story

The 15 Hottest Restaurant Openings Around the U.S.

From José Andrés' newest project to a "Top Chef" winner's first solo spot
March 4, 2015
·
by Zagat Staff

Whether you like intricate tasting menus or casual Italian trattorias, our list of the country's 15 hottest new restaurants has something for every type of diner. Read on for our picks around the U.S.

AtlantaThe Cockentrice

Why It's Hot: Kevin Ouzts charmed ATL meat lovers with his Spotted Trotter charcuterie. This new full-service restaurant — located directly behind the Trotter's butcher counter in Krog Street Market — shows a deep creativity not just with meat of all stripes, but with contemporary American cooking in general.

Must-Order: A rich beef dish braised in Burgundy and served with sunchokes and morel mushrooms is irresistible in colder months.

Insider Tip: Like something you ate? Want a memento of the meal? Ask your server to recommend an item or three from the retail counter.

99 Krog St., Suite V; 470-428-2509

AustinLaunderette

Why It’s Hot: Austin has been waiting with bated breath for the highly anticipated next step from beloved chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki (formerly of La Condesa and Sway).

Must-Order: Labneh with beet hummus and millet crunch, served with everything crackers.

Insider Tip: Check out the kitschy statues behind the bar, which may just remind you of your great-grandmother’s living room.

2115 Holly St.; 512-382-1599

BostonTownsman

Why It's Hot: Because after shuttering his acclaimed Providence farm-to-table Farmstead Inc., chef Matt Jennnings, a four-time James Beard nominee for Best Chef Northeast, has returned to his native Boston with a glossy Downtown option for upscale American brasserie-style plates. It opened only last week, but local food geeks have been anticipating Townsman for nearly a year. 

Must-Order: Jennings notched three consecutive wins in the local stops of Cochon 555, the city-hopping nose-to-tail culinary series, so naturally meats play a large role in his menu. Groups can graze over gorgeous charcuterie boards (which include offerings provided by gourmet Waltham deli Moody's) and a house terrine board ($35) with rotating selections. 

Insider Tip: Keep an eye out for thoughtful interior flourishes. Lounge cocktail tables come from the same designer who created the wedding ring of Jennings' wife, Kate; a tile mural features an ad for a Somerville tapioca company that Jennings found in one of his vintage cookbooks; and a Pawtucket furniture maker foraged wood for the black walnut dining room tables. "We wanted to bring a bit of Rhode Island with us," says Jennings.

120 Kingston St.; 617-993-0750

ChicagoFormento's

Why It’s Hot: John Ross’s nonna Formento would be proud of the 8,000-sq.-ft. old-school Italian restaurant he opened in her honor. This highly anticipated project from B. Hospitality Co. features a team of chefs, led by executive chef Tony Quartaro, preparing classic Italian fare in an elegantly designed space with oversized leather banquettes, an embossed-tile ceiling, exposed-brick walls and plenty of family photos.​

Must-Order: Chocolate cake with chocolate pudding and hazelnut praline.

Insider Tip: The restaurant recently opened for lunch, but don't forget the adjacent Italian sandwich shop is also a delicious everyday option.

925 W. Randolph St.; 312-690-7295

DallasKnife

Why It’s Hot: John Tesar's take on the classic steakhouse turns the genre topsy-turvy with creativity. Pair your meat with a drink from Michael Martensen's expert cocktail program. Oh, and did we mention bacon tastings?

Must-Order: Any pork tasting; the Ozersky or Magic burger; yellowtail crudo; and virtually any cut of steak. (Find more picks here.)

Insider Tip: Mixology master Michael Martensen created the cocktail program and Sabrina Snodderly, formerly of Spoon and Gemma, brings her mastery of wines to the in-house sommelier position (somm consultant Scott Barber designed the program), so the drinking should be great, no matter what you opt for.

5680 N. Central Expressway; 214-443-9339

Denver: Blackbelly Market

Why It’s Hot: It's been three years in the making and a "lifelong dream," says Hosea Rosenberg of Blackbelly Market, his first solo effort after winning season five of Top Chef. And since its November debut, it's been nothing but success for the Boulder-based chef, whose restaurant routinely commands two-hour waits at peak times. The space, which also doubles as a retail market, curing room, catering operation and temple to whole-animal butchery, features a chef's counter that yields a frontal view of Rosenberg and his dream team of kitchen magicians, a convivial bar that unleashes smashing cocktails and a casual vibe that pulsates with energy.

Must-Order: Hatch green chile posole ($6), the house-ground burger with hand-cut fries ($14) and the rotisserie chicken ($17).

Insider Tip: The grab-and-go market, open for breakfast and lunch only, offers a grilled cheese sandwich and San Marzano tomato soup special for $7 between the hours of 11 AM and noon.

1606 Conestoga St., Boulder; 303-247-1000

HoustonOporto Midtown

Why It's Hot: The sprawling Midtown hot spot from the folks behind Queen Vic and Oporto Cafe serves up creative Portuguese and Indian cooking, plus ciders, wine and craft cocktails.

Must-Order: Order like an insider and ask for the secret special, a bowl of the Caldeirada seafood stew filled with snapper, prawns, clams, mussels, scallops and potatoes, and seasoned with saffron.

Insider Tip: Beat the dinner crowds and enjoy a leisurely midday meal thanks to newly added lunch service.

139 W. Gray St.; 713-528-0115

Los AngelesGjusta Bakery

Why It’s Hot: This buzzy Venice bakery and cafe from the Gjelina and Gjelina Take Away crew is so popular, tables and chairs would only get in the way (there’s a coffee counter inside and milk crates under a tree outside, should you need to sit). Doesn’t seem to bother the hordes going in, or even Jay-Z and Beyoncé. The long space is lined with counters filled with fresh-baked breads, croissants, cookies, bialys, scones and more. For the savory side, there are prepared salads to-go, sandwiches like porchetta melts, cured fish and charcuterie. 

Must-Order: Is it wrong to say everything? The anchovy toast is sublime, and so is the smoked fish, especially on the house-baked bagels. A porchetta sandwich with broccolini is worth all the mess. Any of pastry chef Nicole Rucker’s pies, brownies and cookies are also amazing.

Insider Tip: Anything you order there is worth dealing with the chaotic ordering system, i.e. standing anywhere along the counter, finding a staffer and pointing to what you want.

320 Sunset Ave.; 310-314-0320

MiamiMatador Room

Why It's Hot: Jean-Georges Vongerichten brings Latin cuisine to this handsome eatery in Ian Schrager's Miami Beach EDITION hotel, drawing on Spanish, Caribbean and South American flavors for his seasonal menu of small and large plates matched with classic cocktails. The oval dining room gives a nod to the property's past (formerly the Seville hotel), while the bar overlooking the pool deck features Lucien Clerque’s Matador series of photos on black-walnut-clad walls.​

Must-Order: Organic mushroom tacos and roasted red snapper.

Insider Tip: Park it outside on the gorgeous terrace overlooking the hotel's pool.

2901 Collins Ave.; 786-257-4600

New York CityDirt Candy

Why It's Hot: After closing up her tiny nine-table Dirt Candy, the long-running temple of haute vegetable-focused cuisine, last August, Amanda Cohen reopened her famed eatery in a much larger, 60-seat space on the Lower East Side. The new joint offers a more playful menu with items like Brussels sprout tacos, Korean fried broccoli and cabbage hot pot. 

Must-Order: Korean fried broccoli, jalapeño hushpuppies, veggie monkey bread.

Insider Tip: New at this location is an innovative no-tipping policy that has the NYC food scene abuzz.

86 Allen St.; 212-228-7732

PhiladelphiaThe Olde Bar

Why It's Hot: Jose Garces pays homage to the former Old Original Bookbinder’s that serves as home to his new Old City raw bar and cocktail lounge, where the drinks and mostly bar-snack menu both hearken back to the olden days. Gorgeous wood and luxe leather belie relatively reasonable drink prices, especially at happy hour. [Read more about The Olde Bar here]

Must-Order: Fried belly clams ($15), snapper turtle soup ($9), golden buck ($10).

Insider Tip: More than a Citywide, the drink called Cannon Fodder brings a glass of Narragansett “Autocrat” Coffee Milk stout topped with cold-brew coffee, garnished with a strip of Side Project Mongolian Jerky and served with a shot of La Colombe Different Drum rum ($10).

125 Walnut St.; 215-253-3777

San DiegoStreetCar Merchants of Chicken, Doughnuts & Coffee

Why It’s Hot: Who knew that chicken and donuts could be a winning combo? Throw in coffee and you have a hot ticket, with people swarming from early till late for dense, brioche-based donuts with crazy flavors like strawberry kiwi lemonade and three kinds of fried chicken cooked to order.

Must-Order: Any one of their rotating donuts before they sell out.

Insider Tip: If you have a tolerance for heat, try the off-menu Nashville Hot chicken. You'll have to sign a waiver first.

4002 30th St.; 619-546-9010

San Francisco: Mourad

Why It's Hot: The long-awaited project from chef Mourad Lahlou and chef de cuisine Chris Kajioka (formerly of Honolulu's Vintage Cave) opened at the end of January in the PacBell Building next door to Trou Normand. As with his beloved Aziza across the city (opened in 2001), the cuisine of Lahlou's native Morocco and Northern California bounty play together beautifully. But this isn't merely Aziza No. 2. While you'll find similar ethos in the plates at Mourad, it's a bit more upscale, refined. 

Must-Order: The ultimate way to go may just be the tasting menu. It's a pricey $150 (plus $75 with wine pairings) but the ever-evolving menu best reflects Lahlou's innovative style and the direction he and Kajioka are going with this new restaurant. Other highlights include Melissa Chou's desserts (the celebrated Aziza pastry chef) and master sommelier Alan Murray's wine list (Murray came from Australia and worked at the legendary Rubicon under the direction of master sommelier great Larry Stone).

Insider Tip: Cocktails were created by Christ Aivaliotis and Troy Bayless of Wizard Oil Co. and the new Hawker Fare and Holy Mountain.

140 New Montgomery St.; 415-660-2500

SeattleLarkSlab Sandwiches + Pie and Bitter/Raw

Why It's Hot: Chef John Sundstrom's tasty trifecta occupies the type of gorgeously designed space you just want to hang out at while eating fab food and drinking amazing cocktails.

Must Order: Upstairs at Bitter/Raw, talk to your server about what's fresh, while in the lovely Lark, go for signature dishes like the dreamy burrata starter or any lamb preparation featuring nicely gamey meat from nearby Ninety Farms.

Insider Tip: At Slab, you can add crispy chicken skin to anything on the menu, and you really should.

Lark and Bitter/Raw: 952 E. Seneca St.; 206-323-5275
Slab: 1201 10th Ave.; 206-323-5275

Washington, DCChina Chilcano

Why It's Hot: José Andrés reawakens taste buds at this Penn Quarter destination that spotlights Peruvian cuisine's Chinese and Japanese influences, serving dim sum, tiraditos, South American-style nigiri, fried rice and fish stew presented in a bag, plus pisco sours concocted with Asian ingredients. The space is equally innovative, with a ceviche bar, a festive area decorated with a colorful mural and swirling red neon lights and another enlivened with red shipping crates.

Must-Order: California causagiri ($15); tam tam noodles ($12); suspiro limeña ($8).

Insider Tip: If you're in a large party, be sure to book one of the five Lazy-Susan tables or the sunken tatami table. 

418 Seventh St. NW; 202-783-0941

hottest restaurants