Hidden Gems and Delicious Destinations
Out on the road to find inspiring, less-well-known nabes devoted to the fresh, the local, the sustainable—and the drinkable. Produced by Cindy Hatcher
There should be no imbibing without chow. Beaker & Flask matches top-notch food (a small plate of Black Lentil Salad, Shaved Fennel, Radish, Soft Egg) to its craft cocktails. Eating here, you’re in the nerve center of the high-spirited urban equivalent of a winecountry boom. —Ivy Manning
Sustainable seafood is offered throughout Ballard, often appearing on menus with other local items like foraged mushrooms or wild blackberries from the neighborhood’s celebrated Sunday market. But the nexus of culinary creativity is Staple & Fancy, where Chef Ethan Stowell plates family-style feasts, featuring grilled sardines and geoduck crudo. Bivalve fans migrate to The Walrus & the Carpenter (pictured), perhaps the Northwest’s finest oyster bar.
If you really want to experience what fishing-dock neighborhoods can feel like in this age of sustainability, buy directly from boats at Fishermen’s Terminal. Each shimmering chinook salmon is a reminder that, for the North Pacific’s fleet, Ballard is where the sea begins. —Hanna Raskin
This is no romantic sipping experience; it’s a fluorescent-lit warehouse located behind a Home Depot. But you’re clinking glasses with the winemakers themselves, and their passion for what’s coming out of nearby vineyards can be every bit as beautiful as those scenic Napa clichés. —Cindy Hatcher
A Mission District staple since 1940, Bi-Rite has recently evolved to earn a cult following for its local, organic produce, outstanding California wine selection, and tall counter of pasture-raised meat and sustainable Pacific seafood that glows like a gourmet altar. Small as it is, this grocery now has its own cookbook (2011’s Eat Good Food), three organic farms, an artisanal ice creamery, and a nonprofit called 18 Reasons, where home chefs gather around a reclaimed cypress-tree table for low-cost, urban-farm-to-apartment-table workshops, ranging from pickling basics to edible perfumery. —Alison Bing
Just east of downtown at Eagle Rock Brewery, a fedora-clad crowd sips beers with names like Revolution (an American extrapale ale) and Manifesto (a Belgian white spiced with coriander and citrus). Add a burger or salad from the Flatiron Food Truck parked out front, and it’s one of the city’s most affordable, diverse beer brunches.
Brew fans enjoy small plates of intensely flavored pub fare like the bäco, a hybrid flatbread and taco, at Chef Josef Centeno’s Bäco Mercat (pictured), while Arts District newcomer Little Bear goes the all-out Belgian-style beer route (17 offerings on tap), serving up reinvented Belgian-accented dishes like house-smoked salmon with beluga lentils. —Jenn Garbee
Start at The Main Ingredient Ale House & Café, a gastropub located in what was once a brick bungalow. Grab a chair on the front porch and enjoy a leisurely pint, or linger over a beer and a vegan cashew butter and red pepper–cabernet jelly sourdough sandwich on the former home’s backyard-turned-restaurant patio.
On Seventh Street, you’ll find Coronado’s newcomers like Rice Paper Eatery (pictured), a Vietnamese restaurant also in a former home, where they make their own spring rolls in more than a dozen varieties. A few doors down resides Coronado Café, a cozy bungalow where Southwestern pork tacos with salsa verde are right at home alongside Maryland crab cakes with lime-cilantro rémoulade (the café’s owners are from Baltimore).
Tuck Shop, a 1950s musician’s union hall-turned-home-turned-restaurant, specializes in modern comfort food. Dishes like tomato-sauced lamb meatballs may resemble their retro counterparts on the outside, but they get a healthier 21st-century upgrade with fresh spaghetti squash, carrots, and zucchini alongside. —Jenn Garbee
From the T-Wa Inn (Denver’s first Vietnamese restaurant) out to the Empress, 88 Asian Market, and the carnival-colored Tacos Y Salsas (where you can often catch white-jacketed kitchen crews enjoying post-shift tacos), the energy flows outward to Alameda Square. Here, the city’s best dim sum joint (Super Star Asian, pictured) draws crowds of dedicated gastronauts willing to wait an hour for fluffy pork buns and chicken feet, while some of Denver’s best cooks stalk the aisles at Pacific Ocean International Supermarket looking to score barbecued ducks, durian, cheap knives, Hello Kitty chopsticks, and other killer buys from distant latitudes. —Jason Sheehan
More than 50 organic farms are in and around the Viroqua area, and some days they make up about half of the vendors in the famous organic farmers’ market in Madison on the square. You’ll find Harmony Valley produce at Chicago-area markets, Driftless Organics (pictured: Driftless Organics' owners Mike Lind, Noah Engel, and Josh Engel—from left) vegetables in Madison’s restaurants, and Footjoy Farm’s produce on Minneapolis menus.
But not everything good here gets exported: Viroqua’s farmers have strengthened an already thriving local food scene. Drop by the Viroqua Food Co-op (membership 2,800) for local gems like Nordic Creamery butter (liquid gold, so fresh, creamy, and multidimensional), Great River Milling flour (bread made from truly fresh, just-milled flour is as different from conventional-flour bread as the music from an orchestra is different from the music of a transistor radio), and New Glarus beer (twice named one of the 10 best breweries in the world at the World Brewery Championship). —Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl
In this beautiful, 27,000-square-foot hall, shoppers find ethnic specialties like kielbasa and smoked sausage, barrel-aged sauerkraut, and potato-filled pierogi. But these days, they also come for grass-fed beef, farmstead cheeses, local honey, and handmade pasta.
Surrounding the market is a burgeoning culinary district that’s home to some of the city’s hottest restaurants, beer gardens, and even a 6-acre urban farm.
“The West Side Market maintains all of the integrity and uniqueness that it always has, even after 100 years,” says Michael Symon, chef/owner of Cleveland restaurants Lola Bistro, Lolita, and B Spot. “To me, it’s 100% pure Cleveland.” —Laura Taxel
The reservations rush began two years ago, when Top Chef season four winner Stephanie Izard opened the now-white-hot Girl & the Goat (pictured). Almost instantly, her wait list was two months deep. Alinea alum Jeff Pikus soon popped up across the street, breathing new life into bistro classics at Maude’s Liquor Bar.
So far this year, a former gyros joint has become a quirky late-night spot called Au Cheval, Chef Paul Kahan opened Publican Quality Meats (a butcher shop and sandwich haven), and Jared Van Camp has debuted Nellcôte, where the chef mills his own flour from local wheat. Meanwhile, a slew of other chefs have signed leases on Randolph Street: Once Izard opens her second restaurant, Little Goat, this fall, she’ll have MasterChef judge Graham Elliot (G.E.B., a bistro) and Alinea vet Curtis Duffy (Grace) as new neighbors. —Julia Kramer
At Kansas City's original organic market at Brookside, you'll find Burmese, Somalian, Bhutanese, and Burundian immigrant farmers selling kale, chard, broccoli, carrots, and beets in vivid colors matched only by the vendors' traditional dress. Along the way, they've succeeded in expanding the locavore spectrum—as well as the internationally spiced palate—of the entire community. —David Hanson
Part of the charm is crazy diversity. Croissants de France (pictured) overcomes the 90-degree temps and near 90% humidity to produce as perfectly flaky and buttery a croissant as you could want, and Seven Fish, located on a quiet, shaded neighborhood corner, serves a tasty curried snapper. Just across Cow Key Bridge on Stock Island lies Hogfish Bar & Grill, the kind of place that seems like a template for every seaside "shrimp shack" you've ever visited. Except this is the real deal. Nab a waterside table and experience the namesake hogfish, a "have-it-when-we-have-it" treat. It's fine, flaky, and sweet with an almost scallop-like flavor. If it's not available, steamed local shrimp and ice-cold beer make a fine meal, too. —Phillip Rhodes
Nowhere is this more evident than in the blocks surrounding the Italian Market—the oldest outdoor market in the United States, unchanged in so many ways from the moment of its founding that walking the pavement in front of its clustered stalls feels a little like time travel.
There are butchers here who can trace their lineage back through generations (and will at the drop of a hat), fish merchants and cheesemongers, bakeries that flour the air, poultry shops, and more than 40 produce vendors who stack their Jersey tomatoes and greens in piles under sagging awnings and keep their stock of Italian truffles under glass like diamonds.
Thirteenth Street might be hotter, Fishtown hipper, Reading Terminal more packed with swells, but the Italian Market is where Philly grew up. Go there to see glimpses of America's melting-pot cuisine in the first blush of its youth. —Jason Sheehan
Now it seems every ambitious chef in Boston is following him across the river to what's known as Area Four, the small stretch between Cambridge's Kendall and Central squares.
Since Johnson opened his own Rendezvous Central Square in a former Burger King, it's become a standard for New American cuisine characterized by particularly fresh fish: He lives and fishes from a houseboat on weekends. Then Tony Maws (pictured) moved his popular Craigie Street Bistro two blocks from Rendezvous, renamed it Craigie on Main, and the area officially became the new hot spot of fine dining.
These 'hoods have deep Italian immigrant roots, boosted lately by a wave of top-notch chefs returning home to cook food inspired by their grandmothers (or acting for all the world like that's what's up). Kicked off by the wonderfully affable Frankies 457 (with two Manhattan outposts—pictured here in Brooklyn), the trend has accelerated with eateries like Brucie and South Brooklyn Pizza. "It's a trend that's exploded, but it's built on what was already there. A return to elevated Italian comfort is happening everywhere, but this area is ground zero," says Ed Levine, founder of seriouseats.com. —Cindy Hatcher
Just off Monument Square at Portland Public Market House, a daily line of lunch-goers forms at Kamasouptra, choosing from options expected (creamy Clam Chowder) and less-so (Beer and Cheddar made with a Red Ale from nearby Sebago Brewing). Toward the waterfront, they are filing into Paciarino, where husband-and-wife chef/owners Fabiana de Savino and Enrico Barbiero prepare handmade scallops-and-haddock ravioli.
Diners looking for Latin-inspired menus hit up El Rayo Taqueria, a former garage on York Street that offers excellent fish tacos with a side of roasted pumpkin seeds—a healthier option than the usual tortilla chips. Next door at sister restaurant El Rayo Cantina, the modern Mexican menu features nearly 30 tequilas and snacks of tlayudas, hot tortillas spread with black beans, shredded cabbage, crema, and mushrooms.
At Middle Street's Bresca, Krista Kern Desjarlais is redefining the sandwich. Case in point: Her smoked trout in a kombu-flecked roll, with pickled shallots, capers, and mustard greens in Meyer lemon vinaigrette (pictured). That's not your old-timey fish sandwich. —Nancy English