Because I have made it my goal to visit every amazing restaurant, food truck, cart, bar, or hole-in-the-wall across the country, I thought I would keep you all updated with a running list of where I have recently been and where I will be going. This will give you an idea of future posts to come as well as give you some ideas of where you can go when you are looking for your next great meal! Check back frequently; I will be updating weekly.
*Carnevor (Milwaukee) - I can never get enough of the dry-aged ribeye and killer side dishes like Truffled Lobster Mac & Cheese and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon at this perennially packed modern steakhouse. Great cocktails and an expansive wine list, too.
*Bonge's Tavern (Perkinsville, Indiana) - One of the most interesing spots at which you will ever dine. Tailgate in the parking lot with your own food and drinks while you wait for a table at this always-packed tavern in the middle of nowhere. The Perkinsville Pork and Applewood Smoked Prime Rib were excellent.
*Ono Kine Grindz (Milwaukee) - Amazing Hawaiian in Milwaukee. Fabulous poke, tender Kalua pork, and beefy, smoky kalbi, all at great prices.
*Lee Roy Selmon's (Tampa) - I can't visit Tampa without a stop at Selmon's for some fried green tomatoes, bacon-cheese grits, and pulled pork.
*Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba (Chicago) - Authentic Spanish tapas is served up at this Lincoln Park institution. With food this good, it's no wonder it's been a Chicago favorite for over 25 years.
*La Merenda (Milwaukee) - Serving an eclectic array of international tapas, La Merenda remains a perennial Milwaukee favorite, both for its emphasis on local ingredients and a menu that constantly feels fresh.
*The French Laundry (Yountville, CA) - Private party in the courtyard of America's most acclaimed restaurant. Everything about it was spectacular. Chef Keller was an exceptionally gracious host.
*PRESS (St. Helena, CA) - Wine Enthusiast has named PRESS one of America's 100 Best Wine Restaurants and deservedly so. It's focus on Napa wines dating back to the 1950s complements the wide variety of locally-sourced meats and seafood. The Ribeye paired with a 1987 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon was amazing.
*Bottega (Yountville, CA) - Since chef/winemaker/cookbook author/Top Chef Master/tastemaker Michael Chiarello opened this Italian-influenced restaurant in 2008, it has been perpetually packed, filled with guests flocking to sample Chef Chiarello's explosively flavorful dishes. One word--Raviolo.
*Tarla Grill (Napa, CA) - Serving Greek and Turkish Fusion cuisine, this year-old Napa spot has become a favorite among Valley locals for it's sophisticated, yet accessible take on Mediterranean cuisine. A great meal to start our trip.
*Morimoto (Napa, CA) - Masaharu Morimoto's West Coast flagship, serving his whimsical, elaborate takes on sushi in this modern, luxe Wine Country space. The tasting menu, featuring Chef Morimoto's signature tuna tartare was whimsical and unexpected.
*Ad Hoc (Yountville, CA) - Thomas Keller's casual family-style spot, intended to be a six-month venture, has been going strong for nearly eight years, based on its simple one-menu, four-course concept. My fried chicken dreams came true.
*étoile Restaurant (Yountville, CA) - Acclaimed chef Perry Hoffman continues to helm this Michelin-starred restaurant with a focus on innovative cuisine paired with exceptional wines. My favorite meal of our Napa trip.
*Dry Creek Kitchen (Healdsburg, CA) - Drawing upon Sonoma's bounty of regional ingredients, Dry Creek Kitchen celebrates the best the Wine Country has to offer--from cheese and produce to seafood and wines. Fresh, inventive, and beautifully plated.
*The Girl and The Fig (Sonoma, CA) - Celebrating country cooking with a French influence, The Girl and the Fig has been a wine country icon for over 15 years. Casual atmosphere with dressed up food. The Pork Belly Sandwich was transcendent.
*Sanford (Milwaukee) - Consistently rated as the best restaurant in Milwaukee, Sanford continues serving refined, innovative food after a change in ownership last year. James Beard-nominated Chef/Owner Justin Aprahamian continues to set the bar for fine dining in a town with plenty of strong competition.
*Bacchus (Milwaukee) - Went for the Charles Woodson TWENTYFOUR WINES dinner. Great wines, great food, and a great athlete. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was fruit-forward and smokey. The Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and bright.
*Lake Park Bistro (Milwaukee) - Celebrated the champagnes of Paul Goerg with five courses of food and wine. The caviar with the Cuvée Lady, Goerg's flagship Champagne, was exquisite.
*Big Jones (Chicago) - Returned to this Chicago spot featuring some of the best Southern cooking north of the Mason-Dixon line, this time for dinner. Amazing Crawfish Étoufée, Shrimp and Grits, and, well, everything. 14 month aged country ham was heavenly.
*Do-Rite Donuts (Chicago) - Small-batch donut maker known as much for its perfection of this breakfast staple as it is for the lo0ng lines that form waiting for these amazing treats. PB&J Bullseye is the Best. Donut. Ever. Valrhona Chocolate and Boston Creme were also spectacular.
*Urban Belly (Chicago) - Chef Bill Kim's Avondale spot serving reimagined takes on noodle and dumpling dishes. The Urbanbelly Ramen (pork belly with a pho broth) was transcendent. The Belly Fire Chicken was sweet, spicy, and utterly mouthwatering.
*Odd Duck (Milwaukee) - Serving an eclectic mix of shareable plates influenced by cuisines from around the world, Odd Duck has made quite an impression on the Milwaukee dining scene. The Pork Belly & Clam Korean Pancake was inventive and flavorful.
*Arlington Club (New York) - Chef Laurent Tourondel (of BLT fame) returns with this reinvented steakhouse featuring U.S.D.A. Prime dry-aged steaks and a sushi menu on NYC's Upper East Side. The Ribeye and the Gnocchi were spectacular. And Chef Tourondel was a warm, gracious host.
*Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria (New York) - The New York Times' Pete Wells dubbed this one of the greatest restaurant triumphs of 2012, and I agree. The Short Ribs are transcendent.
*Sabatino's (Baltimore) - Famed Little Italy joint is as old school as it gets. Great service, solid Italian-American classics. Go for the Bookmaker Salad, Veal Francese Parmigiana and a glass of Chianti.
*Riccardo Trattoria (Chicago) - Zagat has called Riccardo the best Italian restaurant in Chicago. I might have to agree. The Lobster and Crab Ravioli were spectacular.
*Ristorante Bartolotta (Milwaukee) - Came for the first night of the White Truffle Menu, available for a fleeting time. The Risotto and the Meat-Filled Tortellini were both spectacular with copious amounts of shaved white truffle.
(New York) - Fabulous Portuguese cuisine at this Michelin-starred restaurant in the Flatiron District. The Farm Egg with Salt Cod was spectacular--custardy, briny, salty, perfect. Chef George Mendes was a warm, gracious host.
*Bacchus (Milwaukee) - Enjoyed an amazing lineup of events this Fall, including the Beaux Freres Wine Dinner (September 27th), Veuve Clicquot Dinner featuring winemaker Cyril Brun (October 9th), Taltarni Vineyards Wine Dinner (October 18th), and Dinner with New York Times Chief Wine Critic Eric Asimov (November 8th). As always, superb cuisine, masterful wine pairings, and fascinating guests.
*Lake Park Bistro (Milwaukee) - Went for the Paris Michelin Chef Dinner. Sébastien Gravé, chef/owner of Paris' Pottoka, took over the kitchen and crafted a truly splendid meal. Can't get the duck out of my head.
*AOC Wine Bar (Los Angeles) - Amazing small plates and charcuterie paired with fabulous wines.
*Scarpetta (Los Angeles) - Some of the best pastas I have ever eaten served in the gorgeous courtyard of the Montage in Beverly Hills. The Braised Short Rib Agnolotti with Horseradish was mind-blowing.
*Tar and Roses (Los Angeles) - Interesting mix of small plates in this Santa Monica hotspot. The Chicken Oysters and the Torched Albacore Crudo were my favorites.
*Jitlada (Los Angeles) - Spicy, explosively flavorful Southern Thai food. My mouth was on fire, but I couldn't stop shoveling it in!
*Father's Office (Los Angeles) - Some say it is the best burger not only in LA, but in the country. Verdict? Yes! Spectacular.
*Sushi Azabu (New York) - Located in the basement of another restaurant, Sushi Azabu is one of the best-kept secrets in New York. Beautiful seafood in a great setting. Giant oyster was amazing.
*Sparks Steakhouse (New York) - It doesn't get much more old school than this, but it delivers. The Extra Thick Veal Chop was tender, juicy, and oh so satisfying.
*Torrisi Italian Specialties (New York) - Some of the most flavorful and inventive Italian around. The handmade pastas were unreal; flavors were explosive. And top-notch service.
*Five O'Clock Steakhouse (Milwaukee) - Honored to be part of a taping of the Travel Channel's "Food Paradise" at this Milwaukee classic. Can't stop thinking of that steak with its crack-laden beef juices. And a great team of bartenders, too.
*Mr. B's - A Bartolotta Steakhouse (Milwaukee) - Went for the Inaugural Beer, Bourbon, and Barbecue event. Even rain couldn't put a damper on the fun. Great smoked brisket, pulled pork, applewood smoked chicken, baby-back ribs, and spice rubbed steaks were phenomenal.
*Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare (Las Vegas) - Did the Top Chef tasting menu. Amazing langoustines, salt-baked branzino, homemade pastas, and an amazing assortment of desserts.
*Raku (Las Vegas) - Recommended by a Gluttonous Gourmet reader. Robata-style Japanese. Quality of the ingredients was amazing and the service was stellar. The Kobe with Wasabi, Iberico Pork, Amberjack Collar, and Chicken Thigh Steak were among the superb offerings.
*Ristorante Bartolotta (Milwaukee) - Superb Italian food from the hometown favorite Bartolotta Group. Because I can never decide on one pasta I always get the Pappardelle with the slow-braised Duck Ragu and the Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Grana Padano and Truffled Butter. My soul is rarely more satisfied than after I eat here.
*Carnevor (Milwaukee) - Awesome appetizers (shellfish platter, Mangalitsa Pork Ravioli), Killer steaks, great Caymus Cabernet. Another Thursday night in my house! These guys do steaks right.
*Bacchus (Milwaukee) - Amazing new-American food and a fabulous wine list served in a gorgeous setting. The pork belly appetizer was unbelievable. And the Chateau Margaux was heavenly.
*Sasabune (New York) - The freshest fish on the Upper East Side is served omakase-style at this tiny Japanese restaurant. I literally ate every single thing they had in the house. Amazing.
*Estiatorio Milos - Zagat says Milos brings "Santorini to Midtown" Manhattan with pristine seafood prepared simply, yet flavorfully. They aren't kidding. Beautiful fresh fish with great extra virgin olive oil,
lemon, and capers.
*Restaurant August (New Orleans) - Chef John Besh's take on French cuisine inspired by his Louisiana roots. Amazing experience.
*Cochon (New Orleans) - Chef Donald Link creates traditional Cajun Southern dishes with locally sourced ingredients and traditional methods. Pork belly might be one of my all-time favorite dishes.
*Wille Mae's Scotch House (New Orleans) - Serving the best fried chicken in New Orleans (if not the country) in this family-run Treme institution. You may never eat better fried chicken.
*Commander's Palace (New Orleans) - Haute Creole cuisine at this James Beard Award-winning New Orleans landmark. Amazing Shrimp with Hot Pepper Jelly and Picked Okra. And 25-cent martinis at lunch!
*Bern's Steak House (Tampa) - Legendary steakhouse known for house dry-aged steaks cut to your liking and a killer wine list bigger than the Yellow Pages. Killer Ribeye, perfectly cooked. Had a breathtaking glass of 1853 Madeira with dessert.
*Lake Park Bistro (Milwaukee) - James Beard award-winning Chef Adam Siegel turns out beautiful French dishes in a gorgeous setting. The steak tartare and mussels are unbeatable!
*Bacchus (Milwaukee) - Lucky enough to attend a dinner in honor of Chef Adam Perry Lang to celebrate his new cookbook, Charred and Scruffed. Amazing smoked brisket and maybe the best chicken wings I've ever had. Get the book!
*Mr. B's - A Bartolotta Steakhouse (Milwaukee) - Went for Brazilian Steak Night at this perennial Milwaukee favorite. Large cuts of meat on skewers? Yes, please!
*Joël Robuchon (Las Vegas) - Three Michelin-starred restaurant serving an exquisite 16-course tasting menu. Flawless.
*Comme Ça (Las Vegas) - Killer Grand Plateau cold seafood platter with gorgeous, briny oysters and clams and sweet lobster. Best washed down with ice-cold Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial Champagne.
*The Dutch (New York City) - Chef Andrew Carmellini dishes up inventive New American food, based on whatever sounds good at that moment. Killer Hanger Steak with Kimchi Fried Rice and Fried Egg. Amazing Oyster Sliders.
*Bar Masa (New York City) - Impeccable sushi and sashimi from a master. Some of the freshest seafood you will ever eat served in a gorgeous setting. Less expensive than Chef Masa Takayama's namesake restaurant, Masa.
*Marea (New York City) - Think of Marea as the Italian Le Bernardin. Pristine seafood flawlessly prepared is served at this two Michelin-star restaurant in a beautiful, airy South Central Park setting.