Those of us who love restaurants travel the extra mile—and in some cases, thousands of miles—to visit a great one.
Hunter Lewis
Credit: Wes Frazer

Whenever I land in a new city, I make a beeline for a restaurant before heading to my hotel. If I’ve done my scouting, I know exactly where I’m going: a local’s place, preferably chef-owned. A meal at such a spot (along with a visit to the farmers market) is my favorite way to ease into a city’s bloodstream.

Whatever the case, and wherever I might be, the alchemy of great food, service, and hospitality washes away the vagaries of air travel, setting the table for the rest of the trip. Restaurants deliver a quick litmus test of a city’s food culture and a neighborhood’s sense of community. Usually the menu celebrates something delicious growing, swimming, or brewing nearby. Maybe the dining room showcases the creative talents of a local design firm or artist. Most definitely the rapport among staff and customers lays bare the character of the place.

As Restaurant Editor Jordana Rothman writes in “The 2018 Restaurants of the Year," “[The best restaurants] remind us that a good meal can capture the spirit of a place as sharply as a postcard.” Maybe that’s why those of us who love restaurants travel the extra mile—and in some cases, thousands of miles—to visit a great one. In this Restaurants + Travel Issue, you’ll find stories of cross-country pilgrimages, including New England chef Brandon Baltzley’s road trip west to SingleThread in Sonoma County, California, and the tale of the Canlis crew that drove a priceless barrel of whiskey east from Seattle to toast their friends at Eleven Madison Park in New York City.

Few brave souls have embarked on a trip more epic than Jordana herself, who flew some 37,000 miles in six months to find the 10 most captivating new restaurants in America. Along the way, she shared pastries with strangers at an Arab bakery in Oakland, California; ate next-level Filipino food in Los Angeles; experienced a sweet and savory Paris-Brest, the dish of the year, at a reimagined bistro in Minneapolis; apparently listened to a lot of Drake (you’ll have to ask her); and uncovered deeper truths about what it means to operate a restaurant with integrity today.

To read Jordana’s reports is to slide into a banquette across from her and experience a writer entering her prime. She’s the consummate gastro-mensch: well-researched, curious, playful, and always sharing bites of something delicious while bantering with the server and sommelier.

Professional eaters like Jordana know that restaurants aren’t a one-way street. As customers, we, too, share responsibility in the hospitality equation. Brush up on the new rules of dining out with “At Your Service.” We partnered with Culinary Agents to poll their 400,000-plus members in the hospitality business and asked A-level chefs and restaurateurs what guests can do to help make their nights out the best they can be—for everyone involved.

The best guests and the best restaurants share something in common: a commitment to community. Whether down the street or 37,000 miles away, the shared delight of being at the table is something to celebrate.