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Experts Agree: Washington, DC is Home to the Second-Best Mexican Restaurant in America

Experts Agree: Washington, DC is Home to the Second-Best Mexican Restaurant in America



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It wasn’t so long ago when “Mexican” food was best represented stateside by a heaping platter of rice and refried beans along with gloopy enchiladas covered in melted cheese, with maybe a couple hard-shell tacos on the side. Thankfully we’ve come a long way, and now the cuisine of just about every region of Mexico is now well-represented in the American culinary landscape. Today, most people realize that the standard menu of burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, and the like are in fact more Tex-Mex than authentic Mexican, and that once you head south of the border there’s a whole world of flavorful (and non-cheesy) possibilities to explore. Additionally, while authenticity is prized, some of the country’s most highly regarded chefs, like former pastry chef Alex Stupak and Oklahoma-born Rick Bayless, have also turned their attention and creativity to Mexican, which has become somewhat of a cuisine célèbre.

To assemble our ranking of America’s 50 Best Mexican Restaurants, we analyzed results from surveys we sent out to some of America’s leading culinary authorities, writers, and critics, used to assemble our rankings of America’s 50 Best Casual Restaurants and the 101 Best Restaurants in America. We supplemented those with best-of lists both in print and online, and rounded it out with our personal favorites from around the country. We also made sure to include restaurants that specialize in authentic Mexican fare; while some Tex-Mex classics on the menu are acceptable if done really well, the main focus had to be on true Mexican cuisine. We found that from a high-end restaurant in Chicago specializing in ribeye carne asada to a modest taqueria in Mountain View, Calif. serving some of the finest carnitas you’ll ever encounter, America has no shortage of great Mexican restaurants—and as it turns out, the second-best resides in Washington, D.C.

Spanish chef José Andrés is renowned for his dedication to learning other cultures’ cuisines. As he noted in 2013: “It was the galleon ships of Spain’s King Philip II that connected these two worlds hundreds of years ago. Those Spanish ships allowed for an exchange of foods, dishes, stories, and traditions.” He spent time in Mexico before opening Oyamel Cocina Mexicana in 2004. Meals start as they should — with complimentary salsa and chips, made fresh and fried daily. Continue with antojitos (“the little dishes from the streets”), papas al mole, and tacos with handmade tortillas, especially chapulines — the Oaxacan specialty of sautéed grasshoppers — if you dare. And dare you should, as our panel of experts awarded Oyamel the #2 spot on our compilation and since it’s the highest-ranking Mexican eatery from our nation’s capital, it’s both the second-best restaurant in the country and the very best one in Washington, D.C.


‘Street Food: Latin America’ Explores the Lives of Vendor All-Stars When Travel Is Impossible

The first episode of Street Food: Latin America begins with shots of a soccer game in a Buenos Aires arena. Between enticing flashes of cheese oozing from potato tortillas and empanadas, we see people dancing close together, crowds marching through festivals, and massive food halls packed with diners. The thrill of these once mundane commotions quickly turns to panic, as — in a COVID-19 era — you realize you’re watching what’s, at best, the types of experiences you can’t wait to get back to and, at worst, a memorial to something now gone.

I thought I was going to spend all six episodes of Street Food in a spiral about the pandemic, moaning over how I’ll never get to go to these places or try these foods, and wondering if these celebrated cooks got sick or lost their businesses. But the second season of the Netflix show, with its quiet focus on the life of street food purveyors in cities around Latin America, has more to say than just pointing you to where you should be eating (or where you may never eat again). By being as much about the people as the place, it’s a calming reminder that people are resilient and, even if the pandemic takes away their business, they, and others, will still be out there trying and cooking.

Travel shows, especially those focused on food, exist for two reasons. They’re escapism for those who can’t travel and aspirational for those who can. Aside from the stories, fascinating in their own right, each episode of Street Food could easily serve as a vacation mealtime itinerary. But obviously that’s not possible right now, especially if you’re watching from the U.S., which weirdly makes Street Food’s message even stronger. It is easy to watch a show like this and only value the purveyors for what they produce. But without the temptation of trip planning, the only thing we can do now is pay attention to the people, not the product.

The show follows the formula of its previous season in Asia. There is no bombastic host, or fetishistic view of “rustic” foods, or much English. Instead, each episode is a small documentary of a street food purveyor, mostly narrated by the purveyor themselves, with some other cooks, friends, and experts thrown in. The show sometimes touches on systemic influences, like global warming or discrimination, that affect how everyone does their job, but mostly it sticks to the chefs’ processes of making dishes and building their businesses, many of which have earned international acclaim.

We also learn why these street food masters were driven to set out on their own, whether it’s because they were driven out of their previous vending spot, stood up to a controlling husband, or they were just determined to prove a woman could thrive in a man’s world. In five out of this season’s six episodes, the “main” vendor is a woman. Sometimes the show comes close to weaving a romantic fantasy about the hard-earned wisdom of the sassy grandmas of the world, but narrowly avoids it. Ultimately this isn’t a show about traditional women making traditional food for the love and comfort of others, and I’m thankful for that.

Street Food could also fall into the food show trap of making sweeping generalizations about a country or a culture’s cuisine. On the surface, the generalizations exist: Interviewees explain the traditional players of street food — ceviche in Lima, Peru, memelas in Oaxaca, Mexico, ajiaco in Bogota, Colombia. But in each episode, the show focuses instead on what makes this specific version atypical . Whether it’s ham in a potato tortilla, or the spin a Caribbean chef puts on Colombian food, or Emiliana Condori creating new types of salsas for her rellenos in La Paz, Bolivia. The point made is that there is no “traditional” or “authentic” version of anything. It’s what these people bring to it that makes it special.

I never quite excised the pandemic-inspired panic and regret I had at the beginning of the first Street Food episode, and throughout the series, I continued to worry that I might never get to visit these places. No joy was taken in the realization that I should have worked less and traveled more before COVID-19 changed everything. But at least Street Food provides the satisfying experience of watching someone thrive in creation, as no one featured is satisfied with status quo. The show is also a reminder that while street food will always be there, any individual vendor is always living their own fleeting story. They’ll change a recipe, or grow old and retire, or be kicked out of their spot and have to find a new one. I may never visit the version of the cities presented by the show, but eventually I’ll visit a different version. Maybe all these places will exist, or maybe they will have changed, or maybe they’ll all be gone and new ones will have taken their place. Which is what makes the marriage of food and travel so bittersweet to begin with.


This Week on the Show

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Cook along with Rach to celebrate our 2,500th show! Crowd-pleasing pot pies are on the menu, and we're joined by some of our most memorable superfans.

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"GMA's" Lara Spencer is giving a tour of her home and dishing on her HGTV show, "Everything But The House." Then, Rachael's favorite storyteller, Harlan Coben, is back and talking about his book, Win. In her home kitchen, Rach is serving up Chicken Chow Fun.

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Priyanka Chopra Jonas is sharing childhood memories from her memoir Unfinished and filling us in on life with her husband, Nick Jonas. For dinner, Rachael&rsquos making a classic lentil soup. Plus, our former culinary producer, Grant Melton, shares delicious layered almond, raspberry and white chocolate cookie bites for dessert.

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Milk Street's Christopher Kimball is making tacos using his favorite kitchen gadgets. Meanwhile, Rachael's serving up stuffed eggplant boats for dinner. Plus, a gadget pro shares the hottest tech of 2021.

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Pitbull is hanging with Rach today! And Chef Geoffrey Zakarian is making Lemon Raspberry Pancakes with his daughters. Meanwhile, Rachael's serving up a delish twist on nachos.


10 Mexican Sandwiches to Knock Your Huaraches Off

With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we’re embracing the summer staycation. All week (and all summer) long, we’ll bring you transportive flavors and travel-inspired ideas from around the world, so you can take your tastebuds on a trip and give your mind a mini vacation while you’re still at home. Here, some Mexican sandwich recipes perfect for when you’re craving a hearty meal between bread.

Beyond Bread The Best Mexican Cookbooks for Your Cocina America is a great country for sandwiches, there’s no doubt about it. But sometimes I get the sense that our neighbors to the south have been quietly outdoing us at the sandwich game. Take Mexico’s torta ahogada or the pambazo, for example. Those sandwiches are both stuffed to the gills before being dunked in fiery salsas that could scare the pants off your average gravy-soaked French dip or Chicago beef. Or the cemita—upon first glance it looks like a close relative of the hamburger roll. But once you bite into it, you realize that this isn’t just another squishy bun: its got that crackly crust with a delectably tender and soft inside, perfect for holding any number of flavorful fillings con todo.

Mexico’s sandwiches have their roots in the bread baking traditions brought over during the short-lived French colonial period, from which dozens of different types of sandwiches and sandwich breads arose. Tortas, made on oblong telera or bolillo rolls, and hamburger bun-like cemitas are the two most well-known, although you can find sandwiches of myriad shapes and sizes throughout the country. One thing that they all have in common is that they tend to be intricately layered affairs, featuring big ingredients with big flavors. In fact, if you wanted to explore the belly-filling excesses of Mexican cuisine, its sandwiches are a pretty good place to start.

And while nothing beats a fully-loaded creation made by a streetside vendor with impeccable technique, a little ingenuity can lead you to perfectly passable Mexican-style tortas, cemitas, and more at home. These 10 recipes will have you layering and stacking your way to sloppy, overstuffed, and unashamedly indulgent sandwich bliss.

1. Mexican Fried Egg Breakfast Torta

When’s the last time you started your morning with a sandwich that’s taller than it is wide and stuffed with oozy layers of fried egg, refried beans, and cheese? Treat yourself to this extravagant breakfast creation that will fill you up until lunchtime rolls around and you’re ready for your next torta of the day. Get our Mexican Fried Egg Breakfast Torta recipe.

2. Mexican Torta with Rajas and Jack Cheese

Between its two pieces of bread, this sandwich packs in some serious greens. Roasted poblanos, tomatillo salsa, avocado, lettuce, and cilantro not only make it (at least somewhat) healthful, they also provide an intriguing mix of contrasting flavors and textures. Get our Mexican Torta with Rajas and Jack Cheese recipe.

3. Grilled Tofu Torta

Tofu may not be the most traditional torta filling, but it soaks up the flavors of Mexican-style hot sauce as well as any meat. Pickled jalapeños, crumbly cotija cheese, and mashed black beans join in here to keep things hale and hearty. Get our Grilled Tofu Torta recipe.

4. Mexican Torta with Fried Zucchini

Even amidst all the other ingredients, it’s hard to miss the slices of fried, panko-coated zucchini in this sandwich, which add a satisfying layer of crunch. Get our Mexican Torta with Fried Zucchini recipe.

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5. Mollete con Chorizo y Salsa Tricolor

The open-face breakfast sandwich of your dreams, this hefty avocado toast upgrade is also piled with scrambled eggs, refried beans, chorizo, sour cream, and two types of salsa (green and red). Get our Mollete con Chorizo y Salsa Tricolor recipe.


The 50 Top-Rated Women-Owned Restaurants in the U.S., According to Yelp

If you’re looking to support great women-owned businesses but also hankering for tasty eats, Yelp is making it easier than ever to do both with a single search.

5 stars only The 100 Best Places to Eat in America, According to Yelp The popular crowd-source review platform is making women-owned restaurants, and other businesses, searchable for the first time ever—just in time for International Women’s Day (March 8).

The new female-focused search feature doesn’t appear to be a simple marketing stunt, either. According to a spokesperson for Yelp, the brand has seen a major uptick in requests from users looking for a way to search for and support women-owned businesses. Furthermore, mentions of women-owned businesses spiked 20 percent since 2018 and more than 50 percent in the last five years.

Hmm, why could that be? Beyond increased social awareness, it turns out women-owned businesses enjoy, on average, higher overall ratings than their non-women-owned counterparts across nearly every category on Yelp, including restaurants.

Women-owned business tag on Yelp

As proof, here are 50 of the top-rated women-owned restaurants currently on Yelp. So go get your search (and grub) on and support a few kickass ladies along the way.


Living with Food Allergies

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Contents

Kennedy was born Diana Southwood in Loughton, Essex, in the southeast of England. [1] [3] Her father was a salesman, and her mother was a schoolteacher who loved nature and wanted to live quietly in the countryside. [4] [5]

Kennedy did not attend college because of World War II, instead joining the Women's Timber Corps at age 19. [6] The Corps were a British civilian organization which took over forestry duties from men who had gone off to fight. [1] Kennedy did not like cutting down trees, so she was delegated to measuring tree trunks instead. [5]

In 1953, Kennedy migrated to Canada, living there for three years doing a number of jobs, including running a film library and selling Wedgewood china. [1] [7]

On a last-minute decision, Kennedy decided to visit Haiti in 1957. There she met Paul P. Kennedy, a correspondent for The New York Times in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. [1] [8] The two moved to Mexico in 1957, and there they married some time later. [7] [9] Kennedy has had no children, [5] but she does have two step-daughters, Dr. Moira Kennedy-Simms and Brigid Kennedy, daughters of Paul P. Kennedy and his first wife, Martha Combs Kennedy.

In Mexico, Kennedy became enamored of the food, and has since dedicated her career to its preservation and promotion. [8] [10] However, she still maintains her British accent and takes tea each day. [7] When she is not teaching, she is either writing or working in the kitchen on recipes. [5] She is noted for her brusque, no-nonsense demeanor, having pulled out tape recorders when police have tried to get bribes from her on her Mexican travels. [4] [11]

She has visited every state in Mexico, and used diverse forms of transportation, from buses, to donkeys to her Nissan pickup truck with no power steering (and a shovel to dig it out of the mud). [1] [11] [12] She has traveled to many isolated areas of Mexico to visit markets and cooks to ask about cooking ingredients and methods. [1] In the 1970s, she decided to build her house in Michoacán in an area with orchards. The land has allowed her to grow many of her own ingredients. [12] While she is not technophobic, she is against electronic forms of cookbooks, believing in the need to make notes over printed recipes. [5]

During her first years in Mexico City with her husband in the late 1950s, [3] she learned quickly that the best food in Mexico was not in fancy restaurants but rather in markets, traditional family restaurants called "fondas" and in homes. [4] In addition, she was impressed with what she saw in local, traditional markets. [12] She also came to appreciate that recipes varied from region to region, traveling with her husband when he was on assignment, and he would collect recipes when she could not accompany him. [3] [6] [8] In Mexico City, she asked her friends about cooking these dishes, and was referred to their maids. These maids then encouraged her to visit their villages, which she has done since. [8] Kennedy also began researching documentation on Mexican cuisine, and credits the work of Josefina Velázquez de León as a pioneer, who had done similar work collecting recipes by visiting church groups. [6] Kennedy's focus became the food that was not documented, such as that found in villages, markets and homes, eventually to preserve native ingredients and traditional recipes being lost as Mexicans move from rural areas to urban centers. [10]

Kennedy began to share what she learned informally among expats and her husband's colleagues when they came to Mexico. This included taking women on tours of traditional markets, including the stands with animal heads, which shocked Americans. [7] When New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne was in town, she tried to give him a book of Mexican recipes, but he refused it, saying "I'll only read a Mexican cookbook once you have written one".' [8] At the time, Kennedy thought this was a crazy idea. [9]

At the end of 1965, Kennedy and her husband moved to New York City, where he died the following year from cancer. [3] [6] In 1969, Kennedy began to teach classes in Mexican cooking in her apartment in the Upper West Side, with the encouragement of Craig Claiborne. [3] [6] This was the beginning of a decades-long teaching career, which began as her own venture, then in collaboration with other institutions such as the Peter Kump Cooking School in New York, as well as offering Mexican cooking "boot camps" at her home in Mexico. Her classes focus on the most traditional cooking techniques and ingredients. For example, while most Mexican cooks now use pre-ground corn or corn flour, she insists on teaching students how to soak kernel with lime overnight, remove the skins and grind with lard to make corn dough (masa). [9] She has had the most success with this since the 1970s, when cooking schools grew in popularity. [12]

The work with the cooking classes led to her first cookbook. [6] From her time in Mexico City to her time in New York, she has been supported in her work with Mexican cooking by Claiborne. [1] [11] She did not have experience writing, but after then-poetry editor at Harper and Row, Fran McCullough took one of her classes, she offered to help Kennedy put the book together, eventually collaborating on Kennedy's first five books. [3] [4] [6] To do the first one, Kennedy decided to return to Mexico to do further research. [6] This research, she believes, is what separates her from other cookbook writers in that she has taken the time and effort to explore Mexico and do field research on how the cuisine varies. [12] Her inexperience led to rewriting the book several times but the result was The Cuisines of Mexico, published in 1972. This book became a best-seller and is still one of the most authoritative single volumes on Mexican cooking. [6] [8] It began to change Americans' understanding of Mexican food, expanding it beyond Tex-Mex into the various regional cuisines and dishes, [8] [11] and is the basis of establishing authentic food in the U.S. [4] The 1986 revision of the book is still in print. [7]

Since then, she has published eight other volumes on Mexican cooking, a number of which have been translated into Spanish. Her initial influence is the work of Josefina Velázquez de León, but credits much of her writing style to the work of English cookbook author Elizabeth David. [3] [6] Kennedy does not consider herself a writer, but rather as someone who documents was she has seen in about fifty years of traveling Mexico, including remote areas, to talk to cooks of all kinds. [11] She finances her own book research and travels, [5] [13] often sleeping in her old Nissan truck. [11] She prefers the food of central and southern Mexico, which is more complex and varied. [5] She has registered a wide variety of edible plants, [1] [3] and includes more exotic recipes such as those using brains, iguanas, insects and even whole animals such as oxen. [14] She regularly interviews and cooks with a variety of cooks, but especially those from rural areas, cooking for family and friends. She even apprenticed in a bakery in Mexico City to learn the all-male trade. [8] Her preference for traditional home cooking means that her books revolve around foods made with corn dough and even has an entire book dedicated to tortillas. [9] Her insistence on field research distinguishes her books for the stories they tell related to food and her travels. [8] It also has led to unconventional formats. The Oaxaca book is not divided by types of dishes but rather the eleven regions of the state. [11]

Her work has made her one of the foremost authorities on Mexican cuisine, [1] not only in authentic ingredients and techniques, but the loss and disuse of various ingredients as Mexico shifts from a primarily rural to primarily urban society. One loss is the use of local and regional produce. [1] "As far as I can see," says Kennedy, "I write oral history that is disappearing with climate change, agribusiness, and loss of cultivated lands. In the past people had a sense of taste and a sense of where they came from. They were conscious of what they were eating and what they consumed and about not wasting." [13] In the introduction of Oaxaca al Gusto, Kennedy writes, "Trying to record the ethnic foods as well as the more sophisticated recipes of the urban centers presented an enormous challenge and responsibility … I am sure that if I had known what it would entail to travel almost constantly through the year, and often uncomfortably, to research, record, photograph and then cook and eat over three hundred recipes, I might never have had the courage to start the project in the first place." [11]

In addition to traveling Mexico, this work has required frequent travel abroad, especially to the United States, where she gives classes and speaks about Mexican cuisine. [5] [6] She starred in a 26-part television series on Mexican cooking for The Learning Channel. [7] She has been an influence in the development of Mexican cooking in the United States and on chefs such as Rick Bayless. She taught Paula Wolfert, who recommended her to her editor. [7] Chefs of Texas and New Mexico that came to prominence in the mid 1980s credit her work as a base for their Southwestern cuisine. [15] However, Kennedy dismisses most chefs doing Mexican food because they have not done the traveling and research that she has and innovate rather than preserve original methods. [5] She criticizes chefs who waste food and who encourage the unnecessary use of plastic, foil, and other items that only get thrown in the trash. [5] She also does not like culinary writers who do not live in Mexico, but question her authority because of her ethnicity. [13] Some of her conflicts have received significant press, citing her throwing chef Rick Bayless out of her car for being "brash" and her criticisms of Maricel Presilla. [5] [11]

Her influence is not limited to the United States as her work has been very well received in Mexico. She has received numerous awards in this country including the Order of the Aztec Eagle [ citation needed ] , which is the highest Mexican order awarded to foreigners in the country. The National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) has digitalized her research including a vast collection of recipes, drawings and notes both on cooking and native edible plants, resulting in a section of their website dedicated to her . [5] [12]

Kennedy permanently returned to Mexico in 1976, initially living in Mexico City. [3] In 1980, she moved to eastern Michoacán, about three hours west of the capital after a friend introduced her to the area. [3] [7] There she bought property which she initially called "Quinta Diana" [3] [7] near the small village of San Francisco Coatepec de Morelos (colloquially known as San Pancho), in the municipality of Zitácuaro. [8] [13]

Her homestead is on a forested hill at the end of a long dirt road, only accessed by pickup or four-wheel drive. [11] [14] However, this has not stopped a steady stream of visitors from arriving to her cobblestone driveway. [3] [11]

Quinta Diana is an ecologically minded establishment. She stated in the book My Mexico in 1998 that she wanted a house built of local materials and live a lifestyle similar to that of her neighbors. [3] This nearly three hectares is almost off the grid, and centers on her adobe home. [14] This home was built by local architect Armando Cuevas, and centers around a large boulder, almost the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, which Kennedy decided not to remove from the site. [13] Around the boulder is an atrium of the open living room, and from it, stairways lead to various parts of the house. [7] [15] In her home she tests recipes according to the seasons, and what is growing on her property. [7] Her cooking spaces consist of an outdoor space with wood-fired grills and adobe beehive-shaped ovens, and an indoor kitchen, which she calls her "laboratory." [3] [7] Her indoor kitchen centers on a long, cement counter, which is covered in blue and white tile, with inlaid gas burners. [3] [14] [15] This kitchen is filled with various ingredients and implements including burnished copper and clay pots on the walls, [14] [15] herbs and vegetables in wicker baskets, [14] various varieties of dried chili peppers, [8] and her own condiments, including a pineapple vinegar similar to balsamic. [7] [11] For her table, she has authentic Talavera pottery from Puebla, and near the kitchen window, there are binoculars and a bird book. [8] [13]

Her bedroom is upstairs, which opens to her study, filled with books and papers about, and with windows on three sides to look out over the gardens to towards the mountains. [3] [7]

Kennedy grows much of her own food organically. She has a greenhouse to grow various edible plants, such as herbs and even coffee. [3] [8] The gardens include grapefruit, apricot and fig trees, chayote vines from Veracruz, and a section dedicated to the corn she uses for masa. Manure is the fertilizer. [13] [14] All the water used on the property is from tanks that collect wastewater, with a patch of land serving as a filter for wastewater. [3] Much of the energy is solar. [8]

Since 1980, money from her books and speaking engagements have funded the property and its operations. [14] However, Kennedy has established the Diana Kennedy Foundation to have tax-free status with the Mexican government, and to work on projects focusing on the environment as well as food. [5] [14] Her interest in environment is related to food in the sense that when environment is destroyed, foods disappear. [4] It also has roots in her mother's love for nature and experience with scarcity in wartime England. [5] [7] She has argued against the use of genetically modified seeds, excessive use of packaging and use of bleach for white linens in hotels and restaurants. The Foundation is also geared toward preservation, not only of Mexico's food heritage, but of Quinta Diana, with its immense collection of Mexican cookbooks, other publications and pottery, along with the gardens. [14]

Gastronome, Cooking, Clipper, Conde Nast Traveller, Sabor, Mexican Food Magazine, Amistad (American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico), Intercambio (British Chamber of Commerce in Mexico), México Desconocido (a series of illustrated articles on little-known recipes), CIDAP, Artes de Mexico, Food & Wine.

  • The Cuisines of Mexico, Harper & Row, 1972, revised HarperCollins, New York, 1986 (ISBN9780061814815)
  • The Tortilla Book, Harper & Row 1975, revised Harper Collins, New York, 1991 ( 9780060123475)
  • Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico, Harper & Row 1978, revised as Mexican Regional Cooking, Harper Collins, New York, 1990 ( 9780060123482)
  • Nothing Fancy (a book of personal recipes) Dial Press 1984, paperback North Point Press 1989, Ten-Speed Press, Berkeley, 1999 ( 9780385278591), revised University of Texas Press, Austin, 2016 ( 9781477308288)
  • The Art of Mexican Cooking, Bantam Books 1989/ re-issued by Clarkson Potter 2008 ( 9780307383259)
  • My Mexico, Clarkson Potter, New York 1998 ( 9780609602478), reissued University of Texas Press, Austin, 2013 ( 9780292748408)
  • The Essential Cuisines of Mexico (a compilation of the first 3 books), Clarkson Potter, New York 2000 ( 9780307587725)
  • From My Mexican Kitchen—Techniques and Ingredients, Clarkson Potter, New York 2003 ( 978-0609607008)
  • Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy, University of Texas Press, Austin 2010 ( 9780292722668)
  • Las cocinas de México, Harla, Mexico, 1991, (edition cancelled)
  • El arte de la cocina mexicana, Editorial Diana, México, 1993
  • México – Una Odisea Culinaria, Plaza y Janés, México, 2001
  • Lo esencial de las cocinas mexicanas, Plaza y Janés, México, 2003
  • Recetas del alma (Nothing Fancy), Plaza y Janés, México, 2006

Kennedy has been called the "grand dame of Mexican cooking" compared to Julia Child in the United States and Elizabeth David in England. She has been called a "dogged, obsessive pop anthropologist." [6] [8] [11] [14] Her comparison to Julia Child comes from her promotion of Mexican cuisine, much the way that Child did for French cuisine however, while flattered, she dismisses it. [3] [15] She has been a common name among foodies in the United States for decades, but did not receive notice in her native England until Prince Charles came to Quinta Diana in 2002, to eat and to appoint a Member of the Order of the British Empire. [8]


Revisiting the Time When Roy Choi Had a Lot of Opinions About Carlos Gaytan’s Al Pastor

Episode 14 of Top Chef: New Orleans is all about food trucks. It’s 2014, after all, and truckin’ is booming. For the contestants’ main challenge, they are to take inspiration from the Jon Favreau film Chef, and create a dish inspired by a turning point in their lives (sure). It’s an average episode from well into Top Chef’s reign, but for the past five years it’s stuck in my mind for one particularly weird and rude moment: the moment Roy Choi tries to school chef Carlos Gaytan over al pastor.

Gaytan, at the time, was the chef behind Chicago’s now closed but Michelin-starred Mexique (making Gaytan the first Mexico-born chef to have a Michelin-starred restaurant). But during this episode, he is perhaps off his game. Everyone is emotional going into the quickfire challenge. There had been an unfair elimination in the previous episode, it’s the middle of the season, and the chefs are stressed out, looking particularly miserable. They are met by Roy Choi, who is introduced as the man responsible for the current food truck boom. He asks the chefs to do with a New Orleans po’ boy what he did to tacos — make them your own.

Everyone quickly decides to make po’ boys based on the flavors they grew up with, which for Gaytan, whose mother ran a taqueria in Mexico, means al pastor. He attempts an al pastor that would make his mother proud, and says “I just hope 20 minutes was enough time to create what I want to create.” This is every chef’s downfall in a quickfire challenge, and Choi has every right to critique Gaytan for his short-sightedness. A typical al pastor can marinate for a few hours up to three days.

However, it is the manner in which Choi talks about Gaytan’s al pastor that’s cemented the moment in my memory, possibly forever. As he comes around to taste every chef’s creation, he says to Gaytan “I’m very particular about al pastor, because I’m from LA.” Gaytan is, understandably, taken aback that Choi would position himself as such an arbiter of al pastor. “I don’t know what exactly he means,” he says in a confessional. “He’s telling me he’s from LA. Great. I’m from Mexico.” It’s withering, the “I’m from Mexico” delivered with the same tone my Southern grandma would say “bless her heart” about someone she hated.

But it didn’t end there. Later, Choi reams the whole team out for their lackluster po’ boy attempts. Choi tells Korean-American chef Brian Huskey that his gochujang needed more flavor, but the tone felt like one of sympathy, as if to say you and I both know what this should taste like, do better. But no such understanding was afforded to Gaytan’s al pastor. “Al Pastor, that’s one of those sacred things,” said Choi, dripping in self-righteousness. “There was a lot of flavor lacking in that al pastor.” Gaytan, understandably, spends the rest of the episode fuming. “I grew up eating tacos al pastor since I was little. You don’t know what you’re talking about, tacos al pastor,” he says of Choi. Later that night, he sets up a dart board with a hastily drawn caricature of Choi in the middle.

Look, I am neither Mexican nor from LA. While I love al pastor, I have no expert opinions on how to make or serve it (though I assume that 20 minutes is not enough). I also have no doubt that Choi knows what good al pastor tastes like, in the way that anyone who grows up around a prevalent cuisine, whether or not it’s a food originally of their culture, comes to hold it as their own. As a New Yorker, I feel like I have a decent handle on whitefish salad and bagels, though I have merely married into a Jewish family. I live in a Greek neighborhood and now have pretty strong opinions about loukaniko! These foods have crossed the bridge from being things I just enjoy to being somehow personally meaningful to me. But though I certainly don’t doubt my own tastes, I’d gladly defer to, say, someone who grew up making sausage every day in a Greek restaurant. Perhaps this would make me a bad Top Chef judge.

Choi could have easily said that being from LA means he grew up eating al pastor, too. That he loves it as Gaytan does, and that they both know it was a mistake to try to take shortcuts with it. Instead, he goes for cultural superiority, which is the problem with so many conversations about food and who gets to make what. Maybe Gaytan’s al pastor was the worst Choi had ever had, or maybe it was authentic to Gaytan but different from what Choi is used to. If anything, this interaction just dates the show. In the five years since it aired, the way we talk about food as a whole has shifted, slowly, to being ever more conscious about authenticity, tradition, and who gets to claim authority.


As one Yelp reviewer wrote, at Eem, you're getting "delicious, crave worthy, and lick the bottom of your plate food." The burnt ends white curry is a must when you're dining here.

Tiffany B./ Yelp

Eating at Maple Leaf Diner is truly a delicious experience. The menu is filled with showstopping dishes including poutine and chicken, bacon, and waffles.


Experts Agree: Washington, DC is Home to the Second-Best Mexican Restaurant in America - Recipes

Chefs Akira Akuto and Nick Montgomery

I’ve thought about what it was that compelled me to go back the next day, this time to the take-out window, for another omelet sandwich, sliced in three segments and set in a little white box of just the right size. And a crispy pork katsu one. And the egg salad one made Instagram-famous by its orange-yellow yolk half-moons. And also the carrots with weirdly good dip that turned out to be blitzed shishitos and pistachios.

I’ve thought about my next visit to L.A., when I vowed not to leave without one of Konbi’s coveted croissants, of which only 36 are made daily. I showed up at 11 a.m.: sold out. I returned early the next morning: They weren’t out of the oven yet. I came back 90 minutes later: The last two chocolate croissants were mine!

This experience should have made me resent Konbi, a place that actually prompted me to describe the process of buying a pastry as Kafkaesque. But I didn’t (obviously). Because as I stood there, on an Echo Park sidewalk in front of the shop next door that sells vegan cheesecakes and crystals, and shamelessly covered myself in the deep-golden crumbs of a croissant so fresh that the ample amount of chocolate inside hadn’t yet returned from its melted state, I knew: This was the best croissant I’d ever had, and it was worth it.

This is the thing about Konbi, a tiny sandwich shop that has received, since before it even opened, an inordinate amount of attention. Its sheer popularity should make it a maddening place (and a maddening choice for best new restaurant). If only everything about it, from the croissants to, yes, the hand soap, weren’t so perfect. —J.K.

THE PLAYERS: Chef-owners Akira Akuto and Nick Montgomery

THE SETUP: Daytime-only Japanese sandwich counter, with stellar French pastries

THE ORDER: Layered omelet sandwich, potato salad, chocolate croissant

THE MOVE: Time your visit around 9:30 to (try and) snag one of the 36 chocolate croissants.

At Konbi they crack dozens of eggs each day for the signature pork katsu sandwich.

Whisking water into the eggs makes sure the panko coating isn’t too thick.

Cooks dip the pork cutlets in egg yolk, letting the excess drip off.

Next up is a dip in panko. Konbi uses Miyako brand.

Cutlets get a drizzle of tonkatsu sauce, then mustard.

Each sandwich gets a layer of cabbage.

Each sandwich gets sliced into three perfect segments.

Showing off the interior for maximum photogenic-ness.

There are approximately 12 dishes on the menu at Khao Noodle Shop , each only a few bites or spoonfuls, and none costs more than $8. So in my attempt to understand what exactly the chef and owner Donny Sirisavath was trying to do, it was easiest just to order them all.

After one slurp of painstakingly handmade noodles in a savory, complex pork blood broth, the restaurant’s roots came through clearly: This is the cooking of Laos, the country the chef’s mother fled after its civil war before resettling in Texas in 1977. Sirisavath, who was born in Amarillo, grew up helping his mom in the kitchen of her Thai restaurant, learning how to make pad kee mao and wok-fried rice. Years later, after his mom died, he began hosting Lao pop-ups as a side project (he was a Hewlett-Packard engineer by day), then left his job to open Khao Noodle.

Now, in a strip mall in East Dallas—an area once home to many Southeast Asian refugees in the late ’70s and early ’80s—Sirisavath serves a menu inspired not by books or classes or other restaurants but by his own singular vision, rooted in family and place. This is a rare thing to find, and I felt lucky just to be there.

But Khao Noodle Shop is not a restaurant that looks only to the past. From the laid-back vibe inside—the high-top tables, the stools spray-painted by friends, the tight-knit staff, the sheer fun of the place—I could feel Sirisavath’s excitement at doing things his way. And once I tried the deep-fried tripe chicharrones and the musubi-like moutsayhang (a two-bite stack of crispy pork patty, sticky rice, and a thin layer of omelet), it was clear that Sirisavath was telling a story all his own. —J.K.

THE PLAYERS: Chef-owner Donny Sirisavath

THE SETUP: Snack-size Laotian at high-top communal tables, day and night

THE ORDER: Boat noodles, khao soi, moutsayhang (spiced pork-and-rice bites), shrimp bites

THE MOVE: Don’t share—each dish is only a few bites. Oh, and BYOB!

Small dishes help create a Lao street food experience.

Sirisavath says he learned everything he knows about restaurants from his mom, Phaysane.

Moutsayhang is a play on Hawaii’s Spam musubi.

Sirisavath and his friends designed and built out Khao's space themselves.

Sirisavath makes his noodles the old-fashioned way, by ladling the batter onto a stretched cloth over a vat of boiling water.

Making noodles from scratch isn't easy or fast, but Sirisavath says you can taste the labor and the love that goes into them.

Khao Noodle Shop is full of photos of Phaysane Sirisavath and other personal mementos.

Sukiyaki with glass noodles, fermented tofu, coconut cream, and a soft boiled quail egg

Food is served in bowls, baskets, and dishes brought back from trips to Laos and Thailand.

Wet khao soy with rice noodles, mushrooms, and fermented pork

Longoven is the most unlikely standout fine-dining restaurant in America. The chefs—Andrew Manning, Megan Fitzroy Phelan, and Patrick Phelan—have little name recognition outside their hometown. Their restaurant is housed in a nondescript building in a rapidly developing neighborhood clamoring more for taprooms and barbecue joints and taprooms-slash-barbecue joints than for an austere-looking tasting-menu spot. That neighborhood (Scott’s Addition) is in a city (Richmond) that’s only very recently begun to draw attention as a dining destination.

And that doesn’t even begin to tell the circuitous 15-year epic of the three chefs behind it. (Let’s just say it involves a stint in Alba, Italy, and many arduous hours in the catering world.) Eventually they reconnected and decided to move to Richmond, where they launched Longoven pop-ups in 2014. I stumbled into one at Sub Rosa Bakery in 2016. Given what they were able to pull off with a wood-fired oven and two camping burners, I was very curious about how they’d do in an actual kitchen.

Well, spoiler alert: The brick-and-mortar Longoven , which finally opened last year, is mind-bogglingly good—each dish so technically precise, so truly dedicated to ingredients, not to mention so, so pretty. This is very beautiful and very serious food served in a very beautiful and very serious space. Yet there is none of the “staged-at-Noma-once” ego trip that has mucked up many similarly ambitious projects. Instead, there’s a refreshing graciousness and hospitality—a sense that everyone is actually happy you’re here. Behind it all is the earnestness and maturity of three people who have worked harder than I can imagine to get to this place and who take none of their (unlikely) success for granted. —J.K.

THE PLAYERS: Chef-owners Andrew Manning, Megan Fitzroy Phelan, and Patrick Phelan

THE SETUP: Tweezer food you actually want to eat

THE ORDER: The tasting menu

THE MOVE: Make a reservation. Wear something nice. Go all in.

Course 1: Snacks at Longoven mean a tiny nasturtium-covered carrot-mole tart, a fried squid ink “churro,” and nori crackers with smoked mackerel.

Course 2: The staff loved the Meyer lemon kombucha at family meal so much that Manning made it into the base of this refreshing scallop crudo.

Course 3: Manning emulsifies foie gras with cream and gelatin until airy, then tops it with hazelnuts, grapefruit, and a snow cap of carbonated ginger ale.

Course 4: As a play on Caesar salad, the plate is streaked with sea urchin, clam-infused buttermilk dressing, and romaine brushed with ramp vinegar then grilled.

Course 5: Manning serves his fava-bean-and-mushroom salad with grilled Maine lobster.

Course 6: Manning turns pig ears into paper-thin sheets, then crowns them with peas and beans of all types.

Course 7: That grated white stuff? Not parm it’s scallops that have been cured, cooked with mushroom scraps and dashi, and then dehydrated and shaved over charred maitake mushrooms.

Course 8: Beneath the tangle of agretti (a chive-like Italian vegetable), there’s roast lamb loin, and next to it is a pool of blackened sunchoke purée.

Course 9: For dessert, Fitzroy Phelan transforms house-made fig leaf oil, the staff’s beloved condiment, into a sorbet paired with pickled blueberries.

Course 10: “Super cute!” That’s how most guests respond to Fitzroy Phelan’s mushroom-shaped chocolate cake dusted with dried porcini and cocoa.

Course 11: The black-sesame-tahini-chocolate gold bar now has a cult following, but don’t sleep on the blueberry macarons, pâte de fruit, and sage-caramel bonbons.

8:43 a.m. I’m at Ochre Bakery , and the first thing I’m eating today is a danish, the crumbly, deep-golden pastry barely holding on to the squiggles of still-juicy rhubarb in the center.

8:46 a.m. Watching the guy behind the counter make a cortado, I realize that this is as much a Serious Coffee Shop as it is a bakery, which makes sense given that it’s owned by Jessica Hicks and Daisuke Hughes, the same people behind Detroit’s much-loved Astro Coffee. I’m getting lost in the idea that I could live in Detroit and this could be my coffee shop and I could eat this Danish every morning when…

8:57 a.m. My plate of scrambled eggs shows up, but to call it a plate of scrambled eggs is kind of rude given that it’s eggs softly scrambled with turmeric tzatziki with slivers of kohlrabi a big pile of bitter greens a very generous serving of very good butter two holey slices of country bread and a tiny handmade ceramic bowl of cumin seeds, Aleppo-style pepper, and flaky salt that I can sprinkle over whatever I like.

8:58 a.m. Can we talk about this bread? I was so fixated on the pastry case, I didn’t notice the room behind the counter where cult local baker Max Leonard babysits the sourdoughs. So not only does this place turn out pastries and coffee and savory food at the highest level, but there’s also a high-key bread program?

9:18 a.m. I’m the person taking pictures of the blue and ochre (duh) tiles hand-painted by Hicks.

9:28 a.m. Yeah, I’m going to need a slice of the lemon-pistachio loaf cake, a piece of the chocolate banana bread, and one of every cookie (espresso shortbread, chocolate-hazelnut, oaty Anzac) to go. Or maybe I’ll just never leave. —J.K.

THE PLAYERS: Chef-owners Jessica Hicks and Daisuke Hughes

THE SETUP: The dream of a sun-soaked bakery/café

THE ORDER: Spiced scrambled eggs with tzatziki, a seasonal Danish, and an Anzac cookie

THE MOVE: Grab one of everything from the pastry case to go—and a loaf of bread too.

Server Solomon Gaut grabs a slice of layer cake for a very lucky (and smart) customer.

The muffin selection changes with the seasons: These are Apple-Honey-Pecan.

Outside of lunch hours, Ochre is open all day for espresso and pastries.

Server Destany Colagrossi works the lunch shift.

The Chocolate-Hazelnut Cookies are too small to share (at least that’s what we told ourselves).

Chef-owner Jessica Hicks decorates the Lemon-Pistachio Loaf.

Muffins and Lemon-Pistachio Loaf in the pastry case.

Seven-month-old Yuka Hughes scrutinizes the offerings.

I had a feeling about the Hotel Peter & Paul. Not a good feeling. Something about sleeping in a former convent gave me the creeps. As much as I tried otherwise, I kept picturing the World War II–era schoolhouse in Au Revoir les Enfants (a strangely seminal movie in my childhood). Then I showed up to meet a friend for a drink at the hotel’s restaurant, the Elysian Bar, which occupies the ground floor of a building that used to be the rectory. And I realized: Sometimes I am kind of an idiot.

Calling this a bar is an understatement. First of all, it’s a full-on restaurant, from chef Alex Harrell and the team behind the beloved NOLA hangout Bacchanal. You can make a meal out of gulf shrimp showered in bottarga breadcrumbs or steamed mussels in smoky tomato broth—this is not a town that messes with dainty bar snacks. Second, this is less a defined space and more a multiroom wonderland, with a sunny patio, elegant parlor rooms, and a cozy bar that feels straight out of a Hollywood movie set. The complex has been revived by Nathalie Jordi, a former journalist, in collaboration with the Brooklyn-based developer ASH NYC (also behind Providence’s The Dean hotel and The Siren in Detroit) and NOLA’s StudioWTA. Together they transformed the 1860s Catholic church and schoolhouse into 71 hotel rooms unlike any other—plus magical open-to-the-public spaces like this very bar.

At a time when design trends come and go so fast (ahem, pink neon), it’s unusual to step into a space with such a deep sense of character. There’s not much more I could have asked for in this setting than a cool vermouth spritz, a perch on one of the custom cherry-leather stools, and a long, lazy afternoon with nowhere else to be. Turns out, you can have all that, with a flawless caviar-topped omelet too. —J.K.

THE PLAYERS: Managing partner Joaquin Rodas, chef Alex Harrell, general manager Lisa Nguyen

THE SETUP: 19th-century-church becomes old-world hotel bar

THE ORDER: Duck egg omelet with caviar and any spritz you feel like

THE MOVE: Book a room at the Hotel Peter & Paul pretend you live here.

Designed to resemble a tree trunk, the bar’s back wall was crafted by Kern Studios, which also carves the Styrofoam figures on Mardi Gras floats.

Design firm ASH NYC modeled these barstools after a midcentury stool from Italian furniture maker Bonacina.

The Kir Royale (right) comes in a Nick & Nora glass with subtle lace etching made by British company Steelite.

Monet’s dining room in Giverny inspired the breakfast room, and the dish set he used there inspired these hand-thrown custom plates from ceramist Jono Pandolfi.

This cart-slash-magazine holder was bought from a Parisian textile dealer who had been using it as a display.

Is it possible to love someone without really knowing them? What about a restaurant? I fell for Kopitiam in its first iteration, a hole-in-the-wall Malaysian coffee shop on the border of Chinatown. I’d duck in among the neighborhood regulars for sesame noodles or nasi lemak: a coconutty rice bowl topped with crispy-crunchy crumbles of teeny little fried anchovies dressed in a sweet-spicy sambal.

But the more dishes I tried, the more I realized I’d only scratched the surface. On weekends there were rounds of new specials: fragrant assam (tamarind) curry slow-cooked beef rendang. As Lower East Siders with white sneakers and AirPods crammed into the space, Pang seemed to only dig deeper. And finally I learned her story: how her cooking is influenced by her background as Baba-Nyonya (sometimes called Nyonya or Peranakan), the descendants of Chinese settlers in Malaysia. How she sought asylum in the U.S. a decade ago as an openly gay woman. How she hasn’t seen her parents in 11 years. How her cooking connects her back to her family.

There was so much more I wanted to know about Pang, about Kopitiam. That’s why, of course, I have to keep coming back. —J.K.

THE PLAYERS: Chef/co-owner Kyo Pang and co-owner Moonlynn Tsai

THE SETUP: Counter-service Malaysian, any time of day

THE ORDER: Lobak (ground pork wrapped in tofu skins), nasi lemak, kuih lapis (layer cake), teh tarik (pulled tea)

THE MOVE: Ask about the daily specials on weekends and you will be rewarded.

After a rent hike forced Pang to close her original location, she and Tsai teamed up to open this expanded, sunny space in June 2018.

Kaya butter toast, with a thick layer of pandan leaf and coconut jam sandwiched between two golden slices of fluffy bread, is a must-order.

The deeply savory pandan chicken, a compact triangle of minced chicken, is wrapped in aromatic pandan leaves that impart a sweet and grassy aroma.

The small menu is chock full of noodles, rice dishes, and more plates inspired by the Baba-Nyonya food Pang ate growing up in Malaysia.

To make the crispy-crunchy topper for her nasi lemak, Pang fries small dried anchovies until crisp and tosses them with toasty peanuts and sambal.

A restaurant’s generosity can take many forms. A half-empty wine glass topped off with a wink. A gratis dessert when service is slow. But the particular brand of radical generosity on display at Tailor , the brick-and-mortar evolution of chef Vivek Surti’s beloved Nashville pop-up, exists on a higher plane. It’s personal, direct, honest. Because before each course in the “dinner-party-style” tasting menu—eight to 10 dishes, two seatings each night—Surti stands in front of the room and gives.

Born outside of Nashville to parents who emigrated from Gujarat in western India, he gives of his heritage when he explains to 30-odd mostly white diners that the fragrant amber-tinged diamond under a layer of toasted coconut and sesame seeds is called dhokla, a common breakfast halfway around the world. He gives of his craft when he goes into how the tangy ranch-esque dressing for a bowl of young lettuces and crisp radishes is inspired by chaas, a fermented dairy-based hot-weather tonic (like yogurt Gatorade, if you will). And he gives of his own history when he shares that this drink is what his mom gave him after basketball practice.

Surti’s storytelling suffuses the space and the food served within it with so much vulnerability and personality and love that you could not possibly be anywhere but “our home,” as he refers to the restaurant. Which is exactly where you want to be. To dine at Tailor is to be his guest, fully and completely. And that’s a rare kind of generosity indeed. —A.S.

THE PLAYERS: Chef/managing partner Vivek Surti

THE SETUP: Gujarat meets the American South via a set menu

THE ORDER: That’s up to Surti and the seasons.

THE MOVE: Book a seat at the bar counter for the best view of the action.

After years of running his pop-up restaurant VEA, Surti can turn any space into a kitchen, including the bar counter of Tailor.

Chefs Patrick McCandless and Allie Evans (right) sprinkle cilantro over baigan ravaiya, local eggplants stuffed with coconut and lady peas.

It’s Surti’s party and he’ll slice spiced roast pork if he wants to.

Surti seasons boiled peanuts with chile and coriander, which “is very Indian” but reminds him of Cajun-spiced ones from gas stations in the South.

"The most iconic dish Indians make at home," says Surti: Sweet-and-Sour Dal Bhat

This is not the first restaurant to serve French classics in a cozy, warmly lit, slightly ramshackle bistro setting. But if there’s any place in the country that’s making this quintessential genre feel fresh and new and fun and youthful, it’s Baltimore’s Le Comptoir du Vin .

It all starts with the delightful couple who opened it: Rosemary Liss, an artist whose residency at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen involved making a quilt out of dehydrated kombucha mothers, and Will Mester, who was chef de cuisine at the restaurant that used to be in this same space, Bottega. The pair built Le Comptoir as an homage to a neighborhood restaurant in Lyon of the same name, which Mester liked so much that he convinced the chef to let him spend a night in the kitchen.

Like the Lyonnaise original, the scrappiness of the Le Comptoir operation is its charm. Mester didn’t want to be the type of chef who oversees lots of stations the kitchen is just he and his sous-chef, Kelsey Martin, who runs point on the bread and baked goods.

And yet: They turn out the silkiest chicken liver pâté. They hand-cut a tartare that practically glistens, the steak tossed in colatura (anchovy sauce) and served with roughed-up golden hunks of potato that made me question how I ever could’ve enjoyed steak tartare any other way. For dessert they make crazy things like Grandpa toast, in which foie gras is shaved onto a piece of well-crisped bread, and it’s exactly what you think a frozen waffle smothered in butter and maple syrup is going to taste like but never does.

For as satisfying and timeless and rustic as these dishes are, the food is not even really what Le Comptoir is about. It’s about having a place where you feel immediately welcomed. A place where you can settle into a worn wood chair under a wall-mounted marlin and drink glass after glass of delicious natural wine from the scribbled list. A place where you just wanna hang out, as golden hour fades, hoping the night never ends. —J.K.

THE PLAYERS: Chef/co-owner Will Mester and co-owner Rosemary Liss

THE SETUP: Come-as-you-are natural wine bar-slash-French bistro

THE ORDER: Chicken liver pâté, steak tartare, Paris-Brest (and Grandpa toast if it’s on the menu)

THE MOVE: Try something you’ve never had before from the short-and-quirky wine list.

Paris-Brest with pistachio cream

Owners Will Mester and Rosemary Liss

Egg yolk ravioli with ham, peas, and brown butter

Pig’s head terrine with pickled fennel

The restaurant’s ever-changing chalkboard menu

Roast chicken with fried potatoes and mojo rojo

Le Comptoir's menu changes almost daily, tied to both the seasons and whatever wines Liss is excited about.

There are two things in this package that are going to upset a lot of people in Texas. One: naming Dallas our restaurant city of the year , which I have a feeling a lot of people in Houston and Austin are, uh, not gonna like. Two: what I’m about to say about a breakfast-taco joint…that’s also a barbecue joint…that’s in the most un-Texas location imaginable—Portland, Oregon. Please don’t hate me.

The person to blame for this is Matt Vicedomini. He’s an unsuspecting character for a barbecue icon: from Long Island, learned how to smoke meat at a cowboy-themed restaurant in Australia, has never lived in the Lone Star state, though he has made many, many brisket-oriented pilgrimages there. He eventually settled in Portland and opened a trailer—Matt’s BBQ—in the parking lot of a pawnshop. Sure, there wasn’t a lot of competition for Texas-style ’cue, but nevertheless Matt’s immediately became known as the best in the city.

This winter Vicedomini followed that up with not one but two new spots, both of which show off his legendary brisket, simply seasoned but expertly smoked, low and slow, over oak for 10-to - 12 hours. The first is Eem, a Thai barbecue collab with the folks from Portland’s celebrated Langbaan and pop-up cocktail bar Shipwreck. The second is Matt’s BBQ Tacos, which opens at 8 a.m., with that brisket and pork belly burnt ends and more smoked meats. They all come piled with scrambled eggs and potatoes and salsa onto unbelievably puffy flour tortillas made with rendered lard.

The pleasure of Matt’s BBQ Tacos is pure and simple: When I think about where I was the happiest on the road this year, my mind immediately goes to sitting in the sunshine (yes, in the Pacific Northwest!) at one of the picnic tables next to the trailer, folding up the most irrefutably delicious tacos one after the next, pausing only to dip a fresh-fried tortilla chip into creamy queso. What’s to hate about that? —J.K.

THE PLAYERS: Chef-owner Matt Vicedomini

THE SETUP: Breakfast-and-lunch food trailer with picnic tables

THE ORDER: Sliced brisket taco, migas breakfast taco, chips and queso

THE MOVE: You want the (deliciously lard-y) flour tortillas.

Vicedomini’s got a thing for trailers—they remind him of Texan barbecue titans (Franklin Barbecue, La Barbecue) but feel distinctly Portland, with all its food carts.

The key to the perfectly chewy flour tortillas at Matt’s BBQ Tacos? Leftover lard from his restaurant Eem.

Is there anything better than a thick, wobbly slice of brisket, topped with pickled red onions and guacamole and wrapped up in those flour tortillas?

Fact: Breakfast tacos just taste better outside.

Meet the barbecue taco crew, from left to right: Chris Robblee, Matt Vicedomini, Matt Billups, Josh Fisher, Derek Burrus, and Dustin Reum.

I think we can all agree that the Wolf’s Tailor really needs to chill out. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely into the fact that I can start my meal with a hot puffy disk of chef Kelly Whitaker’s heirloom-grain piada bread straight from the restaurant’s wood-fired oven. But don’t you think that the binchotan-fueled Japanese robata grill, the one they use to sizzle skewers—a juicy chicken meatball, or crispy-edged mortadella—to succulent perfection is kind of gilding the lily? Just a little?

Another great example of way-too-muchness: the pasta program. The toothy mafaldine I had one night—made from local grains milled in-house and tangled up with morsels of grassy whey-braised Colorado lamb and tender little peas—was the single most exciting plate of pasta I ate this year. But did Whitaker really have to take the leftover bran from milling that flour and use it to ferment all sorts of electric, eyebrow-raising pickled vegetables? Again: I love those pickles. But you have to admit it’s a little…extra, right?

And how is it even fair that Whitaker nabbed chefs Kodi Simkins and Sean May, of Frasca Food & Wine fame, to make his whole freaky vision come alive? Or that he brought on the Michelin-starred pastry chef Jeb Breakell to whip up as-fascinating-as-they-are-lovable desserts? (That red miso panna cotta!)

And the generous big-meat family-style entrées. And the tight, well-curated natural wine list. And the Japanese highballs made with ice so crazy-clear I could see through the cubes halfway across the room (and nearly spilled half my drink trying to do so). And, and, and.

Enough is enough! Is it too much to ask that they save some of the fun for everyone else? —A.S.

THE PLAYERS: Chef-owner Kelly Whitaker, culinary director Sean Magallanes, chefs de cuisine Kodi Simkins and Sean May, pastry chef Jeb Breakell

THE SETUP: Handmade pasta and robata, so well executed that it works

THE ORDER: House pickles, chicken skewers, any pasta, large-format pork ribs

THE MOVE: Desserts are wild and not to be overlooked.

The egg yolk dipping sauce served with the chicken meatball skewers is topped with a zesty house-made yuzu kosho and dehydrated chives.

King trumpet mushrooms are grilled over a mix of Japanese binchotan and Pok Pok charcoal for skewers.

Whitaker installed the wood-fired oven specifically for baking his signature piada, a fluffy, hot, pita-like disk of bread made with heirloom grains.

Piada bread served with farmer's cheese, edamame purée, garden herbs, and benne.

The bran leftover from milling grains into flour is used to make fermented pickles, like this Napa cabbage seasoned with Calabrian chiles and dried anchovies.

We've adapted these addictive ribs so you can make them at home with excellent results. Get the recipe: Miso Pork Ribs with Chile-Honey Glaze

The pasta drying room features a large glass window that looks into the restaurant's main dining room.

The Wolf's Tailor uses an extruder to make various pasta shapes, such as the paccheri and mafaldine shown here.

The tasting menu option comes with a bowl of this cozy, congee-like porridge. Get the recipe: Rice Porridge with Dashi

Project Lead:
Julia Kramer

Additional Reporting:
Andy Baraghani, Molly Baz, Hilary Cadigan, Christina Chaey, Elyse Inamine, Sarah Jampel, Carla Lalli Music, Meryl Rothstein, Jesse Sparks, Amiel Stanek, Anna Stockwell

Senior Staff Photographer:
Alex Lau

Development:
Alexander Ratner

Art & Design:
Chris Cristiano, Chelsea Cardinal, Bryan Fountain, Christa Guerra

Copy & Research:
Brian Carroll, Greg Robertson, Susan Sedman

Social:
Rachel Karten, Emily Schultz

Special Thanks:
Emma Fishman, Michelle Heimerman, Sasha Levine, Michele Outland, Carey Polis, Adam Rapoport, Annalee Soskin, David Tamarkin