Bon Appetit has named the 20 most important restaurants in America in its March issue.
Here's the magazine's explanation for the list:
No, we're not talking the fanciest, the trendiest, or even the ones with the most stars. These are the places that define how we eat out. They're the fearless spots that drive chefs to innovate, restaurateurs to imitate, and the rest of us to line up. In short, these are the restaurants that matter -- right now."
This rings true, to a degree. There are certainly several fancy restaurants (Restaurant at Meadowood, Le Bernardin), trendy restaurants (Mission Chinese Food, Pok Pok, Animal, Roberta's ...), and star-happy ones (um, nearly all). Regardless, it is a list of places worth eating at, as each of these 20 choices raise the bar for what diners can expect from U.S. restaurants in a range of cuisines and prices. Here's a closer look:
Momofuku: New York (and beyond!)
What is there to be said about Momofuku that hasn't already been said? What started as a humble East Village restaurant has grown into multiple iterations across the globe. It's pretty amazing to think of the range of dishes the Momofuku empire is known for: ramen, fried chicken, shaved foie gras, and of course, pork buns. The brand has grown to incorporate a <a href="http://lky.ph/">magazine</a>, and a good one at that. It's the obvious choice for Number One -- and you have Momofuko to at least partly thank for the pork belly obsession that started rocking the country several years ago. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/momofuku">The Pork Bun That Launched A Thousand Imitators</a>
The Restaurant At Meadowood: Napa, Calif.
This Michelin three-star restaurant is a serious destination for haute cuisine lovers -- and one of the <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-01/with-2-000-tab-napa-valley-s-meadowood-grabs-california-bragging-rights.html">most expensive restaurants in the country</a>. Chef Christopher Kostow gave a good interview to Eater National last year to explain <a href="http://eater.com/archives/2012/08/23/christopher-kostow-interview-august-2012.php">his philosophy</a>. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/the-restaurant-at-meadowood">A Chef At The Very Top Of His Game</a>
Husk: Charleston, S.C.
Chef Sean Brock is a huge advocate of Southern food, whether heritage corn or a really good piece of pork. He's been thrust into the national limelight and has championed his cause on <a href="http://eater.com/archives/2012/03/05/watch-sean-brock-talk-southern-food-on-charlie-rose.php">Charlie Rose</a>, in The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/24/new-yorker-sean-brock_n_1028288.html">New Yorker</a> and The <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/dining/09notebook.html?pagewanted=all">New York Times</a>. He also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/sean-brocks-tattoos_n_1665887.html">impressed Jeffrey Steingarten</a> -- no easy feat. A Husk location in Nashville, Tenn., is on its way this year. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/husk">Reviving Southern Food, One Ingredient At A Time</a>
Recently, chef Grant Achatz has been getting a lot of attention for Next Restaurant, which changes food concepts every four months (current iteration: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/11/next-restaurants-the-hunt_n_2457885.html">wild game</a>). Before he launched Next, Achatz was already a big shot, thanks to Alinea, his fancy-food-made-avant-garde concept in Chicago. And it hasn't lost its cache, thanks to constant menu innovations. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/alinea">It's Grant's World, We Just Eat In It</a>
Manresa: Los Gatos, Calif.
Before farm-to-table became an overused buzzword, there was David Kinch. Many of today's top toques have come through his kitchen. Manresa is a perennial favorite -- the San Francisco Chronicle <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/restaurants/article/Manresa-review-Renovated-and-even-better-2369563.php">re-affirmed its four-star status</a> in late 2011. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/manresa">Upping The Ante On Farm To Table</a>
Roberta's: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Roberta's is perhaps the country's best example of a pizza joint that excels at non-pizza dishes. This restaurant has received nods from, well, pretty much every major food publication. Want to see the Brooklyn food scene in action? Go here. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/robertas">That Whole Brooklyn Thing? Here's The Blueprint</a>
Eleven Madison Park: New York
When Daniel Humm took the reins at Eleven Madison Park in 2009, everyone knew there would be changes. It eventually parted from its Union Square Hospitality Group parent and has gone on to make headlines, thanks to its focus on quirky dishes like <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/dining/at-eleven-madison-park-a-reinvention.html">carrot tartare</a>. One thing is for sure -- this restaurant is never satisfied with the status quo. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/eleven-madison-park">The Most Unapologetically Ambitious Restaurant In The Nation</a>
Pok Pok: Brooklyn, N.Y., and Portland, Ore.
One of the most satisfying feelings is when you have dinner and think you underpaid. We're not trying to give Andy Ricker any ideas here, but when you're willing to sweat and cry a little in public (some of that stuff is spicy!), you know it's good. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/pok-pok">A Straight Shot To Thailand, No Passport Required</a>
Mission Chinese Food: New York, San Francisco
Mission Chinese Food may not be traditional Szechuan-style food (thrice-cooked bacon, anyone?). But with food that good, who cares about authenticity? Danny Bowien was the subject of a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/21/danny-bowien-mission-chinese-gq_n_2170573.html">semi-recent GQ profile</a>. If you're interested in why he's sweeping everyone off their feet, we suggest you read. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/mission-chinese-food#ixzz2Kipldoq7">The New Face of American Cooking? You Can't Miss Him</a>
Uchi/Uchiko: Austin, Texas
A few years ago, when people thought of food in Austin, they probably thought of really great tacos. Tyson Cole has changed that, thanks to his sushi and Japanese-inspired menu. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/uchi-uchiko">The Best Little Sushi House In America</a>
Animal: Los Angeles
There are several chefs known for embracing fat and meat, but few do it as gracefully as Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. A gluttonous meal feels almost out of place in image-conscious Los Angeles, but Animal's carniovore-friendly fare has done the exact opposite of keeping the crowds away. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/animal">Dude, Don't Bogart Those Fried Pig Ears! </a>
Chicago is bursting with good restaurants, but whenever we hear of people visiting the city, or read a list of great eateries, a few names always come up. One is Avec. It's been around for a decade and isn't going anywhere. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/avec#ixzz2Kiy3gEXa">Why American Restaurants Look The Way They Do</a>
Le Bernardin: New York
Very few restaurants can stand the test of time, but Le Bernardin has broken the mold. Is it attracting a hip crowd? Not necessarily. But is the food consistently great? Absolutely. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/le-bernardin">Why We're STILL Talking About Eric Ripert</a>
Cochon: New Orleans
No one doubts that New Orleans is a restaurant city, and no one doubts that Cochon seriously contributes. Stuffed pig's foot? Why not. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/cochon#ixzz2Kj5bgauM">Going Whole Hog Before You'd Ever Heard Of Nose-to-Tail</a>
The Walrus and the Carpenter: Seattle
Former restaurant critic Frank Bruni <a href="http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/travel/eating-in-and-around-seattle.html?pagewanted=all">raved about The Walrus and the Carpenter </a> back in 2011. That doesn't seem so odd, but in all the years of reading Bruni's food writing, we think this might be one of his most ebullient reviews. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/the-walrus-and-the-carpenter">The Neighborhood Restaurant as Destination</a>
Shake Shack: Pretty Much Everywhere
This month, there has been news that Shake Shack is expanding to a second location in Brooklyn and a first location in Istanbul. This burger chain is unstoppable and may just <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/18/fast-casual-burger-chains_n_2488146.html">take over the world</a>. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/shake-shack">Reinventing The Burger For A Fast-Food Nation</a>
Franklin Barbecue: Austin, Texas
Several HuffPosters have been lucky enough to try Aaron Franklin's brisket -- and let's just say it's the best brisket we've ever had, hands-down. Our mouths are watering just writing this. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/franklin-barbecue#ixzz2Kj8mtn5Y">The Cult of Barbecue Has a New Leader</a>
Balthazar: New York
Pretty much any time of the day, if you walk by Balthazar there will be tons of tourists milling about. Often, that can be a sign of an overhyped restaurant. In this case, it isn't. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/balthazar">A Case Study for the Perfect Restaurant</a>
Primo: Rockland, Maine
This is the wild card of the list -- the restaurant that is probably quite excellent, but not exactly on the radar. Well, maybe it should be. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/primo#ixzz2KjBI2tqW">If You Build It (Raise It, Slaughter It, and Cook It), They Will Come</a>
Swan Oyster Depot: San Francisco
Swan Oyster Depot has hugely dedicated customers. And what's not to love? This no-frills seafood joint gives you exactly want you want, minus the fussiness. Grab a seat at the counter -- if there's space. <a href="http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20-most-important-restaurants-2013/restaurants/swan-oyster-depot#ixzz2KjBru9su">An Institution with a Lot to Teach the Next Generation of Restaurants</a>
Also on HuffPost: