Restaurants in the United States

(you really should go)
You really need to go
(really – you do)
Excellent wine list Bring money
(relative to locale)
Bring lots of money (you’ve been warned)



4111 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1 (773) 472-4111
Café Ibérico
739 North LaSalle Boulevard
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1 (312) 573-1510
702 West Fulton Market
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1 (312) 850-5005
The Girl and the Goat
809 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1 (312) 492-6262
  Top Chef Chicago (Season 4 to you) winner Stephanie Izard’s eatery is big, loud and eclectic. No frou-frou here.
Kinzie Chophouse
400 North Wells Street
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1-(312) 822-0191
  Very informal for a steakhouse experience. I had a really nice black and blue Delmonico that had the temperature nailed to specification. Kinzie has a reasonably-priced wine list with several interesting bottles (including a Protos from Ribera del Duero).
Mercat a la planxa
638 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1 (312) 765-0524
1529 West Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1 (312) 850-0288
The Publican
845 West Fulton Market
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1 (312) 733-9555
The Purple Pig
500 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1 (312) 464-1744
110 West Illinois
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1 (312) 644-0550
  A fusion place that does mostly small plates, it’s loud and doesn’t do well at respecting reservation times. However, the food is good and I was thoroughly entertained (and a little horrified) by the discussion on low fat dining and green burger patties.
Urban Belly
3053 North California Avenue
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1 (773) 583-0500
449 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL
Tel : +1 (312) 334-3688
Email :
  This is Rick Bayless doing quick-serve soup and sandwiches. Go on Wednesdays because that’s special pork belly day, but the cochinita pibil is another option for porky goodness. I’ve only had the seafood soup but the chicken pozole looked pretty good. You’ll also want the Aztec chocolate and the churro.


Denville, NJ

Doc’s Kitchen
38 First Avenue
Denville, NJ
Tel : +1 (862) 209-1464
  A family-run breakfast establishment that serves some interesting alternatives for breakfast including a spaghetti squash (!) omelette and pumpkin pancakes. I’ve tried their chorizo omelette, which was quite good though they do use a mild chorizo because the general populace doesn’t go around chewing on ghost peppers. While you’re at it, order a side of Taylor ham to go with whatever you eventually choose; it’s a pork product that’s fairly unique to NJ and worth a chew.
Breakfast and lunch service only, and it’s busy so don’t be surprised if you’re standing in line.
Thatcher McGee’s Irish Pub & Eatery

53 Broadway
Denville, NJ
Tel : +1 (973) 586-3377
  A very good pub run by my Pict cousins that amazingly keeps its kitchen open until 1:30a every freaking day. Sweet! There are plenty of typical bar food things along with a nice selection of Irish dining options. Galway style fish and chips can be had with onion rings rather than potato, and the Rachel (pastrami and sauerkraut with Russian dressing and Swiss cheese on rye) is a very good sandwich. Both can be washed down with Guiness or the hard cider that’s also available.
Open Mondays.



Dragonfly Modern Isakaya & Sushi
201 SE Second Avenue, Suite 104
Gainesville, FL
Tel : +1 (352) 371-3359 (DFLY)
Fax : +1 (352) 371-3329
  This is a restaurant that I sought shelter in during every single trip I made to central Florida and the only good thing that happened on all of those trips. They’ve got a hip Asian thing going, with an industrial metal, glass and and concrete design, panther girl waitresses and Yojinbō (用心棒) looping on the large-screen televisions. I always asked for a seat at the bar as while I could do it, I’m really not hip enough to sit in one of the leather banquettes being served sakétinis by said panther girls. Since it is an izakaya (居酒屋), settle in with one of the dozen sakés that’s available (I really like Asahi-Shuzo’s Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjō and Tenzan’s Jizake Genshu Junmai), and start with an order of the Dragonfly short ribs. I’d also recommend the miso black cod (gindara no saikyo yaki) and the hamachi-kama.
I haven’t been but there is also a Dragonfly outpost located in the City the Mouse Built.
Open Mondays.


Las Vegas

3900 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV
Tel : +1 (702) 369-3971
  Yet another dining option off the Vegas Strip, FireFly does tapas as a more brazen American interpretation of what one would find in Spain. Raucous environment necessitating group eating because there’s a lot available on their menu. Cheap too, allowing enough budget to take a drink at the Hyde before it transforms into a creepy nightclub. I’d suggest the albondigas, but get the lamb chops because the lentils accompanying them are stupendous. Make sure you only go to the Paradise location.
Open Mondays.
Lotus of Siam
953 East Sahara Avenue, Suite A5
Las Vegas, NV
Tel : +1 (702) 735-3033
  It’s off the Vegas Strip in a very seedy strip mall, but it’s still one hard place to get into because of its popularity. Unfortunately, dining solo sometimes has a drawback in terms of quantity, but consider the stuffed chicken wings, the sua rong hai (grilled beef), and the pla prawns. I’m not a curry fan but it’s good and other tables were demolishing theirs.
If the food isn’t reason enough, LoS has won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence 6 times and maintains a massive wine list, a third of which is dedicated to German Rieslings (yes!).
Open Mondays.


Mountain Lakes, NJ

Paul’s Family Diner
320 Route 46 East
Mountain Lakes, NJ
Tel : +1 (973) 627-4893
Email :
  If you watch certain cable programming, you’d be under the impression that the American northeast was literally strewn with diners every 10 metres or so, but I had to ask in order to actually find one that was open. That place is Paul’s and it’s a good representation of what to expect of a Jersey diner. Nice staff, big menu, breakfast available pretty much any time, and open 24 hours every Thursday through Saturday. I like their pork chops, but the Reuben sandwich (with pastrami or corned beef) is also good and the steak and eggs are a steal for the price. And they’ll make me liver and onions and then hide just out of view to watch me eat it. Sure beats drive-thru at the Clown for late-night options.



Boot and Shoe Service
3308 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA
Tel : +1 (510) 763-2668
  It’s lively! An eatery introduced to me by my pal Amy, I am not cool enough to really fit in with the crowd on my own, but I’d go because they make a killer coriander daiquiri. The menu changes weekly, and is anchored around small plates and pizzas to complement the booze.
Oliveto Restaurant and Café
5655 College Avenue
Oakland, CA
Tel : +1 (510) 547-5356
  Another Amy find, hopefully the waitress is less-depressed and a bit more lively if you walk up. Really nice pasta offerings as primi and a great visceral presentation of a tasty pigeon. Others in the Oakland area also speak highly of this Italian eatery.


San Diego

The Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop
640 Tenth Avenue
San Diego, CA
Tel : +1 (619) 450-5880
  I was looking for a place with beef, no mayonnaise, and an absence of pretense for dinner with my pal The Arizonan, and The Cowboy Star really nailed the brief. Cool laid-back ambiance with plenty of wood and leather, a nice bartender and steaks which came out tasty and at the temperature they were ordered at. They have a butcher shop if you’d like to take some cow home to cook yourself. Excellent wine list of well-selected and reasonably priced bottles from most of the beef-loving wine regions. Pricey only because it’s a steakhouse and cows cost dollars.


San Francisco

Yank Sing
49 Stevenson Street
San Francisco, CA
Tel : +1 (415) 541-4949
  You can generate quite an argument over this but I think the Yank Sing is one of the best spots in San Francisco for dim sum – they’re cart-based and everything is tasty. The Yank Sing is probably the most expensive dim sum I’ve ever tried but well worth it as they have a couple of things like Dungeness crab dumplings that you don’t see everywhere. Also not heavy on the “abats” if that happens to turn your crank though 鳯爪 (“phoenix talons” aka chicken feet) can be had. I like this location but they have a second one in the Rincon Center if that’s closer.
Open Mondays.


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