When I go out to eat, I get a recurring sense of déjà vu. The duck-fat fries at a Detroit gastropub remind me of some I had in Houston—and DC and Miami. A Korean-style pork bun gives me a flashback to a dozen other Korean-style pork buns. And then, occasionally, I find restaurants that make me feel like I’ve just taken an unexpected and wonderful trip. After walking down an anonymous avenue in southeast Portland, Oregon, I arrived at Kachka and felt like I’d time-traveled to an old-school Moscow drinking club, complete with a striking portrait of Lenin. On the menu are dishes like Herring Under a Fur Coat (layered herring salad)—a Russian classic I’d never seen at a US restaurant. In Oakland, California, Juhu Beach Club is set in a shopping center near a pawn shop. Chef-owner Preeti Mistry’s cooking is powered not only by memories of childhood trips to Mumbai but also by local ingredients. “People ask what region of India my food is from, and I tell them, ‘Oakland.’”
Mei Mei: Boston
At Mei Mei, siblings Margaret, Irene and Andy Li like to cook with the Chinese and American ingredients of their Boston childhoods. One example: the Double Awesome scallion pancake sandwich stuffed with cheddar. “As kids, we had a great time making scallion pancakes,” says Margaret. “And we ate a lot of grilled cheese.” Today, they cook with all kinds of Asian ingredients, including the panko and rice vinegar they add to kale salad. 506 Park Dr.; meimeiboston.com; 857-250-4959.
Recipe to Try: Kale Salad with Garlicky Panko