired by chef-owner Gilberto Cetina’s native Yucatan Peninsula. Cetina, a 2023 James Beard finalist for Best Chef: California, opened the restaurant in 2017 in South Central LA’s Mercado La Paloma. Eight restaurants share a common dining area in the converted garment factory that also houses shops and nonprofits. The Holbox menu features dishes such as Ceviche Mixto with Yucatan octopus, wild Mexican shrimp and Baja striped bass; house-smoked kanpachi tacos with queso Chihuahua, salsa cruda, avocado and peanut chili oil; and Camarones al Mojo de Ajo with roasted local shrimp, garlic butter, cilantro rice, black beans and grilled bread.

Atelier Crenn | San Francisco, California

Details: 3127 Fillmore St., San Francisco Calif.; 415-440-0460, .

At Atelier Crenn, chef and owner Dominique Crenn unites her French heritage with California’s natural bounty to create an unforgettable 14-course pescatarian tasting menu. As the first female chef in the United States to earn three Michelin stars, Crenn is dedicated to providing guests with a unique experience while taking care of the planet. Atellier Crenn is a meat- and dairy-free restaurant with produce supplied by Crenn’s Bleu Belle Farm in Sonoma. Opened in 2011, the restaurant underwent a four-week makeover in early 2023, resulting in a modern dining room with warm wood accents and elements that evoke California’s natural beauty.

Ernesto's | Manhattan, New York

Details: 259 E. Broadway, Manhattan; 646-692-8300,

Let’s begin exactly as you should at Ernesto’s, a darling Basque restaurant that has wowed critics and diners alike since it opened nearly four years ago in a rather remote part of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Order the restaurant’s signature dry, 5-finger Martini, a delicious concoction made with two kinds of sherry and blanc vermouth, garnished with three plump olives on a thin skewer. Leisurely enjoy your drink and then slowly move on to those delectable bar snacks called pintxos: cheesy, shredded chicken croquetas; skewers of sweet and spicy green peppers, green olives, and umami-rich anchovies called gildas; spicy house-made Basque sausage; and that Insta-famous mound of crisp, house-made chips covered with Iberico ham. You can make a meal out of these small plates − and many do − but then you’d miss out on the roasted meats and grilled fish that in the hands of chef Ryan Bartlow may have you swooning. The menu changes frequently. Many of these dishes may no longer be available when you show up. No matter. When a chef is this talented, your only worry is how many dishes you will be able to eat.

Communion | Seattle, Washington

Details: 2350 E. Union St., Seattle; 206-391-8140,

They call it Communion for a reason. Chef-owner Kristi Brown’s grandmother was a deacon and a pastor, and her mother was a church pianist, so the name of this “Seattle Soul” restaurant pays homage to her religious roots. But the restaurant itself brings about communion, a convergence of spirits. It’s about people coming together, feeling intimate and close in this space − all copper and rich blues and browns − and about bringing Seattle itself to the table. Brown, a caterer for many years before opening the restaurant in 2020, has created her own style of cuisine by sourcing ingredients from her city’s neighbors, including immigrants from Southeast Asia and East Africa. She combines that with culinary influences from her childhood and local ingredients − especially seafood − and turns out delightful dishes like coconut clams with Laotian sausage, coconut milk and lemongrass, and a seafood-and-panko stuffed trout with a decadent Bernaise sauce. There’s a sophisticated cocktail program, and you can enjoy drinks and dinner looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows of the ground floor of the former Liberty Bank Building, one of the first Black-owned banks in the Pacific Northwest. 

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