Andrew Bezek

These are the debuts—some flashy, others low-key—that got us excited about dining in America. 

Food & Wine Editors
November 29, 2018

Hai Hai

Partners Christina Nguyen and Birk Grudem have struck culinary gold with their latest restaurant, a casual showcase of Southeast Asian flavors and textures. Chef Nguyen draws on the flavors she grew up eating while introducing regional delicacies, like water fern cakes and turmeric and dill fish, that she and Grudem encountered on trips to Southeast Asia. Her crispy rice salad of red curry-soaked rice dressed in a fish sauce vinaigrette is a bold, textural wonderland and a great introduction to her style. (Don’t miss their newly introduced brunch, either!)

2121 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN. 612-223-8640

Viale dei Romani

Casey Lane’s Mediterranean wonderland in West Hollywood is the country’s most significant Italian seafood restaurant since Marea in New York, or possibly even Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare (R.I.P.) in Las Vegas. Lane and executive chef Brian Bornemann serve the best crudos—delicate and beautiful preparations of uni, shrimp, mackerel, and much more—and spaghetti with clams in Los Angeles. The many-layered lasagna with what’s billed as the “world’s best Bolognese,” the clam-laden saffron fried rice, and the rabbit pizza are also remarkable at what’s quickly become one of L.A.’s most transporting restaurants.

623 N. La Peer Dr., West Hollywood, CA. 310-691-1600

Antonio Diaz

Ma’am Sir

The most fully realized restaurant in L.A.’s modern Filipino movement, Charles Olalia’s Ma’am Sir has uni-topped lumpia, oxtail kare kare, and longganisa sandwiches. The pork sisig features sweetbreads, and guests have the option of having the dish topped with fried oysters. All this food is funk and sweetness and umami, with the nuance and grace of a chef who has fine-dining chops and is exuberantly showcasing his heritage. The full bar helps makes this place feel like Silver Lake’s best party every single night.

4330 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. 323-741-8371

Suraya

The Lebanese spot opened in Philly’s Fishtown neighborhood in late 2017 with a coffee bar, a little market selling Middle Eastern pantry staples and locally-made goodies, and a seated breakfast and lunch. In May, the team (led by owners Nick Kennedy, Greg Root, Nathalie Richan, and Roland Kassis) introduced much-anticipated dinner service that far exceeded its high expectations. Levant-inspired dishes include vibrant mezze like labne and kibbeh nayyeh, followed by entrées like perfectly-spiced sizzling lamb skewers, whole-grilled fish, and prawns tossed in a bright, cilantro-packed vinaigrette. Behind the 12,000-square-foot, colorfully-tiled space, there’s a lovely little garden, where you can snack on mezze and sip arak.

1528 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, PA. 215-302-1900

Frenchette

The swanky Tribeca brasserie from Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson serves modern French brasserie fare that's inspired hysteria among even the most cynical New York diners. Impressively enough, excitement levels have remained high since the restaurant's April opening, proving that Frenchette was the restaurant New Yorkers desperately needed. 

241 W Broadway, New York, NY. 212-334-3883

Kaido

The owner of two super-popular Miami restaurants, Alter and Brava, 2016 Best New Chef Brad Kilgore turned his newest concept, Kaido, into a triple threat: the multifaceted space includes a Tokyo-inspired drinking den, a secret dining room with a rotating omakase menu, and an outdoor terrace with music. Kilgore serves riffs on Asian street food, including sliced hamachi on a bed of grapefruit with chili vinegar and coriander salt, dashi-glazed fingerling potato served yakitori-style with truffle crème and leeks, and wagyu katsu sandwiches.

151 NE 41st St., Miami, FL.

Courtesy Kaido

Majordomo

It feels like David Chang is going all-in at his first Los Angeles restaurantwhich has a constantly changing menu that he’s developed specifically for L.A. while exploring his Korean roots and other Asian influences. There is no more fun, or consistently surprising, new restaurant in L.A., especially for group-dining. 

1725 Naud St., Los Angeles, CA. 323-545-4880

Grand Catch

The latest full-service restaurant by brothers Sameh and Saed Wadi, Grand Catch is an ambitious take on the classic seafood boil joint. Their obsession with a strip mall boil spot in the suburbs led them to partner with the owner, Thien Ly, to open this new spot that’s practically kitty corner from Macalester College. Ly, a former Louisiana shrimper, brings an intimate knowledge of crustacean cooking as well as a fearless arsenal of spices. Their proprietary Isaan sauce, a concoction of chiles, garlic, and fish sauce, is the perfect and immediate antidote to the bone chills of deep winter.

1672 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN. 651-348-8541

Atomix

The brilliant follow-up from the team behind Atoboy is one of this year's most-hyped openings, and with excellent reason—the tasting menu restaurant, located in Murray Hill, serves beautiful, inspired Korean cuisine. In fact, Ellia and Junghyun Park may be to thank for reinvigorating the very form of the chef's counter.

104 E 30th St, New York, NY. 

Hiden

The appropriately-named Hiden, set up inside a secret room behind the kitchen of Wynwood’s Taco Stand, serves the most sought-after omakase menu in Miami. Led by executive chef Tadashi Shiraishi, the restaurant is disguised in plain sight, slinging 15 courses of sashimi, seared tuna, and other prepared fish flown in overnight from Japan. Shiraishi, who spent time working for Nobu Matsuhisa, singlehandedly preps, cooks, and guides diners through the two-hour experience. Meals are determined by available fish and seasonal ingredients, making it rare for any two experiences to be quite the same. Reservations, which are booked almost three months in advance, are hard to come by. Once confirmed, the evening’s secret numeric code, required to open the restaurant’s camouflaged door, is sent out minutes before go time.

Hiden, 313 NW 25th St., Miami, FL.

Nomad Las Vegas

The NoMad Restaurant in Las Vegas is the most dramatic of Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s NoMad hot spots. The dining room, with 23-foot ceilings, gorgeous chandeliers, and shelves filled with close to 25,000 books, is stunning. The food includes showstoppers like king-crab tagliatelle, hot-and-cold oysters, and flaming desserts. Humm and Guidara know that Las Vegas is about creating all kinds of spectacle, so there’s lobster thermidor, Escoffier-inspired beef Rossini, and, of course, Humm’s famous roast chicken.

3772 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV. 833-706-6623

Benoit Linero

Suerte

The contemporary Mexican kitchen helmed by executive chef Fermín Nuñez is an exhilerating ode to masa and one of the most exciting Austin debuts in recent memory. Do not miss the herb-packed goat barbacoa, nor the braised brisket confit, and arrive early before your reservation to enjoy the killer happy hour. 

1800 E 6th St, Austin, TX. 512-953-0092

Beholder

Milktooth chef Jonathan Brooks' long-anticipated new venture serves genre-defying small and large plates out of a transporting former garage, eliminating any doubts (were there any?) that the chef should stick to breakfast and lunch. Beholder is excellent, plain and simple. 

1844 E 10th St, Indianapolis, IN. 317-419-3471

Popol Vuh

Helmed by chef Jose Alarcon, Popol Vuh takes a highly creative and seasonal approach to Mexican cuisine. Keeping pace with the kinds of menus you might find in Mexico City’s upscale Condesa neighborhood, Alarcon gives us glimpses of new Mexican cuisine that we rarely find this far north: pork cheek terrine tostadas, grilled oysters with huitlacoche crema, and a truly inspired grilled cactus salad. Wisely, the team turned the other half of the space into Centro, a more casual counterpart that refocuses the kitchen’s talent onto tacos and a fine-tuned brunch service.

1414 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis, MN. 612-345-5527

South Philly Barbacoa

Way back before Cristina Martinez and her world-famous lamb tacos landed on the Netflix show Chef’s Table, she sold them out of a food cart with husband Ben Miller starting in 2014. While the duo made the transition to a brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2016, they moved to a bigger space this summer, and now the tacos, made with slow-cooked and sliced-to-order lamb, are served in the brand-new Italian market spot on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. As anyone who’s tasted them will tell you, it’s worth waiting in the predictably long line or getting up early (like, really early) to snag a few when they open the doors at 5 a.m. 

1140 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA. 215-694-3797

Swan and Bar Bevy

Late this year, Grammy award-winning artist Pharrell Williams forayed into the restaurant world with the opening of Swan and Bar Bevy. Through a partnership with South Florida hospitality entrepreneur David Grutman and Europe’s Top Chef winner Jean Imbert, the two-floor concept is set up in Miami’s glitzy Design District, featuring French-American cuisine from Imbert, a few DJ booths, two cocktail bars, and private hangout areas. Swan channels an elegant Art Deco feel with a light and bright space blanketed in shell pink and jade green, while upstairs at Bar Bevy, the atmosphere is darker and a bit more mysterious. Grutman warns this is just the beginning for him and Williams in terms of hospitality projects, though he won’t say exactly what’s next. Regardless, we're excited to keep watching. 

90 NE 39th St., Miami, FL. 

Just/Us

This curious project, the brainchild of five fine-dining veterans looking to upend the conventions of the genre, is one of the most unique and thrilling additions to Twin Cities dining culture. Their nightly themed tasting menus run the gamut from junk food—think: house-made pork skin Doritos—to a broad survey of North African dishes and are priced at $30-$45. Here, the cooks are your servers; moreover, the menu is annotated with notes on who thought up each dish. This is fine dining without the affected elegance, where the labor and brilliance of the people who made your food stand front and center.

465 Wabasha St N, St Paul, MN. 651-424-1080

FOB Kitchen

The beloved Filipino pop-up made its brick-and-mortar debut, and we are all better for it. Opened this November in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood, the new restaurant from chef Jami Dulce (and her wife, Brandi) serves gorgeous, inspired Filipino food in a bright setting. After over three years of running FOB Kitchen in pop-up form, including a residency at Gashead Tavern in San Francisco’s Mission District, the couple made the whole thing permanent with the rabid support of their huge fan base. 

5179 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA. 510-817-4169

Angler

In September, Saison's Joshua Skenes opened Angler in San Francisco, a "sea life focused" restaurant that was easily one of the flashiest, most impressive new projects this year. The 2011 Food & Wine Best New Chef's restaurant features a 32-foot hearth and wood grill, where Angler executive chef Nicolas Ferreira leads the kitchen in executing Skenes’s signature “fire in the sky” technique.

132 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA. 415-872-9442

Bonjwing Lee

Pacific Standard Time

Three-time James Beard Award winner Erling Wu-Bower brought Chicago its most talked-about restaurant of the year, one that centers around two wood-burning ovens and the California-inflected ethos from which it takes its name. 

141 W Erie St, Chicago, IL. 312-736-1778

Cadence

In a city packed with top-notch BYOBs, Cadence stands apart. Located in South Kensington, the new American restaurant shows off the region's best ingredients in entirely unexpected ways, offering seasonal masterpieces like bison tartare, Calabrian cauliflower with lobster bottarga, and beef bavette with rutabaga gratin.

1800 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA. 215-419-7537

El Jardin

Top Chef star Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins opened her excellent modern Mexican restaurant this June, serving complicated, satisfying dishes that draw from pre-Hispanic influences and old Mexican family recipes. Her birria ramen, made with grass-fed Australian goats, is magic in a bowl. “Mexican food is a cuisine of immigrants,” Zepeda-Wilkins told us. “We take things from different cultures and bring in our own tastes, and they work together pretty fantastic. I don’t put myself into the box where it has to be within parameters.”

2885 Perry Road, San Diego, CA. 619-795-2322

Antonio Díaz de Sandi

Kamonegi

The tiny Seattle restaurant made a massive impact this year, serving exquisite handmade soba, tempura, and small plates that inspired well-earned devotion. Born and raised in Tochigi, Japan, chef Mutsuko Soma is one of the most exciting chefs working in the Pacific Northwest today as she raises the visibility of artisan soba. 

1054 N 39th St, Seattle, WA. 206-632-0185

Nyum Bai

Go here. Drawing its name from the phrase "eat rice" in Khmer, the near instantly acclaimed debut restaurant from Nite Yun proves that there's never been a better time to eat in Oakland.The Cambodian-American chef serves masterful sticky ginger fried chicken and lemongrass beef skewers served with chile-dusted pickles. 

Ste. 11, 3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA. 510-500-3338

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