Over the past year, our editors have gloriously eaten their way across America, meticulously consuming all the best burgers, and pizzas, and BBQ they could. Then we turned our sights to figuring out which of the tens of thousands of new restaurants that have opened across the country in the past year deserve to be called the best. And now that the work is done -- and the weight is gained -- here they are (with a neat checklist), in all their gastronomical glory.
King + Duke, Atlanta, GA
What you're getting: Coal roasted onion soup; “The King” with charred corn on the side
Ford Fry is dominating Atlanta right now. After already making everyone freak out for seafood-heavy The Optimist, his latest spot -- a literary-inspired ode to open fire (check out the 24ft hearth in the middle) -- serves up simple, comforting, fire-kissed cuisine and spot-on cocktails. Though many laud “the Duke” burger, you’re going to want to bring a friend and share the other namesake, exec chef Joe Schaefer’s masterpiece: a 1kg bone-in rib eye served alongside roasted marrow bones. Get it with some of that charred spicy corn with bacon and a soft poached egg on the side, and you’ll realize these liars warn't no kings nor dukes at all, but just
low-down humbugs and frauds bad-ass chefs.
Qui, Austin, TX
What you're getting: Cote du boeuf and the cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich for dessert
Paul Qui endeared himself to America by winning Top Chef, but he's been feeding Austin for years at the city's premiere sushi joints and the more wallet-friendly East Side King trailers. The dude literally has a key (qui!) to the city, and with the success of his eponymous restaurant, Austin won't be changing the locks anytime soon. The space incorporates murals from punk rocker Peelander Yellow alongside wow-worthy woodwork, with an open kitchen that's plating high-concept fare like Rabbit 7 Ways, superior cuts of beef like a gigantic shareable Wagyu rib eye, and innovative desserts like a cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich.
Ribelle, Brookline, MA
What you're getting: Whatever’s on the menu that night (though hope they’ve got the lamb tartare)
Chef Tim Maslow made his name after coming back from a stint at David Chang’s Momofuku Ssam Bar to remake his dad’s diner (Strip T’s) into a culinary darling. And then, with the hype almost deafening, he set out on his own to create Ribelle (“rebel” in Italian!), which he opened in Brookline’s semi-sleepy Washington Square, an interesting, nearly contrarian choice considering everything trendy happening in Fort Point and Somerville. But again, Maslow has proven it doesn’t matter where he is, be it an old diner in Watertown or a spot off the C line; his food -- innovative plays on mostly Italian cuisine -- just works.
Luksus, Brooklyn, NY
What you're getting: The tasting menu, whether you want to or not
Intimate tasting menu restaurants aren’t new, but intimate tasting menu restaurants in the back of world-class beer bars equipped with “flux capacitors” sure are. Slip through Greenpoint’s Torst to find a tiny table in the back, where you’ll take down five courses of not-TOO-delicate Scandinavian plates paired with the very excellent pours from out front, and realize that the only right way to ponder parsnip mousse and silverberry puree is alongside something a little more familiar, called beer.
The Ordinary, Charleston, SC
What you're getting: Razor clams with apple, jalapeño, and cilantro; BBQ white shrimp with charred bread; smoked oysters & saltines, hot sauce
If a former bank-turned-seafood hall where you can eat FIG chef Mike Lata’s damn clever takes on Southern-style ocean eats is ordinary, then everyone has an obligation to move to Charleston. And once you’re there, don’t bother wasting your energy on the delicious, but too-filling large plates. Instead, share eleventy billion small plates, from those clams with just the right touch of tart and spicy notes, to the smoked oysters, to shrimp and blue crab hushpuppies, to pretty much everything else.
Mott St, Chicago, IL
What you're getting: Crab brain fried rice; pork neck
Confusingly situated on Ashland Ave (Mott St runs through Chinatown in NYC), Mott St (the restaurant!) will make you quickly forget about street names once you dive into the Asian street food-inspired menu. Ideally, come with a group so you can attack as much as possible, but don't miss the whiskey-marinated pork neck, served in deliciously fatty bites that seem to embody the best qualities of ribs without the hassle of bones, perfectly cut with a spicy Thai dipping sauce. The crab brain fried rice blends Chinese sausage and coconut with, seemingly, all the best possible flavors one could conceivably extract from the sea. You will briefly ponder what life might be like as a zombie crustacean.
Dusek's, Chicago, IL
What you're getting: General Tso's sweetbreads; fried pork shank with cheddar hushpuppies
This beer-centric outpost from the people behind Longman & Eagle (the cool kid among Chi's Michelin set) is part of a major renovation to the Pilsen neighborhood's historic Thalia Hall (soon to include a music venue). But as much as the deep-cut 24-strong tap list impresses (particularly with Euro selections, in a nod to the spot's Czech roots), you're here to eat. The pillowy General Tso's sweetbreads might render you permanently dissatisfied with Chinese takeout. Then, move onto a beast of a pork shank that's braised and then fried so that the glazed exterior tastes like everything good in the world. You'd literally eat a bucket of the cheddar hushpuppies they're served with if you weren't so busy simultaneously stuffing yourself with pork. Pro tip: end the night with a trip downstairs to Punch House, the affiliated bar that rotates eight different house-made punches on tap in a divey paradise.
Stampede 66, Dallas, TX
What you're getting: Ms. Corbitt’s popover with pimento cheese; the “Freeto-Chili Pie”; chicken-fried buffalo steak
A legend in the Southwestern cuisine game ever since he opened the Routh Street Cafe, chef Stephan Pyles's newest move offers up “Modern Texas” cuisine paying homage to his parents' truck stop restaurant. The space is eccentric and a bit kitschy, and the food, playing this “modern remix of classics” game we see so often nowadays, could flat-out fail in the hands of someone less capable, but Pyles and his damn capable hands somehow makes it all work together. Almost everything on the menu is delicious (what’s up, taco bar?), but you must have one of those popovers, and the Chicken Fried Buffalo steak, and you probably have to save at least some room in your auxiliary stomach for dessert, because those apple cheddar turnovers aren’t going to eat themselves.
Old Major, Denver, CO
What you're getting: Nose to Tail Plate
Denver's LoHi neighborhood is bursting at the seams with new, popular bars and restaurants, but Old Major's "elevated farmhouse cuisine" stands out among the pack with exceptional cocktails and decadent, inventive cuisine (think CO rib eye with bleu cheese, foie gras butter, and pork fat fries). If you're smart and/or just understand weekly calendars, swing by on a Wednesday, where you can watch the chef/owner butcher two pigs in-house, you saucy, food-based voyeur! Then you'll eat the fruits of his labor on the Nose to Tail Plate, which features cuts like braised belly, confit rib, schnitzel, ham, and ears, all accompanied by mustard spaetzle, sauerkraut, and a demi-glace.
The Pass & Provisions, Houston, TX
What you're getting: The littleneck clam chowder for two and the yogurt bucatini with lamb Bolognese
The Pass & Provisions are actually two different restaurants with one kitchen; the Pass is chef/owners’ Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan's fancier sibling (the white tablecloth tasting side), and it is, of course, fantastic. But we prefer Provisions, the more casual, laid-back brother, with its reclaimed basketball gym wood walls and 20-seat communal table, fantastic cocktails (get their improvement on the long-tired Moscow Mule, which throws Aperol into the recipe), and fresh accessible eats, like a littleneck clam chowder with braised bacon and bread bowls that made this judgment-filled New Englander long for more -- Oliver Twist-style.
Underbelly, Houston, TX
What you're getting: A bunch of stuff (if they’ve got ‘em: the Korean braised goat & dumplings; the warm slow dough bread; the cornmeal pork chop)
Chef Chris Shepherd considers Houston “the new American Creole city of the South”, thanks to its huge port and diverse population, and he’s doing dishes to mimic said diversity, opting for an eclectic mix that feels Southern, Asian, and a little of everything in-between. Courses are not separated (“no appetizers or entrees — just food” is printed right there on the menu), so just get a bunch and share ‘em and be cool, okay? Although the menu changes frequently, the Korean goat & dumplings have been a longtime mainstay, and you also cannot go wrong with that warm, nearly gooey bread, especially if you sink it into their local honey butter.
Trois Mec, Los Angeles, CA
What you're getting: Whatever they’re serving
We're not big fans of the entire tasting menu system, nor the excruciating act of trying to win the lottery for a table when Trois Mec opens their reservation system every other Friday, nor paying ahead for a meal as if it were a highly coveted Big Head Todd ticket on StubHub. What we are big fans of: the inarguably delicious cuisine from LudoBites’ Ludovic Lefebvre in collab with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal, and the actually semi-affordable price tag (basically $100 per person with tax/tip) considering the level of food you’re getting.
Allumette, Los Angeles, CA
What you're getting: It’s ever-changing, but -- if they’ve got them -- opt for the beef tongue and pancetta cappelletto and the flatiron steak
“Avant-garde comfort food”. That’s how they describe the menu at this Echo Park restaurant, and -- as counter-intuitive as that is -- it fits, thanks to chef Miles Thompson’s crazy-interesting yet weirdly familiar eats. Recent menu moves have included a play on sour cream and chive “potato chips” with smoked white fish, sea urchin cream, and chive, and one on cacio e pepe involving beef tongue and pancetta. Weird? Check. Damn delicious? Check plus.
Momi Ramen, Miami, FL
What you're getting: Pork belly miso ramen
America is in the midst of a full-blown ramen renaissance (ramaissance?), but who’d have thought some of the best in the country is available out of a house in Brickell? Well, Jeffrey Z. Chen, the Hong Kong-born chef behind Momi did, thanks to six years traveling through Japan and working in its ramen houses to immerse himself in the proper techniques, including letting the pork leg bone/marrow base broth simmer for 22hrs, only using natto beans and nameko mushrooms and wheat flour (for the noodles) imported from Japan, and making a pork belly miso ramen that will make you weep tears of salty joy. He’s also shy, so -- no matter how enthused you are about your eats -- please don’t try and kiss him.
All Purpose, Milwaukee, WI
What you're getting: Roast half chicken; pork belly; beef cheek goulash
Helmed by the chef/partner from popular (and awesomely named) Milwaukee standby Crazy Water, AP manages to bring flavors from all over the map to its menu of shareables in a way that feels seamless. The textbook roasted chicken will reveal to you why chefs are always talking about how much they love roasted chicken. And don't be fooled -- you can totally eat the forbidden black rice it's served with. Pork belly with fried green tomato, Sriracha hollandaise, and a sunny-side-up egg is breakfast for dinner at its pinnacle, and beef cheek goulash will make you even more... Hungary! But seriously, get it.
World Street Kitchen, Minneapolis, MN
What you're getting: “La Panza” caramelized lamb belly; "Yum Yum Rice Bowl"; “Aloo Tikki Chaat”
Originally an extremely popular food cart, WSK -- run by the Wadi brothers, Sameh and Saed -- doesn’t, at first glance, feel like it should be on a list like this, with its disposable cutlery and order-at-the-counter fast-casual atmosphere. And then you taste the food, a culinary fusion of all sorts of different flavors, from their Korean BBQ beef short rib Bangkok burritos, to the Morrocan fried chicken biscuit sandwiches, to their signature Yum Yum bowls with that soft cooked egg. Do yourself a favor: get the lamb belly, and your view of the underside of those wooly beasts will be forever changed.
Rolf and Daughters, Nashville, TN
What you're getting: Sourdough bread; either heritage chicken or the Yorkshire pork; any of the pastas
Outside of New York, no restaurant other than (possibly) Hog & Hominy has received the hero's welcome that R&D has over the past year. And what usually comes with such critical acclaim is the possibility of contrarian backlash, but American/Belgian chef Philip Krajeck and his “modern peasant fare” seem to have acquired one of those invincible stars from Super Mario. Everything from the space (in a refurbished factory) to the cocktails (get the Colony Collapse with spiced cherry bitters), to, of course, the food is almost infuriatingly spot-on. And once you taste their fresh-baked sourdough with the strange briny butter, and bite into that crispy-skinned chicken, you’ll leave waving the Rolf and Daughters flag, too.
Cleo’s Cuisine & Convenience, New Orleans, LA
What you're getting: Combo shawarma plate; falafel sandwich; vegetarian plate
Wait. Is a 24-hour falafel joint in a convenience store mainly servicing nearby hospital workers REALLY one of the best new restaurants in the country? According to nearly all of our industry friends in NOLA, yes. An Egyptian couple (the Madkours) run the hole-in-the-wall spot, which has turned into a go-to, under-the-radar move for chefs/bartenders/servers to get some of the best Mediterranean eats (one Israeli-born NOLA chef claims it’s “the closest he’s gotten in the states to great labneh and hummus”) any time of night. And now that they are all very angry with us for revealing the secret, there’s this: the best thing on the menu might actually be the vegetarian plate with fresh falafel, tabouli salad, hummus, grape leaves, and like eleventy other things for under $10. It’s a crazy, crazy world, friends.
Betony, New York, NY
What you're getting: Foie gras bonbons; poached oysters; grilled short rib
Fine dining is at its best when there’s a shandy involved. Instead of threatening my family for not buying a $1200 bottle of Cote de Nuits, Midtown NYC’s newest glittering power-people spot pushed me towards a beer-tail employing a serious porter and a heavy hit of tobacco. The same impressive lack of pretension displayed itself in the food, from the tremendously bar-y fried pickles, to the leafy, charred garnish on the scene-swiping short rib, which my co-eater summed up by saying “I love the idea of grilling lettuce”. It really is a good idea.
Estela, New York, NY
What you're getting: Burrata with salsa verde and charred bread; ricotta dumplings; steak with eggplant, leeks, and anchovies
Just a block from our Soho office, the well-worn (which is impressive, as it just got remodeled) dive bar Botanica has long been a retreat for Thrillist employees to do things we probably shouldn’t, and then not care because it’s nice and dark in there. The perfect foil for that is Estela, which now sits atop Botanica, and serves as a retreat to eat things we really should, all worked up by Uruguayan master Ignacio Mattos. Grab a seat at the bar, order more than you think you should of the small plates and just one of the big boys, and leave the whole "demolishing pizza and classy domestic cans in the torn-up booths below" thing for another Thursday.
Uncle Boon's, New York, NY
What you're getting: "Laab Neuh Gae" (chopped lamb salad); "Pak Pau" (grilled blowfish tails); "Kai Yang Muay Thai" (rotisserie chicken w/ dipping sauces)
Take the time in college you ate a dozen Inferno Wings, combine it with serious kitchen credentials from Per Se, subtract everything else about Per Se, and add a bunch of funky stuff to the walls, and you’ve got Nolita’s Uncle Boon's. Half the dishes from this low-slung Thai temple will attempt to blow your face off (that lamb Laab), the other half you can put on Facebook and actually have people care (the blowfish and frog’s legs… sorry Kermit), and frigid Winter months are the only excuse for drinking anything other than their trademark beer slushie.
Serpico, Philadelphia, PA
What you're getting: "Cope’s Corn Ravioli" and the lamb ribs for two
An all-star collab between Peter Serpico (Momofuku Ko) and Philly restauranteur Stephen Starr (Pizzeria Stella, Frankford Hall, Buddakan, literally what feels like 600 other ones), this dark, brooding restaurant came in with a lot of hype, but managed to deliver thanks to Serpico’s (awesome name) crazy skills in the kitchen. Where else are you going to find hand-torn pasta with snail sausage, or burnt onion mustard on sliced pig head? Or, perhaps more to the point, who else would you trust to pull those things off and make them delicious?
Bar Marco, Pittsburgh, PA
What you're getting: Bacon-wrapped dates; the "Burger"; literally any of the entrées
Though Pittsburgh is known for a lot of things (Steel! Sandwiches with fries in ‘em! That "Black and Yellow" Wiz Khalifa song!), it’s not normally known as a foodie destination of serious note. But thanks to four twentysomething friends — Justin Steel, Kevin Cox, Michael Kreha, and Bobby Fry — sous chef John Heidelmeier, and bar guru Colin Anderson, this just may change. They’ve meticulously renovated a firehouse in the Strip District, crafted the tables and bar themselves, and produced a spot known for its serious cocktails, but the small (and ever-changing) menu of eats is also a true game-changer (especially their most recent bacon and rosemary aioli topped burger), and one of the best brunches in town.
Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME
What you're getting: Local Maine oysters with Tabasco ice, lobster roll (with house mayo), and a "Testarossa"
If you’re trying to capture the vibe of a quaint New England fishing village, you can do much worse than Portland’s Old Port neighborhood. And if you’re trying to capture the vibe of an old school oyster bar that somehow also feels hip and modern, well, we assume you know where this is going. Owned by chefs Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide is a fantastic blend of old/new, as illustrated by their lobster rolls, which they offer up in homemade steamed buns, best with house-made mayo, or — if you’re one of those heretics who likes it warm — cooked with a lemony brown butter. But only get one after you’ve had at least 45 fresh local oysters pulled out of the ice atop their 1200lb giant Maine granite shellfish display.
Levant, Portland, OR
What you're getting: Hearth-roasted lamb… if they have it on the ever-changing menu
In a city that seems to pop out a new, hot restaurant every 15mins, chef Scott Snyder's Levant managed to trump all newcomers this year by turning his place into a culinary United Nations, using French techniques and a centerpiece Tuscan wood-fired grill to fire out Middle Eastern, North African, Iberian, and Sephardic Jewish cuisine. But what the hell does all that mean, aside from making it impossible to classify on Yelp? It means hearty, intensely flavorful dishes like rose-scented duck breast with "dirty" freekeh grains, squid with toasted almonds and preserved lemon, or beef kofta (kind of like meatballs) with berries, pine nuts & yogurt. It also means you'll never eat anything like Snyder's creations anywhere else.
Coqueta, San Francisco, CA
What you're getting: Chicken and English pea croquetas; sunny-side-up egg w/ shrimp, crispy potato & chorizo; the "Pluma"; infinity gin & tonics
Restaurants by celebrity chefs — especially after they’ve become “celebrities” — are all too often disappointing affairs, as judgment and taste gets clouded by the fame, and the money, and the caked-on face makeup. But Michael Chiarello — of Bottega in Napa (and countless TV shows) fame — has somehow managed to escape all that and create yet another masterpiece, this time in the form of his take on Spanish cuisine. He also picked his staff well: extremely talented Chef de Cuisine Ryan McIlwraith’s egg, shrimp, potato & chorizo dish was one of our favorites of the year anywhere; and Barman Joe Cleveland’s Spanish style gin & tonics (there are six, but you must try the Barça and the Jamon Ibérico-infused gin Tariff) will make you fondly recall all that time you never spent in España.
The Cavalier, San Francisco, CA
What you're getting: "Lamb Scrumpets"; "Duck Duck Scotch Egg"; "Sunday Roast Chicken"
The SF restaurant power tandem of owner Anna Weinberg and Chef Jennifer Puccio (creators of beloved spots Marlowe and Park Tavern) have completed their trifecta, this time with a decidedly Californian take on British pub food in a space that looks like what might happen if plaid-clad hipsters invaded an English hunting club. Kick things off with their gin-heavy list of cocktails (we dig the East Indies Sling), and then soak up the booze with fried stuff (the otherworldly lamp scrumpets, a Duck Duck Scotch egg) and, yes, roast chicken, something Puccio is famous for nailing (the mustard-bacon jus doesn’t hurt either). Bonus points if you can get into Marianne’s, the “secret” members-only club in the back, where we once saw Kobe Bryant pretending to pay attention to a bunch of tech guys.
TBD, San Francisco, CA
What you're getting: It changes frequently, but as of now… the cured Iberico ham, the local clams, and the pork chop
A more casual sibling to highly lauded AQ, TBD is the second project from former Princeton soccer powerhouse Matt Semmelhack and Chef Mark Liberman, and is basically an ode to campfire cooking: everything on the menu is cooked on its gigantic, custom wood-fired oven, and the experience of sitting up close to said fire is not unlike that in the woods, in that your entire face starts to feel warm, and your clothes smell pleasantly of fire and sleeping bag make outs. Selections are made from six categories on the menu (Smoked, Plancha, Hearth & Embers, etc.), but don’t miss that ham, or the just-spicy-enough clams.
Il Corvo, Seattle, WA
What you're getting: Whatever chef Mike Easton decides to serve that day
It started as a pop-up inside a gelato shop below Pike Place Market, but this lunch-only spot is now slinging its constantly changing selection of handmade pastas (just three a day, like wild boar tagliatelle or farfalle w/ spicy coppa in butter sauce, until they run out) in a narrow Pioneer Square space decorated with vintage pasta makers, which they don't actually use to make pasta. They use entirely different vintage pasta makers for that.
RockCreek, Seattle, WA
What you're getting: Grilled Hawaiian ono with Marcona almonds, lemon escarole & Medjool date vinaigrette
Opened by an up-and-coming Seattle chef inside a cavernous, corrugated metal space that used to house a construction company, this casual seafoodery is serving a selection of seriously next-level ocean-going eats that rotate depending on what's fresh (guess that means Doug E.'s always on the menu!), and some sweet imbibes, like mezcal oyster shooters(!), from behind an outdoorsy-wallpapered bar.
Bronwyn, Somerville, MA
What you're getting: "Giant Haus Bretzel", the "Giant Wurst Platter", and anything else with “giant” in the name
You know what we like? Biergartens. You know what else we like? Chef Tim Wiechmann (of T.W. Food fame). And when you combine both of those things in a place named after his wife in scorchingly trendy-of-this-moment Union Square, add absolutely top-notch hand-cased sausages, beer-braised pork shanks, an extensive list of German, Austrian, Czech, and even five Polish beers (get the Okocim Pils!), well, the result is a place on this list.
Fine -- technically, they're two restaurants, but it would be a disservice to dismiss either of these sibling spots with wildly different ambiances yet a shared affinity for vibrant Mediterranean flavors. Olio's the more casual of the pair, without a doubt the finest wine bar ever to take root in a 1930s Standard Oil filling station, wisely eschewing gasoline in favor of hummus rich with smoked paprika and chopped nuts that lives up to its royal billing and succulent Cornish game hen. If you're after something more refined, Elaia's waiting for you nearby in a renovated 1890s home with a chef's tasting menu that elevates the same flavors to plated works of art. You can also roll a la carte there, but come on, live a little.
Rose's Luxury, Washington, DC
What you're getting: "Burnt Romaine"; any pasta; pork pho; smoked brisket; everything else
We almost don’t want to talk about how awesome this place is, because we wish it was our own little secret, but it’s already too late, the delicious cat is out of the bag. Named for chef-owner Aaron Silverman’s clearly badass grandma, everything about RL is awesome: from the don’t-take-ourselves-too-seriously bios, to the directions on the menu “order yourself a nice cocktail or glass of wine, choose a couple of…dishes to share, eat, go home, come back tomorrow”, to, of course, the actual food. Basically everything is fantastic and approachable, from the Mexican-ish burnt romaine w/ avocado, poblano & cotija, to the pickle-brined fried chicken, to the… literally everything. So be smart: just order everything and come back tomorrow.
Kevin Alexander is Thrillist's National Food/Drink Executive Editor, and enjoys eating leftover pizza crusts off other people's plates. Follow him to freedom/Twitter at KAlexander03.