Boston’s The Koji Club has captured a party’s worth of excitement in a thimble-sized space. Photo courtesy of The Koji Club

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19 Restaurants That Defined Dining in America in 2023

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It’s fair to say that 2023 was the year we wanted everything. Did we want places that entertained and went big with their vibe? Did we want spots that felt intimate, that impressed more by doing less? Yes, and yes.

Perhaps that’s because this was the year restaurants were determined to once again take center stage in our lives. They weren’t going to be the places we went to in between other things; they became the destinations themselves, places we built our days and evenings around. If you want to understand why vibes ruled in 2023, it’s because dining increasingly transformed into its own form of entertainment.

You could detect that shift toward dinner-as-party in the proliferation of big new restaurants this year — grand rooms in which to see and be seen. But parties come in many forms. Vibes were just as vibrant in small spaces — with restaurants like New York’s Foxface Natural offering personal, daring, take-it-or-leave-it approaches to dining. Foxface’s wine-loving focus reflected a continued boom of not just naturally-minded wine bars, like Seattle’s Light Sleeper or L.A.’s Stir Crazy, but also sake bars like Boston’s Koji Club.
French cuisine is undeniably having an American renaissance, not just on the coasts (as with New York’s Cafe Chelsea and D.C.’s Petite Cerise) but at spots like Detroit’s Le Suprême and Chicago’s Pompette. Modern takes on Mexican cooking, too, keep proliferating, not just at Atlanta’s Palo Santo but Austin’s Bacalar and beyond. That’s just one part of a growing commitment to roots-driven cooking — including ever more Black chefs telling their own stories through their cooking, at Charleston’s Bintü Atelier, New Orleans’ Dakar NOLA, Oakland’s Burdell and elsewhere.
Even well-worn formats like the steakhouse were due for reconsideration, as with the Argentine tweaks at Minneapolis’ Porzana. And seafood! So much seafood — including top omakases in city and suburb alike, as at Kinzo, in the booming Dallas exurb of Frisco.
In other words, it felt like we could have it all this year — that the only dining rule was to make your meal your main event. To us, that portends exciting times for restaurants in America, and these 19 standouts help show just how much energy and excitement is coming from the country’s kitchens right now. Party on.