Every year, Bon Appétit announces their list of the Top 50 America’s Best New Restaurants. Out of these top 50, they then narrow it down to the top 10. By simply checking out these restaurants’ photos, you know they can’t be wrong. Time to plan a road trip! Click here to see the Top 10 and full list of 50.
Over the last several months, Andrew Knowlton and Julia Kramer criss-crossed the country seeking out the truly original, innovative, and unexpected cooking taking place right now. These are the spots that killed it this year. The restaurants range from a quintessential French bistro to a place that serves pretty much only hummus, an eclectic brewpub to a vodka-soaked Russian joint. The one thing they have in common is this: flat out deliciousness.
1. AL’s Place, San Francisco: To fully appreciate our restaurant of the year, step inside the obsessive, fanatical, and wildly creative world of Chef Aaron London. Trust us, it’s worth the trip.
There is no Al. There is only Aaron London (get it? A.L.?), the passionate 32-year-old chef whose laser focus and immense creativity inform every element of this staggeringly impressive restaurant. In the casual, sun-filled room, London (formerly the chef of the groundbreaking Ubuntu) deep-dives into the possibilities of vegetables. He matches king trumpet mushrooms with fava mayo, turns cantaloupe and sage into gazpacho, adorns baby lettuces with pistachio crumble—and boldly moves most of the meat into the sides section of the menu. A high-order pickler, preserver, and user-of-every-part-of-everything, London’s obsessiveness even carries over to the intensely rich french fries, which are brined for 96 hours in water that has been inoculated with salt and cabbage leaves to aid fermentation before they’re twice-fried. One taste and you’ll agree it’s worth the effort.
2. Gjusta, Los Angeles: It’s a juice bar-bakery-deli-pizzeria-coffee shop-smokehouse—you get the idea. Is there anything this ambitious, do-everything spot doesn’t do well?
This highly precocious, 5,000-square-foot warehouse of a sibling to Venice fixture Gjelina is a D.I.Y. fantasy. Think eight specialty shops rolled into one. It is a juice bar; a coffee bar; a charcuterie counter; an appetizing shop outputting pickled herring, smoked oysters, and gravlax; a pizza place; a sandwich spot; a bakery; and a sacred space for vegetable dishes so vibrant—carrots in house-made hot sauce, rye berries with yogurt—they could bring Alice Waters to tears. The unfairly beautiful crowd is content to consume these impeccable offerings the only place they can—standing along the wall or perched on plastic milk crates in the parking lot. You won’t hesitate to join them.
3. Petit Trois, Los Angeles: What happens when you apply four-star precision to the most classic and comforting cuisine on the planet? Behold, Ludo Lefebvre’s ode to the bistro.
Let anyone who says he doesn’t believe in miracles watch what Ludo Lefebvre does with a couple of eggs and a barely hot skillet, transforming these elemental ingredients into a just-runny-enough Boursin-filled omelet of (dare we say) sublime proportions. Lefebvre’s Petit Trois is a bistro like few others, a place where classics are turned out with such mastery it’s as if you were eating them for the first time. Here, escargot swim in a pool of herby butter, gougères are undainty puffs the size of tennis balls, and specials like sole meunière remind you why dishes like these became canonized. Did we mention there are no tables (only 22 bar and counter seats), no reservations, and all these marvels take place in a strip mall? Praise Ludo.
4. Semilla, Brooklyn: At this intimate tasting counter, every inspired dish comes with a backstory—and every vegetable gets a chance to be front and center.
It’s easy to love this place, but it’s harder to describe it. Vegetables are the focus of every course, but it’s not a vegetarian restaurant. The 18 seats, all at a beautiful U-shape counter, make it look like a wine bar, but…the only thing offered is a tasting menu. Nothing about the place says bakery, but some of the best loaves of bread in the city are coming out of these ovens. So what is Semilla? It’s the very particular vision of chefs José Ramírez-Ruiz and Pamela Yung, who are free to make sorbet out of sorrel, to elaborately roast and hasselback a carrot as the menu’s apex, and to incorporate small amounts of meat when you least expect it, as in a foie-gras dip for perfect little radishes. (See? We told you it wasn’t a vegetarian restaurant.)
5. Parachute, Chicago: At this Korean mom-and-pop shop gone delectably rogue, the only traditional thing about the bibimbap is the bowl its served in.
If the bing bread ever comes off the menu at this creative Korean-American spot, the citizens of Chicago’s Northwest Side might revolt. The over-the-top loaves are the bread version of a loaded baked potato, stuffed with bacon and scallions and served with sour-cream butter. Some of the seating in the intimate and always-crowded space is communal, and that’s because the food here is (truly) built to be shared. How else are you going to get a window into the chefs’ keen understanding of flavor (shown off in their unexpected pairing of chioggia beets with cacao nibs); mastery of dumpling making; and unapologetically bold, funky, spicy renditions of classics like bibimbap and beef hot pot?