Where to eat well, right now
A great new restaurant can be a fun experience. A best new restaurant announces itself as part of the national dining conversation. Each restaurant on this list does more than offer an exceptional meal, it also reflects something larger about the way we eat. It might set one trend in motion, or subvert another. It might bring attention to a previously unheralded cuisine or neighborhood, or revisit familiar genres in unexpected ways. But most of all, each is an original.
A reimagined New England diner with a decidedly quirky sensibility reflects and refracts our current infatuation with nostalgia. A playfully elegant French bistro shows us what a more quiet luxury would look like in the wake of the recent maximalist wave. A tasting menu that started as a pop-up, a barbecue joint you can only visit on Saturdays, a sophisticated restaurant tucked into a brewery, a daytime cafe that is also a marketplace — these thrilling newcomers also reflect lingering traces of nimble “pandemic pivots.”
Now more than ever, experimenting with menus, formats, hours, and business models is a vital part of operating and succeeding in the restaurant industry. As diners, we get to reap the delicious benefits of that creativity and exploration. If any city has embraced that spirit of culinary experimentation this year, it’s Philadelphia; you’ll notice that there are two Philly spots on our list. (It’s worth saying that even narrowing down the options to two involved much discussion and deliberation.) Philadelphia’s restaurant scene has what any diner wants: a tapestry of restaurants created by chefs and operators creating experiences so singular that they could only exist right there.
Together, Eater’s 12 Best New Restaurants represent the highest highs of the year in dining — loosely defined as October 2022 through September 2023 — as well as the promise of what’s to come next. Add each one of them to your must-try list, and keep a close eye on what they’re up to as they continue to set a new benchmark for dining in America. — Hillary Dixler Canavan
Portland’s food scene has always been defined by its scrappiness — chefs creating destination restaurants out of trailers, stalls, and neglected dive bar kitchens — so it’s no shock to find that the city’s best new restaurant is not a restaurant at all. Rather, it’s a couple cooking with little more than a flattop and a sink in a brewery.
Not quite a pop-up and not quite a restaurant, Astral is an unexpectedly polished new brick-and-mortar entrant in the city’s burgeoning Mexican dining scene. Chefs John Boisse and Lauren Breneman share the space with Duality Brewing, serving gorgeous, oft-rotating, intricate Mexican plates alongside pints from the nearby taps. Boisse carefully melds Pacific Northwest flavors and ingredients with Mexican dishes and techniques. The sweetness of ground cherries, inescapable here in late summer, becomes electric when paired with habaneros in a sunset-hued carrot tostada. The sorrel that blankets Oregon’s forest floors adds verdant acidity to apple-mezcal aguachile. On top of her savory work, Breneman runs the pastry program, turning out familiar favorites like craggy-edged and gooey-cored brown butter chocolate chip cookies, as well as innovative spruce tip-infused coconut tres leches cakes. Her crackly, impossibly light maple sugar concha sums up the project perfectly — it’s a Mexican staple used in an inventive and unfussy way as a bun for an egg sandwich with house chorizo verde, morita mayo, and a buttery, soft omelet, plus a thick slab of melty quesillo. Not only is it the city’s best new breakfast sandwich, it’s another compelling argument for the laid-back ingenuity of the restaurant-less restaurant. — Brooke Jackson-Glidden
Barbs B Q
Lockhart, Texas, is picturesque, complete with a town square where residents and travelers alike queue up early for charred meats from institutions whose pits have been smoking since the late 1800s. Now, there’s a new must-visit spot in the heart of the city. It’s where the women of Barbs B Q — pitmaster Chuck Charnichart, Haley Conlin, and Alexis Tovías Morales — are revolutionizing the state’s barbecue capital by making their restaurant about way more than just smoked meats. The result is the most exciting new barbecue experience in Central Texas — and you can only get it on Saturdays.
The menu takes special care to honor the founders’ South Texas roots from the Rio Grande Valley, bringing border cuisine inflections to the region’s tried-and-true barbecue staples. The zingy Molotov pork ribs are glazed in a serrano simple syrup and dusted with zested lime, and the tender brisket is dry-rubbed with Mexican spices. For those who don’t eat meat, there’s a vegan chop sandwich, made with lion’s mane mushrooms. The star side order is the Green Spaghett, a Rio Grande Valley classic, featuring pasta drenched in creamy poblano sauce. For dessert, the team transforms fluffy pink conchas into bread pudding. With its pink signs and Sonic the Hedgehog toys, the space is radically welcoming, as is the team’s commitment to being trans- and queer-friendly in the face of the state’s antagonism. By centering themselves and their communities, Charnichart, Conlin, and Tovías Morales offer a compelling new vision for Texas barbecue that’s fresh, fiery, thoughtful, and above all else, inclusive. — Nadia Chaudhury
There’s much to envy in Pasadena’s dining scene, with packed restaurants set in a walkable downtown bustling with eager diners. But even locals would admit that few of those restaurants have ever risen to the level of a must-visit destination, where Angelenos and out-of-towners trudge through traffic just to eat there. There’s no formula for achieving breakthrough status, and there’s no formula for Bar Chelou. The name translates from French as “weird bar,” and indeed, it’s pretty unexpected to find one of the country’s most daring new restaurants tucked into the historic Pasadena Playhouse.
Chef Doug Rankin’s delightfully avant-garde attraction layers Asian flavors into Spanish- and French-inflected dishes, all paired with spritzy cocktails and a stacked natural wine list courtesy of star sommelier Kae Whalen. Rankin creates a “piles of stuff” aesthetic with his small plates, embracing oddball combinations in a way that feels totally new and totally LA. A flat array of heirloom tomatoes covered with a healthy dusting of nutty Galician KM 39 cheese, breadcrumbs, and katsuobushi delivers an umami blast. Larger dishes aren’t always what they seem: A butterfly of rainbow trout looks textbook bistro, but instead of floating atop beurre blanc, it rests on creamy Spanish pil pil sauce swirled with garlic chive oil over a bed of corn rice. For dessert, the caramelized chocolate banana bar with hidden peanut butter crisp hits like a childhood treat by way of an Elvis fever dream. Bar Chelou makes its case clearly: When it comes to destination restaurants, the destination might surprise you. And that’s a good thing. — Matthew Kang
The mingling of French, Italian, African, German, Native American, and other regions’ flavors defines New Orleans food culture. With his pop-up-turned-restaurant, Dakar NOLA, Serigne Mbaye is part of this long tradition of culinary collision, establishing a new pathway between Senegambia and the Crescent City with one of the city’s finest tasting menus. Consider his soupa konja, a deeply savory Senegalese soup made with okra, rice, and seafood, reminiscent of a gumbo. Mbaye notes that the akara, crispy black-eyed pea fritters he makes with shrimp, are often eaten stuffed inside baguettes in Senegal, which made po’ boys feel familiar to him, while the jollof is red and fragrant like jambalaya. Pass the bright green rof for a cool offset to the spicy red snapper yassa, or double down with a tiny spoonful of Dakar’s red pepper sauce and see which of your tablemates can handle the biggest taste. Because getting to know your fellow diners is essential to Mbaye’s cuisine.
Every element of the experience at Dakar NOLA fosters community. With only two nightly seatings, each table moves through the same meal at the same pace. Servers provide tableside handwashing, preparing guests to use their hands to eat and to pass dishes to their neighbors. Mbaye acts as emcee, making unpretentious course introductions that facilitate conversation at the tables as diners recognize ingredients or similarities to New Orleans staples. His vision of fine dining is cooperative, the forging of a shared experience that enhances his food and the diner’s memory of it long after the meal ends. — Clair Lorell
Honeysuckle Provisions is what happens when visionary Black chefs Omar Tate and his wife and co-owner, Cybille St.Aude-Tate, reimagine what a neighborhood restaurant can look like. The all-day cafe is located in a predominantly Black area of West Philadelphia, where community activists, blue-collar workers, artists, and tourists all gather to experience something hyperlocal, yet nationally renowned.
In the morning, commuters grab coffees and flaky mini Pop Tarts to go, while other diners go bigger with hearty, destination-worthy breakfast sandwiches of maple-sage sausage or black-eyed pea scrapple, plus cheddar, served on a “BLACKenglish” muffin. No Philly lunch spot should be without a hoagie, and Honeysuckle offers two: the “Dolla” hoagie, made with expertly baked spelt flour rolls and vegan mayo from benne seeds, and the outrageously craveable Friday special, a hoagie with Creole-spiced fried fish. Complete the meal with a delicately spiced and impossibly spongy plantain snack cake, which takes inspiration from St.Aude-Tate’s Haitian roots. It’s a prime example of how Honeysuckle Provisions is more than just a place to eat: It’s also a culinary gallery for Afrocentric history that can be found in the recipe books sold on its shelves, and on the menu itself. It pays homage to the diversity of its local culture while ensuring its guests are getting what they actually need. And isn’t that what makes a truly great neighborhood restaurant? — Ernest Owens
While rare in Charleston, South Carolina, the Filipino plates that self-taught chef Nikko Cagalanan crafts at his debut restaurant, Kultura, are a natural fit. Even if some of his Southern customers don’t recognize the names of certain dishes, the flavors are familiar. Kultura’s bicol express, a tender pork loin in a savory coconut milk and miso sauce with kale, hits some of the same notes as whole hog with collards in a pepper vinegar. The arroz caldo, a comforting rice porridge studded with briny roe, can easily scratch the same itch as Lowcountry staple shrimp and grits. Kultura is the only downtown restaurant serving tocino; Cagalanan’s version is a smoky pork rib caramelized with vinegary banana ketchup and sprinkled with furikake-tossed crisped rice. It’s also the only place to find flaky pandan-filled pastries with purple ube frosting.
And in a city that loves any excuse to party, Kultura makes its own kind of fun with Fruity Pebbles-topped cocktails, Ramen Mondays, Sinatra-heavy karaoke brunches, and a spirited staff. The small, plant-adorned dining room and tucked-away patio oasis, complete with basket lanterns dangling from the trees, hosts a confluence of longtime Spring Street neighbors, visiting Filipino families, raucous bachelorette parties, and first dates. It’s a mix not usually achieved by hot new Charleston restaurants, but at Kultura, it just makes sense. — Erin Perkins
Vegan restaurants are nothing new in Atlanta. Many are grounded in cultural and religious traditions with ties to West Africa and the Caribbean, with deep roots in Black communities throughout the city’s westside. Like these restaurant institutions, dishes bound by heritage and familial bonds are at the heart of La Semilla, where co-owners Sophia Marchese and chef Reid Trapani have brought Cuban culinary traditions and a rollicking good time to the city’s vegan dining scene.
Trapani transforms recipes from Marchese’s childhood and Cuban grandmother (and her grandmother’s grandmother) into vegan renditions nearly indistinguishable from their meaty counterparts. Trapani opts for jackfruit instead of beef for rich ropa vieja empanadas and makes seitan ham to create impressively crisp croquetas. The menu looks beyond Cuba, too, for corn puree-filled chochoyotes, which are masa-based dumplings from Mexico that arrive to the table floating in a broth of silky corn stock made with coconut milk. Batches of warm tortilla chips come served with sikil pak — a smoky Mayan pumpkin seed dip that Trapani amps up with spicy habanero peppers. Nearly every table at La Semilla gets a practically requisite order of queso blanco. And with exuberant Cuban music bumping through the packed dining room, any guest could easily forget that the stretchy, gooey queso they’re sharing doesn’t involve any cheese at all. — Beth McKibben
Patricia Howard and Ed Szymanski are ahead of the curve when it comes to anticipating New York City’s cravings. It started with their pop-up-turned-restaurant, Dame, that showed the city in 2020 that what it was missing was actually fish and chips. At their sophomore restaurant, Lord’s, they’re realizing an unmet need for updates on gastropub fare, with dishes like Welsh rarebit with anchovy, black pudding with plum, and stuffed cabbage with parsnips. This is of-the-moment, British-influenced cooking served in a polished dining room that’s neither too loud nor too bright nor too fancy nor too designed. It’s just right.
The rest of the menu is equally unfussy, and compared to the pre-COVID, tweezer-food era, it’s positively understated: That is the point. Particularly in the mains, Szymanski turns humble ingredients, like beetroot with smoked eel and horseradish, into something elegant, while the crispy pig’s head with radicchio remoulade, or duck pie with chanterelles and figs, are like the British parallel to the kinds of cooking we’re seeing in the city’s French bistro revival — serving relaxed plates with just a few (impeccably sourced) ingredients. Be sure to explore the cocktails like the bitter orange Collins, served with a straw in a daisy-emblazoned highball that echoes midcentury collectors’ glasses. And don’t miss the tiny tuxedo ’tini that’s half the size of a standard. The pint-sized drink is yet another example of giving diners what we want before we know to want it, so don’t be surprised if you start seeing other tiny cocktails on a menu near you. — Melissa McCart
In this year of maximalist statement restaurants, it feels radical to just chill. My Loup, the second Philadelphia restaurant from Her Place Supper Club chef-owners Amanda Shulman and Alex Kemp, is luxurious, but quietly so. Tucked into a cozy brick building in tony Rittenhouse Square, the dining room is lived-in and lively, hosting guests that are as likely to be enjoying a drink and a snack at the bar as they are to spend $100 on the “Let Us Cook for You!” option. The exclamation point captures the mood — at My Loup, there’s no reason a set menu can’t also be a friendly opportunity to relax.
Buoying the easygoing sensibility are refined expertise and culinary prowess, with dishes that are both confident and playful without tipping into outright frivolity. Shulman and Kemp wanted to bring a French Canadian influence to the menu, which translates to rich bistro touchpoints like raw bar specialties and hefty cuts of meat all approached with a spirit of experimentation. Pair a clarified cocktail with pickled shrimp and saltines, then dig into a Caesar salad topped with luscious smoked eel and piled with snowy Parmesan shavings. A seemingly classic roast beef au poivre is served cold alongside frites and horseradish. And for dessert, dig into perhaps the most beautiful slice of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen. Yes, My Loup is decadent. But it’s decadence meant to share, to laugh over, to actually enjoy. — Jaya Saxena
Piglet & Co
If you’re looking for proof that San Francisco’s spirit of creative risk-taking is alive and well, here it is. Piglet & Co stubbornly defies easy categorization: The debut restaurant from longtime Bay Area chef Chris Yang and his partner Marcelle Gonzales Yang is one part moody Taiwanese night market and one part thrilling trip down someone else’s memory lane.
The Asian-inspired comfort food at Piglet & Co is just as unique as a fingerprint, the result of an amalgamation of influences from the partners’ personal histories and time spent living, eating, and traveling through destinations such as Bali, Hawai‘i, and Singapore. Considering that Yang and Gonzales Yang raised thousands of dollars from fans and supporters to move the former pop-up into a permanent space, it makes sense to enjoy this restaurant with a big group: Split a platter of the mala-spiced barbecue spare ribs intended to echo Yang’s memories of family get-togethers, and pick apart a pile of three-cup chicken wings inspired by the classic Taiwanese dish. The must-order honey walnut shrimp toast stars a juicy puck of white shrimp and pork that’s wrapped in panko crumbs and fried to a crisp, perched on fluffy milk bread toast with a squiggle of burnt honey aioli. It’s childhood nostalgia refracted through years of fine dining experience. Settle in under the moody red-and-blue lights, ideally with a view of the old-school kung fu movies playing behind the bar; it’s going to be a raucous ride. — Lauren Saria
Margaret Pak isn’t trying to make Keralan food the next trend. The chef’s Chicago restaurant Thattu presents an unorthodox glimpse into the culinary traditions of the southwestern Indian state where her husband, Vinod Kalathil, grew up and where her mother-in-law, Jolly Nelliparambil, mastered her methods of griddling thin discs of fermented appam. Nelliparambil passed those traditions down to her Korean American daughter-in-law, who uses classics like that appam and tamarind-spiked rasam (a comforting, tangy broth), to anchor the menu. But Pak takes joy in experimenting. Thattu presents a hulking grilled pork chop that melds curry and coriander leaves with a Midwest meat-and-potatoes sensibility. “We don’t want to do anything with authenticity,” Kalathil said recently — and so the kitchen trials will continue.
Thattu also tests boundaries on the business side. The couple arrived from the corporate world, and Kalathil, who handles operations, consulted with the advocacy groups One Fair Wage and High Road Restaurants to create a service model without tipping or service fees. His work serves as an example for restaurants anxious about Chicago’s recent move to abolish the tipped minimum wage. He doesn’t call attention to this, just like he doesn’t call attention to the lack of chai or dosa on the restaurant menu. Together, Kalathil and Pak, with Nelliparambil’s recipes in hand, are forging a new way to be an Indian restaurant in America. — Ashok Selvam
In New England, there’s a deep-seated pride in the art of stuffing meat, seafood, and vegetables between two slices of bread. The region’s oldest greasy spoons are masters of the craft, serving up lobster rolls, burgers, roast beef sandwiches, and Italian subs with style. Here, we get it: There’s soul-fortifying power in a really good sandwich.
Providence chef Brandon Teachout agrees. After a successful run operating a food truck that sold decadent French dip sandwiches packed with over a quarter-pound of roast beef, he opened his first restaurant, There, There, in a postage stamp of a building that was once home to a beloved hole-in-the-wall diner in the city’s West End. There, There takes its name seriously: It’s a carb-filled, comforting place to just chill out for a sec. The Dream Burger — two beef patties stacked one on top of the other, smushed just enough to get a good sear but not enough to call it a smash burger — has made regulars out of neighborhood passersby. The Kale Roll, a quirky sendup of a classic New England clam roll, has a split-top bun filled with fried nuggets of cornmeal battered, crispy kale, and a pickle relish, finished off with a dusting of a barbecue rub. There, There carries on the idea that has long been understood from the depths of a well-worn diner booth: Everything will be a bit better after I finish this sandwich. — Erika Adams
Hillary Dixler Canavan
Erika Adams, Nadia Chaudhury, Hillary Dixler Canavan, Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Matthew Kang, Clair Lorell, Melissa McCart, Beth McKibben, Ernest Owens, Lauren Saria, Jaya Saxena, Ashok Selvam
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Erika Adams, Hillary Dixler Canavan, Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Bettina Makalintal, Amy McCarthy, Lauren Saria, Jaya Saxena, Jesse Sparks
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