Los Angeles: WP24
© Peden + Munk / Courtesy of WP24
Wolfgang Puck was flirting with Asian flavorsat Spago, then at Chinois on Mainlong before most other chefs had ever heard of Szechuan peppercorns. His latest outpost is a glamorous dining room at the new Ritz-Carlton, serving modern Chinese cuisine. Don't miss the dim sumpork dumplings the size of thimbles, spicy chicken dan dan.
Austin: Franklin Barbecue
© Jeff Stockton
There are multiple reasons why so many people come to Aaron Franklin's food trailer, in a parking lot off an interstate frontage road north of downtown Austin. Among them: sublimely smoky brisket with espresso sauce (a sweet-tart-bitter blend of ketchup, cider vinegar and coffee) and large, russet links of slightly coarse beef-and-pork sausage. Having long since reached capacity on his smoker, Franklin is rushing to build a second one and searching for a real building to call home.
Insider's Tip: The line at Austin's Franklin Barbecue is serious; there's already a crowd by 11 a.m., when the aqua-and-white trailer starts serving.
Downtown Napa's revitalized riverfront is home to Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's latest outpost. The surprise hit on the Tokyo-in-California menu is the tuna pizzaa crisp corn tortilla topped with tuna sashimi, anchovy aioli and pickled jalapeño. There are plenty of local wines and imported sakes, plus beers like Morimoto's own Soba Ale, from Oregon's Rogue Brewery.
Boston: Towne Stove and Spirits
© Elevin Studios
Boston culinary icons Lydia Shire and Jasper White first worked together 30 years ago. They've reunited for this two-story, three-dining-room goliath in Boston's Back Bay, which they've decorated with a copper-clad stove and science-lab beakers. The menu ranges from razor clams a la plancha to a lobster menu that includes Shire's wicked lobster popovers.
Washington, DC Estadio
© Stacy Zarin-Goldberg
Vintage World Cup games play on the TV above the bar at owner Mark Kuller and chef Haidar Karoum's new tapas spot, the follow-up to their wine-centric Proof. Karoum's menu includes an excellent blood-sausage bocadillo (sandwich) with Cabrales blue cheese; the mainly Spanish wine list is complemented by frozen "slushitos" in flavors like fresh banana spiked with Irish whiskey.
San Francisco: The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen
Heidi Gibson was an engineer with degrees from MIT. Then she won the national Grilled Cheese Invitational and opened this shop in the city's multimedia gulch. Tech geeks come for well-constructed sandwiches like the Mousetrap, with cheddar, havarti and Monterey Jack on artisanal sourdough.