You’d think that a Michelin star would launch any restaurant into the mainstream. But that’s not always the case, especially in cities filled with next-level dining spots. We've rounded up some of America's most delicious, yet underrated gems.
Within a beautifully-designed space channeling the feel of a home dining room, chef John Shields has been plating one of Chicago’s most exciting and inspired meals for the last year and a half. Set above his more casual American bistro The Loyalist, Smyth embraces umami through fermented ingredients––many from Japan––via five, eight, and 12-course seasonal tasting menus ($95, $145, $195). Think a sourdough doughnut dressed with a mountain of black truffle, after which follows a “simple salad” of black radish, leeks, and ribbons of aged geoduck. While sourcing fresh and local product during a Chicago winter can prove challenging, Smyth works directly with a 20-acre farm about an hour’s drive south of the city.
In a city crowded with sushi, from budget-friendly conveyor belt places to six-seat bars which require reservations years in advance––Sushi Saito is considered one of best restaurants in Tokyo’s. Last summer, chef Saito’s second in command, Shion Uino, decamped after nearly a decade behind the bar to helm Sushi Amane in a Midtown Manhattan basement. Located below Mifune, a Japanese-French hybrid, Amane serves NYC's most authentic sushi, ticketed at $250 a head.
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New York’s sophisticated Korean barbecue newcomer COTE snagged its first Michelin star, right off the bat. This is where to come with a group for excellent, quality-minded grilled meats at very fair prices. After the expected first course display of banchan, order any number of appetizers, like steak tartare or a seasonal crudo prep, then move into meat. What most sets COTE apart from other Korean grill concepts is Kim’s dry aging room, where you'll find porterhouse, rib eye, and New York strip hanging for anywhere from 45 to over 110 days. And because Kim ages meats in-house, he’s able to sell the proteins at a lower price, think $45 for 10 ounces of rib eye, and $42 for 10 ounces of New York strip. But one of the best deals on the menu is the $48 Butcher’s Feast. Expect an abundance of salads and veggies, a kimchi stew and egg soufflé, plus American “wagyu” and USDA Prime beef .
Torishin, which relocated from New York’s Upper East Side to Midtown in 2015, offers the most authentic Japanese yakitori experience in the U.S. Here, chef and owner Shu Ikeda carefully grills all parts of the bird––which he sources from a farm in Pennsylvania––over binchotan charcoal as part of a $160 menu (a separate, larger counter section toward the restaurant’s rear offers lower-priced food sets).
Beyond chicken liver and neck, you’ll also be offered the choice of finishing with a rich tsukemen ramen or rice bowl. JS Tip: Make sure to snag a resy on one of the three days chef Ikeda works (Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday) for a truly transportive Japanese meal.
Roister is The Alinea Group’s more casual––yet still polished––subtly Southern-inflected American restaurant where you’ll find JAY-Z blaring in the background, and a central U-shaped dining bar presiding over an open kitchen. Chef Andrew Brochu, formerly executive chef of The Aviary, heads up the kitchen at this nearly two-year-old Chicago haunt, where ingredient-driven plates of addictive soy and bonito-anointed fries jive alongside shrimp and crab curry-topped grits.
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Perhaps you caught chef Aaron London’s vegetable cookery at Napa’s famed (though now shuttered) plant-based number Ubuntu, and if not, then now is the time to visit his bright and sunny two-year-old Bay Area boîte, AL’s Place. Here, London flips the typical restaurant script by centering his menu around interesting seasonal vegetable preps, with most animal proteins served as sides.
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Although chef Johnny Monis’ Komi has been doling out 12-course, $150 seafood-centered tasting menus for nearly 15 years, it only received its first Michelin nod last year. Perhaps overshadowed by newer kids on the block, this stalwart District eatery, with its easygoing, contemporary look, offers nods to Greece and Italy via seasonal bites of Romenesco with trout roe and a kid goat-stuffed pita.
Tucked away in Forestville, the cozy and quaint Farmhouse Inn is one of Sonoma’s best kept secrets. This micro boutique hotel is housed in an old 1873 farmhouse––as its name suggests––and has 25 rooms, an organic spa, plus a Michelin-starred restaurant. Siblings Joe and Catherine Bartolomei are the owners and, via their nearby ranch, grow most of the seasonal ingredients used in the California-style menu. Protip: Don’t underestimate breakfast, which is curated with the same attention to detail as dinner.
Mourad Lahlou shuttered his lauded fine dining Moroccan staple Aziza nearly two years ago, and is now tending to Mourad. This stunning, high-ceiling temple of Moroccan-flavored, seasonal California cuisine has been serving San Francisco locals for just over two years. We love the octopus with Brussels sprouts and preserved lemon and couscous with sesame and harissa. The expert cocktails stick to the same theme, incorporating fresh ingredient with a pinch of spice.
The Dabney’s understated simplicity translates from its comfortable 52-seat dining room to its Mid-Atlantic menu. Chef Jeremiah Langhorne carefully sources hyper local product to build out slightly Southern inflected plates of chicken and dumplings, and grilled tuna with a country ham vinaigrette. There’s both small dishes and family-style options to choose from, many of which are grilled over the restaurant’s central wood-fired hearth.