The tandoori spaghetti at Pijja Palace in L.A. Photo courtesy of Pijja Palace

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Sixteen Restaurants That Defined American Dining in 2022

By and

If last year was about relief that restaurants were back open on a regular basis, 2022 has very much been a year of reading tea leaves — trying to understand not only which cuisines are the next big things, but also the literal forms that American dining will take in coming years.

To capture it all, we reached out to our contributors across the country, the ones who compose the monthly Resy Hit List in their respective cities. They track the new and the excellent, and we asked each to compile a list of the 10 restaurants they felt had defined great dining in their town over the past year — and to nominate one restaurant they felt best captured the state of great American dining today.

They had plenty to share. This year, we witnessed the rise of Filipino fine dining, with Kasama receiving the first-ever Michelin star for that cuisine; as well as runaway cravings for an Indian American pizza-and-pasta sports bar (Pijja Palace); and hybridized cooking (at Mister Mao) so dynamic that it pushed boundaries even in New Orleans, that most masterful of cities when it comes to cultural mashups.

And they noted opportunities where chefs trod new ground in well-established cuisines. That manifested itself in classic French bistro food (Canard in Portland, Ore.), Southern cooking (Mashama Bailey expanding to Austin with Diner Bar), and even pizza (San Francisco’s Shuggie’s).

But cuisine was only part of the equation. The pandemic’s long tail left deep challenges for restaurants — namely a trio of inflation, a dented supply chain, and deep labor shortages — all of which manifested new and novel dining formats. The tiny, jewel-box omakase spots that have pervaded New York are spreading to Atlanta (Mujō) and beyond. The tasting menu, the future of which seemed unclear during COVID, is being reconsidered and reshaped, whether as a tuned-up vehicle to explore humble cuisines (as with Sean Brock’s June) or as a deliberately odd fit in a food hall (as at Miami’s Lur).

All told, this amounted what might be called a rebuilding year: a moment when great restaurateurs rediscovered strengths and plotted a new path forward. The growing pace of openings this fall is a sign of confidence, namely that the restaurant industry is unbowed in its willingness to match the moment.

What that means is that 2023 will be plenty exciting — full of new and novel ways to eat. Until then, let’s celebrate the most compelling meals and restaurants that this year brought.

Contributors: Deanna Ting (New York), Emily Wilson (Los Angeles), Tim Ebner (Washington, D.C.), Ariel Kanter (Chicago), Lyssa Goldberg (Miami), Scott Hocker (New Orleans), Omar Mamoon (San Francisco), Mike Jordan (Atlanta), Sam Spence (Charleston), Mark Kurlyandchik (Detroit), Samantha Bakall (Portland), Chris Chamberlain (Nashville), Madeleine Kim (Austin), Eric Twardzik (Boston), Vickie An (Houston), Ryn Pfeuffer (Seattle).

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NEW YORK: Place des Fêtes

By some kind of magic, Place des Fêtes, the self-described neighborhood wine bar from the same team behind Brooklyn hit Oxalis, managed to hit the mark in offering nearly everything you’d want when dining out today: a soft glow, an interesting wine list, standout dishes that won’t weigh you down (the sardine toast and those wood-ear mushrooms with caramelized fish sauce to name a few), and easygoing vibes. In a year where New York suddenly found itself in thrall to Euro-focused wine bars and seafood spots, this one stood out as a master of the form.

 

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LOS ANGELES: Pijja Palace

Nobody saw a cheffy Indian sports bar in a Silver Lake strip mall coming, until it arrived and almost immediately hit the proverbial ball out of the park. Since opening this past summer, Pijja Palace has become one of the hottest tables in the city, for good reason: the food is thoroughly inventive and downright delicious, and the dining room is vivacious (in part due to the many TVs livestreaming a multitude of sports). More than that, it’s a remix that exudes an Angeleno sense of identity, of crossing cultures with grace and fun. Once you finally get a table, get the malai rigatoni, but also try the dosa-battered onion rings, green wings, and lamb nihari and shells. Throw in a pijja too, of course.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Causa (and Bar Amazona)

The ultimate in D.C.’s fine-dining experiences could be found this year at Causa, a Peruvian restaurant tucked away in Shaw’s Blagden Alley. It’s easily one of the District’s best new restaurants this year. And it came after almost five years of work to bring the concept to fruition.

Peruvian-born chef and co-owner Carlos Delgado takes diners on a tasting-menu journey through Peru’s many regions, from the Andes mountains to the Amazon rainforest and Pacific coast. Along the way, you sample everything from citrusy ceviche to shareable whole fish, meat, and seafood dishes. As with New York’s Dept. of Culture, the effect is a tasting menu that’s elegant but not precious, at a time when the format is being reconsidered.

The restaurant and its sister bar, Bar Amazonia (located upstairs), is also home to one of the largest pisco collections in the United States. Together, the two serve as affirmation of Peru, and its cuisine, as an essential new element in dining culture across the country.

 

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Photo courtesy of Kasama
Photo courtesy of Kasama
CHICAGO: Kasama

For special-occasion meals in Chicago, there was perhaps no better destination this year than Genie Kwon and Tim Flores’ Kasama. It’s no surprise the pair received a James Beard nomination for Best New Restaurant. With their truly innovative tasting menu, the husband and wife team inspired wonder and excitement with every dish, from shatteringly crisp lumpia to caviar-studded kinilaw — a completely new prism through which to view Filipino flavors. Despite the celebratory nature of their food, the space is anything but stuffy. This, again, is where high-touch tasting menus might be headed at a time when their future is unsure.

 

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MIAMI: Lur

Looking for Michelin-caliber creativity in the most unassuming place possible? South Beach’s Time Out Market features a dynamic young Spanish chef by the name of Aitor Garate Berasaluz. His résumé is cosmopolitan. His food hall stand, Lur, offers creative Basque cuisine crafted with fresh ingredients and refined simplicity in a curated tasting menu format. The food booth also offers more traditional Spanish tapas, like pan con tomate, patatas bravas, grilled octopus and a Basque Cheesecake. From the small plates to the Spanish wines, we felt like we were taking a tour of northern España while sitting at a casual counter in South Beach. Simultaneously laid back yet exceptional, Lur is one of our favorite dining surprises of the year.

 

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NEW ORLEANS: Mister Mao

We would love Mister Mao and its chef-owner, Sophina Uong, just for the restaurant and Uong’s deep community engagement. But Uong, because she can’t help herself, also cooks like a demon. The menu shifts constantly but the flavors are always big and the cooking influences swerve from India (avocado chaat!) to Mexico (bay scallop tostadas!) to Burma (ginger salad!) — pretty much anywhere that is remotely tropical and likes itself some chile heat.

Come for dinner and cap off a long day by starting with one of the cheeky cocktails, like Daddy Issues, with bourbon, amaro, and Combier. Or come for brunch, and arm yourself with a Walk of Shame (vodka, passionfruit, and rosewater), and let the day take you where it will.

 

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Photo courtesy of Shuggie’s Trash Pie + Natural Wine
Photo courtesy of Shuggie’s Trash Pie + Natural Wine
SAN FRANCISCO: Shuggie’s Trash Pie + Natural Wine

Step inside the colorful, chaotic Shuggie’s and you’ll instantly feel like you’re on an acid trip — if not so much the sort San Francisco once did. The bright yellow room in front has cheetah murals on the walls and painted disco globes that hang from the ceiling, while the glittery green room in the back features chairs that look like hands and has a friendly English bulldog named Beef literally standing behind the bar. The pizza — aka “trash pie” — is unlike anything you’ve ever had before: a thin, crispy flatbread-like dough is made with whey and milled oat flour (the byproduct of oat milk production) and is topped with things like “ugly” mushrooms and bruised squash — produce that would otherwise be discarded — in an effort to fight food waste. It is a maximalist, climate-conscious take on the wave of exceptional pizza circling the nation, which might be why partners Kayla Abe and David Murphy get constant buzz: Shuggie’s is a restaurant with a mission.

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ATLANTA: Mujō

Let’s be clear: If you book a one-seat reservation at Mujō, you will spend hundreds of dollars. Do it — it will be a meal to remember, no matter what your standards for nigiri. Chef J. Trent Harris is making masterful sushi, in a way that evokes Atlanta’s surprisingly rich history with the form (as with Sotohiro Kosugi) and that reflects Harris’ experience training in New York (Ginza Sushi Onodera and Shuko, plus the Portuguese restaurant Aldea) and Tokyo. With just 15 seats, there is a focus on high-caliber service that results in a supreme experience. In a year with several pricey omakase restaurants opening their doors in Atlanta — as elsewhere across the country — this Castellucci Hospitality Group newbie went straight after greatness.

 

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CHARLESTON: Vern’s

Husband-wife team Daniel “Dano” and Bethany Heinze marked their return to Charleston with what was likely the city’s highest-profile opening of the year. The couple applied their previous experience gained at the now-closed McCrady’s in Charleston, where they met, and recent stints in Los Angeles. They took over a beloved space, formerly home to Lucca, in the Cannonborough-Elliottborough neighborhood. It’s safe to say the couple is back home.

To say this was the return of McCrady’s-style cooking would be too simple — much as that Sean Brock restaurant helped to catalyze Charleston’s culinary chops — but Vern’s certainly shares a continuity. In the kitchen, Dano’s creations distill traditional Southern dishes down to their elemental pieces. Bethany’s hands-on approach to crafting the wine list comes with instincts fine-tuned with the wine team at McCrady’s. The result is a comfortable, thoughtful experience that shows how Charleston’s dining tastes are a benchmark for the New South, and beyond.

 

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Photo courtesy of Basan
Photo courtesy of Basan
DETROIT: Basan

Although it only opened last month, Basan already hums with the easy-handed polish of a restaurant in business much longer. It is emblematic of how the izakaya, as a concept, has taken root in cities across the country — and evolved well beyond its low-key Japanese origins. That means 80-some seats here, divided between a dimly lit dining room in view of the kitchen’s robata grill, plus a separate lounge area and bar. (On the latter, try the lavender-colored Ube-B (“ooh baby”) from cocktail impresario Will Lee.)

On the food side, Eric Lees’ Japanese-ish menu is uniformly great, and quirky. If you hear “robata” and come seeking traditional Japanese food at Basan, you may be disappointed — bologna is among the bao options here, after all. But when it comes to harmony of flavors and textures, from umeboshi-glazed chicken thigh skewers topped with crispy chicken skin to the light-as-a-whisper eggplant tempura or the indulgent chicken liver mousse, Basan simply doesn’t miss. And it pushes the form in a way that feels genuine.

 

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PORTLAND: Canard (Oregon City)

Canard, the all-day, casual bistro and wine bar from Le Pigeon’s Gabriel Rucker and Andy Fortgang, expanded out to Oregon City earlier this year, bringing the gospel of kooky, reimagined bistro and diner dishes to the suburbs. It would have been enough simply to replicate Canard’s magic outside Portland; after all, Rucker and Fortgang have perfected a 21st-century take on bistro French. But with a menu that was substantially larger than the original Burnside space, they had a chance to put a new spin on a number of familiar dishes: Here, nachos merge with clam ceviche, chicken tenders take a dip in koji honey and Japanese gribiche, and pasta shells earn a chashu chanterelle stuffing and “ramen-esco” broth. Add that to the old favorites, including those White Castle-inspired steam burgers, duck-fat pancakes and oeufs en mayonnaise (plus a kids menu) and you have a template for French American cooking that quietly pushes boundaries while perfecting the standards.

 

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NASHVILLE: June

Sean Brock has found himself on a lot of “best of” lists thanks to his work at June. And his latest is quintessential Brock: an ode to his Appalachian roots that takes the traditional ingredients to dizzying new heights through innovative techniques. (This is, after all, the guy who first hit the radar for his food-science-y “lobster cheetos.”) Thanks to a modern R&D lab where his staff isolates individual elements of ingredients like parsnips, buttermilk, and greasy beans thanks to such techniques as microwave extraction, ultrasonic homogenization, and fermentation, Brock has divined, and presents, the very essence of Appalachia as he interprets it.

Those ingredients are used to create a 20-plus course tasting menu (Brock is nothing if not bullish on the format) presented in a parade of artfully-plated dishes. The ambiance exudes a Zen calm as chefs work in an open kitchen surrounded by comfortable lighting and nature-inspired decor. A dinner at June is a commitment of serious time and money; in this case, both are remarkably well-spent.

 

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AUSTIN: The Diner Bar

When Mashama Bailey, who reignited Savannah dining with The Grey, announced that she was opening a restaurant in Austin, hopes were high — and Diner Bar didn’t disappoint. For her second restaurant, Bailey incorporated her signature Port City Southern cooking with flavors and culinary influences from Austin and Mexico.

The result? Indulgent dishes you’re unlikely to find anywhere else, like West African fried ugali served with salsa macha (which is one of Bailey’s personal favorites) and chicken-fried quail over indulgent, velvety artisanal grits. Diner Bar also does a great happy hour — heavy on the oysters and martinis — and a decadent brunch, with options like country pasta with pork belly and Parmesan, and buttermilk biscuits with red-eye gravy. Either way, Bailey has devised a worthy follow-up to The Grey, and her incorporation of Texas (and further south) flavors make for a thoroughly memorable meal.

 

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Photo courtesy of Faccia a Faccia
Photo courtesy of Faccia a Faccia
BOSTON: Faccia a Faccia

It’s not every year that Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer, the duo behind some of Boston’s most memorable restaurants, open a new one. (Their previous project, Little Donkey, debuted in 2016.) But the stars aligned in 2022, bringing a coastal Italian-focused spot dubbed Faccia a Faccia (originally Faccia Brutta) to Newbury Street, that most tourist-packed of Boston stretches. “Italian in Boston” isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but Faccia found subtle ways to be remarkable — with deceptively simple but delicious dishes (i.e., spongy “grandma bread” with rosemary and olive oil, paccheri with Gulf shrimp and saffron tomato sauce) that overdelivered without being too cerebral for the nearby shopping crowds. Even better, Faccia a Faccia proved to be a two-in-one deal: downstairs could be found Bar Pallino, a separate concept offering high-end mezcals, pintxos, and music courtesy of Bissonnette’s personal vinyl collection. Rock on.

 

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HOUSTON: Golfstrømmen

Just when you thought the New Nordic had run its course … celebrated Norwegian chef Christopher Haatuft of Lysverket teamed up with James Beard Award-winning chef-restaurateur Paul Qui for an acclaimed American debut: a sustainable seafood restaurant that merges Nordic flavors with fresh bounty from the Texas Gulf. And there’s no stark minimalism here: Golfstrømmen is located inside downtown Houston’s casual Post Market food hall, belying the complex, elegantly plated creations (executed with precision by chef de cuisine Alberto Cruz) that appear before diners.

Take, for instance, the raw scallop ceviche, which is presented in its own shell with diced nectarines, delicate slivers of tomato and shallots, smoked trout roe, and a citrus dressing. Or whole deep-fried red snapper — impossibly crispy on the outside and perfectly flaky on the inside — served with juniper pickled ramp sauce and a grilled lemon. For two seemingly disparate culinary inspirations, Golfstrømmen achieves the happiest of collisions.

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SEATTLE: Brimmer & Heeltap

Every meal at Brimmer & Heeltap feels like you’re a special guest at owner Jen Doak’s dinner table. Doak is a veteran of Seattle dining, her service team is one of the most capable and welcoming in the city, and the space itself has a long and proud history — where Bruce Naftaly’s Le Gourmand once set a benchmark for hybrid French-Pacific Northwest cooking. Its charm remains; during warmer months, diners indulge in date nights in the intimate outdoor garden.

And Doak has found a way to evolve it into a perfect Seattle mashup. Chef MacGregor Tadie’s fare, like chicken liver pate and gnocchetti with lamb ragu, feels like perfect comfort food to Seattlites. (Save room for the satisfyingly moist olive oil cake.) The craft cocktails and thoughtfully curated wine list (Doak managed The Tasting Room in Post Alley for years) again reflect that combination of elements that have long made the best Seattle spots so approachable. And in the morning, obviously: coffee and pastries are on offer for Ballard residents who still have to make the trek to the office.

 

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Jon Bonné is Resy’s managing editor. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.