The hand-ground tortillas at Los Félix in Miami. Photo courtesy of Los Félix

Dining Access Hit ListNational

40 Restaurants Across America Worth a Journey

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Every great meal should be a journey. Not necessarily in that four-hour-tasting-menu, Willy Wonka, land-of-pure-imagination way. But it should transport you — to a Bangkok night market, or to your grandmother’s kitchen, or a thousand other places. 

For that reason, we believe every journey should involve a great meal. And since it’s time to make travel plans for this summer and beyond, that also means it’s time to think about great restaurants worth including in your trip — perhaps even those meaningful enough to build a trip around.

Restaurant as destination? The notion is hardly new. Over a century ago, a certain tire company created a guide to support that idea, hoping to lure people out on the road. And a voyage to dine doesn’t have to be grandiose; Anthony Bourdain taught us this. Food as pleasure can be as easy as noodles slurped on plastic stools in a simple joint in Hanoi. (OK, it helps if the leader of the free world is on the stool across from you.) But it’s no coincidence: When we talk of the places we go, those stories are laden with memories — of a perfect seafood plate on the beach at Luquillo, of the moment you unwrap a pound of brisket in Texas hill country.

To honor restaurants that create such memories, we’ve compiled a list of 40 around the country worth making a special journey for. They come in all shapes and sizes. You might find yourself at Burdell in Oakland, exploring Geoff Davis’ vision of how soul food and California bounty come together; or land at Daru at Washington, D.C., or Saffron NOLA in the city’s Uptown neighborhood, to witness how Indian cooking has advanced on these shores. Or perhaps you’ll wind up at Miami’s Los Félix, where Sebastian Vargas has tales to tell of  Mesoamerican traditions, using the language of hand-ground masa. Or at Saint Julivert in Brooklyn, where Alex Raij pursues a vision of seafood that’s utterly her own. In every case, these offer exclusive access to eligible American Express card members via Global Dining Access by Resy.

Taken together, they define some of the most compelling examples of what American dining is today, which is precisely what we try to capture each quarter in our Dining Access Hit List. Consider this a compilation of favorites, along with some recent arrivals that have charmed our local Resy contributors and deserve your immediate attention.

So whether your plans involve a trip across town, or across the country, these 40 restaurants will make your journey a bit more memorable. Get booking, and get out on the road to eat.

1. Saint Julivert Fisherie NEW YORK | Cobble Hill

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A diner tries the spread at Saint Julivert.
Photo by OK McCausland for Resy

Alex Raij and her husband Eder Montero are longtime staples in New York’s restaurant community, with their Spanish-inflected cooking at Txikito and La Vara. Their most recent restaurant, the seafood-focused Saint Julivert, opened in 2018, and if it feels uncategorizable, that might be because it is the creation of restaurateurs who are comfortable in their own skin. Raij refers to it as a “jewel box,” which seems apropos: a tiny, trim space with not an inch wasted — a quality it shares with fellow travelers like Place des Fêtes and Foul Witch. And while Raij was inspired by Parisian wine bars, years before the current deluge of Frenchy wine spots, the food here has global reach: cured wild shrimp with kumquat and poblano could evoke Sinaloa or southeast Asia; put them on your table next to sorrulitos, a Puerto Rican sort of hush puppy; and the cod pot pie. The last is a Raij masterpiece, more British than the British could devise, yet with sofrito and curry-leaf aioli. Add in her natural-tilting wine list, quirky desserts (mezcal flan, anyone?) and you have ecumenical cooking of the highest order.

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A diner tries the spread at Saint Julivert.
Photo by OK McCausland for Resy

2. Burdell OAKLAND | Temescal

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It’s not simply that Burdell is a great restaurant, namely because Geoff Davis is a great chef, earning his stripes at fine-dining icons like Aqua and Cyrus. It’s that Burdell is a significant restaurant — Davis’ love letter to flavors he’s loved since childhood in Modesto, and his way of telling a different tale of California cuisine. Sure, it’s fresh and local and informed by the seasons, but also it’s his rumination on exceptional soul-food stalwarts. In bringing those together, Burdell roots the story of a different Black American journey — to the west, where traditions and cultures sorted out in their own ways. He embraces how essential farming and fishing were in the various Great Migrations. Here waffles come with chicken-liver mousse; barbecue shrimp has a cheffy brown-butter touch; and a dish like broccoli and cauliflower with a red-eye vinaigrette and pig’s ears folds together manifold inspirations. Others have forged similar paths in the Bay Area, including Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen. But Davis merges past and present in exceptional, and wonderfully hedonistic, ways.

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3. Los Félix Miami MIAMI | Coconut Grove

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Even in as urbane a city as Miami, Los Félix often gets pigeonholed as a Mexican restaurant. Yet chef Sebastian Vargas is from Colombia, as is Pili Restrepo Hackler, who handles the front of the house with her partner Josh Hackler. While you also might be temped, noting the tacos, totopos and esquites on the menu, to categorize it that way, the team defines their focus as Mesoamerican, and that choice says a ton about Los Félix’s importance. The traditions honored here are broader, including that of indigenous Milpa farming. The molino that grinds masa in house similarly evokes traditions that cross borders — an ecumenical, and very Miami view. Of course Vargas is also a remarkable talent, his experience in spots such as Osteria Francescana and Sweden’s Fäviken providing a precision and verve on the plate. (You sense similar energy in the team’s Krüs Kitchen.) Josh Hackler’s deft wine selection, and the presence of a DJ spinning vinyl, connect this back to 2024 South Florida. The sum is a thinking-person’s boîte. And like any good salon, this one serves carnitas.

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4. Este AUSTIN | East Austin

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“Coastal seafood” isn’t the most obvious play when it comes to a Mexican restaurant in landlocked Austin. But it makes brilliant sense when you know that chef Fermín Núñez and his business partner Sam Hellman-Mass, who made Suerte into one of the country’s most worthwhile Mexican restaurants, are keen to embrace a whole new side of Mexican tradition. The two spent time in cities on both Mexican coasts, gathering ideas. While you can pick out threads of influence — the shrimp tacos might nod to Ensenada, while the fish flautas take a cue from Oaxaca — the net effect is what Austinites have come to expect from Núñez: dishes that are their own sort of nuevo Mexican wonder, as with a whole Dover sole milanesa. It’s also Núñez’s way of paying homage to mariscos culture — where a lunch can unfurl over a whole afternoon. (That lunch can, incidentally, include Este’s exceptionally good burger.) Pro tip: Stop by Bar Toti next door, before or after, for drinks like a Cynar daiquiri and Nuñéz’s take on tapas.

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5. Anajak Thai LOS ANGELES | Sherman Oaks

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Anajak Thai in Sherman Oaks, CA.
Photo courtesy of Anajak Thai

A few years ago, Justin Pichetrungsi sounded like yet another quixotic young chef — tuning up classic Thai dishes, entranced by naturally-leaning wines. Except Pichetrungsi’s restaurant was 40 years old, run for decades by his father Rick and mother Rattikorn, a Thai American staple in the Valley. And Justin wasn’t a chef by training; he’d been working as an art director for Disney. So was born one of L.A. dining’s great successes, with Anajak named L.A. Times’ Restaurant of the Year. It has become a living manifestation of the city’s evolution of Thai cooking. There’s the no-reservations Thai Taco Tuesdays in the alley next door; an intimate monthly omakase allows Pichetrungsi to lean into fascinations like dry-aged fish; and a regular menu includes cult hits like a Massaman brisket curry. And how many neighborhood Thai joints have multiple sommeliers, and wine lists deep in Burgundy?

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Anajak Thai in Sherman Oaks, CA.
Photo courtesy of Anajak Thai

6. Friday Saturday Sunday PHILADELPHIA | Rittenhouse Square

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A dramatic example of how a restaurant can keep reinventing itself: Friday Saturday Sunday has been just off Rittenhouse Square for some 40 years, “the lone survivor,” as the Inquirer put it, of the city’s ‘70s restaurant renaissance. Current owners Chad and Hanna Williams, alumni of chef Jose Garces’ restaurant empire, bought FSS in 2015, renovated stem to stern, and turned an old reliable into something far more ambitious. Today Chad’s evocative tasting menus and Hanna’s keen eye for detail form a model for postmodern fine dining that’s actually fun. This is reflected in dishes that hew together Chad’s many influences, like a sweet-corn chawanmushi and quail with Jamaican coco bread. It’s deeply personal haute cooking by way of West Philly.

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7. Obélix CHICAGO | River North

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Oliver and Nicolas Poilevey’s bistro captures pretty much everything about the New French wave showing up in cities across the country. The food at Obélix is neither a faithful re-creation of Paris’ current neobistro scene, nor an homage to classics. It is, instead, very much its own thing. This carries import because the Poilevey family has run some of Chicago’s beloved French spots, namely Le Bouchon. And you could glance at the menu, see  onion soup or choucroute, and think this followed suit. But a “foie-co” (Oliver co-opened Taqueria Chingón during the pandemic) and the lemongrass in the duck sausage, indicate something else afoot. And let’s just say “ratatouille pithivier” are two words we very much like seeing together. Add in Nicolas’ omnivorous, Gallic wine list, and you’ve got an ode to Frenchness that’s as wily as its namesake comic-book character.

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8. La Semilla ATLANTA | Reynoldstown

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If there’s a common thread to tie together Cuban and other Latin American cuisines, it might be … pork. But Sophia Marchese and Reid Trapani’s vegan restaurant in an emerging East Side neighborhood found quick acclaim for, perhaps, going straight in the other direction. The flavors from Marchese’s native Cuba, plus Mexico and beyond, are compellingly and playfully evoked, in a tropical setting that reflects the ATL’s perennial party vibe. In Trapani’s hands, jackfruit lechon becomes its own marvelous thing, the heart of a Cubano sandwich, and lion’s mane mushrooms get the spotlight in the marinated (usually) beef dish bistec de palomilla. Add in a jazzy cocktail list leaning to rum and agave, and you have a very model of plant-based cuisine, with no apologies.

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9. Torrisi Bar & Restaurant NEW YORK | Nolita

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The return of Torrisi in late 2022 — or rather the reappearance — marked an auspicious moment for New York dining. It was less a homecoming of sorts for Major Food Group after the Carbone era than a full-circle moment: Rich Torrisi bringing back his uniquely adaptive Italian American cooking, with a platform that reflects his and Mario Carbone’s incalculable impact on dining. Torrisi 1.0 planted a flag for many things that now define how we eat. Torrisi 2.0 reflects its times, too — more Carbone-y glitz, more confidence. And it’s a love letter to its town: Cucumbers “New Yorkese” tips a hat to the Jewish pickling traditions of the Lower East Side. A lobster-studded capellini Cantonese nods to both nearby Chinatown and Little Italy. The net effect celebrates of how American cuisine at its best hybridizes and amplifies the breadth of our traditions, into things that are delicious and uniquely ours.

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10. Ladder 4 Wine Bar DETROIT | Chadsey Condon

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There’s a lot of debate these days about wine bars that are restaurants, and restaurants that are wine bars, and … could we just, you know, not? Because the world is just more fluid now, which allows for glorious places like Ladder 4 to exist. Housed in, yes, a restored firehouse, it is the creation of brothers James and Patrick Cadariu, with a lot of dazzle brought by chef John Yelinek and his wife Charlotte Gale. While Yelinek’s menu, supplemented by produce from Gale’s on-site garden, might feel at home in Brooklyn (a grilled half-chicken with green tahini) the accents show Midwestern roots — morels stuffed with walleye and crawfish, venison tartare with ramps — and accents that reflect Detroit’s diverse population. The wines selected by wine director Omy Bugazia lean to Europe and to minimal intervention, with a Mitteleuropan fondness that, again, feels just right for the locale.

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11. ATOBOY NEW YORK | NoMad

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Junghyun and Ellia Park’s rise to the top of New York’s restaurant ladder has been nothing short of astonishing — having pretty well set the bar for neo-Korean cooking in this city (and far beyond). Their tasting-menu Atomix transits in multi-star realms; Seoul Salon replicates the Korean sool jib. And yet it’s their original restaurant, Atoboy, that arguably best shows how they helped to redefine modern Korean American dining — in much the same way that, say, Baroo does in L.A. The $75 prix fixe (service included) remains a perfect progression through the Parks’ ethos: a dish of Korean pear is rounded out with almonds and Piave cheese; pork belly and cauliflower are punched up with pungent, fermented jeotgal. The kimchi is always subtle and the optional fried chicken to finish is never really optional. And the beverage program is equally progressive — a space where grower Champagne, soju, and skin-contact savagnin can happily commune.

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12. Dakar NOLA NEW ORLEANS | Uptown

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Photo by Kat Kimball for Whetstone and Resy

While food as biography is a big part of dining today, Serigne Mbaye has arguably taken it to a new level. His early years combined time in New York and Senegal, before he made his way to fine dining of various stripes — Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, the legendary Commanders Palace — and then launched Dakar.  Mbaye isn’t the only chef to draw culinary ties between the African diaspora and the American South — witness Bintou N’Daw Young at Charleston’s Bintü Atelier —  but Dakar is perhaps the best expression yet of how the traditions of coastal western Africa have informed New Orleans’ distinctive cuisine. His menus are meditations on these linkages; the ingredients may feel familiar — shrimp, redfish, black eyed peas — but they are revisited through multiple prisms, an acknowledgment of the stark history that brought many of these flavors to these shores. Yet there is always joy — in reclaiming and transforming those flavors, in a city where history is never far below the surface.

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Photo by Kat Kimball for Whetstone and Resy

13. Izakaya Rintaro SAN FRANCISCO | The Mission

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When Rintaro opened in 2014 in the Mission, it sounded like a quintessentially Bay Area thing: Chez Panisse alum applies that philosophy to Japanese izakaya food. San Francisco always has more creativity in its restaurants than longevity, especially with the headwinds of recent years. But here we are a decade later, and Sylvan Mishima Brackett’s restaurant keeps going from strength to strength (including a deservedly lauded cookbook last year). The open kitchen and pristine sourcing remain at the heart of Rintaro, and the results are impeccable, whether yakitori simply grilled over binchotan (get the chicken thigh with sancho) or his version of a tamago omelet, or the long-simmered oden. There is something restorative about the clean, precise flavors always on display, and yet the raucous heart of an izakaya is in effect, too. California bounty is beloved because it always evolves, and Brackett has found a perfect stage to demonstrate that.

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14. Pascual WASHINGTON, D.C. | Capitol Hill

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Contemporary Mexican cuisine has matured enough in the United States to have prompted a second generation of restaurants, as it were. Pascual is a perfect example, in that Matt Conroy and Isabel Coss, the couple who run the two halves of the kitchen, met at New York’s Empellón. (Coss also worked at Cosme, while Conroy helmed the kitchen at plant-based Oxomoco in Brooklyn.) The duo also opened Lutèce after coming to D.C., which brought a very East Paris neobistro sensibility to Georgetown. Pascual similarly shows that freewheeling, curious sensibility. Yes, there’s a trompo for al pastor; wood-fired coals bring a smoky punch much of the menu. The tortillas are made in house, as are Coss’ exceptional pastries. But the menu reveals a springboard of creativity — Conroy’s parsnip tamal with a mole blanco, or Coss’ pear millefeuille with parsnip, a retuned French classic.  This is the very definition of where groundbreaking Mexican American cooking sits today: not haute, not rustic, but familiar and new and endlessly compelling.

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15. MARCH HOUSTON | Montrose

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Can the tasting menu survive? This debate keeps growing, as the appetite — literally — for elaborate multicourse meals seemingly keeps waning. Yet March’s Felipe Riccio and June Rodil seem assured that it can not only endure, but thrive. Riccio, Mexico-born and a Houston native, has essential chef credentials (stints at Osteria Francescana and Stone Barns) but also helped run one of the city’s top wine bars and honed his cooking chops doing pop-ups, while Rodil is one of the country’s few master sommeliers. Their sensibilities infuse March with a sense of lightness — not only in its concept of wandering the Mediterranean from cuisine to cuisine (Catalonia is making way for historic Genovese cooking later this summer) but also asking deeper questions along the way about how to take food seriously without being self serious. That’s March’s response to the tasting-menu question. They’re not obsolete; they just need to stop being joyless.

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16. Kismet LOS ANGELES | Los Feliz

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Kismet’s backstory sounds like one of those only-in-L.A. tales … so of course it starts in Brooklyn, from which Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson brought their sensibilities with Middle Eastern cooking, honed at the understated Glasserie in northern Greenpoint. Among other things, Glasserie’s heralded rabbit dish evolved into new forms when it hit Pacific time — one of many ways they merged their tastes with Californian sensibilities. Kismet today is ever more vegetable focused, with dishes like roasted maitake with chickpeas and yogurt sharing space with lamb ribs with smoked plum sauce. There’s tahdig as a side dish, and lime-leaf cashews to snack on. And the current release of their new cookbook reflects just how perfectly the two found a way to offer their own unique take on Angeleno aesthetics. Indeed, Kismet today more or less defines modern SoCal cooking.