There’s nothing better than a superb meal at a hot new restaurant. But what if you had the insider intel to push your experience over the top? From the people to know to the exclusive wine to the off-menu dish that has everyone swooning, here’s our annual guide to dining like a well-heeled local in the buzziest establishments across the U.S. Fuel up the private jet and confirm your reservation, it’s time to dig in.
NEW YORK CITY
(( TAK Room ))
Thomas Keller’s TAK Room is the buzziest spot to hit Hudson Yards. The 180-seat restaurant champions the throwback clubs of yesteryear with a menu of continental classics presented with the midcentury Manhattan glamour of gueridon presentations, Champagne carts and superb people-watching thanks to the illuminati-riddled reservations. Vintage standards such as the New York strip steak and wild Dover sole meunière are finished tableside and nod to the history of New York cuisine, as do desserts like the K+M Dark Chocolate Layer Cake—inspired by the Blackout cake developed during World War II at Ebinger Bakery in Brooklyn. 20 Hudson Yards, 5th Floor, 929.450.4050
Table The Pavilion room’s floor-to-ceiling windows offer breathtaking views of Thomas Heatherwick’s Vessel and the Hudson River. For something more intimate, opt for the art-adorned Jockey room or a purple velvet banquette in the Stockyard bar area for live music performed on a vintage Steinway & Sons (Thursday to Saturday).
The Vintage “Recently, we added a Barolo 1967 from Bartolo Mascarello directly from the winery at $2,000 a bottle,” says Beverage Director Michel Couvreux of the extensive wine list. “We also have a nice vertical of first growth Bordeaux going back to 1982.”
The Eye Candy Spot starlets, Manhattan moguls and priceless works of art in the Jockey room. Works by Robert Mapplethorpe, Slim Aarons and Gianna Commito complement the views.
The jumbo lump crabcake is made with blue crabmeat coated in crushed corn flakes, then pan-fried in clarified butter. It comes with spicy mayonnaise and a salad with Brussels sprouts, shaved carrots, red cabbage and celery tossed in honey-cider vinaigrette.
(( Lazy Betty ))
In Atlanta’s Candler Park neighborhood, Lazy Betty is making a splash with its daring tasting-menu-only dining room. Unlike any other restaurant in the city, the fine dining dishes here are juxtaposed with an extremely relaxed atmosphere—the first-ever reservation, in fact, included an infant, who the restaurant happily accommodated. Co-owners and chefs Aaron Phillips and Ron Hsu (you might recognize him from Netflix’s The Final Table) are young, but don’t be fooled: They’re turning out a level of food on par with some of the finest restaurants in the world. 1530 DeKalb Ave. NE, 404.975.3692
The Table The most intimate place to be is the 10-seat, 10-course chef’s counter. If you’ve got a group, a round table with banquets at the front is a pretty perch from which to view the dining room.
The Pedigree Phillips is formerly of Le Bernardin, Bouley, The Mark and Atlas in Atlanta; Hsu did time at Le Bernardin (as creative director), Le Colonial and more.
The Add-On There’s a Southern spin on caviar service on offer. Try the Lazy Betty reserve caviar with biscuits, cultivated cream and Pol Roger Extra Cuvée de Reserve ($260) to start the meal.
An intimate nook at Lazy Betty allows for a small group to do the tasting menu together.
(( Alcove ))
Sometimes it’s all about the ethereal food. Sometimes, the inspired design. Or the soaring views, impeccable service or VIP buzz. Alcove nails all of the above. Owner Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli (who helped put heavyweights like Island Creek Oyster Bar on the map) and chef Maxime Fanton are dramatically changing the way Boston dines. The cosseting pastas and roasts are made as if by a sweet grandma, yet served in a sprawling cool-but-cozy room that looks directly out to the glowing Zakim Bridge. The cocktail and wine programs are exemplary, and tables are often full of high rollers alighting to TD Garden shows—including those about to take the stage. 50 Lovejoy Wharf, 617.248.0050
The Table Arguably the best seat in the house is No. 75/76, with a perfect view of the Zakim Bridge and the entire restaurant.
The Wine Take advantage of the cellar’s aptitude for scoring hard-to-find vintages like the Wieninger Wein Gemischter Satz, a single vineyard field blend from Vienna—the only capital in the world that’s also a major wine producing region.
The Rumors The staff will never tell you about it, but between Schlesinger-Guidelli’s culinary pedigree (legendary chef Chris Schlesinger is his uncle) and the Garden proximity, you’ll find everyone from Ruth Reichl to certain high-powered Celtics fans here.
Spanish octopus with Yukon Gold potatoes, black olives and ancho chile at Alcove
(( Beverley’s ))
It was only a matter of time before Greg Katz—a former Headington Companies managing director who helped lead the charge of oil billionaire Tim Headington’s restaurants—left his position. With Headington’s blessing, Katz opened Beverley’s, an airy bistro with nods to classics such as Balthazar in New York City and touted cafes in Paris. The vibe is too good to pass up. With windows that surround the space, often open with a breeze coming through; New Order or Neil Diamond on the sound system; and a lush patio unlike anywhere else in Dallas, it’s no wonder no one seems to mind the sometimes hour-plus wait. 3215 N. Fitzhugh Ave., 214.915.8840
The Table When dining with six to eight guests, request table 19, a large banquette in the back of the room that presides over the entire dining room and is right next to the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. If it’s a dinner for two, you can’t beat table 14, tucked in the corner with windows on both sides for lots of natural light.
The Cocktail It’s a gin and tonic like no other. Brilliant bartender Ravi Singh serves this classic in a wine glass, so the herbiness of fresh thyme and juniper hits your sense of smell even before the first sip. The mix of Fords Gin, French vermouth, lavender and Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic water with a turn of fresh cracked black pepper tastes like a vacation.
The Dish The seafood program here is inspired by Katz’s childhood on the South African coast and his summers in Israel. The menu changes depending on availability, but staples include fresh Mediterranean sea bass grilled whole and served on couscous, Gulf red snapper paired with rich whipped potatoes, and Atlantic halibut with asparagus.
Beverley’s decor, a collaboration between owner Greg Katz and Wallace Johnson Studio, include arrangements by florist Patricio Rivera and floor tiles from Marcello Andres. The table shown, according to Katz, is “the baller table,” as it’s the most visible seat in the house.
(( Yūgen ))
Mari Katsumura could not seem more at home in the kitchen of her new contemporary Japanese restaurant, Yūgen. And it makes sense: She grew up in the kitchen of her father’s storied eatery, Yoshi’s Cafe, and has garnered acclaim as a pastry chef and sous-chef at high-end destinations such as Grace and Acadia. Katsumura’s ever-evolving five- and 10-course tasting menus of petal-adorned, beautifully plated renditions of the dishes she grew up eating demonstrate she has integrated comfort food with high-style technique. Buttery-yellow Japanese curry studded with tender beef cheek; and bold, funky, salty crab rice topped with egg yolk and roe are standout examples of what a chef can do when she’s truly in her element. 652 W. Randolph St., 312.265.1008
The Secret Pairing An off-menu sake pairing is the way to go for a stunning range of flavor and texture found in the versatile rice wine. Sip on treasures-—like the silky Fukucho Moon on the Water junmai ginjo, which harkens to the birthplace of ginjo, and nutty Kenbishi Mizuho junmai—perfectly paired with each dish.
The Connoisseur Beverage Director Olivia Noren knows every bottle on her list intimately, and her expert recommendations as a sommelier and certified sake professional offered with her singular charm will elevate any meal.
The Dishware Smooth black dishes are the norm here, but, in particular, a kintsugi-style plate is worthy of extra admiration. In line with the ancient Japanese art of fusing broken pottery with gold-infused lacquer, pottery artist Tosho Maisen created showstopping plateware used to serve Yūgen’s most high-impact fare.
Yūgen’s binchotan-grilled octopus is accented with smoked chanterelles, crispy squid ink and winter huckleberries.
(( Giuseppe & Sons ))
Only in a town like Philadelphia would one of the city’s hottest restaurant groups partner with a century-old bakery to dream up a dining concept that strikes a balance between Center City cool and South Philadelphia soul. These two very distinct worlds collide at Giuseppe & Sons, a red-gravy Italian restaurant wrapped in moody, transportive interior design from Schulson Collective and Termini Brothers Bakery. A street-level luncheonette leads to the sprawling subterranean dining room, where nostalgic plates like Sunday gravy, veal Milanese and orecchiette with sausage are passed around—and around again—dimly lit, plush pink booths. Old black-and-white photographs of nameless faces line the walls, each one quietly, gently saying yes, just one more bite. 1523 Sansom St., 215.399.9199
The Table Where there is Italian food, there are family dinners. More intimate parties should request the Sinatra Room. It’s next to the bar and has a retractable wall for privacy.
The Music Don’t bother asking the bartender which Spotify playlist is on. Nina Tinari, business partner and chief marketing officer at Schulson Collective, chooses all of the music—from Four Seasons standards to Michael Jackson classics—so the music reflects the mood.
The Liqueur Bittersweet after-dinner drink amaro is the star of the cocktail program. Obscure names, along with a robust selection of bottles from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, promise wholly different flavor profiles.
The Palma Fizz with vodka, pressed ginger, lime, mint, rosewater and crystalized ginger; and arancini with tomato, mozzarella and provolone from Giuseppe & Sons
(( PARIS.HAWAII ))
Oahu was abuzz with the arrival of talented chef Yuya Yamanaka. The Hokkaido, Japan, native had moved to the islands to surf, when he was scouted by restaurant group Zetton Inc. With Yamanaka leading new restaurant PARIS.HAWAII, Zetton Inc., in turn, was able to launch an eatery that would showcase the toque’s classic French training using locally sourced Hawaiian ingredients. An eight-course prix fixe menu, which changes seasonally, is served each evening. Critics and locals have been thrilled with the Waikiki hot spot, and after you taste the Big Island beef tartare, you, too, will be in a culinary dream. 413 Seaside Ave., 2nd Floor, 808.212.9282
The Table There are only eight seats and two seatings each night at the chef’s counter (no a la carte available). Plan accordingly, and call ahead.
The Tea The meal is served with tea or wine pairings (yes, tea!), but cocktails are also available.
The Secret Tip Follow Yamanaka’s Instagram account to get the scoop on ingredients and techniques he’s testing and loving, which may very well show up on the next menu update.
The ethereal and delicate Longan dessert with Greek yoghurt and rose water at PARIS.HAWAII
(( Georgia James ))
James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd is doing steak his way at Georgia James. The modern steakhouse, named after his parents Georgia and James, is like coming into the beloved chef’s home, where steaks are seared in cast iron or wood-fire grilled, and comfort-food sides are amplified (think sweet potato white cheddar gratin). Prime local cuts—from dry-aged long-bone ribeye to wet-aged wagyu—are menu stars. Save room: The famous wood-oven baked 1 ½-pound apple pie with cheddar ice cream is on deck. 1100 Westheimer Road, 832.241.5088
The Vibe It’s a little bit rock ’n’ roll, a little bit hip-hop, with a lot of fine whiskey swilling and social buzzing.
The Bottle A 1974 Scarpa Barbaresco Podere Barberis ($924) is on offer. Less than 10,000 bottles were produced and many were never released.
The Cut The long bone 44 Farms ribeye ($150) is dry-aged in-house for 100 days. To finish, the beautifully marbled and tender ribeye is seared and basted with garlic- and thyme-laced butter in a cast iron skillet.
Georgia James serves its chicken liver pate with Honeycrisp apple and caramelized onion preserves, and toasted focaccia.
(( Saline ))
Chef Leo Bongarra is the culinary master behind ultraexclusive Saline—inside 22-room Hotel Joaquin—where breakfast, lunch and dinner are available to guests only. The gourmand has cooked for the James Beard Foundation and the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt, and catered some of Hollywood’s biggest nights (such as the Academy Awards and Golden Globes). After dinner, lounge by the nearby pool as you savor the salty air with a 985 spritzer in hand—a nod to the resort’s North Coast Highway address. 985 N. Coast Highway, 949.494.5294
The Off-Menu Must Ask for the cacio de pepe, which Bongarra learned to make while honing his craft in Rome.
The Clout Since its opening, the Hotel Joaquin has been touted by Vogue, Travel + Leisure, The New York Times and Condé Nast Traveler, among others.
The Package Book the Chef’s Stay at Hotel Joaquin. Bongarra will curate a four-course meal—paired with wine and ocean views.
Oysters with absinthe jelly and mignonette at Saline
(( Punjab Grill ))
CEO Karan Singh wants to serve you refined Indian cuisine. And he wants you to feel like a maharajah when he does it. That’s why he opened Punjab Grill. The restaurant is an ode to extravagance—brass and marble table bases; semiprecious stones inlaid in the booths’ marble panels; a white marble bar inlaid with mother-of-pearl and backlit tiger onyx; a handcarved 40-foot, 12,000-pound wall of pink sandstone; custom fabrics; and more exquisite details make up the space. The menu rivals the decor in its elevated delivery and sensory appeal. Created by bright, young chef Jassi Bindra, the fare is Punjabi with a personal twist. A rare caviar service is unique for an Indian establishment. The burrata small plate can be dressed up with savory shaved truffles. The leg of lamb is flecked with 24K gold leaf. And the cheesecake is made from paneer; it’s silky, lush and one last touch to gild the lily. 427 11th St. NW, 202.813.3004
The Room Known as the Sheesh Mahal, the private dining space is covered in 150,000 handlaid mirrors and is, perhaps, the most over-the-top spot to treat yourself in D.C. (Hermès plates? Please!) It seats up to 10 and costs a minimum of $3,000. Book it, and your wish is the staff’s command.
The Man to Know Singh will stop at nothing to make his diners feel like they’ve stepped inside their own private palace. When a guest asked what dining like a maharaja really is, Singh flew in a real one to prove his point.
The Wine There are some 300 bottles on the list, including a 1990 Château Lafite Rothschild Premier Cru Classe for a cool $2,985
The chicken “red curry” tulsi tikka, marinated in Thai makhani sauce, is among the small plates with which to start your meal at Punjab Grill.
(( The Surf Club Restaurant ))
With multiple Michelin stars to his credit, chef Thomas Keller is revered for his attention to detail and his flawless execution. He handily checks all those boxes at The Surf Club Restaurant, a continental eatery that pays homage to the glamorous fine dining of his youth. This nod to nostalgia sets up expectations before the menu is even presented, thanks to a polished waitstaff well-versed in service. Dishes here are defined by European techniques: a tableside Caesar made in a bowl with garlic, Hass avocado and garden vegetable Louie; and standouts such as the Maine lobster thermidor, which is a pleasure to order and consume. 9011 Collins Ave., Surfside, 305.768.9440
The Spot The experience begins at the bar with a chilled coupe of Pol Roger, the Champagne favored by Winston Churchill whenever he visited the private club for which The Surf Club Restaurant is named.
The Vintage True oenophiles should know the wine list features stellar vintages from the 1970s, such as a 1975 Château Lynch-Bages, an earthy Bordeaux that’s ideal with beef, lamb or game.
The Must-Do Brunch on Saturday and Sunday (11am to 2pm) takes place on the terrace, and no matter what your waiter tells you, the herb omelet with truffle (and caviar, if you must) is the dish to order.
Renowned designer Martin Brudnizki designed the bar and dining room of Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller's The Surf Club Restaurant.
(( Angler ))
Since it opened to great fanfare (and weekslong wait times for a reservation), Joshua Skenes’ foodie-luring Angler has been the toast of the endearingly hard-to-impress San Francisco restaurant scene. Here, parkerhouse rolls come brushed with boar fat and a side of house-cured caviar, and popular dishes include fried rabbit and antelope tartare with breadcrumbs crisped in antelope fat. The star of the show is the sustainably sourced seafood–think creamy purple sea urchin in the shell and whole petrale sole filleted tableside. With sweeping Bay views, a collection of taxidermy worthy of a hunting lodge, and impressive wine and beverage programs, this is an evening to remember. 132 The Embarcadero, 415.872.9442
The Drink You won’t find an umbrella in the BBQ Pineapple Daiquiri. This sophisticated drink involves an intricate process of grilling pineapples over open flames, smoking them and rubbing them with coffee oil.
The Music Pop music from the 1980s would seem like an unlikely soundtrack in comparison to the symphony of flavors at Angler, but, hey, chef Skenes loves it, and it lends a festive vibe to the fine-dining experience.
The Dish Antelope tartare may not be something you crave, but after one taste, it will be. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by each bite, which comes packaged with individually seasoned lettuce leaves.
Angler, located on prime culinary real estate on The Embarcadero in San Francisco, is chef Joshua Skenes' follow-up to three-Michelin-starred Saison.
(( Jeune et Jolie ))
The brainchild of restaurant visionary John Resnick and chef Andrew Bachelier, Jeune et Jolie is a pretty-in-pink jewel box named for their two toddler daughters. And this “young and beautiful” theme translates into all aspects of the experience—from the design and nouvelle cuisine to the wine list. Bachelier and his team’s elaborate culinary performance art, however, is the main event. The new wave French dishes, as Bachelier explains, are inspired by an au courant Paris movement that sees young chefs taking over classic bistros, stripping the white tablecloths and heavy sauce-laden menus, and creating a culture of bistronomy (bistro plus gastronomy). Even the vibe is laced with that je ne sais quoi, an indefinable distinction perfected by the French and desired by all. 2659 State St., 760.637.5266
The Drink Snag a glass of the Absinthe Partisane Vintage 2004 ($100), an incredibly rare off-menu bottle. Made from Pontarlier’s 2004 wormwood harvest, production was limited to only 1,000 bottles.
The Table The Chef’s Table is the premier dining location and seats six to eight. It has been booked out weeks in advance since the restaurant’s opening. The nightly five- to six-course Carte Blanche tasting menu ($85 per person) changes weekly at Bachelier’s whim.
The Aesthetic Design firm Bells + Whistles' main objective was, “How do we convey youth and beauty?” Blush pink banquettes draw you in, while custom terrazzo counters add playfulness. Even the bold tile inlay around the perimeter of the bar contours the space—“the lipstick of the bar, if you will.”
Jeune et Jolie’s design aesthetic is Parisian chic with stylish pink banquettes, gold accents and modern artwork like this painting by Carla Cascales Alimbau.
(( Ocean 44 ))
Ask any Scottsdale resort concierge where the wealthy galavant these days and the answer is unanimous: Ocean 44. Located in the new luxury wing of Scottsdale Fashion Square, this seafood shrine boasts 12,000 square feet of space, an 18-foot shellfish display on ice and a reserve wine list with more than 200 bottles. If the surf—which includes various iterations of sweet lobster, succulent crab, perfectly seared scallops and butter-anointed fresh fish—is not enough to tempt your palate, then there are plenty of cuts of turf for which the restaurant family is known. 4748 N. Goldwater Blvd., 480.867.0044
The Bottle Jeff Mastro, co-owner of Ocean 44, recommends the 2004 Screaming Eagle ($9,993). “There are only a few bottles left in the world,” he says.
The Add-On Top any of the steaks—wet-aged for 28 days—with decadent upgrades, including black truffle sauteed Maine lobster, crabcake Oscar and butter-poached king crab.
The Pro Move The restaurant is steps from the luxury wing of Scottsdale Fashion Square. Precede dinner with a little retail therapy at Bottega Veneta, Salvatore Ferragamo, Prada or Hublot, among other high-end flagship boutiques.
Ocean 44 boasts almost 12,000 square feet of opulent interiors courtesy of Testani Design Troupe.
(( Maum ))
Maum redefines Korean cuisine to spectacular effect. Michael and Meichih Kim (of Redd and Benu) offer one seating, three times a week, with small bites that precede eight or more courses ($175 per person) and available wine pairings ($100). On the menu are a pate-esque blood sausage and salted shrimp mixture; raw oysters with kimchi-flavored ice; and cool buckwheat noodles in dried fish broth with pork belly marinated in fermented soybeans, then grilled and glazed with sour plum. Desserts include sweet potato Mont Blanc and buttermilk mousse with strawberries and sorrel. 322 University Ave., 650.656.8168
The Table One communal table in a minimalist setting allows a maximum of 16 diners to get acquainted over drinks and nibbles before the meal begins.
The Vibe With no sign and tinted glass windows blocking views from outside, Maum offers low-key privacy—just what Silicon Valley types like.
The Sip Specialized pairings, not the steepest prices, are key—as in matching an Austrian 2017 Umathum rosé with a bite of peeled cherry tomatoes in a vinegary kelp and soy sauce broth.
A bowl of white Korean radish custard topped with Maum reserve caviar, charred onion gelee, watermelon radishes, scallions and gold leaf
(( Sara’s ))
Located behind a secret door within celebrity chef Michael Symon’s barbecue hot spot, Mabel’s, the 48-seat dining room at Sara’s is a welcome departure from Las Vegas’ typical supersize venues. From the first step inside the hidden enclave, guests are transported to a refined supper club from a Sinatra-inspired yesteryear—complete with tuxedo-clad servers, tableside preparations and a world-class wine and cocktail list. The French-American menu includes classics such as escargot, foie gras and beef carpaccio, but the Iron Chef, who is frequently spotted here, shines brightest with his elevated interpretations of standard American fare. 4321 W. Flamingo Road, 702.944.5941
The Table Request table No. 315, a plush corner booth with sightlines to the leather-wrapped bar, both tableside carts and nearly every guest in the room.
The Cocktail Though the menu has five versions of Old-Fashioneds, the standout beverage is The New Frontier Rusty Nail, named for the casino that first hosted Elvis in 1956. This creation trades Scotch for mezcal and teases your palate with a housemade Drambuie.
The Secret Burger If you ask nicely, Symon completes the menu with his late-night-only double cheeseburger served with bone marrow, a shot of Dickel Rye and a Miller High Life.
The intimate dining room at Sara’s was designed by Michael Symon’s wife, Liz, in partnership with Parts + Labor Design, with a vibe inspired by 19th century American speakeasies.
(( Nightshade ))
If only one restaurant could define L.A.’s red-hot, globally inspired dining scene, chef Mei Lin’s Nightshade would be it. Located in the city’s burgeoning Arts District, the former Top Chef winner’s industrial-chic flagship draws from her wide range of culinary experiences—from helping out at her family’s Chinese restaurants in the Detroit area as a child to formative years spent on the line at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Las Vegas, Michael Voltaggio’s ink. in Los Angeles and more. Expect bright, bold flavors made from the freshest farm-to-table ingredients in dishes such as Hokkaido scallops with coconut vinaigrette, crispy ginger and coriander; and Lin’s take on Nashville hot chicken, Sichuan hot quail set atop Japanese milk bread and served with housemade pickles. 4923 E. Third St., Ste. 109, 213.626.8888
The Cocktail Don’t miss No. 914. The infusion of shisito peppers in mezcal, mixed with pineapple vinegar, lime and black garlic oil is perfectly balanced.
The Dish The off-menu $128 Peking duck sells out quickly, so place an order when making a reservation. It’s dry-aged for 14 days and served bossam style with strawberry kimchi, strawberry sweet and sour sauce, strawberry hoisin, and housemade chile oil.
The Celeb Fans Gwyneth Paltrow posted on Instagram that @nightshadela was her “Best meal in recent memory.” Kate Hudson and Elijah Wood have also been spotted.
Hokkaido scallops with coconut vinaigrette, crispy ginger and coriander at Nightshade
Photography by: TAK Room photos by Deborah Jones | Lazy Betty photo by Heather Fulbright Grambergs | Alcove photo by Emily Kan; Beverley’s photo by Jill Broussard | Yugen photo by Anthony Tahlier | Giuseppe & Sons photo by Schulson Collective | PARIS.HAWAII photo by Olivier Koning; Georgia James photo by Julie Soefer Photography | Saline photo courtesy of Hotel Joaquin | Punjab Grill photo courtesy of Punjab Grill DC | The Surf Club Restaurant photo by Michael Pisarri | Angler photo courtesy of Angler | Jeune et Jolie photo by Kylle Sebree | Carla Cascales Alimbau painting available at tappancollective.com | Ocean 44 photo courtesy of Ocean 44 | Maum photo by Ai Sugano | Sara’s photo by Clint Jenkins for Palms | The Surf Club Restaurant photo by Michael Pisarri