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Staple & Fancy Mercantile Voted the Best Italian Restaurant in Seattle

Staple & Fancy Mercantile Voted the Best Italian Restaurant in Seattle



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Staple & Fancy in Seattle is Ethan Stowell’s most acclaimed restaurant.

What makes a great Italian restaurant? For some it may be the antipasti, while for others it’s the quality of the wines and pastas that’s the sure-fire test. Octopus? Lasagna? Cacio e pepe? Which one dish should be the barometer of a great Italian restaurant?

The steps we took to compile our most-recent ranking were as thorough and comprehensive as possible: we looked at restaurants that made it to our 101 Best Restaurants in America; we also recruited an illustrious panel of judges that included some of the country’s top food writers, critics, and bloggers to submit their suggestions, which we supplemented with our own choices, including previous years’ rankings as well as lauded newcomers. This list of hundreds of restaurants was then built into a survey that was sent out to more than 100 panelists, who voted for their favorites. The final ranking included a significant number of Italian restaurants, and to create this list we supplemented the Italian restaurants that made it into our final list of 101 with those that came in as runners-up and those that were featured on this year's list of the country's 50 best casual restaurants. Turns out there are many Italian restaurants worthy of renown in America, and one resides in Seattle.

Ethan Stowell’s most acclaimed eatery, Staple & Fancy Merchantile, is in a league all its own. There’s an à la carte menu, but diners are encouraged to pay it no heed and leave their meal in the kitchen’s hands; for $50 per person, they’ll "Do It Fancy," preparing a four-course family-style meal for your table, and they feel so strongly that you should do this, they've said so right there on the menu in the past: "We would also like to inform you that you really should do this." So what can you expect? Perhaps a wood-grilled whole fish with brown butter, capers, lemon, and fried herbs; or perhaps a bowl of bucatini amatriciana with guanciale, tomato, and pecorino Toscano. Whatever you end up with, you’ll leave fully confident that your dinner was worth far more than $50, and glad that you put it in the kitchen’s hands. Stowell’s food is so good, the restaurant scored the #32 spot on our compilation, and since it’s the only one from the city to make the list, according to our panel of experts, Staple & Fancy is the best Italian restaurant in Seattle.


Are These the 21 Best Italian Restaurants in America?

Italian food in America has been undergoing a bit of a renaissance in the last few decades, and completely without da Vinci’s help — everywhere you look, you can find some good old-fashioned red gravy adorning, well, just about anything chefs can get their hands on. And chefs can get their hands on a lot of stuff, turns out.

But there are certain places that make the rest quake in their Italy-shaped boots, and we’re here to recognize them. Without further ado, here are the best Italian restaurants in America — not just pizzerias, but legit trattorias, enotecas, and the like. Capisce?

New York, NY
What you’re getting: Beef cheek ravioli
Ever since it opened in 1998, Babbo has been consistently mobbed by crowds of New Yorkers lured in by its incredible American takes on Italian food… and by the fact that it’s one of the most heavily lauded restaurants in New York City history. And New York has a lot of restaurants. Helmed by legendary Italian restaurateurs Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, Babbo has committed itself to applying Italian recipes and ingredients to American cooking, and to plying its patrons with tons of liters of wine. These dudes know how to party (the place is a bit of a zoo), and while it also may be a bit tough to score a reservation, it’s well worth the wait.

Chicago, IL
What you’re getting: Ricotta & black truffle gnocchi
Spiaggia was Obama’s favorite restaurant back when he was a Chicago resident, and its food remains of a presidential caliber. Nestled fittingly on the city’s Magnificent Mile, Spiaggia recently underwent a transformative renovation of its space overlooking Lake Michigan, and while the rules for the dining room might have changed (no longer do they enforce their “jackets required” rule in their lounge), the food is just as killer as ever. The menu focuses on innovating classic Italian recipes (think foie gras ravioli), and dishes come out of the only four-star Italian kitchen in the city of Chicago courtesy of James Beard Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano, aka Obama’s “favorite chef”. The president’s favorite dish? Wood-fired scallops — a people pleaser on both sides of the aisle.

Brookline, MA
What you’re getting: Chicken cacciatore for two
When a restaurant’s name literally means “rebel” in Italian, you know you’re not getting strictly traditional fare — and Ribelle in Brookline delivers on that promise. Chef Tim Maslow’s stint at David Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York taught him how to push the envelope, and now he’s passing what he learned onto you in the form of an ever-changing menu that combines elements of Italian cuisine with an indomitable American spirit that’s not in any way related to cigarettes: gnocchi with smoked trout and olive oil ice cream are typical moves there. Oh, and their cocktail program is nicely curated too.

Los Angeles, CA
What you’re getting: Grilled octopus
This dream-team collab of Mario Batali and LA’s most beloved daughter, Nancy Silverton (who founded La Brea Bakery ), is the centerpiece of a mini-empire that also includes a more casual spot ( Pizzeria Mozza ) and a meat-lover’s paradise ( Chi Spacca ). Though all three are wonderful, the Osteria is the crown jewel, with an extraordinary wine selection, amazing pastas, and a mid-room mozzarella bar that’ll make you believe in cheese-us.

Boulder, CO
What you’re getting: Multicourse dinner & wine pairings at weekly Monday wine dinner
If you go to Frasca, you’ll inevitably meet Bobby Stuckey. He roams around the white tablecloth-filled dining room, offering anything from a smile to a wine pairing suggestion pulled from his 20+ years as a sommelier. He and Frasca have won so many James Beard Awards for wine they should rename the category after them. The restaurant stands out as a fine-dining oasis in Boulder, CO, a town where form-fitting bike shorts are a respected sartorial choice. The menu changes seasonally, but always highlights the “flavors and international influences” of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy.

San Francisco, CA
What you’re getting: Mint tagliatelle, or any of their risottos
Since 1998, when Delfina opened in the Mission and essentially ushered in a new era for that entire neighborhood, Craig and Anne Stoll have continually put out some of the best Italian food in SF (sorry red-sauce spots of North Beach). And despite the fact that they now have three pizzerias and an also amazing Roman-esque Italian spot in Locanda, the original remains the place you want to be for crazy good pastas (literally everything is good, but get the mint tagliatelle with mushrooms and nettles if it’s there), secondi (roasted Mary’s chicken with olive oil mashed potatoes), and ridiculous desserts.

Boston, MA
What you’re getting: Anything off their constantly changing menu
Sure, it’s not in the North End, but don’t let that discount this Italian small-plate eatery in Boston. What it lacks in, uh, neighborhood, it makes up for with the sheer amazingness and scope of its menu. Their offerings are constantly changing based on what’s available and in-season, but you can always expect whatever they’ve got to be on the more daring side of Italian fare: chefs/owners Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer are known for being a bit out there, and it’s reflected in the Italian tapas (“stuzi”) they offer, such as pig’s tails and bones with a mostarda glaze. For those feeling a bit less adventurous, there’s always their addictive arancini.

Atlantic City, NJ
What you’re getting: Veal Parmesan
Rarely does a restaurant in Atlantic City skew towards the rustic, but that’s exactly the case with Chef Vola’s, which is nestled inside an otherwise normal-seeming house. To get in is no easy feat, as reservations are few and far between, they’re cash-only, BYOB, and you’ve got to find the place first. But once you do, you’re immersed in an old-school dining experience: the waiter will recite their entire menu to you, and if that isn’t impressive enough, just know that it’s a huge menu packed with huge dishes. Pretty much anything you order is going to tip the scales, so come hungry — and get the veal Parmesan.

Los Angeles, CA
What you’re getting: Roasted bone marrow
This industrial-feeling, uber-hip modern Italian restaurant in Downtown LA has essentially changed its neighborhood from “super-sketchy place where no one ever goes” to “somewhat sketchy place that everyone is itching to go to” thanks to an extraordinary vibe, a great patio, and — most importantly — amazing food, including a housemade charcuterie platter that’s got chef Ori Menashe’s delicate touch all over it.

Chicago, IL
What you’re getting: Tagliolini Nero
In just a few short years ( Editor’s note: in truth, they were normal-length ) Balena has become a fixture on the Chicago dining scene, and not just because of its neon light installations that manage to blend seamlessly with the elegance of the soaring, exposed beam ceilings and leather-topped bar. Speaking of that bar, it’s where they’ll be making you a spot-on cocktail from their amaro-heavy menu (conveniently ranked from 1 to 10 on bitterness level). Now that you’ve had your aperitivo, it’s time to eat. May we recommend ALL the pasta? Everything’s made in-house, even the dried stuff, meaning everything from a simple spaghetti cacio e pepe to the ocean-rich squid inked tagliolini nero with crab, sea urchin, and chili is stunning. As are the pizzas. But try to leave yourself room for an affogato with fluffy cinnamon-sugar donuts.

Seattle, WA
What you’re getting: Wood-grilled whole fish
The duality of Staple & Fancy is what makes its approach to Italian food all the more appealing: you can order off their a la carte menu of Italian staples, or try the fancy approach and go with Seattle star chef Ethan Stowell’s tasting menu, which is comprised of multiple courses and curated by the kitchen staff. Sure, chef Stowell’s got a lot of restaurants in the Seattle area, but S&F is heralded as his best, and its a la carte options are a who’s who of fine local ingredients (tagliarini with king crab, cherry tomatoes, and olives). No matter which culinary adventure you choose, you won’t be disappointed.

New Orleans, LA
What you’re getting: Squid ink tagliolini
Chef John Besh is perhaps more well-known for his domination of New Orleans’ restaurant scene with his vast array of Creole-inspired digs. But, perhaps to prove that he’s got some serious international cooking chops as well, he opened Domenica in the city’s Roosevelt Hotel — showing already that he’s got an affinity for hospitality. In branching out to Italian food, Besh still hits it out of the park with his unique spins on pizza (fig, speck, honey & burrata), pasta (squid ink tagliolini topped with blue crab), and a wide variety of house-cured meats made in classic Boot tradition and available upon request (or wild gesticulation).

San Francisco, CA
What you’re getting: Any of the pastas, and at least one pizze
James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Tusk is well-known in SF (and national) circles for his fine-dining spot Quince, but that is for special occasions, and locating your sport coat in the attic. Cotogna, on the other hand, (it means quince in Italian!) is the everyday spot, in that you will want to go there every single day to try one of their incredible wood-oven pizzas (which you can see cooking when you walk in) alongside quite possibly the best pasta in the city, a specialty Tusk is known for dominating. Oh, and their cocktail program is pretty effin’ silly-good as well.

Brooklyn, NY
What you’re getting: Braised rabbit with polenta
Al Di La’s Northern Italian fare has been drawing people from all over New York (and even New Jersey) ever since it was opened by husband-and-wife team Emiliano Coppa and chef Anna Klinger — there is usually a line forming about an hour before it opens for dinner every night. The rustic dishes sent out from the kitchen are expertly prepared, from the rabbit with polenta to the pork loin scaloppine, and more than stand up to their extensive wine list with their heartiness. If the main restaurant’s packed, just slip on back to their back-room wine bar. It’s got the same menu as up front, just with more temptation.

Providence, RI
What you’re getting: The “Dirty Steak” special
Located in a space that boasts wisteria-adorned trellises and wood-burning ovens, Al Forno offers diners a nearly-authentic Italian experience… in the middle of Rhode Island. Owners Johanne Killeen and George Germon have even been awarded with the “Insegna del Ristorante Italiano”, a rare certification from the Italian government that their food is Boot-standard approved. The insalate, the pastas, the pizzas, and the dishes cooked in their oven (especially their baked pasta) are excellent, but make sure you order the oft off-menu “Dirty Steak” special: a flank steak cooked in a peppery sauce that every regular swears by.

Portland, OR
What you’re getting: Lamb chops (with shoulder, tongue & sunchokes)
Like a fourth-generation Don, AG’s place has serious pedigree: it’s the pet project of the dude who founded Stumptown Coffee and Portland’s lauded Woodsman Tavern. Unsurprisingly, it started getting accolades the minute the first customer sat down two years ago. The joint offers full-comfort with an upscale take on rustic Roman fare, all sourced from local producers to make it as fresh and hyper-local as possible while schooling you in lesser-known culinary traditions. Radiatore and cacatelli are made in-house, while a dish of pork steak with ground cherries and other unlikely accouterments is served on a heaping platter “per la famiglia di condividere”. That means “for the family to share”. Don’t worry. The menu has a glossary to help you figure that out.

Houston, TX
What you’re getting: Sweet corn ravioli with lobster
Da Marco is all about authenticity — inspired by Venice and the greater Friulian region, its menu is studded with old-world favorites that chef Marco Wiles makes his own, such as sweet corn ravioli with lobster and artichokes alla “giudia” (as in, fried to a light crispiness). The space is cozy and warm, and has even got a fireplace to make the vibes feel all the more homey. The wine list is dizzying in a variety of ways, and contains vintages from all the way back to the ‘70s, if you want to know what sort of wine people were drinking when disco was popular.

Austin, TX
What you’re getting: Carbonara from Vespaio, prosciutto pizza from Enoteca, and cannolis to go
South Congress Avenue’s a bustling strip of boutique hotels and chic vintage shops, but long before the arrival of the American Apparel store, the street has boasted the best Italian food in the city. Vespaio gives you everything you’d want from a traditional Italian joint: a bustling behind-the-scenes energy, wafting smells of red sauce, and an old-school waitstaff that time forgot. The food is similarly on point — enjoy a pitch-perfect carbonara and specialties like vitello saltimbocca (veal scaloppine, sage, Parma prosciutto). For a less formal atmosphere, neighboring Enoteca — from the same owners — offers that old-school Italian vibe for lunch with bonuses like to-go charcuterie and pastries. Don’t miss the prosciutto pizza with fontina, arugula, and a truffled sunny side-up egg.

St. Louis, MO
What you’re getting: Osso bucco di maile
With a menu focused on Northern Italian cuisine given a modern American twist, Trattoria Marcella is a recent addition (1995) to St. Louis’s storied Italian restaurant scene. But don’t let its relative youth fool you — inside lurks a caliber of dishes rarely found outside the normal Italian hotspots of New York and Boston. The housemade pastas and risottos are really where this “soul food” restaurant excels, and that’s obvious when you take a bite of their lobster risotto, which manages at once to be both rich and light. Another sure star is their osso bucco served with butternut polenta.

Philadelphia, PA
What you’re getting: The tasting menu
Few restaurants can claim to be a place where people consistently go to celebrate momentous life events as often as Vetri in Philadelphia. Chef Marc Vetri has created an atmosphere of absolute Italian luxury that’s almost unmatched — from the moment you enter, you’re enveloped in the finest smells and offered the finest wines. Even when ordering, they take care of most of the work for you by only offering a pricey prix-fixe tasting menu that’s custom-tailored to your personal tastes and desires. Whether it’s for your birthday, your anniversary, or your adoption by an eccentric billionaire, there might not be a better place to commemorate the occasion than here.

Brooklyn, NY
What you’re getting: Chicken Parmesan
The grittily hip North Williamsburg cityscape, full of concrete lots & lofts and adjacent to the highway, isn’t where you’d normally expect to find an old-school Italian dining experience. But nestled amongst the modern apartment buildings is a relic from 1900: Bamonte’s. Step inside the door of the unassuming restaurant and it’s like stepping back in time — the waiters are tuxedoed, the dining room is covered in red wallpaper and the tables in white cloth, and everyone is there with family. In fact, clams casino was invented AFTER Bamonte’s was founded, and it was probably one of the most recent menu additions. Everything on the menu here is huge and superbly cooked, and the chefs are more than willing to make additions and substitutions. Turns out old dogs can learn new tricks.


Frankies 457 Spuntino Arrow

Frankies 457 Spuntino is a characteristically Brooklyn spot: warm and inviting, with exposed brick walls and a long wooden bar. The best part, though, is the intimate backyard space, which is open on warm summer evenings. Frankie's is always full of locals (including families) who know their stuff when it comes to food and restaurants, and is popular for an unplanned dinner or a very good brunch. This means waits can be long, but everyone you ask will say it’s worth it. Even if you don't order it for your main dish, be sure to get a plate of the sweet potato and sage ravioli for the table.


One of Arkansas’ most popular Italian restaurants, this classic family-owned red-sauce joint Bruno’s has been going strong since 1949. Just about everything on the menu is spot-on, but the Lasagna Imbotito is nothing short of legendary, a must-order. It’s layered with ricotta, mozzarella, and Romano cheese, but the real kicker is what comes next: Italian sausage, meatballs and various cured Italian meats. This is one kicked-up lasagna.

Chef Michael Tusk’s Cotogna, along with its next-door predecessor Quince, are constantly raising the bar for what can be done with simple, seasonal California ingredients. Cotogna celebrates rustic Italian cuisine with a daily-changing selection of grilled meats and fish, wood-oven pizzas and house-made pastas. A couple of menu items never change, though, including the must-order agnolotti del plin. Tusk fills his tiny handmade pasta packets with slow-roasted veal and rabbit, vegetables and Grana Padano cheese it’s slicked with a sugo made from roasted veal and rabbit bones and topped with some extra Grana. It’s pasta perfection.


Beacon Hill’s new Filipino restaurant is a veritable dining destination, and brunch is no exception. Served weekends from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the meal involves four rotating courses for $35. Diners might start with roasted mushroom lugaw, a rice porridge, then move to corned beef on garlic rice with a fried egg and laing, a coconut milk- ad taro-based dish with seasonal vegetables. There are vegetarian options available, too.

Beacon Hill’s new Filipino restaurant features lugaw and corned beef on garlic rice for brunch. Suzi Pratt


Thank you to everyone who purchased a meal kit!

All proceeds from Feast Home Delivery go directly towards Stewardship Partners’ conservation and restoration initiatives.


Staple & Fancy Mercantile Voted the Best Italian Restaurant in Seattle - Recipes

The unpretentious Venice haunt, offers this wonderful cookbook with 72 recipes for irresistible dishes, such as Chicken with Caramelized Apples and Calvados, and 50 other quirky portraits of the restaurant's patrons.

Some call el Bulli the most important restaurant of our time it's certainly the most mysterious. The ratio of diners who want reservations to those who get reservations is around 400:1, and while many meals have been well-documented, the experience remains elusive and singular. The hefty A Day at el Bulli is a close look at a day in the life of the gastronomic monument, from the first rays of sun on the water to the locking of the door at 2am. But it's more than just a picture book. Inserts discuss the history of the restaurant, creative methodology, even a guest's path from front door to table. Beyond the sheer marvel of such a detailed pictorial documentary, the book's appeal and impact come from its humanity. It reminds pious followers that el Bulli is simply a restaurant it’s human and alive, filled with people brought together by a common cause: devotion to food, wine, and the pursuit of high cuisine.

The title of A16 Food + Wine presents the winning formula of the eponymous San Francisco restaurant A16: well prepared food plus well chosen wine equals sublime dining. With their first cookbook collaboration, Chef Nate Appleman and wine director Shelley Lindgren present the rustic pleasures of their beloved southern Italy in terms of libation and sustenance respectively. In her section on wine, Lindgren presents wine by region, offering concise explanations of the region’s classics - as well as any recently rediscovered or replanted favorites - along with an addendum on food pairings. In the book’s second half, Chef Appleman takes over, providing the complement to heady Italian wines with the rustic, hearty cuisine of Campania. In an easy to follow course by course layout, the chef pays tribute to the simplicity and potency of southern Italian cooking in what can only be called an exquisitely crafted homage to his adopted culinary homeland.

The ingredients, preparations, and “how the hell did he do this?” elements of Achatz’s signature dishes at Alinea are finally assembled into a volume available to the mere mortal. If you’ve never experienced dining at Alinea, but wish you had, this will get you a step closer. The photography is up-close and stunning and the wealth of detailed information in each recipe is staggering. Each dish is broken down into its various components, which range from simple to highly complex, and is followed by meticulous instructions for plating and presentation. What’s more, no element is repeated from one dish to another—and with 100 recipes, that’s saying a lot. Alinea carries the requisite testimonials from food media heavyweights (e.g. Steingarten, Ruhlman), but the most interesting of the book’s six essays is Achatz’s piece on the thought process, choice of technique, and ingredient selection behind some of his most memorable dishes. The beauty and sophistication of the Alinea cookbook propels it into the very top percentile of this year cookbooks, and makes for the grandest of gifts.

Chef/owners of New York City’s La Palapa restaurants, Barbara Sibley and Margaritte Malfy have put their shared expertise in Mexican cuisine into this recipe collection for antojitos. The small plates or appetizers of Mexican cuisine, antojitos span the gamut from fresh fish ceviches to meaty empanadas and spice-flecked elote, or grilled corn on the cob, but Sibley and Malfy also include supplementary recipes for various authentic salsas and La Palapa’s own guacamole. The book also features special occasion menus, such as a taquiza (or taco feast) for birthday celebrations and a New Year’s menu complete with “Hangover Specials.” A thorough basics section in the back of the book helps outfit any kitchen for Mexican cuisine, enabling the inspired reader to discover their favorite antojitos and get cooking!

In what is certain to be one of the most head-turning, talked-about cookbooks of the year, Marcus Samuelsson presents the daring interpretations of Scandinavian food that have won him worldwide acclaim. Extensively tested for the home kitchen and lavishly illustrated with stunning photographs, Aquavit and the New Scandinavian Cuisine is a book that will inspire the serious cook while rewarding even beginners with exquisite results.

From award-winning restaurant Araxi comes this beautifully-photographed compendium of recipes featuring the regional cuisine of the Pacific Northwest. Executive chef James Walt and pastry chef Aaron Heath display their ultra-seasonal, farm-to-table style with recipes for Golden Mussels with Pickled Salsify, Leeks and Apple Vinaigrette and Mascarpone Cheesecake with Honey-Caramel Apples and Almond Praline. Often cited as one of Canada’s best restaurants, Araxi is known foremost for its rigorous use of regional flavors and ingredients. The cookbook, which is divided by the seasons Summer, Harvest, and Winter, reads like a guide to the bounty of western Canada’s seafood, produce, and game, and brings Chef Walt’s tested talents to the forum of restaurant cookbooks.

In At Blanchard's Table Melinda and Robert Blanchard share recipes, tips, and stories from their restaurant on the island of Anguilla and from years of entertaining at their home in Vermont, to which they return during the island's off-season.

Owner and chef of Montreal's innovative Au Pied de Cochon restaurant, Martin Picard brings together 55 of the restaurant's recipes in this sumptuous album, which not only dodges culinary fads but also breaks the mold of the typical cookbook in its playful, award-winning design. There's no calorie counting here — Picard leads readers into shameless gastronomic indulgence with such hearty dishes as Foie Gras Pizza, Venison "Chinese Pie," and, per the restaurant's name, oven-braised Pigs' Feet. Six hundred color photos and 50 illustrations complement the lively text.

With more and more chefs achieving celebrity status, interest in the exciting world of today’s leading chefs is higher than ever. Essential reading for anyone who loves food, Becoming a Chef gives an entertaining and informative insider’s look at this dynamic profession, going behind the scenes to look into some of the most celebrated restaurant kitchens across the nation. More than 60 leading chefs--including some of the newest up-and-coming--discuss the inspiration, effort, and quirks of fate that turned would-be painters, anthropologists, and football players into culinary artists.

2004 IACP Award Winner for Chefs and Restaurants Category Bistro cooking--bold and full-flavored--is more like the best home cooking than restaurant fare, featuring slow-cooked stews, exquisitely roasted chickens, perfectly seared steaks, vibrant salads, fresh fruit tarts, and comforting custards. Now Gordon Hamersley of acclaimed Hamersley’s Bistro in Boston helps home cooks bring these classic dishes into their own kitchens.

With seven outposts and counting in his BLT line, it was only a matter of time before Tourondel (Go Fish: Fresh Ideas for American Seafood) wrote a cookbook to codify his credo of American-style French bistro cooking. Many of the dishes come from Tourondel's restaurant menus, but he makes them accessible to the home cook with unintimidating preparations that showcase the quality and flavors of choice ingredients. The opening chapter discusses choosing and preparing different fish and cuts of meat, while brief introductions to each recipe contribute to the pleasantly informal feeling. The cuisine is well-traveled, including Asian salads, a quintessentially American creamy corn soup, Roman-style gnocchi and a hearty, spicy Chicken-Chorizo Basquaise. BLT patrons will be eager to try menu favorites like Giant Cheese Popovers, Marinated Kobe Skirt Steak and Peanut Butter-Chocolate Parfait. Tourondel includes comments on easily substituted ingredients and wine or beer pairings. Both novices and experienced cooks will welcome this comprehensive education in Tourondel's signature style.

Reviews of Gabrielle Hamilton’s bare-bones memoir are splayed across newspapers and magazines, much the way the (reluctant) chef splays her checkered—read: relatable, human—past across the book’s 291 pages. “Triple B”’s best-seller status is no surprise. Not only is the public perpetually hungry for a gritty memoir, but chefs seem to agree that Hamilton hit the tone and spirit of behind-the-burner struggle right on its gnarled head. Emotionally naked, tattooed with kitchen burns and knife scars, Hamilton leaves no stone or past indiscretion unturned on her journey to chefdom. She follows the meandering and unlikely course from a bucolic and bizarre childhood in Eastern Pennsylvania to her first haphazard and short-lived stint in the front of house, and soon after to the kitchen. “And that, just like that, is how a whole life can start,” the Prune chef recalls of her first foray into the back of house. As much storyteller as chef—her other vocational track was writing—Hamilton shares herself with an almost startling openness. What results is not culinary, per se, but a cook’s book and a very human story in the end. Whether or not the public continues to immerse itself in the chef subculture of cuisine, Hamilton succeeds here in proving that a chef isn’t superhuman, subhuman, or even a rock star—even if she can party like one. She’s just a girl who got a job, and kept it.

Blue Water Café + Raw Bar is a seafood hub nestled in Vancouver, a food-loving waterfront city with a wealth of fresh, local fish to supply the restaurant. By combining Western and Eastern seafood traditions between its restaurant and raw bar, Blue Water allows for the greatest variety of menu options to accommodate the day’s catch. And in their recently published cookbook, chefs Frank Pabst and Yoshihiro Tabo bring these menu options to the page, offering up recipes for over eighty of the restaurant’s dishes. Beyond the standard fish, shellfish, and raw bar sections, the book offers very timely chapter on the “Unsung Heroes” of seafood, those under-explored species of fish who could replace the overfished, underpopulated species on a sustainable restaurant menu. Gorgeous photographs, wine pairing suggestions, and a sophisticated, globe-trotting roster of recipes make this seafood cookbook a serious catch.

This beautifully illustrated, ultrasophisticated cookbook is also accessible and user-friendly. Before the baking even begins, Silverton carefully and lovingly explains the wonder of bread alchemy: how to grow a yeasted starter (the secret of truly great bread), and how that starter interacts with a bread's other elements to bring about a firm yet light inside and a crispy, crusty outside. Then come the recipes which range from the whimsical (Raisin Brioche, Red Pepper Scallion Bread, and Fig-Anise Bread) to the practical (Baguettes, Bagles and Hamburger Buns) to the sublime (Pumpkin Bread, Mushroom Bread, and, perhaps best of all, Chocolate-Sour Cherry Bread.

With C Food, Executive Chef Robert Clark and owner Harry Kambolis have taken the usually content-heavy cookbook format and turned it on its head. In conjunction with Vancouver photographer Hammid Attie, Clark and Kambolis have assembled a book that showcases exquisitely detailed culinary photography on an equal footing with recipes. C Food untraditionally rests its laurels on the time-tested formula that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words (in this case, at least a thousand), with close up shots of curlicue grilled squid and bright, textured portraits of salmon sashimi set against a clean black backround—the visual silence against which Attie’s conceptual minimalism sings out. From the seat of their award-winning sustainable seafood outpost C, Clark and Kambolis have proven that eco-friendly and fine dining don’t have to be mutually exclusive concepts. No down-market, folksy aesthetic appears on account of the team’s conscious concessions to mother earth, and the cookbook is no exception, with recipes that convey the restaurant’s inspired, influential, and unswervingly respectful approach to seafood.

Modern Vegan Classics from New York’s Premiere Sustainable Restaurant

The vegan diet is restricted by definition—something most chefs don’t take too lightly. But with Candle 79’s cookbook, which shares what are arguably some of the best vegan recipes out there, there’s a solid chance that chef’s might actually wake up to the benefits of creative exploration that comes with a restricted diet. Not that Candle 79 is about restriction. As they say in their introduction, “the food at Candle 79 expands the horizons of vegan cuisine, proving that the healthiest food can also be the most flavorful and satisfying.” The collected efforts of chefs Ramos and Pineda and owner Joy Pierson, the cookbook bases itself not on what’s missing—any and all animal products—but on the plenty that is represented. And the recipes—all prepared with local, seasonal, organic products that go to the heart of the restaurant’s philosophy—more than prove their point. From amuse bouches like “Arancini with Roasted Plum Tomato Sauce” to main courses like the tofu-cheese stuffed “Manicotti Rustica” and desserts like their “Chocolate Mousse Tower,” the Candle 79 Cookbook has rewritten the vegan menu for the next century of conscientious, delicious eating.

When three Chez Panisse alums opened a tapas bar next door to Alice Waters’ famed Berkeley, California, restaurant, it was only a matter of days before a culinary star was born. With its innovative menu of Spanish-style tapas paired with an astounding wine and spirits list, César earned a legion of devoted fans and was named one of the best restaurants in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle. In the Cesar cookbook, restaurateur Olivier Said teams up with Spanish-foods authority James Mellgren to tell the story of César from inception to its current status as one of the Bay Area’s prime dining and nightlife spots. One hundred classic tapa and drink recipes from the César catalog showcase the robust flavors of Spain, while more than 100 photographs capture the restaurant’s irrepressible spirit.

New York’s Chanterelle opened in 1979 and has steadfastly remained one of the city’s most timeless restaurants. The book, the restaurant’s first, begins with a charming account of the business’s beginnings, and in the same light, thoughtful prose appears throughout the book in recipe introductions and anecdotes about staff and events. The 150-plus recipes inspired by Chef David Waltuck’s seasoned and delicate interpretation of French country-style cooking are complemented by photography that provides an appealing, evocative look at the life and times of the restaurant. Chanterelle, with its surprisingly creative and ambitious dishes (e.g. Squab Mousse with Juniper and Green Peppercorns, Scallops with Duck Fat, or Brined Roast Pork Loin with Fennel Jus and Fennel Flan) is a perfect gift for inspiring your favorite cook around the holidays and throughout the seasons.

For the first time in five years, Chez Panisse presents an entirely new collection of recipes reflecting the whole range of innovations emanating from the great kitchen of the most influential restaurant in the United States. 16 photos.

Lindsey Shere, pastry chef at Chez Panisse since 1971, shares recipes for basic pastries, cookies, cakes, and creams grouped around their dominant ingredient--from apples and berries to dried fruits, chocolate, wine, and spirits. The subtle, surprising results complement seasonal menus. Color photos.

Alice Waters and her legendary Chez Panisse restaurant have inspired a remarkable series of cookbooks, including the bestselling Chez Panisse Vegetables, winner of a James Beard Cookbook Award. In the same tradition, Chez Panisse Fruit is organized alphabetically, from apples to raspberries to strawberries, and includes helpful information on selecting, storing, and preparing each luscious ingredient. Imaginative yet simple, the recipes reflect the bold, natural spirit of Chez Panisse.

This book, with 200+ recipes created by Alice Waters and the cooks at Chez Panisse, presents the inevitable roll call of vegetables, A to Z. In this case, the alphabetical harvest encompasses choices like amaranth, cardoons and parsnips along with the usual artichokes, carrots and potatoes. Some dishes have sophisticated allure, while many sing with simplicity, including Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad and Eggplant Cooked in the Coals. Waters includes both precise recipes and less specific descriptions of dishes. Linoleum block illustrations of vegetables created by Patricia Curtan are sown throughout this handsome book.

In Coco, ten of the world’s legendary chefs define the select population—a mere hundred worldwide—of the most talented young chefs on earth. The result is an undeniably authoritative guide to the most exciting kitchens in the world today, from Arles, France to Queens, NY, complete with restaurant photographs, sample menus, recipes, and a brief biography for each of the 100 chosen chefs. The book encapsulates the vital physics of the culinary world, the forces of inspiration and competition that catalyze and invigorate the professional kitchen. With contributions from the likes of Ferran Adrià, Fergus Henderson, Mario Batali and Yoshihiro Murata, including personal reminiscences of dishes that have impacted the great chefs lives and careers, Coco acts like a beacon of culinary excellence to inspire and guide the next generation of professional chefs.

Daniel Boulud, chef/owner of the wildly successful Restaurant Daniel on Manhattan's Upper East Side, has assembled a volume of spectacular recipes for which the gastronomic community has been enthusiastically clamoring. This collection of over 200 recipes includes everything from hors d'oeuvres to desserts that are lavishly illustrated and adapted for the home cook.

Over 100 recipes from Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C. Pouillon serves simple, sophisticated food featuring the finest seasonal, local, organic ingredients. Here, she offers 20 of her four-course menus. Not for the beginner, experienced cooks can comfortably turn out dishes like Indonesian Quail Sate or Sea Scallops in Black Sesame Crust. Pouillon also guides you through presenting the food artfully, with handsome color photos to help.

Tom Colicchio's New York restaurant Craft is all about the food. Not food as a medium for feats of culinary sleight of hand, but foods that taste unmistakably like themselves-- only more so. This is simple food that is not simplistic, dishes whose purpose is to celebrate fresh, seasonal, usually local ingredients. Rarely do the 125 recipes in Craft require the skills of a professional chef, but they always call for the insight of someone who knows how to bring out the essential flavor and texture of top-quality ingredients.

Wine Spectator calls da Fiore the best restaurant in Venice. Patricia Wells includes it on her list of the world's top five restaurants. Gourmet writes that the Martins serve the finest Adriatic seafood of any Italian restaurant. The New York Times calls chef Mara Martin and her husband Maurizio "the city's most respected restaurateurs." Now home cooks and armchair travelers can visit Venice's best restaurant through the pages of The da Fiore Cookbook.

At the helm of Daily Feast is Chef Ramiro Jimenez, head chef of the recently opened La Puerta Azul in New York state. After almost twenty years in the restaurant industry, Chef Jimenez brings his refined and tested technique to the cuisine of his culinary roots. Wherever Mexican food is thought of as an assemblage of proteins, cheese, and tortillas, Chef Jimenez can shine the light of revelation. He provides his readers with an assortment of authentic, regional dishes highlighting Mexico’s culinary heritage. Bold photographs highlight the sophistication of Jimenez’ technique he plates Mexican preparations with a decidedly classical aesthetic. The result is a welcome challenge to the reader’s store-bought notions of the flavors and textures of Mexican cuisine.

San Francisco has proved itself a hotbed of interesting pastry, the path to which was laid in part by Elizabeth Falkner, a spiky haired rebel of a pastry chef with a reputation for spiking her sweet with savory, and vice versa, and for cheeky dish titles (like “Waking Up in a City that Never Sleeps,” and “Battleship Potemkin,” named for the Sergei Eisenstein film, which certainly made more of an impression on Falkner than on the thousands of Film Before WWII students that sit through it each year). Her desserts at Citizen Cake are famous in San Francisco and beyond, and Demolition Desserts stays true to her character and style, with illustrations, gothic lettering, and occasionally playful layouts. The prose is written for home cooks, and there are plenty of baking basics, but the stars of the book are Falkner’s cleverly composed desserts, like “Tiramisushi” and “Lovelova,” with beautiful full-page photographs of each dish.

For 80 years, no visit to Miami Beach has been complete without a visit to Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant. First opened in 1913 as a small lunch counter in what was then just a quiet, backwater town, Joe's was the first to discover and serve up Miami's native delicacy, the stone crab. More than a cookbook, Eat at Joe's captures the love of food, family and friends that has kept the customers coming for all these years

Even as it solidifies the restaurant’s Michelin dominance, Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook has a soft-spoken modesty and grace to it. It might be the book’s layout—a broad, white cover delicately engraved with the restaurant’s logo, wide pages of complex recipes, and vivid, artistic dish shots. The two-year project of Executive Chef Daniel Humm and General Manager Will Guidara, Eleven Madison Park is an embodiment of not only the restaurant’s culinary perspective—as Danny Meyer’s calls it in his foreword, “reinventing the classic four-star experience for a new generation”—it’s a personification of the EMP experience from the inside out. Everything from the staff’s shared Thanksgivings to the mission statement planning meeting of 2009 where Humm and Guidara decide to “reach for the summit” is shared, part of a cultural, culinary narrative that renews itself every season. The recipes are high-caliber, which is why Guidara recommends amateur cooks don’t feel obligated to tackle recipes completely. (Requests for clarification can be sent to [email protected], because, in true Meyer restaurant form, “we are here if you need us.”) Professionals and fans alike will enjoy the “Day in the Life” at the book’s end, where we learn, among other things, some typical choices for the dining room set-up play list (Jay Z, the Rolling Stones, and Arcade Fire).

In Emeril's New New Orleans Cooking, Emeril Lagasse shares the recipes that have made his restaurant "Emeril's" both a local favorite and a number one destination for visitors to New Orleans. He fuses the rich traditions of Creole cookery with the best of America's regional cuisines and adds a vibrant new palette of tastes, ingredients and styles.

2009 Seattle Rising Star Ethan Stowell masterfully adapts the Italian culinary philosophy in creative recipes that spotlight the local Northwestern ingredients for which the chef-owner of Seattle’s , How to Cook a Wolf, Anchovies & Olives, and Staple & Fancy Mercantile are renowned. Stowell breaks it down simply: “it’s got to be good, but it’s also got to fun.” Along this vein are recipes that a host could make with a glass of wine in hand, gently sautéing, and possibly telling a joke. The recipes cover the breadth of Italian cuisines, but if there is a region he focuses on for sourcing his ingredients, it’s the northwest—of the US that is. Like most Italian chefs, Stowell likes his food to come from the neighborhood. It is this focus on ingredients that elevates New Italian Kitchen above the rank and file of Italian cookbooks.

In the great and diverse catalogue of literature devoted to the chef, his cuisine, and the El Bulli legacy, Colman Andrews’ coverage stands out as something slightly more personal—as intimate a glimpse into the man behind the curtain as we’re likely to get. The book, purportedly the last biography to which Adrià will contribute, isn’t actually a biography, at least not in the traditional sense. It’s a life story, certainly, a kind of dual biography told in parallel. On one side is the story of Adrià as chef, covering his meandering path from hapless partier, to semi-serious cook, to the driving force behind the next great evolution in cuisine. On the other side is the life of El Bulli the institution, from its inauspicious beginnings as a would-be tourist trap through its various culinary incarnations, to its rebirth as the stucco-ed, breezy, unlikely hub of modern gastronomy. Whether Andrews intended it or not, the parallel is effective, not simply in narrative terms it emphasizes how the evolutions Adrià and El Bulli are inextricably interlinked, and with them, the future of the culinary experience as we know it.

2009 Boston Rising Star Chef Joanne Chang originally came to Cambridge with business mathematics in mind. Fortunately for sweet-toothed Bostonians she quickly traded in her graphing calculator for a baker’s scale. Flour is the compilation of dessert and bread recipes she’s been honing at her homey bakery Flour. Chang’s precise verging-on-obsessive instructions set Flour apart: her attention to ingredient temperature and preparation teach the reader to think like a baker. While Chang gleaned much of her technical skill from mastering French technique at Payard with Chef François himself, she gravitates towards the American style desserts denied her as a child. Staple American pastries like Oreos and Pop Tarts are redefined as homey treats that achieve a surprising elegance. Also worth a look is the “Other Sweets” chapter where Chang showcases her creativity, catering towards the adult palate with desserts such as Lemon Sherbert and Prosecco Sorbet and Ginger Tuile Cups with Champagne Sabayon and Fresh Berries.

The editor of Fresh From Maine: Recipes and Stories from the State’s Best Chefs wants you to come to visit Maine. What’s his pitch? The culinary scene is thriving. Young chefs can easily make their living with a low cost, high quality lifestyle that is available, in abundance, in Maine. Provide these chefs with the local seafood and organic farming that have always been Maine traditions and you’ve got all the ingredients for great restaurants. The book is divided by region: Sanders takes the reader up the coast restaurant by restaurant, chef by chef, and recipe by recipe. Some of the recipes look good, others look fantastic. The Hand-made gnocchi from Town Hill Bistro look delicious—and the Bang Island Mussels with Great Hill Blue Cheese at Anneke Jans look out of this world. But that’s the point the book wants to make: the dish isn’t out of this world—it’s from Maine. Sure, you can try and reproduce the experience at home. But better to let Maine make it for you!

Fried chicken and a glass of Champagne? Yes, please. Chef Lisa Dupar’s IACP award-winning cookbook explores both the hometown and haute elements of the cuisines Dupar holds most dear. A Georgia girl, who cooked across Europe and landed in the Pacific Northwest, Dupar grew up eating Southern Fried Chicken but quickly developed a taste for life’s more refined and worldly flavors. And she combines high- and low-brow foods with gusto in Fried Chicken and Champagne. Her recipe for “Frogmore Stew: Shrimp, Crab, Andouille Sausage, Sweet Corn in Shellfish Broth” combines elegant ingredients with a touch of rustic sloppiness. And Ginger Molasses Cookies have all the homey simplicity you could want from a cookie—but Dupar isn’t afraid to add black pepper for kick. If by some stretch of the imagination, you can’t find something you’re dying to try from Fried Chicken and Champagne, it’s quite possible you simply don’t like food.

For Al Brown, chef by trade and lifelong fisherman by avocation, "to catch a fish and then cook it, as simple as it may sound, brings me more gratification than almost anything else." In Go Fish, Brown collects his passion for the treasures of the briny deep into a colorful, heartfelt compendium of recipes, practical tips, and personal stories that span decades of fishing, cooking, and eating. Brown generously shares his idiosyncratic and highly personal relationship with fishing, giving readers a sense of ownership and responsibility similar to what he himself learned as a young boy. After an introduction recounting his first formative muddy days of creek-side eel fishing to his first experience of fishing in the sea, Brown delves into dishes that feature New Zealand's best and lesser-known species. And the chef's philosophy of cooking as simply as possible, which he practices daily at Wellington's Logan Brown, allows the unadulterated purity of the fish to shine through in every dish, making this cookbook as much a regional representation of New Zealand seafood as cooking guide. With sophisticated recipes that encourage experimentation and flexibility, as well as tips that distill not only practical but cultural savvy, Go Fish acts like a literary initiation into the rich tradition and culinary culture of New Zealand fishing.

2004 IACP Award Nominee for Health and Special Diet Category "Sound nutrition is the cornerstone of any healthy lifestyle," writes Michel Stroot, and he should know. As the executive chef at southern California's famed Golden Door Spa, he has perfected the art of conscious cooking and nourishment and now shares over 150 of his unique and delicious recipes in Golden Door Cooks Light and Easy. The Golden Door Spa is one of America's most exclusive holistic wellness retreats, and the celebration of food-from garden to table-is a cornerstone of the spa's "simplicity is luxury" ideology.

Ferran Adria introduces Chef Jason Atherton, “a magnificent cook,” in a brief but warm forward to this cookbook distillation of Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin-starred London outpost Maze. Working under the likes of Adria and UK culinary powerhouse Ramsay, Atherton developed his own imaginative approach to cuisine that is both ambitious and firmly rooted in fundamentals. In Maze, Atherton showcases the restaurant’s award-winning menu that combines Eastern and Western elements (e.g. Wagyu beef, ras el hanout, Scottish salmon, preserved lemons) for a modern upscale take on tapas. The cookbook is built as a sort of inverse pyramid, with recipes (in categories “Savory” and “Sweet”) straight from the restaurant menu at the top, followed by two recipes that use the same central protein or flavor profile in more casual preparations. With only this brief foray into the back kitchen of Maze, the success of the restaurant, and Chef Atherton’s proven potential, become immediately and stunningly apparent.

Chef Michael Psilakis combines his Greek heritage and experience in four of New York’s great Greek restaurants, including modern upscale Anthos, to provide this comprehensive guide to updated traditional Greek cooking. How to Roast a Lamb shares not only the techniques for that robust Hellenic classic, but delves into the full spectrum of Greek regional foods and techniques, from coastal recipes like “Cretan Spiced Tuna with Bulgur Salad” to game recipes for “Venison Sausage” and “Braised Quail with Fennel.” Psilakis takes his readers into the kitchen of Kefi, his home style Greek outpost in New York, with recipes for more casual or festive occasions, while a later chapter on Anthos showcases the interplay of Greek tradition and New World techniques and ingredients that distinguishes Anthos – and Psilakis – as a steward of Greek cuisine for the next generation.

Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook not only showcases the best of the eponymous much-loved Kansas City restaurant, it invites readers into the rich traditions and history of the Mirabile family both inside and outside the kitchen. Stories of recipe origins that date back over a century as well as tips on how to update old techniques and source rare ingredients make this a valuable resource for the chef interested in authentic Italian cuisine. With five courses’ worth of recipes and even a glimpse of how the Mirabiles cook at home, Jasper Jr. tells the full food story of a family legacy begun by his grandfather and continued by his father and most recently himself at a restaurant synonymous with the Italian American success story.

Joachim Splichal shares his culinary vision in PATINA COOKBOOK, which features more than 60 delicious recipes that blend classic European techniques with fresh California cuisine.

A taste of Kentucky isn’t just a taste of the South. Kentucky is a region unto itself, with culinary traditions and local ingredients that give its food distinctive character. Chef Jonathan Lundy has been preparing the region’s distinctive cuisine for years at Jonathan at Gratz Park in Lexington. He shares the secrets of his culinary success in this tell-all recipe guide to Kentucky cuisine. With recipes that feature the region’s fresh local produce, artisan cheeses, and wildflower honeys, as well as the long-held traditions and techniques, Jonathan’s Blue Grass Table presents a rich and inviting culinary tapestry, a testament to the flavors and textures of real Kentucky cuisine.

Beautifully rejacketed. Understated elegance for home cooks in 100 plus impeccable recipes from New York's only four-star seafood restaurant. Thirty of the famous desserts are here, too. Adapted for home kitchens, all of the selections in the Le Bernardin Cookbook can be prepared with a minimum of fuss, and many of them feature Gilbert Le Coze's simple, delicate herb-infused vinaigrettes and nages.

As winner of the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Restaurant Award, Charlie Trotter and his service staff run what many consider to be America's finest restaurant. But it's not just about food in this renowned Chicago hot spot. It's about a subtle relationship between food, wine, ambiance, and service--a relationship Trotter has perfected by hiring passionate staff with the ability to surpass his incredibly high standards. In Lessons in Service, journalist Edmund Lawler reveals the secrets behind Trotter's unequaled success and shows other businesses how to improve their levels of service.

“My year rolls across ingredients,” says Martin Bosley in the introduction to his new book, “each season bringing something new to look forward to.” Chef-proprietor of the beloved Martin Bosley’s in Wellington—the 2007 recipient of Cuisine magazine’s Restaurant of the Year Award—Bosley might easily rest on his laurels and let the legacy of his restaurant speak for itself. But Bosley is a cook at heart, a cook in the kitchen and a cook at home. And what’s more, he’s a cook who shares, whether in his weekly recipe columns for the Listener or here, in a book that collects years’ worth of recipes, with sourcing and cooking tips, and, of course, the stories behind them. And while Bosley makes his recipes accessible to most home kitchens, his fellow chefs will no doubt be interested to know just why Bosley’s Perfect Steak Sandwich is the thing to eat after a long night’s service.

In Mary Mac’s Tea Room, nose-to-tail ingredients and whole foods make up the majority of ingredients—not for the sake of a trend but for tradition. Recipes from this Atlanta institution are unselfconsciously sustainable … and high in calories. But it’s more than a deep-fried, Southern-best-hits list. Recipes for gelatin molds and fried green tomatoes are interspersed with stories from the restaurant’s past and photos of loyal patrons. As traditional American cuisine lost its soul in the hands of corporate food manufacturers, Mary Mac’s Tea Room held fast to its traditions, and Mary Mac’s Tea Room: 65 Years of Recipes from Atlanta’s Favorite Dining Room offers its readers a history lesson for the eyes, nose, throat, and stomach.

With over sixty years in the restaurant business, Big Sur’s renowned Nepenthe restaurant is still an unwavering symbol of bohemian culture and culinary tradition, as much now as it was when it was founded by the Fassett family six decades ago. My Nepenthe compiles Fassett family history, Nepenthe lore, and 85 diverse recipes to describe the unique cuisine and culture of the Southern California cultural landmark. The history of the place, including profiles of some of its most notable visitors and employees, is interwoven with family and restaurant recipes like “Lolly’s Famous Hotcakes” and “Herb-Stuffed Pork Loin Roast with Wine-Poached Quince.” The overall impact is to give the reader an intimate perspective on the cuisine and family tradition of Nepenthe’s as it’s evolved over the last several decades.

Natura features portraits of organic, otherworldly pastry landscapes, works of textural and visual art created by former elBulli pastry chef Albert Adrià. Starting with Snow cristal, created in 2003 to honor visiting Japanese restaurateurs the Hishidas, Adria has compiled years of creativity into this homage to the craft of pastry. “It is not my intention for Natura to be a style or line of work for professionals to find inspiration in,” says Adrià in the book’s afterword. “My only aim,” he insists, “is to show the beauty of this trade.” But inspiration seems inevitable when perusing the pages of Natura, with its detailed, close-up photographs of Adrià’s freeform, nature-mimicking creations. Composed in the catalogue style of the elBulli yearbook, Natura focuses on 49 desserts—or morphs, as they are called at elBulli—born out of Adrià’s unchained, fertile imagination. A DVD contains recipes for every morph and in the afterword Adrià describes his experience with the main techniques. Whether he’s using dehydrated egg powder and a “minted” water cloud to make an ethereal “moss” or cocoa streusel powder to coat and flavor plain cookie crumbs for a vividly realistic “volcanic earth,” Adrià pushes the boundaries of pastry texture, flavor, and composition. Natura at once celebrates and exemplifies the unbounded potential of the craft of pastry.

“What I wanted was my own interpretation of the cooking I had grown up with—a neue cuisine that was half Mozart, half Lou Reed.” How apt that Kurt Gutenbrunner introduces his inspiration this way, a Viennese-American combination of Mozart’s sublimely perfected genius and musician Lou Reed’s free-form inspiration. Not only does it reflect the chef’s cuisine, it sets up the mood and tone of the cookbook. From the artistic freedoms of the Vienna Secession to the nightlife culture of cabaret, Austria is a land of artistic and cultural interdependencies. And every page of Gutenbrunner’s cookbook is a reflection, a culinary manifestation of classically Viennese cosmopolitanism. An introduction on turn-of-the-century Vienna, “the City of Dreams,” covers everything from art and architecture to the culture of coffee houses and the birth of psychoanalysis. And the cultural inclusions don’t end there. Recipes for the chef’s elegant updates on traditional Austrian cuisine (“Fresh Morels with Sherry and Semolina Dumplings” and “Pheasant Roasted in Salt Dough a la Heinz Winkler”) are interspersed with paintings by Gustav Klimt, photos of the chef in boyhood, and meditations on classic Austrian ingredients.

Chef Mark Peel of the renowned Campanile Restaurant brings his Monday Night Family Dinners – and the overall spirit of Campanile cooking - into the home kitchen. Selecting from the most popular of his family dinner menus, Chef Peel has assembled a collection of over 200 recipes ranging in flavor and style that faithfully distill the essence of the restaurant’s beloved cuisine. Ravioli, breading, and pesto techniques are photographed step by step, guiding any first-time efforts through uncharted culinary waters. Chef Peel pays such attention to detail in deceivingly conventional recipes like veal piccata and steak bordelaise that they actually elevate home cooking to the level of restaurant sophistication. Even classics like macaroni and cheese take on layers of complexity and flavor that are typically found in a restaurant, not the home kitchen. What Chef Peel offers is not a dumbing-down of restaurant recipes, however, but an effective translation, bringing the rustic sophistication of Campanile cuisine to the home kitchen, quite possibly one near you.

It’s apt that the same year that saw the original, unabridged translation of the Guide Culinaire also saw the publication of Next Restaurant: Paris 1906—the wireless, cyber-bound, great culinary grandson of Escoffier’s original. The first in the “near-real-time” documentation of Next Restaurant’s time-and-taste jumping menu publications, Paris 1906 presents both the rationale for their starting point and the extensive, elegant menu that made up their first three-month culinary tour, courtesy of Executive Chef Dave Beran. "By starting Next in Paris in 1906, we honored one of the greatest chefs of all time," says Achatz, "and in the process showed … just how far—or not—cooking has evolved in the last 100 years.” Recipes give reference numbers, so you can check back to Escoffier’s originals [“Potage a la Tortue Claire,” (907) “Bombe Ceylan” (4826)]. But unlike Achatz et alia, Escoffier was scant on instruction, not to mention void on visuals, which are presented here in full, color-rich, iPad perfection. Photos showcase Beran’s modern aesthetic updates on the French classics—Next tends to plate where Escoffier buffets—and give readers a peek into the cobalt blue, industrial-chic, visually spare jumping-off platform that is the Next restaurant space. At a radically affordable $4.99, it’s an easy addition to your iBook shelf. Just leave room for the next Next, coming soon to an iPAD near you.

Some restaurants trade on more than providing food—they provide an experience. When a cookbook bears the name of such a restaurant that cookbook has a lot to live up to. Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine does not miss the mark. Head Chef René Redzepi has created new flavor profiles within locavore cuisine by focusing in on solely Nordic ingredients. The beauty of his cookbook is that the same attention paid to the process of creating this cuisine is paid to the dishes themselves. Redzepi's journal published alongside the recipes give meaning to the gorgeous plating techniques of culinary feats. You come to understand that for Redzepi, it’s not just technique, it’s an act of love. As is the book with its bold style, evocative photography, and awe-inspiring recipes, the second Noma Cookbook begs for a place on your bookshelf.

Prepare to be seduced by this collection of dynamic recipes from the nationally acclaimed cuisine of award-winning chef Douglas Rodriguez. Dubbed "Nuevo Latino," at his fabulously popular Manhattan restaurant "Patria," Rodriguez's cuisine celebrates unexplored ingredients and weaves a tapestry of flavors from Latin America and the Caribbean.

On the Line is a colorful and entertaining in-depth look at almost everything about New York institution Le Bernardin. Chef Eric Ripert reveals details of all aspects of the restaurant: history, back-of-the-house operations, and A to Z planning of the dining experience. You’ll find a list of the 129 cardinal sins that waiters need to memorize and avoid, a daily time-line of Michael Laiskonis’s pastry department, and a play-by play of what goes on in the fish station during service. On the Line is a fun and out-of-the box look at the inner workings of one America’s most highly regarded restaurants, and is perfect for recent culinary grads or those in the industry curious about Ripert’s methods.

A comprehensive guide to all of the wines and regions of Portugal with emphasis on new premium table wine producers. Exciting new information on little known grape varieties with good insights into the people, the traditions and trade practices. Chapters devoted to Portugal’s fortified wines, the great wines of Madeira, Moscatel de Setubal and of course Port

Chef Peter Gilmore of Quay cares primarily about the diversity of food. On the menu or on the plate, he wants variety as well as vibrancy. His artistic cookbook celebrates his open culinary philosophy with recipes and photographs from his iconic restaurant. Thomas Keller penned the introduction, where he claims “[Gilmore] has great command of the fundamentals and is also able to successful blend the diverse cultures that have influenced the region with integrity and understanding.” Keller’s favorite, “Mud Crab Congee” reflects Gilmore’s philosophy as much as Keller’s, featuring diverse textures and local ingredients, but with the depth of knowledge that makes Gilmore stand out among Australian chefs. His book, like his restaurant, is a piece of art.

Although Pesto and The Blue Door Bar were loving additions to their tidy Otago restaurant empire, Chef-owner Pete Gawron and wife Melanie Hill have run Saffron together for nearly a decade, and it’s here that Chef Gawron showcases his style at its most essential. For the restaurant’s eponymous cookbook, the chef has chosen his favorite dishes from Saffron’s regionally evocative menu. Like the restaurant, the book is organized according to the seasons, and dishes like Goat’s Cheese Sorbet with Snowberries and Stir-Fried Milford Sound Crayfish showcase the region’s unique produce and express the chef’s ardent commitment to thoughtful cooking, start to finish. Aaron McLean’s photographs add stunning beauty and character to this already strong voice for New Zealand regional cuisine.

2004 James Beard Award Winner for Photography. Foreword by Charlie Trotter. Shunju: New Japanese Cuisine captures the experience of dining at Tokyo's most innovative and exciting restaurants: Shunju. Everything about these restaurants is unique: the design, decoration, lighting and, especially, the food.

From collard greens to pound cake, real soul food at its best. 125+ recipes from world-famous Harlem restaurateur.


Best of Food and Drink

The Elk has discovered the formula and, try as they might, the pretenders have been unable to replicate the Browne&rsquos Addition institution: a neighborhood pub and restaurant with good beer, good food, playfully surly staff and, in the warmer months, the best, mostsought- after outdoor seats in Spokane. No place is sweeter than their patio in late afternoon, especially after a long bike ride, a day of tubing or, if you&rsquore so disposed, a hangover that&rsquos finally melted way. (JF)

2nd PLACE: Twigs 3rd PLACE: Anthony&rsquos NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Bardenay

For an inland community, we have a lot of sushi places &mdash and a surprising number of them are quite good. Fortunately, we don&rsquot have to rank them: Our readers did. Since its opening, Raw has stood out for its fresh fish, creative rolls, extensive menu and glitzy, New York-club atmosphere. This is a place to start your night early, with a martini and an order of spider rolls. This is also a place to end your night &mdash slightly boozy, with a grumbling belly and a hunger for a local hottie. (JF)

2nd PLACE: Sushi.com 3rd PLACE: Ginger Asian Bistro NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Syringa, CdA

Hot wings, buffalo wings, chicken wings &mdash whatever you wanna call them, they&rsquove become part of the cuisine of America, and Flamin&rsquo Joes is leading the way. Wings wouldn&rsquot be wings without the sauce, and here you have a huge selection, from hot sauces (Code 1 through Code Red), to sweet ones (Huckleberry BBQ) to the nontraditional (Thai Peanut). And now that your mouth is burning, wash it down with one of their many beers on tap. Priceless! (JF)

2nd PLACE: Winger&rsquos 3rd PLACE: Hooters NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Wingstop, CdA

BEST LOCAL DRIVE-THRU ESPRESSO

This coffee drive-thru takes customer service seriously. An example: At noon on a Wednesday, a truck pulls up and manager Shelby Simmons slides open the window. &ldquoLarry, what are you doing here so late?&rdquo Simmons asks sarcastically. &ldquoYou didn&rsquot come see me this morning.&rdquo As Larry answers, Simmons is already fixing his drink, a medium mocha with half the chocolate. Simmons, who arrives at 4:30 am five or six days a week, says most customers order by requesting the usual, or don&rsquot have to say anything at all, like Larry. Sometimes, she&rsquos able to recognize a customer&rsquos car and have the drink ready by the time they reach the window. Now that&rsquos service. (CF)

2nd PLACE: Jacob&rsquos Java 3rd PLACE: Wake-Up Call

This year marks the 10th year that Inlander readers have voted Luigi&rsquos Best Italian Food.

When chef-owner Marty Hogberg heard the good news, he high-fived head chef Tristan Cole so hard he hurt his own shoulder. &ldquoI love you. That&rsquos awesome,&rdquo he told me on the phone. After 22 years in business, Hogberg is still passionate about his landmark Spokane restaurant, which has weathered a fire, a recession and a low-carb diet craze.

Luigi&rsquos is truly a family affair. Hogberg owns the restaurant with his wife, Jennifer, who manages the business. His daughter and niece work as hostesses, his son and nephew bus tables. His mother-in-law keeps the books, and his brother-inlaw heads the pantry.

&ldquoWe buy the best-quality ingredients we can buy, and we do whatever it takes for people to leave happy,&rdquo Hogberg says of his family&rsquos commitment to making Luigi&rsquos a success.

Many Luigi&rsquos fans are drawn to the classics, like veal piccata, seafood linguine and the Sardinia Old Fashioned Spaghetti. The smoked salmon lasagne earned its fame by making its way into Gourmet magazine in the early &rsquo90s.

But it&rsquos not all butter and cream that brings them in. Luigi&rsquos also offers heart-healthy dishes, like chicken cacciatore and vegetable primavera that have earned the Heart Institute of Spokane&rsquos seal of approval. Gluten-free pasta also enjoys a big following, as does the Steak Mattino, a seared sirloin with green pepper, port and gorgonzola. &ldquoSome of the best dishes are the most simple,&rdquo says Hogberg.

Luigi&rsquos has survived the economic ups and downs of the last two decades by wooing customers with extras like free parking in the evening and Sunday family nights, with three courses for $13. Half-priced wine on Tuesday draws people in and gives them an opportunity to try new wines. And then there&rsquos the bread &mdash generous servings of hot, fresh bread with plenty of butter. People love it, says Hogberg.

The candlelit bar and soft Frank Sinatra music makes Luigi&rsquos a favorite destination for romantic evenings and the scene of many engagements. One creative groom-to-be had the staff hide a ring inside the tiramisu, a messy but effective strategy. Another couple wanted to buy the booth they got engaged in, but unfortunately it was reduced to ashes in the 1988 fire that destroyed Luigi&rsquos original location.

Hogberg loves playing the part of Cupid&rsquos helper. &ldquoWe&rsquove got them for life,&rdquo he laughs. (KH) 2nd PLACE: The Italian Kitchen 3rd PLACE: Tomato Street

BEST BAKERY | BEST LOCAL COFFEE/ESPRESSO SHOP

Inlander readers love ruining their waistline at the Rocket &mdash and we&rsquore right there with them. The cozy, locally owned chain of caffeine-and-sweets stations has won this category. Coffee and pastries are always solid &mdash that&rsquos a given. But each location is unique, too &mdash and maybe that&rsquos what makes people love the Rocket so much. The urban Howard location, the breezy summertime patio at First and Cedar, the wine bar area at the Rocket Market, the cozy backroom at the one on Garland &mdash there&rsquos a Rocket for everyone. (LS)

BEST BAKERY: 2nd PLACE: Rockwood Bakery 3rd PLACE: Great Harvest NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Bakery by the Lake

BEST LOCAL COFFEE/ ESPRESSO SHOP: 2nd PLACE: Atticus 3rd PLACE: Rockwood Bakery NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Java on Sherman

Rather than letting words spill out of my piehole to describe the wonders of Bennidito&rsquos, I&rsquod much rather shove their pizza in.

First, I&rsquod cram in the golden dough balls of cheesy, buttery goodness known as Beer Buddies (washed down with one of their many rotating varieties of beer, naturally).

Next, I&rsquod hunker down into a large pizza. Maybe a Saxon, a two-sauce pie &mdash pesto and marinara &mdash with artichoke hearts, fresh mushrooms, mozzarella and goat cheese. Or maybe I&rsquod go for the Meat Primo, which has eight types of meat &mdash EIGHT! &mdash on it: pepperoni, salami, Italian Sausage, prosciutto ham, panchetta bacon, meatballs and Canadian bacon.

Or, to be helpful, I guess I could use words to describe Bennidito&rsquos: freakin&rsquo delicious. (ND)

2nd PLACE: David&rsquos Pizza (Hall of Famer) 3rd PLACE: South Perry Pizza NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Garlic Jim&rsquos, Coeur d&rsquoAlene

The frosted glass, the bamboo planted outside the windows, the rough-hewn tabletops &mdash the area&rsquos four Thai Bamboo locations do a good job of telegraphing the mood of Thailand in a way that isn&rsquot too scary for suburbanites. The food and service are consistent, the portions are filling and they absolutely kill it on the staples. If you&rsquore into Pad Thai, it&rsquos hard to find a better spot than your local Thai Bamboo. (LB)

2nd PLACE: Linnie&rsquos Thai 3rd PLACE: Bangkok Thai

A meatless existence creates one problem while solving another. First, the health benefits of vegetarianism increase your lifespan &mdash so don&rsquot be surprised to see your veggie friends living to 120. With such geriatric citizens refusing to leave the Earth, however, overpopulation will stress the planet&rsquos already overburdened agricultural areas. But don&rsquot fret. A diet consisting solely of meat requires 10 times the land to provide the same calories of plant eaters. Eat at Mizuna, live forever and save the Earth. How sci-fi. (And the joint serves meat, too, so bring your carnivorous friends and family.) (ND)

2nd PLACE: Huckleberry&rsquos 9th Street Bistro 3rd PLACE: Picabu Bistro

Best place to take someone on a blind date? Marrakesh, says 28-year-old Zana Morrow, a gal-about-town who hosts a radio show on KYRS and has volunteered everywhere from the Magic Lantern movie theater to the Sandpoint Theatre Company. Morrow didn&rsquot pick Marrakesh based on experience, per se, but she thinks the Moroccan restaurant on North Division would be the perfect place to suss out a prospective mate.

That&rsquos, in part, because she just likes the place.

&ldquoI was looking at their customer reviews, and I realized while I was reading the negative remarks, that every reason that they hated it, I loved it,&rdquo she says. &ldquoIt&rsquos one guy who does everything. So you have to wait for your food. [They complain about] the fact that you get a five-course meal, and every course isn&rsquot gutbusting. That it&rsquos an ethnic atmosphere and the host is not Western and doesn&rsquot keep a distance.&rdquo

But those aspects, Morrow says, are what could make it so conducive to blind dating.

&ldquoYou can see whether they&rsquore into exotic things, whether they can hold a conversation for two hours, how picky they are. Do they complain a lot? What do they complain about?&rdquo she says. &ldquoIt&rsquos a great place to meet someone, and see how they interact with other people &mdash and you.&rdquo

Elsewhere on the ballot, Morrow highlights the Double Eagle pawn shop (a recent visit turned up three daggers for $10!), Kaylee Cole (&ldquoI play her [on the radio station] as often as possible&rdquo) and, for Best Mom and Pop Business, Mama&rsquos Thaiway Lounge.

&ldquoMama&rsquos bar is the best. It&rsquos where I spend my birthday every year,&rdquo Morrow says. &ldquo[Mama]&rsquos got the mouth of a sailor. She&rsquos got a big open heart. If you ask her, she&rsquoll sing you a Thai love song, but you&rsquove gotta get her drunk first. It&rsquos amazing when she sings Celine Dion. You don&rsquot even know.&rdquo (JS)

After a round of backseat bingo, the hep cats and paper-shakers love to burn rubber down to Zip&rsquos to do whatever the &rsquo50s word for &ldquoeat&rdquo is. Language has mercifully changed since the first store opened in 1953, but the menu still sets the pace for Spokane fast food. Think crinkled fries smothered in tartar sauce. Or hamburgers with actual ham and perfectly toasted buns smothered in tartar sauce. Or fish and chips smothered in &hellip well, you get it. (AM)

2nd PLACE Dick&rsquos 3rd PLACE: Arby&rsquos

(TIE) Craven's, Thomas Hammer

To those hoping to expand past a two-party system, look elsewhere. Since the creation of this category, in 2007, the winner has always been either Craven&rsquos or Thomas Hammer.

It&rsquos no surprise. They&rsquore the big players in the area. Both do a full range of coffees, espresso, drip &mdash all the standard roasts. The business models differ slightly: Hammer mostly operates its own coffee stands, Craven&rsquos sells its beans to independent shops, restaurants and corporate clients.

Craven&rsquos has won Best Roaster three times, to Hammer&rsquos two. They&rsquove tied once before, in 2009. (LB)

2nd PLACE: Café Doma 3rd PLACE: Roast House Coffee

Anthony&rsquos wins the vote for bringing the freshest seafood possible to Spokane&rsquos landlocked seafood-lovers, with a seasonally changing menu procured by its own seafood company. This Pacific Northwest franchise hits a home run with eye-popping views of the falls, friendly service and consistent quality. The creamy clam chowder, hot sourdough bread and cooked-to-order filets reel us in free valet parking, sunset dinner specials and a stunning summertime patio keep us coming back. (KH)

2nd PLACE: Milford&rsquos 3rd PLACE: Red Lobster

With more than a thousand different wines on hand, Niko&rsquos was able to showcase the best from each region. Whether you were searching for the perfect malbec or the quintessential Oregon pinot noir, you&rsquod find it here. Notice the past tense? Earlier this month &mdash after polls closed on Best Of voting &mdash Niko&rsquos abruptly closed its doors after 26 years. What comes next is unclear, but take a moment and mark the passing of this downtown institution. (KH)

2nd PLACE: Left Bank Wine Bar 3rd PLACE: Luna NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Beverly&rsquos at the Coeur d&rsquoAlene Resort

&ldquoYou can get a great burger a lot of places. It&rsquos the quality of the experience that sets us apart,&rdquo says Red Robin manager Reid Fawcett. From the memorabilia on the walls to the friendly team members, the atmosphere at Red Robin plays a key part in making it our voters&rsquo favorite place for a burger 10 years running. &ldquoIt&rsquos comfort food. Adults can come with friends and watch the game, families bring their kids &mdash it appeals to everyone,&rdquo he continues.

Red Robin is known for its variety, and the extensive menu offers something to please just about everyone. Vegetarian? Fish-lover? Manly man? They&rsquove got a burger for you. The burgers are never frozen, and there&rsquos a huge selection of toppings to suit your fancy, including crispy onion straws, peppercorn spread, garlic parmesan butter and house-made chili. Pile it all onto a beef, turkey, Garden or Boca burger and stuff it into an onion, sesame or jalapeño cornmeal Kaiser roll and you&rsquove got the ultimate custom burger.

It&rsquos the little things that add to the positive experience: free refills on soft drinks and French fries, servers who know just when to bring extra napkins and don&rsquot keep you waiting for the check. Substitutions are met with a smile, and healthy options &mdash like a fresh, green salad with plenty of veggies or melon slices instead of fries &mdash are a bonus, too.

Diners looking for something unique go for the Burnin&rsquo Love Burger, with fried jalapeño rings, salsa and pepper-jack cheese, or the Royal Red Robin Burger with a fried egg on top. But by far the most popular burger, according to Fawcett, is the gourmet cheeseburger, which has been on the franchise&rsquos menu for over 30 years. It&rsquos safe, predictable, and tasty. Some things just shouldn&rsquot be messed with.

Spokane&rsquos favorite burger place has made plenty of friends in the community in the last 11 years, too. It avidly supports the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery and Special Olympics.

&ldquoRed Robin is known for being unbridled in its community involvement,&rdquo says Fawcett. &ldquoWe do everything we can to make someone&rsquos day better, because people should help people.&rdquo

Perhaps that&rsquos another reason why Inlander readers like Red Robin so much. (KH)

2nd PLACE: 5 Guys Burgers and Fries 3rd PLACE: D. Lish&rsquos Hamburgers NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Hudson&rsquos Hamburgers

The four Ramos brothers left Cuautla, Mexico, in 1974 and headed to Seattle, armed with their mama&rsquos favorite recipes. Now Azteca has 32 restaurants in three states. The menu features traditional fajitas and burritos, as well as dishes with a contemporary twist like the Malibu coconut prawns and Mexican pizzas. Low prices and large portions are part of the appeal, but even health-conscious diners love the Vegi-Mex menu with choices like spinach and feta tamales and veggie enchiladas. Azteca&rsquos cantinas are a favorite for sangria, margaritas and all-you-can-eat taco nights. (KH)

2nd PLACE: Rancho Chico 3rd PLACE: Casa de Oro

BEST FINE DINING | BEST DESSERT

With its classic American menu and pub-like interior, Clinkerdagger has been Spokane&rsquos sweetheart for 37 years. Fans love the fresh seafood, prime rib and the oven-roasted Dungeness crab and artichoke dip. For many Spokane families, this has been the go-to special-occasion place for generations. Spicy ahi tacos, small plates and pomegranate margaritas keep this iconic restaurant current. Key lime pie, burnt cream and the hot fudge waffle sundae make the memories even sweeter, earning Clinkerdagger the double crown of best fine dining and best dessert. (KH)

BEST FINE DINING 2nd PLACE: Santé 3rd PLACE: Churchill&rsquos Steakhouse NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Beverly&rsquos at the Coeur d&rsquoAlene Resort

BEST DESSERT 2nd PLACE: Dockside at the Coeur d&rsquoAlene Resort 3rd PLACE: Madeleine&rsquos Café and Patisserie

Move over Death and Taxes, there&rsquos a new certainty in town. For 18 years, The Inlander has published the Best Of awards. Domini has won Best Sandwich 17 times. The only time they didn&rsquot was the first year &hellip before the category was created.

Their transcendently simple recipe &mdash tons o&rsquomeat, tons o&rsquocheese, mustard of your choice &mdash has transcended mere inclusion in the Best Of Hall Of Fame. (They were an inaugural inductee.)

No, we&rsquore proposing a subtle rewrite of our holy scriptures. Something to the tune of: &ldquoIn the beginning &hellip the world was without form, and void, except for a Domini sandwich, which God promptly mawed the hell out of &hellip and he ate it and saw that it was good.&rdquo (LB)

2nd PLACE: The High Nooner 3rd PLACE: Jimmy John&rsquos NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Caruso&rsquos Sandwich Co.

BEST NEW RESTAURANT (OPENED IN 2010-2011)

When I call general manager Scott Nelson about Savory&rsquos win for Best New Restaurant, he&rsquos in his car, and I&rsquom afraid I&rsquove run him off the road. &ldquoI&rsquom sorry,&rdquo he says after a long pause, &ldquoI think you&rsquore breaking up. Did you just say we won?&rdquo We chat for a bit before hanging up and five minutes later my phone rings.

&ldquoSorry to bother you,&rdquo Nelson says, sounding like a new man. &ldquoI just had to call back. To be nominated by readers &hellip I&rsquom just thrilled &hellip it makes all of the hard work worth it. If I could, I&rsquod send a glass of champagne through the phone!&rdquo

That&rsquos the kind of elation that comes after many months of seven-day work weeks and 12-hour days, of building menus and a 34-person staff, and otherwise navigating the entrepreneurial steeplechase that is restaurant ownership. Last year, the owners converted an old Blockbuster on Grand Boulevard near 14th Avenue into a full-service restaurant that prides itself on seasonal, inventive American cuisine.

Naturally, there were road blocks along the way. You can hear it in Nelson&rsquos voice: this win was earned.

Walk into Savory, though, and the hard work is all behind the scenes. Light jazz plays over the lunch crowd, which looks as clean-cut as the décor &mdash eco-friendly bamboo flooring, fresh wheatgrass edging the bar, booths designed for privacy and tables designed for scene. Waiters whisk past with plates of wood-grilled chicken and brie sandwiches, flat iron steak with Savory fries, and ahi and prawn Cobb salads ($11-15). Natural light fills the cavernous room on sunny days.

And Savory is about to get even sunnier. By the end of April, Nelson plans to open the outdoor patio. (A giant fireplace will act as the patio&rsquos hub, and a fence will buffer diners from the traffic on Grand.) He&rsquoll roll out early- and late-night happy hour menus. And Executive Chef Jonathan Holden will reveal a Sunday brunch menu that promises to be fresh, creative, and easy on the pocketbook.

Both Nelson and chef Holden are Spokane natives, and that makes the hard work &mdash and this win &mdash even more meaningful.

Reflecting, Nelson says, &ldquoIt&rsquos been wonderful, but it&rsquos been hard. I&rsquove definitely shed some pounds!&rdquo He laughs. &ldquoBut to earn the recognition of the community through a vote like this, well, we&rsquore proud.&rdquo

Champagne, it seems, is in order. (AV)

2nd PLACE: West Wing of the White House 3rd PLACE: The Flying Goat NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Texas Roadhouse,CdA

Friendly, nostalgic, cozy: That&rsquos the appeal of Frank&rsquos. You walk in, even the short-order cook shouts a greeting. Squeezing down narrow walkways amid railway memorabilia, you start to feel as if you&rsquore back in the 1940s riding the Cascadian Express. And when those dollar pancakes, gravysmothered hash browns and fluffy omelets are brought to your booth, it feels just like being in a dining car. Sit by a window during a snowstorm and try Joe&rsquos Special: ground beef, sausage, onions and cheese mean warm and delightful, even when the weather is frightful. (MB)

2nd PLACE: Old European 3rd PLACE: Chaps

Heard the call of the wild? Get your steak fix at Spokane&rsquos Wolf Lodge Inn, or journey along Interstate 90 to the original locale in the shadow of the Coeur d&rsquoAlene National Forest.

The smell of sizzling meat appeals to your primal side. Your sensitive side appreciates the delicate flavor imparted by quality beef grilled over tamarack fire and the rustic, 40-year-old charm of this landmark eatery.

With steaks weighing up to 24 ounces (not including sides of beans, bread and potatoes), your tummy thanks you for the long, scenic drive home. You&rsquoll need plenty of time to digest your Wolf Lodge meal. (CS)

2nd PLACE: Spencer&rsquos 3rd PLACE: Churchill&rsquos

Back in 2006, when this Logan neighborhood landmark, formerly called Sonic Burrito, was embroiled in court drama brought on by the company that owns Sonic Drive-In, there was worry that the joint wouldn&rsquot survive the re-branding. Instead, it continued to kill, without the slightest hiccup in popularity. At least in the Best Of voting. We&rsquove had the burrito category for 11 years now, and Sonic/Ionic has never lost. This year, &ldquoIonic&rdquo placed first and &ldquoSonic&rdquo placed fourth, if that&rsquos any indication. (LB)

2nd PLACE: Neato Burrito 3rd PLACE: Slick Rock Burritos NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Café Chulo, CdA

So, doesn&rsquot &ldquoSanté&rdquo mean, like, &ldquobuttloads of meat?&rdquo You&rsquod think so, given the press coverage.

&ldquoIt&rsquos French for &lsquohealth,&rsquo&rdquo says Jeremy Hansen.

But &ldquocharcuterie,&rdquo surely, means &ldquosausage-making&rdquo and, like, &ldquomeat-curing,&rdquo right?

Technically, yes, it&rsquos the cold cooking (curing) of meat, but Hansen likes to take it a step further. &ldquoIt&rsquos the preservation of all foods,&rdquo the 35-year-old chef says. Plums, apricots, huckleberries. &ldquoRight now we&rsquore still using [produce] from last summer.&rdquo It&rsquos the only way he can get close to his target of using 90 percent locally grown food during the region&rsquos hard winters.

That&rsquos the not-so-secret secret of Santé, Hansen&rsquos scene-changing restaurant in the Liberty Building in downtown Spokane. While 90 percent of the press about the place has revolved around his meat dishes and his scratch-made-everything approach (from the sausage he makes to the mustard he serves it with), meat is only half of what Hansen thinks is special about Santé.

If you were to ask him what sets his restaurant apart, he&rsquod say something along the lines of &ldquobalance.&rdquo

&ldquoEverything on a plate needs to be respected equally,&rdquo Hansen says.

His customers seem to get that. While it didn&rsquot make the top three for Best Vegetarian this year, Santé was within striking distance. Not bad for a joint that prominently features a cold case full of sausage.

Some vegetarians we spoke with said Hansen does full vegetarian dishes better than anyone in town. Jane Silver, a midwife and nursing student, told us, &ldquoThe local ingredients and culinary art Santé brings to their menus &hellip makes me feel like being vegetarian is accepted and delicious in an otherwise French-inspired shop of fancy meat!&rdquo

It has been a little over two years since Santé opened. In another two, there could be four Hansen-helmed restaurants.

His second, Sapphire Lounge, is a bar and small bites partnership with developer Jerry Dicker in the former lobby of the Hotel Ruby in downtown Spokane. Hansen describes its focus as &ldquoart food.&rdquo

Earlier this month, Dicker and Hansen confirmed two to three more restaurants in a hotel Dicker is developing in the old Burgan&rsquos Furniture building, with a target open date of early 2013.

No matter how many restaurants Jeremy Hansen starts in his career, though, he says &ldquosanté,&rdquo the word, will always be at the center of his thinking.

&ldquoIt&rsquos about knowing, and caring, where your food comes from,&rdquo he says. (LB) 2nd PLACE: Ian Wingate of Agave, Moxie 3rd PLACE: David Blaine of Latah Bistro NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: Raci Erdem of White House Grill

NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST SANDWICH

The voters who selected Caruso&rsquos Sandwich Company as best sandwich in North Idaho could have come from just about anywhere in the Inland Northwest. In addition to the Hayden, Coeur d&rsquoAlene and Post Falls stores, the company&rsquos Washington locales include Spokane Valley and &mdash later this year &mdash a planned shop in north Spokane.

What gives? Good food, reasonable prices and a family-friendly environment, for starters. The kind of place Chelle Caruso would eat, if she and her husband Vince didn&rsquot already run the place.

Freshly made pasta bowls, made-to-order sandwiches and homemade cold salads are what the Carusos calls &ldquofast casual.&rdquo

&ldquoWe bake our bread in our stores every day from scratch,&rdquo say the Carusos, high school sweethearts who started the business during the &rsquo90s while living in Utah before relocating to the Harrison area. &ldquoWe literally start with yeast, water and flour each morning &hellip which means no preservatives.&rdquo

What the Caruso&rsquos don&rsquot make, they try to source locally. Bagels come from Sweetwater Bakery. Coffee comes from Sandpoint-based Evans Brothers Coffee.

And the vibe? Definitely upbeat. Purple, yellow, red and green walls. Positivisms (Do unto others as you&rsquod have done to you) and witty sayings (It is the customer who pays the wages) are spattered throughout. But it&rsquos not just lip service.

&ldquoWe love donating to the community,&rdquo says Chelle, noting that all stores donate leftover bread to food banks. They also support 4H and local schools.

&ldquoIt is a win/win situation. We get to support the people that support our business, and in return more people find out about our business.&rdquo (CS)

There&rsquos nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread &mdash except maybe the smell of freshly baked Honey Whole Wheat or Cinnamon Chip bread from Great Harvest Bread Company. Owner Jacque Sanchez was one of the first to open a franchise of the bakery, in 1978. Thirty-one years later, her bakers are still rising at 4 am to prepare the fresh-baked breads, muffins, and pastries that her customers crave. From scratch, hearty, and made with love &mdash no wonder this is Spokane&rsquos daily bread. (AV)

2nd PLACE: Luna/Bouzies 3rd PLACE: Tomato Street

BEST APPETIZERS | BEST RESTAURANT FOR A BLIND DATE

If you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain, then schedule your little rendezvous at Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar. Nothing eases tension like a well-made cocktail and good lighting. Rehash your OkCupid match questions over a mezza plate brimming with olive tapenade and marinated feta ($9.99), or a cup of Signature Fries with gorgonzola sauce ($6.99). If it&rsquos not love after the ahi sashimi, you can always turn conversation to people-watching, or &mdash depending on your location &mdash the doublesided fireplace, the 20-foot &ldquoTower of Liquor,&rdquo or the sweeping view of downtown. (AV)

BEST APPETIZERS 2nd PLACE: Clinkerdagger's 3rd PLACE: Zola NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: White House Grill

BEST RESTAURANT FOR A BLIND DATE 2nd PLACE: Clinkerdagger 3rd PLACE: The Onion NORTH IDAHO&rsquoS BEST: White House Grill

Gordy Crafts, wearing an apron and holding a towel, stands uncomfortably next to a table in his own restaurant and reluctantly agrees to take a seat. He&rsquod rather be in the kitchen, which he&rsquos run for the past 14 years, than sit for a few minutes and try to explain the success of Gordy&rsquos Sichuan Café on Spokane&rsquos South Hill.

He&rsquos heard all the questions, anyway. Why don&rsquot you open a real restaurant? (His is quite small and tucked away in a strip mall.) Why don&rsquot you open a location downtown? Why don&rsquot you franchise your restaurant concept?

Crafts, 57, a bear of a man, sneers at the thought. &ldquoWe&rsquove never been on a mission to get deep market penetration,&rdquo he says, nearly choking on the words of marketers and salesmen.

&ldquoOur restaurant is not building on a concept created in order to capture the latest trends. We&rsquore not. This is timeless stuff.

&ldquoIt&rsquos the same as it is, it&rsquos the same as it was,&rdquo he says.

Crafts apprenticed at O&rsquomei, a Sichuan restaurant in Santa Cruz, Calif., and decided to open his own in Spokane following the same strict model, honoring the traditions and techniques of Sichuan cuisine. It&rsquos this reverence for the style of food that keeps customers coming through the door, he says.

&ldquoThey admire us for our consistency, for us being the conduit to bring this food to the public,&rdquo Crafts says.

Sitting in the restaurant, you&rsquore struck by how devoted everyone is to the vision. Servers excitedly talk about the menu, with its dishes divided in three categories: mild, medium and hot. On the one end of the spectrum, there&rsquos black-date chicken and garlic black-bean beef. On the other is Mongolian beef and red curry seafood (which is awesome).

Crafts&rsquo favorite dish at the moment, he says, is &ldquoMapo Tofu &mdash a classic, hearty countryside Sichuan staple.&rdquo


Best of 225: Food and Drink

BEST BAR (18.2%)
THE CHIMES
Many LSU students, both past and present, have fond memories of The Chimes—memories of good times and beers from “around the world.” The longstanding hangout continues to top our list of best bars year after year. Completing the “Round the World” challenge of 20 countries and 60 beers is a well-loved tradition, and with a menu of around 80 beers on tap and more than a hundred bottled brews to choose from, The Chimes will keep even the snobbiest ale aficionado very happy. Multiple locations. thechimes.com

Runners-up:
(14.7%) The Bulldog
(11.9%) Sullivan’s Steakhouse
(10.9%) The Pelican House Tap Room & Whiskey Bar
(10.6%) Radio Bar

Best BBQ (22.3%)
TJ RIBS
Oh, those ribs! Renowned restaurateur Thomas “TJ” Moran’s eponymous barbecue joint has been serving up brisket, chicken, sausage and steaks for nearly three decades, but it’s always been the baby back ribs that truly rule. Marinated for 24 hours before they’re slow-cooked to perfection, they boast tender meat that falls off the bone and just about melts in your mouth. With food this good, it’s little wonder that TJ’s consistently tops this category. Multiple locations. tjribs.com

Runners-up:
(22%) VooDoo BBQ & Grill
(13.6%) City Pork Deli & Charcuterie
(10.2%) Jay’s Bar-B-Q
(9.4%) Pimanyoli’s Sidewalk Cafe


BEST BREAKFAST (21.4%)
ANOTHER BROKEN EGG CAFE
This Mandeville-based chain of eateries now occupies more than two dozen locations in a dozen states, but the Louisiana love remains strong. Every Sunday morning at the Corporate Boulevard location, the tables are packed with happy families chowing down on family-style plates of waffles, pancakes and—true to the name—Eggs Benedict, scrambled egg skillets and more varieties of omelette than you can imagine. anotherbrokenegg.com
(Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(17.8%) Louie’s Cafe
(17%) Mason’s Grill
(13.8%) Frank’s Restaurant
(6.1%) Zeeland Street Market


BEST BRUNCH (23.7%)
MASON’S GRILL
What’s the difference between breakfast and brunch? Fans of Mason’s Grill would probably say it’s the Bloody Mason—declared the best Bloody Mary in the country by Absolut Vodka and Thrillist.com in 2013. Pair one of these delectable build-your-own cocktails with a breakfast burger, Crabmeat Benedict or stuffed French toast, and you know you’ve chosen the perfect weekend denouement. masonsgrill.com
(Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(12.9%) The Chimes
(11.4%) Another Broken Egg Cafe
(10.1%) Bistro Byronz
(8.6%) Beausoleil Restaurant and Bar

BEST BURGER (17.5%)
BURGERSMITH
This small, Lafayette-based restaurant chain has beaten out both national juggernauts and hometown hangouts to take home the best burger title this year. Burgersmith keeps it simple�% Chicago beef patties are handcrafted and topped with ingredients ranging from the spicy signature “Smith Sauce” to homemade chili. You can even top your burger with an organic fried egg for a double punch of protein, and wash it down with a handcrafted Louisiana beer. Perfection. burgersmith.com
(Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(14.6%) Fat Cow Burgers and Salads
(13%) Five Guys Burgers and Fries
(12.9%) Original Dearman’s Soda Shop
(9.1%) George’s Restaurant

BEST CAJUN/CREOLE (21.7%)
LOUISIANA LAGNIAPPE RESTAURANT
It’s no easy task to win over a populace with palates perfectly attuned to the taste of good Cajun and Creole cuisine, but Louisiana Lagniappe has topped this category year after year by sticking to the basics and being very, very good at it. Standbys like fish en papillote and crabmeat au gratin are elevated by the quality of ingredients and the care taken in their preparation, making this an ideal place for both visitors and connoisseurs to get a taste of Cajun country. louisianalagniapperestaurant.com

Runners-up:
(16.2%) Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant
(14.2%) Roberto’s River Road Restaurant
(8.9%) Sammy’s Grill
(7.3%) Mike Anderson’s Seafood

BEST CHARGRILLED OYSTERS (32.1%)
ACME OYSTER HOUSE
Acme (pictured on page 51) is entirely devoted to serving up these mouthwatering mollusks in a variety of ways, but aside from raw, chargrilled is the favorite of most oyster aficionados who swing by. Fans of the briny bivalve regularly pack the parking lot on Perkins Road to partake in a platter or two, fresh from the Gulf. acmeoyster.com

Runners-up:
(17.2%) Mansurs on the Boulevard
(14.3%) Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant
(11.6%) Mike Anderson’s Seafood
(6.2%) Don’s Seafood Hut Restaurant & Oyster Bar


BEST COFFEE SHOP (33.2%)
CC’s COFFEE HOUSE
Seattle has Starbucks, Canada has Tim Horton’s and Baton Rouge has CC’s Coffee—which took nearly a third of the vote in our poll. It seems unlikely that there are many residents who haven’t set foot in one of the more than a dozen locations around the city to get their caffeine fix. Whether it’s the siren call of Community Coffee—unquestionably B.R.’s brew of choice—or the late-night hours that cater to college students seeking a refuel, CC’s has more than left its mark on Baton Rouge’s java landscape. ccscoffee.com
(Photo by: Bianca Zaragoza)

Runners-up:
(13.9%) Coffee Call
(13.5%) Starbucks Coffee Company
(9%) Brew Ha-Ha
(8.4%) Magpie Cafe


BEST CRAWFISH (37.8%)
SAMMY’S GRILL
In a good year, crawfish season stretches from March to midsummer, and every weekend of those months will find a line of mudbug lovers stretching out of the door at any Sammy’s Grill location. Selling them by the sack to go, or on a newspaper-covered plate for the dine-in crowd, this Baton Rouge institution keeps us coming back to suck heads and shuck tails until the harvest ends. sammysgrill.com
(Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(32.3%) Tony’s Seafood Market Inc.
(8.8%) LA Boilers Seafood
(5.5%) Randy Montalbano’s Seafood & Catering
(4.3%) Heads & Tails Seafood


BEST DELI (26.5%)
MAXWELL’S MARKET
A trip to Maxwell’s Market is a trip back in time, to when the people behind the counter know your name and know what you want almost before you do. A fresh- and prepared-meats section that boggles the mind, along with fresh salads and sandwiches made daily, makes this the Red Stick choice to dine in or grab and go for your grill at home. maxwells-market.com
(Photo by: Amy Shutt)

Runners-up:
(17.5%) Jason’s Deli
(12.7%) Whole Foods Market
(11.1%) City Pork Deli & Charcuterie
(9.4%) Anthony’s Italian Deli

BEST DESSERT (29.3%)
AMBROSIA BAKERY
This storied Baton Rouge bakery produces pies, chocolates, petit fours and more, but everyone knows that the star of its roster is the famous strawberry cake, made from an honest-to-goodness secret family recipe. Zeus himself wouldn’t be able to turn down this concoction of lighter-than-air cake with layers of creamy frosting and fresh berries—food of the gods, indeed. ambrosiabakery.com

Runners-up:
(18.7%) Nothing Bundt Cakes
(9.5%) Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro
(7.8%) Baum’s Fine Pastries and Chocolates
(6.5%) Whole Foods Market

BEST GUMBO (16.9%)
DEMPSEY’S
In a city where everyone and her grandmre make the best gumbo you’ve ever tasted, Dempsey’s still stands out. Both their chicken and andouille and their seafood varieties are seasoned to perfection and perfect for warming you up on a wintery day—or served up on a summer afternoon with a cold brew to wash down the bite of cayenne. dempseysbr.com

Runners-up:
(13.3%) The Chimes
(10.6%) Roberto’s River Road Restaurant
(10.1%) Mike Anderson’s Seafood
(8.4%) Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant

BEST ITALIAN (21.1%)
GINO’S RESTAURANT
Gino’s is the grande dame of Baton Rouge’s Italian culinary scene, and Baton Rougeans show their appreciation for its cozy atmosphere and unfailing quality by voting it top of the category year after year after year. Drop in and dine on their signature arancine, or a plethora of other authentic Sicilian dishes, and you’ll see why Gino’s holds such a special place in the Capital City’s heart. ginosrestaurant.com

Runners-up:
(19.8%) The Little Village
(15%) DiGiulio Brothers Italian Cafe
(13.3%) Ruffino’s Restaurant
(10.2%) Monjuni’s Italian Cafe & Grocery


BEST HIBACHI GRILL (52.6%)
ICHIBAN
Mom said not to play with your food, but really, what’s the harm in this kitschy fun? Grab a martini at Ichiban’s new ice bar then sit down at one of the hibachi tables. There you can watch fire dance inches from your plate while your chef twirls his spatulas and flips shrimp with skill and aplomb. It’s dinner plus entertainment, and who can say no to that? ichibanbr.com
(Photo by: Amy Shutt)

Runners-up:
(13.7%) Tokyo Cafe
(11%) Derek Chang’s Koto
(7.8%) Nagoya Cafe
(4.7%) Teppanyaki Hibachi Grill Sushi & Buffet

BEST LATE NIGHT EATS (28.5%)
LOUIE’S CAFE
Long after the sun’s gone down, everyone from LSU students to local politicians bellies up at Louie’s bar for a plate of eggs, bacon and hash browns, accompanied by a bracing cup of coffee. Open in its current location since 1941, it’s been a safe haven for more than fifty years for anyone craving a late-night omelette or juicy burger. louiescafe.org

Runners-up:
(11.3%) Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers
(10.1%) Waffle House
(9.3%) The Chimes
(8.2%) Schlittz & Giggles

BEST MEDITERRANEAN (46.1%)
ALBASHA GREEK & LEBANESE RESTAURANT
Baton Rouge is packed with restaurants specializing in Greek or Lebanese cuisine, and Albasha leads the pack in our survey, handily scooping up nearly half the votes. Is it the distinctive hummus? The mouth-watering shawarma? The delectable spit-roasted ground beef and lamb blend known as gyros? Whatever the culinary reasons, Albasha keeps us coming back for more. albashabr.com

Runners-up:
(27.7%) Serop’s Cafe
(10.5%) Zorba’s Greek Bistro


BEST MARTINI (21.3%)
SULLIVAN’S STEAKHOUSE
Elevating the martini to an art form all its own, Sullivan’s consistently tops our list in this cocktail category, and we at 225 are never surprised. Whether you love the fruity one-two punch of the pineapple-infused Knockout or the savory flavor of the Night Out (dirty, with blue cheese-stuffed olives), there’s something on the menu to tickle your taste buds.
(Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(15.8%) Olive Or Twist
(11.9%) Tsunami
(11.8%) Duvic’s
(10.2%) Ruffino’s Restaurant

BEST MEXICAN (22.4%)
SUPERIOR GRILL
Visit this spacious Government Street restaurant at almost any time, and you’ll find it buzzing with activity, with plates of sizzling food and margaritas as large as your head flying out to tables at a dizzying rate. Drop by from Thursday to Sunday for one of their famous live music shows, and the mood proves even more electric—a perfect party atmosphere in which to dine on Superior’s superior fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas and tacos. superiorgrill.com
(Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(15%) Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant
(13.2%) Mestizo Louisiana Mexican Restaurant
(12.4%) La Carreta
(11.7%) Coyote Blues Fresh Mexican Grill


BEST NEW RESTAURANT (20.4%)
CITY PORK DELI & CHARCUTERIE
Bringing home the bacon in the Best New Restaurant category this year is the little charcuterie that could. Opened under the Perkins Road overpass in December of last year—and adding a second location on Jefferson Highway this fall—the restaurant has built a loyal following addicted to the deli’s delectable sandwiches topped with house-made condiments and paired with truffle chips or signature coleslaw. More than a restaurant, it’s a deli in the old-school sense, with delicious from-scratch boudin, confit, pate and more to take home. cityporkdeli.com
(Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(14.8%) Lava Cantina
(10.9%) Pei Wei Asian Diner
(10.6%) Zorba’s Greek Bistro
(9.4%) Stab’s Steak and Seafood


BEST PIZZA (39.4%)
FLEUR DE LIS PIZZA
Serving Italian food from a cramped pink stucco building with a French name, Fleur De Lis Pizza may seem like an unlikely success story. It has not only survived, however, but thrived on the power of its delicious square-pan pizza and an enormous and loyal customer base who vote it to the top of our pizza category year after year. Since our first “Best Ofs” in 2006, Fleur De Lis has never failed to take top honors, proving that in Baton Rouge, it’s hip to be square. fleurdelispizza.com
(Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(9.4%) Rotolo’s Pizzeria
(8.2%) Pastime Restaurant
(7.7%) Red Zeppelin Pizza
(7.4%) Mellow Mushroom


BEST OVERALL RESTAURANT (12.9%)
LOUISIANA LAGNIAPPE RESTAURANT
Our best overall restaurant also took top honors in the Cajun/Creole category this year. Coincidence? We think not since opening its doors in 1998, Louisiana Lagniappe has consistently created delectable and familiar dishes that locals love to love. Combined with a casual, welcoming atmosphere that makes both residents and out-of-towners feel at home, it’s little wonder that the restaurant has won a loyal following who love comfort food served in a comforting place. louisianalagniapperestaurant.com
(Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(11.7%) Ruffino’s Restaurant
(10.8%) Sammy’s Grill
(8.9%) Ruth’s Chris Steak House
(8.8%) The Chimes

BEST POBOY (13.9%)
ROCCO’S NEW ORLEANS STYLE PO-BOYS & CAFE
Everyone has their preference in poboy perfection, as proven by the slim difference in scores among our top three spots this year. Rocco’s emerges as the poboy pinnacle, serving up its sandwiches on fresh Leidenheimer bread shipped in from New Orleans daily. Each sandwich at Rocco’s is packed with flavor, from the spicy fried shrimp to the classic roast beef—it’s decidedly one of the most authentic experiences you can get outside of the Big Easy. 225-248-1999

Runners-up:
(13.7%) Sammy’s Grill
(13.6%) George’s Restaurant
(11.5%) Po Boy Express
(10.9%) Dempsey’s

BEST RESTAURANT FOR A HOT DATE (25.8%)
TSUNAMI
Upscale atmosphere and an unbeatable view make this rooftop restaurant the ideal place for romance. Begin at sunset on the restaurant’s sixth-floor veranda, signature cocktails in hand as you watch barges cross the mighty Mississippi below. As you and your date take your table and order your artistically prepared sushi rolls, the sky deepens and darkens, casting long shadows that provide a dreamily-lit backdrop when your entrees arrive. By dessert, the lights on the bridge are glimmering, illuminating a night well spent. servingsushi.com

Runners-up:
(14.2%) The Little Village
(12.3%) Ruffino’s Restaurant
(10.6%) Gino’s Restaurant
(9.1%) Sullivan’s Steakhouse


RESTAURANT WITH THE BEST WINE LIST (22.2%)
BIN 77 BISTRO & WINE
Leave the kids at home and journey to France, South Africa, Italy, Chile—all without leaving the cozy confines of this Perkins Rowe restaurant and bar. More than 60 wines from all over the world are always available to sample, along with mouthwatering small plates and entrees that pair perfectly with the vintages on offer. The wine list changes quarterly, so there’s always a reason to return and try something new. bin77.com
(Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(17.7%) Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
(15%) Ruffino’s Restaurant
(12.1%) Sullivan’s Steakhouse
(9.6%) Juban’s

BEST SALAD (21.7%)
J. ALEXANDER’S
A contemporary American restaurant that sits outside the Mall of Louisiana, J. Alexander’s offers a menu that runs the gamut from steaks and seafood to sandwiches. But it’s the eatery’s large entree salads, made with in-house dressings and enough toppings to fill you up, that have the customers coming back in droves. jalexanders.com

Runners-up:
(14.5%) DeAngelo’s
(14.2%) Jason’s Deli
(13.1%) Bistro Byronz
(12.1%) The Salad Shop

BEST SEAFOOD (20%)
LOUISIANA LAGNIAPPE RESTAURANT
If the meaning of “lagniappe” is a little something extra, Louisiana Lagniappe patrons are getting a downright bargain. The restaurant is working on 16 years serving the Capital City with a menu that specializes in fresh fish, oysters, tuna and shrimp straight from the Gulf. What started as a Florida restaurant that residents and tourists had to go to has become a Baton Rouge tradition. louisianalagniapperestaurant.com

Runners-up:
(17.2%) Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant
(16.4%) Tony’s Seafood Market
(15.8%) Mike Anderson’s Seafood
(10.4%) Sammy’s Grill


BEST STEAK (39.8%)
RUTH’S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE
There’s something to be said about a steak dinner. The occasion is fraught with customs, from getting dressed to the nines to eagerly ordering the meat to your specifications, not-so-calmly waiting for the plate to arrive and slicing through for the first, mouth-watering bite. In Baton Rouge, Ruth’s Chris holds the title for the best spot in town for such an adventure. ruthschris.com
(Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(13.9%) Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
(13.3%) Doe’s Eat Place
(12.3%) Sullivan’s Steakhouse
(7.2%) Stroubes Seafood and Steaks

BEST SUSHI (26.9%)
ICHIBAN
Driving down Essen Lane right before Perkins Road on a Friday night, you’ll notice a bustling parking lot to your left. Behind all the cars is the usual sight of patrons waiting to get a table at Ichiban. Sure the restaurant has the Hibachi grill, but its essence is numerous sushi rolls, with regulars like the Crunchy Dynamite Roll and favorites like the Red Dragon Roll taking precedence. With so many options and flavors, you’ll be glad you waited. ichibanbr.com

Runners-up:
(21.4%) Tsunami
(17.7%) Sushi Yama
(8.5%) Rock-n-Sake Bar & Sushi
(8.3%) Hello Sushi


BEST VEGETARIAN MENU (24%)
WHOLE FOODS MARKET
You’re not going to the grocery. You’re going to Whole Foods. And while the store has all the fixins for the pantry, its vegetarian meal options are also becoming a staple to crowds young and old. The store has fresh produce, if you’re looking to grab a few items for a hearty dinner, as well as a salad, olive and entree bar. The options are endless your eyes will pop open, and you’ll have no problem grabbing the cardboard container and rubber band that go together to make your day healthier. wholefoodsmarket.com
(Photo by: Bianca Zaragoza)

Runners-up:
(22%) Zoes Kitchen
(10.9%) Albasha Greek & Lebanese Restaurant
(10%) Magpie Cafe
(8.2%) Bay Leaf Indian Cuisine


BEST RESTAURANT WORTH THE DRIVE (32.4%)
ROBERTO’S RIVER ROAD RESTAURANT
Roberto’s River Road Restaurant is a casual Louisiana restaurant, specializing in steak and seafood entrees. While it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of the city, the restaurant offers a relaxing getaway 30 minutes down the road. The best-kept secret in Louisiana is no longer on the hush-hush. robertosrestaurant.net (Photo by: Collin Richie)

Runners-up:
(20.8%) Middendorf’s Seafood Restaurant
(9.5%) Latil’s Landing Restaurant
(8.2%) Hymel’s Seafood Restaurant
(6.2%) Satterfield’s Restaurant


Still hungry? Go beyond this year’s winners with these suggestions from our secret panel of culinary conquistadors

For BREAKFAST: Whole Foods Market
Word is out on this upscale grocery’s lunches and to-go dinners, but the breakfast buffet—stocked with biscuits and gravy, Belgian waffles and more—is where it’s at. Go early, though. This delicious morning fuel is gone fast. wholefoodsmarket.com

For a BURGER: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
They might be known for their steaks, but the burger here is one of the best deals in town, just $5 during happy hour, 5-7 p.m. Cooked to your taste, you can choose among a variety of cheeses, plus fries or onion rings on the side. The only downside is you have to order and eat at the bar, which is fun, but it can be tough to find a spot. flemingssteakhouse.com

For CRAWFISH: Beausoleil Restaurant and Bar
This Bocage-area eatery does a twist on the traditional boil by smoking its crawfish. This tactic creates a unique flavor that doesn’t stray too far from what you’re used to eating in a backyard with a beer in hand, but is a nice, restaurant-appropriate diversion. These tasty fellas are not always on the menu, but you won’t regret ordering them when they are. beausoleilrestaurantandbar.com

For REALLY SPICY CRAWFISH: Brightside Bar & Grill
One of the best-kept secrets among LSU students is that this unassuming eatery boils up some truly mouth-watering mudbugs. And Wednesday nights are “all you can eat.” But beware, these crawfish are for real heat-seekers only. facebook.com/brightsidebar


For a GROWN-UP BIRTHDAY PARTY: Radio Bar
Craft cocktails, an airy interior that allows for both mixing and mingling or snuggling in a dark corner, a cozy wood deck and monthly “Bar Olympics”—bring your A-game for darts, ping-pong, shuffleboard and more—make this Mid City hangout a great place to celebrate another candle on the cake. facebook.com/theradiobar
(Photo by: David Gallent)

For a NEW RESTAURANT: 9 Dragon Noodle House
With a large selection of dishesincluding ramen and bibimbap, this delicious new spot is a fresh jewel amidst a landscape of Asian cuisine that has largely been relegated to humdrum orange chicken combos. 766-9977


The Best Sandwich in Every State

"All of humankind has one thing in common—the sandwich," renowned late-aughts philosopher Liz Lemon once theorized, on NBC&aposs 30 Rock. "I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich."

We want a lot of things right now, but most days we&aposd settle for some peace, quiet, and absolutely a sandwich. The former can be tricky, but the latter—small mercies—is not hard to find. Roughly as old as the country and invented by the Earl of Sandwich, an Englishman who never seemed to have time for a proper sit-down meal, Americans have spent the entirety of our nation&aposs existence seeking to perfect the humble art form.

And what work we have done, drawing on our heritage to create a sandwich culture as vast and diverse as we are. By now there are many countries that do at least one sandwich well not to brag or anything, but we&aposve got dozens, from the muffaletta, created by Sicilian immigrants in New Orleans, to lobster rolls made with the day&aposs catch in Maine. There&aposs Italian beef in Chicago, roast pork in Philadelphia, pork tenderloins in the Midwest, Cuban-style sandwiches (and a lot of arguing about who makes it best) in Florida—we&aposve got it all.

Not that we really needed to be reminded, but after a year of countless quick meals, of park picnics, of standing around eating off the trunk of the car, our appreciation for the sandwich has certainly been refreshed. What better time for a pause, a look back at the very best of the bunch?

On this list, you will not necessarily find the most fashionable or visually appealing𠅊ll we wanted were icons and legends, the sandwiches that have stood the test of time. We wanted the ones with an extreme sense of belonging, the sandwiches people would fight for, and possibly over.

There were strict parameters  no burgers, no hot dogs, no burritos, no tacos, and in nearly all cases, no barbecue. Sandwiches or not sandwiches, they can go ahead and get their own lists.

Alabama

Some of the luckiest big birds around are the ones living, temporarily anyway, the free-range lifestyle in the pecan groves at Bates Turkey Farm near Greenville, about to celebrate 100 years in the same family. An attempt to drum up business from passers-by on the recently completed interstate was a huge success back in the 1970s, and Bates House of Turkey is now what you&aposd comfortably call destination dining, at least for anyone who likes turkey, because that&aposs still the only thing on the menu. Casseroles, Thanksgiving-anytime dinners, what have you, they&aposll do it, but the standard turkey sandwich𠅊 generous amount of hickory smoked bird sliced onto a sesame seed bun and topped with lettuce and mayonnaise—is a simple pleasure, an essential on those summertime, heat-beating road trips to the beach.

Alaska

If you can&apost get a proper fish sandwich in the state known for some of the world&aposs finest wild-caught seafood, is there any hope for the other 49? Grilled, pan-seared, battered and fried, great fish is all around you, but start out with the fresh-caught halibut at the spartan White Spot Café, straddling the divide between the mostly well-mannered downtown Anchorage tourists typically see and that industrial swathe to the east. Welcoming all comers since the 1950s, you&aposll find more sophisticated preparations, but the breaded and fried square on a bun with tartar sauce and cheese is an absolute classic.

Arizona

Put just about anything on the rustic, wood-fired focaccia from Pane Bianco in Phoenix and you&aposd have a hit on your hands, but our first love, going back to when pizza genius Chris Bianco decided to open a sandwich shop in 2005, will always be the housemade mozzarella, made in season with fat slices of tomato or roast peppers. There&aposs always fresh basil, and splashes of extra virgin olive oil, but that&aposs it, and there doesn&apost need to be anything else. The squidge of that perfect mozz, the grassy notes of quality EVOO, the aroma of fine, fresh bread—this is a sandwich to be eaten as often as possible.

Arkansas

Open since 1905 and famously a gathering place for organizers during the Civil Rights years, the little Lassis Inn in Little Rock could tell you stories, and it can also feed you some of the state&aposs finest fried catfish, served simply with bread, some assembly required. Order the size filet you want, from small to extra large, grab the bottle of Louisiana hot sauce on the table, and you&aposve got it𠅊 sandwich worth traveling for, though there are other condiments worth noting, from a pickle and onion salad to that Arkansas staple, green tomato relish.

California

If anyone asks you what the 1970s were like in Los Angeles, drag them down—immediately, if not sooner—to Langer&aposs Deli, the best Jewish deli in America, for the pastrami. The setting is vintage coffee shop, a bright, mid-century beauty sitting just off of MacArthur Park in the middle of one of the West Coast&aposs most densely populated neighborhoods. Besides Katz&aposs in New York, you won&apost find many classic delis serving hand-carved, thick-cut pastrami this delicate, this delicious. The house double-baked rye dusted with cornmeal and sliced continuously throughout the day is nearly unequaled in its class. The menu is a cavalcade of stars, and that #19 sandwich—pastrami with swiss cheese, coleslaw, and dressing—is a beauty, but you owe it to the meat, the bread, and yourself to start simply, with just pastrami on rye. Maybe a little mustard. Mustard would be fine.

Colorado

For his first few decades in America, Italian immigrant Carmine Lonardo worked as a meatpacker in Denver, and while he probably would have preferred the plant didn&apost close in the 1970s, generations of Italian sausage lovers from across the Front Range are pretty happy about it. The house links from Carmine Lonardo&aposs Specialty Meats & Deli in Lakewood, which Mr. L. started making to earn a bit of money all those years ago, is now a staple throughout the region. The deli, operated by Carmine Jr. and other members of the Lonardo family, does a great cold cut sub, but you&aposre really here for the straight forward sausage sandwiches, made with provolone and peppers, bathed in marinara.

Connecticut

The protocol may have been a little different this time around, but the lobster shacks of New England𠅊lready geared toward a more out-of-doors experience—managed to mostly keep last summer feeling a lot like any other. The soft breezes blowing off the Mystic River kept the air naturally fresh at Abbott&aposs Lobster in the Rough in Long Island Sound-adjacent Noank, where crowds of eager eaters stopped in for deviled eggs and the finest Connecticut-style lobster rollsin the land: meat (here, a quarter pound, though you can get more), melted butter, toasted bun, end of story.

Delaware

So they can&apost decide whether to call them subs or hoagies, and with Baltimore and Philadelphia braying in your ear, it&aposs surprising Team Hoagie hasn&apost won the war yet, but we can all agree that what you call your sandwich hardly matters, as long as it&aposs good. From the streets of Wilmington to the sands of Rehoboth, talented makers are not difficult to locate, some of them even bragging serious longevity. Gaudiello&aposs in Wilmington&aposs Trolley Square neighborhood had been around for decades, but after a local chef bought out the previous owners, the shop has been quietly moving toward the top of the charts, largely on the back of the Special Italian Hoagie (yes, this is a safe space for hoagie people), featuring the usual wide selection of cured meats, provolone, veggies, high quality olive oil, housemade red wine vinaigrette, and fresh Italian bread, another necessary this part of the world has never been short on.

Florida

Just over a century ago in Tampa, Spanish-Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez Sr. created a sandwich at his restaurant called the Mixto. He hoped it would honor the contributions of the many immigrants who breathed life into the Ybor City neighborhood, where the restaurant was located, and the city of Tampa in general. Ham for the Spaniards, Genoa salami for the Italians, mojo roast pork for the Cubans, and for the Germans and Jews, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. The sandwich and the restaurant—Columbia, pride of Ybor𠅊re still with us, thankfully. Like always, you&aposll find yours served on Florida&aposs best Cuban bread, baked since 1915 just around the corner at La Segunda. Florida is a big state of course, filled with people who have a lot of ideas about where to find the best Cuban-style sandwich. Down south in Miami, make the slightly chaotic Enriqueta&aposs your first stop, where they&aposll stuff croquetas into your Cubano if you like, and yes, you do like, very much so.

Georgia

Welcome to biscuit country. Chicken biscuits, breakfast biscuits, breakfast biscuits with chicken on them—they&aposre everywhere, from Hugh Acheson&aposs Empire State South in Atlanta, where the weekday breakfast biscuit with fried chicken, pimento cheese, bacon marmalade, and scrambled eggs sets the bar incredibly high, to, well, every truck stop and roadside café in the state. You will find yourself in more than capable hands at the roadside Stilesboro Biscuits out in Kennesaw, as well as Atlanta&aposs Home grown GA, where the somewhat giant Comfy Biscuit features both fried chicken and sausage gravy, because of course one or the other isn&apost enough.

Hawaii

Somewhere between the invention of liquid smoke and the rise of today&aposs fast-paced lifestyle, Kalua pork—traditionally a whole hog affair, rubbed with local sea salt, wrapped in tropical plant leaves, and cooked in the ground—made the leap from luau labor of love to every pressure cooker in town. And why not? However you make it, it&aposs going to taste pretty good, but when it comes to barbecued meat, you&aposre never going to beat low and slow. Adherents to tradition, like Helena&aposs Hawaiian Food in Honolulu, aren&apost the sort of place you rock up for a sandwich they&aposre more into the plate lunch scene here (it&aposs a great scene, get to know it). But at the Highway Inn, with two O&aposahu locations, and around almost as long as Helena&aposs, they do a great Kalua pig sandwich on slider rolls. The prep𠅊 Ti leaf wrap and plenty of Hawaiian sea salt—is traditional the hit of Kiawe smoke flavoring (Kiawe being Hawaii&aposs answer to mesquite) and a trip to the oven is not. The old-timers who have eaten here their entire lives might know the difference, but they&aposre not complaining, at least not too loudly. At Kono&aposs, a much newer establishment, with multiple locations on O&aposahu, they&aposre proud of their 12-hour cook, and pork is essentially the star of the show, served in everything from a breakfast burrito to the classic pressed sandwich, on a sweet Hawaiian roll. 

Idaho

This might be one of those parts of the country where someone selling Italian subsends up posting descriptions of all the meats and cheeses for efficiency&aposs sake, but after forty years in business, it appears customers at Cobby&aposs in the Boise &aposburbs know their cotto from their capicola—they&aposre certainly ordering enough sandwiches starring one or the other. Decades after Pat Moroney posted up here and started his dream business, there are two locations in the area. From Italian sausage sandwiches to a simple mortadella and provolone on focaccia, this might not be the Italian deli you grew up with elsewhere, but it works.

Illinois

The exact origins are tough to pin down, but the legend of the Italian beef, pride of Chicagoland, is too good to prove incorrect. Immigrants working the stock yards would bring home the tougher cuts, seasoning and slow-cooking them into submission, yielding an aromatic, irresistible jus. Sliced thinly and served on Italian bread, you had a sandwich that may not have looked like much, but damn, if it wasn&apost delicious. There are stories about beef being prepared this way for parties and functions, too, which brought the concept out of home kitchens and into the public eye entrepreneurial types would soon introduce this great idea to the marketplace. Since the 1930s, give or take, Italian beef has been one of Chicago&aposs finest quick meals. Today, the sandwich isn&apost much more complicated than it was at the very beginning𠅊n absorbent commercial-grade roll from a local institution like Gonnella, shards of slicer-cut beef, liberal amounts of giardiniera, hot or sweet peppers, and as little or as much of the jus (otherwise known as gravy) as you want. Hot and Wet, Sweet and Wet, Hot, Sweet and Wet, or even Dry (but why would you?), try it all the ways, at all the places. Let us know how you get on we&aposll be at Johnnie&aposs in Elmwood Park, not far from O&aposHare, where they still roast their own beef in-house (the lengthy process has lured a lot of other places into cutting corners). Their combo sandwich, made not only with the best beef in town, but also a whole charcoal-grilled Italian sausage, is a riot of flavor and texture. For even better results, top with giardiniera, all the peppers, and a gravy deep soak.

Indiana

Serving Indianapolis for over a century, Shapiro&aposs is not the only Jewish deli in the Midwest, it just happens to be the finest𠅊 sparkling clean, well-oiled pastrami and corned beef machine. Long lines of regulars are served cafeteria style, enjoying beautiful Reuben sandwicheson some of the best rye bread this side of Langer&aposs in Los Angeles, peppered beef, brisket, outstanding chicken soup, and housemade cheesecakes. Maybe it&aposs just our New York showing, but walking in here feels like coming home. Four generations of Shapiros have worked hard to make this place indispensable to a city that might have otherwise lost interest decades ago.

From top-notch bacon (Vande Rose Farms) to some of the country&aposs finest prosciutto (La Quercia), America&aposs largest pork producer does a bang-up job with one of its main exports. The pork tenderloin, locally one of the most popular ways to get a hit of the other white meat, is less renowned beyond state lines, and we&aposre never sure why—who wouldn&apost want a massive hunk of center-cut pork loin, pounded vigorously, breaded or battered, and fried until perfectly crisp, still juicy on the inside? Typically found hanging out of a standard size bun with mustard and pickles, there are other sandwiches in Iowa, some of them quite well-known, but this one is absolutely the best. Not only does the local pork producers association hand out awards for the best tenderloin each year, but the state has also created a "Pork Tenderloin Trail," featuring twelve of the best makers. Breitbach&aposs Country Dining, up above the Mississippi River in Balltown and the oldest bar and restaurant in the state, does an excellent job.

Kansas

Brought to the Great Plains by the large community of Volga Germans that resettled here as early as the 1870s, the bierock is a filled yeast roll, typically stuffed with beef, cabbage, onions and seasonings, that can be found in various forms and shapes and under assumed names throughout the region. But it&aposs Kansas that seems most intent on keeping the original traditions alive. You&aposll find them year round, but bierock fever tends to spike during the fall, when the weather begins to cool. Go either way in Wichita—old school at M&M, a restaurant dedicated entirely to the local favorite, or new wave at Prost Biergarten, where some of the best buns in the state are delivered all over town in the restaurant&aposs electric Smart car, which is named Franz. Not within range? Becky&aposs Bierocks, busily baking in the tiny town of St. Francis, ships nationwide.

Kentucky

A whole century after a chef at the Brown Hotel invented a late-night snack for hungry guests in search of sustenance, Louisville has yet to come up with a more appealing name for the hot brown sandwich, which honestly sounds more like a warning than an enticement. We like to think of the hot brown as the beginnings of a fine turkey club: roast bird, strips of bacon, and slices of tomato on toast. Plot twist—the whole thing is then flooded with rich Mornay sauce before hitting the broiler, emerging a delicious mess that requires a knife and fork to consume. The sandwich is now served all over town, but the original is still the best.

Louisiana

When Salvatore Lupo opened Central Grocery on Decatur Street in New Orleans, back in 1906, the store became a favorite among the Sicilian immigrants working the French Market. They&aposd come in for lunch, pick up sandwich makings (meat, cheese, olive salad, rounds of soft sesame bread), and head back to their stalls just across the street. Lupo saw an opportunity and decided to start making the sandwiches himself the muffuletta was born. The ingredients aren&apost rocket science—Italian meats, swiss and provolone, plus a generous amount of salad, which is essentially giardiniera but with the benefit of chopped olives. (You can buy the Central Grocery&aposs own mix on Amazon.) Replicating the bread, however, is more difficult—like a great tortilla in Tucson, you might end up eating this stuff plain, given the chance. For best results, wait awhile. The longer the absorbent bread sits with the cured meats and the salad, the more the flavors fuse together. Central Grocery ships sandwiches and olive salad via Goldbelly.

Maine

The lobster business is a temperamental one, sometimes likened to a ride on a bucking bronco that just won&apost end. While news of the pandemic in late 2019 had fishermen on high alert, shuttered restaurants and a drastic reduction in commercial flights (how do you think those live lobsters get to Paris and Beijing?) were no match for an industry that already knew a thing or two about resilience. Turns out, for many people this year, self-care meant buying a lot of lobster. Throughout the busiest time of year, summer into fall, prices remained mostly stable. Lines at plenty of the state&aposs lobster shacks remained healthy—nothing, apparently, was going to keep a good portion of the general public away from their summertime lobster roll. Classically, the Maine version is just cooked and chilled lobster tossed with a bit of mayonnaise, scooped onto a toasted and buttered split-top roll. You can find this everywhere—price, portion control, proximity, and happy childhood memories seem to inform most discussions about who makes them best. At Bite into Maine, a seasonal operation in the Portland area—you can&apost beat their seaside food truck at the iconic Portland Head Light for ambience—you can choose from an array of preparations, from lobster with wasabi mayo to a roll with coleslaw and celery salt. During the winter, head to the year-round Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland for their memorable contribution𠅊 Connecticut-style roll, except with brown butter. McLoon&aposs Lobster Shack ships via Goldbelly.

Maryland

One of the best restaurants in Baltimore is actually way up Falls Road in the countryside. Among all those historic homes, buffered by field and forest, Jake&aposs Grill is essentially the only commercial business for a good while in either direction, and it&aposs not catering to the horsey set, mind you, though you might find them lined up at lunch for a pit beef sandwich. A mess of charcoal-cooked roast beef, cooked pink as a sunset, is sliced thinly and piled on a roll spread with a horseradish-mayo sauce. (Some people want barbecue sauce as well, but it&aposs not essential.) We&aposve yet to find a sandwich we didn&apost like—try the one closest to you, but also slot in time with two superstars—the vintage Pioneer Pit Beef in Catonsville and Chaps Pit Beef, with an original location just off I-95.

Massachusetts

Surely there are lobster rolls in a coastal state bookended by Maine and Connecticut, but we&aposre too busy filling up on clam rolls, which are the first meal we think of when we think Massachusetts, or at least the very large amount of the state located by the ocean. The tidal flats up near Ipswich are still happy hunting grounds for the state&aposs best sandwich, which is said to have been invented on Boston&aposs North Shore. Plump little bellies are dipped in flour and fried just enough, that briny flavor bursting forth from a griddled, New England-style hot dog bun lined with tartar sauce, typically brightened with a dash of citrus. Woodman&aposs of Essex claims to be the inventor, but The Clam Box nearby is no slouch.

Michigan

Much like pastrami in New York, corned beef in Detroit is cherished all over town, salt-cured into submission by classic purveyors like Sy Ginsberg, Grobbel&aposs, and Wigley&aposs. Before hanging out in Detroit became fashionable again, you&aposd post up at the classic Hygrade Deli on Michigan Avenue, just out past the abandoned train station, and sometimes end up the only customer, just you and your big, beautiful Reuben sandwich or a plain old corned beef on rye with mustard, contemplating life and America and the emptiness swirling around you. These days, pandemic permitting, you&aposll have more company, here and at other institutions like Vivio&aposs and Louie&aposs Ham & Corned Beef over in the historic Eastern Market, as well as new-school hits like Mudgie&aposs and the Russell Street Deli.

Minnesota

Well-liked enough around here to be designated the state fish, there are easier catches than the walleye, but one fresh filet on your plate and you&aposll see immediately why this is the one everyone wants. Subtle and sweet, firm but almost melt-on-the-tongue, you&aposll probably forget all about ocean-caught seafood for a moment, and perhaps ask for seconds, maybe a walleye sandwich wrapped up to go for a friend, a friend who is you. One finds these all over the state, but only the Tavern on Grand in St. Paul, where Minnesota&aposs state fish is the specialty, has the guts to call itself Minnesota&aposs state restaurant—you&aposll start here. The sandwich is nothing fancy, and it doesn&apost need to be—just a nice, fresh filet, seasoned and fried, on a French roll. Skip the tartar sauce, for now. This is one piece of fish you need to taste properly.

Mississippi

Settled by the French and located between two of their main outposts, Mobile and New Orleans, coastal Mississippi still has more in common culturally with those places than it does with anything to the often-distant north. Historically a place of refuge during the hot months, towns like Bay St. Louis continue to swell with city dwellers on summer weekends, and while you sometimes have to take a little drive to find what you&aposre looking for, the food here is often very good, if not as iconic as that of New Orleans. For example: You might not drive here just to eat the po-boys, but they&aposre better here than pretty much anywhere outside of Louisiana. The line at Pirate&aposs Cove in Pass Christian is often made up of people from the other side of the state line, who&aposll swear by the house roast beef—we&aposll second the recommendation. In Biloxi, Taranto&aposs Crawfish makes some of the better seafood po-boys in existence, but that&aposs just for starters—when available, snap up a pound of peel-and-eat royal red shrimp for $16.

Missouri

Hand-written on a scrap of paper and handed down by his grandmother before her death, Alex Donley holds the recipe for the delicious salami that has contributed to Gioia&aposs Deli winding up the oldest sandwich shop in St. Louis, boasting more than a century&aposs worth of experience. Don&apost come looking for a traditional cured salami. Made fresh and served fresh, 10,000 pounds of the stuff each month, what you&aposre getting here is something like an Italian-inflected, rustic country paté, sliced thick onto Fazio&aposs Bakery bread (another local institution that&aposs been around for over 100 years) and topped with pepperoncini, onion, and spicy mustard. The only embellishment worth considering is to order your sandwich on Gioia&aposs garlic cheese bread, resulting in a toasted mess starring generous amounts of processed Provel, a locally preferred cheese alternative.

Montana

The quickest path to understanding how things work in Butte is knowing that there used to be roughly 100,000 people living in what was once the wealthiest mining district in existence. Today, the city has just over 30,000 inhabitants, and the money is mostly elsewhere, but the town isn&apost going anywhere, with its grand, boom period architecture and handful of classic restaurants that adeptly pull double duty—not only will they feed you, and sometimes quite well, but they are also very effective as time machines. Pork Chop John&aposs dates back to 1924, when John Burklund began selling sandwiches out of the back of a van, a business lucrative enough that he ended up in a brick-and-mortar location not long after. The original location is still in operation—just ten stools at a counter𠅊nd the business has now been in the same family since the 1960s. The pork chop sandwich—pork tenderloin, breaded and fried, on a roll with mustard, onion and pickle—is rather iconic. Make ours a double.

Nebraska

Think Reuben sandwich, and you&aposre probably thinking deli, maybe somewhere on a coast—think again. Times may have changed now, but back when one of the country&aposs most iconic sandwiches was invented, you&aposd never find a proper kosher-style deli mixing meat and dairy. Such a mistake could only be made somewhere deep into flyover country, and it did𠅊t the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, to be precise. Regrettably, the hotel is long out of business, and any of the iconic classics that served the city&aposs most popular sandwich are long gone, too. Today, a handful of much newer businesses like to lay claim to serving the best in town, but honestly, you&aposll find better in plenty of other states nowadays. This cannot be said for that other delightful, if less widely-renowned, Nebraska invention, the deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich. The sandwich is known as a Frenchee, possibly due to a passing resemblance to the Monte Cristo (this is purely legend, mind you, but it sounds great). You can do all kinds of things with the Frenchee, but we&aposll take the classic𠅍ipped, coated, and fried𠅊t Don & Millie&aposs, a quirky local chainlet that any regional fast food connoisseur must visit before they die, possibly from eating too many Frenchees.

Nevada

Olivier Brouillet wasn&apost the first French expat lured to the desert for career reasons, but it&aposs not every day you get someone from the South of France looking around Las Vegas and thinking, you know what, I think I&aposll stay, and not only will I stay, I&aposll summon my family here and open a restaurant in the back of an office park just off the freeway. That was 2009, and Baguette Café came out swinging, in its simple, modern space, the furthest thing from cute/French you&aposd have expected, more like something you&aposd find in, well, the back of an office park off of the highway in France. Not trendy, just good, serving up colorful quiches and tarts, decent croissants, and shots of commercial-grade espresso. With chef parents Lucien and Claudie backing him in the kitchen and lending a warm, familial energy to the enterprise, Brouillet had a hit on his hands. While the Strip was working hard to lure franchises of popular sandwich joints from around the country, some of them on this list, actual Las Vegas went ahead and made this sweet little hideout its own𠅊 hideout that a lot of people seem to know how to find. Starting with proper French omelets on freshly baked croissants each morning, it&aposs all good, but the tuna sandwichreally does sum up the spirit of the place. It&aposs a salade niçoise, sort of, with tuna and egg and olives and greens and what have you, except on a house-baked baguette. It&aposs French, yes, but in the American desert, where there are no rules.

New Hampshire

They don&apost own maple syrup—or breakfast—here in "Live Free or Die" land, but you&aposve got to admit there&aposs a special quality to a sugaring season road trip to one of New Hampshire&aposs long-running pancake houses, some of the finest in the land. Perched on a hillside and offering a panoramic view of the White Mountains, Polly&aposs Pancake Parlor has been in business since shortly after the Great Depression on the back of their griddle cakes and maple syrup. The instant we think of sandwiches and New Hampshire, we&aposre thinking about Polly&aposs Panwich—quality, locally-smoked bacon, egg, and cheese (ask for the cheddar from Harman&aposs, made just around the corner), resting comfortably between two plain pancakes. You might need a knife and fork for this one.

New Jersey

A search for the best Italian deli in New Jersey is not a great use of anybody&aposs time, because the answer is always going to be whichever one is closest to you at the moment—not only because we don&apost want to fight, but also because there are just that many great ones. From Atlantic City&aposs White House Subs, one of the city&aposs finest attractions since before the casinos showed up (these days, it feels like it&aposs going to outlive most of them), where the "half sandwich" is a foot long, to the fresh mozzarella paradise that is Hoboken, where multiple delis duke it out every year for top honors at the local Mutz Fest, nobody who wants any kind of Italian anything is leaving New Jersey hungry. Hoboken&aposs M&P Biancamano has been in business for a whole century, with the same cheesemaker for over 30 years. We weren&apost going to play favorites, but their fresh mozzarella and pepper sandwich𠅊 thing of simple beauty, on some very fine bread—might be one of the country&aposs best sandwiches, period.

New Mexico

Some day, it&aposs quite possible we&aposll look back and ask ourselves, "Why did it take so long for everyone to figure out that asadero cheese works really well on a Reuben, possibly better than Swiss?" It melts better, serving to further cultivate an ambiance of decadence, always welcome when we&aposre talking Reubens it tastes better with the corned beef, too. Should this idea ever go wide, make sure to credit Marie Yniguez, proprietor of Slow Roasted Bocadillos in Albuquerque, where the Duke City Ruben, one of the most popular offerings at the city&aposs favorite sandwich shop, starts from scratch with slow-cooked corned beef, topped with housemade sauerkraut and a chipotle-infused dressing, which brings a nice heat to the situation. 

New York

A solitary espresso in the window at Caffe Reggio a Zabar&aposs that after all these years finally mastered the art of crowd control credit cards at Luger&aposs. For the fortunate ones who stayed and stayed healthy, 2020 was in some respects a special time in New York, offering endless opportunities to get reacquainted with the places that make the city so special. At the top of that list had to be a suddenly rather laid-back Katz&aposs Delicatessen on East Houston Street, where the crowds may have thinned, but the pastrami was sliced𠅋y hand—just as thick as always. If you think there&aposs a more iconic New York sandwich than the pastrami on rye with mustard, you may need a refresher course on what New York is actually about. You get it here, you get it at the Second Avenue Deli, Sarge&aposs, Pastrami Queen, Liebman&aposs in The Bronx, David&aposs Brisket House (classic), and Frankel&aposs (new wave) in Brooklyn. You just get it.

North Carolina

Pimento cheese belongs to all of us now, but before word ever properly got out, it belonged to the South, and North Carolina most of all. It&aposs said that the most pimento cheese-consumingest population in the country is found in the Charlotte region, where a great deal of the ambrosial stuff is made. And where does one procure the finest cheddar cheese, pimento pepper, and mayonnaise salad/spread in the land? We&aposre partial to two magnificent classics, both vintage markets serving their respective communities for generations—Conrad & Hinkle, established 100 years ago in Lexington, because sometimes you have to eat vegetarian, even in one of the country&aposs eminent barbecue capitals, and Musten & Crutchfield in Kernersville, at it since the 1930s.

North Dakota

You don&apost have to look far in either Dakota to find one of the region&aposs favorite sandwiches, and you don&apost need to bend over backwards trying to understand it, either. It&aposs s a roast beef sandwich placed on a plate, alongside a scoop or two of mashed potatoes, which is then flooded with substantial, ideally homemade, not out-of-a-package brown gravy. It&aposs cold out there, it&aposs January, you&aposre on board, right? Thought so. Known far and wide for their fleischkueschle (fried meat pies), cabbage rolls, and knoepfla soup (dumplings), the 24-hour, legendary Kroll&aposs Diner in Fargo and three other cities, does one of the state&aposs best meals proud—no tricks, no surprises, just slow-roasted beef, shredded onto wheat bread, with a substantial and flavorful gravy. Comforting, essential wintertime eating.

All-beef down to the casings shipped from Germany, the hickory smoked ring bologna from Troyer&aposs—in business for just shy of a century, with the same family still in charge—has very much earned its spot on the food pyramid in Ohio&aposs Amish heartland, a year-round destination for hungry travelers. There are other sandwiches in the state that are easy to love, but the nearly primitive hot bologna and swiss on a bun, made to order with serious efficiency at the very historic Troyer&aposs General Store, has achieved longevity for a reason: its stark simplicity. That, and we&aposre talking bologna that is really damn delicious. The whole experience—the sandwich, the vintage country store energy, the brusque pair we&aposve often found behind the counter, working with extreme efficiency�longs in a museum.

Oklahoma

Caught between some of the greatest barbecue states in the country, you&aposve got to hand it to Oklahoma for sticking by its childhood sweetheart: smoked bologna. Served everywhere from nice restaurants to well-worn counter joints, what&aposs sometimes jokingly referred to as "Oklahoma tenderloin" isn&apost just a local curiosity, it&aposs a full-on, all-state passion. Take it off the menu, local restaurateurs will tell you, at your own risk. At Jamil&aposs in Oklahoma City, nearly last of a breed of Lebanese-owned steakhouses that served hungry Oklahomans for years, the bologna sandwich is one of the top draws at lunch time (get it with a side of tabbouleh, for balance). Up in Tulsa, the city&aposs hottest &aposcue joint, Burn Co. does an all-the-meats extravaganza, featuring yours truly, that could stop hearts from just looking at the thing.

Oregon

Ever wonder what a bowl of pho would be like if it were a sandwich? Of course there&aposs a restaurant in genre-bending Portland happy to answer the question for you (that&aposs just how Portland works). As in most communities of any size west of the Cascades, there are well-trodden pathways to the pho parlors, and carts selling one, the other, or both right here in Portland, trips to An Xuyen and Rose VL Deli are an anytime must. At Rick Gencarelli&aposs truck-turned-institution Lardo, the classic flavors and textures of a great banh mi collab with another West Coast favorite, the French dip—say hello to the Pho&aposrench Dip. Quality steak is shaved onto a crusty roll along with the requisite julienned veg, plus sambal mayonnaise and hoisin, all served with a cup of rich, dark pho broth. Mix, match, dip, don&apost dip, down the thing like a delicious, salty consommé shot—there are no wrong behaviors.

Pennsylvania

A serious jostling in the mosh pit that is South Philly&aposs perennially cramped John&aposs Roast Pork rides high atop our list of post-pandemic musts, partly just to feel something after our terrible year of No Touching, but also for a sandwich, a roast pork sandwich please, the one any right-minded Philadelphian can tell you is the one you go looking for once you&aposre ready to dine sober, in the sunlight, like a whole adult. (They make a memorable cheesesteak, too, don&apost get agitated.) Slow-roasted pork topped with saut spinach dripping garlic-infused juices and slices of melty provolone go on a Carangi Bakery roll, delivered to you wrapped up tight. You pay cash and you get the hell out, either to dine on the spartan, industrial-view patio or the hood of your car. It&aposs one of the most memorable meals you&aposll ever eat in Philadelphia.

Rhode Island

Proudly home to the highest per capita population of Italian Americans this side of the Atlantic, there&aposs always someone around to make you a classic grinder, stuffed with all the cured meats. You can find such a thing at Dee&aposs Deli in Cranston, but we&aposre there for something you don&apost see every day𠅊 fresh Italian roll filled with garlicky broccoli rabe and thick slices of sharp provolone cheese. You don&apost have to be a vegetarian to get hooked on the delicious simplicity of the thing—this is one of their most popular sellers. Missing the meat? Add links of the house broccoli rabe-stuffed sausage. A winner, either way.

South Carolina

Two short blocks from a scrubbed-up King Street in the heart of Charleston, Dave&aposs Carry-Out is as real deal as restaurants come, in a city that in recent years had leaned heavily into catering towards a more upscale crowd. A bare bones counter joint, Dave&aposs is known well to locals for fried shrimp and the locally-favored red rice it&aposs also home to one of the finest sandwiches for many a mile—fish or pork chop, take your pick. Both will be battered, dragged through the fryer, and served sizzling hot on spongey white bread, with nothing other than lettuce and tomato for garnish. Sprinkle a little hot sauce, and you&aposre in fine dining territory.

South Dakota

Ever tried pheasant salad? The annual hunt is a big deal around here, which apparently means eating a lot of pheasant throughout the year. Back during World War II, a railroad-adjacent canteen in Aberdeen serving the troops wound up inundated with pheasant brought down by local hunters, so they started making salad sandwiches. To this day, this very South Dakota thing remains on the menu not only in many home kitchens, but in local restaurants as well. You&aposd expect good things from a place called The Pheasant Restaurant, which is not in Aberdeen but in Brookings, where they&aposve been at it since just about the end of the war. Here, the house pheasant salad sandwich is made with chopped apples, cranberries, and roasted pecans, topped with melted swiss on marble rye toast. Their hot roast beef and sloppy Joe sandwiches, two other Dakota essentials, are mighty fine as well.

Tennessee

Nearly a century before Nashville became one of the South&aposs favorite food cities, the locals were blowing their own minds over baskets of hot chicken, messy and spicy and red with cayenne pepper. It would have been a serious failing had hot chicken not ascended along with the city, but who could have predicted it&aposd travel as well as it has—not just all over the country, but to foreign lands as well. So what if you can find it in San Diego and Sydney? We&aposll always brake for a moment to appreciate the classic article at the pioneering Prince&aposs Hot Chicken, where accompanying pickles and white bread invite a make-your-own type situation. For a pre-assembled sandwich, we&aposll head to the new-school Hattie B&aposs—perhaps best thought of as the South&aposs answer to Shake Shack𠅏or the hot chicken sandwich on a snazzy, locally-baked roll, topped with crunchy coleslaw, kosher dills, and a drizzle of the seductive house comeback sauce, a let&aposs-try-this-at-home combo of honey, mayonnaise, and spices. 

Texas

The first torta ahogadamight not be your best one, but the visual alone𠅊 crusty, torpedo-shaped sourdough birote stuffed with carnitas, freshly emerged from its shocking orange-red, chile de arbol sauce bath—will haunt your dreams for some time, and we&aposre betting you&aposll be fine with this. Hailing from Jalisco, it is only right and fitting that San Antonio, culturally one of our most Mexican cities, has become something of a proving ground for a sandwich we hope will eventually become as American as ham and Swiss. Go for one of the photogenic beauties at the smart Ro-Ho Pork & Bread, or hit the drive-thru at casual El Chivito in Balcones Heights𠅎ither way, you&aposre in capable hands. Both establishments proudly tout their Guadalajara roots, and why shouldn&apost they𠅋ib up, sink in for the first bite, and it&aposs almost like you&aposre there.

Topped with shards of deep-pink pastrami and nearly bursting forth from an inadequate paper wrapper, the house favorite at Crown Burger rose to become one of Salt Lake&aposs most iconic meals for good reason, and yet there&aposs so much more to the menu at this family-owned institution, where the ketchup-mayo combo known around here as fry sauce, aka Utah&aposs favorite condiment, flows like a river in springtime heat. Around since the late 1970s, even some of Crown Burger&aposs greatest fans haven&apost yet discovered the cut-above-fast-food ribeye steak sandwich, cooked to order and fully customizable we might go for the house onion rings and lashings of fry sauce.

Vermont

A few million jambon-beurre(literally, "ham-butter") are sold every day in France, and, yes, this is the most basic of sandwiches, but when you contemplate the ingredients for just a moment—quality cooked ham, French butter, a crackling fresh baguette—you realize that simple is sometimes best: What else, truly, could such a sandwich possibly need? In the United States, too often the answer is other things that might sound like they belong, and yet they do not. At the highway-adjacent Red Hen Baking Co. between Waterbury and Montpelier, no such temptation has been indulged all you get are piles of locally-smoked ham and liberal amounts of Vermont Creamery butter stuffed into a fine house baguette. In other words, you get everything you need.

Virginia

In a perfect world, the I-81 struggle through America&aposs Secretly Biggest State would have been long ago ameliorated by modern conveniences including a third lane in each direction in the meantime, better to think of this essential leg of the Northeast to Deep South fast route in terms of the many small detours one can make in order to feel human again, after yet another hour or staring at the rear end of the same tractor trailer. These fast escapes should involve𠅊t least once𠅊 dive into Virginia ham culture, and one of our favorites will always be the frills-free experience at Fulks Run Grocery, just a short hop from the highway northwest of Harrisonburg on Fridays they fry up slabs of the house specialty, but we&aposll take a country ham sandwich any day—salty, formidable, stacked on a bun acting merely as a vehicle for its precious cargo. (Upgrade your experience with homemade pimento cheese.) Condemned to I-95 instead? Slow down for the Smithfield ham on a roll at the delightfully antiquated Sally Bell&aposs in Richmond, where after all this time they still sell a great box lunch, a kind of Southern-fried bento, lovingly assembled.

Washington

Can we buy you a fish sandwich? Bordering on the Pacific wilds and as close as you can get to those chilly, bountiful Alaskan waters without being in Alaska, the Puget Sound region and environs may have changed immeasurably in the last couple of decades, but this remains a fresh seafood paradise—if you&aposre hungry, we&aposll start you off with the seared halibut at the Seattle Fish Company, a proper neighborhood fish market in West Seattle, or if you&aposre downtown and can&apost be enticed, the legendary Market Grill at Pike Place Market, where any hurdles are worth overcoming for classy grilled fish sandwiches on a baguette slathered in herbed aioli and topped with fresh veggies. 

West Virginia

Are pepperoni rolls a sandwich? Chunks, sticks, slices—however you get it in there, just get it in there—of the stuff baked into amply-sized white rolls have been one of the state&aposs favorite portable foods since mining&aposs heyday, but we&aposre inclined to see those as a snack, rather than a complete meal, unless of course you eat two or three of them. Let&aposs meet for lunch, we&aposll talk about it—say the vintage Cam&aposs Ham in Huntington, in business for roughly 70 years on the back of one thing—the not so humble ham sandwich. Flaked, sugar-cured ham goes on a toasted roll in piles, there&aposs a secret sauce—think mayo, or is that Miracle Whip, with a bit of pickle juice, relish and some seasoning𠅊nd a ton of shredded lettuce. Sink your teeth into that. 

Wisconsin

You&aposre not likely to hear a word spoken against the bratwurstin any corner of America&aposs Dairyland, but appreciation translates to obsession in  otherwise steady-as-she-goes Sheboygan, population 48,180, where some of America&aposs finest tube steaks are split, grilled over charcoal, stuffed onto the locally-favored roll, which, like the brats, are an obvious descendant of a German original. Top with mustard and onion, consume immediately, ideally at a backyard barbecue during the peak of summer, but finding a double brat on a hard roll is far from difficult—in Sheboygan, the vintage Charcoal Inn South is a time-honored must in Madison, hit up the more recent Old Fashioned Tavern, across from the Capitol, also known for their love of another Wisconsin institution—the classic cocktail.

Wyoming

Hard to believe it&aposs already been a decade since Kevin and Ali Cohane disrupted the baked goods situation in high-flying but still underserved Jackson launched after an instructive stint in Paris, Persephone Bakery has slowly expanded its footprint in one of the country&aposs best ski towns, and like any proper French-influenced bakery, they do a great baguette, here best experienced slathered in butter and mustard, and stuffed with ham and gruyere. The sunny enterprise manages to pull off the all-too-rare Jackson hat trick, managing to make nearly everybody happy, almost on the strength of their baking alone. We&aposre easy, fine, but we&aposd buy that baguette, take it home, load it up with the good butter, and pronounce it the best sandwich ever. Until the next one, anyway.


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