Since the magazine’s humble beginnings in Kansas City during late-1950s, Bon Appétit has grown to become one of the most well-respected food and entertainment periodicals on the market. Taking advantage of the prestige and culinary clout the magazine managed to accumulate over the decades, Bon Appétit magazine began an annual award series in 1998, simply titled The Bon Appétit Awards. For over 10 years, the magazine would annually award 10 restaurants throughout the United States – known as the “Hot 10” – with a trophy, as well as a fully-featured write-up to showcase. From 2010 on, these awards have shifted from an awards-based concept to a simpler, less pretentious “Best of” concept – choosing instead to highlight the power of the periodical’s “Hot 10” branding as a particularly distinguished award in and of itself. This year, after trudging through the excruciating task of tasting, reviewing and ranking the culinary delights of America’s 50 best restaurants, our friends at Bon Appétit have whittled their final selections down to a mere 10 – and overall, these selections hint at an exciting new Renaissance for New American cuisine.
The Rise of New American Cuisine
This year, New American cuisine takes home the gold for having the most restaurants listed on the Bon Appétit hot list. American cuisine has taken a hit over the last few decades due to a fast food culture that has so tainted the world’s perception of our culinary capabilities. It is refreshing to see a new group of celebrated chefs attempt to repair the atrocious reputation American cuisine has earned over the years. As a result of these chefs’ fine efforts, over half of the entries on this year’s “Hot 10” are restaurants throughout the United States that specialize in New American cuisine.
State Bird Provisions, a rising new star on San Francisco’s already iconic culinary scene, was chosen for Bon Appétit Magazine’s “Hot 10” top spot. Located in the city’s up-and-coming Western Addition district, the restaurant offers an array of tantalizing tapas for your enjoyment. From traditional Southern-inspired cuisine, such as Fried Green Tomatoes with Tomato-Vinegar Sauce, to the Asian-fusion delights of Glazed Pork Ribs with Shichimi Togarashi, State Bird Provisions is a near-perfect example of New American cuisine at its finest.
About 3,000 miles east of San Francisco is the city of Brooklyn, which, like the Western Addition district in San Francisco, has experienced its fair share of gentrification over the last decade. The city’s rise in prestige has welcomed a new class of artisans and chefs to begin showing off their unique skills and talents. Restaurants Blanca and Battersby are both featured on the Bon Appétit “Hot 10” list, both are Brooklyn-based, and both are proud of it. Like State Bird Provisions, Blanca offers up an adventurous selection of tapas that runs the gamut of self-taught chef Carlo Mirarchi’s repertoire of diverse New American cuisine. Battersby, on the other hand, sticks to a more traditional menu of delicious New American/Italian entrées, such as clam linguine and the ever-popular pork belly parmigiana – both of which are to die for.
Should your travels bring you to the Southern United States, three restaurants in the region made Bon Appétit Magazine’s “Hot 10” list: Cakes & Ale of Decatur, GA, The Catbird Seat of Nashville, TN and Oxheart of Houston, TX. Each of these dining establishments tackle New American cuisine in very different ways.
Cakes & Ale, which is both a restaurant and a bakery, offers several unique interpretations of traditional American fare. However, as the restaurant’s name alludes to, the bakery is where you’ll ultimately want to end up.
Nashville’s The Catbird Seat offers soul food done New American-style, so you know that a meal is not only going to comfort your heart and your taste buds, but also offer you a world-class culinary experience like no other.
For the more adventurous, Oxheart in Houston presents a fascinating new take on New American cuisine in a way that represents and celebrates the diversity of this up-and-coming Texas city. Amazingly, vegetables are the key to Oxheart’s success, and the restaurant’s several deliciously inventive variations of seasonal vegetable dishes finally make the old “Finish your vegetables!” gripe irrelevant.
All in all, any gastro-tour of the United States is not complete without a meal at any one of these outstanding establishments. As of late, New American cuisine has made an unprecedented surge in popularity among critics and diners alike, and with six spots on Bon Appétit Magazine’s “Hot 10” list, these restaurants are surely a testament to the greatness of this uniquely American cuisine.
The Best of the Rest
While this year’s Bon Appétit “Hot 10” showcases the triumph of New American cuisine in 2012, several, more traditional (and not so traditional) restaurants also ended up making the cut. Spanish cuisine has also made a resurgence in popularity over the last decade, and Los Angeles’ Bäco Mercat has your cravings for heavenly Spanish-inspired delicacies covered. Like many of the restaurants discussed thus far, Bäco Mercat offers a wide range of dishes that highlight vegetables – a trend that seems to be inspiring contemporary diners and gastro-tourists to get reacquainted with some of the world’s healthiest foods.
Should your travels find you taking a tour of the American seat of government in Washington D.C., be sure to take some time to savor the scintillating, Thai-inspired cuisine of Little Serow. Husband and wife team Johnny Monis and Anne Marler know a thing or two about cooking up some of the most flavorful Thai delicacies around – proving to the world that, aside from the successes of New American cuisines as of late, Thai continues to be the “it” cuisine among diners and chefs throughout the nation.
Back on the Pacific Coast in beautiful Portland, Oregon, homestyle Italian cuisine reigns supreme at the city’s famed Luce restaurant. The key to showcasing fine Italian food is in the rustic, down-home preparation and presentation of the Old Country, and Luce not only does this to perfection, but succeeds at transporting you to the restaurants of Italy itself. Indeed, not many restaurants in the United States can hold a candle to the Italian cuisine one finds across the Atlantic, but Luce certainly can.
Finally, we come to Minneapolis’ intriguing take on Scandinavian cuisine at The Bachelor Farmer & Marvel Bar. From new and delicious takes on standard Scandinavian dishes at the restaurant, such as meatballs with lingonberries and mashed potatoes, to ice-cold and refreshing Nordic-inspired artisanal cocktails from the bar, The Bachelor Farmer & Marvel Bar offers a deft combination food and drink that will keep you around well into the evening.
It’s no secret that New American cuisine is making waves on the 21st century gastronomical scene – both within the United States and abroad. However, as Bon Appétit magazine’s “Hot 10” proves once more, the sheer variety of traditional and fusion-based cuisine in the United States alone is enough to give even the most discerning gastro-tourists a run for their money. Moreover, Bon Appétit magazine’s reputation as one of the country’s leading culinary periodicals does much to ensure that these annual “Hot 10” selections are sure-fire winners on anyone’s gastro-travel itinerary. While dining at many of the above restaurants might do some damage to the wallet, the consensus is that many, if not all of the delicious selections on their menus end up being worth every penny. So before you set off on your own gastro-tour of the U.S., take a gander at these restaurants’ menus, and maybe save a few extra bucks before setting out; you won’t regret it!