Esquire’s Best New Restaurants
It’s been a very exciting year in every way. Excellent, highly creative Latino restaurants — like Salinas and Tertulia in New York, Playa in Los Angeles, El Real in Houston, Komali in Dallas, and Tico in Boston — have reached a critical mass so as to push Spanish-Latin American cuisine beyond trendy and into the mainstream. Gastropubs like Girl & the Goat in Chicago and Citizen Public House in Scottsdale, Arizona, continue to flourish. Italian food dominates as always, with new ideas and scrumptious regional food at places like Cotogna in San Francisco and Lincoln Ristorante in New York. Pizza, now ubiquitous in almost every kind of restaurant except sushi bars, gets better and better at places like Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, Donatella in New York, and the Backspace in Austin. And Southern food keeps rising above its down-home image at places like the Capitol Grille in Nashville and Husk in Charleston.
French restaurants — which never went away — have spread out to include the cooking beyond Paris, as in Lyon Bouchon Brasserie and Boulud Sud in New York. And if there is any trend to watch, it’s upscale Indian restaurants, like Junoon in New York and All Spice in San Mateo, California.
If this year’s Best New Restaurants list proves anything, it’s that Big Eating is back, from lobster-stuffed popovers in Boston to bay scallops and bone marrow in New York, from grilled sweetbreads with butternut cream in Austin to pig’s-feet bonbons with sauce piquante in Chicago. Who cares anymore about sea urchins carpaccio in a miso broth or artichoke ice cream made with liquid nitrogen? Let’s all just eat well whenever we can afford to, or as the old song goes, “Enjoy yourself — it’s later than you think.”
The Rules of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants:
1. Restaurants must have opened after mid-August, 2010.
2. Restaurants must not be part of a chain or a branch.
3. Chef-driven restaurants are favored over corporate projects.
4. Esquire pays for the meals.
5. We love mom-and-pop restaurants.
6. We do not like restaurants that don’t take reservations.
7. We frown upon restaurants where you literally cannot engage in conversation because of the loudness of the house music.
8. We take off points where:
•There is a beets-and-goat’s-cheese salad on the menu 365 days a year.
•Waiters have more tattoos than at a circus sideshow.
•Waiters are dressed as if they just got out of bed and threw something on.
•Men are allowed to wear shorts and sandals. (Exceptions: seaside restaurants, food trucks, Disney World.)
•You cannot read the menu in the darkness.
•Any cast member from Jersey Shore would be allowed to dine.
•Wine lists are marked up 300 percent above wholesale.
•Maître d’s wear those really, really fat necktie knots.
•Adam Richman of Man v. Food eats.
•Liquid nitrogen, oysters, chocolate syrup, or caviar are used to make ice cream.
The Full Esquire’s Best New Restaurants List 2011:
Ai Fiori, New York
Boulud Sud, New York
Chicago Cut Steakhouse, Chicago
Cotogna, San Francisco
Dominique’s, New Orleans
1500°, Miami Beach
Fiola, Washington, D.C.
Legal Harborside, Boston
Lincoln Ristorante, New York
Michael Mina, San Francisco — RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR
Millesime, New York
Playa, Los Angeles — CHEF OF THE YEAR: JOHN SEDLAR
The Pullman, Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Ray’s & Stark Bar, Los Angeles
Salinas, New York
Sotto, Los Angeles
Towne Stove & Spirits, Boston
Twenty Five Lusk, San Francisco — DESIGN OF THE YEAR