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Coronavirus and Restaurants: How Iconic Katz’s Deli Is Keeping Its Staff of 200 Working

Coronavirus and Restaurants: How Iconic Katz’s Deli Is Keeping Its Staff of 200 Working

Legendary Katz’s Deli has been slinging pastrami sandwiches and matzo ball soup in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood for 132 years. Through wars, terrorist attacks, hurricanes and more, the restaurant has remained open to serve hungry New Yorkers and tourists.

As New York has become a hot spot for the coronavirus pandemic, fifth-generation owner Jake Dell is facing the challenges head-on.

“I have a staff of a little over 200, and I’ve managed to not lay anyone off so far,” he told The Daily Meal from the landmark with the still-bustling staff working hard behind him. “I am fighting every day and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure it stays that way.”

The way Dell sees it, staying open was the only option.

“We’re here because the community needs us,” he said. “We’re an anchor of New York City as a whole, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

The deli is not open to dine-in, but the delivery and pickup orders are still flowing. Far away diners looking for a taste of New York can even have menu items delivered with free two-day shipping throughout the pandemic. To protect employees and patrons, precautions include masks, limiting the number of customers in the restaurant, and new work stations spread 6 feet apart.

“We look out for each other,” Dell said as he described how the staff is like a family, down to making sure staffers don’t have to worry about their bills if they start to feel sick. “I have guys that have been here for a very long time. Guys that remember me in diapers.”

In addition to pickup and local deliveries, Katz’s also depends on its shipping department. With the coined slogan “Send a Salami to your Boy in the Army” — made to rhyme only with the thickest of New York accents — the deli has been shipping cured meat all over the world since World War II.

Today, that army includes the health care workers fighting COVID-19, with Katz’s sending meals to hospital workers as well as making soup donations to over 200 low-income senior citizens in the community every day.

So when states reopen and society returns to its “new normal,” how will a 132-year-old icon like Katz’s readjust? “I have no idea,” Dell said. “As it comes, we roll with the punches, we figure it out and take it day by day.”


100 Restaurants America Can't Afford to Lose

We're raising a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashbecause if we lose them, we lose who we are.

You know that bistro around the corner, the one where you and your partner first locked eyes across the table? The Southern barbecue joint where, back in the days before the pandemic, you and your comrades used to come together for sweet racks of ribs on Friday nights as another sorry workweek sputtered to a close? The bodega where you&rsquore such a regular that no one has to ask how you like your breakfast sandwich. The taqueria where they nail the salsa verde. The place where you can watch a Korean grandmother making dumplings in the kitchen. The New England landmark with the picnic tables and lobster rolls. Or, wait, how about the trattoria with the long, honey-hued bar and the wine list that makes you want to throw away common sense and max out your credit card?

What if those places were to vanish? What if you were to wake tomorrow morning and learn that that remnant of your life&mdashand that portion of your community&rsquos lingua franca&mdashhad been erased? Such a prospect has been a real threat all year, with the relentless tragedy of COVID-19 leaving many American restaurants, even established classics, on the brink of bankruptcy. The threat will only intensify as winter progresses and restaurateurs have to abandon the outdoor dining that has kept them treading water for months. We love restaurants here at Esquire, and we hope that during this holiday season you&rsquoll consider making donations to Southern Smoke and the Lee Initiative and other organizations that are helping restaurant workers endure the crisis. We also hope you&rsquoll raise a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashthat we consider restaurants that America can&rsquot afford to lose. Because if we lose them, we lose who we are. &mdashJeff Gordinier

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (Noank, CT): Picnic tables on the grass by the water. Steamed lobsters, caught that day, with drawn butter in paper cups. A beer. &mdashRyan D'Agostino

Abyssinia (Philadelphia, PA): "Oh, I love that place." That's what I often hear from Philadelphians whenever I happen to mention Abyssinia. The connection runs deep. And that's no surprise, because the warmth of the hospitality at this beloved Ethiopian spot makes you feel as though you've joined a family for dinner in their home&mdasheven if you happen to be dining alone. A little while back, when I was teaching a writing course at Drexel University, I used to catch an early train from Manhattan just so that I could get a quick, quiet lunch of injera and stews at Abyssinia before dashing to the classroom. But it's even better with a big group. Let's all gather here when the pandemic is over. We'll have a feast. &mdashJG

Alpino Vino (Telluride, CO): Some restaurants are worth the hike, literally. Alpino Vino is a 30-ish seat Italian restaurant burrowed into a cliff way above Telluride (a magical place in and of itself). There&rsquos nothing easy about getting to the place&mdashyou can ski a narrow trail and, well, that&rsquos your option&mdashnor even anything easy about getting a seat. (See: my note about seating 30 people at a time.) But Telluride is the most important it&rsquos where I fell in love with my now husband it&rsquos where we took my family to celebrate our engagement and it&rsquos a place I return to twice a year like clockwork to remember all that. That Alpino Vino serves truly perfect food, both cozy and refined, and has one of the most amazing wine lists I&rsquoll ever experience is just the proverbial cherry on top. No trip west is complete without a visit. &mdashMadison Vain

Al&rsquos Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN): Flapjacks on the griddle. Hazy morning sunlight through stained-glass awnings. Foreign currency tacked to a shelf, above the Magic Markered coffee mugs belonging to various regulars. A sign that says &ldquoBeware of Attack Waitress.&rdquo If a breakfast counter could be the IRL manifestation of a Replacements song, this would be it. &mdashJG

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit, MI): They&rsquore right next to each other on the same block in downtown Detroit, and the story is that theirs is a bitter and endless grudge match. Whatever. The point is that both of them raise a torch for a true regional delight: coneys, which are hot dogs flooded with funky chili, yellow mustard, and raw onions. &mdashJG

Angler (San Francisco, CA): Decadence in the form of wild game and giant crustaceans and magnificent heads of radicchio, sometimes served raw or cooked over open fire, drizzled with truffles or XO sauce, and, on the side, copious amounts of caviar and oysters, atop a magnificent table made from the trunk of a centuries old redwood. Your memories of Angler will be like a hunting lodge fever dream you can&rsquot wait to have over and over. &mdashKevin Sintumuang

Anteprima (Chicago, IL): The chef is not a celebrity. No Michelin Star. It&rsquos not on the James Beard Foundation's radar. These are the very reasons Anteprima is perfect to me. The dining room is always full. The owner greets you at the door. The waitstaff in their long white aprons remember your names and if you prefer sparkling or tap. Anteprima&rsquos menu changes daily. With each micro season we see dishes pristinely representing fresh ingredients. Hakurei turnips, breakfast radish, ramps, and morels in the spring. Corn and tomatoes in the summer. Roots in the fall. Squashes, truffles, and alliums through the winter. I love this place. &mdashIliana Regan

Arnold's (Nashville, TN): Nashville wouldn&rsquot be Nashville without the red-tray, meat-and-three comfort of Arnold&rsquos Country Kitchen. Locals and tourists, writers and musicians, and everyone in between line up cafeteria-style for juicy roast beef carved to order and creamy chocolate chess pies for dessert. No reservations, no pretense. Arnold's simple, straightforward fare is the first thing on my mind when I think about Music City. &mdashOmar Mamoon

Bamboo Garden (Brooklyn, NY): This massive dim sum restaurant is out in Brooklyn&rsquos Chinatown in Sunset Park. With elaborate chandeliers and big banquet tables, it&rsquos always filled with families celebrating special occasions. It's so joyful. Every time we go we get the Peking duck, which is just perfect. &mdashKate Storey

Bar Tabac (Brooklyn, NY): Definition of a neighborhood eatery. Go for the Burgundy snails, and footie matches on the TV. &mdashNick Sullivan

Black-Eyed Susan's (Nantucket, MA): They do breakfast and they do dinner and they do them well, for not many people (it&rsquos tiny) and for cash only, and you&rsquoll remember it. Especially the Pennsylvania Dutch pancakes made with a slice of Jarlsberg. &mdashRD

Blueberry Hill (St. Louis, MO): I have been coming down here&mdashto the loop in St. Louis, one of the greatest streets of food and music in America, that is&mdashfor (the very best!) burgers and live music quite literally since I got keys to a car. It made me feel like a rebel when I was young, out late hearing new bands, buying my own dinners, and it makes me remarkably nostalgic now that I&rsquom not. Also, Chuck Berry played a monthly show here for 200 months in a row, so if you won&rsquot take my word for it, perhaps his will do. &mdashMV

Blue Moon Cafe (Shepherdstown, WV): Locals, tourists from D.C., professors from the small university, all sitting together enjoying buffalo chicken salads and black bean burgers and maybe somebody playing the guitar. &mdashRD

Bouquet (Covington, KY): Maybe you&rsquove grown weary of the phrase &ldquofarm to table.&rdquo Maybe it&rsquos lost its punch, in certain quarters of the country. But Bouquet is a restaurant that makes &ldquofarm to table&rdquo matter again&mdashand in Mitch McConnell&rsquos home state, no less. Chef Stephen Williams opened the restaurant in 2007 &ldquoas one of the first restaurants in the area to embrace local and sustainable farming as a cornerstone of its mission,&rdquo as the place&rsquos website puts it, and that mission hasn&rsquot lost an ounce of passion in the intervening years. The stuff on the menu sounds straightforward enough&mdashdeviled eggs, a green salad, meatballs, a pork chop&mdashbut everything soars because of the chef&rsquos obvious reverence for the ingredients that he uses. Yes, that matters. &mdashJG

Brigtsen&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): &ldquoIf you&rsquove only got one dinner, I&rsquom gonna ask you to leave the Quarter.&rdquo Can&rsquot tell you how many times I&rsquove put first-time visitors to New Orleans in this conceptual bind. &ldquoGo to this little shotgun house on Dante Street and you&rsquoll never forget it.&rdquo At 20 years old, this family-run bistro doesn&rsquot pop up on &ldquonew and hot&rdquo or &ldquoTV chef&rdquo lists, but instead chugs along providing deep hospitality and interpreting Louisiana classics from the Creole, Cajun, and Southern canons that excite the palate and soothe the soul. A local boy and veteran of Paul Prudhomme&rsquos opening brigade at K-Paul&rsquos, chef Frank Brigtsen works magic in an impossibly tiny kitchen with abundant Gulf seafood and our year-round farm bounty. He&rsquoll fry up bayou catfish to delicate, cracking perfection and lay you low with an impossibly savory roast duck on dirty rice. Broiled redfish with a lump crabmeat crust can make the most open-hearted dining companion fiercely territorial. Frank&rsquos wife, Marna, and his sisters, Sandy and Rhonda, run the front of house with an effortless, enveloping friendliness that can turn a harried first-time guest into an instant regular. Also, pecan pie that will haunt your dreams. &mdashPableaux Johnson

Busy Bee (Atlanta, GA): When self-taught cook Mama Lucy Jackson opened Busy Bee Cafe in 1947, she did so on West Hunter Street, one of only two streets available to African American entrepreneurs at the time. Hunter would go on to be named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive after the restaurant&rsquos (and Atlanta&rsquos) most important patron. Back then it was the place for civil rights activists and organizers to safely meet and strategize. Today it&rsquos known as the place with the best fried chicken in the city. The sides are exquisite renderings of Southern staples with the rice and gravy, collards, and mac n&rsquo cheese shining particularly brightly. Don&rsquot miss the cornmeal-dusted and encrusted catfish, made memorable with its steamy and silken flesh. &mdashStephen Satterfield

Canlis (Seattle, WA): If we tell you that Canlis is the &ldquoepitome of elegance,&rdquo which it is, you might get the wrong impression. For three generations, in a black masterpiece of modernist architecture that reaches up and out toward Lake Union like a swimmer about to leap off the starting block, the Canlis family has fine-tuned a form of hospitality so effortless that a &ldquofancy&rdquo meal feels like a reunion with old friends. &mdashJG

Casamento&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): Even when there&rsquos not a pandemic going on, sometimes Casamento&rsquos stays closed for the day. Maybe it&rsquos not the right season for oysters, or maybe somebody&rsquos just not in the mood. Hey, it&rsquos 101 years old, so go easy on the place. When it is open (nowhere near the frat-boy lures of the French Quarter, thank you very much), Casamento&rsquos remains a tiled shrine to briny simplicity. You want a &ldquoloaf,&rdquo which amounts to a heap of fried oysters in between fat slices of white bread. We don&rsquot have to tell you to use a lot of hot sauce, right? &mdashJG

Celeste (Somerville, MA): He spins vintage Chicha, makes Peruvian arthouse films, and mans the fire. She transforms space with a graduate degree in experimental architecture and embraces guests with Guatemalan warmth. Together, husband and wife JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau recast their at-home pop-up into a postmodernist brick-and-mortar paean of Peruvian and Andean spice. Art and aperitivos, pisco and purple corn, neon and neighbors, all pressed together in a tiny, bright vessel designed to amplify joy. The food is sublime, but Celeste (rhymes with &ldquosay yes: play&rdquo) is the greater alchemy of menu, mixtapes, and merrymaking that satiates a deeper kind of hungry. &mdashJason Tesauro

Cochon (New Orleans, LA): The last time I visited New Orleans, I went straight to Cochon from the airport. I began eating lunch alone at the bar, and I began texting my friends, and a couple of them asked whether I was drunk or high&mdashthat&rsquos how effusive I got. A jambalaya studded with pork cheeks and andouille sent me over the edge. I actually started hollering with joy. A bartender asked me whether I was okay. I was humming like a lunatic. &mdashJG

Cowan's Public (Nutley, NJ): The craft-beer, proper-drink, good-food revolution arrived in this corner of North Jersey a few years ago with this simple but beautiful Art Deco restaurant. The town has embraced it like something it never knew it was missing. To lose it would be a step backward. &mdashJohn Kenney

Cozy Corner (Memphis, TN): I told my friend Jay, in Memphis, I want the real thing. He suggested a couple of spots that didn&rsquot sound right to me&mdashtoo tidy, too bougie, too TV-friendly. I said, no, the real fucking thing, and that&rsquos when we went to Cozy Corner, owned by barbecue matriarch Desiree Robinson. We got ribs and fries and a bologna sandwich and a whole Cornish hen practically lacquered in a shiny glaze of sauce. It was as real as real gets. &mdashJG

Cunetto House of Pasta (St. Louis, MO): I know everyone thinks the best Italian food in America is in New York, but I&rsquod argue they haven&rsquot been to the Hill in St. Louis, Missouri. Driving down to these streets and bouncing between the cafes and bakeries and grocers felt like going on an exotic sojourn when I was very young, and the thought of losing any of these mom-and-pop establishments and the culture that goes with them fills me with dread. The crown jewel of the area is Cunetto&rsquos. Aside from being the first place I tried veal (which ended in tears as my parents explained just what veal is), it&rsquos a menu with absolutely no fuss but tons of flavor. Also, they serve amazing toasted raviolis, a St. Louis classic. &mdashMV

Cúrate (Asheville, NC): Great restaurants are like rocket boosters for neighborhoods: Attach a hot spot to a sad stretch of sidewalk and watch everything begin to move. Katie Button&rsquos Cúrate has been that kind of engine for the city of Asheville, giving the local food scene a shot of adrenaline along with all that paella and garlic shrimp and jamón ibérico. She also happens to serve the single best bean dish in America: an Asturian stew called fabada that&rsquos luscious with the fat of housemade chorizo and morcilla. &mdashJG

Diamond Head Grill (Honolulu, HI): This takeout counter on the mauka (mountain) side of Diamond Head isn&rsquot a scenic spot &mdash just a sun-beaten parking lot with a few picnic tables along a concrete wall &mdash but the plate lunches spill over with the likes of miso ginger salmon, kalbi beef and char siu pork, plus a heap of rice: white, brown or, the best, hapa, brown and white together. &mdashLigaya Mishan

Dino's Pizza (Chicago, IL): It was my family&rsquos go-to place for pizza on Friday nights when my brother and I were kids. And it still is for my parents. Nothing fancy. Not trendy, not even in a post-ironic hipster kind of way. (Thank God.) It&rsquos on the edge of Chicago, right next to the suburb where I grew up. The bar attracts mostly cops and firefighters. We&rsquod do carryout, which means when I visit my folks my dad and I leave a few minutes early to pick up the pizza so we can sneak in a beer and a shot before heading home. Important to note that they don&rsquot specialize in deep-dish pizza, but the other kind of Chicago pizza&mdashthe much better kind of Chicago pizza&mdashwhich is pub style: cut into squares, soft but not thick. &mdashMichael Sebastian

Ditch Witch (Montauk, NY): Not a restaurant, traditionally speaking, but this food truck just off Ditch Plains beach in Montauk is half the reason you'll want to go to the beach at all. Their Tomahawk bowl packed with fresh tuna is worth waiting in line for&mdashand you'll have to. &mdashBen Boskovich

Dooky Chase&rsquos Restaurant (New Orleans, LA): Fried chicken, green gumbo, and the strength of legacy. For the better part of her 97 years, different communities in New Orleans turned to chef Leah Chase for sustenance, strength, and good counsel. In the 1960s, civil rights leaders asked for her advice and a meeting place to hash out the end of the segregationist era (over bowls of her gumbo, of course). When levee failures following Hurricane Katrina deluged the city, shocked and displaced citizens took solace and strength from Ms. Leah&rsquos words and determination&mdasheven as she mucked out her own dining room and oversaw renovations from a FEMA trailer parked next to the landmark restaurant in Treme. Her passing in June 2019 broke the hearts of many and put the onus on her family to continue her work, her Holy Thursday traditions, and a successful generational transition&mdashtricky for restaurants even in pre-pandemic times. Thanks to her grandson Edgar &ldquoDooky&rdquo Chase IV in the kitchen and daughter Stella at the helm, locals can still gussy up for lunch buffet (including Ms. Chase&rsquos legendary fried chicken) or indulge on the &ldquoregular menu&rdquo come Friday. Whatever your choice, make sure somebody orders the Creole classic Shrimp Clemenceau&mdashshrimp, crispy potatoes, ham, and mushrooms in garlic&mdashand mask up to meander through the late doyenne&rsquos outstanding African-American art collection. &mdashPJ

Dove&rsquos Luncheonette (Chicago, IL): Okay, here&rsquos the deep secret knowledge possessed by all professional food writers. Are you ready? If you keep wanting to go back to a place, that place is very good. That&rsquos it. And I go back to Dove&rsquos Luncheonette every single time I&rsquom in Chicago. Like clockwork. Usually for breakfast, because breakfast is very important to me, and because the Mexican/Southern mashup served at Dove&rsquos speaks to my Los Angeles soul. Do I want the pozole rojo with carnitas, or should I get the burnt-ends hash with two fried eggs and Texas toast? Doesn&rsquot matter, either way, because I know I&rsquoll be back to try the rest. &mdashJG

Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero, CA): Located along a desolate stretch of Highway 1 in northern California, this restaurant has been in existence since 1897. The recipient of a James Beard award for classic American restaurant in 2003, Duarte&rsquos is firmly not fancy. But what they lack in pretense they make up for in dishes that are at once comforting and offer up a taste of nostalgic coastal California cuisine. Think: artichoke soup, local petrale filet of sole, olallieberry pie. Oh, and the bar is super fun, serving up cheap, tasty martinis and typically packed with colorful locals. &mdashDanny Dumas

Egan and Sons (Montclair, NJ): Remarkably good British/Irish pub food in a bright and open and airy set of rooms. At the heart of it is a soccer bar that draws somehow-not-annoying fans from all over. Best place to watch an EPL match over fish and chips and an oatmeal stout. &mdashJK

El Rey de las Fritas (Miami, FL): Yeah, South Beach is fun, but you haven&rsquot really made contact with Miami&rsquos Latin American spirit until you&rsquove experienced the initiation of the frita. A frita (as interpreted by El Rey, which was founded in the 1970s by Cuban exiles Benito and Gallega Gonzalez) is basically a burger on an airy Cuban bun with an avalanche of shoestring fries and a sweet paste of sautéed onions. It&rsquos a monument, of sorts, to a crucial period in Florida history, and it&rsquos also a damn good snack. &mdashJG

Fork (Philadelphia, PA): I got my first restaurant job at Fork restaurant when I was just out of college. Fork had recently opened and added an elegant vibe to Philadelphia&rsquos Old City. My entire family has dined at Fork and loved every meal&mdashfrom shrimp and grits at brunch to Champagne roasted chicken (takeaway) dinners during quarantine. Every experience at Fork is edifying. Ellen Yin has maintained this gem for more than two decades and I hope it lasts at least another twenty years. &mdashKlancy Miller

Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX): There's a reason for all those lawn chairs lined up outside the place. And yes, it's the brisket, but it's also so much more. And all of it has to do with the guy whose name is on the sign. Aaron Franklin gives a damn about what he's doing, who he's doing it with, and whom he's serving. Wait your turn and you'll see. &mdashBB

Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder, CO): Don&rsquot let the white truffles and caviar scare you off. Frasca may look exclusive if you&rsquore peeking in the window, but inside it&rsquos a house party. Wine guru and manager Bobby Stuckey is a captain of hospitality in the truest, most soulful sense: He makes everyone feel welcome and loved. &mdashJG

Fraunces Tavern (New York, NY): Because Washington said farewell to his officers upstairs, of course, but also because it&rsquos actually still a cozy tavern with surprisingly good food and a warm feeling in the older rooms. The whiskey bar up front is the snuggest place you can be on a winter night in Manhattan. &mdashJK

Freedman's (Los Angeles, CA): An unassuming location with unbelievable Jewish-American fare. You'll get out of the Uber thinking "where am I?" and leave wondering how you'll possibly follow up that meal with anything else. The latke waffle and lox will rock your world. &mdashBB

Galatoire&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): There may be no finer example of Food As Theater / Food as Culture than this Crescent City landmark known for its marathon, booze-saturated Friday lunch. A few months back I fretted to my friend Pableaux, whose family goes way back in Louisiana, that Galatoire&rsquos ran the risk of becoming a mere tourist trap. Pableaux shushed me and set me straight. Galatoire&rsquos matters, he let me know, and Galatoire&rsquos will always matter. &mdashJG

Genova Bakery (Stockton, CA): One of the best towering stacks of Toscano salame, turkey, cheddar, provolone, shredded lettuce, red onion, light mayo, heavy on the mustard on a soft and chewy Milk Roll comes from a 102-year-old bakery in the sepia-toned San Joaquin Valley. As soon as your hand touches the handle on Genova Bakery&rsquos antediluvian wooden screen door, you involuntarily envision the bakery&rsquos inception in 1918. Founded by Angelo and Giovanni Rolleri&mdashat the location it still occupies&mdashGenova Bakery is now owned by Tim Canevari, who&rsquos been working at the bakery since he was in high school. This is the place to grab your Italian goods: bulk biscotti, olives, beans, pasta, in-house made focaccia, and myriad Panettone during Christmas. Canevari took over the business in 2004 and has changed nothing. Nothing. Okay, Canevari added a few additional bread styles such as Dutch crunch, wheat, and sourdough. However, nothing has changed, from the quality of the fresh baked bread, the height of the sandwiches, the narrow-plank original hardwood floors, to the warmth of the employees. All of the character of Genova is intact. Genova Bakery was declared a historical landmark in 1985, for this place is the soul of Stockton. &mdashIllyanna Maisonet

Han Oak (Portland, OR): I still have dreams about Han Oak&mdashactual dreams. I dream about moving to the Pacific Northwest and living with chef Peter Cho and his beautiful family, helping out in the kitchen, learning how to make Korean dumplings, studying the nuances of kimchi. Which isn&rsquot entirely illogical&mdashHan Oak blends into the Cho family&rsquos backyard, and a meal there has the casual vibe of a family reunion around a picnic table. The mere thought of never being able to return to Han Oak makes me heartsick. &mdashJG

Havana (Bar Harbor, ME): A Cuban restaurant in Maine? No: A fantastic Cuban restaurant in Maine. Get the paella with local lobster, a Havana Martini, and call it a night. &mdashRD

Huynh (Houston, TX): Visiting Houston without eating Vietnamese food would be like going to Bologna and neglecting the pasta. There&rsquos always a wait for a seat at this family-owned strip-mall jewel, but the tables turn fast, and everyone with any sense in Houston will tell you that for ten bucks, you&rsquore not going to find a more satisfying and delicious meal than the gingery, herbaceous duck salad known as Goi Vit. &mdashJG

Irvington Delight (Irvington, NY): Amal Suleiman rolls her stuffed grape leaves by hand, and you can tell. In fact, the original vines were brought to the United States from Jordan in the 1980s, so she and her family actually grow the grape leaves and pick them in a backyard in suburban Westchester County. (I like to give the grape leaves a quick scorch in a cast iron skillet so that their surface gets a little blackened and feathery and the spices really bloom.) Suleiman makes the hummus, too, and the hot sauce and the muhammara, and this is why people drop into a seemingly random convenience shop (across the street from a gas station) wanting nothing more than a bag of potato chips and a soda&mdashbut wind up leaving with a stockpile of handmade Middle Eastern treats to bring home for dinner. Irvington Delight is but one example of countless corner stores and bodegas around the United States where people carefully, passionately honor the cuisine of a home country that they left behind. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the places that keep us alive. &mdashJG

J&J's Family Restaurant (Pittsburgh, PA): A greasy spoon diner in a city full of greasy spoon diners worth talking about. J&J's isn't the one you'll see on TV, though. A true family-owned joint that sits atop the city's historic Mount Washington. Assorted coffee mugs that don't match. Serving sizes that'll last you all day. A dining experience that makes you feel like family. &mdashBB

Jitlada (Los Angeles, CA): You haven&rsquot really experienced Los Angeles in all its polyglot glory until you&rsquove gone to Jitlada with a big, hungry group of friends. Even if you know Thai food pretty well, the menu is so expansive that it&rsquos impossible for first-timers to navigate, but you can&rsquot go wrong. Ask irrepressible owner Jazz Singsanong to choose for you, or just point your finger at random&mdashjungle curry crispy pork, spicy crab claw morning glory, turmeric catfish, mussels in green curry&mdashand prepare your mind and palate for a psychedelic wallop of flavor. &mdashJG

Kalaya (Philadelphia, PA): No punches are pulled by chef/owner Chutatip &ldquoNok&rdquo Suntaranon and her remarkably spicy, funky, practically vibrating Thai dishes that are a snapshot of her mother&rsquos recipes she learned while growing up in Southern Thailand. &mdashKS

Keens (New York, NY): In a city of restaurants filled with history, none has more powerful old-school vibes than Keens Chophouse. Walk through the wooden double doors on 36th street and the history hits you as if all of the pipes lining the ceiling were still wafting smoke. Once you take in the antiques and memorabilia, settle on the order: definitely the porterhouse or the mutton chop, always the creamed spinach and the hashbrowns for sides, and yes, you&rsquoll be having a martini. &mdash KS

Kopitiam (New York, NY): For a few slow months in late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic overtook us, I found myself asking friends to meet me for a Malaysian breakfast at Kopitiam. This didn&rsquot make geographical sense, because Kopitiam sits a few blocks from the East River, at the southern end of Manhattan, and I live along the Hudson River in a suburban county north of Manhattan. Which meant that to enjoy this breakfast, I needed to take a Metro-North commuter train into the city, walk from Grand Central to the subway station in Bryant Park, then catch the F train to East Broadway. None of that bothered me. Desire can be impossible to resist. As I took my journey south, I daydreamed about Kopitiam&rsquos oyster omelet, and the triangles of minced chicken gift-wrapped in pandan leaves, and the nasi lemak (fried anchovies and coconut rice make such a perfect pair), and the hand-pulled coffee with condensed milk. Chef Kyo Pang and restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai and their crew have created, with their menu at Kopitiam, a welcome celebration of the Nyonya cuisine of Southeast Asia. But they&rsquove also built a space you can&rsquot help but linger in, a gentle coffeehouse where you want to wait around and study how morning light alters as the afternoon approaches. New York City can be hard on people sanctuaries like Kopitiam make the days a little bit kinder. &mdashJG

La Esperanza Panaderia (Sacramento, CA): Opened in 1969 by Salvador Plasencia, it&rsquos now being operated by Salvador&rsquos grandchildren. All I have to do is walk into this 52-year-old panaderia that anchors Franklin Boulevard in my hometown of Sacramento to bask in the throngs of childhood nostalgia at warp speed. The smell of gingerbread puerquitos, jammy niños, crusty and soft bolillios, churros y mas will bash you in the face as soon as you open the storefront door, and leave you bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Bide your time in the queue by counting the original black and white tiles on the floor, catching glimpses of the frantic bakers through ajar doors, and impatiently staring into the display cases filled with fresh pan dulce made on-site. Staring into the display case is critical. This way you know what you want as soon as you get to the counter and aren&rsquot one of those pandejos who&rsquos constantly asking &ldquo. ooh, and what&rsquos this. &rdquo You don&rsquot need to know which region every different bread is from, or if it was made with organic heirloom purple Oaxacan corn. You&rsquore holding up the line! Shut up, point, order, move down the line, shove it into your gob. Celebratorily, of course. &mdashIM

Larder (Cleveland, OH): America can&rsquot afford to lose the old but it also can&rsquot afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That&rsquos progress. &mdashJG

La Super-Rica (Santa Barbara, CA): Yeah, we know, Julia Child made it iconic when she announced that this Milpas Street taco stand was her favorite restaurant in America. But for those of us who&rsquove spent a portion of our years chilling in Santa Barbara, La Super-Rica is just that slow, breezy, griddle-scented joint on the corner where everyone democratically waits in line (hey, is that Jackson Browne behind me?) for the pure pleasure of hand-pressed tortillas and sizzling pork and melted cheese and potent salsas. Locals know: If there are special tamales or enchiladas on the tiny chalkboard menu, you need to get them. &mdashJG

La Taqueria (San Francisco, CA): People often ask: tacos or burritos? Usually the answer depends on the restaurant, but at La Taqueria, it's both. Owner Miguel Jara grew up in Tijuana and opened his beloved restaurant in 1973 in the Mission District&mdashit&rsquos been a destination for both locals and visitors since. I always like to start with a taco appetizer before moving on to a burrito, which comes packed with proper proportions of plump pinto beans, your protein of choice (I choose charred then chopped carne asada), green guacamole, creamy crema, and melty cheese (there&rsquos no rice at La Taqueria Jara says it simply acts as filler). The burrito is tightly wrapped in foil, nice and compact, like a mini missile ready to launch into your mouth. In-the-know regulars get both burritos and tacos "dorados," so that the tortillas are fried until golden and crispy. Whatever you do, don't forget the salsa. &mdashOM

Lehja (Richmond, VA): Because spice, hospitality, and wine aren&rsquot luxuries&mdashthey&rsquore essentials. Because even in a time of scarcity and fear, chef-owner Sunny Baweja dishes up generosity and joy (and chaat!). Because this unassuming, unexpected jewel in a Virginia mall is one of the very best Indian restaurants in America. &mdashJT

Leo's Taco Truck (Los Angeles, CA): I&rsquove had the privilege of eating at the following three-Michelin-star restaurants: The French Laundry, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Lung King Heen, Single Thread, Alinea. I get just as much satisfaction consuming a platter of al pastor tacos from Leo&rsquos as I do with any of those fancy spots. Leo&rsquos is firmly on the lowbrow/brilliant end of the spectrum&mdashthe OG location is in the parking lot of a gas station on South La Brea and Venice&mdashbut show up on a Friday night at 2 a.m. and the line consistently spills around the block. Ask 100 different Angelenos where the best tacos are in the city and you&rsquoll get 200 answers. But I bet a lot of those responses will have Leo&rsquos in the number one spot. &mdashDD

Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, TX): I remember taking my older kids here a few years ago. They had to be patient. We waited in line, and the line moved slowly. Margot and Toby studied the greasy blackness of the walls&mdashlike the smoke smudges in a French cathedral&mdashuntil we placed our order. We snagged a table. Margot picked up a beef rib that seemed to weigh more than she did. She bit into the juicy meat and her eyes rolled back and she emitted a squeak of unfiltered delight. She polished off the whole rib and then asked for another. They say a father is only as happy as his children are. In that moment, I was happy. &mdashJG

Lowell&rsquos (Seattle, WA): Oh, so you think Pike Place Market is nothing but a tourist trap? Here&rsquos a secret. Go early. Go at dawn, when the only people you&rsquoll see are the stall owners arranging fresh fish on hills of shaved ice, and wait outside the doors of Lowell&rsquos (look for the sign that says &ldquoAlmost Classy Since 1957&rdquo) so that when the place opens at 7 sharp, you can get one of the tables overlooking Elliott Bay. You want an omelet stuff with Dungeness crab&mdashyou&rsquore in a fish market, after all&mdashand maybe also a Hangtown Fry with eggs and bacon and fresh oysters all scrambled together. &mdashJG

Marcel&rsquos by Robert Wiedmaier (Washington, D.C.): In twenty-one years on Pennsylvania Avenue, how many big fish were fêted, state secrets spilt, and will-you-marry-me's uttered behind the curtain at Table 28? How many tinned tons of Sevruga, kilograms of white truffles, and pieds du roi of boudin blanc were squired from copper pan to bone china to shining cloche to starched table again and again in flawless ballet like the Bolshoi? Nowhere in Washington, D.C., is fine-dining done finer. Nowhere is it easier to feel thoroughly at home in a tuxedo. The stewards of slow luxuries must never die. &mdashJT

Metzger Bar & Butchery (Richmond, VA): Schnitzel, schupfnudeln, and schadenfreude. 2020 saw far too much of one and not nearly enough of the other two. Chef Brittanny Anderson opened her little German joint in 2014&mdashan outpost of modern exceptionalism in a historic yet overlooked district. She planted a tiny garden, built dining room furniture from a single tree, put her DJ husband behind the bar spinning drinks and funk, and started serving local takes on trout rillettes, rabbit, and pork chops with carafes of Zweigelt. Every neighborhood needs a place where you can eat three times a week and not get bored or go broke. &mdashJT

Mosquito Supper Club (New Orleans, LA): Crispy, delicate soft-shelled shrimp. Browned cabbage smothered down in salt pork. Rustic seafood gumbo&mdashokra, crab, and shrimp&mdashthat can&rsquot be rushed. Seasonal, savory, and capped with a story or two. Well before chefs the world round embraced &ldquoblackened everything&rdquo as Cajun identifier, south Louisiana folk made magic with simple foods linked to the waters, skies, and land around them. For years chef Melissa Martin ran a series of deep Cajun pop-ups that showcased the foods of her childhood far from the relatively bright city lights of New Orleans. Finally settled for a spell, Martin cooks the seafood-dominant dishes from her coastal hometown of Chauvin, Louisiana (population 2700), in a double-shotgun frame house tucked away in the residential Uptown neighborhood. Her dedication to her family&rsquos traditional foods and family-style hospitality make the Mosquito Supper Club a relaxed, home-style experience that gets you deep into a culture you thought you understood. &mdashPJ

Nanina's in the Park (Belleville, NJ): Okay, this one&rsquos actually a banquet hall, but it&rsquos a keeper. Generations of Newark-area Italian-Americans and those who love them have celebrated weddings, graduations, and first holy communions at this grand and slightly gaudy (so just about right) Italian villa planted at the north end of Branch Brook park. It&rsquos a banquet hall that actually does Italian food really well, because it has to. An institution. &mdashJK


100 Restaurants America Can't Afford to Lose

We're raising a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashbecause if we lose them, we lose who we are.

You know that bistro around the corner, the one where you and your partner first locked eyes across the table? The Southern barbecue joint where, back in the days before the pandemic, you and your comrades used to come together for sweet racks of ribs on Friday nights as another sorry workweek sputtered to a close? The bodega where you&rsquore such a regular that no one has to ask how you like your breakfast sandwich. The taqueria where they nail the salsa verde. The place where you can watch a Korean grandmother making dumplings in the kitchen. The New England landmark with the picnic tables and lobster rolls. Or, wait, how about the trattoria with the long, honey-hued bar and the wine list that makes you want to throw away common sense and max out your credit card?

What if those places were to vanish? What if you were to wake tomorrow morning and learn that that remnant of your life&mdashand that portion of your community&rsquos lingua franca&mdashhad been erased? Such a prospect has been a real threat all year, with the relentless tragedy of COVID-19 leaving many American restaurants, even established classics, on the brink of bankruptcy. The threat will only intensify as winter progresses and restaurateurs have to abandon the outdoor dining that has kept them treading water for months. We love restaurants here at Esquire, and we hope that during this holiday season you&rsquoll consider making donations to Southern Smoke and the Lee Initiative and other organizations that are helping restaurant workers endure the crisis. We also hope you&rsquoll raise a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashthat we consider restaurants that America can&rsquot afford to lose. Because if we lose them, we lose who we are. &mdashJeff Gordinier

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (Noank, CT): Picnic tables on the grass by the water. Steamed lobsters, caught that day, with drawn butter in paper cups. A beer. &mdashRyan D'Agostino

Abyssinia (Philadelphia, PA): "Oh, I love that place." That's what I often hear from Philadelphians whenever I happen to mention Abyssinia. The connection runs deep. And that's no surprise, because the warmth of the hospitality at this beloved Ethiopian spot makes you feel as though you've joined a family for dinner in their home&mdasheven if you happen to be dining alone. A little while back, when I was teaching a writing course at Drexel University, I used to catch an early train from Manhattan just so that I could get a quick, quiet lunch of injera and stews at Abyssinia before dashing to the classroom. But it's even better with a big group. Let's all gather here when the pandemic is over. We'll have a feast. &mdashJG

Alpino Vino (Telluride, CO): Some restaurants are worth the hike, literally. Alpino Vino is a 30-ish seat Italian restaurant burrowed into a cliff way above Telluride (a magical place in and of itself). There&rsquos nothing easy about getting to the place&mdashyou can ski a narrow trail and, well, that&rsquos your option&mdashnor even anything easy about getting a seat. (See: my note about seating 30 people at a time.) But Telluride is the most important it&rsquos where I fell in love with my now husband it&rsquos where we took my family to celebrate our engagement and it&rsquos a place I return to twice a year like clockwork to remember all that. That Alpino Vino serves truly perfect food, both cozy and refined, and has one of the most amazing wine lists I&rsquoll ever experience is just the proverbial cherry on top. No trip west is complete without a visit. &mdashMadison Vain

Al&rsquos Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN): Flapjacks on the griddle. Hazy morning sunlight through stained-glass awnings. Foreign currency tacked to a shelf, above the Magic Markered coffee mugs belonging to various regulars. A sign that says &ldquoBeware of Attack Waitress.&rdquo If a breakfast counter could be the IRL manifestation of a Replacements song, this would be it. &mdashJG

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit, MI): They&rsquore right next to each other on the same block in downtown Detroit, and the story is that theirs is a bitter and endless grudge match. Whatever. The point is that both of them raise a torch for a true regional delight: coneys, which are hot dogs flooded with funky chili, yellow mustard, and raw onions. &mdashJG

Angler (San Francisco, CA): Decadence in the form of wild game and giant crustaceans and magnificent heads of radicchio, sometimes served raw or cooked over open fire, drizzled with truffles or XO sauce, and, on the side, copious amounts of caviar and oysters, atop a magnificent table made from the trunk of a centuries old redwood. Your memories of Angler will be like a hunting lodge fever dream you can&rsquot wait to have over and over. &mdashKevin Sintumuang

Anteprima (Chicago, IL): The chef is not a celebrity. No Michelin Star. It&rsquos not on the James Beard Foundation's radar. These are the very reasons Anteprima is perfect to me. The dining room is always full. The owner greets you at the door. The waitstaff in their long white aprons remember your names and if you prefer sparkling or tap. Anteprima&rsquos menu changes daily. With each micro season we see dishes pristinely representing fresh ingredients. Hakurei turnips, breakfast radish, ramps, and morels in the spring. Corn and tomatoes in the summer. Roots in the fall. Squashes, truffles, and alliums through the winter. I love this place. &mdashIliana Regan

Arnold's (Nashville, TN): Nashville wouldn&rsquot be Nashville without the red-tray, meat-and-three comfort of Arnold&rsquos Country Kitchen. Locals and tourists, writers and musicians, and everyone in between line up cafeteria-style for juicy roast beef carved to order and creamy chocolate chess pies for dessert. No reservations, no pretense. Arnold's simple, straightforward fare is the first thing on my mind when I think about Music City. &mdashOmar Mamoon

Bamboo Garden (Brooklyn, NY): This massive dim sum restaurant is out in Brooklyn&rsquos Chinatown in Sunset Park. With elaborate chandeliers and big banquet tables, it&rsquos always filled with families celebrating special occasions. It's so joyful. Every time we go we get the Peking duck, which is just perfect. &mdashKate Storey

Bar Tabac (Brooklyn, NY): Definition of a neighborhood eatery. Go for the Burgundy snails, and footie matches on the TV. &mdashNick Sullivan

Black-Eyed Susan's (Nantucket, MA): They do breakfast and they do dinner and they do them well, for not many people (it&rsquos tiny) and for cash only, and you&rsquoll remember it. Especially the Pennsylvania Dutch pancakes made with a slice of Jarlsberg. &mdashRD

Blueberry Hill (St. Louis, MO): I have been coming down here&mdashto the loop in St. Louis, one of the greatest streets of food and music in America, that is&mdashfor (the very best!) burgers and live music quite literally since I got keys to a car. It made me feel like a rebel when I was young, out late hearing new bands, buying my own dinners, and it makes me remarkably nostalgic now that I&rsquom not. Also, Chuck Berry played a monthly show here for 200 months in a row, so if you won&rsquot take my word for it, perhaps his will do. &mdashMV

Blue Moon Cafe (Shepherdstown, WV): Locals, tourists from D.C., professors from the small university, all sitting together enjoying buffalo chicken salads and black bean burgers and maybe somebody playing the guitar. &mdashRD

Bouquet (Covington, KY): Maybe you&rsquove grown weary of the phrase &ldquofarm to table.&rdquo Maybe it&rsquos lost its punch, in certain quarters of the country. But Bouquet is a restaurant that makes &ldquofarm to table&rdquo matter again&mdashand in Mitch McConnell&rsquos home state, no less. Chef Stephen Williams opened the restaurant in 2007 &ldquoas one of the first restaurants in the area to embrace local and sustainable farming as a cornerstone of its mission,&rdquo as the place&rsquos website puts it, and that mission hasn&rsquot lost an ounce of passion in the intervening years. The stuff on the menu sounds straightforward enough&mdashdeviled eggs, a green salad, meatballs, a pork chop&mdashbut everything soars because of the chef&rsquos obvious reverence for the ingredients that he uses. Yes, that matters. &mdashJG

Brigtsen&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): &ldquoIf you&rsquove only got one dinner, I&rsquom gonna ask you to leave the Quarter.&rdquo Can&rsquot tell you how many times I&rsquove put first-time visitors to New Orleans in this conceptual bind. &ldquoGo to this little shotgun house on Dante Street and you&rsquoll never forget it.&rdquo At 20 years old, this family-run bistro doesn&rsquot pop up on &ldquonew and hot&rdquo or &ldquoTV chef&rdquo lists, but instead chugs along providing deep hospitality and interpreting Louisiana classics from the Creole, Cajun, and Southern canons that excite the palate and soothe the soul. A local boy and veteran of Paul Prudhomme&rsquos opening brigade at K-Paul&rsquos, chef Frank Brigtsen works magic in an impossibly tiny kitchen with abundant Gulf seafood and our year-round farm bounty. He&rsquoll fry up bayou catfish to delicate, cracking perfection and lay you low with an impossibly savory roast duck on dirty rice. Broiled redfish with a lump crabmeat crust can make the most open-hearted dining companion fiercely territorial. Frank&rsquos wife, Marna, and his sisters, Sandy and Rhonda, run the front of house with an effortless, enveloping friendliness that can turn a harried first-time guest into an instant regular. Also, pecan pie that will haunt your dreams. &mdashPableaux Johnson

Busy Bee (Atlanta, GA): When self-taught cook Mama Lucy Jackson opened Busy Bee Cafe in 1947, she did so on West Hunter Street, one of only two streets available to African American entrepreneurs at the time. Hunter would go on to be named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive after the restaurant&rsquos (and Atlanta&rsquos) most important patron. Back then it was the place for civil rights activists and organizers to safely meet and strategize. Today it&rsquos known as the place with the best fried chicken in the city. The sides are exquisite renderings of Southern staples with the rice and gravy, collards, and mac n&rsquo cheese shining particularly brightly. Don&rsquot miss the cornmeal-dusted and encrusted catfish, made memorable with its steamy and silken flesh. &mdashStephen Satterfield

Canlis (Seattle, WA): If we tell you that Canlis is the &ldquoepitome of elegance,&rdquo which it is, you might get the wrong impression. For three generations, in a black masterpiece of modernist architecture that reaches up and out toward Lake Union like a swimmer about to leap off the starting block, the Canlis family has fine-tuned a form of hospitality so effortless that a &ldquofancy&rdquo meal feels like a reunion with old friends. &mdashJG

Casamento&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): Even when there&rsquos not a pandemic going on, sometimes Casamento&rsquos stays closed for the day. Maybe it&rsquos not the right season for oysters, or maybe somebody&rsquos just not in the mood. Hey, it&rsquos 101 years old, so go easy on the place. When it is open (nowhere near the frat-boy lures of the French Quarter, thank you very much), Casamento&rsquos remains a tiled shrine to briny simplicity. You want a &ldquoloaf,&rdquo which amounts to a heap of fried oysters in between fat slices of white bread. We don&rsquot have to tell you to use a lot of hot sauce, right? &mdashJG

Celeste (Somerville, MA): He spins vintage Chicha, makes Peruvian arthouse films, and mans the fire. She transforms space with a graduate degree in experimental architecture and embraces guests with Guatemalan warmth. Together, husband and wife JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau recast their at-home pop-up into a postmodernist brick-and-mortar paean of Peruvian and Andean spice. Art and aperitivos, pisco and purple corn, neon and neighbors, all pressed together in a tiny, bright vessel designed to amplify joy. The food is sublime, but Celeste (rhymes with &ldquosay yes: play&rdquo) is the greater alchemy of menu, mixtapes, and merrymaking that satiates a deeper kind of hungry. &mdashJason Tesauro

Cochon (New Orleans, LA): The last time I visited New Orleans, I went straight to Cochon from the airport. I began eating lunch alone at the bar, and I began texting my friends, and a couple of them asked whether I was drunk or high&mdashthat&rsquos how effusive I got. A jambalaya studded with pork cheeks and andouille sent me over the edge. I actually started hollering with joy. A bartender asked me whether I was okay. I was humming like a lunatic. &mdashJG

Cowan's Public (Nutley, NJ): The craft-beer, proper-drink, good-food revolution arrived in this corner of North Jersey a few years ago with this simple but beautiful Art Deco restaurant. The town has embraced it like something it never knew it was missing. To lose it would be a step backward. &mdashJohn Kenney

Cozy Corner (Memphis, TN): I told my friend Jay, in Memphis, I want the real thing. He suggested a couple of spots that didn&rsquot sound right to me&mdashtoo tidy, too bougie, too TV-friendly. I said, no, the real fucking thing, and that&rsquos when we went to Cozy Corner, owned by barbecue matriarch Desiree Robinson. We got ribs and fries and a bologna sandwich and a whole Cornish hen practically lacquered in a shiny glaze of sauce. It was as real as real gets. &mdashJG

Cunetto House of Pasta (St. Louis, MO): I know everyone thinks the best Italian food in America is in New York, but I&rsquod argue they haven&rsquot been to the Hill in St. Louis, Missouri. Driving down to these streets and bouncing between the cafes and bakeries and grocers felt like going on an exotic sojourn when I was very young, and the thought of losing any of these mom-and-pop establishments and the culture that goes with them fills me with dread. The crown jewel of the area is Cunetto&rsquos. Aside from being the first place I tried veal (which ended in tears as my parents explained just what veal is), it&rsquos a menu with absolutely no fuss but tons of flavor. Also, they serve amazing toasted raviolis, a St. Louis classic. &mdashMV

Cúrate (Asheville, NC): Great restaurants are like rocket boosters for neighborhoods: Attach a hot spot to a sad stretch of sidewalk and watch everything begin to move. Katie Button&rsquos Cúrate has been that kind of engine for the city of Asheville, giving the local food scene a shot of adrenaline along with all that paella and garlic shrimp and jamón ibérico. She also happens to serve the single best bean dish in America: an Asturian stew called fabada that&rsquos luscious with the fat of housemade chorizo and morcilla. &mdashJG

Diamond Head Grill (Honolulu, HI): This takeout counter on the mauka (mountain) side of Diamond Head isn&rsquot a scenic spot &mdash just a sun-beaten parking lot with a few picnic tables along a concrete wall &mdash but the plate lunches spill over with the likes of miso ginger salmon, kalbi beef and char siu pork, plus a heap of rice: white, brown or, the best, hapa, brown and white together. &mdashLigaya Mishan

Dino's Pizza (Chicago, IL): It was my family&rsquos go-to place for pizza on Friday nights when my brother and I were kids. And it still is for my parents. Nothing fancy. Not trendy, not even in a post-ironic hipster kind of way. (Thank God.) It&rsquos on the edge of Chicago, right next to the suburb where I grew up. The bar attracts mostly cops and firefighters. We&rsquod do carryout, which means when I visit my folks my dad and I leave a few minutes early to pick up the pizza so we can sneak in a beer and a shot before heading home. Important to note that they don&rsquot specialize in deep-dish pizza, but the other kind of Chicago pizza&mdashthe much better kind of Chicago pizza&mdashwhich is pub style: cut into squares, soft but not thick. &mdashMichael Sebastian

Ditch Witch (Montauk, NY): Not a restaurant, traditionally speaking, but this food truck just off Ditch Plains beach in Montauk is half the reason you'll want to go to the beach at all. Their Tomahawk bowl packed with fresh tuna is worth waiting in line for&mdashand you'll have to. &mdashBen Boskovich

Dooky Chase&rsquos Restaurant (New Orleans, LA): Fried chicken, green gumbo, and the strength of legacy. For the better part of her 97 years, different communities in New Orleans turned to chef Leah Chase for sustenance, strength, and good counsel. In the 1960s, civil rights leaders asked for her advice and a meeting place to hash out the end of the segregationist era (over bowls of her gumbo, of course). When levee failures following Hurricane Katrina deluged the city, shocked and displaced citizens took solace and strength from Ms. Leah&rsquos words and determination&mdasheven as she mucked out her own dining room and oversaw renovations from a FEMA trailer parked next to the landmark restaurant in Treme. Her passing in June 2019 broke the hearts of many and put the onus on her family to continue her work, her Holy Thursday traditions, and a successful generational transition&mdashtricky for restaurants even in pre-pandemic times. Thanks to her grandson Edgar &ldquoDooky&rdquo Chase IV in the kitchen and daughter Stella at the helm, locals can still gussy up for lunch buffet (including Ms. Chase&rsquos legendary fried chicken) or indulge on the &ldquoregular menu&rdquo come Friday. Whatever your choice, make sure somebody orders the Creole classic Shrimp Clemenceau&mdashshrimp, crispy potatoes, ham, and mushrooms in garlic&mdashand mask up to meander through the late doyenne&rsquos outstanding African-American art collection. &mdashPJ

Dove&rsquos Luncheonette (Chicago, IL): Okay, here&rsquos the deep secret knowledge possessed by all professional food writers. Are you ready? If you keep wanting to go back to a place, that place is very good. That&rsquos it. And I go back to Dove&rsquos Luncheonette every single time I&rsquom in Chicago. Like clockwork. Usually for breakfast, because breakfast is very important to me, and because the Mexican/Southern mashup served at Dove&rsquos speaks to my Los Angeles soul. Do I want the pozole rojo with carnitas, or should I get the burnt-ends hash with two fried eggs and Texas toast? Doesn&rsquot matter, either way, because I know I&rsquoll be back to try the rest. &mdashJG

Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero, CA): Located along a desolate stretch of Highway 1 in northern California, this restaurant has been in existence since 1897. The recipient of a James Beard award for classic American restaurant in 2003, Duarte&rsquos is firmly not fancy. But what they lack in pretense they make up for in dishes that are at once comforting and offer up a taste of nostalgic coastal California cuisine. Think: artichoke soup, local petrale filet of sole, olallieberry pie. Oh, and the bar is super fun, serving up cheap, tasty martinis and typically packed with colorful locals. &mdashDanny Dumas

Egan and Sons (Montclair, NJ): Remarkably good British/Irish pub food in a bright and open and airy set of rooms. At the heart of it is a soccer bar that draws somehow-not-annoying fans from all over. Best place to watch an EPL match over fish and chips and an oatmeal stout. &mdashJK

El Rey de las Fritas (Miami, FL): Yeah, South Beach is fun, but you haven&rsquot really made contact with Miami&rsquos Latin American spirit until you&rsquove experienced the initiation of the frita. A frita (as interpreted by El Rey, which was founded in the 1970s by Cuban exiles Benito and Gallega Gonzalez) is basically a burger on an airy Cuban bun with an avalanche of shoestring fries and a sweet paste of sautéed onions. It&rsquos a monument, of sorts, to a crucial period in Florida history, and it&rsquos also a damn good snack. &mdashJG

Fork (Philadelphia, PA): I got my first restaurant job at Fork restaurant when I was just out of college. Fork had recently opened and added an elegant vibe to Philadelphia&rsquos Old City. My entire family has dined at Fork and loved every meal&mdashfrom shrimp and grits at brunch to Champagne roasted chicken (takeaway) dinners during quarantine. Every experience at Fork is edifying. Ellen Yin has maintained this gem for more than two decades and I hope it lasts at least another twenty years. &mdashKlancy Miller

Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX): There's a reason for all those lawn chairs lined up outside the place. And yes, it's the brisket, but it's also so much more. And all of it has to do with the guy whose name is on the sign. Aaron Franklin gives a damn about what he's doing, who he's doing it with, and whom he's serving. Wait your turn and you'll see. &mdashBB

Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder, CO): Don&rsquot let the white truffles and caviar scare you off. Frasca may look exclusive if you&rsquore peeking in the window, but inside it&rsquos a house party. Wine guru and manager Bobby Stuckey is a captain of hospitality in the truest, most soulful sense: He makes everyone feel welcome and loved. &mdashJG

Fraunces Tavern (New York, NY): Because Washington said farewell to his officers upstairs, of course, but also because it&rsquos actually still a cozy tavern with surprisingly good food and a warm feeling in the older rooms. The whiskey bar up front is the snuggest place you can be on a winter night in Manhattan. &mdashJK

Freedman's (Los Angeles, CA): An unassuming location with unbelievable Jewish-American fare. You'll get out of the Uber thinking "where am I?" and leave wondering how you'll possibly follow up that meal with anything else. The latke waffle and lox will rock your world. &mdashBB

Galatoire&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): There may be no finer example of Food As Theater / Food as Culture than this Crescent City landmark known for its marathon, booze-saturated Friday lunch. A few months back I fretted to my friend Pableaux, whose family goes way back in Louisiana, that Galatoire&rsquos ran the risk of becoming a mere tourist trap. Pableaux shushed me and set me straight. Galatoire&rsquos matters, he let me know, and Galatoire&rsquos will always matter. &mdashJG

Genova Bakery (Stockton, CA): One of the best towering stacks of Toscano salame, turkey, cheddar, provolone, shredded lettuce, red onion, light mayo, heavy on the mustard on a soft and chewy Milk Roll comes from a 102-year-old bakery in the sepia-toned San Joaquin Valley. As soon as your hand touches the handle on Genova Bakery&rsquos antediluvian wooden screen door, you involuntarily envision the bakery&rsquos inception in 1918. Founded by Angelo and Giovanni Rolleri&mdashat the location it still occupies&mdashGenova Bakery is now owned by Tim Canevari, who&rsquos been working at the bakery since he was in high school. This is the place to grab your Italian goods: bulk biscotti, olives, beans, pasta, in-house made focaccia, and myriad Panettone during Christmas. Canevari took over the business in 2004 and has changed nothing. Nothing. Okay, Canevari added a few additional bread styles such as Dutch crunch, wheat, and sourdough. However, nothing has changed, from the quality of the fresh baked bread, the height of the sandwiches, the narrow-plank original hardwood floors, to the warmth of the employees. All of the character of Genova is intact. Genova Bakery was declared a historical landmark in 1985, for this place is the soul of Stockton. &mdashIllyanna Maisonet

Han Oak (Portland, OR): I still have dreams about Han Oak&mdashactual dreams. I dream about moving to the Pacific Northwest and living with chef Peter Cho and his beautiful family, helping out in the kitchen, learning how to make Korean dumplings, studying the nuances of kimchi. Which isn&rsquot entirely illogical&mdashHan Oak blends into the Cho family&rsquos backyard, and a meal there has the casual vibe of a family reunion around a picnic table. The mere thought of never being able to return to Han Oak makes me heartsick. &mdashJG

Havana (Bar Harbor, ME): A Cuban restaurant in Maine? No: A fantastic Cuban restaurant in Maine. Get the paella with local lobster, a Havana Martini, and call it a night. &mdashRD

Huynh (Houston, TX): Visiting Houston without eating Vietnamese food would be like going to Bologna and neglecting the pasta. There&rsquos always a wait for a seat at this family-owned strip-mall jewel, but the tables turn fast, and everyone with any sense in Houston will tell you that for ten bucks, you&rsquore not going to find a more satisfying and delicious meal than the gingery, herbaceous duck salad known as Goi Vit. &mdashJG

Irvington Delight (Irvington, NY): Amal Suleiman rolls her stuffed grape leaves by hand, and you can tell. In fact, the original vines were brought to the United States from Jordan in the 1980s, so she and her family actually grow the grape leaves and pick them in a backyard in suburban Westchester County. (I like to give the grape leaves a quick scorch in a cast iron skillet so that their surface gets a little blackened and feathery and the spices really bloom.) Suleiman makes the hummus, too, and the hot sauce and the muhammara, and this is why people drop into a seemingly random convenience shop (across the street from a gas station) wanting nothing more than a bag of potato chips and a soda&mdashbut wind up leaving with a stockpile of handmade Middle Eastern treats to bring home for dinner. Irvington Delight is but one example of countless corner stores and bodegas around the United States where people carefully, passionately honor the cuisine of a home country that they left behind. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the places that keep us alive. &mdashJG

J&J's Family Restaurant (Pittsburgh, PA): A greasy spoon diner in a city full of greasy spoon diners worth talking about. J&J's isn't the one you'll see on TV, though. A true family-owned joint that sits atop the city's historic Mount Washington. Assorted coffee mugs that don't match. Serving sizes that'll last you all day. A dining experience that makes you feel like family. &mdashBB

Jitlada (Los Angeles, CA): You haven&rsquot really experienced Los Angeles in all its polyglot glory until you&rsquove gone to Jitlada with a big, hungry group of friends. Even if you know Thai food pretty well, the menu is so expansive that it&rsquos impossible for first-timers to navigate, but you can&rsquot go wrong. Ask irrepressible owner Jazz Singsanong to choose for you, or just point your finger at random&mdashjungle curry crispy pork, spicy crab claw morning glory, turmeric catfish, mussels in green curry&mdashand prepare your mind and palate for a psychedelic wallop of flavor. &mdashJG

Kalaya (Philadelphia, PA): No punches are pulled by chef/owner Chutatip &ldquoNok&rdquo Suntaranon and her remarkably spicy, funky, practically vibrating Thai dishes that are a snapshot of her mother&rsquos recipes she learned while growing up in Southern Thailand. &mdashKS

Keens (New York, NY): In a city of restaurants filled with history, none has more powerful old-school vibes than Keens Chophouse. Walk through the wooden double doors on 36th street and the history hits you as if all of the pipes lining the ceiling were still wafting smoke. Once you take in the antiques and memorabilia, settle on the order: definitely the porterhouse or the mutton chop, always the creamed spinach and the hashbrowns for sides, and yes, you&rsquoll be having a martini. &mdash KS

Kopitiam (New York, NY): For a few slow months in late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic overtook us, I found myself asking friends to meet me for a Malaysian breakfast at Kopitiam. This didn&rsquot make geographical sense, because Kopitiam sits a few blocks from the East River, at the southern end of Manhattan, and I live along the Hudson River in a suburban county north of Manhattan. Which meant that to enjoy this breakfast, I needed to take a Metro-North commuter train into the city, walk from Grand Central to the subway station in Bryant Park, then catch the F train to East Broadway. None of that bothered me. Desire can be impossible to resist. As I took my journey south, I daydreamed about Kopitiam&rsquos oyster omelet, and the triangles of minced chicken gift-wrapped in pandan leaves, and the nasi lemak (fried anchovies and coconut rice make such a perfect pair), and the hand-pulled coffee with condensed milk. Chef Kyo Pang and restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai and their crew have created, with their menu at Kopitiam, a welcome celebration of the Nyonya cuisine of Southeast Asia. But they&rsquove also built a space you can&rsquot help but linger in, a gentle coffeehouse where you want to wait around and study how morning light alters as the afternoon approaches. New York City can be hard on people sanctuaries like Kopitiam make the days a little bit kinder. &mdashJG

La Esperanza Panaderia (Sacramento, CA): Opened in 1969 by Salvador Plasencia, it&rsquos now being operated by Salvador&rsquos grandchildren. All I have to do is walk into this 52-year-old panaderia that anchors Franklin Boulevard in my hometown of Sacramento to bask in the throngs of childhood nostalgia at warp speed. The smell of gingerbread puerquitos, jammy niños, crusty and soft bolillios, churros y mas will bash you in the face as soon as you open the storefront door, and leave you bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Bide your time in the queue by counting the original black and white tiles on the floor, catching glimpses of the frantic bakers through ajar doors, and impatiently staring into the display cases filled with fresh pan dulce made on-site. Staring into the display case is critical. This way you know what you want as soon as you get to the counter and aren&rsquot one of those pandejos who&rsquos constantly asking &ldquo. ooh, and what&rsquos this. &rdquo You don&rsquot need to know which region every different bread is from, or if it was made with organic heirloom purple Oaxacan corn. You&rsquore holding up the line! Shut up, point, order, move down the line, shove it into your gob. Celebratorily, of course. &mdashIM

Larder (Cleveland, OH): America can&rsquot afford to lose the old but it also can&rsquot afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That&rsquos progress. &mdashJG

La Super-Rica (Santa Barbara, CA): Yeah, we know, Julia Child made it iconic when she announced that this Milpas Street taco stand was her favorite restaurant in America. But for those of us who&rsquove spent a portion of our years chilling in Santa Barbara, La Super-Rica is just that slow, breezy, griddle-scented joint on the corner where everyone democratically waits in line (hey, is that Jackson Browne behind me?) for the pure pleasure of hand-pressed tortillas and sizzling pork and melted cheese and potent salsas. Locals know: If there are special tamales or enchiladas on the tiny chalkboard menu, you need to get them. &mdashJG

La Taqueria (San Francisco, CA): People often ask: tacos or burritos? Usually the answer depends on the restaurant, but at La Taqueria, it's both. Owner Miguel Jara grew up in Tijuana and opened his beloved restaurant in 1973 in the Mission District&mdashit&rsquos been a destination for both locals and visitors since. I always like to start with a taco appetizer before moving on to a burrito, which comes packed with proper proportions of plump pinto beans, your protein of choice (I choose charred then chopped carne asada), green guacamole, creamy crema, and melty cheese (there&rsquos no rice at La Taqueria Jara says it simply acts as filler). The burrito is tightly wrapped in foil, nice and compact, like a mini missile ready to launch into your mouth. In-the-know regulars get both burritos and tacos "dorados," so that the tortillas are fried until golden and crispy. Whatever you do, don't forget the salsa. &mdashOM

Lehja (Richmond, VA): Because spice, hospitality, and wine aren&rsquot luxuries&mdashthey&rsquore essentials. Because even in a time of scarcity and fear, chef-owner Sunny Baweja dishes up generosity and joy (and chaat!). Because this unassuming, unexpected jewel in a Virginia mall is one of the very best Indian restaurants in America. &mdashJT

Leo's Taco Truck (Los Angeles, CA): I&rsquove had the privilege of eating at the following three-Michelin-star restaurants: The French Laundry, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Lung King Heen, Single Thread, Alinea. I get just as much satisfaction consuming a platter of al pastor tacos from Leo&rsquos as I do with any of those fancy spots. Leo&rsquos is firmly on the lowbrow/brilliant end of the spectrum&mdashthe OG location is in the parking lot of a gas station on South La Brea and Venice&mdashbut show up on a Friday night at 2 a.m. and the line consistently spills around the block. Ask 100 different Angelenos where the best tacos are in the city and you&rsquoll get 200 answers. But I bet a lot of those responses will have Leo&rsquos in the number one spot. &mdashDD

Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, TX): I remember taking my older kids here a few years ago. They had to be patient. We waited in line, and the line moved slowly. Margot and Toby studied the greasy blackness of the walls&mdashlike the smoke smudges in a French cathedral&mdashuntil we placed our order. We snagged a table. Margot picked up a beef rib that seemed to weigh more than she did. She bit into the juicy meat and her eyes rolled back and she emitted a squeak of unfiltered delight. She polished off the whole rib and then asked for another. They say a father is only as happy as his children are. In that moment, I was happy. &mdashJG

Lowell&rsquos (Seattle, WA): Oh, so you think Pike Place Market is nothing but a tourist trap? Here&rsquos a secret. Go early. Go at dawn, when the only people you&rsquoll see are the stall owners arranging fresh fish on hills of shaved ice, and wait outside the doors of Lowell&rsquos (look for the sign that says &ldquoAlmost Classy Since 1957&rdquo) so that when the place opens at 7 sharp, you can get one of the tables overlooking Elliott Bay. You want an omelet stuff with Dungeness crab&mdashyou&rsquore in a fish market, after all&mdashand maybe also a Hangtown Fry with eggs and bacon and fresh oysters all scrambled together. &mdashJG

Marcel&rsquos by Robert Wiedmaier (Washington, D.C.): In twenty-one years on Pennsylvania Avenue, how many big fish were fêted, state secrets spilt, and will-you-marry-me's uttered behind the curtain at Table 28? How many tinned tons of Sevruga, kilograms of white truffles, and pieds du roi of boudin blanc were squired from copper pan to bone china to shining cloche to starched table again and again in flawless ballet like the Bolshoi? Nowhere in Washington, D.C., is fine-dining done finer. Nowhere is it easier to feel thoroughly at home in a tuxedo. The stewards of slow luxuries must never die. &mdashJT

Metzger Bar & Butchery (Richmond, VA): Schnitzel, schupfnudeln, and schadenfreude. 2020 saw far too much of one and not nearly enough of the other two. Chef Brittanny Anderson opened her little German joint in 2014&mdashan outpost of modern exceptionalism in a historic yet overlooked district. She planted a tiny garden, built dining room furniture from a single tree, put her DJ husband behind the bar spinning drinks and funk, and started serving local takes on trout rillettes, rabbit, and pork chops with carafes of Zweigelt. Every neighborhood needs a place where you can eat three times a week and not get bored or go broke. &mdashJT

Mosquito Supper Club (New Orleans, LA): Crispy, delicate soft-shelled shrimp. Browned cabbage smothered down in salt pork. Rustic seafood gumbo&mdashokra, crab, and shrimp&mdashthat can&rsquot be rushed. Seasonal, savory, and capped with a story or two. Well before chefs the world round embraced &ldquoblackened everything&rdquo as Cajun identifier, south Louisiana folk made magic with simple foods linked to the waters, skies, and land around them. For years chef Melissa Martin ran a series of deep Cajun pop-ups that showcased the foods of her childhood far from the relatively bright city lights of New Orleans. Finally settled for a spell, Martin cooks the seafood-dominant dishes from her coastal hometown of Chauvin, Louisiana (population 2700), in a double-shotgun frame house tucked away in the residential Uptown neighborhood. Her dedication to her family&rsquos traditional foods and family-style hospitality make the Mosquito Supper Club a relaxed, home-style experience that gets you deep into a culture you thought you understood. &mdashPJ

Nanina's in the Park (Belleville, NJ): Okay, this one&rsquos actually a banquet hall, but it&rsquos a keeper. Generations of Newark-area Italian-Americans and those who love them have celebrated weddings, graduations, and first holy communions at this grand and slightly gaudy (so just about right) Italian villa planted at the north end of Branch Brook park. It&rsquos a banquet hall that actually does Italian food really well, because it has to. An institution. &mdashJK


100 Restaurants America Can't Afford to Lose

We're raising a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashbecause if we lose them, we lose who we are.

You know that bistro around the corner, the one where you and your partner first locked eyes across the table? The Southern barbecue joint where, back in the days before the pandemic, you and your comrades used to come together for sweet racks of ribs on Friday nights as another sorry workweek sputtered to a close? The bodega where you&rsquore such a regular that no one has to ask how you like your breakfast sandwich. The taqueria where they nail the salsa verde. The place where you can watch a Korean grandmother making dumplings in the kitchen. The New England landmark with the picnic tables and lobster rolls. Or, wait, how about the trattoria with the long, honey-hued bar and the wine list that makes you want to throw away common sense and max out your credit card?

What if those places were to vanish? What if you were to wake tomorrow morning and learn that that remnant of your life&mdashand that portion of your community&rsquos lingua franca&mdashhad been erased? Such a prospect has been a real threat all year, with the relentless tragedy of COVID-19 leaving many American restaurants, even established classics, on the brink of bankruptcy. The threat will only intensify as winter progresses and restaurateurs have to abandon the outdoor dining that has kept them treading water for months. We love restaurants here at Esquire, and we hope that during this holiday season you&rsquoll consider making donations to Southern Smoke and the Lee Initiative and other organizations that are helping restaurant workers endure the crisis. We also hope you&rsquoll raise a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashthat we consider restaurants that America can&rsquot afford to lose. Because if we lose them, we lose who we are. &mdashJeff Gordinier

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (Noank, CT): Picnic tables on the grass by the water. Steamed lobsters, caught that day, with drawn butter in paper cups. A beer. &mdashRyan D'Agostino

Abyssinia (Philadelphia, PA): "Oh, I love that place." That's what I often hear from Philadelphians whenever I happen to mention Abyssinia. The connection runs deep. And that's no surprise, because the warmth of the hospitality at this beloved Ethiopian spot makes you feel as though you've joined a family for dinner in their home&mdasheven if you happen to be dining alone. A little while back, when I was teaching a writing course at Drexel University, I used to catch an early train from Manhattan just so that I could get a quick, quiet lunch of injera and stews at Abyssinia before dashing to the classroom. But it's even better with a big group. Let's all gather here when the pandemic is over. We'll have a feast. &mdashJG

Alpino Vino (Telluride, CO): Some restaurants are worth the hike, literally. Alpino Vino is a 30-ish seat Italian restaurant burrowed into a cliff way above Telluride (a magical place in and of itself). There&rsquos nothing easy about getting to the place&mdashyou can ski a narrow trail and, well, that&rsquos your option&mdashnor even anything easy about getting a seat. (See: my note about seating 30 people at a time.) But Telluride is the most important it&rsquos where I fell in love with my now husband it&rsquos where we took my family to celebrate our engagement and it&rsquos a place I return to twice a year like clockwork to remember all that. That Alpino Vino serves truly perfect food, both cozy and refined, and has one of the most amazing wine lists I&rsquoll ever experience is just the proverbial cherry on top. No trip west is complete without a visit. &mdashMadison Vain

Al&rsquos Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN): Flapjacks on the griddle. Hazy morning sunlight through stained-glass awnings. Foreign currency tacked to a shelf, above the Magic Markered coffee mugs belonging to various regulars. A sign that says &ldquoBeware of Attack Waitress.&rdquo If a breakfast counter could be the IRL manifestation of a Replacements song, this would be it. &mdashJG

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit, MI): They&rsquore right next to each other on the same block in downtown Detroit, and the story is that theirs is a bitter and endless grudge match. Whatever. The point is that both of them raise a torch for a true regional delight: coneys, which are hot dogs flooded with funky chili, yellow mustard, and raw onions. &mdashJG

Angler (San Francisco, CA): Decadence in the form of wild game and giant crustaceans and magnificent heads of radicchio, sometimes served raw or cooked over open fire, drizzled with truffles or XO sauce, and, on the side, copious amounts of caviar and oysters, atop a magnificent table made from the trunk of a centuries old redwood. Your memories of Angler will be like a hunting lodge fever dream you can&rsquot wait to have over and over. &mdashKevin Sintumuang

Anteprima (Chicago, IL): The chef is not a celebrity. No Michelin Star. It&rsquos not on the James Beard Foundation's radar. These are the very reasons Anteprima is perfect to me. The dining room is always full. The owner greets you at the door. The waitstaff in their long white aprons remember your names and if you prefer sparkling or tap. Anteprima&rsquos menu changes daily. With each micro season we see dishes pristinely representing fresh ingredients. Hakurei turnips, breakfast radish, ramps, and morels in the spring. Corn and tomatoes in the summer. Roots in the fall. Squashes, truffles, and alliums through the winter. I love this place. &mdashIliana Regan

Arnold's (Nashville, TN): Nashville wouldn&rsquot be Nashville without the red-tray, meat-and-three comfort of Arnold&rsquos Country Kitchen. Locals and tourists, writers and musicians, and everyone in between line up cafeteria-style for juicy roast beef carved to order and creamy chocolate chess pies for dessert. No reservations, no pretense. Arnold's simple, straightforward fare is the first thing on my mind when I think about Music City. &mdashOmar Mamoon

Bamboo Garden (Brooklyn, NY): This massive dim sum restaurant is out in Brooklyn&rsquos Chinatown in Sunset Park. With elaborate chandeliers and big banquet tables, it&rsquos always filled with families celebrating special occasions. It's so joyful. Every time we go we get the Peking duck, which is just perfect. &mdashKate Storey

Bar Tabac (Brooklyn, NY): Definition of a neighborhood eatery. Go for the Burgundy snails, and footie matches on the TV. &mdashNick Sullivan

Black-Eyed Susan's (Nantucket, MA): They do breakfast and they do dinner and they do them well, for not many people (it&rsquos tiny) and for cash only, and you&rsquoll remember it. Especially the Pennsylvania Dutch pancakes made with a slice of Jarlsberg. &mdashRD

Blueberry Hill (St. Louis, MO): I have been coming down here&mdashto the loop in St. Louis, one of the greatest streets of food and music in America, that is&mdashfor (the very best!) burgers and live music quite literally since I got keys to a car. It made me feel like a rebel when I was young, out late hearing new bands, buying my own dinners, and it makes me remarkably nostalgic now that I&rsquom not. Also, Chuck Berry played a monthly show here for 200 months in a row, so if you won&rsquot take my word for it, perhaps his will do. &mdashMV

Blue Moon Cafe (Shepherdstown, WV): Locals, tourists from D.C., professors from the small university, all sitting together enjoying buffalo chicken salads and black bean burgers and maybe somebody playing the guitar. &mdashRD

Bouquet (Covington, KY): Maybe you&rsquove grown weary of the phrase &ldquofarm to table.&rdquo Maybe it&rsquos lost its punch, in certain quarters of the country. But Bouquet is a restaurant that makes &ldquofarm to table&rdquo matter again&mdashand in Mitch McConnell&rsquos home state, no less. Chef Stephen Williams opened the restaurant in 2007 &ldquoas one of the first restaurants in the area to embrace local and sustainable farming as a cornerstone of its mission,&rdquo as the place&rsquos website puts it, and that mission hasn&rsquot lost an ounce of passion in the intervening years. The stuff on the menu sounds straightforward enough&mdashdeviled eggs, a green salad, meatballs, a pork chop&mdashbut everything soars because of the chef&rsquos obvious reverence for the ingredients that he uses. Yes, that matters. &mdashJG

Brigtsen&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): &ldquoIf you&rsquove only got one dinner, I&rsquom gonna ask you to leave the Quarter.&rdquo Can&rsquot tell you how many times I&rsquove put first-time visitors to New Orleans in this conceptual bind. &ldquoGo to this little shotgun house on Dante Street and you&rsquoll never forget it.&rdquo At 20 years old, this family-run bistro doesn&rsquot pop up on &ldquonew and hot&rdquo or &ldquoTV chef&rdquo lists, but instead chugs along providing deep hospitality and interpreting Louisiana classics from the Creole, Cajun, and Southern canons that excite the palate and soothe the soul. A local boy and veteran of Paul Prudhomme&rsquos opening brigade at K-Paul&rsquos, chef Frank Brigtsen works magic in an impossibly tiny kitchen with abundant Gulf seafood and our year-round farm bounty. He&rsquoll fry up bayou catfish to delicate, cracking perfection and lay you low with an impossibly savory roast duck on dirty rice. Broiled redfish with a lump crabmeat crust can make the most open-hearted dining companion fiercely territorial. Frank&rsquos wife, Marna, and his sisters, Sandy and Rhonda, run the front of house with an effortless, enveloping friendliness that can turn a harried first-time guest into an instant regular. Also, pecan pie that will haunt your dreams. &mdashPableaux Johnson

Busy Bee (Atlanta, GA): When self-taught cook Mama Lucy Jackson opened Busy Bee Cafe in 1947, she did so on West Hunter Street, one of only two streets available to African American entrepreneurs at the time. Hunter would go on to be named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive after the restaurant&rsquos (and Atlanta&rsquos) most important patron. Back then it was the place for civil rights activists and organizers to safely meet and strategize. Today it&rsquos known as the place with the best fried chicken in the city. The sides are exquisite renderings of Southern staples with the rice and gravy, collards, and mac n&rsquo cheese shining particularly brightly. Don&rsquot miss the cornmeal-dusted and encrusted catfish, made memorable with its steamy and silken flesh. &mdashStephen Satterfield

Canlis (Seattle, WA): If we tell you that Canlis is the &ldquoepitome of elegance,&rdquo which it is, you might get the wrong impression. For three generations, in a black masterpiece of modernist architecture that reaches up and out toward Lake Union like a swimmer about to leap off the starting block, the Canlis family has fine-tuned a form of hospitality so effortless that a &ldquofancy&rdquo meal feels like a reunion with old friends. &mdashJG

Casamento&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): Even when there&rsquos not a pandemic going on, sometimes Casamento&rsquos stays closed for the day. Maybe it&rsquos not the right season for oysters, or maybe somebody&rsquos just not in the mood. Hey, it&rsquos 101 years old, so go easy on the place. When it is open (nowhere near the frat-boy lures of the French Quarter, thank you very much), Casamento&rsquos remains a tiled shrine to briny simplicity. You want a &ldquoloaf,&rdquo which amounts to a heap of fried oysters in between fat slices of white bread. We don&rsquot have to tell you to use a lot of hot sauce, right? &mdashJG

Celeste (Somerville, MA): He spins vintage Chicha, makes Peruvian arthouse films, and mans the fire. She transforms space with a graduate degree in experimental architecture and embraces guests with Guatemalan warmth. Together, husband and wife JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau recast their at-home pop-up into a postmodernist brick-and-mortar paean of Peruvian and Andean spice. Art and aperitivos, pisco and purple corn, neon and neighbors, all pressed together in a tiny, bright vessel designed to amplify joy. The food is sublime, but Celeste (rhymes with &ldquosay yes: play&rdquo) is the greater alchemy of menu, mixtapes, and merrymaking that satiates a deeper kind of hungry. &mdashJason Tesauro

Cochon (New Orleans, LA): The last time I visited New Orleans, I went straight to Cochon from the airport. I began eating lunch alone at the bar, and I began texting my friends, and a couple of them asked whether I was drunk or high&mdashthat&rsquos how effusive I got. A jambalaya studded with pork cheeks and andouille sent me over the edge. I actually started hollering with joy. A bartender asked me whether I was okay. I was humming like a lunatic. &mdashJG

Cowan's Public (Nutley, NJ): The craft-beer, proper-drink, good-food revolution arrived in this corner of North Jersey a few years ago with this simple but beautiful Art Deco restaurant. The town has embraced it like something it never knew it was missing. To lose it would be a step backward. &mdashJohn Kenney

Cozy Corner (Memphis, TN): I told my friend Jay, in Memphis, I want the real thing. He suggested a couple of spots that didn&rsquot sound right to me&mdashtoo tidy, too bougie, too TV-friendly. I said, no, the real fucking thing, and that&rsquos when we went to Cozy Corner, owned by barbecue matriarch Desiree Robinson. We got ribs and fries and a bologna sandwich and a whole Cornish hen practically lacquered in a shiny glaze of sauce. It was as real as real gets. &mdashJG

Cunetto House of Pasta (St. Louis, MO): I know everyone thinks the best Italian food in America is in New York, but I&rsquod argue they haven&rsquot been to the Hill in St. Louis, Missouri. Driving down to these streets and bouncing between the cafes and bakeries and grocers felt like going on an exotic sojourn when I was very young, and the thought of losing any of these mom-and-pop establishments and the culture that goes with them fills me with dread. The crown jewel of the area is Cunetto&rsquos. Aside from being the first place I tried veal (which ended in tears as my parents explained just what veal is), it&rsquos a menu with absolutely no fuss but tons of flavor. Also, they serve amazing toasted raviolis, a St. Louis classic. &mdashMV

Cúrate (Asheville, NC): Great restaurants are like rocket boosters for neighborhoods: Attach a hot spot to a sad stretch of sidewalk and watch everything begin to move. Katie Button&rsquos Cúrate has been that kind of engine for the city of Asheville, giving the local food scene a shot of adrenaline along with all that paella and garlic shrimp and jamón ibérico. She also happens to serve the single best bean dish in America: an Asturian stew called fabada that&rsquos luscious with the fat of housemade chorizo and morcilla. &mdashJG

Diamond Head Grill (Honolulu, HI): This takeout counter on the mauka (mountain) side of Diamond Head isn&rsquot a scenic spot &mdash just a sun-beaten parking lot with a few picnic tables along a concrete wall &mdash but the plate lunches spill over with the likes of miso ginger salmon, kalbi beef and char siu pork, plus a heap of rice: white, brown or, the best, hapa, brown and white together. &mdashLigaya Mishan

Dino's Pizza (Chicago, IL): It was my family&rsquos go-to place for pizza on Friday nights when my brother and I were kids. And it still is for my parents. Nothing fancy. Not trendy, not even in a post-ironic hipster kind of way. (Thank God.) It&rsquos on the edge of Chicago, right next to the suburb where I grew up. The bar attracts mostly cops and firefighters. We&rsquod do carryout, which means when I visit my folks my dad and I leave a few minutes early to pick up the pizza so we can sneak in a beer and a shot before heading home. Important to note that they don&rsquot specialize in deep-dish pizza, but the other kind of Chicago pizza&mdashthe much better kind of Chicago pizza&mdashwhich is pub style: cut into squares, soft but not thick. &mdashMichael Sebastian

Ditch Witch (Montauk, NY): Not a restaurant, traditionally speaking, but this food truck just off Ditch Plains beach in Montauk is half the reason you'll want to go to the beach at all. Their Tomahawk bowl packed with fresh tuna is worth waiting in line for&mdashand you'll have to. &mdashBen Boskovich

Dooky Chase&rsquos Restaurant (New Orleans, LA): Fried chicken, green gumbo, and the strength of legacy. For the better part of her 97 years, different communities in New Orleans turned to chef Leah Chase for sustenance, strength, and good counsel. In the 1960s, civil rights leaders asked for her advice and a meeting place to hash out the end of the segregationist era (over bowls of her gumbo, of course). When levee failures following Hurricane Katrina deluged the city, shocked and displaced citizens took solace and strength from Ms. Leah&rsquos words and determination&mdasheven as she mucked out her own dining room and oversaw renovations from a FEMA trailer parked next to the landmark restaurant in Treme. Her passing in June 2019 broke the hearts of many and put the onus on her family to continue her work, her Holy Thursday traditions, and a successful generational transition&mdashtricky for restaurants even in pre-pandemic times. Thanks to her grandson Edgar &ldquoDooky&rdquo Chase IV in the kitchen and daughter Stella at the helm, locals can still gussy up for lunch buffet (including Ms. Chase&rsquos legendary fried chicken) or indulge on the &ldquoregular menu&rdquo come Friday. Whatever your choice, make sure somebody orders the Creole classic Shrimp Clemenceau&mdashshrimp, crispy potatoes, ham, and mushrooms in garlic&mdashand mask up to meander through the late doyenne&rsquos outstanding African-American art collection. &mdashPJ

Dove&rsquos Luncheonette (Chicago, IL): Okay, here&rsquos the deep secret knowledge possessed by all professional food writers. Are you ready? If you keep wanting to go back to a place, that place is very good. That&rsquos it. And I go back to Dove&rsquos Luncheonette every single time I&rsquom in Chicago. Like clockwork. Usually for breakfast, because breakfast is very important to me, and because the Mexican/Southern mashup served at Dove&rsquos speaks to my Los Angeles soul. Do I want the pozole rojo with carnitas, or should I get the burnt-ends hash with two fried eggs and Texas toast? Doesn&rsquot matter, either way, because I know I&rsquoll be back to try the rest. &mdashJG

Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero, CA): Located along a desolate stretch of Highway 1 in northern California, this restaurant has been in existence since 1897. The recipient of a James Beard award for classic American restaurant in 2003, Duarte&rsquos is firmly not fancy. But what they lack in pretense they make up for in dishes that are at once comforting and offer up a taste of nostalgic coastal California cuisine. Think: artichoke soup, local petrale filet of sole, olallieberry pie. Oh, and the bar is super fun, serving up cheap, tasty martinis and typically packed with colorful locals. &mdashDanny Dumas

Egan and Sons (Montclair, NJ): Remarkably good British/Irish pub food in a bright and open and airy set of rooms. At the heart of it is a soccer bar that draws somehow-not-annoying fans from all over. Best place to watch an EPL match over fish and chips and an oatmeal stout. &mdashJK

El Rey de las Fritas (Miami, FL): Yeah, South Beach is fun, but you haven&rsquot really made contact with Miami&rsquos Latin American spirit until you&rsquove experienced the initiation of the frita. A frita (as interpreted by El Rey, which was founded in the 1970s by Cuban exiles Benito and Gallega Gonzalez) is basically a burger on an airy Cuban bun with an avalanche of shoestring fries and a sweet paste of sautéed onions. It&rsquos a monument, of sorts, to a crucial period in Florida history, and it&rsquos also a damn good snack. &mdashJG

Fork (Philadelphia, PA): I got my first restaurant job at Fork restaurant when I was just out of college. Fork had recently opened and added an elegant vibe to Philadelphia&rsquos Old City. My entire family has dined at Fork and loved every meal&mdashfrom shrimp and grits at brunch to Champagne roasted chicken (takeaway) dinners during quarantine. Every experience at Fork is edifying. Ellen Yin has maintained this gem for more than two decades and I hope it lasts at least another twenty years. &mdashKlancy Miller

Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX): There's a reason for all those lawn chairs lined up outside the place. And yes, it's the brisket, but it's also so much more. And all of it has to do with the guy whose name is on the sign. Aaron Franklin gives a damn about what he's doing, who he's doing it with, and whom he's serving. Wait your turn and you'll see. &mdashBB

Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder, CO): Don&rsquot let the white truffles and caviar scare you off. Frasca may look exclusive if you&rsquore peeking in the window, but inside it&rsquos a house party. Wine guru and manager Bobby Stuckey is a captain of hospitality in the truest, most soulful sense: He makes everyone feel welcome and loved. &mdashJG

Fraunces Tavern (New York, NY): Because Washington said farewell to his officers upstairs, of course, but also because it&rsquos actually still a cozy tavern with surprisingly good food and a warm feeling in the older rooms. The whiskey bar up front is the snuggest place you can be on a winter night in Manhattan. &mdashJK

Freedman's (Los Angeles, CA): An unassuming location with unbelievable Jewish-American fare. You'll get out of the Uber thinking "where am I?" and leave wondering how you'll possibly follow up that meal with anything else. The latke waffle and lox will rock your world. &mdashBB

Galatoire&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): There may be no finer example of Food As Theater / Food as Culture than this Crescent City landmark known for its marathon, booze-saturated Friday lunch. A few months back I fretted to my friend Pableaux, whose family goes way back in Louisiana, that Galatoire&rsquos ran the risk of becoming a mere tourist trap. Pableaux shushed me and set me straight. Galatoire&rsquos matters, he let me know, and Galatoire&rsquos will always matter. &mdashJG

Genova Bakery (Stockton, CA): One of the best towering stacks of Toscano salame, turkey, cheddar, provolone, shredded lettuce, red onion, light mayo, heavy on the mustard on a soft and chewy Milk Roll comes from a 102-year-old bakery in the sepia-toned San Joaquin Valley. As soon as your hand touches the handle on Genova Bakery&rsquos antediluvian wooden screen door, you involuntarily envision the bakery&rsquos inception in 1918. Founded by Angelo and Giovanni Rolleri&mdashat the location it still occupies&mdashGenova Bakery is now owned by Tim Canevari, who&rsquos been working at the bakery since he was in high school. This is the place to grab your Italian goods: bulk biscotti, olives, beans, pasta, in-house made focaccia, and myriad Panettone during Christmas. Canevari took over the business in 2004 and has changed nothing. Nothing. Okay, Canevari added a few additional bread styles such as Dutch crunch, wheat, and sourdough. However, nothing has changed, from the quality of the fresh baked bread, the height of the sandwiches, the narrow-plank original hardwood floors, to the warmth of the employees. All of the character of Genova is intact. Genova Bakery was declared a historical landmark in 1985, for this place is the soul of Stockton. &mdashIllyanna Maisonet

Han Oak (Portland, OR): I still have dreams about Han Oak&mdashactual dreams. I dream about moving to the Pacific Northwest and living with chef Peter Cho and his beautiful family, helping out in the kitchen, learning how to make Korean dumplings, studying the nuances of kimchi. Which isn&rsquot entirely illogical&mdashHan Oak blends into the Cho family&rsquos backyard, and a meal there has the casual vibe of a family reunion around a picnic table. The mere thought of never being able to return to Han Oak makes me heartsick. &mdashJG

Havana (Bar Harbor, ME): A Cuban restaurant in Maine? No: A fantastic Cuban restaurant in Maine. Get the paella with local lobster, a Havana Martini, and call it a night. &mdashRD

Huynh (Houston, TX): Visiting Houston without eating Vietnamese food would be like going to Bologna and neglecting the pasta. There&rsquos always a wait for a seat at this family-owned strip-mall jewel, but the tables turn fast, and everyone with any sense in Houston will tell you that for ten bucks, you&rsquore not going to find a more satisfying and delicious meal than the gingery, herbaceous duck salad known as Goi Vit. &mdashJG

Irvington Delight (Irvington, NY): Amal Suleiman rolls her stuffed grape leaves by hand, and you can tell. In fact, the original vines were brought to the United States from Jordan in the 1980s, so she and her family actually grow the grape leaves and pick them in a backyard in suburban Westchester County. (I like to give the grape leaves a quick scorch in a cast iron skillet so that their surface gets a little blackened and feathery and the spices really bloom.) Suleiman makes the hummus, too, and the hot sauce and the muhammara, and this is why people drop into a seemingly random convenience shop (across the street from a gas station) wanting nothing more than a bag of potato chips and a soda&mdashbut wind up leaving with a stockpile of handmade Middle Eastern treats to bring home for dinner. Irvington Delight is but one example of countless corner stores and bodegas around the United States where people carefully, passionately honor the cuisine of a home country that they left behind. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the places that keep us alive. &mdashJG

J&J's Family Restaurant (Pittsburgh, PA): A greasy spoon diner in a city full of greasy spoon diners worth talking about. J&J's isn't the one you'll see on TV, though. A true family-owned joint that sits atop the city's historic Mount Washington. Assorted coffee mugs that don't match. Serving sizes that'll last you all day. A dining experience that makes you feel like family. &mdashBB

Jitlada (Los Angeles, CA): You haven&rsquot really experienced Los Angeles in all its polyglot glory until you&rsquove gone to Jitlada with a big, hungry group of friends. Even if you know Thai food pretty well, the menu is so expansive that it&rsquos impossible for first-timers to navigate, but you can&rsquot go wrong. Ask irrepressible owner Jazz Singsanong to choose for you, or just point your finger at random&mdashjungle curry crispy pork, spicy crab claw morning glory, turmeric catfish, mussels in green curry&mdashand prepare your mind and palate for a psychedelic wallop of flavor. &mdashJG

Kalaya (Philadelphia, PA): No punches are pulled by chef/owner Chutatip &ldquoNok&rdquo Suntaranon and her remarkably spicy, funky, practically vibrating Thai dishes that are a snapshot of her mother&rsquos recipes she learned while growing up in Southern Thailand. &mdashKS

Keens (New York, NY): In a city of restaurants filled with history, none has more powerful old-school vibes than Keens Chophouse. Walk through the wooden double doors on 36th street and the history hits you as if all of the pipes lining the ceiling were still wafting smoke. Once you take in the antiques and memorabilia, settle on the order: definitely the porterhouse or the mutton chop, always the creamed spinach and the hashbrowns for sides, and yes, you&rsquoll be having a martini. &mdash KS

Kopitiam (New York, NY): For a few slow months in late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic overtook us, I found myself asking friends to meet me for a Malaysian breakfast at Kopitiam. This didn&rsquot make geographical sense, because Kopitiam sits a few blocks from the East River, at the southern end of Manhattan, and I live along the Hudson River in a suburban county north of Manhattan. Which meant that to enjoy this breakfast, I needed to take a Metro-North commuter train into the city, walk from Grand Central to the subway station in Bryant Park, then catch the F train to East Broadway. None of that bothered me. Desire can be impossible to resist. As I took my journey south, I daydreamed about Kopitiam&rsquos oyster omelet, and the triangles of minced chicken gift-wrapped in pandan leaves, and the nasi lemak (fried anchovies and coconut rice make such a perfect pair), and the hand-pulled coffee with condensed milk. Chef Kyo Pang and restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai and their crew have created, with their menu at Kopitiam, a welcome celebration of the Nyonya cuisine of Southeast Asia. But they&rsquove also built a space you can&rsquot help but linger in, a gentle coffeehouse where you want to wait around and study how morning light alters as the afternoon approaches. New York City can be hard on people sanctuaries like Kopitiam make the days a little bit kinder. &mdashJG

La Esperanza Panaderia (Sacramento, CA): Opened in 1969 by Salvador Plasencia, it&rsquos now being operated by Salvador&rsquos grandchildren. All I have to do is walk into this 52-year-old panaderia that anchors Franklin Boulevard in my hometown of Sacramento to bask in the throngs of childhood nostalgia at warp speed. The smell of gingerbread puerquitos, jammy niños, crusty and soft bolillios, churros y mas will bash you in the face as soon as you open the storefront door, and leave you bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Bide your time in the queue by counting the original black and white tiles on the floor, catching glimpses of the frantic bakers through ajar doors, and impatiently staring into the display cases filled with fresh pan dulce made on-site. Staring into the display case is critical. This way you know what you want as soon as you get to the counter and aren&rsquot one of those pandejos who&rsquos constantly asking &ldquo. ooh, and what&rsquos this. &rdquo You don&rsquot need to know which region every different bread is from, or if it was made with organic heirloom purple Oaxacan corn. You&rsquore holding up the line! Shut up, point, order, move down the line, shove it into your gob. Celebratorily, of course. &mdashIM

Larder (Cleveland, OH): America can&rsquot afford to lose the old but it also can&rsquot afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That&rsquos progress. &mdashJG

La Super-Rica (Santa Barbara, CA): Yeah, we know, Julia Child made it iconic when she announced that this Milpas Street taco stand was her favorite restaurant in America. But for those of us who&rsquove spent a portion of our years chilling in Santa Barbara, La Super-Rica is just that slow, breezy, griddle-scented joint on the corner where everyone democratically waits in line (hey, is that Jackson Browne behind me?) for the pure pleasure of hand-pressed tortillas and sizzling pork and melted cheese and potent salsas. Locals know: If there are special tamales or enchiladas on the tiny chalkboard menu, you need to get them. &mdashJG

La Taqueria (San Francisco, CA): People often ask: tacos or burritos? Usually the answer depends on the restaurant, but at La Taqueria, it's both. Owner Miguel Jara grew up in Tijuana and opened his beloved restaurant in 1973 in the Mission District&mdashit&rsquos been a destination for both locals and visitors since. I always like to start with a taco appetizer before moving on to a burrito, which comes packed with proper proportions of plump pinto beans, your protein of choice (I choose charred then chopped carne asada), green guacamole, creamy crema, and melty cheese (there&rsquos no rice at La Taqueria Jara says it simply acts as filler). The burrito is tightly wrapped in foil, nice and compact, like a mini missile ready to launch into your mouth. In-the-know regulars get both burritos and tacos "dorados," so that the tortillas are fried until golden and crispy. Whatever you do, don't forget the salsa. &mdashOM

Lehja (Richmond, VA): Because spice, hospitality, and wine aren&rsquot luxuries&mdashthey&rsquore essentials. Because even in a time of scarcity and fear, chef-owner Sunny Baweja dishes up generosity and joy (and chaat!). Because this unassuming, unexpected jewel in a Virginia mall is one of the very best Indian restaurants in America. &mdashJT

Leo's Taco Truck (Los Angeles, CA): I&rsquove had the privilege of eating at the following three-Michelin-star restaurants: The French Laundry, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Lung King Heen, Single Thread, Alinea. I get just as much satisfaction consuming a platter of al pastor tacos from Leo&rsquos as I do with any of those fancy spots. Leo&rsquos is firmly on the lowbrow/brilliant end of the spectrum&mdashthe OG location is in the parking lot of a gas station on South La Brea and Venice&mdashbut show up on a Friday night at 2 a.m. and the line consistently spills around the block. Ask 100 different Angelenos where the best tacos are in the city and you&rsquoll get 200 answers. But I bet a lot of those responses will have Leo&rsquos in the number one spot. &mdashDD

Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, TX): I remember taking my older kids here a few years ago. They had to be patient. We waited in line, and the line moved slowly. Margot and Toby studied the greasy blackness of the walls&mdashlike the smoke smudges in a French cathedral&mdashuntil we placed our order. We snagged a table. Margot picked up a beef rib that seemed to weigh more than she did. She bit into the juicy meat and her eyes rolled back and she emitted a squeak of unfiltered delight. She polished off the whole rib and then asked for another. They say a father is only as happy as his children are. In that moment, I was happy. &mdashJG

Lowell&rsquos (Seattle, WA): Oh, so you think Pike Place Market is nothing but a tourist trap? Here&rsquos a secret. Go early. Go at dawn, when the only people you&rsquoll see are the stall owners arranging fresh fish on hills of shaved ice, and wait outside the doors of Lowell&rsquos (look for the sign that says &ldquoAlmost Classy Since 1957&rdquo) so that when the place opens at 7 sharp, you can get one of the tables overlooking Elliott Bay. You want an omelet stuff with Dungeness crab&mdashyou&rsquore in a fish market, after all&mdashand maybe also a Hangtown Fry with eggs and bacon and fresh oysters all scrambled together. &mdashJG

Marcel&rsquos by Robert Wiedmaier (Washington, D.C.): In twenty-one years on Pennsylvania Avenue, how many big fish were fêted, state secrets spilt, and will-you-marry-me's uttered behind the curtain at Table 28? How many tinned tons of Sevruga, kilograms of white truffles, and pieds du roi of boudin blanc were squired from copper pan to bone china to shining cloche to starched table again and again in flawless ballet like the Bolshoi? Nowhere in Washington, D.C., is fine-dining done finer. Nowhere is it easier to feel thoroughly at home in a tuxedo. The stewards of slow luxuries must never die. &mdashJT

Metzger Bar & Butchery (Richmond, VA): Schnitzel, schupfnudeln, and schadenfreude. 2020 saw far too much of one and not nearly enough of the other two. Chef Brittanny Anderson opened her little German joint in 2014&mdashan outpost of modern exceptionalism in a historic yet overlooked district. She planted a tiny garden, built dining room furniture from a single tree, put her DJ husband behind the bar spinning drinks and funk, and started serving local takes on trout rillettes, rabbit, and pork chops with carafes of Zweigelt. Every neighborhood needs a place where you can eat three times a week and not get bored or go broke. &mdashJT

Mosquito Supper Club (New Orleans, LA): Crispy, delicate soft-shelled shrimp. Browned cabbage smothered down in salt pork. Rustic seafood gumbo&mdashokra, crab, and shrimp&mdashthat can&rsquot be rushed. Seasonal, savory, and capped with a story or two. Well before chefs the world round embraced &ldquoblackened everything&rdquo as Cajun identifier, south Louisiana folk made magic with simple foods linked to the waters, skies, and land around them. For years chef Melissa Martin ran a series of deep Cajun pop-ups that showcased the foods of her childhood far from the relatively bright city lights of New Orleans. Finally settled for a spell, Martin cooks the seafood-dominant dishes from her coastal hometown of Chauvin, Louisiana (population 2700), in a double-shotgun frame house tucked away in the residential Uptown neighborhood. Her dedication to her family&rsquos traditional foods and family-style hospitality make the Mosquito Supper Club a relaxed, home-style experience that gets you deep into a culture you thought you understood. &mdashPJ

Nanina's in the Park (Belleville, NJ): Okay, this one&rsquos actually a banquet hall, but it&rsquos a keeper. Generations of Newark-area Italian-Americans and those who love them have celebrated weddings, graduations, and first holy communions at this grand and slightly gaudy (so just about right) Italian villa planted at the north end of Branch Brook park. It&rsquos a banquet hall that actually does Italian food really well, because it has to. An institution. &mdashJK


100 Restaurants America Can't Afford to Lose

We're raising a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashbecause if we lose them, we lose who we are.

You know that bistro around the corner, the one where you and your partner first locked eyes across the table? The Southern barbecue joint where, back in the days before the pandemic, you and your comrades used to come together for sweet racks of ribs on Friday nights as another sorry workweek sputtered to a close? The bodega where you&rsquore such a regular that no one has to ask how you like your breakfast sandwich. The taqueria where they nail the salsa verde. The place where you can watch a Korean grandmother making dumplings in the kitchen. The New England landmark with the picnic tables and lobster rolls. Or, wait, how about the trattoria with the long, honey-hued bar and the wine list that makes you want to throw away common sense and max out your credit card?

What if those places were to vanish? What if you were to wake tomorrow morning and learn that that remnant of your life&mdashand that portion of your community&rsquos lingua franca&mdashhad been erased? Such a prospect has been a real threat all year, with the relentless tragedy of COVID-19 leaving many American restaurants, even established classics, on the brink of bankruptcy. The threat will only intensify as winter progresses and restaurateurs have to abandon the outdoor dining that has kept them treading water for months. We love restaurants here at Esquire, and we hope that during this holiday season you&rsquoll consider making donations to Southern Smoke and the Lee Initiative and other organizations that are helping restaurant workers endure the crisis. We also hope you&rsquoll raise a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashthat we consider restaurants that America can&rsquot afford to lose. Because if we lose them, we lose who we are. &mdashJeff Gordinier

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (Noank, CT): Picnic tables on the grass by the water. Steamed lobsters, caught that day, with drawn butter in paper cups. A beer. &mdashRyan D'Agostino

Abyssinia (Philadelphia, PA): "Oh, I love that place." That's what I often hear from Philadelphians whenever I happen to mention Abyssinia. The connection runs deep. And that's no surprise, because the warmth of the hospitality at this beloved Ethiopian spot makes you feel as though you've joined a family for dinner in their home&mdasheven if you happen to be dining alone. A little while back, when I was teaching a writing course at Drexel University, I used to catch an early train from Manhattan just so that I could get a quick, quiet lunch of injera and stews at Abyssinia before dashing to the classroom. But it's even better with a big group. Let's all gather here when the pandemic is over. We'll have a feast. &mdashJG

Alpino Vino (Telluride, CO): Some restaurants are worth the hike, literally. Alpino Vino is a 30-ish seat Italian restaurant burrowed into a cliff way above Telluride (a magical place in and of itself). There&rsquos nothing easy about getting to the place&mdashyou can ski a narrow trail and, well, that&rsquos your option&mdashnor even anything easy about getting a seat. (See: my note about seating 30 people at a time.) But Telluride is the most important it&rsquos where I fell in love with my now husband it&rsquos where we took my family to celebrate our engagement and it&rsquos a place I return to twice a year like clockwork to remember all that. That Alpino Vino serves truly perfect food, both cozy and refined, and has one of the most amazing wine lists I&rsquoll ever experience is just the proverbial cherry on top. No trip west is complete without a visit. &mdashMadison Vain

Al&rsquos Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN): Flapjacks on the griddle. Hazy morning sunlight through stained-glass awnings. Foreign currency tacked to a shelf, above the Magic Markered coffee mugs belonging to various regulars. A sign that says &ldquoBeware of Attack Waitress.&rdquo If a breakfast counter could be the IRL manifestation of a Replacements song, this would be it. &mdashJG

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit, MI): They&rsquore right next to each other on the same block in downtown Detroit, and the story is that theirs is a bitter and endless grudge match. Whatever. The point is that both of them raise a torch for a true regional delight: coneys, which are hot dogs flooded with funky chili, yellow mustard, and raw onions. &mdashJG

Angler (San Francisco, CA): Decadence in the form of wild game and giant crustaceans and magnificent heads of radicchio, sometimes served raw or cooked over open fire, drizzled with truffles or XO sauce, and, on the side, copious amounts of caviar and oysters, atop a magnificent table made from the trunk of a centuries old redwood. Your memories of Angler will be like a hunting lodge fever dream you can&rsquot wait to have over and over. &mdashKevin Sintumuang

Anteprima (Chicago, IL): The chef is not a celebrity. No Michelin Star. It&rsquos not on the James Beard Foundation's radar. These are the very reasons Anteprima is perfect to me. The dining room is always full. The owner greets you at the door. The waitstaff in their long white aprons remember your names and if you prefer sparkling or tap. Anteprima&rsquos menu changes daily. With each micro season we see dishes pristinely representing fresh ingredients. Hakurei turnips, breakfast radish, ramps, and morels in the spring. Corn and tomatoes in the summer. Roots in the fall. Squashes, truffles, and alliums through the winter. I love this place. &mdashIliana Regan

Arnold's (Nashville, TN): Nashville wouldn&rsquot be Nashville without the red-tray, meat-and-three comfort of Arnold&rsquos Country Kitchen. Locals and tourists, writers and musicians, and everyone in between line up cafeteria-style for juicy roast beef carved to order and creamy chocolate chess pies for dessert. No reservations, no pretense. Arnold's simple, straightforward fare is the first thing on my mind when I think about Music City. &mdashOmar Mamoon

Bamboo Garden (Brooklyn, NY): This massive dim sum restaurant is out in Brooklyn&rsquos Chinatown in Sunset Park. With elaborate chandeliers and big banquet tables, it&rsquos always filled with families celebrating special occasions. It's so joyful. Every time we go we get the Peking duck, which is just perfect. &mdashKate Storey

Bar Tabac (Brooklyn, NY): Definition of a neighborhood eatery. Go for the Burgundy snails, and footie matches on the TV. &mdashNick Sullivan

Black-Eyed Susan's (Nantucket, MA): They do breakfast and they do dinner and they do them well, for not many people (it&rsquos tiny) and for cash only, and you&rsquoll remember it. Especially the Pennsylvania Dutch pancakes made with a slice of Jarlsberg. &mdashRD

Blueberry Hill (St. Louis, MO): I have been coming down here&mdashto the loop in St. Louis, one of the greatest streets of food and music in America, that is&mdashfor (the very best!) burgers and live music quite literally since I got keys to a car. It made me feel like a rebel when I was young, out late hearing new bands, buying my own dinners, and it makes me remarkably nostalgic now that I&rsquom not. Also, Chuck Berry played a monthly show here for 200 months in a row, so if you won&rsquot take my word for it, perhaps his will do. &mdashMV

Blue Moon Cafe (Shepherdstown, WV): Locals, tourists from D.C., professors from the small university, all sitting together enjoying buffalo chicken salads and black bean burgers and maybe somebody playing the guitar. &mdashRD

Bouquet (Covington, KY): Maybe you&rsquove grown weary of the phrase &ldquofarm to table.&rdquo Maybe it&rsquos lost its punch, in certain quarters of the country. But Bouquet is a restaurant that makes &ldquofarm to table&rdquo matter again&mdashand in Mitch McConnell&rsquos home state, no less. Chef Stephen Williams opened the restaurant in 2007 &ldquoas one of the first restaurants in the area to embrace local and sustainable farming as a cornerstone of its mission,&rdquo as the place&rsquos website puts it, and that mission hasn&rsquot lost an ounce of passion in the intervening years. The stuff on the menu sounds straightforward enough&mdashdeviled eggs, a green salad, meatballs, a pork chop&mdashbut everything soars because of the chef&rsquos obvious reverence for the ingredients that he uses. Yes, that matters. &mdashJG

Brigtsen&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): &ldquoIf you&rsquove only got one dinner, I&rsquom gonna ask you to leave the Quarter.&rdquo Can&rsquot tell you how many times I&rsquove put first-time visitors to New Orleans in this conceptual bind. &ldquoGo to this little shotgun house on Dante Street and you&rsquoll never forget it.&rdquo At 20 years old, this family-run bistro doesn&rsquot pop up on &ldquonew and hot&rdquo or &ldquoTV chef&rdquo lists, but instead chugs along providing deep hospitality and interpreting Louisiana classics from the Creole, Cajun, and Southern canons that excite the palate and soothe the soul. A local boy and veteran of Paul Prudhomme&rsquos opening brigade at K-Paul&rsquos, chef Frank Brigtsen works magic in an impossibly tiny kitchen with abundant Gulf seafood and our year-round farm bounty. He&rsquoll fry up bayou catfish to delicate, cracking perfection and lay you low with an impossibly savory roast duck on dirty rice. Broiled redfish with a lump crabmeat crust can make the most open-hearted dining companion fiercely territorial. Frank&rsquos wife, Marna, and his sisters, Sandy and Rhonda, run the front of house with an effortless, enveloping friendliness that can turn a harried first-time guest into an instant regular. Also, pecan pie that will haunt your dreams. &mdashPableaux Johnson

Busy Bee (Atlanta, GA): When self-taught cook Mama Lucy Jackson opened Busy Bee Cafe in 1947, she did so on West Hunter Street, one of only two streets available to African American entrepreneurs at the time. Hunter would go on to be named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive after the restaurant&rsquos (and Atlanta&rsquos) most important patron. Back then it was the place for civil rights activists and organizers to safely meet and strategize. Today it&rsquos known as the place with the best fried chicken in the city. The sides are exquisite renderings of Southern staples with the rice and gravy, collards, and mac n&rsquo cheese shining particularly brightly. Don&rsquot miss the cornmeal-dusted and encrusted catfish, made memorable with its steamy and silken flesh. &mdashStephen Satterfield

Canlis (Seattle, WA): If we tell you that Canlis is the &ldquoepitome of elegance,&rdquo which it is, you might get the wrong impression. For three generations, in a black masterpiece of modernist architecture that reaches up and out toward Lake Union like a swimmer about to leap off the starting block, the Canlis family has fine-tuned a form of hospitality so effortless that a &ldquofancy&rdquo meal feels like a reunion with old friends. &mdashJG

Casamento&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): Even when there&rsquos not a pandemic going on, sometimes Casamento&rsquos stays closed for the day. Maybe it&rsquos not the right season for oysters, or maybe somebody&rsquos just not in the mood. Hey, it&rsquos 101 years old, so go easy on the place. When it is open (nowhere near the frat-boy lures of the French Quarter, thank you very much), Casamento&rsquos remains a tiled shrine to briny simplicity. You want a &ldquoloaf,&rdquo which amounts to a heap of fried oysters in between fat slices of white bread. We don&rsquot have to tell you to use a lot of hot sauce, right? &mdashJG

Celeste (Somerville, MA): He spins vintage Chicha, makes Peruvian arthouse films, and mans the fire. She transforms space with a graduate degree in experimental architecture and embraces guests with Guatemalan warmth. Together, husband and wife JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau recast their at-home pop-up into a postmodernist brick-and-mortar paean of Peruvian and Andean spice. Art and aperitivos, pisco and purple corn, neon and neighbors, all pressed together in a tiny, bright vessel designed to amplify joy. The food is sublime, but Celeste (rhymes with &ldquosay yes: play&rdquo) is the greater alchemy of menu, mixtapes, and merrymaking that satiates a deeper kind of hungry. &mdashJason Tesauro

Cochon (New Orleans, LA): The last time I visited New Orleans, I went straight to Cochon from the airport. I began eating lunch alone at the bar, and I began texting my friends, and a couple of them asked whether I was drunk or high&mdashthat&rsquos how effusive I got. A jambalaya studded with pork cheeks and andouille sent me over the edge. I actually started hollering with joy. A bartender asked me whether I was okay. I was humming like a lunatic. &mdashJG

Cowan's Public (Nutley, NJ): The craft-beer, proper-drink, good-food revolution arrived in this corner of North Jersey a few years ago with this simple but beautiful Art Deco restaurant. The town has embraced it like something it never knew it was missing. To lose it would be a step backward. &mdashJohn Kenney

Cozy Corner (Memphis, TN): I told my friend Jay, in Memphis, I want the real thing. He suggested a couple of spots that didn&rsquot sound right to me&mdashtoo tidy, too bougie, too TV-friendly. I said, no, the real fucking thing, and that&rsquos when we went to Cozy Corner, owned by barbecue matriarch Desiree Robinson. We got ribs and fries and a bologna sandwich and a whole Cornish hen practically lacquered in a shiny glaze of sauce. It was as real as real gets. &mdashJG

Cunetto House of Pasta (St. Louis, MO): I know everyone thinks the best Italian food in America is in New York, but I&rsquod argue they haven&rsquot been to the Hill in St. Louis, Missouri. Driving down to these streets and bouncing between the cafes and bakeries and grocers felt like going on an exotic sojourn when I was very young, and the thought of losing any of these mom-and-pop establishments and the culture that goes with them fills me with dread. The crown jewel of the area is Cunetto&rsquos. Aside from being the first place I tried veal (which ended in tears as my parents explained just what veal is), it&rsquos a menu with absolutely no fuss but tons of flavor. Also, they serve amazing toasted raviolis, a St. Louis classic. &mdashMV

Cúrate (Asheville, NC): Great restaurants are like rocket boosters for neighborhoods: Attach a hot spot to a sad stretch of sidewalk and watch everything begin to move. Katie Button&rsquos Cúrate has been that kind of engine for the city of Asheville, giving the local food scene a shot of adrenaline along with all that paella and garlic shrimp and jamón ibérico. She also happens to serve the single best bean dish in America: an Asturian stew called fabada that&rsquos luscious with the fat of housemade chorizo and morcilla. &mdashJG

Diamond Head Grill (Honolulu, HI): This takeout counter on the mauka (mountain) side of Diamond Head isn&rsquot a scenic spot &mdash just a sun-beaten parking lot with a few picnic tables along a concrete wall &mdash but the plate lunches spill over with the likes of miso ginger salmon, kalbi beef and char siu pork, plus a heap of rice: white, brown or, the best, hapa, brown and white together. &mdashLigaya Mishan

Dino's Pizza (Chicago, IL): It was my family&rsquos go-to place for pizza on Friday nights when my brother and I were kids. And it still is for my parents. Nothing fancy. Not trendy, not even in a post-ironic hipster kind of way. (Thank God.) It&rsquos on the edge of Chicago, right next to the suburb where I grew up. The bar attracts mostly cops and firefighters. We&rsquod do carryout, which means when I visit my folks my dad and I leave a few minutes early to pick up the pizza so we can sneak in a beer and a shot before heading home. Important to note that they don&rsquot specialize in deep-dish pizza, but the other kind of Chicago pizza&mdashthe much better kind of Chicago pizza&mdashwhich is pub style: cut into squares, soft but not thick. &mdashMichael Sebastian

Ditch Witch (Montauk, NY): Not a restaurant, traditionally speaking, but this food truck just off Ditch Plains beach in Montauk is half the reason you'll want to go to the beach at all. Their Tomahawk bowl packed with fresh tuna is worth waiting in line for&mdashand you'll have to. &mdashBen Boskovich

Dooky Chase&rsquos Restaurant (New Orleans, LA): Fried chicken, green gumbo, and the strength of legacy. For the better part of her 97 years, different communities in New Orleans turned to chef Leah Chase for sustenance, strength, and good counsel. In the 1960s, civil rights leaders asked for her advice and a meeting place to hash out the end of the segregationist era (over bowls of her gumbo, of course). When levee failures following Hurricane Katrina deluged the city, shocked and displaced citizens took solace and strength from Ms. Leah&rsquos words and determination&mdasheven as she mucked out her own dining room and oversaw renovations from a FEMA trailer parked next to the landmark restaurant in Treme. Her passing in June 2019 broke the hearts of many and put the onus on her family to continue her work, her Holy Thursday traditions, and a successful generational transition&mdashtricky for restaurants even in pre-pandemic times. Thanks to her grandson Edgar &ldquoDooky&rdquo Chase IV in the kitchen and daughter Stella at the helm, locals can still gussy up for lunch buffet (including Ms. Chase&rsquos legendary fried chicken) or indulge on the &ldquoregular menu&rdquo come Friday. Whatever your choice, make sure somebody orders the Creole classic Shrimp Clemenceau&mdashshrimp, crispy potatoes, ham, and mushrooms in garlic&mdashand mask up to meander through the late doyenne&rsquos outstanding African-American art collection. &mdashPJ

Dove&rsquos Luncheonette (Chicago, IL): Okay, here&rsquos the deep secret knowledge possessed by all professional food writers. Are you ready? If you keep wanting to go back to a place, that place is very good. That&rsquos it. And I go back to Dove&rsquos Luncheonette every single time I&rsquom in Chicago. Like clockwork. Usually for breakfast, because breakfast is very important to me, and because the Mexican/Southern mashup served at Dove&rsquos speaks to my Los Angeles soul. Do I want the pozole rojo with carnitas, or should I get the burnt-ends hash with two fried eggs and Texas toast? Doesn&rsquot matter, either way, because I know I&rsquoll be back to try the rest. &mdashJG

Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero, CA): Located along a desolate stretch of Highway 1 in northern California, this restaurant has been in existence since 1897. The recipient of a James Beard award for classic American restaurant in 2003, Duarte&rsquos is firmly not fancy. But what they lack in pretense they make up for in dishes that are at once comforting and offer up a taste of nostalgic coastal California cuisine. Think: artichoke soup, local petrale filet of sole, olallieberry pie. Oh, and the bar is super fun, serving up cheap, tasty martinis and typically packed with colorful locals. &mdashDanny Dumas

Egan and Sons (Montclair, NJ): Remarkably good British/Irish pub food in a bright and open and airy set of rooms. At the heart of it is a soccer bar that draws somehow-not-annoying fans from all over. Best place to watch an EPL match over fish and chips and an oatmeal stout. &mdashJK

El Rey de las Fritas (Miami, FL): Yeah, South Beach is fun, but you haven&rsquot really made contact with Miami&rsquos Latin American spirit until you&rsquove experienced the initiation of the frita. A frita (as interpreted by El Rey, which was founded in the 1970s by Cuban exiles Benito and Gallega Gonzalez) is basically a burger on an airy Cuban bun with an avalanche of shoestring fries and a sweet paste of sautéed onions. It&rsquos a monument, of sorts, to a crucial period in Florida history, and it&rsquos also a damn good snack. &mdashJG

Fork (Philadelphia, PA): I got my first restaurant job at Fork restaurant when I was just out of college. Fork had recently opened and added an elegant vibe to Philadelphia&rsquos Old City. My entire family has dined at Fork and loved every meal&mdashfrom shrimp and grits at brunch to Champagne roasted chicken (takeaway) dinners during quarantine. Every experience at Fork is edifying. Ellen Yin has maintained this gem for more than two decades and I hope it lasts at least another twenty years. &mdashKlancy Miller

Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX): There's a reason for all those lawn chairs lined up outside the place. And yes, it's the brisket, but it's also so much more. And all of it has to do with the guy whose name is on the sign. Aaron Franklin gives a damn about what he's doing, who he's doing it with, and whom he's serving. Wait your turn and you'll see. &mdashBB

Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder, CO): Don&rsquot let the white truffles and caviar scare you off. Frasca may look exclusive if you&rsquore peeking in the window, but inside it&rsquos a house party. Wine guru and manager Bobby Stuckey is a captain of hospitality in the truest, most soulful sense: He makes everyone feel welcome and loved. &mdashJG

Fraunces Tavern (New York, NY): Because Washington said farewell to his officers upstairs, of course, but also because it&rsquos actually still a cozy tavern with surprisingly good food and a warm feeling in the older rooms. The whiskey bar up front is the snuggest place you can be on a winter night in Manhattan. &mdashJK

Freedman's (Los Angeles, CA): An unassuming location with unbelievable Jewish-American fare. You'll get out of the Uber thinking "where am I?" and leave wondering how you'll possibly follow up that meal with anything else. The latke waffle and lox will rock your world. &mdashBB

Galatoire&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): There may be no finer example of Food As Theater / Food as Culture than this Crescent City landmark known for its marathon, booze-saturated Friday lunch. A few months back I fretted to my friend Pableaux, whose family goes way back in Louisiana, that Galatoire&rsquos ran the risk of becoming a mere tourist trap. Pableaux shushed me and set me straight. Galatoire&rsquos matters, he let me know, and Galatoire&rsquos will always matter. &mdashJG

Genova Bakery (Stockton, CA): One of the best towering stacks of Toscano salame, turkey, cheddar, provolone, shredded lettuce, red onion, light mayo, heavy on the mustard on a soft and chewy Milk Roll comes from a 102-year-old bakery in the sepia-toned San Joaquin Valley. As soon as your hand touches the handle on Genova Bakery&rsquos antediluvian wooden screen door, you involuntarily envision the bakery&rsquos inception in 1918. Founded by Angelo and Giovanni Rolleri&mdashat the location it still occupies&mdashGenova Bakery is now owned by Tim Canevari, who&rsquos been working at the bakery since he was in high school. This is the place to grab your Italian goods: bulk biscotti, olives, beans, pasta, in-house made focaccia, and myriad Panettone during Christmas. Canevari took over the business in 2004 and has changed nothing. Nothing. Okay, Canevari added a few additional bread styles such as Dutch crunch, wheat, and sourdough. However, nothing has changed, from the quality of the fresh baked bread, the height of the sandwiches, the narrow-plank original hardwood floors, to the warmth of the employees. All of the character of Genova is intact. Genova Bakery was declared a historical landmark in 1985, for this place is the soul of Stockton. &mdashIllyanna Maisonet

Han Oak (Portland, OR): I still have dreams about Han Oak&mdashactual dreams. I dream about moving to the Pacific Northwest and living with chef Peter Cho and his beautiful family, helping out in the kitchen, learning how to make Korean dumplings, studying the nuances of kimchi. Which isn&rsquot entirely illogical&mdashHan Oak blends into the Cho family&rsquos backyard, and a meal there has the casual vibe of a family reunion around a picnic table. The mere thought of never being able to return to Han Oak makes me heartsick. &mdashJG

Havana (Bar Harbor, ME): A Cuban restaurant in Maine? No: A fantastic Cuban restaurant in Maine. Get the paella with local lobster, a Havana Martini, and call it a night. &mdashRD

Huynh (Houston, TX): Visiting Houston without eating Vietnamese food would be like going to Bologna and neglecting the pasta. There&rsquos always a wait for a seat at this family-owned strip-mall jewel, but the tables turn fast, and everyone with any sense in Houston will tell you that for ten bucks, you&rsquore not going to find a more satisfying and delicious meal than the gingery, herbaceous duck salad known as Goi Vit. &mdashJG

Irvington Delight (Irvington, NY): Amal Suleiman rolls her stuffed grape leaves by hand, and you can tell. In fact, the original vines were brought to the United States from Jordan in the 1980s, so she and her family actually grow the grape leaves and pick them in a backyard in suburban Westchester County. (I like to give the grape leaves a quick scorch in a cast iron skillet so that their surface gets a little blackened and feathery and the spices really bloom.) Suleiman makes the hummus, too, and the hot sauce and the muhammara, and this is why people drop into a seemingly random convenience shop (across the street from a gas station) wanting nothing more than a bag of potato chips and a soda&mdashbut wind up leaving with a stockpile of handmade Middle Eastern treats to bring home for dinner. Irvington Delight is but one example of countless corner stores and bodegas around the United States where people carefully, passionately honor the cuisine of a home country that they left behind. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the places that keep us alive. &mdashJG

J&J's Family Restaurant (Pittsburgh, PA): A greasy spoon diner in a city full of greasy spoon diners worth talking about. J&J's isn't the one you'll see on TV, though. A true family-owned joint that sits atop the city's historic Mount Washington. Assorted coffee mugs that don't match. Serving sizes that'll last you all day. A dining experience that makes you feel like family. &mdashBB

Jitlada (Los Angeles, CA): You haven&rsquot really experienced Los Angeles in all its polyglot glory until you&rsquove gone to Jitlada with a big, hungry group of friends. Even if you know Thai food pretty well, the menu is so expansive that it&rsquos impossible for first-timers to navigate, but you can&rsquot go wrong. Ask irrepressible owner Jazz Singsanong to choose for you, or just point your finger at random&mdashjungle curry crispy pork, spicy crab claw morning glory, turmeric catfish, mussels in green curry&mdashand prepare your mind and palate for a psychedelic wallop of flavor. &mdashJG

Kalaya (Philadelphia, PA): No punches are pulled by chef/owner Chutatip &ldquoNok&rdquo Suntaranon and her remarkably spicy, funky, practically vibrating Thai dishes that are a snapshot of her mother&rsquos recipes she learned while growing up in Southern Thailand. &mdashKS

Keens (New York, NY): In a city of restaurants filled with history, none has more powerful old-school vibes than Keens Chophouse. Walk through the wooden double doors on 36th street and the history hits you as if all of the pipes lining the ceiling were still wafting smoke. Once you take in the antiques and memorabilia, settle on the order: definitely the porterhouse or the mutton chop, always the creamed spinach and the hashbrowns for sides, and yes, you&rsquoll be having a martini. &mdash KS

Kopitiam (New York, NY): For a few slow months in late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic overtook us, I found myself asking friends to meet me for a Malaysian breakfast at Kopitiam. This didn&rsquot make geographical sense, because Kopitiam sits a few blocks from the East River, at the southern end of Manhattan, and I live along the Hudson River in a suburban county north of Manhattan. Which meant that to enjoy this breakfast, I needed to take a Metro-North commuter train into the city, walk from Grand Central to the subway station in Bryant Park, then catch the F train to East Broadway. None of that bothered me. Desire can be impossible to resist. As I took my journey south, I daydreamed about Kopitiam&rsquos oyster omelet, and the triangles of minced chicken gift-wrapped in pandan leaves, and the nasi lemak (fried anchovies and coconut rice make such a perfect pair), and the hand-pulled coffee with condensed milk. Chef Kyo Pang and restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai and their crew have created, with their menu at Kopitiam, a welcome celebration of the Nyonya cuisine of Southeast Asia. But they&rsquove also built a space you can&rsquot help but linger in, a gentle coffeehouse where you want to wait around and study how morning light alters as the afternoon approaches. New York City can be hard on people sanctuaries like Kopitiam make the days a little bit kinder. &mdashJG

La Esperanza Panaderia (Sacramento, CA): Opened in 1969 by Salvador Plasencia, it&rsquos now being operated by Salvador&rsquos grandchildren. All I have to do is walk into this 52-year-old panaderia that anchors Franklin Boulevard in my hometown of Sacramento to bask in the throngs of childhood nostalgia at warp speed. The smell of gingerbread puerquitos, jammy niños, crusty and soft bolillios, churros y mas will bash you in the face as soon as you open the storefront door, and leave you bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Bide your time in the queue by counting the original black and white tiles on the floor, catching glimpses of the frantic bakers through ajar doors, and impatiently staring into the display cases filled with fresh pan dulce made on-site. Staring into the display case is critical. This way you know what you want as soon as you get to the counter and aren&rsquot one of those pandejos who&rsquos constantly asking &ldquo. ooh, and what&rsquos this. &rdquo You don&rsquot need to know which region every different bread is from, or if it was made with organic heirloom purple Oaxacan corn. You&rsquore holding up the line! Shut up, point, order, move down the line, shove it into your gob. Celebratorily, of course. &mdashIM

Larder (Cleveland, OH): America can&rsquot afford to lose the old but it also can&rsquot afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That&rsquos progress. &mdashJG

La Super-Rica (Santa Barbara, CA): Yeah, we know, Julia Child made it iconic when she announced that this Milpas Street taco stand was her favorite restaurant in America. But for those of us who&rsquove spent a portion of our years chilling in Santa Barbara, La Super-Rica is just that slow, breezy, griddle-scented joint on the corner where everyone democratically waits in line (hey, is that Jackson Browne behind me?) for the pure pleasure of hand-pressed tortillas and sizzling pork and melted cheese and potent salsas. Locals know: If there are special tamales or enchiladas on the tiny chalkboard menu, you need to get them. &mdashJG

La Taqueria (San Francisco, CA): People often ask: tacos or burritos? Usually the answer depends on the restaurant, but at La Taqueria, it's both. Owner Miguel Jara grew up in Tijuana and opened his beloved restaurant in 1973 in the Mission District&mdashit&rsquos been a destination for both locals and visitors since. I always like to start with a taco appetizer before moving on to a burrito, which comes packed with proper proportions of plump pinto beans, your protein of choice (I choose charred then chopped carne asada), green guacamole, creamy crema, and melty cheese (there&rsquos no rice at La Taqueria Jara says it simply acts as filler). The burrito is tightly wrapped in foil, nice and compact, like a mini missile ready to launch into your mouth. In-the-know regulars get both burritos and tacos "dorados," so that the tortillas are fried until golden and crispy. Whatever you do, don't forget the salsa. &mdashOM

Lehja (Richmond, VA): Because spice, hospitality, and wine aren&rsquot luxuries&mdashthey&rsquore essentials. Because even in a time of scarcity and fear, chef-owner Sunny Baweja dishes up generosity and joy (and chaat!). Because this unassuming, unexpected jewel in a Virginia mall is one of the very best Indian restaurants in America. &mdashJT

Leo's Taco Truck (Los Angeles, CA): I&rsquove had the privilege of eating at the following three-Michelin-star restaurants: The French Laundry, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Lung King Heen, Single Thread, Alinea. I get just as much satisfaction consuming a platter of al pastor tacos from Leo&rsquos as I do with any of those fancy spots. Leo&rsquos is firmly on the lowbrow/brilliant end of the spectrum&mdashthe OG location is in the parking lot of a gas station on South La Brea and Venice&mdashbut show up on a Friday night at 2 a.m. and the line consistently spills around the block. Ask 100 different Angelenos where the best tacos are in the city and you&rsquoll get 200 answers. But I bet a lot of those responses will have Leo&rsquos in the number one spot. &mdashDD

Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, TX): I remember taking my older kids here a few years ago. They had to be patient. We waited in line, and the line moved slowly. Margot and Toby studied the greasy blackness of the walls&mdashlike the smoke smudges in a French cathedral&mdashuntil we placed our order. We snagged a table. Margot picked up a beef rib that seemed to weigh more than she did. She bit into the juicy meat and her eyes rolled back and she emitted a squeak of unfiltered delight. She polished off the whole rib and then asked for another. They say a father is only as happy as his children are. In that moment, I was happy. &mdashJG

Lowell&rsquos (Seattle, WA): Oh, so you think Pike Place Market is nothing but a tourist trap? Here&rsquos a secret. Go early. Go at dawn, when the only people you&rsquoll see are the stall owners arranging fresh fish on hills of shaved ice, and wait outside the doors of Lowell&rsquos (look for the sign that says &ldquoAlmost Classy Since 1957&rdquo) so that when the place opens at 7 sharp, you can get one of the tables overlooking Elliott Bay. You want an omelet stuff with Dungeness crab&mdashyou&rsquore in a fish market, after all&mdashand maybe also a Hangtown Fry with eggs and bacon and fresh oysters all scrambled together. &mdashJG

Marcel&rsquos by Robert Wiedmaier (Washington, D.C.): In twenty-one years on Pennsylvania Avenue, how many big fish were fêted, state secrets spilt, and will-you-marry-me's uttered behind the curtain at Table 28? How many tinned tons of Sevruga, kilograms of white truffles, and pieds du roi of boudin blanc were squired from copper pan to bone china to shining cloche to starched table again and again in flawless ballet like the Bolshoi? Nowhere in Washington, D.C., is fine-dining done finer. Nowhere is it easier to feel thoroughly at home in a tuxedo. The stewards of slow luxuries must never die. &mdashJT

Metzger Bar & Butchery (Richmond, VA): Schnitzel, schupfnudeln, and schadenfreude. 2020 saw far too much of one and not nearly enough of the other two. Chef Brittanny Anderson opened her little German joint in 2014&mdashan outpost of modern exceptionalism in a historic yet overlooked district. She planted a tiny garden, built dining room furniture from a single tree, put her DJ husband behind the bar spinning drinks and funk, and started serving local takes on trout rillettes, rabbit, and pork chops with carafes of Zweigelt. Every neighborhood needs a place where you can eat three times a week and not get bored or go broke. &mdashJT

Mosquito Supper Club (New Orleans, LA): Crispy, delicate soft-shelled shrimp. Browned cabbage smothered down in salt pork. Rustic seafood gumbo&mdashokra, crab, and shrimp&mdashthat can&rsquot be rushed. Seasonal, savory, and capped with a story or two. Well before chefs the world round embraced &ldquoblackened everything&rdquo as Cajun identifier, south Louisiana folk made magic with simple foods linked to the waters, skies, and land around them. For years chef Melissa Martin ran a series of deep Cajun pop-ups that showcased the foods of her childhood far from the relatively bright city lights of New Orleans. Finally settled for a spell, Martin cooks the seafood-dominant dishes from her coastal hometown of Chauvin, Louisiana (population 2700), in a double-shotgun frame house tucked away in the residential Uptown neighborhood. Her dedication to her family&rsquos traditional foods and family-style hospitality make the Mosquito Supper Club a relaxed, home-style experience that gets you deep into a culture you thought you understood. &mdashPJ

Nanina's in the Park (Belleville, NJ): Okay, this one&rsquos actually a banquet hall, but it&rsquos a keeper. Generations of Newark-area Italian-Americans and those who love them have celebrated weddings, graduations, and first holy communions at this grand and slightly gaudy (so just about right) Italian villa planted at the north end of Branch Brook park. It&rsquos a banquet hall that actually does Italian food really well, because it has to. An institution. &mdashJK


100 Restaurants America Can't Afford to Lose

We're raising a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashbecause if we lose them, we lose who we are.

You know that bistro around the corner, the one where you and your partner first locked eyes across the table? The Southern barbecue joint where, back in the days before the pandemic, you and your comrades used to come together for sweet racks of ribs on Friday nights as another sorry workweek sputtered to a close? The bodega where you&rsquore such a regular that no one has to ask how you like your breakfast sandwich. The taqueria where they nail the salsa verde. The place where you can watch a Korean grandmother making dumplings in the kitchen. The New England landmark with the picnic tables and lobster rolls. Or, wait, how about the trattoria with the long, honey-hued bar and the wine list that makes you want to throw away common sense and max out your credit card?

What if those places were to vanish? What if you were to wake tomorrow morning and learn that that remnant of your life&mdashand that portion of your community&rsquos lingua franca&mdashhad been erased? Such a prospect has been a real threat all year, with the relentless tragedy of COVID-19 leaving many American restaurants, even established classics, on the brink of bankruptcy. The threat will only intensify as winter progresses and restaurateurs have to abandon the outdoor dining that has kept them treading water for months. We love restaurants here at Esquire, and we hope that during this holiday season you&rsquoll consider making donations to Southern Smoke and the Lee Initiative and other organizations that are helping restaurant workers endure the crisis. We also hope you&rsquoll raise a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashthat we consider restaurants that America can&rsquot afford to lose. Because if we lose them, we lose who we are. &mdashJeff Gordinier

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (Noank, CT): Picnic tables on the grass by the water. Steamed lobsters, caught that day, with drawn butter in paper cups. A beer. &mdashRyan D'Agostino

Abyssinia (Philadelphia, PA): "Oh, I love that place." That's what I often hear from Philadelphians whenever I happen to mention Abyssinia. The connection runs deep. And that's no surprise, because the warmth of the hospitality at this beloved Ethiopian spot makes you feel as though you've joined a family for dinner in their home&mdasheven if you happen to be dining alone. A little while back, when I was teaching a writing course at Drexel University, I used to catch an early train from Manhattan just so that I could get a quick, quiet lunch of injera and stews at Abyssinia before dashing to the classroom. But it's even better with a big group. Let's all gather here when the pandemic is over. We'll have a feast. &mdashJG

Alpino Vino (Telluride, CO): Some restaurants are worth the hike, literally. Alpino Vino is a 30-ish seat Italian restaurant burrowed into a cliff way above Telluride (a magical place in and of itself). There&rsquos nothing easy about getting to the place&mdashyou can ski a narrow trail and, well, that&rsquos your option&mdashnor even anything easy about getting a seat. (See: my note about seating 30 people at a time.) But Telluride is the most important it&rsquos where I fell in love with my now husband it&rsquos where we took my family to celebrate our engagement and it&rsquos a place I return to twice a year like clockwork to remember all that. That Alpino Vino serves truly perfect food, both cozy and refined, and has one of the most amazing wine lists I&rsquoll ever experience is just the proverbial cherry on top. No trip west is complete without a visit. &mdashMadison Vain

Al&rsquos Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN): Flapjacks on the griddle. Hazy morning sunlight through stained-glass awnings. Foreign currency tacked to a shelf, above the Magic Markered coffee mugs belonging to various regulars. A sign that says &ldquoBeware of Attack Waitress.&rdquo If a breakfast counter could be the IRL manifestation of a Replacements song, this would be it. &mdashJG

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit, MI): They&rsquore right next to each other on the same block in downtown Detroit, and the story is that theirs is a bitter and endless grudge match. Whatever. The point is that both of them raise a torch for a true regional delight: coneys, which are hot dogs flooded with funky chili, yellow mustard, and raw onions. &mdashJG

Angler (San Francisco, CA): Decadence in the form of wild game and giant crustaceans and magnificent heads of radicchio, sometimes served raw or cooked over open fire, drizzled with truffles or XO sauce, and, on the side, copious amounts of caviar and oysters, atop a magnificent table made from the trunk of a centuries old redwood. Your memories of Angler will be like a hunting lodge fever dream you can&rsquot wait to have over and over. &mdashKevin Sintumuang

Anteprima (Chicago, IL): The chef is not a celebrity. No Michelin Star. It&rsquos not on the James Beard Foundation's radar. These are the very reasons Anteprima is perfect to me. The dining room is always full. The owner greets you at the door. The waitstaff in their long white aprons remember your names and if you prefer sparkling or tap. Anteprima&rsquos menu changes daily. With each micro season we see dishes pristinely representing fresh ingredients. Hakurei turnips, breakfast radish, ramps, and morels in the spring. Corn and tomatoes in the summer. Roots in the fall. Squashes, truffles, and alliums through the winter. I love this place. &mdashIliana Regan

Arnold's (Nashville, TN): Nashville wouldn&rsquot be Nashville without the red-tray, meat-and-three comfort of Arnold&rsquos Country Kitchen. Locals and tourists, writers and musicians, and everyone in between line up cafeteria-style for juicy roast beef carved to order and creamy chocolate chess pies for dessert. No reservations, no pretense. Arnold's simple, straightforward fare is the first thing on my mind when I think about Music City. &mdashOmar Mamoon

Bamboo Garden (Brooklyn, NY): This massive dim sum restaurant is out in Brooklyn&rsquos Chinatown in Sunset Park. With elaborate chandeliers and big banquet tables, it&rsquos always filled with families celebrating special occasions. It's so joyful. Every time we go we get the Peking duck, which is just perfect. &mdashKate Storey

Bar Tabac (Brooklyn, NY): Definition of a neighborhood eatery. Go for the Burgundy snails, and footie matches on the TV. &mdashNick Sullivan

Black-Eyed Susan's (Nantucket, MA): They do breakfast and they do dinner and they do them well, for not many people (it&rsquos tiny) and for cash only, and you&rsquoll remember it. Especially the Pennsylvania Dutch pancakes made with a slice of Jarlsberg. &mdashRD

Blueberry Hill (St. Louis, MO): I have been coming down here&mdashto the loop in St. Louis, one of the greatest streets of food and music in America, that is&mdashfor (the very best!) burgers and live music quite literally since I got keys to a car. It made me feel like a rebel when I was young, out late hearing new bands, buying my own dinners, and it makes me remarkably nostalgic now that I&rsquom not. Also, Chuck Berry played a monthly show here for 200 months in a row, so if you won&rsquot take my word for it, perhaps his will do. &mdashMV

Blue Moon Cafe (Shepherdstown, WV): Locals, tourists from D.C., professors from the small university, all sitting together enjoying buffalo chicken salads and black bean burgers and maybe somebody playing the guitar. &mdashRD

Bouquet (Covington, KY): Maybe you&rsquove grown weary of the phrase &ldquofarm to table.&rdquo Maybe it&rsquos lost its punch, in certain quarters of the country. But Bouquet is a restaurant that makes &ldquofarm to table&rdquo matter again&mdashand in Mitch McConnell&rsquos home state, no less. Chef Stephen Williams opened the restaurant in 2007 &ldquoas one of the first restaurants in the area to embrace local and sustainable farming as a cornerstone of its mission,&rdquo as the place&rsquos website puts it, and that mission hasn&rsquot lost an ounce of passion in the intervening years. The stuff on the menu sounds straightforward enough&mdashdeviled eggs, a green salad, meatballs, a pork chop&mdashbut everything soars because of the chef&rsquos obvious reverence for the ingredients that he uses. Yes, that matters. &mdashJG

Brigtsen&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): &ldquoIf you&rsquove only got one dinner, I&rsquom gonna ask you to leave the Quarter.&rdquo Can&rsquot tell you how many times I&rsquove put first-time visitors to New Orleans in this conceptual bind. &ldquoGo to this little shotgun house on Dante Street and you&rsquoll never forget it.&rdquo At 20 years old, this family-run bistro doesn&rsquot pop up on &ldquonew and hot&rdquo or &ldquoTV chef&rdquo lists, but instead chugs along providing deep hospitality and interpreting Louisiana classics from the Creole, Cajun, and Southern canons that excite the palate and soothe the soul. A local boy and veteran of Paul Prudhomme&rsquos opening brigade at K-Paul&rsquos, chef Frank Brigtsen works magic in an impossibly tiny kitchen with abundant Gulf seafood and our year-round farm bounty. He&rsquoll fry up bayou catfish to delicate, cracking perfection and lay you low with an impossibly savory roast duck on dirty rice. Broiled redfish with a lump crabmeat crust can make the most open-hearted dining companion fiercely territorial. Frank&rsquos wife, Marna, and his sisters, Sandy and Rhonda, run the front of house with an effortless, enveloping friendliness that can turn a harried first-time guest into an instant regular. Also, pecan pie that will haunt your dreams. &mdashPableaux Johnson

Busy Bee (Atlanta, GA): When self-taught cook Mama Lucy Jackson opened Busy Bee Cafe in 1947, she did so on West Hunter Street, one of only two streets available to African American entrepreneurs at the time. Hunter would go on to be named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive after the restaurant&rsquos (and Atlanta&rsquos) most important patron. Back then it was the place for civil rights activists and organizers to safely meet and strategize. Today it&rsquos known as the place with the best fried chicken in the city. The sides are exquisite renderings of Southern staples with the rice and gravy, collards, and mac n&rsquo cheese shining particularly brightly. Don&rsquot miss the cornmeal-dusted and encrusted catfish, made memorable with its steamy and silken flesh. &mdashStephen Satterfield

Canlis (Seattle, WA): If we tell you that Canlis is the &ldquoepitome of elegance,&rdquo which it is, you might get the wrong impression. For three generations, in a black masterpiece of modernist architecture that reaches up and out toward Lake Union like a swimmer about to leap off the starting block, the Canlis family has fine-tuned a form of hospitality so effortless that a &ldquofancy&rdquo meal feels like a reunion with old friends. &mdashJG

Casamento&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): Even when there&rsquos not a pandemic going on, sometimes Casamento&rsquos stays closed for the day. Maybe it&rsquos not the right season for oysters, or maybe somebody&rsquos just not in the mood. Hey, it&rsquos 101 years old, so go easy on the place. When it is open (nowhere near the frat-boy lures of the French Quarter, thank you very much), Casamento&rsquos remains a tiled shrine to briny simplicity. You want a &ldquoloaf,&rdquo which amounts to a heap of fried oysters in between fat slices of white bread. We don&rsquot have to tell you to use a lot of hot sauce, right? &mdashJG

Celeste (Somerville, MA): He spins vintage Chicha, makes Peruvian arthouse films, and mans the fire. She transforms space with a graduate degree in experimental architecture and embraces guests with Guatemalan warmth. Together, husband and wife JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau recast their at-home pop-up into a postmodernist brick-and-mortar paean of Peruvian and Andean spice. Art and aperitivos, pisco and purple corn, neon and neighbors, all pressed together in a tiny, bright vessel designed to amplify joy. The food is sublime, but Celeste (rhymes with &ldquosay yes: play&rdquo) is the greater alchemy of menu, mixtapes, and merrymaking that satiates a deeper kind of hungry. &mdashJason Tesauro

Cochon (New Orleans, LA): The last time I visited New Orleans, I went straight to Cochon from the airport. I began eating lunch alone at the bar, and I began texting my friends, and a couple of them asked whether I was drunk or high&mdashthat&rsquos how effusive I got. A jambalaya studded with pork cheeks and andouille sent me over the edge. I actually started hollering with joy. A bartender asked me whether I was okay. I was humming like a lunatic. &mdashJG

Cowan's Public (Nutley, NJ): The craft-beer, proper-drink, good-food revolution arrived in this corner of North Jersey a few years ago with this simple but beautiful Art Deco restaurant. The town has embraced it like something it never knew it was missing. To lose it would be a step backward. &mdashJohn Kenney

Cozy Corner (Memphis, TN): I told my friend Jay, in Memphis, I want the real thing. He suggested a couple of spots that didn&rsquot sound right to me&mdashtoo tidy, too bougie, too TV-friendly. I said, no, the real fucking thing, and that&rsquos when we went to Cozy Corner, owned by barbecue matriarch Desiree Robinson. We got ribs and fries and a bologna sandwich and a whole Cornish hen practically lacquered in a shiny glaze of sauce. It was as real as real gets. &mdashJG

Cunetto House of Pasta (St. Louis, MO): I know everyone thinks the best Italian food in America is in New York, but I&rsquod argue they haven&rsquot been to the Hill in St. Louis, Missouri. Driving down to these streets and bouncing between the cafes and bakeries and grocers felt like going on an exotic sojourn when I was very young, and the thought of losing any of these mom-and-pop establishments and the culture that goes with them fills me with dread. The crown jewel of the area is Cunetto&rsquos. Aside from being the first place I tried veal (which ended in tears as my parents explained just what veal is), it&rsquos a menu with absolutely no fuss but tons of flavor. Also, they serve amazing toasted raviolis, a St. Louis classic. &mdashMV

Cúrate (Asheville, NC): Great restaurants are like rocket boosters for neighborhoods: Attach a hot spot to a sad stretch of sidewalk and watch everything begin to move. Katie Button&rsquos Cúrate has been that kind of engine for the city of Asheville, giving the local food scene a shot of adrenaline along with all that paella and garlic shrimp and jamón ibérico. She also happens to serve the single best bean dish in America: an Asturian stew called fabada that&rsquos luscious with the fat of housemade chorizo and morcilla. &mdashJG

Diamond Head Grill (Honolulu, HI): This takeout counter on the mauka (mountain) side of Diamond Head isn&rsquot a scenic spot &mdash just a sun-beaten parking lot with a few picnic tables along a concrete wall &mdash but the plate lunches spill over with the likes of miso ginger salmon, kalbi beef and char siu pork, plus a heap of rice: white, brown or, the best, hapa, brown and white together. &mdashLigaya Mishan

Dino's Pizza (Chicago, IL): It was my family&rsquos go-to place for pizza on Friday nights when my brother and I were kids. And it still is for my parents. Nothing fancy. Not trendy, not even in a post-ironic hipster kind of way. (Thank God.) It&rsquos on the edge of Chicago, right next to the suburb where I grew up. The bar attracts mostly cops and firefighters. We&rsquod do carryout, which means when I visit my folks my dad and I leave a few minutes early to pick up the pizza so we can sneak in a beer and a shot before heading home. Important to note that they don&rsquot specialize in deep-dish pizza, but the other kind of Chicago pizza&mdashthe much better kind of Chicago pizza&mdashwhich is pub style: cut into squares, soft but not thick. &mdashMichael Sebastian

Ditch Witch (Montauk, NY): Not a restaurant, traditionally speaking, but this food truck just off Ditch Plains beach in Montauk is half the reason you'll want to go to the beach at all. Their Tomahawk bowl packed with fresh tuna is worth waiting in line for&mdashand you'll have to. &mdashBen Boskovich

Dooky Chase&rsquos Restaurant (New Orleans, LA): Fried chicken, green gumbo, and the strength of legacy. For the better part of her 97 years, different communities in New Orleans turned to chef Leah Chase for sustenance, strength, and good counsel. In the 1960s, civil rights leaders asked for her advice and a meeting place to hash out the end of the segregationist era (over bowls of her gumbo, of course). When levee failures following Hurricane Katrina deluged the city, shocked and displaced citizens took solace and strength from Ms. Leah&rsquos words and determination&mdasheven as she mucked out her own dining room and oversaw renovations from a FEMA trailer parked next to the landmark restaurant in Treme. Her passing in June 2019 broke the hearts of many and put the onus on her family to continue her work, her Holy Thursday traditions, and a successful generational transition&mdashtricky for restaurants even in pre-pandemic times. Thanks to her grandson Edgar &ldquoDooky&rdquo Chase IV in the kitchen and daughter Stella at the helm, locals can still gussy up for lunch buffet (including Ms. Chase&rsquos legendary fried chicken) or indulge on the &ldquoregular menu&rdquo come Friday. Whatever your choice, make sure somebody orders the Creole classic Shrimp Clemenceau&mdashshrimp, crispy potatoes, ham, and mushrooms in garlic&mdashand mask up to meander through the late doyenne&rsquos outstanding African-American art collection. &mdashPJ

Dove&rsquos Luncheonette (Chicago, IL): Okay, here&rsquos the deep secret knowledge possessed by all professional food writers. Are you ready? If you keep wanting to go back to a place, that place is very good. That&rsquos it. And I go back to Dove&rsquos Luncheonette every single time I&rsquom in Chicago. Like clockwork. Usually for breakfast, because breakfast is very important to me, and because the Mexican/Southern mashup served at Dove&rsquos speaks to my Los Angeles soul. Do I want the pozole rojo with carnitas, or should I get the burnt-ends hash with two fried eggs and Texas toast? Doesn&rsquot matter, either way, because I know I&rsquoll be back to try the rest. &mdashJG

Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero, CA): Located along a desolate stretch of Highway 1 in northern California, this restaurant has been in existence since 1897. The recipient of a James Beard award for classic American restaurant in 2003, Duarte&rsquos is firmly not fancy. But what they lack in pretense they make up for in dishes that are at once comforting and offer up a taste of nostalgic coastal California cuisine. Think: artichoke soup, local petrale filet of sole, olallieberry pie. Oh, and the bar is super fun, serving up cheap, tasty martinis and typically packed with colorful locals. &mdashDanny Dumas

Egan and Sons (Montclair, NJ): Remarkably good British/Irish pub food in a bright and open and airy set of rooms. At the heart of it is a soccer bar that draws somehow-not-annoying fans from all over. Best place to watch an EPL match over fish and chips and an oatmeal stout. &mdashJK

El Rey de las Fritas (Miami, FL): Yeah, South Beach is fun, but you haven&rsquot really made contact with Miami&rsquos Latin American spirit until you&rsquove experienced the initiation of the frita. A frita (as interpreted by El Rey, which was founded in the 1970s by Cuban exiles Benito and Gallega Gonzalez) is basically a burger on an airy Cuban bun with an avalanche of shoestring fries and a sweet paste of sautéed onions. It&rsquos a monument, of sorts, to a crucial period in Florida history, and it&rsquos also a damn good snack. &mdashJG

Fork (Philadelphia, PA): I got my first restaurant job at Fork restaurant when I was just out of college. Fork had recently opened and added an elegant vibe to Philadelphia&rsquos Old City. My entire family has dined at Fork and loved every meal&mdashfrom shrimp and grits at brunch to Champagne roasted chicken (takeaway) dinners during quarantine. Every experience at Fork is edifying. Ellen Yin has maintained this gem for more than two decades and I hope it lasts at least another twenty years. &mdashKlancy Miller

Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX): There's a reason for all those lawn chairs lined up outside the place. And yes, it's the brisket, but it's also so much more. And all of it has to do with the guy whose name is on the sign. Aaron Franklin gives a damn about what he's doing, who he's doing it with, and whom he's serving. Wait your turn and you'll see. &mdashBB

Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder, CO): Don&rsquot let the white truffles and caviar scare you off. Frasca may look exclusive if you&rsquore peeking in the window, but inside it&rsquos a house party. Wine guru and manager Bobby Stuckey is a captain of hospitality in the truest, most soulful sense: He makes everyone feel welcome and loved. &mdashJG

Fraunces Tavern (New York, NY): Because Washington said farewell to his officers upstairs, of course, but also because it&rsquos actually still a cozy tavern with surprisingly good food and a warm feeling in the older rooms. The whiskey bar up front is the snuggest place you can be on a winter night in Manhattan. &mdashJK

Freedman's (Los Angeles, CA): An unassuming location with unbelievable Jewish-American fare. You'll get out of the Uber thinking "where am I?" and leave wondering how you'll possibly follow up that meal with anything else. The latke waffle and lox will rock your world. &mdashBB

Galatoire&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): There may be no finer example of Food As Theater / Food as Culture than this Crescent City landmark known for its marathon, booze-saturated Friday lunch. A few months back I fretted to my friend Pableaux, whose family goes way back in Louisiana, that Galatoire&rsquos ran the risk of becoming a mere tourist trap. Pableaux shushed me and set me straight. Galatoire&rsquos matters, he let me know, and Galatoire&rsquos will always matter. &mdashJG

Genova Bakery (Stockton, CA): One of the best towering stacks of Toscano salame, turkey, cheddar, provolone, shredded lettuce, red onion, light mayo, heavy on the mustard on a soft and chewy Milk Roll comes from a 102-year-old bakery in the sepia-toned San Joaquin Valley. As soon as your hand touches the handle on Genova Bakery&rsquos antediluvian wooden screen door, you involuntarily envision the bakery&rsquos inception in 1918. Founded by Angelo and Giovanni Rolleri&mdashat the location it still occupies&mdashGenova Bakery is now owned by Tim Canevari, who&rsquos been working at the bakery since he was in high school. This is the place to grab your Italian goods: bulk biscotti, olives, beans, pasta, in-house made focaccia, and myriad Panettone during Christmas. Canevari took over the business in 2004 and has changed nothing. Nothing. Okay, Canevari added a few additional bread styles such as Dutch crunch, wheat, and sourdough. However, nothing has changed, from the quality of the fresh baked bread, the height of the sandwiches, the narrow-plank original hardwood floors, to the warmth of the employees. All of the character of Genova is intact. Genova Bakery was declared a historical landmark in 1985, for this place is the soul of Stockton. &mdashIllyanna Maisonet

Han Oak (Portland, OR): I still have dreams about Han Oak&mdashactual dreams. I dream about moving to the Pacific Northwest and living with chef Peter Cho and his beautiful family, helping out in the kitchen, learning how to make Korean dumplings, studying the nuances of kimchi. Which isn&rsquot entirely illogical&mdashHan Oak blends into the Cho family&rsquos backyard, and a meal there has the casual vibe of a family reunion around a picnic table. The mere thought of never being able to return to Han Oak makes me heartsick. &mdashJG

Havana (Bar Harbor, ME): A Cuban restaurant in Maine? No: A fantastic Cuban restaurant in Maine. Get the paella with local lobster, a Havana Martini, and call it a night. &mdashRD

Huynh (Houston, TX): Visiting Houston without eating Vietnamese food would be like going to Bologna and neglecting the pasta. There&rsquos always a wait for a seat at this family-owned strip-mall jewel, but the tables turn fast, and everyone with any sense in Houston will tell you that for ten bucks, you&rsquore not going to find a more satisfying and delicious meal than the gingery, herbaceous duck salad known as Goi Vit. &mdashJG

Irvington Delight (Irvington, NY): Amal Suleiman rolls her stuffed grape leaves by hand, and you can tell. In fact, the original vines were brought to the United States from Jordan in the 1980s, so she and her family actually grow the grape leaves and pick them in a backyard in suburban Westchester County. (I like to give the grape leaves a quick scorch in a cast iron skillet so that their surface gets a little blackened and feathery and the spices really bloom.) Suleiman makes the hummus, too, and the hot sauce and the muhammara, and this is why people drop into a seemingly random convenience shop (across the street from a gas station) wanting nothing more than a bag of potato chips and a soda&mdashbut wind up leaving with a stockpile of handmade Middle Eastern treats to bring home for dinner. Irvington Delight is but one example of countless corner stores and bodegas around the United States where people carefully, passionately honor the cuisine of a home country that they left behind. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the places that keep us alive. &mdashJG

J&J's Family Restaurant (Pittsburgh, PA): A greasy spoon diner in a city full of greasy spoon diners worth talking about. J&J's isn't the one you'll see on TV, though. A true family-owned joint that sits atop the city's historic Mount Washington. Assorted coffee mugs that don't match. Serving sizes that'll last you all day. A dining experience that makes you feel like family. &mdashBB

Jitlada (Los Angeles, CA): You haven&rsquot really experienced Los Angeles in all its polyglot glory until you&rsquove gone to Jitlada with a big, hungry group of friends. Even if you know Thai food pretty well, the menu is so expansive that it&rsquos impossible for first-timers to navigate, but you can&rsquot go wrong. Ask irrepressible owner Jazz Singsanong to choose for you, or just point your finger at random&mdashjungle curry crispy pork, spicy crab claw morning glory, turmeric catfish, mussels in green curry&mdashand prepare your mind and palate for a psychedelic wallop of flavor. &mdashJG

Kalaya (Philadelphia, PA): No punches are pulled by chef/owner Chutatip &ldquoNok&rdquo Suntaranon and her remarkably spicy, funky, practically vibrating Thai dishes that are a snapshot of her mother&rsquos recipes she learned while growing up in Southern Thailand. &mdashKS

Keens (New York, NY): In a city of restaurants filled with history, none has more powerful old-school vibes than Keens Chophouse. Walk through the wooden double doors on 36th street and the history hits you as if all of the pipes lining the ceiling were still wafting smoke. Once you take in the antiques and memorabilia, settle on the order: definitely the porterhouse or the mutton chop, always the creamed spinach and the hashbrowns for sides, and yes, you&rsquoll be having a martini. &mdash KS

Kopitiam (New York, NY): For a few slow months in late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic overtook us, I found myself asking friends to meet me for a Malaysian breakfast at Kopitiam. This didn&rsquot make geographical sense, because Kopitiam sits a few blocks from the East River, at the southern end of Manhattan, and I live along the Hudson River in a suburban county north of Manhattan. Which meant that to enjoy this breakfast, I needed to take a Metro-North commuter train into the city, walk from Grand Central to the subway station in Bryant Park, then catch the F train to East Broadway. None of that bothered me. Desire can be impossible to resist. As I took my journey south, I daydreamed about Kopitiam&rsquos oyster omelet, and the triangles of minced chicken gift-wrapped in pandan leaves, and the nasi lemak (fried anchovies and coconut rice make such a perfect pair), and the hand-pulled coffee with condensed milk. Chef Kyo Pang and restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai and their crew have created, with their menu at Kopitiam, a welcome celebration of the Nyonya cuisine of Southeast Asia. But they&rsquove also built a space you can&rsquot help but linger in, a gentle coffeehouse where you want to wait around and study how morning light alters as the afternoon approaches. New York City can be hard on people sanctuaries like Kopitiam make the days a little bit kinder. &mdashJG

La Esperanza Panaderia (Sacramento, CA): Opened in 1969 by Salvador Plasencia, it&rsquos now being operated by Salvador&rsquos grandchildren. All I have to do is walk into this 52-year-old panaderia that anchors Franklin Boulevard in my hometown of Sacramento to bask in the throngs of childhood nostalgia at warp speed. The smell of gingerbread puerquitos, jammy niños, crusty and soft bolillios, churros y mas will bash you in the face as soon as you open the storefront door, and leave you bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Bide your time in the queue by counting the original black and white tiles on the floor, catching glimpses of the frantic bakers through ajar doors, and impatiently staring into the display cases filled with fresh pan dulce made on-site. Staring into the display case is critical. This way you know what you want as soon as you get to the counter and aren&rsquot one of those pandejos who&rsquos constantly asking &ldquo. ooh, and what&rsquos this. &rdquo You don&rsquot need to know which region every different bread is from, or if it was made with organic heirloom purple Oaxacan corn. You&rsquore holding up the line! Shut up, point, order, move down the line, shove it into your gob. Celebratorily, of course. &mdashIM

Larder (Cleveland, OH): America can&rsquot afford to lose the old but it also can&rsquot afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That&rsquos progress. &mdashJG

La Super-Rica (Santa Barbara, CA): Yeah, we know, Julia Child made it iconic when she announced that this Milpas Street taco stand was her favorite restaurant in America. But for those of us who&rsquove spent a portion of our years chilling in Santa Barbara, La Super-Rica is just that slow, breezy, griddle-scented joint on the corner where everyone democratically waits in line (hey, is that Jackson Browne behind me?) for the pure pleasure of hand-pressed tortillas and sizzling pork and melted cheese and potent salsas. Locals know: If there are special tamales or enchiladas on the tiny chalkboard menu, you need to get them. &mdashJG

La Taqueria (San Francisco, CA): People often ask: tacos or burritos? Usually the answer depends on the restaurant, but at La Taqueria, it's both. Owner Miguel Jara grew up in Tijuana and opened his beloved restaurant in 1973 in the Mission District&mdashit&rsquos been a destination for both locals and visitors since. I always like to start with a taco appetizer before moving on to a burrito, which comes packed with proper proportions of plump pinto beans, your protein of choice (I choose charred then chopped carne asada), green guacamole, creamy crema, and melty cheese (there&rsquos no rice at La Taqueria Jara says it simply acts as filler). The burrito is tightly wrapped in foil, nice and compact, like a mini missile ready to launch into your mouth. In-the-know regulars get both burritos and tacos "dorados," so that the tortillas are fried until golden and crispy. Whatever you do, don't forget the salsa. &mdashOM

Lehja (Richmond, VA): Because spice, hospitality, and wine aren&rsquot luxuries&mdashthey&rsquore essentials. Because even in a time of scarcity and fear, chef-owner Sunny Baweja dishes up generosity and joy (and chaat!). Because this unassuming, unexpected jewel in a Virginia mall is one of the very best Indian restaurants in America. &mdashJT

Leo's Taco Truck (Los Angeles, CA): I&rsquove had the privilege of eating at the following three-Michelin-star restaurants: The French Laundry, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Lung King Heen, Single Thread, Alinea. I get just as much satisfaction consuming a platter of al pastor tacos from Leo&rsquos as I do with any of those fancy spots. Leo&rsquos is firmly on the lowbrow/brilliant end of the spectrum&mdashthe OG location is in the parking lot of a gas station on South La Brea and Venice&mdashbut show up on a Friday night at 2 a.m. and the line consistently spills around the block. Ask 100 different Angelenos where the best tacos are in the city and you&rsquoll get 200 answers. But I bet a lot of those responses will have Leo&rsquos in the number one spot. &mdashDD

Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, TX): I remember taking my older kids here a few years ago. They had to be patient. We waited in line, and the line moved slowly. Margot and Toby studied the greasy blackness of the walls&mdashlike the smoke smudges in a French cathedral&mdashuntil we placed our order. We snagged a table. Margot picked up a beef rib that seemed to weigh more than she did. She bit into the juicy meat and her eyes rolled back and she emitted a squeak of unfiltered delight. She polished off the whole rib and then asked for another. They say a father is only as happy as his children are. In that moment, I was happy. &mdashJG

Lowell&rsquos (Seattle, WA): Oh, so you think Pike Place Market is nothing but a tourist trap? Here&rsquos a secret. Go early. Go at dawn, when the only people you&rsquoll see are the stall owners arranging fresh fish on hills of shaved ice, and wait outside the doors of Lowell&rsquos (look for the sign that says &ldquoAlmost Classy Since 1957&rdquo) so that when the place opens at 7 sharp, you can get one of the tables overlooking Elliott Bay. You want an omelet stuff with Dungeness crab&mdashyou&rsquore in a fish market, after all&mdashand maybe also a Hangtown Fry with eggs and bacon and fresh oysters all scrambled together. &mdashJG

Marcel&rsquos by Robert Wiedmaier (Washington, D.C.): In twenty-one years on Pennsylvania Avenue, how many big fish were fêted, state secrets spilt, and will-you-marry-me's uttered behind the curtain at Table 28? How many tinned tons of Sevruga, kilograms of white truffles, and pieds du roi of boudin blanc were squired from copper pan to bone china to shining cloche to starched table again and again in flawless ballet like the Bolshoi? Nowhere in Washington, D.C., is fine-dining done finer. Nowhere is it easier to feel thoroughly at home in a tuxedo. The stewards of slow luxuries must never die. &mdashJT

Metzger Bar & Butchery (Richmond, VA): Schnitzel, schupfnudeln, and schadenfreude. 2020 saw far too much of one and not nearly enough of the other two. Chef Brittanny Anderson opened her little German joint in 2014&mdashan outpost of modern exceptionalism in a historic yet overlooked district. She planted a tiny garden, built dining room furniture from a single tree, put her DJ husband behind the bar spinning drinks and funk, and started serving local takes on trout rillettes, rabbit, and pork chops with carafes of Zweigelt. Every neighborhood needs a place where you can eat three times a week and not get bored or go broke. &mdashJT

Mosquito Supper Club (New Orleans, LA): Crispy, delicate soft-shelled shrimp. Browned cabbage smothered down in salt pork. Rustic seafood gumbo&mdashokra, crab, and shrimp&mdashthat can&rsquot be rushed. Seasonal, savory, and capped with a story or two. Well before chefs the world round embraced &ldquoblackened everything&rdquo as Cajun identifier, south Louisiana folk made magic with simple foods linked to the waters, skies, and land around them. For years chef Melissa Martin ran a series of deep Cajun pop-ups that showcased the foods of her childhood far from the relatively bright city lights of New Orleans. Finally settled for a spell, Martin cooks the seafood-dominant dishes from her coastal hometown of Chauvin, Louisiana (population 2700), in a double-shotgun frame house tucked away in the residential Uptown neighborhood. Her dedication to her family&rsquos traditional foods and family-style hospitality make the Mosquito Supper Club a relaxed, home-style experience that gets you deep into a culture you thought you understood. &mdashPJ

Nanina's in the Park (Belleville, NJ): Okay, this one&rsquos actually a banquet hall, but it&rsquos a keeper. Generations of Newark-area Italian-Americans and those who love them have celebrated weddings, graduations, and first holy communions at this grand and slightly gaudy (so just about right) Italian villa planted at the north end of Branch Brook park. It&rsquos a banquet hall that actually does Italian food really well, because it has to. An institution. &mdashJK


100 Restaurants America Can't Afford to Lose

We're raising a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashbecause if we lose them, we lose who we are.

You know that bistro around the corner, the one where you and your partner first locked eyes across the table? The Southern barbecue joint where, back in the days before the pandemic, you and your comrades used to come together for sweet racks of ribs on Friday nights as another sorry workweek sputtered to a close? The bodega where you&rsquore such a regular that no one has to ask how you like your breakfast sandwich. The taqueria where they nail the salsa verde. The place where you can watch a Korean grandmother making dumplings in the kitchen. The New England landmark with the picnic tables and lobster rolls. Or, wait, how about the trattoria with the long, honey-hued bar and the wine list that makes you want to throw away common sense and max out your credit card?

What if those places were to vanish? What if you were to wake tomorrow morning and learn that that remnant of your life&mdashand that portion of your community&rsquos lingua franca&mdashhad been erased? Such a prospect has been a real threat all year, with the relentless tragedy of COVID-19 leaving many American restaurants, even established classics, on the brink of bankruptcy. The threat will only intensify as winter progresses and restaurateurs have to abandon the outdoor dining that has kept them treading water for months. We love restaurants here at Esquire, and we hope that during this holiday season you&rsquoll consider making donations to Southern Smoke and the Lee Initiative and other organizations that are helping restaurant workers endure the crisis. We also hope you&rsquoll raise a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashthat we consider restaurants that America can&rsquot afford to lose. Because if we lose them, we lose who we are. &mdashJeff Gordinier

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (Noank, CT): Picnic tables on the grass by the water. Steamed lobsters, caught that day, with drawn butter in paper cups. A beer. &mdashRyan D'Agostino

Abyssinia (Philadelphia, PA): "Oh, I love that place." That's what I often hear from Philadelphians whenever I happen to mention Abyssinia. The connection runs deep. And that's no surprise, because the warmth of the hospitality at this beloved Ethiopian spot makes you feel as though you've joined a family for dinner in their home&mdasheven if you happen to be dining alone. A little while back, when I was teaching a writing course at Drexel University, I used to catch an early train from Manhattan just so that I could get a quick, quiet lunch of injera and stews at Abyssinia before dashing to the classroom. But it's even better with a big group. Let's all gather here when the pandemic is over. We'll have a feast. &mdashJG

Alpino Vino (Telluride, CO): Some restaurants are worth the hike, literally. Alpino Vino is a 30-ish seat Italian restaurant burrowed into a cliff way above Telluride (a magical place in and of itself). There&rsquos nothing easy about getting to the place&mdashyou can ski a narrow trail and, well, that&rsquos your option&mdashnor even anything easy about getting a seat. (See: my note about seating 30 people at a time.) But Telluride is the most important it&rsquos where I fell in love with my now husband it&rsquos where we took my family to celebrate our engagement and it&rsquos a place I return to twice a year like clockwork to remember all that. That Alpino Vino serves truly perfect food, both cozy and refined, and has one of the most amazing wine lists I&rsquoll ever experience is just the proverbial cherry on top. No trip west is complete without a visit. &mdashMadison Vain

Al&rsquos Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN): Flapjacks on the griddle. Hazy morning sunlight through stained-glass awnings. Foreign currency tacked to a shelf, above the Magic Markered coffee mugs belonging to various regulars. A sign that says &ldquoBeware of Attack Waitress.&rdquo If a breakfast counter could be the IRL manifestation of a Replacements song, this would be it. &mdashJG

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit, MI): They&rsquore right next to each other on the same block in downtown Detroit, and the story is that theirs is a bitter and endless grudge match. Whatever. The point is that both of them raise a torch for a true regional delight: coneys, which are hot dogs flooded with funky chili, yellow mustard, and raw onions. &mdashJG

Angler (San Francisco, CA): Decadence in the form of wild game and giant crustaceans and magnificent heads of radicchio, sometimes served raw or cooked over open fire, drizzled with truffles or XO sauce, and, on the side, copious amounts of caviar and oysters, atop a magnificent table made from the trunk of a centuries old redwood. Your memories of Angler will be like a hunting lodge fever dream you can&rsquot wait to have over and over. &mdashKevin Sintumuang

Anteprima (Chicago, IL): The chef is not a celebrity. No Michelin Star. It&rsquos not on the James Beard Foundation's radar. These are the very reasons Anteprima is perfect to me. The dining room is always full. The owner greets you at the door. The waitstaff in their long white aprons remember your names and if you prefer sparkling or tap. Anteprima&rsquos menu changes daily. With each micro season we see dishes pristinely representing fresh ingredients. Hakurei turnips, breakfast radish, ramps, and morels in the spring. Corn and tomatoes in the summer. Roots in the fall. Squashes, truffles, and alliums through the winter. I love this place. &mdashIliana Regan

Arnold's (Nashville, TN): Nashville wouldn&rsquot be Nashville without the red-tray, meat-and-three comfort of Arnold&rsquos Country Kitchen. Locals and tourists, writers and musicians, and everyone in between line up cafeteria-style for juicy roast beef carved to order and creamy chocolate chess pies for dessert. No reservations, no pretense. Arnold's simple, straightforward fare is the first thing on my mind when I think about Music City. &mdashOmar Mamoon

Bamboo Garden (Brooklyn, NY): This massive dim sum restaurant is out in Brooklyn&rsquos Chinatown in Sunset Park. With elaborate chandeliers and big banquet tables, it&rsquos always filled with families celebrating special occasions. It's so joyful. Every time we go we get the Peking duck, which is just perfect. &mdashKate Storey

Bar Tabac (Brooklyn, NY): Definition of a neighborhood eatery. Go for the Burgundy snails, and footie matches on the TV. &mdashNick Sullivan

Black-Eyed Susan's (Nantucket, MA): They do breakfast and they do dinner and they do them well, for not many people (it&rsquos tiny) and for cash only, and you&rsquoll remember it. Especially the Pennsylvania Dutch pancakes made with a slice of Jarlsberg. &mdashRD

Blueberry Hill (St. Louis, MO): I have been coming down here&mdashto the loop in St. Louis, one of the greatest streets of food and music in America, that is&mdashfor (the very best!) burgers and live music quite literally since I got keys to a car. It made me feel like a rebel when I was young, out late hearing new bands, buying my own dinners, and it makes me remarkably nostalgic now that I&rsquom not. Also, Chuck Berry played a monthly show here for 200 months in a row, so if you won&rsquot take my word for it, perhaps his will do. &mdashMV

Blue Moon Cafe (Shepherdstown, WV): Locals, tourists from D.C., professors from the small university, all sitting together enjoying buffalo chicken salads and black bean burgers and maybe somebody playing the guitar. &mdashRD

Bouquet (Covington, KY): Maybe you&rsquove grown weary of the phrase &ldquofarm to table.&rdquo Maybe it&rsquos lost its punch, in certain quarters of the country. But Bouquet is a restaurant that makes &ldquofarm to table&rdquo matter again&mdashand in Mitch McConnell&rsquos home state, no less. Chef Stephen Williams opened the restaurant in 2007 &ldquoas one of the first restaurants in the area to embrace local and sustainable farming as a cornerstone of its mission,&rdquo as the place&rsquos website puts it, and that mission hasn&rsquot lost an ounce of passion in the intervening years. The stuff on the menu sounds straightforward enough&mdashdeviled eggs, a green salad, meatballs, a pork chop&mdashbut everything soars because of the chef&rsquos obvious reverence for the ingredients that he uses. Yes, that matters. &mdashJG

Brigtsen&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): &ldquoIf you&rsquove only got one dinner, I&rsquom gonna ask you to leave the Quarter.&rdquo Can&rsquot tell you how many times I&rsquove put first-time visitors to New Orleans in this conceptual bind. &ldquoGo to this little shotgun house on Dante Street and you&rsquoll never forget it.&rdquo At 20 years old, this family-run bistro doesn&rsquot pop up on &ldquonew and hot&rdquo or &ldquoTV chef&rdquo lists, but instead chugs along providing deep hospitality and interpreting Louisiana classics from the Creole, Cajun, and Southern canons that excite the palate and soothe the soul. A local boy and veteran of Paul Prudhomme&rsquos opening brigade at K-Paul&rsquos, chef Frank Brigtsen works magic in an impossibly tiny kitchen with abundant Gulf seafood and our year-round farm bounty. He&rsquoll fry up bayou catfish to delicate, cracking perfection and lay you low with an impossibly savory roast duck on dirty rice. Broiled redfish with a lump crabmeat crust can make the most open-hearted dining companion fiercely territorial. Frank&rsquos wife, Marna, and his sisters, Sandy and Rhonda, run the front of house with an effortless, enveloping friendliness that can turn a harried first-time guest into an instant regular. Also, pecan pie that will haunt your dreams. &mdashPableaux Johnson

Busy Bee (Atlanta, GA): When self-taught cook Mama Lucy Jackson opened Busy Bee Cafe in 1947, she did so on West Hunter Street, one of only two streets available to African American entrepreneurs at the time. Hunter would go on to be named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive after the restaurant&rsquos (and Atlanta&rsquos) most important patron. Back then it was the place for civil rights activists and organizers to safely meet and strategize. Today it&rsquos known as the place with the best fried chicken in the city. The sides are exquisite renderings of Southern staples with the rice and gravy, collards, and mac n&rsquo cheese shining particularly brightly. Don&rsquot miss the cornmeal-dusted and encrusted catfish, made memorable with its steamy and silken flesh. &mdashStephen Satterfield

Canlis (Seattle, WA): If we tell you that Canlis is the &ldquoepitome of elegance,&rdquo which it is, you might get the wrong impression. For three generations, in a black masterpiece of modernist architecture that reaches up and out toward Lake Union like a swimmer about to leap off the starting block, the Canlis family has fine-tuned a form of hospitality so effortless that a &ldquofancy&rdquo meal feels like a reunion with old friends. &mdashJG

Casamento&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): Even when there&rsquos not a pandemic going on, sometimes Casamento&rsquos stays closed for the day. Maybe it&rsquos not the right season for oysters, or maybe somebody&rsquos just not in the mood. Hey, it&rsquos 101 years old, so go easy on the place. When it is open (nowhere near the frat-boy lures of the French Quarter, thank you very much), Casamento&rsquos remains a tiled shrine to briny simplicity. You want a &ldquoloaf,&rdquo which amounts to a heap of fried oysters in between fat slices of white bread. We don&rsquot have to tell you to use a lot of hot sauce, right? &mdashJG

Celeste (Somerville, MA): He spins vintage Chicha, makes Peruvian arthouse films, and mans the fire. She transforms space with a graduate degree in experimental architecture and embraces guests with Guatemalan warmth. Together, husband and wife JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau recast their at-home pop-up into a postmodernist brick-and-mortar paean of Peruvian and Andean spice. Art and aperitivos, pisco and purple corn, neon and neighbors, all pressed together in a tiny, bright vessel designed to amplify joy. The food is sublime, but Celeste (rhymes with &ldquosay yes: play&rdquo) is the greater alchemy of menu, mixtapes, and merrymaking that satiates a deeper kind of hungry. &mdashJason Tesauro

Cochon (New Orleans, LA): The last time I visited New Orleans, I went straight to Cochon from the airport. I began eating lunch alone at the bar, and I began texting my friends, and a couple of them asked whether I was drunk or high&mdashthat&rsquos how effusive I got. A jambalaya studded with pork cheeks and andouille sent me over the edge. I actually started hollering with joy. A bartender asked me whether I was okay. I was humming like a lunatic. &mdashJG

Cowan's Public (Nutley, NJ): The craft-beer, proper-drink, good-food revolution arrived in this corner of North Jersey a few years ago with this simple but beautiful Art Deco restaurant. The town has embraced it like something it never knew it was missing. To lose it would be a step backward. &mdashJohn Kenney

Cozy Corner (Memphis, TN): I told my friend Jay, in Memphis, I want the real thing. He suggested a couple of spots that didn&rsquot sound right to me&mdashtoo tidy, too bougie, too TV-friendly. I said, no, the real fucking thing, and that&rsquos when we went to Cozy Corner, owned by barbecue matriarch Desiree Robinson. We got ribs and fries and a bologna sandwich and a whole Cornish hen practically lacquered in a shiny glaze of sauce. It was as real as real gets. &mdashJG

Cunetto House of Pasta (St. Louis, MO): I know everyone thinks the best Italian food in America is in New York, but I&rsquod argue they haven&rsquot been to the Hill in St. Louis, Missouri. Driving down to these streets and bouncing between the cafes and bakeries and grocers felt like going on an exotic sojourn when I was very young, and the thought of losing any of these mom-and-pop establishments and the culture that goes with them fills me with dread. The crown jewel of the area is Cunetto&rsquos. Aside from being the first place I tried veal (which ended in tears as my parents explained just what veal is), it&rsquos a menu with absolutely no fuss but tons of flavor. Also, they serve amazing toasted raviolis, a St. Louis classic. &mdashMV

Cúrate (Asheville, NC): Great restaurants are like rocket boosters for neighborhoods: Attach a hot spot to a sad stretch of sidewalk and watch everything begin to move. Katie Button&rsquos Cúrate has been that kind of engine for the city of Asheville, giving the local food scene a shot of adrenaline along with all that paella and garlic shrimp and jamón ibérico. She also happens to serve the single best bean dish in America: an Asturian stew called fabada that&rsquos luscious with the fat of housemade chorizo and morcilla. &mdashJG

Diamond Head Grill (Honolulu, HI): This takeout counter on the mauka (mountain) side of Diamond Head isn&rsquot a scenic spot &mdash just a sun-beaten parking lot with a few picnic tables along a concrete wall &mdash but the plate lunches spill over with the likes of miso ginger salmon, kalbi beef and char siu pork, plus a heap of rice: white, brown or, the best, hapa, brown and white together. &mdashLigaya Mishan

Dino's Pizza (Chicago, IL): It was my family&rsquos go-to place for pizza on Friday nights when my brother and I were kids. And it still is for my parents. Nothing fancy. Not trendy, not even in a post-ironic hipster kind of way. (Thank God.) It&rsquos on the edge of Chicago, right next to the suburb where I grew up. The bar attracts mostly cops and firefighters. We&rsquod do carryout, which means when I visit my folks my dad and I leave a few minutes early to pick up the pizza so we can sneak in a beer and a shot before heading home. Important to note that they don&rsquot specialize in deep-dish pizza, but the other kind of Chicago pizza&mdashthe much better kind of Chicago pizza&mdashwhich is pub style: cut into squares, soft but not thick. &mdashMichael Sebastian

Ditch Witch (Montauk, NY): Not a restaurant, traditionally speaking, but this food truck just off Ditch Plains beach in Montauk is half the reason you'll want to go to the beach at all. Their Tomahawk bowl packed with fresh tuna is worth waiting in line for&mdashand you'll have to. &mdashBen Boskovich

Dooky Chase&rsquos Restaurant (New Orleans, LA): Fried chicken, green gumbo, and the strength of legacy. For the better part of her 97 years, different communities in New Orleans turned to chef Leah Chase for sustenance, strength, and good counsel. In the 1960s, civil rights leaders asked for her advice and a meeting place to hash out the end of the segregationist era (over bowls of her gumbo, of course). When levee failures following Hurricane Katrina deluged the city, shocked and displaced citizens took solace and strength from Ms. Leah&rsquos words and determination&mdasheven as she mucked out her own dining room and oversaw renovations from a FEMA trailer parked next to the landmark restaurant in Treme. Her passing in June 2019 broke the hearts of many and put the onus on her family to continue her work, her Holy Thursday traditions, and a successful generational transition&mdashtricky for restaurants even in pre-pandemic times. Thanks to her grandson Edgar &ldquoDooky&rdquo Chase IV in the kitchen and daughter Stella at the helm, locals can still gussy up for lunch buffet (including Ms. Chase&rsquos legendary fried chicken) or indulge on the &ldquoregular menu&rdquo come Friday. Whatever your choice, make sure somebody orders the Creole classic Shrimp Clemenceau&mdashshrimp, crispy potatoes, ham, and mushrooms in garlic&mdashand mask up to meander through the late doyenne&rsquos outstanding African-American art collection. &mdashPJ

Dove&rsquos Luncheonette (Chicago, IL): Okay, here&rsquos the deep secret knowledge possessed by all professional food writers. Are you ready? If you keep wanting to go back to a place, that place is very good. That&rsquos it. And I go back to Dove&rsquos Luncheonette every single time I&rsquom in Chicago. Like clockwork. Usually for breakfast, because breakfast is very important to me, and because the Mexican/Southern mashup served at Dove&rsquos speaks to my Los Angeles soul. Do I want the pozole rojo with carnitas, or should I get the burnt-ends hash with two fried eggs and Texas toast? Doesn&rsquot matter, either way, because I know I&rsquoll be back to try the rest. &mdashJG

Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero, CA): Located along a desolate stretch of Highway 1 in northern California, this restaurant has been in existence since 1897. The recipient of a James Beard award for classic American restaurant in 2003, Duarte&rsquos is firmly not fancy. But what they lack in pretense they make up for in dishes that are at once comforting and offer up a taste of nostalgic coastal California cuisine. Think: artichoke soup, local petrale filet of sole, olallieberry pie. Oh, and the bar is super fun, serving up cheap, tasty martinis and typically packed with colorful locals. &mdashDanny Dumas

Egan and Sons (Montclair, NJ): Remarkably good British/Irish pub food in a bright and open and airy set of rooms. At the heart of it is a soccer bar that draws somehow-not-annoying fans from all over. Best place to watch an EPL match over fish and chips and an oatmeal stout. &mdashJK

El Rey de las Fritas (Miami, FL): Yeah, South Beach is fun, but you haven&rsquot really made contact with Miami&rsquos Latin American spirit until you&rsquove experienced the initiation of the frita. A frita (as interpreted by El Rey, which was founded in the 1970s by Cuban exiles Benito and Gallega Gonzalez) is basically a burger on an airy Cuban bun with an avalanche of shoestring fries and a sweet paste of sautéed onions. It&rsquos a monument, of sorts, to a crucial period in Florida history, and it&rsquos also a damn good snack. &mdashJG

Fork (Philadelphia, PA): I got my first restaurant job at Fork restaurant when I was just out of college. Fork had recently opened and added an elegant vibe to Philadelphia&rsquos Old City. My entire family has dined at Fork and loved every meal&mdashfrom shrimp and grits at brunch to Champagne roasted chicken (takeaway) dinners during quarantine. Every experience at Fork is edifying. Ellen Yin has maintained this gem for more than two decades and I hope it lasts at least another twenty years. &mdashKlancy Miller

Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX): There's a reason for all those lawn chairs lined up outside the place. And yes, it's the brisket, but it's also so much more. And all of it has to do with the guy whose name is on the sign. Aaron Franklin gives a damn about what he's doing, who he's doing it with, and whom he's serving. Wait your turn and you'll see. &mdashBB

Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder, CO): Don&rsquot let the white truffles and caviar scare you off. Frasca may look exclusive if you&rsquore peeking in the window, but inside it&rsquos a house party. Wine guru and manager Bobby Stuckey is a captain of hospitality in the truest, most soulful sense: He makes everyone feel welcome and loved. &mdashJG

Fraunces Tavern (New York, NY): Because Washington said farewell to his officers upstairs, of course, but also because it&rsquos actually still a cozy tavern with surprisingly good food and a warm feeling in the older rooms. The whiskey bar up front is the snuggest place you can be on a winter night in Manhattan. &mdashJK

Freedman's (Los Angeles, CA): An unassuming location with unbelievable Jewish-American fare. You'll get out of the Uber thinking "where am I?" and leave wondering how you'll possibly follow up that meal with anything else. The latke waffle and lox will rock your world. &mdashBB

Galatoire&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): There may be no finer example of Food As Theater / Food as Culture than this Crescent City landmark known for its marathon, booze-saturated Friday lunch. A few months back I fretted to my friend Pableaux, whose family goes way back in Louisiana, that Galatoire&rsquos ran the risk of becoming a mere tourist trap. Pableaux shushed me and set me straight. Galatoire&rsquos matters, he let me know, and Galatoire&rsquos will always matter. &mdashJG

Genova Bakery (Stockton, CA): One of the best towering stacks of Toscano salame, turkey, cheddar, provolone, shredded lettuce, red onion, light mayo, heavy on the mustard on a soft and chewy Milk Roll comes from a 102-year-old bakery in the sepia-toned San Joaquin Valley. As soon as your hand touches the handle on Genova Bakery&rsquos antediluvian wooden screen door, you involuntarily envision the bakery&rsquos inception in 1918. Founded by Angelo and Giovanni Rolleri&mdashat the location it still occupies&mdashGenova Bakery is now owned by Tim Canevari, who&rsquos been working at the bakery since he was in high school. This is the place to grab your Italian goods: bulk biscotti, olives, beans, pasta, in-house made focaccia, and myriad Panettone during Christmas. Canevari took over the business in 2004 and has changed nothing. Nothing. Okay, Canevari added a few additional bread styles such as Dutch crunch, wheat, and sourdough. However, nothing has changed, from the quality of the fresh baked bread, the height of the sandwiches, the narrow-plank original hardwood floors, to the warmth of the employees. All of the character of Genova is intact. Genova Bakery was declared a historical landmark in 1985, for this place is the soul of Stockton. &mdashIllyanna Maisonet

Han Oak (Portland, OR): I still have dreams about Han Oak&mdashactual dreams. I dream about moving to the Pacific Northwest and living with chef Peter Cho and his beautiful family, helping out in the kitchen, learning how to make Korean dumplings, studying the nuances of kimchi. Which isn&rsquot entirely illogical&mdashHan Oak blends into the Cho family&rsquos backyard, and a meal there has the casual vibe of a family reunion around a picnic table. The mere thought of never being able to return to Han Oak makes me heartsick. &mdashJG

Havana (Bar Harbor, ME): A Cuban restaurant in Maine? No: A fantastic Cuban restaurant in Maine. Get the paella with local lobster, a Havana Martini, and call it a night. &mdashRD

Huynh (Houston, TX): Visiting Houston without eating Vietnamese food would be like going to Bologna and neglecting the pasta. There&rsquos always a wait for a seat at this family-owned strip-mall jewel, but the tables turn fast, and everyone with any sense in Houston will tell you that for ten bucks, you&rsquore not going to find a more satisfying and delicious meal than the gingery, herbaceous duck salad known as Goi Vit. &mdashJG

Irvington Delight (Irvington, NY): Amal Suleiman rolls her stuffed grape leaves by hand, and you can tell. In fact, the original vines were brought to the United States from Jordan in the 1980s, so she and her family actually grow the grape leaves and pick them in a backyard in suburban Westchester County. (I like to give the grape leaves a quick scorch in a cast iron skillet so that their surface gets a little blackened and feathery and the spices really bloom.) Suleiman makes the hummus, too, and the hot sauce and the muhammara, and this is why people drop into a seemingly random convenience shop (across the street from a gas station) wanting nothing more than a bag of potato chips and a soda&mdashbut wind up leaving with a stockpile of handmade Middle Eastern treats to bring home for dinner. Irvington Delight is but one example of countless corner stores and bodegas around the United States where people carefully, passionately honor the cuisine of a home country that they left behind. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the places that keep us alive. &mdashJG

J&J's Family Restaurant (Pittsburgh, PA): A greasy spoon diner in a city full of greasy spoon diners worth talking about. J&J's isn't the one you'll see on TV, though. A true family-owned joint that sits atop the city's historic Mount Washington. Assorted coffee mugs that don't match. Serving sizes that'll last you all day. A dining experience that makes you feel like family. &mdashBB

Jitlada (Los Angeles, CA): You haven&rsquot really experienced Los Angeles in all its polyglot glory until you&rsquove gone to Jitlada with a big, hungry group of friends. Even if you know Thai food pretty well, the menu is so expansive that it&rsquos impossible for first-timers to navigate, but you can&rsquot go wrong. Ask irrepressible owner Jazz Singsanong to choose for you, or just point your finger at random&mdashjungle curry crispy pork, spicy crab claw morning glory, turmeric catfish, mussels in green curry&mdashand prepare your mind and palate for a psychedelic wallop of flavor. &mdashJG

Kalaya (Philadelphia, PA): No punches are pulled by chef/owner Chutatip &ldquoNok&rdquo Suntaranon and her remarkably spicy, funky, practically vibrating Thai dishes that are a snapshot of her mother&rsquos recipes she learned while growing up in Southern Thailand. &mdashKS

Keens (New York, NY): In a city of restaurants filled with history, none has more powerful old-school vibes than Keens Chophouse. Walk through the wooden double doors on 36th street and the history hits you as if all of the pipes lining the ceiling were still wafting smoke. Once you take in the antiques and memorabilia, settle on the order: definitely the porterhouse or the mutton chop, always the creamed spinach and the hashbrowns for sides, and yes, you&rsquoll be having a martini. &mdash KS

Kopitiam (New York, NY): For a few slow months in late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic overtook us, I found myself asking friends to meet me for a Malaysian breakfast at Kopitiam. This didn&rsquot make geographical sense, because Kopitiam sits a few blocks from the East River, at the southern end of Manhattan, and I live along the Hudson River in a suburban county north of Manhattan. Which meant that to enjoy this breakfast, I needed to take a Metro-North commuter train into the city, walk from Grand Central to the subway station in Bryant Park, then catch the F train to East Broadway. None of that bothered me. Desire can be impossible to resist. As I took my journey south, I daydreamed about Kopitiam&rsquos oyster omelet, and the triangles of minced chicken gift-wrapped in pandan leaves, and the nasi lemak (fried anchovies and coconut rice make such a perfect pair), and the hand-pulled coffee with condensed milk. Chef Kyo Pang and restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai and their crew have created, with their menu at Kopitiam, a welcome celebration of the Nyonya cuisine of Southeast Asia. But they&rsquove also built a space you can&rsquot help but linger in, a gentle coffeehouse where you want to wait around and study how morning light alters as the afternoon approaches. New York City can be hard on people sanctuaries like Kopitiam make the days a little bit kinder. &mdashJG

La Esperanza Panaderia (Sacramento, CA): Opened in 1969 by Salvador Plasencia, it&rsquos now being operated by Salvador&rsquos grandchildren. All I have to do is walk into this 52-year-old panaderia that anchors Franklin Boulevard in my hometown of Sacramento to bask in the throngs of childhood nostalgia at warp speed. The smell of gingerbread puerquitos, jammy niños, crusty and soft bolillios, churros y mas will bash you in the face as soon as you open the storefront door, and leave you bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Bide your time in the queue by counting the original black and white tiles on the floor, catching glimpses of the frantic bakers through ajar doors, and impatiently staring into the display cases filled with fresh pan dulce made on-site. Staring into the display case is critical. This way you know what you want as soon as you get to the counter and aren&rsquot one of those pandejos who&rsquos constantly asking &ldquo. ooh, and what&rsquos this. &rdquo You don&rsquot need to know which region every different bread is from, or if it was made with organic heirloom purple Oaxacan corn. You&rsquore holding up the line! Shut up, point, order, move down the line, shove it into your gob. Celebratorily, of course. &mdashIM

Larder (Cleveland, OH): America can&rsquot afford to lose the old but it also can&rsquot afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That&rsquos progress. &mdashJG

La Super-Rica (Santa Barbara, CA): Yeah, we know, Julia Child made it iconic when she announced that this Milpas Street taco stand was her favorite restaurant in America. But for those of us who&rsquove spent a portion of our years chilling in Santa Barbara, La Super-Rica is just that slow, breezy, griddle-scented joint on the corner where everyone democratically waits in line (hey, is that Jackson Browne behind me?) for the pure pleasure of hand-pressed tortillas and sizzling pork and melted cheese and potent salsas. Locals know: If there are special tamales or enchiladas on the tiny chalkboard menu, you need to get them. &mdashJG

La Taqueria (San Francisco, CA): People often ask: tacos or burritos? Usually the answer depends on the restaurant, but at La Taqueria, it's both. Owner Miguel Jara grew up in Tijuana and opened his beloved restaurant in 1973 in the Mission District&mdashit&rsquos been a destination for both locals and visitors since. I always like to start with a taco appetizer before moving on to a burrito, which comes packed with proper proportions of plump pinto beans, your protein of choice (I choose charred then chopped carne asada), green guacamole, creamy crema, and melty cheese (there&rsquos no rice at La Taqueria Jara says it simply acts as filler). The burrito is tightly wrapped in foil, nice and compact, like a mini missile ready to launch into your mouth. In-the-know regulars get both burritos and tacos "dorados," so that the tortillas are fried until golden and crispy. Whatever you do, don't forget the salsa. &mdashOM

Lehja (Richmond, VA): Because spice, hospitality, and wine aren&rsquot luxuries&mdashthey&rsquore essentials. Because even in a time of scarcity and fear, chef-owner Sunny Baweja dishes up generosity and joy (and chaat!). Because this unassuming, unexpected jewel in a Virginia mall is one of the very best Indian restaurants in America. &mdashJT

Leo's Taco Truck (Los Angeles, CA): I&rsquove had the privilege of eating at the following three-Michelin-star restaurants: The French Laundry, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Lung King Heen, Single Thread, Alinea. I get just as much satisfaction consuming a platter of al pastor tacos from Leo&rsquos as I do with any of those fancy spots. Leo&rsquos is firmly on the lowbrow/brilliant end of the spectrum&mdashthe OG location is in the parking lot of a gas station on South La Brea and Venice&mdashbut show up on a Friday night at 2 a.m. and the line consistently spills around the block. Ask 100 different Angelenos where the best tacos are in the city and you&rsquoll get 200 answers. But I bet a lot of those responses will have Leo&rsquos in the number one spot. &mdashDD

Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, TX): I remember taking my older kids here a few years ago. They had to be patient. We waited in line, and the line moved slowly. Margot and Toby studied the greasy blackness of the walls&mdashlike the smoke smudges in a French cathedral&mdashuntil we placed our order. We snagged a table. Margot picked up a beef rib that seemed to weigh more than she did. She bit into the juicy meat and her eyes rolled back and she emitted a squeak of unfiltered delight. She polished off the whole rib and then asked for another. They say a father is only as happy as his children are. In that moment, I was happy. &mdashJG

Lowell&rsquos (Seattle, WA): Oh, so you think Pike Place Market is nothing but a tourist trap? Here&rsquos a secret. Go early. Go at dawn, when the only people you&rsquoll see are the stall owners arranging fresh fish on hills of shaved ice, and wait outside the doors of Lowell&rsquos (look for the sign that says &ldquoAlmost Classy Since 1957&rdquo) so that when the place opens at 7 sharp, you can get one of the tables overlooking Elliott Bay. You want an omelet stuff with Dungeness crab&mdashyou&rsquore in a fish market, after all&mdashand maybe also a Hangtown Fry with eggs and bacon and fresh oysters all scrambled together. &mdashJG

Marcel&rsquos by Robert Wiedmaier (Washington, D.C.): In twenty-one years on Pennsylvania Avenue, how many big fish were fêted, state secrets spilt, and will-you-marry-me's uttered behind the curtain at Table 28? How many tinned tons of Sevruga, kilograms of white truffles, and pieds du roi of boudin blanc were squired from copper pan to bone china to shining cloche to starched table again and again in flawless ballet like the Bolshoi? Nowhere in Washington, D.C., is fine-dining done finer. Nowhere is it easier to feel thoroughly at home in a tuxedo. The stewards of slow luxuries must never die. &mdashJT

Metzger Bar & Butchery (Richmond, VA): Schnitzel, schupfnudeln, and schadenfreude. 2020 saw far too much of one and not nearly enough of the other two. Chef Brittanny Anderson opened her little German joint in 2014&mdashan outpost of modern exceptionalism in a historic yet overlooked district. She planted a tiny garden, built dining room furniture from a single tree, put her DJ husband behind the bar spinning drinks and funk, and started serving local takes on trout rillettes, rabbit, and pork chops with carafes of Zweigelt. Every neighborhood needs a place where you can eat three times a week and not get bored or go broke. &mdashJT

Mosquito Supper Club (New Orleans, LA): Crispy, delicate soft-shelled shrimp. Browned cabbage smothered down in salt pork. Rustic seafood gumbo&mdashokra, crab, and shrimp&mdashthat can&rsquot be rushed. Seasonal, savory, and capped with a story or two. Well before chefs the world round embraced &ldquoblackened everything&rdquo as Cajun identifier, south Louisiana folk made magic with simple foods linked to the waters, skies, and land around them. For years chef Melissa Martin ran a series of deep Cajun pop-ups that showcased the foods of her childhood far from the relatively bright city lights of New Orleans. Finally settled for a spell, Martin cooks the seafood-dominant dishes from her coastal hometown of Chauvin, Louisiana (population 2700), in a double-shotgun frame house tucked away in the residential Uptown neighborhood. Her dedication to her family&rsquos traditional foods and family-style hospitality make the Mosquito Supper Club a relaxed, home-style experience that gets you deep into a culture you thought you understood. &mdashPJ

Nanina's in the Park (Belleville, NJ): Okay, this one&rsquos actually a banquet hall, but it&rsquos a keeper. Generations of Newark-area Italian-Americans and those who love them have celebrated weddings, graduations, and first holy communions at this grand and slightly gaudy (so just about right) Italian villa planted at the north end of Branch Brook park. It&rsquos a banquet hall that actually does Italian food really well, because it has to. An institution. &mdashJK


100 Restaurants America Can't Afford to Lose

We're raising a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashbecause if we lose them, we lose who we are.

You know that bistro around the corner, the one where you and your partner first locked eyes across the table? The Southern barbecue joint where, back in the days before the pandemic, you and your comrades used to come together for sweet racks of ribs on Friday nights as another sorry workweek sputtered to a close? The bodega where you&rsquore such a regular that no one has to ask how you like your breakfast sandwich. The taqueria where they nail the salsa verde. The place where you can watch a Korean grandmother making dumplings in the kitchen. The New England landmark with the picnic tables and lobster rolls. Or, wait, how about the trattoria with the long, honey-hued bar and the wine list that makes you want to throw away common sense and max out your credit card?

What if those places were to vanish? What if you were to wake tomorrow morning and learn that that remnant of your life&mdashand that portion of your community&rsquos lingua franca&mdashhad been erased? Such a prospect has been a real threat all year, with the relentless tragedy of COVID-19 leaving many American restaurants, even established classics, on the brink of bankruptcy. The threat will only intensify as winter progresses and restaurateurs have to abandon the outdoor dining that has kept them treading water for months. We love restaurants here at Esquire, and we hope that during this holiday season you&rsquoll consider making donations to Southern Smoke and the Lee Initiative and other organizations that are helping restaurant workers endure the crisis. We also hope you&rsquoll raise a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashthat we consider restaurants that America can&rsquot afford to lose. Because if we lose them, we lose who we are. &mdashJeff Gordinier

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (Noank, CT): Picnic tables on the grass by the water. Steamed lobsters, caught that day, with drawn butter in paper cups. A beer. &mdashRyan D'Agostino

Abyssinia (Philadelphia, PA): "Oh, I love that place." That's what I often hear from Philadelphians whenever I happen to mention Abyssinia. The connection runs deep. And that's no surprise, because the warmth of the hospitality at this beloved Ethiopian spot makes you feel as though you've joined a family for dinner in their home&mdasheven if you happen to be dining alone. A little while back, when I was teaching a writing course at Drexel University, I used to catch an early train from Manhattan just so that I could get a quick, quiet lunch of injera and stews at Abyssinia before dashing to the classroom. But it's even better with a big group. Let's all gather here when the pandemic is over. We'll have a feast. &mdashJG

Alpino Vino (Telluride, CO): Some restaurants are worth the hike, literally. Alpino Vino is a 30-ish seat Italian restaurant burrowed into a cliff way above Telluride (a magical place in and of itself). There&rsquos nothing easy about getting to the place&mdashyou can ski a narrow trail and, well, that&rsquos your option&mdashnor even anything easy about getting a seat. (See: my note about seating 30 people at a time.) But Telluride is the most important it&rsquos where I fell in love with my now husband it&rsquos where we took my family to celebrate our engagement and it&rsquos a place I return to twice a year like clockwork to remember all that. That Alpino Vino serves truly perfect food, both cozy and refined, and has one of the most amazing wine lists I&rsquoll ever experience is just the proverbial cherry on top. No trip west is complete without a visit. &mdashMadison Vain

Al&rsquos Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN): Flapjacks on the griddle. Hazy morning sunlight through stained-glass awnings. Foreign currency tacked to a shelf, above the Magic Markered coffee mugs belonging to various regulars. A sign that says &ldquoBeware of Attack Waitress.&rdquo If a breakfast counter could be the IRL manifestation of a Replacements song, this would be it. &mdashJG

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit, MI): They&rsquore right next to each other on the same block in downtown Detroit, and the story is that theirs is a bitter and endless grudge match. Whatever. The point is that both of them raise a torch for a true regional delight: coneys, which are hot dogs flooded with funky chili, yellow mustard, and raw onions. &mdashJG

Angler (San Francisco, CA): Decadence in the form of wild game and giant crustaceans and magnificent heads of radicchio, sometimes served raw or cooked over open fire, drizzled with truffles or XO sauce, and, on the side, copious amounts of caviar and oysters, atop a magnificent table made from the trunk of a centuries old redwood. Your memories of Angler will be like a hunting lodge fever dream you can&rsquot wait to have over and over. &mdashKevin Sintumuang

Anteprima (Chicago, IL): The chef is not a celebrity. No Michelin Star. It&rsquos not on the James Beard Foundation's radar. These are the very reasons Anteprima is perfect to me. The dining room is always full. The owner greets you at the door. The waitstaff in their long white aprons remember your names and if you prefer sparkling or tap. Anteprima&rsquos menu changes daily. With each micro season we see dishes pristinely representing fresh ingredients. Hakurei turnips, breakfast radish, ramps, and morels in the spring. Corn and tomatoes in the summer. Roots in the fall. Squashes, truffles, and alliums through the winter. I love this place. &mdashIliana Regan

Arnold's (Nashville, TN): Nashville wouldn&rsquot be Nashville without the red-tray, meat-and-three comfort of Arnold&rsquos Country Kitchen. Locals and tourists, writers and musicians, and everyone in between line up cafeteria-style for juicy roast beef carved to order and creamy chocolate chess pies for dessert. No reservations, no pretense. Arnold's simple, straightforward fare is the first thing on my mind when I think about Music City. &mdashOmar Mamoon

Bamboo Garden (Brooklyn, NY): This massive dim sum restaurant is out in Brooklyn&rsquos Chinatown in Sunset Park. With elaborate chandeliers and big banquet tables, it&rsquos always filled with families celebrating special occasions. It's so joyful. Every time we go we get the Peking duck, which is just perfect. &mdashKate Storey

Bar Tabac (Brooklyn, NY): Definition of a neighborhood eatery. Go for the Burgundy snails, and footie matches on the TV. &mdashNick Sullivan

Black-Eyed Susan's (Nantucket, MA): They do breakfast and they do dinner and they do them well, for not many people (it&rsquos tiny) and for cash only, and you&rsquoll remember it. Especially the Pennsylvania Dutch pancakes made with a slice of Jarlsberg. &mdashRD

Blueberry Hill (St. Louis, MO): I have been coming down here&mdashto the loop in St. Louis, one of the greatest streets of food and music in America, that is&mdashfor (the very best!) burgers and live music quite literally since I got keys to a car. It made me feel like a rebel when I was young, out late hearing new bands, buying my own dinners, and it makes me remarkably nostalgic now that I&rsquom not. Also, Chuck Berry played a monthly show here for 200 months in a row, so if you won&rsquot take my word for it, perhaps his will do. &mdashMV

Blue Moon Cafe (Shepherdstown, WV): Locals, tourists from D.C., professors from the small university, all sitting together enjoying buffalo chicken salads and black bean burgers and maybe somebody playing the guitar. &mdashRD

Bouquet (Covington, KY): Maybe you&rsquove grown weary of the phrase &ldquofarm to table.&rdquo Maybe it&rsquos lost its punch, in certain quarters of the country. But Bouquet is a restaurant that makes &ldquofarm to table&rdquo matter again&mdashand in Mitch McConnell&rsquos home state, no less. Chef Stephen Williams opened the restaurant in 2007 &ldquoas one of the first restaurants in the area to embrace local and sustainable farming as a cornerstone of its mission,&rdquo as the place&rsquos website puts it, and that mission hasn&rsquot lost an ounce of passion in the intervening years. The stuff on the menu sounds straightforward enough&mdashdeviled eggs, a green salad, meatballs, a pork chop&mdashbut everything soars because of the chef&rsquos obvious reverence for the ingredients that he uses. Yes, that matters. &mdashJG

Brigtsen&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): &ldquoIf you&rsquove only got one dinner, I&rsquom gonna ask you to leave the Quarter.&rdquo Can&rsquot tell you how many times I&rsquove put first-time visitors to New Orleans in this conceptual bind. &ldquoGo to this little shotgun house on Dante Street and you&rsquoll never forget it.&rdquo At 20 years old, this family-run bistro doesn&rsquot pop up on &ldquonew and hot&rdquo or &ldquoTV chef&rdquo lists, but instead chugs along providing deep hospitality and interpreting Louisiana classics from the Creole, Cajun, and Southern canons that excite the palate and soothe the soul. A local boy and veteran of Paul Prudhomme&rsquos opening brigade at K-Paul&rsquos, chef Frank Brigtsen works magic in an impossibly tiny kitchen with abundant Gulf seafood and our year-round farm bounty. He&rsquoll fry up bayou catfish to delicate, cracking perfection and lay you low with an impossibly savory roast duck on dirty rice. Broiled redfish with a lump crabmeat crust can make the most open-hearted dining companion fiercely territorial. Frank&rsquos wife, Marna, and his sisters, Sandy and Rhonda, run the front of house with an effortless, enveloping friendliness that can turn a harried first-time guest into an instant regular. Also, pecan pie that will haunt your dreams. &mdashPableaux Johnson

Busy Bee (Atlanta, GA): When self-taught cook Mama Lucy Jackson opened Busy Bee Cafe in 1947, she did so on West Hunter Street, one of only two streets available to African American entrepreneurs at the time. Hunter would go on to be named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive after the restaurant&rsquos (and Atlanta&rsquos) most important patron. Back then it was the place for civil rights activists and organizers to safely meet and strategize. Today it&rsquos known as the place with the best fried chicken in the city. The sides are exquisite renderings of Southern staples with the rice and gravy, collards, and mac n&rsquo cheese shining particularly brightly. Don&rsquot miss the cornmeal-dusted and encrusted catfish, made memorable with its steamy and silken flesh. &mdashStephen Satterfield

Canlis (Seattle, WA): If we tell you that Canlis is the &ldquoepitome of elegance,&rdquo which it is, you might get the wrong impression. For three generations, in a black masterpiece of modernist architecture that reaches up and out toward Lake Union like a swimmer about to leap off the starting block, the Canlis family has fine-tuned a form of hospitality so effortless that a &ldquofancy&rdquo meal feels like a reunion with old friends. &mdashJG

Casamento&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): Even when there&rsquos not a pandemic going on, sometimes Casamento&rsquos stays closed for the day. Maybe it&rsquos not the right season for oysters, or maybe somebody&rsquos just not in the mood. Hey, it&rsquos 101 years old, so go easy on the place. When it is open (nowhere near the frat-boy lures of the French Quarter, thank you very much), Casamento&rsquos remains a tiled shrine to briny simplicity. You want a &ldquoloaf,&rdquo which amounts to a heap of fried oysters in between fat slices of white bread. We don&rsquot have to tell you to use a lot of hot sauce, right? &mdashJG

Celeste (Somerville, MA): He spins vintage Chicha, makes Peruvian arthouse films, and mans the fire. She transforms space with a graduate degree in experimental architecture and embraces guests with Guatemalan warmth. Together, husband and wife JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau recast their at-home pop-up into a postmodernist brick-and-mortar paean of Peruvian and Andean spice. Art and aperitivos, pisco and purple corn, neon and neighbors, all pressed together in a tiny, bright vessel designed to amplify joy. The food is sublime, but Celeste (rhymes with &ldquosay yes: play&rdquo) is the greater alchemy of menu, mixtapes, and merrymaking that satiates a deeper kind of hungry. &mdashJason Tesauro

Cochon (New Orleans, LA): The last time I visited New Orleans, I went straight to Cochon from the airport. I began eating lunch alone at the bar, and I began texting my friends, and a couple of them asked whether I was drunk or high&mdashthat&rsquos how effusive I got. A jambalaya studded with pork cheeks and andouille sent me over the edge. I actually started hollering with joy. A bartender asked me whether I was okay. I was humming like a lunatic. &mdashJG

Cowan's Public (Nutley, NJ): The craft-beer, proper-drink, good-food revolution arrived in this corner of North Jersey a few years ago with this simple but beautiful Art Deco restaurant. The town has embraced it like something it never knew it was missing. To lose it would be a step backward. &mdashJohn Kenney

Cozy Corner (Memphis, TN): I told my friend Jay, in Memphis, I want the real thing. He suggested a couple of spots that didn&rsquot sound right to me&mdashtoo tidy, too bougie, too TV-friendly. I said, no, the real fucking thing, and that&rsquos when we went to Cozy Corner, owned by barbecue matriarch Desiree Robinson. We got ribs and fries and a bologna sandwich and a whole Cornish hen practically lacquered in a shiny glaze of sauce. It was as real as real gets. &mdashJG

Cunetto House of Pasta (St. Louis, MO): I know everyone thinks the best Italian food in America is in New York, but I&rsquod argue they haven&rsquot been to the Hill in St. Louis, Missouri. Driving down to these streets and bouncing between the cafes and bakeries and grocers felt like going on an exotic sojourn when I was very young, and the thought of losing any of these mom-and-pop establishments and the culture that goes with them fills me with dread. The crown jewel of the area is Cunetto&rsquos. Aside from being the first place I tried veal (which ended in tears as my parents explained just what veal is), it&rsquos a menu with absolutely no fuss but tons of flavor. Also, they serve amazing toasted raviolis, a St. Louis classic. &mdashMV

Cúrate (Asheville, NC): Great restaurants are like rocket boosters for neighborhoods: Attach a hot spot to a sad stretch of sidewalk and watch everything begin to move. Katie Button&rsquos Cúrate has been that kind of engine for the city of Asheville, giving the local food scene a shot of adrenaline along with all that paella and garlic shrimp and jamón ibérico. She also happens to serve the single best bean dish in America: an Asturian stew called fabada that&rsquos luscious with the fat of housemade chorizo and morcilla. &mdashJG

Diamond Head Grill (Honolulu, HI): This takeout counter on the mauka (mountain) side of Diamond Head isn&rsquot a scenic spot &mdash just a sun-beaten parking lot with a few picnic tables along a concrete wall &mdash but the plate lunches spill over with the likes of miso ginger salmon, kalbi beef and char siu pork, plus a heap of rice: white, brown or, the best, hapa, brown and white together. &mdashLigaya Mishan

Dino's Pizza (Chicago, IL): It was my family&rsquos go-to place for pizza on Friday nights when my brother and I were kids. And it still is for my parents. Nothing fancy. Not trendy, not even in a post-ironic hipster kind of way. (Thank God.) It&rsquos on the edge of Chicago, right next to the suburb where I grew up. The bar attracts mostly cops and firefighters. We&rsquod do carryout, which means when I visit my folks my dad and I leave a few minutes early to pick up the pizza so we can sneak in a beer and a shot before heading home. Important to note that they don&rsquot specialize in deep-dish pizza, but the other kind of Chicago pizza&mdashthe much better kind of Chicago pizza&mdashwhich is pub style: cut into squares, soft but not thick. &mdashMichael Sebastian

Ditch Witch (Montauk, NY): Not a restaurant, traditionally speaking, but this food truck just off Ditch Plains beach in Montauk is half the reason you'll want to go to the beach at all. Their Tomahawk bowl packed with fresh tuna is worth waiting in line for&mdashand you'll have to. &mdashBen Boskovich

Dooky Chase&rsquos Restaurant (New Orleans, LA): Fried chicken, green gumbo, and the strength of legacy. For the better part of her 97 years, different communities in New Orleans turned to chef Leah Chase for sustenance, strength, and good counsel. In the 1960s, civil rights leaders asked for her advice and a meeting place to hash out the end of the segregationist era (over bowls of her gumbo, of course). When levee failures following Hurricane Katrina deluged the city, shocked and displaced citizens took solace and strength from Ms. Leah&rsquos words and determination&mdasheven as she mucked out her own dining room and oversaw renovations from a FEMA trailer parked next to the landmark restaurant in Treme. Her passing in June 2019 broke the hearts of many and put the onus on her family to continue her work, her Holy Thursday traditions, and a successful generational transition&mdashtricky for restaurants even in pre-pandemic times. Thanks to her grandson Edgar &ldquoDooky&rdquo Chase IV in the kitchen and daughter Stella at the helm, locals can still gussy up for lunch buffet (including Ms. Chase&rsquos legendary fried chicken) or indulge on the &ldquoregular menu&rdquo come Friday. Whatever your choice, make sure somebody orders the Creole classic Shrimp Clemenceau&mdashshrimp, crispy potatoes, ham, and mushrooms in garlic&mdashand mask up to meander through the late doyenne&rsquos outstanding African-American art collection. &mdashPJ

Dove&rsquos Luncheonette (Chicago, IL): Okay, here&rsquos the deep secret knowledge possessed by all professional food writers. Are you ready? If you keep wanting to go back to a place, that place is very good. That&rsquos it. And I go back to Dove&rsquos Luncheonette every single time I&rsquom in Chicago. Like clockwork. Usually for breakfast, because breakfast is very important to me, and because the Mexican/Southern mashup served at Dove&rsquos speaks to my Los Angeles soul. Do I want the pozole rojo with carnitas, or should I get the burnt-ends hash with two fried eggs and Texas toast? Doesn&rsquot matter, either way, because I know I&rsquoll be back to try the rest. &mdashJG

Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero, CA): Located along a desolate stretch of Highway 1 in northern California, this restaurant has been in existence since 1897. The recipient of a James Beard award for classic American restaurant in 2003, Duarte&rsquos is firmly not fancy. But what they lack in pretense they make up for in dishes that are at once comforting and offer up a taste of nostalgic coastal California cuisine. Think: artichoke soup, local petrale filet of sole, olallieberry pie. Oh, and the bar is super fun, serving up cheap, tasty martinis and typically packed with colorful locals. &mdashDanny Dumas

Egan and Sons (Montclair, NJ): Remarkably good British/Irish pub food in a bright and open and airy set of rooms. At the heart of it is a soccer bar that draws somehow-not-annoying fans from all over. Best place to watch an EPL match over fish and chips and an oatmeal stout. &mdashJK

El Rey de las Fritas (Miami, FL): Yeah, South Beach is fun, but you haven&rsquot really made contact with Miami&rsquos Latin American spirit until you&rsquove experienced the initiation of the frita. A frita (as interpreted by El Rey, which was founded in the 1970s by Cuban exiles Benito and Gallega Gonzalez) is basically a burger on an airy Cuban bun with an avalanche of shoestring fries and a sweet paste of sautéed onions. It&rsquos a monument, of sorts, to a crucial period in Florida history, and it&rsquos also a damn good snack. &mdashJG

Fork (Philadelphia, PA): I got my first restaurant job at Fork restaurant when I was just out of college. Fork had recently opened and added an elegant vibe to Philadelphia&rsquos Old City. My entire family has dined at Fork and loved every meal&mdashfrom shrimp and grits at brunch to Champagne roasted chicken (takeaway) dinners during quarantine. Every experience at Fork is edifying. Ellen Yin has maintained this gem for more than two decades and I hope it lasts at least another twenty years. &mdashKlancy Miller

Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX): There's a reason for all those lawn chairs lined up outside the place. And yes, it's the brisket, but it's also so much more. And all of it has to do with the guy whose name is on the sign. Aaron Franklin gives a damn about what he's doing, who he's doing it with, and whom he's serving. Wait your turn and you'll see. &mdashBB

Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder, CO): Don&rsquot let the white truffles and caviar scare you off. Frasca may look exclusive if you&rsquore peeking in the window, but inside it&rsquos a house party. Wine guru and manager Bobby Stuckey is a captain of hospitality in the truest, most soulful sense: He makes everyone feel welcome and loved. &mdashJG

Fraunces Tavern (New York, NY): Because Washington said farewell to his officers upstairs, of course, but also because it&rsquos actually still a cozy tavern with surprisingly good food and a warm feeling in the older rooms. The whiskey bar up front is the snuggest place you can be on a winter night in Manhattan. &mdashJK

Freedman's (Los Angeles, CA): An unassuming location with unbelievable Jewish-American fare. You'll get out of the Uber thinking "where am I?" and leave wondering how you'll possibly follow up that meal with anything else. The latke waffle and lox will rock your world. &mdashBB

Galatoire&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): There may be no finer example of Food As Theater / Food as Culture than this Crescent City landmark known for its marathon, booze-saturated Friday lunch. A few months back I fretted to my friend Pableaux, whose family goes way back in Louisiana, that Galatoire&rsquos ran the risk of becoming a mere tourist trap. Pableaux shushed me and set me straight. Galatoire&rsquos matters, he let me know, and Galatoire&rsquos will always matter. &mdashJG

Genova Bakery (Stockton, CA): One of the best towering stacks of Toscano salame, turkey, cheddar, provolone, shredded lettuce, red onion, light mayo, heavy on the mustard on a soft and chewy Milk Roll comes from a 102-year-old bakery in the sepia-toned San Joaquin Valley. As soon as your hand touches the handle on Genova Bakery&rsquos antediluvian wooden screen door, you involuntarily envision the bakery&rsquos inception in 1918. Founded by Angelo and Giovanni Rolleri&mdashat the location it still occupies&mdashGenova Bakery is now owned by Tim Canevari, who&rsquos been working at the bakery since he was in high school. This is the place to grab your Italian goods: bulk biscotti, olives, beans, pasta, in-house made focaccia, and myriad Panettone during Christmas. Canevari took over the business in 2004 and has changed nothing. Nothing. Okay, Canevari added a few additional bread styles such as Dutch crunch, wheat, and sourdough. However, nothing has changed, from the quality of the fresh baked bread, the height of the sandwiches, the narrow-plank original hardwood floors, to the warmth of the employees. All of the character of Genova is intact. Genova Bakery was declared a historical landmark in 1985, for this place is the soul of Stockton. &mdashIllyanna Maisonet

Han Oak (Portland, OR): I still have dreams about Han Oak&mdashactual dreams. I dream about moving to the Pacific Northwest and living with chef Peter Cho and his beautiful family, helping out in the kitchen, learning how to make Korean dumplings, studying the nuances of kimchi. Which isn&rsquot entirely illogical&mdashHan Oak blends into the Cho family&rsquos backyard, and a meal there has the casual vibe of a family reunion around a picnic table. The mere thought of never being able to return to Han Oak makes me heartsick. &mdashJG

Havana (Bar Harbor, ME): A Cuban restaurant in Maine? No: A fantastic Cuban restaurant in Maine. Get the paella with local lobster, a Havana Martini, and call it a night. &mdashRD

Huynh (Houston, TX): Visiting Houston without eating Vietnamese food would be like going to Bologna and neglecting the pasta. There&rsquos always a wait for a seat at this family-owned strip-mall jewel, but the tables turn fast, and everyone with any sense in Houston will tell you that for ten bucks, you&rsquore not going to find a more satisfying and delicious meal than the gingery, herbaceous duck salad known as Goi Vit. &mdashJG

Irvington Delight (Irvington, NY): Amal Suleiman rolls her stuffed grape leaves by hand, and you can tell. In fact, the original vines were brought to the United States from Jordan in the 1980s, so she and her family actually grow the grape leaves and pick them in a backyard in suburban Westchester County. (I like to give the grape leaves a quick scorch in a cast iron skillet so that their surface gets a little blackened and feathery and the spices really bloom.) Suleiman makes the hummus, too, and the hot sauce and the muhammara, and this is why people drop into a seemingly random convenience shop (across the street from a gas station) wanting nothing more than a bag of potato chips and a soda&mdashbut wind up leaving with a stockpile of handmade Middle Eastern treats to bring home for dinner. Irvington Delight is but one example of countless corner stores and bodegas around the United States where people carefully, passionately honor the cuisine of a home country that they left behind. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the places that keep us alive. &mdashJG

J&J's Family Restaurant (Pittsburgh, PA): A greasy spoon diner in a city full of greasy spoon diners worth talking about. J&J's isn't the one you'll see on TV, though. A true family-owned joint that sits atop the city's historic Mount Washington. Assorted coffee mugs that don't match. Serving sizes that'll last you all day. A dining experience that makes you feel like family. &mdashBB

Jitlada (Los Angeles, CA): You haven&rsquot really experienced Los Angeles in all its polyglot glory until you&rsquove gone to Jitlada with a big, hungry group of friends. Even if you know Thai food pretty well, the menu is so expansive that it&rsquos impossible for first-timers to navigate, but you can&rsquot go wrong. Ask irrepressible owner Jazz Singsanong to choose for you, or just point your finger at random&mdashjungle curry crispy pork, spicy crab claw morning glory, turmeric catfish, mussels in green curry&mdashand prepare your mind and palate for a psychedelic wallop of flavor. &mdashJG

Kalaya (Philadelphia, PA): No punches are pulled by chef/owner Chutatip &ldquoNok&rdquo Suntaranon and her remarkably spicy, funky, practically vibrating Thai dishes that are a snapshot of her mother&rsquos recipes she learned while growing up in Southern Thailand. &mdashKS

Keens (New York, NY): In a city of restaurants filled with history, none has more powerful old-school vibes than Keens Chophouse. Walk through the wooden double doors on 36th street and the history hits you as if all of the pipes lining the ceiling were still wafting smoke. Once you take in the antiques and memorabilia, settle on the order: definitely the porterhouse or the mutton chop, always the creamed spinach and the hashbrowns for sides, and yes, you&rsquoll be having a martini. &mdash KS

Kopitiam (New York, NY): For a few slow months in late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic overtook us, I found myself asking friends to meet me for a Malaysian breakfast at Kopitiam. This didn&rsquot make geographical sense, because Kopitiam sits a few blocks from the East River, at the southern end of Manhattan, and I live along the Hudson River in a suburban county north of Manhattan. Which meant that to enjoy this breakfast, I needed to take a Metro-North commuter train into the city, walk from Grand Central to the subway station in Bryant Park, then catch the F train to East Broadway. None of that bothered me. Desire can be impossible to resist. As I took my journey south, I daydreamed about Kopitiam&rsquos oyster omelet, and the triangles of minced chicken gift-wrapped in pandan leaves, and the nasi lemak (fried anchovies and coconut rice make such a perfect pair), and the hand-pulled coffee with condensed milk. Chef Kyo Pang and restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai and their crew have created, with their menu at Kopitiam, a welcome celebration of the Nyonya cuisine of Southeast Asia. But they&rsquove also built a space you can&rsquot help but linger in, a gentle coffeehouse where you want to wait around and study how morning light alters as the afternoon approaches. New York City can be hard on people sanctuaries like Kopitiam make the days a little bit kinder. &mdashJG

La Esperanza Panaderia (Sacramento, CA): Opened in 1969 by Salvador Plasencia, it&rsquos now being operated by Salvador&rsquos grandchildren. All I have to do is walk into this 52-year-old panaderia that anchors Franklin Boulevard in my hometown of Sacramento to bask in the throngs of childhood nostalgia at warp speed. The smell of gingerbread puerquitos, jammy niños, crusty and soft bolillios, churros y mas will bash you in the face as soon as you open the storefront door, and leave you bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Bide your time in the queue by counting the original black and white tiles on the floor, catching glimpses of the frantic bakers through ajar doors, and impatiently staring into the display cases filled with fresh pan dulce made on-site. Staring into the display case is critical. This way you know what you want as soon as you get to the counter and aren&rsquot one of those pandejos who&rsquos constantly asking &ldquo. ooh, and what&rsquos this. &rdquo You don&rsquot need to know which region every different bread is from, or if it was made with organic heirloom purple Oaxacan corn. You&rsquore holding up the line! Shut up, point, order, move down the line, shove it into your gob. Celebratorily, of course. &mdashIM

Larder (Cleveland, OH): America can&rsquot afford to lose the old but it also can&rsquot afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That&rsquos progress. &mdashJG

La Super-Rica (Santa Barbara, CA): Yeah, we know, Julia Child made it iconic when she announced that this Milpas Street taco stand was her favorite restaurant in America. But for those of us who&rsquove spent a portion of our years chilling in Santa Barbara, La Super-Rica is just that slow, breezy, griddle-scented joint on the corner where everyone democratically waits in line (hey, is that Jackson Browne behind me?) for the pure pleasure of hand-pressed tortillas and sizzling pork and melted cheese and potent salsas. Locals know: If there are special tamales or enchiladas on the tiny chalkboard menu, you need to get them. &mdashJG

La Taqueria (San Francisco, CA): People often ask: tacos or burritos? Usually the answer depends on the restaurant, but at La Taqueria, it's both. Owner Miguel Jara grew up in Tijuana and opened his beloved restaurant in 1973 in the Mission District&mdashit&rsquos been a destination for both locals and visitors since. I always like to start with a taco appetizer before moving on to a burrito, which comes packed with proper proportions of plump pinto beans, your protein of choice (I choose charred then chopped carne asada), green guacamole, creamy crema, and melty cheese (there&rsquos no rice at La Taqueria Jara says it simply acts as filler). The burrito is tightly wrapped in foil, nice and compact, like a mini missile ready to launch into your mouth. In-the-know regulars get both burritos and tacos "dorados," so that the tortillas are fried until golden and crispy. Whatever you do, don't forget the salsa. &mdashOM

Lehja (Richmond, VA): Because spice, hospitality, and wine aren&rsquot luxuries&mdashthey&rsquore essentials. Because even in a time of scarcity and fear, chef-owner Sunny Baweja dishes up generosity and joy (and chaat!). Because this unassuming, unexpected jewel in a Virginia mall is one of the very best Indian restaurants in America. &mdashJT

Leo's Taco Truck (Los Angeles, CA): I&rsquove had the privilege of eating at the following three-Michelin-star restaurants: The French Laundry, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Lung King Heen, Single Thread, Alinea. I get just as much satisfaction consuming a platter of al pastor tacos from Leo&rsquos as I do with any of those fancy spots. Leo&rsquos is firmly on the lowbrow/brilliant end of the spectrum&mdashthe OG location is in the parking lot of a gas station on South La Brea and Venice&mdashbut show up on a Friday night at 2 a.m. and the line consistently spills around the block. Ask 100 different Angelenos where the best tacos are in the city and you&rsquoll get 200 answers. But I bet a lot of those responses will have Leo&rsquos in the number one spot. &mdashDD

Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, TX): I remember taking my older kids here a few years ago. They had to be patient. We waited in line, and the line moved slowly. Margot and Toby studied the greasy blackness of the walls&mdashlike the smoke smudges in a French cathedral&mdashuntil we placed our order. We snagged a table. Margot picked up a beef rib that seemed to weigh more than she did. She bit into the juicy meat and her eyes rolled back and she emitted a squeak of unfiltered delight. She polished off the whole rib and then asked for another. They say a father is only as happy as his children are. In that moment, I was happy. &mdashJG

Lowell&rsquos (Seattle, WA): Oh, so you think Pike Place Market is nothing but a tourist trap? Here&rsquos a secret. Go early. Go at dawn, when the only people you&rsquoll see are the stall owners arranging fresh fish on hills of shaved ice, and wait outside the doors of Lowell&rsquos (look for the sign that says &ldquoAlmost Classy Since 1957&rdquo) so that when the place opens at 7 sharp, you can get one of the tables overlooking Elliott Bay. You want an omelet stuff with Dungeness crab&mdashyou&rsquore in a fish market, after all&mdashand maybe also a Hangtown Fry with eggs and bacon and fresh oysters all scrambled together. &mdashJG

Marcel&rsquos by Robert Wiedmaier (Washington, D.C.): In twenty-one years on Pennsylvania Avenue, how many big fish were fêted, state secrets spilt, and will-you-marry-me's uttered behind the curtain at Table 28? How many tinned tons of Sevruga, kilograms of white truffles, and pieds du roi of boudin blanc were squired from copper pan to bone china to shining cloche to starched table again and again in flawless ballet like the Bolshoi? Nowhere in Washington, D.C., is fine-dining done finer. Nowhere is it easier to feel thoroughly at home in a tuxedo. The stewards of slow luxuries must never die. &mdashJT

Metzger Bar & Butchery (Richmond, VA): Schnitzel, schupfnudeln, and schadenfreude. 2020 saw far too much of one and not nearly enough of the other two. Chef Brittanny Anderson opened her little German joint in 2014&mdashan outpost of modern exceptionalism in a historic yet overlooked district. She planted a tiny garden, built dining room furniture from a single tree, put her DJ husband behind the bar spinning drinks and funk, and started serving local takes on trout rillettes, rabbit, and pork chops with carafes of Zweigelt. Every neighborhood needs a place where you can eat three times a week and not get bored or go broke. &mdashJT

Mosquito Supper Club (New Orleans, LA): Crispy, delicate soft-shelled shrimp. Browned cabbage smothered down in salt pork. Rustic seafood gumbo&mdashokra, crab, and shrimp&mdashthat can&rsquot be rushed. Seasonal, savory, and capped with a story or two. Well before chefs the world round embraced &ldquoblackened everything&rdquo as Cajun identifier, south Louisiana folk made magic with simple foods linked to the waters, skies, and land around them. For years chef Melissa Martin ran a series of deep Cajun pop-ups that showcased the foods of her childhood far from the relatively bright city lights of New Orleans. Finally settled for a spell, Martin cooks the seafood-dominant dishes from her coastal hometown of Chauvin, Louisiana (population 2700), in a double-shotgun frame house tucked away in the residential Uptown neighborhood. Her dedication to her family&rsquos traditional foods and family-style hospitality make the Mosquito Supper Club a relaxed, home-style experience that gets you deep into a culture you thought you understood. &mdashPJ

Nanina's in the Park (Belleville, NJ): Okay, this one&rsquos actually a banquet hall, but it&rsquos a keeper. Generations of Newark-area Italian-Americans and those who love them have celebrated weddings, graduations, and first holy communions at this grand and slightly gaudy (so just about right) Italian villa planted at the north end of Branch Brook park. It&rsquos a banquet hall that actually does Italian food really well, because it has to. An institution. &mdashJK


100 Restaurants America Can't Afford to Lose

We're raising a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashbecause if we lose them, we lose who we are.

You know that bistro around the corner, the one where you and your partner first locked eyes across the table? The Southern barbecue joint where, back in the days before the pandemic, you and your comrades used to come together for sweet racks of ribs on Friday nights as another sorry workweek sputtered to a close? The bodega where you&rsquore such a regular that no one has to ask how you like your breakfast sandwich. The taqueria where they nail the salsa verde. The place where you can watch a Korean grandmother making dumplings in the kitchen. The New England landmark with the picnic tables and lobster rolls. Or, wait, how about the trattoria with the long, honey-hued bar and the wine list that makes you want to throw away common sense and max out your credit card?

What if those places were to vanish? What if you were to wake tomorrow morning and learn that that remnant of your life&mdashand that portion of your community&rsquos lingua franca&mdashhad been erased? Such a prospect has been a real threat all year, with the relentless tragedy of COVID-19 leaving many American restaurants, even established classics, on the brink of bankruptcy. The threat will only intensify as winter progresses and restaurateurs have to abandon the outdoor dining that has kept them treading water for months. We love restaurants here at Esquire, and we hope that during this holiday season you&rsquoll consider making donations to Southern Smoke and the Lee Initiative and other organizations that are helping restaurant workers endure the crisis. We also hope you&rsquoll raise a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashthat we consider restaurants that America can&rsquot afford to lose. Because if we lose them, we lose who we are. &mdashJeff Gordinier

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (Noank, CT): Picnic tables on the grass by the water. Steamed lobsters, caught that day, with drawn butter in paper cups. A beer. &mdashRyan D'Agostino

Abyssinia (Philadelphia, PA): "Oh, I love that place." That's what I often hear from Philadelphians whenever I happen to mention Abyssinia. The connection runs deep. And that's no surprise, because the warmth of the hospitality at this beloved Ethiopian spot makes you feel as though you've joined a family for dinner in their home&mdasheven if you happen to be dining alone. A little while back, when I was teaching a writing course at Drexel University, I used to catch an early train from Manhattan just so that I could get a quick, quiet lunch of injera and stews at Abyssinia before dashing to the classroom. But it's even better with a big group. Let's all gather here when the pandemic is over. We'll have a feast. &mdashJG

Alpino Vino (Telluride, CO): Some restaurants are worth the hike, literally. Alpino Vino is a 30-ish seat Italian restaurant burrowed into a cliff way above Telluride (a magical place in and of itself). There&rsquos nothing easy about getting to the place&mdashyou can ski a narrow trail and, well, that&rsquos your option&mdashnor even anything easy about getting a seat. (See: my note about seating 30 people at a time.) But Telluride is the most important it&rsquos where I fell in love with my now husband it&rsquos where we took my family to celebrate our engagement and it&rsquos a place I return to twice a year like clockwork to remember all that. That Alpino Vino serves truly perfect food, both cozy and refined, and has one of the most amazing wine lists I&rsquoll ever experience is just the proverbial cherry on top. No trip west is complete without a visit. &mdashMadison Vain

Al&rsquos Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN): Flapjacks on the griddle. Hazy morning sunlight through stained-glass awnings. Foreign currency tacked to a shelf, above the Magic Markered coffee mugs belonging to various regulars. A sign that says &ldquoBeware of Attack Waitress.&rdquo If a breakfast counter could be the IRL manifestation of a Replacements song, this would be it. &mdashJG

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit, MI): They&rsquore right next to each other on the same block in downtown Detroit, and the story is that theirs is a bitter and endless grudge match. Whatever. The point is that both of them raise a torch for a true regional delight: coneys, which are hot dogs flooded with funky chili, yellow mustard, and raw onions. &mdashJG

Angler (San Francisco, CA): Decadence in the form of wild game and giant crustaceans and magnificent heads of radicchio, sometimes served raw or cooked over open fire, drizzled with truffles or XO sauce, and, on the side, copious amounts of caviar and oysters, atop a magnificent table made from the trunk of a centuries old redwood. Your memories of Angler will be like a hunting lodge fever dream you can&rsquot wait to have over and over. &mdashKevin Sintumuang

Anteprima (Chicago, IL): The chef is not a celebrity. No Michelin Star. It&rsquos not on the James Beard Foundation's radar. These are the very reasons Anteprima is perfect to me. The dining room is always full. The owner greets you at the door. The waitstaff in their long white aprons remember your names and if you prefer sparkling or tap. Anteprima&rsquos menu changes daily. With each micro season we see dishes pristinely representing fresh ingredients. Hakurei turnips, breakfast radish, ramps, and morels in the spring. Corn and tomatoes in the summer. Roots in the fall. Squashes, truffles, and alliums through the winter. I love this place. &mdashIliana Regan

Arnold's (Nashville, TN): Nashville wouldn&rsquot be Nashville without the red-tray, meat-and-three comfort of Arnold&rsquos Country Kitchen. Locals and tourists, writers and musicians, and everyone in between line up cafeteria-style for juicy roast beef carved to order and creamy chocolate chess pies for dessert. No reservations, no pretense. Arnold's simple, straightforward fare is the first thing on my mind when I think about Music City. &mdashOmar Mamoon

Bamboo Garden (Brooklyn, NY): This massive dim sum restaurant is out in Brooklyn&rsquos Chinatown in Sunset Park. With elaborate chandeliers and big banquet tables, it&rsquos always filled with families celebrating special occasions. It's so joyful. Every time we go we get the Peking duck, which is just perfect. &mdashKate Storey

Bar Tabac (Brooklyn, NY): Definition of a neighborhood eatery. Go for the Burgundy snails, and footie matches on the TV. &mdashNick Sullivan

Black-Eyed Susan's (Nantucket, MA): They do breakfast and they do dinner and they do them well, for not many people (it&rsquos tiny) and for cash only, and you&rsquoll remember it. Especially the Pennsylvania Dutch pancakes made with a slice of Jarlsberg. &mdashRD

Blueberry Hill (St. Louis, MO): I have been coming down here&mdashto the loop in St. Louis, one of the greatest streets of food and music in America, that is&mdashfor (the very best!) burgers and live music quite literally since I got keys to a car. It made me feel like a rebel when I was young, out late hearing new bands, buying my own dinners, and it makes me remarkably nostalgic now that I&rsquom not. Also, Chuck Berry played a monthly show here for 200 months in a row, so if you won&rsquot take my word for it, perhaps his will do. &mdashMV

Blue Moon Cafe (Shepherdstown, WV): Locals, tourists from D.C., professors from the small university, all sitting together enjoying buffalo chicken salads and black bean burgers and maybe somebody playing the guitar. &mdashRD

Bouquet (Covington, KY): Maybe you&rsquove grown weary of the phrase &ldquofarm to table.&rdquo Maybe it&rsquos lost its punch, in certain quarters of the country. But Bouquet is a restaurant that makes &ldquofarm to table&rdquo matter again&mdashand in Mitch McConnell&rsquos home state, no less. Chef Stephen Williams opened the restaurant in 2007 &ldquoas one of the first restaurants in the area to embrace local and sustainable farming as a cornerstone of its mission,&rdquo as the place&rsquos website puts it, and that mission hasn&rsquot lost an ounce of passion in the intervening years. The stuff on the menu sounds straightforward enough&mdashdeviled eggs, a green salad, meatballs, a pork chop&mdashbut everything soars because of the chef&rsquos obvious reverence for the ingredients that he uses. Yes, that matters. &mdashJG

Brigtsen&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): &ldquoIf you&rsquove only got one dinner, I&rsquom gonna ask you to leave the Quarter.&rdquo Can&rsquot tell you how many times I&rsquove put first-time visitors to New Orleans in this conceptual bind. &ldquoGo to this little shotgun house on Dante Street and you&rsquoll never forget it.&rdquo At 20 years old, this family-run bistro doesn&rsquot pop up on &ldquonew and hot&rdquo or &ldquoTV chef&rdquo lists, but instead chugs along providing deep hospitality and interpreting Louisiana classics from the Creole, Cajun, and Southern canons that excite the palate and soothe the soul. A local boy and veteran of Paul Prudhomme&rsquos opening brigade at K-Paul&rsquos, chef Frank Brigtsen works magic in an impossibly tiny kitchen with abundant Gulf seafood and our year-round farm bounty. He&rsquoll fry up bayou catfish to delicate, cracking perfection and lay you low with an impossibly savory roast duck on dirty rice. Broiled redfish with a lump crabmeat crust can make the most open-hearted dining companion fiercely territorial. Frank&rsquos wife, Marna, and his sisters, Sandy and Rhonda, run the front of house with an effortless, enveloping friendliness that can turn a harried first-time guest into an instant regular. Also, pecan pie that will haunt your dreams. &mdashPableaux Johnson

Busy Bee (Atlanta, GA): When self-taught cook Mama Lucy Jackson opened Busy Bee Cafe in 1947, she did so on West Hunter Street, one of only two streets available to African American entrepreneurs at the time. Hunter would go on to be named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive after the restaurant&rsquos (and Atlanta&rsquos) most important patron. Back then it was the place for civil rights activists and organizers to safely meet and strategize. Today it&rsquos known as the place with the best fried chicken in the city. The sides are exquisite renderings of Southern staples with the rice and gravy, collards, and mac n&rsquo cheese shining particularly brightly. Don&rsquot miss the cornmeal-dusted and encrusted catfish, made memorable with its steamy and silken flesh. &mdashStephen Satterfield

Canlis (Seattle, WA): If we tell you that Canlis is the &ldquoepitome of elegance,&rdquo which it is, you might get the wrong impression. For three generations, in a black masterpiece of modernist architecture that reaches up and out toward Lake Union like a swimmer about to leap off the starting block, the Canlis family has fine-tuned a form of hospitality so effortless that a &ldquofancy&rdquo meal feels like a reunion with old friends. &mdashJG

Casamento&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): Even when there&rsquos not a pandemic going on, sometimes Casamento&rsquos stays closed for the day. Maybe it&rsquos not the right season for oysters, or maybe somebody&rsquos just not in the mood. Hey, it&rsquos 101 years old, so go easy on the place. When it is open (nowhere near the frat-boy lures of the French Quarter, thank you very much), Casamento&rsquos remains a tiled shrine to briny simplicity. You want a &ldquoloaf,&rdquo which amounts to a heap of fried oysters in between fat slices of white bread. We don&rsquot have to tell you to use a lot of hot sauce, right? &mdashJG

Celeste (Somerville, MA): He spins vintage Chicha, makes Peruvian arthouse films, and mans the fire. She transforms space with a graduate degree in experimental architecture and embraces guests with Guatemalan warmth. Together, husband and wife JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau recast their at-home pop-up into a postmodernist brick-and-mortar paean of Peruvian and Andean spice. Art and aperitivos, pisco and purple corn, neon and neighbors, all pressed together in a tiny, bright vessel designed to amplify joy. The food is sublime, but Celeste (rhymes with &ldquosay yes: play&rdquo) is the greater alchemy of menu, mixtapes, and merrymaking that satiates a deeper kind of hungry. &mdashJason Tesauro

Cochon (New Orleans, LA): The last time I visited New Orleans, I went straight to Cochon from the airport. I began eating lunch alone at the bar, and I began texting my friends, and a couple of them asked whether I was drunk or high&mdashthat&rsquos how effusive I got. A jambalaya studded with pork cheeks and andouille sent me over the edge. I actually started hollering with joy. A bartender asked me whether I was okay. I was humming like a lunatic. &mdashJG

Cowan's Public (Nutley, NJ): The craft-beer, proper-drink, good-food revolution arrived in this corner of North Jersey a few years ago with this simple but beautiful Art Deco restaurant. The town has embraced it like something it never knew it was missing. To lose it would be a step backward. &mdashJohn Kenney

Cozy Corner (Memphis, TN): I told my friend Jay, in Memphis, I want the real thing. He suggested a couple of spots that didn&rsquot sound right to me&mdashtoo tidy, too bougie, too TV-friendly. I said, no, the real fucking thing, and that&rsquos when we went to Cozy Corner, owned by barbecue matriarch Desiree Robinson. We got ribs and fries and a bologna sandwich and a whole Cornish hen practically lacquered in a shiny glaze of sauce. It was as real as real gets. &mdashJG

Cunetto House of Pasta (St. Louis, MO): I know everyone thinks the best Italian food in America is in New York, but I&rsquod argue they haven&rsquot been to the Hill in St. Louis, Missouri. Driving down to these streets and bouncing between the cafes and bakeries and grocers felt like going on an exotic sojourn when I was very young, and the thought of losing any of these mom-and-pop establishments and the culture that goes with them fills me with dread. The crown jewel of the area is Cunetto&rsquos. Aside from being the first place I tried veal (which ended in tears as my parents explained just what veal is), it&rsquos a menu with absolutely no fuss but tons of flavor. Also, they serve amazing toasted raviolis, a St. Louis classic. &mdashMV

Cúrate (Asheville, NC): Great restaurants are like rocket boosters for neighborhoods: Attach a hot spot to a sad stretch of sidewalk and watch everything begin to move. Katie Button&rsquos Cúrate has been that kind of engine for the city of Asheville, giving the local food scene a shot of adrenaline along with all that paella and garlic shrimp and jamón ibérico. She also happens to serve the single best bean dish in America: an Asturian stew called fabada that&rsquos luscious with the fat of housemade chorizo and morcilla. &mdashJG

Diamond Head Grill (Honolulu, HI): This takeout counter on the mauka (mountain) side of Diamond Head isn&rsquot a scenic spot &mdash just a sun-beaten parking lot with a few picnic tables along a concrete wall &mdash but the plate lunches spill over with the likes of miso ginger salmon, kalbi beef and char siu pork, plus a heap of rice: white, brown or, the best, hapa, brown and white together. &mdashLigaya Mishan

Dino's Pizza (Chicago, IL): It was my family&rsquos go-to place for pizza on Friday nights when my brother and I were kids. And it still is for my parents. Nothing fancy. Not trendy, not even in a post-ironic hipster kind of way. (Thank God.) It&rsquos on the edge of Chicago, right next to the suburb where I grew up. The bar attracts mostly cops and firefighters. We&rsquod do carryout, which means when I visit my folks my dad and I leave a few minutes early to pick up the pizza so we can sneak in a beer and a shot before heading home. Important to note that they don&rsquot specialize in deep-dish pizza, but the other kind of Chicago pizza&mdashthe much better kind of Chicago pizza&mdashwhich is pub style: cut into squares, soft but not thick. &mdashMichael Sebastian

Ditch Witch (Montauk, NY): Not a restaurant, traditionally speaking, but this food truck just off Ditch Plains beach in Montauk is half the reason you'll want to go to the beach at all. Their Tomahawk bowl packed with fresh tuna is worth waiting in line for&mdashand you'll have to. &mdashBen Boskovich

Dooky Chase&rsquos Restaurant (New Orleans, LA): Fried chicken, green gumbo, and the strength of legacy. For the better part of her 97 years, different communities in New Orleans turned to chef Leah Chase for sustenance, strength, and good counsel. In the 1960s, civil rights leaders asked for her advice and a meeting place to hash out the end of the segregationist era (over bowls of her gumbo, of course). When levee failures following Hurricane Katrina deluged the city, shocked and displaced citizens took solace and strength from Ms. Leah&rsquos words and determination&mdasheven as she mucked out her own dining room and oversaw renovations from a FEMA trailer parked next to the landmark restaurant in Treme. Her passing in June 2019 broke the hearts of many and put the onus on her family to continue her work, her Holy Thursday traditions, and a successful generational transition&mdashtricky for restaurants even in pre-pandemic times. Thanks to her grandson Edgar &ldquoDooky&rdquo Chase IV in the kitchen and daughter Stella at the helm, locals can still gussy up for lunch buffet (including Ms. Chase&rsquos legendary fried chicken) or indulge on the &ldquoregular menu&rdquo come Friday. Whatever your choice, make sure somebody orders the Creole classic Shrimp Clemenceau&mdashshrimp, crispy potatoes, ham, and mushrooms in garlic&mdashand mask up to meander through the late doyenne&rsquos outstanding African-American art collection. &mdashPJ

Dove&rsquos Luncheonette (Chicago, IL): Okay, here&rsquos the deep secret knowledge possessed by all professional food writers. Are you ready? If you keep wanting to go back to a place, that place is very good. That&rsquos it. And I go back to Dove&rsquos Luncheonette every single time I&rsquom in Chicago. Like clockwork. Usually for breakfast, because breakfast is very important to me, and because the Mexican/Southern mashup served at Dove&rsquos speaks to my Los Angeles soul. Do I want the pozole rojo with carnitas, or should I get the burnt-ends hash with two fried eggs and Texas toast? Doesn&rsquot matter, either way, because I know I&rsquoll be back to try the rest. &mdashJG

Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero, CA): Located along a desolate stretch of Highway 1 in northern California, this restaurant has been in existence since 1897. The recipient of a James Beard award for classic American restaurant in 2003, Duarte&rsquos is firmly not fancy. But what they lack in pretense they make up for in dishes that are at once comforting and offer up a taste of nostalgic coastal California cuisine. Think: artichoke soup, local petrale filet of sole, olallieberry pie. Oh, and the bar is super fun, serving up cheap, tasty martinis and typically packed with colorful locals. &mdashDanny Dumas

Egan and Sons (Montclair, NJ): Remarkably good British/Irish pub food in a bright and open and airy set of rooms. At the heart of it is a soccer bar that draws somehow-not-annoying fans from all over. Best place to watch an EPL match over fish and chips and an oatmeal stout. &mdashJK

El Rey de las Fritas (Miami, FL): Yeah, South Beach is fun, but you haven&rsquot really made contact with Miami&rsquos Latin American spirit until you&rsquove experienced the initiation of the frita. A frita (as interpreted by El Rey, which was founded in the 1970s by Cuban exiles Benito and Gallega Gonzalez) is basically a burger on an airy Cuban bun with an avalanche of shoestring fries and a sweet paste of sautéed onions. It&rsquos a monument, of sorts, to a crucial period in Florida history, and it&rsquos also a damn good snack. &mdashJG

Fork (Philadelphia, PA): I got my first restaurant job at Fork restaurant when I was just out of college. Fork had recently opened and added an elegant vibe to Philadelphia&rsquos Old City. My entire family has dined at Fork and loved every meal&mdashfrom shrimp and grits at brunch to Champagne roasted chicken (takeaway) dinners during quarantine. Every experience at Fork is edifying. Ellen Yin has maintained this gem for more than two decades and I hope it lasts at least another twenty years. &mdashKlancy Miller

Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX): There's a reason for all those lawn chairs lined up outside the place. And yes, it's the brisket, but it's also so much more. And all of it has to do with the guy whose name is on the sign. Aaron Franklin gives a damn about what he's doing, who he's doing it with, and whom he's serving. Wait your turn and you'll see. &mdashBB

Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder, CO): Don&rsquot let the white truffles and caviar scare you off. Frasca may look exclusive if you&rsquore peeking in the window, but inside it&rsquos a house party. Wine guru and manager Bobby Stuckey is a captain of hospitality in the truest, most soulful sense: He makes everyone feel welcome and loved. &mdashJG

Fraunces Tavern (New York, NY): Because Washington said farewell to his officers upstairs, of course, but also because it&rsquos actually still a cozy tavern with surprisingly good food and a warm feeling in the older rooms. The whiskey bar up front is the snuggest place you can be on a winter night in Manhattan. &mdashJK

Freedman's (Los Angeles, CA): An unassuming location with unbelievable Jewish-American fare. You'll get out of the Uber thinking "where am I?" and leave wondering how you'll possibly follow up that meal with anything else. The latke waffle and lox will rock your world. &mdashBB

Galatoire&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): There may be no finer example of Food As Theater / Food as Culture than this Crescent City landmark known for its marathon, booze-saturated Friday lunch. A few months back I fretted to my friend Pableaux, whose family goes way back in Louisiana, that Galatoire&rsquos ran the risk of becoming a mere tourist trap. Pableaux shushed me and set me straight. Galatoire&rsquos matters, he let me know, and Galatoire&rsquos will always matter. &mdashJG

Genova Bakery (Stockton, CA): One of the best towering stacks of Toscano salame, turkey, cheddar, provolone, shredded lettuce, red onion, light mayo, heavy on the mustard on a soft and chewy Milk Roll comes from a 102-year-old bakery in the sepia-toned San Joaquin Valley. As soon as your hand touches the handle on Genova Bakery&rsquos antediluvian wooden screen door, you involuntarily envision the bakery&rsquos inception in 1918. Founded by Angelo and Giovanni Rolleri&mdashat the location it still occupies&mdashGenova Bakery is now owned by Tim Canevari, who&rsquos been working at the bakery since he was in high school. This is the place to grab your Italian goods: bulk biscotti, olives, beans, pasta, in-house made focaccia, and myriad Panettone during Christmas. Canevari took over the business in 2004 and has changed nothing. Nothing. Okay, Canevari added a few additional bread styles such as Dutch crunch, wheat, and sourdough. However, nothing has changed, from the quality of the fresh baked bread, the height of the sandwiches, the narrow-plank original hardwood floors, to the warmth of the employees. All of the character of Genova is intact. Genova Bakery was declared a historical landmark in 1985, for this place is the soul of Stockton. &mdashIllyanna Maisonet

Han Oak (Portland, OR): I still have dreams about Han Oak&mdashactual dreams. I dream about moving to the Pacific Northwest and living with chef Peter Cho and his beautiful family, helping out in the kitchen, learning how to make Korean dumplings, studying the nuances of kimchi. Which isn&rsquot entirely illogical&mdashHan Oak blends into the Cho family&rsquos backyard, and a meal there has the casual vibe of a family reunion around a picnic table. The mere thought of never being able to return to Han Oak makes me heartsick. &mdashJG

Havana (Bar Harbor, ME): A Cuban restaurant in Maine? No: A fantastic Cuban restaurant in Maine. Get the paella with local lobster, a Havana Martini, and call it a night. &mdashRD

Huynh (Houston, TX): Visiting Houston without eating Vietnamese food would be like going to Bologna and neglecting the pasta. There&rsquos always a wait for a seat at this family-owned strip-mall jewel, but the tables turn fast, and everyone with any sense in Houston will tell you that for ten bucks, you&rsquore not going to find a more satisfying and delicious meal than the gingery, herbaceous duck salad known as Goi Vit. &mdashJG

Irvington Delight (Irvington, NY): Amal Suleiman rolls her stuffed grape leaves by hand, and you can tell. In fact, the original vines were brought to the United States from Jordan in the 1980s, so she and her family actually grow the grape leaves and pick them in a backyard in suburban Westchester County. (I like to give the grape leaves a quick scorch in a cast iron skillet so that their surface gets a little blackened and feathery and the spices really bloom.) Suleiman makes the hummus, too, and the hot sauce and the muhammara, and this is why people drop into a seemingly random convenience shop (across the street from a gas station) wanting nothing more than a bag of potato chips and a soda&mdashbut wind up leaving with a stockpile of handmade Middle Eastern treats to bring home for dinner. Irvington Delight is but one example of countless corner stores and bodegas around the United States where people carefully, passionately honor the cuisine of a home country that they left behind. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the places that keep us alive. &mdashJG

J&J's Family Restaurant (Pittsburgh, PA): A greasy spoon diner in a city full of greasy spoon diners worth talking about. J&J's isn't the one you'll see on TV, though. A true family-owned joint that sits atop the city's historic Mount Washington. Assorted coffee mugs that don't match. Serving sizes that'll last you all day. A dining experience that makes you feel like family. &mdashBB

Jitlada (Los Angeles, CA): You haven&rsquot really experienced Los Angeles in all its polyglot glory until you&rsquove gone to Jitlada with a big, hungry group of friends. Even if you know Thai food pretty well, the menu is so expansive that it&rsquos impossible for first-timers to navigate, but you can&rsquot go wrong. Ask irrepressible owner Jazz Singsanong to choose for you, or just point your finger at random&mdashjungle curry crispy pork, spicy crab claw morning glory, turmeric catfish, mussels in green curry&mdashand prepare your mind and palate for a psychedelic wallop of flavor. &mdashJG

Kalaya (Philadelphia, PA): No punches are pulled by chef/owner Chutatip &ldquoNok&rdquo Suntaranon and her remarkably spicy, funky, practically vibrating Thai dishes that are a snapshot of her mother&rsquos recipes she learned while growing up in Southern Thailand. &mdashKS

Keens (New York, NY): In a city of restaurants filled with history, none has more powerful old-school vibes than Keens Chophouse. Walk through the wooden double doors on 36th street and the history hits you as if all of the pipes lining the ceiling were still wafting smoke. Once you take in the antiques and memorabilia, settle on the order: definitely the porterhouse or the mutton chop, always the creamed spinach and the hashbrowns for sides, and yes, you&rsquoll be having a martini. &mdash KS

Kopitiam (New York, NY): For a few slow months in late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic overtook us, I found myself asking friends to meet me for a Malaysian breakfast at Kopitiam. This didn&rsquot make geographical sense, because Kopitiam sits a few blocks from the East River, at the southern end of Manhattan, and I live along the Hudson River in a suburban county north of Manhattan. Which meant that to enjoy this breakfast, I needed to take a Metro-North commuter train into the city, walk from Grand Central to the subway station in Bryant Park, then catch the F train to East Broadway. None of that bothered me. Desire can be impossible to resist. As I took my journey south, I daydreamed about Kopitiam&rsquos oyster omelet, and the triangles of minced chicken gift-wrapped in pandan leaves, and the nasi lemak (fried anchovies and coconut rice make such a perfect pair), and the hand-pulled coffee with condensed milk. Chef Kyo Pang and restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai and their crew have created, with their menu at Kopitiam, a welcome celebration of the Nyonya cuisine of Southeast Asia. But they&rsquove also built a space you can&rsquot help but linger in, a gentle coffeehouse where you want to wait around and study how morning light alters as the afternoon approaches. New York City can be hard on people sanctuaries like Kopitiam make the days a little bit kinder. &mdashJG

La Esperanza Panaderia (Sacramento, CA): Opened in 1969 by Salvador Plasencia, it&rsquos now being operated by Salvador&rsquos grandchildren. All I have to do is walk into this 52-year-old panaderia that anchors Franklin Boulevard in my hometown of Sacramento to bask in the throngs of childhood nostalgia at warp speed. The smell of gingerbread puerquitos, jammy niños, crusty and soft bolillios, churros y mas will bash you in the face as soon as you open the storefront door, and leave you bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Bide your time in the queue by counting the original black and white tiles on the floor, catching glimpses of the frantic bakers through ajar doors, and impatiently staring into the display cases filled with fresh pan dulce made on-site. Staring into the display case is critical. This way you know what you want as soon as you get to the counter and aren&rsquot one of those pandejos who&rsquos constantly asking &ldquo. ooh, and what&rsquos this. &rdquo You don&rsquot need to know which region every different bread is from, or if it was made with organic heirloom purple Oaxacan corn. You&rsquore holding up the line! Shut up, point, order, move down the line, shove it into your gob. Celebratorily, of course. &mdashIM

Larder (Cleveland, OH): America can&rsquot afford to lose the old but it also can&rsquot afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That&rsquos progress. &mdashJG

La Super-Rica (Santa Barbara, CA): Yeah, we know, Julia Child made it iconic when she announced that this Milpas Street taco stand was her favorite restaurant in America. But for those of us who&rsquove spent a portion of our years chilling in Santa Barbara, La Super-Rica is just that slow, breezy, griddle-scented joint on the corner where everyone democratically waits in line (hey, is that Jackson Browne behind me?) for the pure pleasure of hand-pressed tortillas and sizzling pork and melted cheese and potent salsas. Locals know: If there are special tamales or enchiladas on the tiny chalkboard menu, you need to get them. &mdashJG

La Taqueria (San Francisco, CA): People often ask: tacos or burritos? Usually the answer depends on the restaurant, but at La Taqueria, it's both. Owner Miguel Jara grew up in Tijuana and opened his beloved restaurant in 1973 in the Mission District&mdashit&rsquos been a destination for both locals and visitors since. I always like to start with a taco appetizer before moving on to a burrito, which comes packed with proper proportions of plump pinto beans, your protein of choice (I choose charred then chopped carne asada), green guacamole, creamy crema, and melty cheese (there&rsquos no rice at La Taqueria Jara says it simply acts as filler). The burrito is tightly wrapped in foil, nice and compact, like a mini missile ready to launch into your mouth. In-the-know regulars get both burritos and tacos "dorados," so that the tortillas are fried until golden and crispy. Whatever you do, don't forget the salsa. &mdashOM

Lehja (Richmond, VA): Because spice, hospitality, and wine aren&rsquot luxuries&mdashthey&rsquore essentials. Because even in a time of scarcity and fear, chef-owner Sunny Baweja dishes up generosity and joy (and chaat!). Because this unassuming, unexpected jewel in a Virginia mall is one of the very best Indian restaurants in America. &mdashJT

Leo's Taco Truck (Los Angeles, CA): I&rsquove had the privilege of eating at the following three-Michelin-star restaurants: The French Laundry, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Lung King Heen, Single Thread, Alinea. I get just as much satisfaction consuming a platter of al pastor tacos from Leo&rsquos as I do with any of those fancy spots. Leo&rsquos is firmly on the lowbrow/brilliant end of the spectrum&mdashthe OG location is in the parking lot of a gas station on South La Brea and Venice&mdashbut show up on a Friday night at 2 a.m. and the line consistently spills around the block. Ask 100 different Angelenos where the best tacos are in the city and you&rsquoll get 200 answers. But I bet a lot of those responses will have Leo&rsquos in the number one spot. &mdashDD

Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, TX): I remember taking my older kids here a few years ago. They had to be patient. We waited in line, and the line moved slowly. Margot and Toby studied the greasy blackness of the walls&mdashlike the smoke smudges in a French cathedral&mdashuntil we placed our order. We snagged a table. Margot picked up a beef rib that seemed to weigh more than she did. She bit into the juicy meat and her eyes rolled back and she emitted a squeak of unfiltered delight. She polished off the whole rib and then asked for another. They say a father is only as happy as his children are. In that moment, I was happy. &mdashJG

Lowell&rsquos (Seattle, WA): Oh, so you think Pike Place Market is nothing but a tourist trap? Here&rsquos a secret. Go early. Go at dawn, when the only people you&rsquoll see are the stall owners arranging fresh fish on hills of shaved ice, and wait outside the doors of Lowell&rsquos (look for the sign that says &ldquoAlmost Classy Since 1957&rdquo) so that when the place opens at 7 sharp, you can get one of the tables overlooking Elliott Bay. You want an omelet stuff with Dungeness crab&mdashyou&rsquore in a fish market, after all&mdashand maybe also a Hangtown Fry with eggs and bacon and fresh oysters all scrambled together. &mdashJG

Marcel&rsquos by Robert Wiedmaier (Washington, D.C.): In twenty-one years on Pennsylvania Avenue, how many big fish were fêted, state secrets spilt, and will-you-marry-me's uttered behind the curtain at Table 28? How many tinned tons of Sevruga, kilograms of white truffles, and pieds du roi of boudin blanc were squired from copper pan to bone china to shining cloche to starched table again and again in flawless ballet like the Bolshoi? Nowhere in Washington, D.C., is fine-dining done finer. Nowhere is it easier to feel thoroughly at home in a tuxedo. The stewards of slow luxuries must never die. &mdashJT

Metzger Bar & Butchery (Richmond, VA): Schnitzel, schupfnudeln, and schadenfreude. 2020 saw far too much of one and not nearly enough of the other two. Chef Brittanny Anderson opened her little German joint in 2014&mdashan outpost of modern exceptionalism in a historic yet overlooked district. She planted a tiny garden, built dining room furniture from a single tree, put her DJ husband behind the bar spinning drinks and funk, and started serving local takes on trout rillettes, rabbit, and pork chops with carafes of Zweigelt. Every neighborhood needs a place where you can eat three times a week and not get bored or go broke. &mdashJT

Mosquito Supper Club (New Orleans, LA): Crispy, delicate soft-shelled shrimp. Browned cabbage smothered down in salt pork. Rustic seafood gumbo&mdashokra, crab, and shrimp&mdashthat can&rsquot be rushed. Seasonal, savory, and capped with a story or two. Well before chefs the world round embraced &ldquoblackened everything&rdquo as Cajun identifier, south Louisiana folk made magic with simple foods linked to the waters, skies, and land around them. For years chef Melissa Martin ran a series of deep Cajun pop-ups that showcased the foods of her childhood far from the relatively bright city lights of New Orleans. Finally settled for a spell, Martin cooks the seafood-dominant dishes from her coastal hometown of Chauvin, Louisiana (population 2700), in a double-shotgun frame house tucked away in the residential Uptown neighborhood. Her dedication to her family&rsquos traditional foods and family-style hospitality make the Mosquito Supper Club a relaxed, home-style experience that gets you deep into a culture you thought you understood. &mdashPJ

Nanina's in the Park (Belleville, NJ): Okay, this one&rsquos actually a banquet hall, but it&rsquos a keeper. Generations of Newark-area Italian-Americans and those who love them have celebrated weddings, graduations, and first holy communions at this grand and slightly gaudy (so just about right) Italian villa planted at the north end of Branch Brook park. It&rsquos a banquet hall that actually does Italian food really well, because it has to. An institution. &mdashJK


100 Restaurants America Can't Afford to Lose

We're raising a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashbecause if we lose them, we lose who we are.

You know that bistro around the corner, the one where you and your partner first locked eyes across the table? The Southern barbecue joint where, back in the days before the pandemic, you and your comrades used to come together for sweet racks of ribs on Friday nights as another sorry workweek sputtered to a close? The bodega where you&rsquore such a regular that no one has to ask how you like your breakfast sandwich. The taqueria where they nail the salsa verde. The place where you can watch a Korean grandmother making dumplings in the kitchen. The New England landmark with the picnic tables and lobster rolls. Or, wait, how about the trattoria with the long, honey-hued bar and the wine list that makes you want to throw away common sense and max out your credit card?

What if those places were to vanish? What if you were to wake tomorrow morning and learn that that remnant of your life&mdashand that portion of your community&rsquos lingua franca&mdashhad been erased? Such a prospect has been a real threat all year, with the relentless tragedy of COVID-19 leaving many American restaurants, even established classics, on the brink of bankruptcy. The threat will only intensify as winter progresses and restaurateurs have to abandon the outdoor dining that has kept them treading water for months. We love restaurants here at Esquire, and we hope that during this holiday season you&rsquoll consider making donations to Southern Smoke and the Lee Initiative and other organizations that are helping restaurant workers endure the crisis. We also hope you&rsquoll raise a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashthat we consider restaurants that America can&rsquot afford to lose. Because if we lose them, we lose who we are. &mdashJeff Gordinier

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (Noank, CT): Picnic tables on the grass by the water. Steamed lobsters, caught that day, with drawn butter in paper cups. A beer. &mdashRyan D'Agostino

Abyssinia (Philadelphia, PA): "Oh, I love that place." That's what I often hear from Philadelphians whenever I happen to mention Abyssinia. The connection runs deep. And that's no surprise, because the warmth of the hospitality at this beloved Ethiopian spot makes you feel as though you've joined a family for dinner in their home&mdasheven if you happen to be dining alone. A little while back, when I was teaching a writing course at Drexel University, I used to catch an early train from Manhattan just so that I could get a quick, quiet lunch of injera and stews at Abyssinia before dashing to the classroom. But it's even better with a big group. Let's all gather here when the pandemic is over. We'll have a feast. &mdashJG

Alpino Vino (Telluride, CO): Some restaurants are worth the hike, literally. Alpino Vino is a 30-ish seat Italian restaurant burrowed into a cliff way above Telluride (a magical place in and of itself). There&rsquos nothing easy about getting to the place&mdashyou can ski a narrow trail and, well, that&rsquos your option&mdashnor even anything easy about getting a seat. (See: my note about seating 30 people at a time.) But Telluride is the most important it&rsquos where I fell in love with my now husband it&rsquos where we took my family to celebrate our engagement and it&rsquos a place I return to twice a year like clockwork to remember all that. That Alpino Vino serves truly perfect food, both cozy and refined, and has one of the most amazing wine lists I&rsquoll ever experience is just the proverbial cherry on top. No trip west is complete without a visit. &mdashMadison Vain

Al&rsquos Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN): Flapjacks on the griddle. Hazy morning sunlight through stained-glass awnings. Foreign currency tacked to a shelf, above the Magic Markered coffee mugs belonging to various regulars. A sign that says &ldquoBeware of Attack Waitress.&rdquo If a breakfast counter could be the IRL manifestation of a Replacements song, this would be it. &mdashJG

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit, MI): They&rsquore right next to each other on the same block in downtown Detroit, and the story is that theirs is a bitter and endless grudge match. Whatever. The point is that both of them raise a torch for a true regional delight: coneys, which are hot dogs flooded with funky chili, yellow mustard, and raw onions. &mdashJG

Angler (San Francisco, CA): Decadence in the form of wild game and giant crustaceans and magnificent heads of radicchio, sometimes served raw or cooked over open fire, drizzled with truffles or XO sauce, and, on the side, copious amounts of caviar and oysters, atop a magnificent table made from the trunk of a centuries old redwood. Your memories of Angler will be like a hunting lodge fever dream you can&rsquot wait to have over and over. &mdashKevin Sintumuang

Anteprima (Chicago, IL): The chef is not a celebrity. No Michelin Star. It&rsquos not on the James Beard Foundation's radar. These are the very reasons Anteprima is perfect to me. The dining room is always full. The owner greets you at the door. The waitstaff in their long white aprons remember your names and if you prefer sparkling or tap. Anteprima&rsquos menu changes daily. With each micro season we see dishes pristinely representing fresh ingredients. Hakurei turnips, breakfast radish, ramps, and morels in the spring. Corn and tomatoes in the summer. Roots in the fall. Squashes, truffles, and alliums through the winter. I love this place. &mdashIliana Regan

Arnold's (Nashville, TN): Nashville wouldn&rsquot be Nashville without the red-tray, meat-and-three comfort of Arnold&rsquos Country Kitchen. Locals and tourists, writers and musicians, and everyone in between line up cafeteria-style for juicy roast beef carved to order and creamy chocolate chess pies for dessert. No reservations, no pretense. Arnold's simple, straightforward fare is the first thing on my mind when I think about Music City. &mdashOmar Mamoon

Bamboo Garden (Brooklyn, NY): This massive dim sum restaurant is out in Brooklyn&rsquos Chinatown in Sunset Park. With elaborate chandeliers and big banquet tables, it&rsquos always filled with families celebrating special occasions. It's so joyful. Every time we go we get the Peking duck, which is just perfect. &mdashKate Storey

Bar Tabac (Brooklyn, NY): Definition of a neighborhood eatery. Go for the Burgundy snails, and footie matches on the TV. &mdashNick Sullivan

Black-Eyed Susan's (Nantucket, MA): They do breakfast and they do dinner and they do them well, for not many people (it&rsquos tiny) and for cash only, and you&rsquoll remember it. Especially the Pennsylvania Dutch pancakes made with a slice of Jarlsberg. &mdashRD

Blueberry Hill (St. Louis, MO): I have been coming down here&mdashto the loop in St. Louis, one of the greatest streets of food and music in America, that is&mdashfor (the very best!) burgers and live music quite literally since I got keys to a car. It made me feel like a rebel when I was young, out late hearing new bands, buying my own dinners, and it makes me remarkably nostalgic now that I&rsquom not. Also, Chuck Berry played a monthly show here for 200 months in a row, so if you won&rsquot take my word for it, perhaps his will do. &mdashMV

Blue Moon Cafe (Shepherdstown, WV): Locals, tourists from D.C., professors from the small university, all sitting together enjoying buffalo chicken salads and black bean burgers and maybe somebody playing the guitar. &mdashRD

Bouquet (Covington, KY): Maybe you&rsquove grown weary of the phrase &ldquofarm to table.&rdquo Maybe it&rsquos lost its punch, in certain quarters of the country. But Bouquet is a restaurant that makes &ldquofarm to table&rdquo matter again&mdashand in Mitch McConnell&rsquos home state, no less. Chef Stephen Williams opened the restaurant in 2007 &ldquoas one of the first restaurants in the area to embrace local and sustainable farming as a cornerstone of its mission,&rdquo as the place&rsquos website puts it, and that mission hasn&rsquot lost an ounce of passion in the intervening years. The stuff on the menu sounds straightforward enough&mdashdeviled eggs, a green salad, meatballs, a pork chop&mdashbut everything soars because of the chef&rsquos obvious reverence for the ingredients that he uses. Yes, that matters. &mdashJG

Brigtsen&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): &ldquoIf you&rsquove only got one dinner, I&rsquom gonna ask you to leave the Quarter.&rdquo Can&rsquot tell you how many times I&rsquove put first-time visitors to New Orleans in this conceptual bind. &ldquoGo to this little shotgun house on Dante Street and you&rsquoll never forget it.&rdquo At 20 years old, this family-run bistro doesn&rsquot pop up on &ldquonew and hot&rdquo or &ldquoTV chef&rdquo lists, but instead chugs along providing deep hospitality and interpreting Louisiana classics from the Creole, Cajun, and Southern canons that excite the palate and soothe the soul. A local boy and veteran of Paul Prudhomme&rsquos opening brigade at K-Paul&rsquos, chef Frank Brigtsen works magic in an impossibly tiny kitchen with abundant Gulf seafood and our year-round farm bounty. He&rsquoll fry up bayou catfish to delicate, cracking perfection and lay you low with an impossibly savory roast duck on dirty rice. Broiled redfish with a lump crabmeat crust can make the most open-hearted dining companion fiercely territorial. Frank&rsquos wife, Marna, and his sisters, Sandy and Rhonda, run the front of house with an effortless, enveloping friendliness that can turn a harried first-time guest into an instant regular. Also, pecan pie that will haunt your dreams. &mdashPableaux Johnson

Busy Bee (Atlanta, GA): When self-taught cook Mama Lucy Jackson opened Busy Bee Cafe in 1947, she did so on West Hunter Street, one of only two streets available to African American entrepreneurs at the time. Hunter would go on to be named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive after the restaurant&rsquos (and Atlanta&rsquos) most important patron. Back then it was the place for civil rights activists and organizers to safely meet and strategize. Today it&rsquos known as the place with the best fried chicken in the city. The sides are exquisite renderings of Southern staples with the rice and gravy, collards, and mac n&rsquo cheese shining particularly brightly. Don&rsquot miss the cornmeal-dusted and encrusted catfish, made memorable with its steamy and silken flesh. &mdashStephen Satterfield

Canlis (Seattle, WA): If we tell you that Canlis is the &ldquoepitome of elegance,&rdquo which it is, you might get the wrong impression. For three generations, in a black masterpiece of modernist architecture that reaches up and out toward Lake Union like a swimmer about to leap off the starting block, the Canlis family has fine-tuned a form of hospitality so effortless that a &ldquofancy&rdquo meal feels like a reunion with old friends. &mdashJG

Casamento&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): Even when there&rsquos not a pandemic going on, sometimes Casamento&rsquos stays closed for the day. Maybe it&rsquos not the right season for oysters, or maybe somebody&rsquos just not in the mood. Hey, it&rsquos 101 years old, so go easy on the place. When it is open (nowhere near the frat-boy lures of the French Quarter, thank you very much), Casamento&rsquos remains a tiled shrine to briny simplicity. You want a &ldquoloaf,&rdquo which amounts to a heap of fried oysters in between fat slices of white bread. We don&rsquot have to tell you to use a lot of hot sauce, right? &mdashJG

Celeste (Somerville, MA): He spins vintage Chicha, makes Peruvian arthouse films, and mans the fire. She transforms space with a graduate degree in experimental architecture and embraces guests with Guatemalan warmth. Together, husband and wife JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau recast their at-home pop-up into a postmodernist brick-and-mortar paean of Peruvian and Andean spice. Art and aperitivos, pisco and purple corn, neon and neighbors, all pressed together in a tiny, bright vessel designed to amplify joy. The food is sublime, but Celeste (rhymes with &ldquosay yes: play&rdquo) is the greater alchemy of menu, mixtapes, and merrymaking that satiates a deeper kind of hungry. &mdashJason Tesauro

Cochon (New Orleans, LA): The last time I visited New Orleans, I went straight to Cochon from the airport. I began eating lunch alone at the bar, and I began texting my friends, and a couple of them asked whether I was drunk or high&mdashthat&rsquos how effusive I got. A jambalaya studded with pork cheeks and andouille sent me over the edge. I actually started hollering with joy. A bartender asked me whether I was okay. I was humming like a lunatic. &mdashJG

Cowan's Public (Nutley, NJ): The craft-beer, proper-drink, good-food revolution arrived in this corner of North Jersey a few years ago with this simple but beautiful Art Deco restaurant. The town has embraced it like something it never knew it was missing. To lose it would be a step backward. &mdashJohn Kenney

Cozy Corner (Memphis, TN): I told my friend Jay, in Memphis, I want the real thing. He suggested a couple of spots that didn&rsquot sound right to me&mdashtoo tidy, too bougie, too TV-friendly. I said, no, the real fucking thing, and that&rsquos when we went to Cozy Corner, owned by barbecue matriarch Desiree Robinson. We got ribs and fries and a bologna sandwich and a whole Cornish hen practically lacquered in a shiny glaze of sauce. It was as real as real gets. &mdashJG

Cunetto House of Pasta (St. Louis, MO): I know everyone thinks the best Italian food in America is in New York, but I&rsquod argue they haven&rsquot been to the Hill in St. Louis, Missouri. Driving down to these streets and bouncing between the cafes and bakeries and grocers felt like going on an exotic sojourn when I was very young, and the thought of losing any of these mom-and-pop establishments and the culture that goes with them fills me with dread. The crown jewel of the area is Cunetto&rsquos. Aside from being the first place I tried veal (which ended in tears as my parents explained just what veal is), it&rsquos a menu with absolutely no fuss but tons of flavor. Also, they serve amazing toasted raviolis, a St. Louis classic. &mdashMV

Cúrate (Asheville, NC): Great restaurants are like rocket boosters for neighborhoods: Attach a hot spot to a sad stretch of sidewalk and watch everything begin to move. Katie Button&rsquos Cúrate has been that kind of engine for the city of Asheville, giving the local food scene a shot of adrenaline along with all that paella and garlic shrimp and jamón ibérico. She also happens to serve the single best bean dish in America: an Asturian stew called fabada that&rsquos luscious with the fat of housemade chorizo and morcilla. &mdashJG

Diamond Head Grill (Honolulu, HI): This takeout counter on the mauka (mountain) side of Diamond Head isn&rsquot a scenic spot &mdash just a sun-beaten parking lot with a few picnic tables along a concrete wall &mdash but the plate lunches spill over with the likes of miso ginger salmon, kalbi beef and char siu pork, plus a heap of rice: white, brown or, the best, hapa, brown and white together. &mdashLigaya Mishan

Dino's Pizza (Chicago, IL): It was my family&rsquos go-to place for pizza on Friday nights when my brother and I were kids. And it still is for my parents. Nothing fancy. Not trendy, not even in a post-ironic hipster kind of way. (Thank God.) It&rsquos on the edge of Chicago, right next to the suburb where I grew up. The bar attracts mostly cops and firefighters. We&rsquod do carryout, which means when I visit my folks my dad and I leave a few minutes early to pick up the pizza so we can sneak in a beer and a shot before heading home. Important to note that they don&rsquot specialize in deep-dish pizza, but the other kind of Chicago pizza&mdashthe much better kind of Chicago pizza&mdashwhich is pub style: cut into squares, soft but not thick. &mdashMichael Sebastian

Ditch Witch (Montauk, NY): Not a restaurant, traditionally speaking, but this food truck just off Ditch Plains beach in Montauk is half the reason you'll want to go to the beach at all. Their Tomahawk bowl packed with fresh tuna is worth waiting in line for&mdashand you'll have to. &mdashBen Boskovich

Dooky Chase&rsquos Restaurant (New Orleans, LA): Fried chicken, green gumbo, and the strength of legacy. For the better part of her 97 years, different communities in New Orleans turned to chef Leah Chase for sustenance, strength, and good counsel. In the 1960s, civil rights leaders asked for her advice and a meeting place to hash out the end of the segregationist era (over bowls of her gumbo, of course). When levee failures following Hurricane Katrina deluged the city, shocked and displaced citizens took solace and strength from Ms. Leah&rsquos words and determination&mdasheven as she mucked out her own dining room and oversaw renovations from a FEMA trailer parked next to the landmark restaurant in Treme. Her passing in June 2019 broke the hearts of many and put the onus on her family to continue her work, her Holy Thursday traditions, and a successful generational transition&mdashtricky for restaurants even in pre-pandemic times. Thanks to her grandson Edgar &ldquoDooky&rdquo Chase IV in the kitchen and daughter Stella at the helm, locals can still gussy up for lunch buffet (including Ms. Chase&rsquos legendary fried chicken) or indulge on the &ldquoregular menu&rdquo come Friday. Whatever your choice, make sure somebody orders the Creole classic Shrimp Clemenceau&mdashshrimp, crispy potatoes, ham, and mushrooms in garlic&mdashand mask up to meander through the late doyenne&rsquos outstanding African-American art collection. &mdashPJ

Dove&rsquos Luncheonette (Chicago, IL): Okay, here&rsquos the deep secret knowledge possessed by all professional food writers. Are you ready? If you keep wanting to go back to a place, that place is very good. That&rsquos it. And I go back to Dove&rsquos Luncheonette every single time I&rsquom in Chicago. Like clockwork. Usually for breakfast, because breakfast is very important to me, and because the Mexican/Southern mashup served at Dove&rsquos speaks to my Los Angeles soul. Do I want the pozole rojo with carnitas, or should I get the burnt-ends hash with two fried eggs and Texas toast? Doesn&rsquot matter, either way, because I know I&rsquoll be back to try the rest. &mdashJG

Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero, CA): Located along a desolate stretch of Highway 1 in northern California, this restaurant has been in existence since 1897. The recipient of a James Beard award for classic American restaurant in 2003, Duarte&rsquos is firmly not fancy. But what they lack in pretense they make up for in dishes that are at once comforting and offer up a taste of nostalgic coastal California cuisine. Think: artichoke soup, local petrale filet of sole, olallieberry pie. Oh, and the bar is super fun, serving up cheap, tasty martinis and typically packed with colorful locals. &mdashDanny Dumas

Egan and Sons (Montclair, NJ): Remarkably good British/Irish pub food in a bright and open and airy set of rooms. At the heart of it is a soccer bar that draws somehow-not-annoying fans from all over. Best place to watch an EPL match over fish and chips and an oatmeal stout. &mdashJK

El Rey de las Fritas (Miami, FL): Yeah, South Beach is fun, but you haven&rsquot really made contact with Miami&rsquos Latin American spirit until you&rsquove experienced the initiation of the frita. A frita (as interpreted by El Rey, which was founded in the 1970s by Cuban exiles Benito and Gallega Gonzalez) is basically a burger on an airy Cuban bun with an avalanche of shoestring fries and a sweet paste of sautéed onions. It&rsquos a monument, of sorts, to a crucial period in Florida history, and it&rsquos also a damn good snack. &mdashJG

Fork (Philadelphia, PA): I got my first restaurant job at Fork restaurant when I was just out of college. Fork had recently opened and added an elegant vibe to Philadelphia&rsquos Old City. My entire family has dined at Fork and loved every meal&mdashfrom shrimp and grits at brunch to Champagne roasted chicken (takeaway) dinners during quarantine. Every experience at Fork is edifying. Ellen Yin has maintained this gem for more than two decades and I hope it lasts at least another twenty years. &mdashKlancy Miller

Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX): There's a reason for all those lawn chairs lined up outside the place. And yes, it's the brisket, but it's also so much more. And all of it has to do with the guy whose name is on the sign. Aaron Franklin gives a damn about what he's doing, who he's doing it with, and whom he's serving. Wait your turn and you'll see. &mdashBB

Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder, CO): Don&rsquot let the white truffles and caviar scare you off. Frasca may look exclusive if you&rsquore peeking in the window, but inside it&rsquos a house party. Wine guru and manager Bobby Stuckey is a captain of hospitality in the truest, most soulful sense: He makes everyone feel welcome and loved. &mdashJG

Fraunces Tavern (New York, NY): Because Washington said farewell to his officers upstairs, of course, but also because it&rsquos actually still a cozy tavern with surprisingly good food and a warm feeling in the older rooms. The whiskey bar up front is the snuggest place you can be on a winter night in Manhattan. &mdashJK

Freedman's (Los Angeles, CA): An unassuming location with unbelievable Jewish-American fare. You'll get out of the Uber thinking "where am I?" and leave wondering how you'll possibly follow up that meal with anything else. The latke waffle and lox will rock your world. &mdashBB

Galatoire&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): There may be no finer example of Food As Theater / Food as Culture than this Crescent City landmark known for its marathon, booze-saturated Friday lunch. A few months back I fretted to my friend Pableaux, whose family goes way back in Louisiana, that Galatoire&rsquos ran the risk of becoming a mere tourist trap. Pableaux shushed me and set me straight. Galatoire&rsquos matters, he let me know, and Galatoire&rsquos will always matter. &mdashJG

Genova Bakery (Stockton, CA): One of the best towering stacks of Toscano salame, turkey, cheddar, provolone, shredded lettuce, red onion, light mayo, heavy on the mustard on a soft and chewy Milk Roll comes from a 102-year-old bakery in the sepia-toned San Joaquin Valley. As soon as your hand touches the handle on Genova Bakery&rsquos antediluvian wooden screen door, you involuntarily envision the bakery&rsquos inception in 1918. Founded by Angelo and Giovanni Rolleri&mdashat the location it still occupies&mdashGenova Bakery is now owned by Tim Canevari, who&rsquos been working at the bakery since he was in high school. This is the place to grab your Italian goods: bulk biscotti, olives, beans, pasta, in-house made focaccia, and myriad Panettone during Christmas. Canevari took over the business in 2004 and has changed nothing. Nothing. Okay, Canevari added a few additional bread styles such as Dutch crunch, wheat, and sourdough. However, nothing has changed, from the quality of the fresh baked bread, the height of the sandwiches, the narrow-plank original hardwood floors, to the warmth of the employees. All of the character of Genova is intact. Genova Bakery was declared a historical landmark in 1985, for this place is the soul of Stockton. &mdashIllyanna Maisonet

Han Oak (Portland, OR): I still have dreams about Han Oak&mdashactual dreams. I dream about moving to the Pacific Northwest and living with chef Peter Cho and his beautiful family, helping out in the kitchen, learning how to make Korean dumplings, studying the nuances of kimchi. Which isn&rsquot entirely illogical&mdashHan Oak blends into the Cho family&rsquos backyard, and a meal there has the casual vibe of a family reunion around a picnic table. The mere thought of never being able to return to Han Oak makes me heartsick. &mdashJG

Havana (Bar Harbor, ME): A Cuban restaurant in Maine? No: A fantastic Cuban restaurant in Maine. Get the paella with local lobster, a Havana Martini, and call it a night. &mdashRD

Huynh (Houston, TX): Visiting Houston without eating Vietnamese food would be like going to Bologna and neglecting the pasta. There&rsquos always a wait for a seat at this family-owned strip-mall jewel, but the tables turn fast, and everyone with any sense in Houston will tell you that for ten bucks, you&rsquore not going to find a more satisfying and delicious meal than the gingery, herbaceous duck salad known as Goi Vit. &mdashJG

Irvington Delight (Irvington, NY): Amal Suleiman rolls her stuffed grape leaves by hand, and you can tell. In fact, the original vines were brought to the United States from Jordan in the 1980s, so she and her family actually grow the grape leaves and pick them in a backyard in suburban Westchester County. (I like to give the grape leaves a quick scorch in a cast iron skillet so that their surface gets a little blackened and feathery and the spices really bloom.) Suleiman makes the hummus, too, and the hot sauce and the muhammara, and this is why people drop into a seemingly random convenience shop (across the street from a gas station) wanting nothing more than a bag of potato chips and a soda&mdashbut wind up leaving with a stockpile of handmade Middle Eastern treats to bring home for dinner. Irvington Delight is but one example of countless corner stores and bodegas around the United States where people carefully, passionately honor the cuisine of a home country that they left behind. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the places that keep us alive. &mdashJG

J&J's Family Restaurant (Pittsburgh, PA): A greasy spoon diner in a city full of greasy spoon diners worth talking about. J&J's isn't the one you'll see on TV, though. A true family-owned joint that sits atop the city's historic Mount Washington. Assorted coffee mugs that don't match. Serving sizes that'll last you all day. A dining experience that makes you feel like family. &mdashBB

Jitlada (Los Angeles, CA): You haven&rsquot really experienced Los Angeles in all its polyglot glory until you&rsquove gone to Jitlada with a big, hungry group of friends. Even if you know Thai food pretty well, the menu is so expansive that it&rsquos impossible for first-timers to navigate, but you can&rsquot go wrong. Ask irrepressible owner Jazz Singsanong to choose for you, or just point your finger at random&mdashjungle curry crispy pork, spicy crab claw morning glory, turmeric catfish, mussels in green curry&mdashand prepare your mind and palate for a psychedelic wallop of flavor. &mdashJG

Kalaya (Philadelphia, PA): No punches are pulled by chef/owner Chutatip &ldquoNok&rdquo Suntaranon and her remarkably spicy, funky, practically vibrating Thai dishes that are a snapshot of her mother&rsquos recipes she learned while growing up in Southern Thailand. &mdashKS

Keens (New York, NY): In a city of restaurants filled with history, none has more powerful old-school vibes than Keens Chophouse. Walk through the wooden double doors on 36th street and the history hits you as if all of the pipes lining the ceiling were still wafting smoke. Once you take in the antiques and memorabilia, settle on the order: definitely the porterhouse or the mutton chop, always the creamed spinach and the hashbrowns for sides, and yes, you&rsquoll be having a martini. &mdash KS

Kopitiam (New York, NY): For a few slow months in late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic overtook us, I found myself asking friends to meet me for a Malaysian breakfast at Kopitiam. This didn&rsquot make geographical sense, because Kopitiam sits a few blocks from the East River, at the southern end of Manhattan, and I live along the Hudson River in a suburban county north of Manhattan. Which meant that to enjoy this breakfast, I needed to take a Metro-North commuter train into the city, walk from Grand Central to the subway station in Bryant Park, then catch the F train to East Broadway. None of that bothered me. Desire can be impossible to resist. As I took my journey south, I daydreamed about Kopitiam&rsquos oyster omelet, and the triangles of minced chicken gift-wrapped in pandan leaves, and the nasi lemak (fried anchovies and coconut rice make such a perfect pair), and the hand-pulled coffee with condensed milk. Chef Kyo Pang and restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai and their crew have created, with their menu at Kopitiam, a welcome celebration of the Nyonya cuisine of Southeast Asia. But they&rsquove also built a space you can&rsquot help but linger in, a gentle coffeehouse where you want to wait around and study how morning light alters as the afternoon approaches. New York City can be hard on people sanctuaries like Kopitiam make the days a little bit kinder. &mdashJG

La Esperanza Panaderia (Sacramento, CA): Opened in 1969 by Salvador Plasencia, it&rsquos now being operated by Salvador&rsquos grandchildren. All I have to do is walk into this 52-year-old panaderia that anchors Franklin Boulevard in my hometown of Sacramento to bask in the throngs of childhood nostalgia at warp speed. The smell of gingerbread puerquitos, jammy niños, crusty and soft bolillios, churros y mas will bash you in the face as soon as you open the storefront door, and leave you bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Bide your time in the queue by counting the original black and white tiles on the floor, catching glimpses of the frantic bakers through ajar doors, and impatiently staring into the display cases filled with fresh pan dulce made on-site. Staring into the display case is critical. This way you know what you want as soon as you get to the counter and aren&rsquot one of those pandejos who&rsquos constantly asking &ldquo. ooh, and what&rsquos this. &rdquo You don&rsquot need to know which region every different bread is from, or if it was made with organic heirloom purple Oaxacan corn. You&rsquore holding up the line! Shut up, point, order, move down the line, shove it into your gob. Celebratorily, of course. &mdashIM

Larder (Cleveland, OH): America can&rsquot afford to lose the old but it also can&rsquot afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That&rsquos progress. &mdashJG

La Super-Rica (Santa Barbara, CA): Yeah, we know, Julia Child made it iconic when she announced that this Milpas Street taco stand was her favorite restaurant in America. But for those of us who&rsquove spent a portion of our years chilling in Santa Barbara, La Super-Rica is just that slow, breezy, griddle-scented joint on the corner where everyone democratically waits in line (hey, is that Jackson Browne behind me?) for the pure pleasure of hand-pressed tortillas and sizzling pork and melted cheese and potent salsas. Locals know: If there are special tamales or enchiladas on the tiny chalkboard menu, you need to get them. &mdashJG

La Taqueria (San Francisco, CA): People often ask: tacos or burritos? Usually the answer depends on the restaurant, but at La Taqueria, it's both. Owner Miguel Jara grew up in Tijuana and opened his beloved restaurant in 1973 in the Mission District&mdashit&rsquos been a destination for both locals and visitors since. I always like to start with a taco appetizer before moving on to a burrito, which comes packed with proper proportions of plump pinto beans, your protein of choice (I choose charred then chopped carne asada), green guacamole, creamy crema, and melty cheese (there&rsquos no rice at La Taqueria Jara says it simply acts as filler). The burrito is tightly wrapped in foil, nice and compact, like a mini missile ready to launch into your mouth. In-the-know regulars get both burritos and tacos "dorados," so that the tortillas are fried until golden and crispy. Whatever you do, don't forget the salsa. &mdashOM

Lehja (Richmond, VA): Because spice, hospitality, and wine aren&rsquot luxuries&mdashthey&rsquore essentials. Because even in a time of scarcity and fear, chef-owner Sunny Baweja dishes up generosity and joy (and chaat!). Because this unassuming, unexpected jewel in a Virginia mall is one of the very best Indian restaurants in America. &mdashJT

Leo's Taco Truck (Los Angeles, CA): I&rsquove had the privilege of eating at the following three-Michelin-star restaurants: The French Laundry, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Lung King Heen, Single Thread, Alinea. I get just as much satisfaction consuming a platter of al pastor tacos from Leo&rsquos as I do with any of those fancy spots. Leo&rsquos is firmly on the lowbrow/brilliant end of the spectrum&mdashthe OG location is in the parking lot of a gas station on South La Brea and Venice&mdashbut show up on a Friday night at 2 a.m. and the line consistently spills around the block. Ask 100 different Angelenos where the best tacos are in the city and you&rsquoll get 200 answers. But I bet a lot of those responses will have Leo&rsquos in the number one spot. &mdashDD

Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, TX): I remember taking my older kids here a few years ago. They had to be patient. We waited in line, and the line moved slowly. Margot and Toby studied the greasy blackness of the walls&mdashlike the smoke smudges in a French cathedral&mdashuntil we placed our order. We snagged a table. Margot picked up a beef rib that seemed to weigh more than she did. She bit into the juicy meat and her eyes rolled back and she emitted a squeak of unfiltered delight. She polished off the whole rib and then asked for another. They say a father is only as happy as his children are. In that moment, I was happy. &mdashJG

Lowell&rsquos (Seattle, WA): Oh, so you think Pike Place Market is nothing but a tourist trap? Here&rsquos a secret. Go early. Go at dawn, when the only people you&rsquoll see are the stall owners arranging fresh fish on hills of shaved ice, and wait outside the doors of Lowell&rsquos (look for the sign that says &ldquoAlmost Classy Since 1957&rdquo) so that when the place opens at 7 sharp, you can get one of the tables overlooking Elliott Bay. You want an omelet stuff with Dungeness crab&mdashyou&rsquore in a fish market, after all&mdashand maybe also a Hangtown Fry with eggs and bacon and fresh oysters all scrambled together. &mdashJG

Marcel&rsquos by Robert Wiedmaier (Washington, D.C.): In twenty-one years on Pennsylvania Avenue, how many big fish were fêted, state secrets spilt, and will-you-marry-me's uttered behind the curtain at Table 28? How many tinned tons of Sevruga, kilograms of white truffles, and pieds du roi of boudin blanc were squired from copper pan to bone china to shining cloche to starched table again and again in flawless ballet like the Bolshoi? Nowhere in Washington, D.C., is fine-dining done finer. Nowhere is it easier to feel thoroughly at home in a tuxedo. The stewards of slow luxuries must never die. &mdashJT

Metzger Bar & Butchery (Richmond, VA): Schnitzel, schupfnudeln, and schadenfreude. 2020 saw far too much of one and not nearly enough of the other two. Chef Brittanny Anderson opened her little German joint in 2014&mdashan outpost of modern exceptionalism in a historic yet overlooked district. She planted a tiny garden, built dining room furniture from a single tree, put her DJ husband behind the bar spinning drinks and funk, and started serving local takes on trout rillettes, rabbit, and pork chops with carafes of Zweigelt. Every neighborhood needs a place where you can eat three times a week and not get bored or go broke. &mdashJT

Mosquito Supper Club (New Orleans, LA): Crispy, delicate soft-shelled shrimp. Browned cabbage smothered down in salt pork. Rustic seafood gumbo&mdashokra, crab, and shrimp&mdashthat can&rsquot be rushed. Seasonal, savory, and capped with a story or two. Well before chefs the world round embraced &ldquoblackened everything&rdquo as Cajun identifier, south Louisiana folk made magic with simple foods linked to the waters, skies, and land around them. For years chef Melissa Martin ran a series of deep Cajun pop-ups that showcased the foods of her childhood far from the relatively bright city lights of New Orleans. Finally settled for a spell, Martin cooks the seafood-dominant dishes from her coastal hometown of Chauvin, Louisiana (population 2700), in a double-shotgun frame house tucked away in the residential Uptown neighborhood. Her dedication to her family&rsquos traditional foods and family-style hospitality make the Mosquito Supper Club a relaxed, home-style experience that gets you deep into a culture you thought you understood. &mdashPJ

Nanina's in the Park (Belleville, NJ): Okay, this one&rsquos actually a banquet hall, but it&rsquos a keeper. Generations of Newark-area Italian-Americans and those who love them have celebrated weddings, graduations, and first holy communions at this grand and slightly gaudy (so just about right) Italian villa planted at the north end of Branch Brook park. It&rsquos a banquet hall that actually does Italian food really well, because it has to. An institution. &mdashJK


100 Restaurants America Can't Afford to Lose

We're raising a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashbecause if we lose them, we lose who we are.

You know that bistro around the corner, the one where you and your partner first locked eyes across the table? The Southern barbecue joint where, back in the days before the pandemic, you and your comrades used to come together for sweet racks of ribs on Friday nights as another sorry workweek sputtered to a close? The bodega where you&rsquore such a regular that no one has to ask how you like your breakfast sandwich. The taqueria where they nail the salsa verde. The place where you can watch a Korean grandmother making dumplings in the kitchen. The New England landmark with the picnic tables and lobster rolls. Or, wait, how about the trattoria with the long, honey-hued bar and the wine list that makes you want to throw away common sense and max out your credit card?

What if those places were to vanish? What if you were to wake tomorrow morning and learn that that remnant of your life&mdashand that portion of your community&rsquos lingua franca&mdashhad been erased? Such a prospect has been a real threat all year, with the relentless tragedy of COVID-19 leaving many American restaurants, even established classics, on the brink of bankruptcy. The threat will only intensify as winter progresses and restaurateurs have to abandon the outdoor dining that has kept them treading water for months. We love restaurants here at Esquire, and we hope that during this holiday season you&rsquoll consider making donations to Southern Smoke and the Lee Initiative and other organizations that are helping restaurant workers endure the crisis. We also hope you&rsquoll raise a toast to these spots around the country&mdashold and new, scruffy and spiffy&mdashthat we consider restaurants that America can&rsquot afford to lose. Because if we lose them, we lose who we are. &mdashJeff Gordinier

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (Noank, CT): Picnic tables on the grass by the water. Steamed lobsters, caught that day, with drawn butter in paper cups. A beer. &mdashRyan D'Agostino

Abyssinia (Philadelphia, PA): "Oh, I love that place." That's what I often hear from Philadelphians whenever I happen to mention Abyssinia. The connection runs deep. And that's no surprise, because the warmth of the hospitality at this beloved Ethiopian spot makes you feel as though you've joined a family for dinner in their home&mdasheven if you happen to be dining alone. A little while back, when I was teaching a writing course at Drexel University, I used to catch an early train from Manhattan just so that I could get a quick, quiet lunch of injera and stews at Abyssinia before dashing to the classroom. But it's even better with a big group. Let's all gather here when the pandemic is over. We'll have a feast. &mdashJG

Alpino Vino (Telluride, CO): Some restaurants are worth the hike, literally. Alpino Vino is a 30-ish seat Italian restaurant burrowed into a cliff way above Telluride (a magical place in and of itself). There&rsquos nothing easy about getting to the place&mdashyou can ski a narrow trail and, well, that&rsquos your option&mdashnor even anything easy about getting a seat. (See: my note about seating 30 people at a time.) But Telluride is the most important it&rsquos where I fell in love with my now husband it&rsquos where we took my family to celebrate our engagement and it&rsquos a place I return to twice a year like clockwork to remember all that. That Alpino Vino serves truly perfect food, both cozy and refined, and has one of the most amazing wine lists I&rsquoll ever experience is just the proverbial cherry on top. No trip west is complete without a visit. &mdashMadison Vain

Al&rsquos Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN): Flapjacks on the griddle. Hazy morning sunlight through stained-glass awnings. Foreign currency tacked to a shelf, above the Magic Markered coffee mugs belonging to various regulars. A sign that says &ldquoBeware of Attack Waitress.&rdquo If a breakfast counter could be the IRL manifestation of a Replacements song, this would be it. &mdashJG

American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit, MI): They&rsquore right next to each other on the same block in downtown Detroit, and the story is that theirs is a bitter and endless grudge match. Whatever. The point is that both of them raise a torch for a true regional delight: coneys, which are hot dogs flooded with funky chili, yellow mustard, and raw onions. &mdashJG

Angler (San Francisco, CA): Decadence in the form of wild game and giant crustaceans and magnificent heads of radicchio, sometimes served raw or cooked over open fire, drizzled with truffles or XO sauce, and, on the side, copious amounts of caviar and oysters, atop a magnificent table made from the trunk of a centuries old redwood. Your memories of Angler will be like a hunting lodge fever dream you can&rsquot wait to have over and over. &mdashKevin Sintumuang

Anteprima (Chicago, IL): The chef is not a celebrity. No Michelin Star. It&rsquos not on the James Beard Foundation's radar. These are the very reasons Anteprima is perfect to me. The dining room is always full. The owner greets you at the door. The waitstaff in their long white aprons remember your names and if you prefer sparkling or tap. Anteprima&rsquos menu changes daily. With each micro season we see dishes pristinely representing fresh ingredients. Hakurei turnips, breakfast radish, ramps, and morels in the spring. Corn and tomatoes in the summer. Roots in the fall. Squashes, truffles, and alliums through the winter. I love this place. &mdashIliana Regan

Arnold's (Nashville, TN): Nashville wouldn&rsquot be Nashville without the red-tray, meat-and-three comfort of Arnold&rsquos Country Kitchen. Locals and tourists, writers and musicians, and everyone in between line up cafeteria-style for juicy roast beef carved to order and creamy chocolate chess pies for dessert. No reservations, no pretense. Arnold's simple, straightforward fare is the first thing on my mind when I think about Music City. &mdashOmar Mamoon

Bamboo Garden (Brooklyn, NY): This massive dim sum restaurant is out in Brooklyn&rsquos Chinatown in Sunset Park. With elaborate chandeliers and big banquet tables, it&rsquos always filled with families celebrating special occasions. It's so joyful. Every time we go we get the Peking duck, which is just perfect. &mdashKate Storey

Bar Tabac (Brooklyn, NY): Definition of a neighborhood eatery. Go for the Burgundy snails, and footie matches on the TV. &mdashNick Sullivan

Black-Eyed Susan's (Nantucket, MA): They do breakfast and they do dinner and they do them well, for not many people (it&rsquos tiny) and for cash only, and you&rsquoll remember it. Especially the Pennsylvania Dutch pancakes made with a slice of Jarlsberg. &mdashRD

Blueberry Hill (St. Louis, MO): I have been coming down here&mdashto the loop in St. Louis, one of the greatest streets of food and music in America, that is&mdashfor (the very best!) burgers and live music quite literally since I got keys to a car. It made me feel like a rebel when I was young, out late hearing new bands, buying my own dinners, and it makes me remarkably nostalgic now that I&rsquom not. Also, Chuck Berry played a monthly show here for 200 months in a row, so if you won&rsquot take my word for it, perhaps his will do. &mdashMV

Blue Moon Cafe (Shepherdstown, WV): Locals, tourists from D.C., professors from the small university, all sitting together enjoying buffalo chicken salads and black bean burgers and maybe somebody playing the guitar. &mdashRD

Bouquet (Covington, KY): Maybe you&rsquove grown weary of the phrase &ldquofarm to table.&rdquo Maybe it&rsquos lost its punch, in certain quarters of the country. But Bouquet is a restaurant that makes &ldquofarm to table&rdquo matter again&mdashand in Mitch McConnell&rsquos home state, no less. Chef Stephen Williams opened the restaurant in 2007 &ldquoas one of the first restaurants in the area to embrace local and sustainable farming as a cornerstone of its mission,&rdquo as the place&rsquos website puts it, and that mission hasn&rsquot lost an ounce of passion in the intervening years. The stuff on the menu sounds straightforward enough&mdashdeviled eggs, a green salad, meatballs, a pork chop&mdashbut everything soars because of the chef&rsquos obvious reverence for the ingredients that he uses. Yes, that matters. &mdashJG

Brigtsen&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): &ldquoIf you&rsquove only got one dinner, I&rsquom gonna ask you to leave the Quarter.&rdquo Can&rsquot tell you how many times I&rsquove put first-time visitors to New Orleans in this conceptual bind. &ldquoGo to this little shotgun house on Dante Street and you&rsquoll never forget it.&rdquo At 20 years old, this family-run bistro doesn&rsquot pop up on &ldquonew and hot&rdquo or &ldquoTV chef&rdquo lists, but instead chugs along providing deep hospitality and interpreting Louisiana classics from the Creole, Cajun, and Southern canons that excite the palate and soothe the soul. A local boy and veteran of Paul Prudhomme&rsquos opening brigade at K-Paul&rsquos, chef Frank Brigtsen works magic in an impossibly tiny kitchen with abundant Gulf seafood and our year-round farm bounty. He&rsquoll fry up bayou catfish to delicate, cracking perfection and lay you low with an impossibly savory roast duck on dirty rice. Broiled redfish with a lump crabmeat crust can make the most open-hearted dining companion fiercely territorial. Frank&rsquos wife, Marna, and his sisters, Sandy and Rhonda, run the front of house with an effortless, enveloping friendliness that can turn a harried first-time guest into an instant regular. Also, pecan pie that will haunt your dreams. &mdashPableaux Johnson

Busy Bee (Atlanta, GA): When self-taught cook Mama Lucy Jackson opened Busy Bee Cafe in 1947, she did so on West Hunter Street, one of only two streets available to African American entrepreneurs at the time. Hunter would go on to be named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive after the restaurant&rsquos (and Atlanta&rsquos) most important patron. Back then it was the place for civil rights activists and organizers to safely meet and strategize. Today it&rsquos known as the place with the best fried chicken in the city. The sides are exquisite renderings of Southern staples with the rice and gravy, collards, and mac n&rsquo cheese shining particularly brightly. Don&rsquot miss the cornmeal-dusted and encrusted catfish, made memorable with its steamy and silken flesh. &mdashStephen Satterfield

Canlis (Seattle, WA): If we tell you that Canlis is the &ldquoepitome of elegance,&rdquo which it is, you might get the wrong impression. For three generations, in a black masterpiece of modernist architecture that reaches up and out toward Lake Union like a swimmer about to leap off the starting block, the Canlis family has fine-tuned a form of hospitality so effortless that a &ldquofancy&rdquo meal feels like a reunion with old friends. &mdashJG

Casamento&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): Even when there&rsquos not a pandemic going on, sometimes Casamento&rsquos stays closed for the day. Maybe it&rsquos not the right season for oysters, or maybe somebody&rsquos just not in the mood. Hey, it&rsquos 101 years old, so go easy on the place. When it is open (nowhere near the frat-boy lures of the French Quarter, thank you very much), Casamento&rsquos remains a tiled shrine to briny simplicity. You want a &ldquoloaf,&rdquo which amounts to a heap of fried oysters in between fat slices of white bread. We don&rsquot have to tell you to use a lot of hot sauce, right? &mdashJG

Celeste (Somerville, MA): He spins vintage Chicha, makes Peruvian arthouse films, and mans the fire. She transforms space with a graduate degree in experimental architecture and embraces guests with Guatemalan warmth. Together, husband and wife JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau recast their at-home pop-up into a postmodernist brick-and-mortar paean of Peruvian and Andean spice. Art and aperitivos, pisco and purple corn, neon and neighbors, all pressed together in a tiny, bright vessel designed to amplify joy. The food is sublime, but Celeste (rhymes with &ldquosay yes: play&rdquo) is the greater alchemy of menu, mixtapes, and merrymaking that satiates a deeper kind of hungry. &mdashJason Tesauro

Cochon (New Orleans, LA): The last time I visited New Orleans, I went straight to Cochon from the airport. I began eating lunch alone at the bar, and I began texting my friends, and a couple of them asked whether I was drunk or high&mdashthat&rsquos how effusive I got. A jambalaya studded with pork cheeks and andouille sent me over the edge. I actually started hollering with joy. A bartender asked me whether I was okay. I was humming like a lunatic. &mdashJG

Cowan's Public (Nutley, NJ): The craft-beer, proper-drink, good-food revolution arrived in this corner of North Jersey a few years ago with this simple but beautiful Art Deco restaurant. The town has embraced it like something it never knew it was missing. To lose it would be a step backward. &mdashJohn Kenney

Cozy Corner (Memphis, TN): I told my friend Jay, in Memphis, I want the real thing. He suggested a couple of spots that didn&rsquot sound right to me&mdashtoo tidy, too bougie, too TV-friendly. I said, no, the real fucking thing, and that&rsquos when we went to Cozy Corner, owned by barbecue matriarch Desiree Robinson. We got ribs and fries and a bologna sandwich and a whole Cornish hen practically lacquered in a shiny glaze of sauce. It was as real as real gets. &mdashJG

Cunetto House of Pasta (St. Louis, MO): I know everyone thinks the best Italian food in America is in New York, but I&rsquod argue they haven&rsquot been to the Hill in St. Louis, Missouri. Driving down to these streets and bouncing between the cafes and bakeries and grocers felt like going on an exotic sojourn when I was very young, and the thought of losing any of these mom-and-pop establishments and the culture that goes with them fills me with dread. The crown jewel of the area is Cunetto&rsquos. Aside from being the first place I tried veal (which ended in tears as my parents explained just what veal is), it&rsquos a menu with absolutely no fuss but tons of flavor. Also, they serve amazing toasted raviolis, a St. Louis classic. &mdashMV

Cúrate (Asheville, NC): Great restaurants are like rocket boosters for neighborhoods: Attach a hot spot to a sad stretch of sidewalk and watch everything begin to move. Katie Button&rsquos Cúrate has been that kind of engine for the city of Asheville, giving the local food scene a shot of adrenaline along with all that paella and garlic shrimp and jamón ibérico. She also happens to serve the single best bean dish in America: an Asturian stew called fabada that&rsquos luscious with the fat of housemade chorizo and morcilla. &mdashJG

Diamond Head Grill (Honolulu, HI): This takeout counter on the mauka (mountain) side of Diamond Head isn&rsquot a scenic spot &mdash just a sun-beaten parking lot with a few picnic tables along a concrete wall &mdash but the plate lunches spill over with the likes of miso ginger salmon, kalbi beef and char siu pork, plus a heap of rice: white, brown or, the best, hapa, brown and white together. &mdashLigaya Mishan

Dino's Pizza (Chicago, IL): It was my family&rsquos go-to place for pizza on Friday nights when my brother and I were kids. And it still is for my parents. Nothing fancy. Not trendy, not even in a post-ironic hipster kind of way. (Thank God.) It&rsquos on the edge of Chicago, right next to the suburb where I grew up. The bar attracts mostly cops and firefighters. We&rsquod do carryout, which means when I visit my folks my dad and I leave a few minutes early to pick up the pizza so we can sneak in a beer and a shot before heading home. Important to note that they don&rsquot specialize in deep-dish pizza, but the other kind of Chicago pizza&mdashthe much better kind of Chicago pizza&mdashwhich is pub style: cut into squares, soft but not thick. &mdashMichael Sebastian

Ditch Witch (Montauk, NY): Not a restaurant, traditionally speaking, but this food truck just off Ditch Plains beach in Montauk is half the reason you'll want to go to the beach at all. Their Tomahawk bowl packed with fresh tuna is worth waiting in line for&mdashand you'll have to. &mdashBen Boskovich

Dooky Chase&rsquos Restaurant (New Orleans, LA): Fried chicken, green gumbo, and the strength of legacy. For the better part of her 97 years, different communities in New Orleans turned to chef Leah Chase for sustenance, strength, and good counsel. In the 1960s, civil rights leaders asked for her advice and a meeting place to hash out the end of the segregationist era (over bowls of her gumbo, of course). When levee failures following Hurricane Katrina deluged the city, shocked and displaced citizens took solace and strength from Ms. Leah&rsquos words and determination&mdasheven as she mucked out her own dining room and oversaw renovations from a FEMA trailer parked next to the landmark restaurant in Treme. Her passing in June 2019 broke the hearts of many and put the onus on her family to continue her work, her Holy Thursday traditions, and a successful generational transition&mdashtricky for restaurants even in pre-pandemic times. Thanks to her grandson Edgar &ldquoDooky&rdquo Chase IV in the kitchen and daughter Stella at the helm, locals can still gussy up for lunch buffet (including Ms. Chase&rsquos legendary fried chicken) or indulge on the &ldquoregular menu&rdquo come Friday. Whatever your choice, make sure somebody orders the Creole classic Shrimp Clemenceau&mdashshrimp, crispy potatoes, ham, and mushrooms in garlic&mdashand mask up to meander through the late doyenne&rsquos outstanding African-American art collection. &mdashPJ

Dove&rsquos Luncheonette (Chicago, IL): Okay, here&rsquos the deep secret knowledge possessed by all professional food writers. Are you ready? If you keep wanting to go back to a place, that place is very good. That&rsquos it. And I go back to Dove&rsquos Luncheonette every single time I&rsquom in Chicago. Like clockwork. Usually for breakfast, because breakfast is very important to me, and because the Mexican/Southern mashup served at Dove&rsquos speaks to my Los Angeles soul. Do I want the pozole rojo with carnitas, or should I get the burnt-ends hash with two fried eggs and Texas toast? Doesn&rsquot matter, either way, because I know I&rsquoll be back to try the rest. &mdashJG

Duarte's Tavern (Pescadero, CA): Located along a desolate stretch of Highway 1 in northern California, this restaurant has been in existence since 1897. The recipient of a James Beard award for classic American restaurant in 2003, Duarte&rsquos is firmly not fancy. But what they lack in pretense they make up for in dishes that are at once comforting and offer up a taste of nostalgic coastal California cuisine. Think: artichoke soup, local petrale filet of sole, olallieberry pie. Oh, and the bar is super fun, serving up cheap, tasty martinis and typically packed with colorful locals. &mdashDanny Dumas

Egan and Sons (Montclair, NJ): Remarkably good British/Irish pub food in a bright and open and airy set of rooms. At the heart of it is a soccer bar that draws somehow-not-annoying fans from all over. Best place to watch an EPL match over fish and chips and an oatmeal stout. &mdashJK

El Rey de las Fritas (Miami, FL): Yeah, South Beach is fun, but you haven&rsquot really made contact with Miami&rsquos Latin American spirit until you&rsquove experienced the initiation of the frita. A frita (as interpreted by El Rey, which was founded in the 1970s by Cuban exiles Benito and Gallega Gonzalez) is basically a burger on an airy Cuban bun with an avalanche of shoestring fries and a sweet paste of sautéed onions. It&rsquos a monument, of sorts, to a crucial period in Florida history, and it&rsquos also a damn good snack. &mdashJG

Fork (Philadelphia, PA): I got my first restaurant job at Fork restaurant when I was just out of college. Fork had recently opened and added an elegant vibe to Philadelphia&rsquos Old City. My entire family has dined at Fork and loved every meal&mdashfrom shrimp and grits at brunch to Champagne roasted chicken (takeaway) dinners during quarantine. Every experience at Fork is edifying. Ellen Yin has maintained this gem for more than two decades and I hope it lasts at least another twenty years. &mdashKlancy Miller

Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX): There's a reason for all those lawn chairs lined up outside the place. And yes, it's the brisket, but it's also so much more. And all of it has to do with the guy whose name is on the sign. Aaron Franklin gives a damn about what he's doing, who he's doing it with, and whom he's serving. Wait your turn and you'll see. &mdashBB

Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder, CO): Don&rsquot let the white truffles and caviar scare you off. Frasca may look exclusive if you&rsquore peeking in the window, but inside it&rsquos a house party. Wine guru and manager Bobby Stuckey is a captain of hospitality in the truest, most soulful sense: He makes everyone feel welcome and loved. &mdashJG

Fraunces Tavern (New York, NY): Because Washington said farewell to his officers upstairs, of course, but also because it&rsquos actually still a cozy tavern with surprisingly good food and a warm feeling in the older rooms. The whiskey bar up front is the snuggest place you can be on a winter night in Manhattan. &mdashJK

Freedman's (Los Angeles, CA): An unassuming location with unbelievable Jewish-American fare. You'll get out of the Uber thinking "where am I?" and leave wondering how you'll possibly follow up that meal with anything else. The latke waffle and lox will rock your world. &mdashBB

Galatoire&rsquos (New Orleans, LA): There may be no finer example of Food As Theater / Food as Culture than this Crescent City landmark known for its marathon, booze-saturated Friday lunch. A few months back I fretted to my friend Pableaux, whose family goes way back in Louisiana, that Galatoire&rsquos ran the risk of becoming a mere tourist trap. Pableaux shushed me and set me straight. Galatoire&rsquos matters, he let me know, and Galatoire&rsquos will always matter. &mdashJG

Genova Bakery (Stockton, CA): One of the best towering stacks of Toscano salame, turkey, cheddar, provolone, shredded lettuce, red onion, light mayo, heavy on the mustard on a soft and chewy Milk Roll comes from a 102-year-old bakery in the sepia-toned San Joaquin Valley. As soon as your hand touches the handle on Genova Bakery&rsquos antediluvian wooden screen door, you involuntarily envision the bakery&rsquos inception in 1918. Founded by Angelo and Giovanni Rolleri&mdashat the location it still occupies&mdashGenova Bakery is now owned by Tim Canevari, who&rsquos been working at the bakery since he was in high school. This is the place to grab your Italian goods: bulk biscotti, olives, beans, pasta, in-house made focaccia, and myriad Panettone during Christmas. Canevari took over the business in 2004 and has changed nothing. Nothing. Okay, Canevari added a few additional bread styles such as Dutch crunch, wheat, and sourdough. However, nothing has changed, from the quality of the fresh baked bread, the height of the sandwiches, the narrow-plank original hardwood floors, to the warmth of the employees. All of the character of Genova is intact. Genova Bakery was declared a historical landmark in 1985, for this place is the soul of Stockton. &mdashIllyanna Maisonet

Han Oak (Portland, OR): I still have dreams about Han Oak&mdashactual dreams. I dream about moving to the Pacific Northwest and living with chef Peter Cho and his beautiful family, helping out in the kitchen, learning how to make Korean dumplings, studying the nuances of kimchi. Which isn&rsquot entirely illogical&mdashHan Oak blends into the Cho family&rsquos backyard, and a meal there has the casual vibe of a family reunion around a picnic table. The mere thought of never being able to return to Han Oak makes me heartsick. &mdashJG

Havana (Bar Harbor, ME): A Cuban restaurant in Maine? No: A fantastic Cuban restaurant in Maine. Get the paella with local lobster, a Havana Martini, and call it a night. &mdashRD

Huynh (Houston, TX): Visiting Houston without eating Vietnamese food would be like going to Bologna and neglecting the pasta. There&rsquos always a wait for a seat at this family-owned strip-mall jewel, but the tables turn fast, and everyone with any sense in Houston will tell you that for ten bucks, you&rsquore not going to find a more satisfying and delicious meal than the gingery, herbaceous duck salad known as Goi Vit. &mdashJG

Irvington Delight (Irvington, NY): Amal Suleiman rolls her stuffed grape leaves by hand, and you can tell. In fact, the original vines were brought to the United States from Jordan in the 1980s, so she and her family actually grow the grape leaves and pick them in a backyard in suburban Westchester County. (I like to give the grape leaves a quick scorch in a cast iron skillet so that their surface gets a little blackened and feathery and the spices really bloom.) Suleiman makes the hummus, too, and the hot sauce and the muhammara, and this is why people drop into a seemingly random convenience shop (across the street from a gas station) wanting nothing more than a bag of potato chips and a soda&mdashbut wind up leaving with a stockpile of handmade Middle Eastern treats to bring home for dinner. Irvington Delight is but one example of countless corner stores and bodegas around the United States where people carefully, passionately honor the cuisine of a home country that they left behind. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the places that keep us alive. &mdashJG

J&J's Family Restaurant (Pittsburgh, PA): A greasy spoon diner in a city full of greasy spoon diners worth talking about. J&J's isn't the one you'll see on TV, though. A true family-owned joint that sits atop the city's historic Mount Washington. Assorted coffee mugs that don't match. Serving sizes that'll last you all day. A dining experience that makes you feel like family. &mdashBB

Jitlada (Los Angeles, CA): You haven&rsquot really experienced Los Angeles in all its polyglot glory until you&rsquove gone to Jitlada with a big, hungry group of friends. Even if you know Thai food pretty well, the menu is so expansive that it&rsquos impossible for first-timers to navigate, but you can&rsquot go wrong. Ask irrepressible owner Jazz Singsanong to choose for you, or just point your finger at random&mdashjungle curry crispy pork, spicy crab claw morning glory, turmeric catfish, mussels in green curry&mdashand prepare your mind and palate for a psychedelic wallop of flavor. &mdashJG

Kalaya (Philadelphia, PA): No punches are pulled by chef/owner Chutatip &ldquoNok&rdquo Suntaranon and her remarkably spicy, funky, practically vibrating Thai dishes that are a snapshot of her mother&rsquos recipes she learned while growing up in Southern Thailand. &mdashKS

Keens (New York, NY): In a city of restaurants filled with history, none has more powerful old-school vibes than Keens Chophouse. Walk through the wooden double doors on 36th street and the history hits you as if all of the pipes lining the ceiling were still wafting smoke. Once you take in the antiques and memorabilia, settle on the order: definitely the porterhouse or the mutton chop, always the creamed spinach and the hashbrowns for sides, and yes, you&rsquoll be having a martini. &mdash KS

Kopitiam (New York, NY): For a few slow months in late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic overtook us, I found myself asking friends to meet me for a Malaysian breakfast at Kopitiam. This didn&rsquot make geographical sense, because Kopitiam sits a few blocks from the East River, at the southern end of Manhattan, and I live along the Hudson River in a suburban county north of Manhattan. Which meant that to enjoy this breakfast, I needed to take a Metro-North commuter train into the city, walk from Grand Central to the subway station in Bryant Park, then catch the F train to East Broadway. None of that bothered me. Desire can be impossible to resist. As I took my journey south, I daydreamed about Kopitiam&rsquos oyster omelet, and the triangles of minced chicken gift-wrapped in pandan leaves, and the nasi lemak (fried anchovies and coconut rice make such a perfect pair), and the hand-pulled coffee with condensed milk. Chef Kyo Pang and restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai and their crew have created, with their menu at Kopitiam, a welcome celebration of the Nyonya cuisine of Southeast Asia. But they&rsquove also built a space you can&rsquot help but linger in, a gentle coffeehouse where you want to wait around and study how morning light alters as the afternoon approaches. New York City can be hard on people sanctuaries like Kopitiam make the days a little bit kinder. &mdashJG

La Esperanza Panaderia (Sacramento, CA): Opened in 1969 by Salvador Plasencia, it&rsquos now being operated by Salvador&rsquos grandchildren. All I have to do is walk into this 52-year-old panaderia that anchors Franklin Boulevard in my hometown of Sacramento to bask in the throngs of childhood nostalgia at warp speed. The smell of gingerbread puerquitos, jammy niños, crusty and soft bolillios, churros y mas will bash you in the face as soon as you open the storefront door, and leave you bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Bide your time in the queue by counting the original black and white tiles on the floor, catching glimpses of the frantic bakers through ajar doors, and impatiently staring into the display cases filled with fresh pan dulce made on-site. Staring into the display case is critical. This way you know what you want as soon as you get to the counter and aren&rsquot one of those pandejos who&rsquos constantly asking &ldquo. ooh, and what&rsquos this. &rdquo You don&rsquot need to know which region every different bread is from, or if it was made with organic heirloom purple Oaxacan corn. You&rsquore holding up the line! Shut up, point, order, move down the line, shove it into your gob. Celebratorily, of course. &mdashIM

Larder (Cleveland, OH): America can&rsquot afford to lose the old but it also can&rsquot afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That&rsquos progress. &mdashJG

La Super-Rica (Santa Barbara, CA): Yeah, we know, Julia Child made it iconic when she announced that this Milpas Street taco stand was her favorite restaurant in America. But for those of us who&rsquove spent a portion of our years chilling in Santa Barbara, La Super-Rica is just that slow, breezy, griddle-scented joint on the corner where everyone democratically waits in line (hey, is that Jackson Browne behind me?) for the pure pleasure of hand-pressed tortillas and sizzling pork and melted cheese and potent salsas. Locals know: If there are special tamales or enchiladas on the tiny chalkboard menu, you need to get them. &mdashJG

La Taqueria (San Francisco, CA): People often ask: tacos or burritos? Usually the answer depends on the restaurant, but at La Taqueria, it's both. Owner Miguel Jara grew up in Tijuana and opened his beloved restaurant in 1973 in the Mission District&mdashit&rsquos been a destination for both locals and visitors since. I always like to start with a taco appetizer before moving on to a burrito, which comes packed with proper proportions of plump pinto beans, your protein of choice (I choose charred then chopped carne asada), green guacamole, creamy crema, and melty cheese (there&rsquos no rice at La Taqueria Jara says it simply acts as filler). The burrito is tightly wrapped in foil, nice and compact, like a mini missile ready to launch into your mouth. In-the-know regulars get both burritos and tacos "dorados," so that the tortillas are fried until golden and crispy. Whatever you do, don't forget the salsa. &mdashOM

Lehja (Richmond, VA): Because spice, hospitality, and wine aren&rsquot luxuries&mdashthey&rsquore essentials. Because even in a time of scarcity and fear, chef-owner Sunny Baweja dishes up generosity and joy (and chaat!). Because this unassuming, unexpected jewel in a Virginia mall is one of the very best Indian restaurants in America. &mdashJT

Leo's Taco Truck (Los Angeles, CA): I&rsquove had the privilege of eating at the following three-Michelin-star restaurants: The French Laundry, Sukiyabashi Jiro, Lung King Heen, Single Thread, Alinea. I get just as much satisfaction consuming a platter of al pastor tacos from Leo&rsquos as I do with any of those fancy spots. Leo&rsquos is firmly on the lowbrow/brilliant end of the spectrum&mdashthe OG location is in the parking lot of a gas station on South La Brea and Venice&mdashbut show up on a Friday night at 2 a.m. and the line consistently spills around the block. Ask 100 different Angelenos where the best tacos are in the city and you&rsquoll get 200 answers. But I bet a lot of those responses will have Leo&rsquos in the number one spot. &mdashDD

Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor, TX): I remember taking my older kids here a few years ago. They had to be patient. We waited in line, and the line moved slowly. Margot and Toby studied the greasy blackness of the walls&mdashlike the smoke smudges in a French cathedral&mdashuntil we placed our order. We snagged a table. Margot picked up a beef rib that seemed to weigh more than she did. She bit into the juicy meat and her eyes rolled back and she emitted a squeak of unfiltered delight. She polished off the whole rib and then asked for another. They say a father is only as happy as his children are. In that moment, I was happy. &mdashJG

Lowell&rsquos (Seattle, WA): Oh, so you think Pike Place Market is nothing but a tourist trap? Here&rsquos a secret. Go early. Go at dawn, when the only people you&rsquoll see are the stall owners arranging fresh fish on hills of shaved ice, and wait outside the doors of Lowell&rsquos (look for the sign that says &ldquoAlmost Classy Since 1957&rdquo) so that when the place opens at 7 sharp, you can get one of the tables overlooking Elliott Bay. You want an omelet stuff with Dungeness crab&mdashyou&rsquore in a fish market, after all&mdashand maybe also a Hangtown Fry with eggs and bacon and fresh oysters all scrambled together. &mdashJG

Marcel&rsquos by Robert Wiedmaier (Washington, D.C.): In twenty-one years on Pennsylvania Avenue, how many big fish were fêted, state secrets spilt, and will-you-marry-me's uttered behind the curtain at Table 28? How many tinned tons of Sevruga, kilograms of white truffles, and pieds du roi of boudin blanc were squired from copper pan to bone china to shining cloche to starched table again and again in flawless ballet like the Bolshoi? Nowhere in Washington, D.C., is fine-dining done finer. Nowhere is it easier to feel thoroughly at home in a tuxedo. The stewards of slow luxuries must never die. &mdashJT

Metzger Bar & Butchery (Richmond, VA): Schnitzel, schupfnudeln, and schadenfreude. 2020 saw far too much of one and not nearly enough of the other two. Chef Brittanny Anderson opened her little German joint in 2014&mdashan outpost of modern exceptionalism in a historic yet overlooked district. She planted a tiny garden, built dining room furniture from a single tree, put her DJ husband behind the bar spinning drinks and funk, and started serving local takes on trout rillettes, rabbit, and pork chops with carafes of Zweigelt. Every neighborhood needs a place where you can eat three times a week and not get bored or go broke. &mdashJT

Mosquito Supper Club (New Orleans, LA): Crispy, delicate soft-shelled shrimp. Browned cabbage smothered down in salt pork. Rustic seafood gumbo&mdashokra, crab, and shrimp&mdashthat can&rsquot be rushed. Seasonal, savory, and capped with a story or two. Well before chefs the world round embraced &ldquoblackened everything&rdquo as Cajun identifier, south Louisiana folk made magic with simple foods linked to the waters, skies, and land around them. For years chef Melissa Martin ran a series of deep Cajun pop-ups that showcased the foods of her childhood far from the relatively bright city lights of New Orleans. Finally settled for a spell, Martin cooks the seafood-dominant dishes from her coastal hometown of Chauvin, Louisiana (population 2700), in a double-shotgun frame house tucked away in the residential Uptown neighborhood. Her dedication to her family&rsquos traditional foods and family-style hospitality make the Mosquito Supper Club a relaxed, home-style experience that gets you deep into a culture you thought you understood. &mdashPJ

Nanina's in the Park (Belleville, NJ): Okay, this one&rsquos actually a banquet hall, but it&rsquos a keeper. Generations of Newark-area Italian-Americans and those who love them have celebrated weddings, graduations, and first holy communions at this grand and slightly gaudy (so just about right) Italian villa planted at the north end of Branch Brook park. It&rsquos a banquet hall that actually does Italian food really well, because it has to. An institution. &mdashJK