With a little inspo and in partnership with AMC’s new drama series Feed the Beast, we’ve taken on a new challenge: to bring foodie underdogs to the forefront. The series follows two friends and their dusty pipe dream of opening up a restaurant in the last frontier of New York, the Bronx. Fiction becomes reality in Minneapolis, Charleston, and more as we dine at America’s next greats.
Tune in to the premiere of AMC’s Feed the Beast on Sunday, June 5th at 10/9C.
Welcome to Foreign Correspondents, Houston's only farm-to-table café and patio serving Northern Thai specialties by way of regional Isaan and Lanna recipes from Chef PJ Stoops. The cleverly-named spot (from the Treadsack group – those behind other local faves like Hunky Dory and Bernadine's) is decked out in splashes of neon, green aliens and intergalactic murals compliments of local artist Jon Read. The innovative (and already quickly evolving) menu bears no mention of Thai-staples like Pad Thai or Drunken Noodles, but the Riesling-heavy wine list compliments spicy options like Thai papaya salad and Chiang Mai pork curry. If you're feeling really adventurous – summon your courage and order the balut, a 14-day old duck egg that's self-touted as the best in the country.
Hudson Garden Grill
New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx
AMC’s Feed the Beast tells the story of Tommy (David Schwimmer) and Dion (Jim Sturgess) who are like brothers. Together, they take on the insanity of the New York restaurant world, and navigate its underbelly of petty criminals, corrupt officials and violent mobsters. Hudson Garden Grill is the first foodie spot in the New York Botanical Gardens. The country-style aesthetic – gingham table cloths, no-frills candle chandeliers, whitewashed wooden walls (made from reclaimed red oak that fell during Hurricane Sandy) – comes courtesy of designers Bentel & Bentel. Chef Julian Alonzo whips up seasonal offerings and new American cuisine with ethically and locally sourced foodstuffs from the Hudson Valley. On the menu: roasted duck breast and waffles with duck confit, crispy duck egg, huckleberries, black pepper maple syrup, and monkey bread with honey butter and fleur de sel.
Boston is cool, but sometimes you have to head north of the Charles for trendy spots that have yet to hit the collective radar of the college masses. Right over the river, in Cambridge’s Harvard Square, you’ll find Parsnip, a gem that serves a locally-sourced menu in a spacious dining room with buttery, wooden chevron floors, modern pendant lighting fixtures, and a Mad Men-esque mod bar replete with rectangular shelving, warm backlighting and gold-embellished glasses. If we were to order for you, we'd go for the beef carpaccio with bonito and crispy vegetable salad, soy, shallot and ginger dressing, or the mushroom and fiddlehead cavatelli with pine nuts and whipped goat cheese. We're always down for satiating our sweet tooth, so finish on a high note with a new take on an old favorite – the dark chocolate brownie with milk chocolate mousse, dulce de leche, popcorn ice cream, and lime.
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A wood-fired grill and wok burners are put to work cooking up family-style dishes at restaurateur Tommy Lee’s Chinese kitchen (fittingly housed in an old soy sauce factory). The 57-seater's minimalist design – dark walls, basic wooden tables and dim lighting – take a backseat to the cuisine, while wine director Matt Mulligan sees to it that authentic Asian dishes are met by a refined, two-fold craft beer, cider, wine and cocktail program. Rare, regional dishes and plenty of fermented goodies serve as the backbone of the menu; try out salt and pepper soft shell crabs with bibb lettuce cups, lime mayo and pickled onions, or husband and wife salad with lengua, duck gizzards, macanese chorizo and greens.
A tongue-in-cheek cocktail list always ups a spot’s cool factor in our book, and whoever named the drinks at Butchertown Grocery had quite the fun. Hand-crafted drinks fall under "a little rain," "more than rain," and "little drop of poison," – the most intriguing ones being '29 Gypsies in a Cadillac Stoned,' 'Detective Up Late' and 'Between a Pawn Shop and a Chapel.' Between picking your poison and admiring the raw (but patently pulled together) marble tabled-mosaic tile floored-exposed wooden ceiling-aesthetic the joint delivers, peep the menu for your choice of American or European fare. On offer at the converted grocery store (19th-century brick building and all) are Capriole Farms goat cheese ravioli, basil-fed escargot with herb butter and gruyere cheese, and ham and cheese raclette.
The Darling Oyster Bar
Charleston, South Carolina
A decidedly old-school cool vibe meets Wes Anderson kitsch (in the form of lighthouse canvases, seashell knicknacks and weathered books) at this fourteen-seat raw bar that serves up local littleneck clams, king crab parfait and oysters on busy King Street. While the spot is brand spanking new – they just hit the scene February 25 – they've been lent an established, reputable feel courtesy of their restored, 115-year-old storefront digs. Main courses like snapper ceviche, creole shrimp and geechie boy grits with sweet pepper relish are met by an extensive drink menu – we're talking copious draft beers, cocktails, reds, whites and rosés. If you're going for one of their 6 oyster varieties, pair with the 50/50 with Lunazul Platiño, dill-infused Lillet Blanc and fresh dill, or for something different, try the Smoke on the Harbor – a noteworthy twist on the classic Daiquiri – with Gosling's Gold Rum, lime, sugar, and Compass Box The Peat Monster Scotch Rinse.
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A thirty-year career spanning kitchens across Guam, Switzerland, Japan, Italy and India certainly taught chef Nirmal Monteiro a thing or two about running a kitchen. Sourcing fresh ingredients from local Pacific Northwest producers and spices from authentic Indian purveyors – the five- star chef (who’s worked for Hilton and Vivanta by Taj, among others) helps Nirmal’s eclectic dishes find their footing. Noteworthy plates at the Pioneer Square spot include the Jinga Angaare – fiery, butterflied jumbo prawns in sesame oil flavored with carom seed and chat masala, and Pork Vindaloo – pork shoulder marinated overnight in Nirmal's special blend of slow-cooked spices, palm vinegar, red chilli paste, garlic, and red onion.
Industrial-chic is the name of the game at this modern Swedish-New American restaurant in Minneapolis which features exposed bulb pendant lighting, roomy blue and white booths, bare white walls, and an exposed kitchen. A spot at the chef's table at Upton 43 promises you a seat right inside the kitchen where you can chat with cooks as they plate your dish. Sip on a Vertigo – averna amarro, sour, ginger ale and sliced ginger, and watch resident chef Erick Harcey and his guest chef (each edition he works with someone new) fashion starters like fried gouda with walnut, lingonberry, and herbs, and mains like hay roasted pork chop with carrots, burnt onion, walnut, and nasturtium. Come super hungry and ready for conversation – meals average ten courses and dinner guests eat communally.
What do you choose when you just can't choose? How about a chef incubator bringing innovative local dining concepts to the table in the form of four unique restaurants and two bars? At the Smallman Galley in Pittsburgh, chefs and their restaurants are given an 18-month-run rent free. The first class to settle in the 6,000-foot gastropub-esque space started in September 2015 and will run till March 2017. On the roster is the globally-influenced Aubergine Bistro from chef Rafael Vencio, the farm fresh, veggie-centric Carota Cafe from Jessica Lewis, the bread-based Josephine's Toast from Jacqueline Wardle, and the meat-focused menu from Stephen Eldridge at Provision Pgh. Once you pick a dish (or two) head to the bar where you'll be set up with a perfectly paired libation – be it one of twenty craft beers, wine hailing from Napa, Sonoma or the Willamette Valley, or a top-shelf cocktail.
PDX has chef Jose Chesa to thank for his eponymous venue which spins a modern twist on old world-Catalonian recipes. The cook's modern takes on traditional Spanish dishes from Aragon, Andalusia and Catalonia (all an homage to his childhood and heritage) are particularly aided by his Josper charcoal oven which delivers distinct, flavorful paellas and tapas in the Brasa (Catalan fire) tradition. Check out the carving station with Iberico and other Spanish hams before settling at an understated table and starting with bocata – a smoked chistorra, with a spanish style bun, teriyaki mayo, mahon and date-sherry ketchup, and see for yourself the difference the Josper makes with made-to-order arroz a banda – the chef's choice seafood paella with adobo, sofrito and lobster broth.
With a seasonal selection of mint juleps (fashioned with small batch bourbon), we were all but convinced that Okra was a new Williamsburg venue – not a Phoenix one. The stylish post is helmed by chef Cullen Campbell and mixologist Micah Olson, who work in collaboration to infuse Southern-style plates and drinks with Italian flare. Bread lovers join us in rejoice – the menu has a dedicated focaccia section – and chicken junkies get ready to choose between Tennessee hot and Umbrian-style poultry. Roll up to the flower-box lined patio for a scheduled throwdown – thus far they've been known to welcome new culinary neighbors, toast the Kentucky Derby winners, and host a Southern-style Mother's Day Brunch (glance the calendar here).