Northern California

By Patricia Unterman


Parkside Cafe Parkside was just a beach shack when it opened about 50 years ago; now it has an indoor café and a flower-filled patio. The menu has expanded too, and now includes dishes like Niman Ranch corned-beef hash with poached eggs and cubes of fried potatoes (served until 2 p.m.) and seared scallops with endive, plums and lemon confit. The Mame's Way burger, named after one of the original owners, is a Stinson Beach classic. DETAILS 43 Arenal Ave.; 415-868-1272.


Blue Heron Bolinas residents fill up the handful of tables at Blue Heron every night, so be sure to make a reservation if you're headed this way. Chef Marty Brendel creates exemplary versions of American classics: juicy sirloin with glazed pearl onions; chicken potpie with a delicate puff-pastry top. A wine-list highlight is the hard-to-find Pleiades Old Vines red. DETAILS 11 Wharf Rd.; 415-868-1102.


The Olema Inn & Restaurant Built in 1876, the inn was one of a few buildings in the area to survive the 1906 earthquake. Now, thanks to chef Ed Vigil, it's gaining renown for its food, like the organic macaroni with a pancetta ragù and the warm salad of wilted chicory with Meyer lemon vinaigrette and Mezzo Secco cheese. DETAILS 10,000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.; 415-663-9559.


Manka's Inverness Lodge These days, every serious chef is on the hunt for great local ingredients, but few define local as strictly as Manka's co-owner Margaret Gradé. About 95 percent of her ingredients come from within 30 minutes of her kitchen door. She serves mussels with hot cream, and tops thin slices of deer with fava beans and watercress. DETAILS 30 Callendar Way; 415-669-1034.


Bovine Bakery A self-proclaimed espresso-free zone, Bovine Bakery serves an organic, aromatic brew from Mendocino's Thanksgiving Coffee Company to go with its huge, buttery bear claws and fruit slippers—triangles of rich, fruit-filled pastry. The Brickmaiden bread sold at Bovine is some of the finest in the state—moist, crisp-crusted loaves, which are made with organic flour and wood-fired in a cottage less than a block away. (The Brickmaiden loaves aren't available on Mondays.) DETAILS 11315 Hwy. 1, Point Reyes Station; 415-663-9420.

Hog Island Oyster Company For shellfish lovers, few things surpass the thrill of eating oysters a few yards from where they're harvested. At Hog Island Oyster Company, customers get to put on rubber gloves and shuck their own Sweetwaters, Kumamotos and Atlantics as soon as they're pulled out of Tomales Bay. First-timers get the hang of it quickly. Hog Island provides the lemons and hot sauce, but you bring the wine. DETAILS 20215 Hwy. 1, Marshall; 415-663-9218.

Going Coastal

Pine Cone Diner A display of 1940s plates makes for a homey setting at this diner in Point Reyes, California. Breakfast is the best time to visit: Biscuits are topped with sausage and gravy; chilaquiles, made from fried tortillas, are tossed with eggs, cheese and salsa. DETAILS 60 Fourth St., Point Reyes Station; 415-663-1536.


By Mat Schaffer


Barnstable Restaurant and Tavern Bob Calderone left the formal trappings of Boston's Anago to open this laid-back restaurant. Here, in an intimate 18th-century building, he's frying seafood, making pastas like spaghetti with anchovies, and serving fancier dishes like roast duck with orange liqueur, cranberries and ginger. DETAILS 3176 Main St., Barnstable; 508-362-2355.

Clem & Ursie's A clam shack that serves barbecue? It sounds dicey, but Clem & Ursie's pulls it off, with terrific shucked shellfish and meaty ribs. DETAILS 85 Shankpainter Rd., Provincetown; 508-487-2333.


Balance Ted Danson, Carly Simon and Bruce Willis are regulars at Balance, where they share the spotlight with chef and owner Benjamin deForest. DeForest grew up on the island, and he's passionate about its ingredients, which he shows off in dishes like his pan-roasted bluefish with potato, apple and bacon hash. DETAILS 57 Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs; 508-696-3000.

Lure Chef Ed Gannon, formerly of the Four Seasons Boston, moved to the Vineyard for its great seafood. An avid fisherman, he excels at cooking lightly sauced catch-of-the-day dishes as well as complex ones like halibut in a saffron-bouillabaisse broth. The outdoor deck is a scenic spot for cocktails. DETAILS The Winnetu Inn & Resort, 31 Dunes Rd., Edgartown; 508-627-3663.

Mediterranean For the menu at their new BYOB, Black Dog Tavern veterans Doug and Leslie Hewson found recipe ideas all over the Mediterranean: seafood stew comes from Spain and codfish with feta-potato cakes from Greece. DETAILS 52 Beach Rd., Vineyard Haven; 508-693-1617.


American Seasons A newly installed bar has been a big hit, but most visitors still come for chef and owner Michael LaScola's regional American menu. His molasses-glazed pork chops are inspired by the South, and his roasted Atlantic halibut by the outstanding local fish. DETAILS 80 Centre St.; 508-228-7111.

Cinco At Nantucket's year-old Cinco, a Mediterranean design scheme and pitchers of fruity sangria are perfect complements to the Spanish-influenced cuisine from chef Jason Carroll: spice-rubbed pork tenderloin, citrusy striped-bass seviche and seared blue fin with emerald-green herb oil. The bronze sculpture on Cinco's walkway is actually a horse, not a bull, as most patrons believe. DETAILS 5 Amelia Dr., Nantucket; 508-325-5151.

Sfoglia In addition to the fabulous Mediterranean-style food from husband and wife Ron and Colleen Suhanosky—such as fried rock shrimp with lemon and spicy honey, or roasted lobster tail with shaved fennel and pesto—Sfoglia has transcendent bread. If you want to take a loaf home, call a day ahead. DETAILS 130 Pleasant St.; 508-325-4500.

South Carolina

By Matt Lee and Ted Lee


Fig Massachusetts-born Mike Lata left the helm at Charleston's Anson, where he earned his reputation, to start his own place just a few blocks away. The decor suggests a college-town café, but Lata's cooking is pure brasserie, offering classics like coq au vin and a crispy-skinned duck confit with frisée and lardons. Lata's commitment to freshness (he's the guy who pioneered house-ground grits at Anson) is evident in his stellar warm salad of white shrimp, pancetta and radicchio. DETAILS 232 Meeting St., Charleston; 843-805-5900.

Fleet Landing Who knew orange life preservers could be a stylish wall decoration? Fleet Landing owners Tradd and Weesie Newton, who founded McCrady's, have created a maritime-chic interior in a 1940s Navy warehouse overlooking Charleston Harbor. Their gently priced menu celebrates the local catch: superb barbecued oysters or low-country shrimp boil with smoky sausage and okra. DETAILS 186 Concord St., Charleston; 843-722-8100.

Louis's at Pawleys Charlestonians grieved when Louis Osteen closed Louis's, his downtown restaurant, four years ago. But Osteen has landed closer to his roots, on Pawleys Island, 70 miles up the coast, where he's still cooking suave, haute low-country cuisine, like preserved duck with grits and red-eye gravy. The Fish Camp Bar, where you can grab a shrimp burger, is next to the restaurant. DETAILS 10880 Ocean Hwy., Pawleys Island; 843-237-8757.

Sienna Ken Vedrinski left the luxe Woodlands Resort & Inn in Summerville to open this colorful, modern trattoria on nearby Daniel Island, a residential development 15 miles north of downtown Charleston. He claims the menu is a tribute to his Italian grand- mother's recipes; whether Nonna made a Gorgonzola gelato that melts into a warm treviso salad with aged balsamic vinegar or a yellowtail crudo with Meyer lemon seems debatable, but they're excellent. Locals don't seem to mind that the place shares a parking lot with a gas station that's lit up like a prison. DETAILS 901 Island Park Dr., Daniel Island; 843-881-8820.

The Woodlands Resort & Inn Scott Crawford had large shoes to fill when he took over the Woodlands' kitchen from Ken Vedrinski. But Crawford (formerly of Norman's in Miami) has proven more than capable, cooking modern American food with a low-country spin: halibut with edamame and honshimejis, and grouper in a Parmigiano-Reggiano-and-country-ham broth. The area's best wine list and most appealing sommelier, Stephane Peltier, remain. DETAILS 125 Parsons Rd., Summerville; 843-875-2600.


The Ocean Room at the Sanctuary A mahogany-and-leather-filled dining room gives the Ocean Room—the main restaurant at Kiawah Island's new $125 million resort—a traditional feel. But chef Chris Brandt's food is innovative, as in his seared diver scallops with fennel-pear mousseline and tart micro sorrel. And pastry chef Claire Chapman's goat-cheese cheesecake is insanely delicious. DETAILS 1 Sanctuary Beach Dr., Kiawah Island; 843-768-6253.