9 New Fall Restaurants Worth Traveling For
This fall is all about renovations of beloved classics and lush hybrid spaces (butcher shop-slash-steakhouse, anyone?) that are headlining the dining scene coast to coast. From a neo-diner in a 1960s landmark in Arizona, to a top chef’s second act in Manhattan, contributor Emily Saladino profiles 9 new restaurants worth a trip.
Union Square Cafe, NYC
In 2014, when Danny Meyer’s longstanding New American cafe announced it was priced out of the labyrinthine space it had occupied for nearly 30 years, New Yorkers mourned the loss of another downtown dining institution in the tradition of Chanterelle and Florent. Rather than throw in the kitchen towel, Meyer plans to reopen his seasonally driven kitchen in a lofty space a few blocks north, near Park Avenue South, next month. David Rockwell, of Nobu Fifty Seven and Gato fame, is designing the space, which includes some nods to the original (cafe tables near the front bar), as well as mezzanine seating, cherrywood floors, a private room with its own staff, and a grand staircase in the main dining room.
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Caribbean Room, New Orleans
The latest addition to Nola’s recent hotel boom (the Ace, Old No.77 Hotel & Chandlery) is the Pontchartrain, a 1927 Garden District gem that debuted a $10 million renovation this June. Local impresario John Besh now oversees hotel dining, and installed former Restaurant R’Evolution chef Charles Lusk in the glamorously refurbished, newly reopened Caribbean Room restaurant. Lusk artfully modernizes such iconic Caribbean Room dishes as crab Remick and trout Veronique, but upholds tradition with the classic Mile high pie, a towering pillar of meringue-topped ice cream cake. Jackets are required in the ritzy space, which is kitted out with engraved silverware and original Charles Reinike murals, but casual dressers don’t need to worry -- the restaurant keeps a cache of Billy Reid-tailored loaner sport coats on hand.
Baptiste & Bottle, Chicago
The glittering high-rises along Michigan Avenue will soon be joined by the Conrad Chicago, a 20-story stunner coming to River North in October. Richard Sandoval, who also helms the Latincity food hall less than a mile south in Block 37, has appointed former Charlie Trotter’s chef James Lintelmann to oversee the hotel’s whiskey bar and neo-steakhouse, Baptiste & Bottle. Bourbon and barrel-aged cocktails headline the bar program, which specializes in tableside drinks and includes a locker system for those purchasing bottles onsite. Hearty American fare, charcuterie boards and shareable dishes will sustain the action; a recent tasting in Lintelmann’s kitchen included market-fresh American snacks like drop biscuits with pickled green strawberries, pimento cheese and asparagus.
Fare Well, Washington DC
If custom cutlery and lush Creole cooking sounds too rich for your blood, consider the District’s new vegan diner, pairing plant-based Americana with specialty and classic cocktails in a clean, well-lighted space. Since owner Doron Petersan opened her cult vegan bakery, Sticky Fingers, in 1999, the city’s dining scene has changed considerably, and now also includes vegan-raw Friday night supper club Elizabeth’s Gone Raw and Jose Andres’ vegetarian fast-casual counter Beefsteak. Fare Well’s menu spans breakfast and bakery treats, including a tofu-chickpea Western omelet, as well as drinks-friendly evening fare such as polenta fries with tomato jam, housemade cashew “burrata” with kale pesto, and heart potato pierogi.
In cities across the country, formerly derelicte downtowns are catching a stylish second wind. Providence’s DownCity, for example, now hosts a chic boutique hotel, an indie shopping plaza in an 1828 architectural landmark, and not one but two restaurants from hometown hero and nationally acclaimed chef Benjamin Sukle. After debuting Birch, an intimate tasting table highlighting seasonal Rhode Island bounty, with his wife Heidi in 2013, Sukle recently unveiled Oberlin, a casual New American destination with all the makings of a future institution. The menu includes game-changing crudo, homemade pasta, and lovingly plated Italian-American-accented fare, as well as local craft beer, wine, vermouth and an impressive sake selection
The Butcher's Table, Seattle
Arguably the swankiest place you might grab sandwich fixings, this Downtown destination from Seattle’s venerable Beecher’s team is a hybrid butcher shop, cafe, cocktail bar and steakhouse. The restaurant works with Colorado farmers to source proprietary Mishima Reserve Wagyu beef, which is featured in menu items such as steak tartare and beef fat fries, and available for purchase at the butcher counter. The upper level lounge serves cocktails, snacks and raw bar selections surrounded by sparkling chandeliers and enormous picture windows.
Mister Tuna, Denver, CO
River North cements its reputation as Denver’s new dining power player with the opening of Troy Guard’s chic, vaguely Hawaiian-accented hangout, Mister Tuna. Custom wood-fired and rotisserie grills sear seafood and fresh cuts, honoring the restaurateur’s Oahu upbringing, and the Colorado bounty plays starring and supporting roles in dishes like oak-roasted lamb salad with seasonal stone fruits and local goat cheese. There is also a raw bar, pickled vegetables from a dedicated pickle bar, and a long cocktail bar running the length of the bright, narrow space. The chrome-and-glass aesthetic is mod, and includes an open kitchen and windowed garage doors flanking the tables, but Mister Tuna is ultimately a family affair. The name is a nod to Guard’s father, and the Boss Architecture-designed interior includes a statement mural based on a photo of his (babe alert) mother in the 1970s.
Welcome Diner, Tucson, AZ
Broadway’s Cats notwithstanding, reinventing a beloved classic can be risky. Imagine, then, Tucson’s apprehension at the Phoenix import set to occupy Chaffin’s Diner, a family-owned institution in a mid-century. Welcome Diner, the newcomer in question, is (thankfully) a resounding success. Chef and co-owner Michael Babcock works with area purveyors to source ingredients for elevated, southern-accented American fare such as biscuits with fried chicken and housemade mustard, braised jackfruit fries, and fried green tomatoes on toasted sourdough. Artist and co-owner Sloane McFarland, also of Martha + Mary, honors the original integrity of the space, and adds a breezy patio for outdoor dining.
Tinker Street, Indianapolis, IN
Located on an easygoing, all-American stretch of brick buildings and polite cyclists in Herron Morton, Tinker Street exceeds expectations. The understated A-frame building occupies a corner lot with an airy, decidedly homespun patio lit by twinkling string lights, and the open kitchen turns out deceptively complex, seasonally driven New American dishes including chili-spiked haricots verts, tuna with smoked tomato and ramp kimchi, and s’mores pots de creme with hickory ash. The rustic-industrial interior (exposed beams, mod booths, pendant lamps aplenty) is perennially packed, and the cozy space doesn’t accept reservations, but friendly staffers and gently priced wine list make wait times breeze on by.