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The Top 101 Restaurants in America (Including Some Right Near Here)

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Whether you dine out for the food, the atmosphere, the view, or any combination, there are some fine eateries on the 2012 list published by The Daily Meal. (Visit the link for a slideshow.) Of course, there are so many styles, cuisines and so on, that it’s actually a bit cheeky to try to winnow the list down to 101 items. Kudos to Molly Aronica and her staff for at least trying!

An exorbitant number of the top restaurants are on the East Coast and Left Coast. However, they do pay homáge to the great American cuisine, barbecue. For instance, No. 98 is The Pit in Raleigh, NC. Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City, MO holds down the #48 slot with its simple, tasty BBQ offerings. That “other” quintessentially American dish, chili, shows up too; Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, DC (of all places) is at #83, which is probably low on the list; I’m not saying, I’m just saying their chili’s better than that.

Beer can be inspirational, and it can even define the offerings at a great restaurant. Check out The Publican ((#63) in Chicago next time you’re up that way and want some sudsy grub.

Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines are nicely represented. Zahav in Philly (#86), home of the Beard Award winner Michael Solomonov, fuses Israeli, European, Middle Eastern and African in a spicy and novel way. Gjelina in Venice, CA comes in at #78 with trendy modern cuisine that’s Italian at its roots. Valentino in Santa Monica, CA (#72) started out simple 40 years ago, but has moved to an elegance and sophistication that’s well worth looking into. If it’s pie you’re after (pizza, I mean), then visit Roberta’s in Brooklyn and you’ll get a great one. Or you can try their pastas or pork chops; they’re easy. For a simpler pie place (but every bit as good), try Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, CT, over near the University. If you’re out west, try the pizza at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ and you’ll smile for days.

Outdoors in the Rockies

Asian and Asian fusion aren’t overlooked either. Jitlada in Los Angeles comes in at #97, and the great Thai food of SriPraPhai in Queens wasn’t overlooked either. Japanese and sushi feature at O-Ya in Boston, while Pok Pok in Portland, OR (#12) should get your attention if you want Asian street food-inspired dishes with a unique, Northwestern sensibility. Across the country, Momofuku Ssäm (#8) offers a duckaholic lunch and lots of other Asian-inspired fare.

Did you say you wanted seafood? There are plenty of options! Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami, FL shows at #67, and this time you can actually eat at Joe’s and enjoy it! They’ve been at it for a hundred years, so you know they’re not going away overnight. Or you can hold out for the very best: Le Bernardin, in New York, tops the chart.

Cajun and Creole aren’t overlooked in the list. Galatoire’s is there at #58, for instance. Or Commander’s Palace, which a beautiful, blue clapboard establishment that sets the pace for family-owned Creole. There’s Cochon as well, also in New Orleans, operated by chef Donald Link, the award-winning author of “Real Cajun.” Try his fried alligator for a special treat.

Indoors

Southern food is its own cuisine, and well worth looking into. Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink (#74) in Miami, FL, home of yet another Beard Award winner in Michael Schwartz, uses rustic-breed chicken and heirloom tomatoes to give Southern a nouveau facelift. Or you can seek out McCrady’s in Charleston, SC, where Southern meets Modern once again. Also in Charleston you’ll find Husk, with a daily menu that changes all over the Southern-palate spectrum.

Of course, Texas holds up their end of the stick in style. Stephan Pyles in Dallas holds down #91, with his versions of American classics done Texan. Luling City Market (Houston) comes in with great barbecue; just don’t confuse them with the City Market in Luling or you’ll be going a ways out of your way. If you’re in central Texas and don’t want to fight the freeway to Houston, go to Kreuz Market in Lockhart and you’ll get all you can eat (and carry) and have a nice country drive too. Or come to Austin to Franklin Barbecue (#15) and stand in line. Get there early; there’ll be 100 folks there by 10 AM, each of them holding a drool cloth. And when it’s gone, Franklin’s done for the day; usually before 11:30.

Fonda San Miguel in Austin gets a well-deserved mid-range slot at #54, in the Mexican food category. (Not Tex-Mex, really; more interior Mexico style; and darn good!) Fearing’s in downtown Dallas shows off Southwestern-American fusion in chef Dean Fearing’s sparkling style. Yep, Texas made out better than most states; which is how it should be, of course…

Enjoy the (Great Eating Across the Nation) Heat!

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