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12 Perfect Plates Across The U.S.

Roving restaurant editor Bill Addison pauses to share some gorgeous dishes

As fall approaches I veer into the home stretch of my year’s research, traveling to experience and document America’s ever-shifting dining landscape. The tour of duty includes photographing my meals, a skill I’ve frankly been learning on the job during the last 16 months. In looking over some significant restaurants I’ve visited over 2015 but on which I’d yet to report — some for possible inclusion in the 2016 edition of Eater’s National 38 or our best new restaurants list, others that didn’t easily fit into a city-specific narrative I was writing — I thought one carnal food shot of each place might tell as much or more about the meal than the accompanying words.


Scrambled eggs with sturgeon, "The Classic" board with lox, Pastrami Russ sandwich, "Shtetl" board with smoked sable, bissel of caviar

Russ & Daughters, New York

For tins of exquisite osetra caviar I’ll schlep my paycheck to 101-year-old Russ & Daughters on East Houston Street. For an appetizing feast of kippered salmon and smoked sturgeon on handsome boards, I’ll queue up at the Russ family’s old-timey charmer (white walls, marble counters and tabletops, pale blue vinyl booths) that opened in May 2014. Scrambled eggs requested soft came to the table nubbier than I’d have hoped; next time I know to leave more room for the chocolate babka French toast rightly listed as a dessert. 127 Orchard Street, New York, (212) 475-4881, russanddaughterscafe.com

Tilghman Island crab cake at Woodberry Kitchen

Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore

Spike Gjerde’s menu has evolved since 2007 to include evermore subtle nods to Maryland heritage. In the summer, he gives the people what they want: crab. Sweet lumps of crabmeat may dot corn soup, top a flatbread with quark and egg, lull in a creamy dip, star in a beautiful rye tart, and stand gloriously on its own in a dense, golden crab cake baked in the oven and served, as every crab cake should be, with tartar and cocktail sauces. 2010 Clipper Park Road, Baltimore, (410) 464-8000, woodberrykitchen.com

Warm vegetable salad at Townsend

Townsend, Philadelphia

I spent most of my recent visit to Philly gorging through the restaurants owned by Mike Solomonov and Steven Cook, but more than one local food writer friend encouraged me to detour to Townsend — an elegant, unapologetically French newcomer nestled along the booming East Passyunk corridor. One knockout: a warm vegetable salad, teetering between spring and summer, with peas, favas, tomatoes, morels, and an enriching mound of chopped lardons. 1623 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, (267) 639-3203, townsendrestaurant.com

Piperade's namesake dish

Piperade, San Francisco

On a recent hunt for stellar lunch options in San Francisco, I remembered Gerald Hirigoyen’s calm, steady ode to his Basque heritage that sits on a quiet street in North Beach. The namesake dish — peppers and onions sauteed to melting submission with a poached egg and a strip of bacon-like ventrêche — is as eloquent as it was when the restaurant opened 13 years ago. 1015 Battery St, San Francisco, (415) 391-2555, piperade.com

La Gamelle's steak frites and roasted duck breast

La Gamelle, New York

This spring my Eater NY colleagues were buzzing over this Bowery newcomer — neither bistro nor brasserie, exactly, but a fetching addition to the neighborhood and further proof that French cooking in all forms is reappearing countrywide. Favorites: a generous chacuterie spread and the quintessential steak frites. (Note: The image atop the story is of escargot at La Gamelle.) 241 Bowery, New York, (212) 388-0052, lagamellenyc.com

Frasca's zlkrofi "spoon dumplings"

Frasca, Boulder

Spoiler: Frasca, whose gracious hospitality is matched by its earthy, clean-tasting northeastern Italian cuisine, will remain on the national Eater 38 in 2016. The summer dinner that cinched its place included zlkrofi, a variation on "spoon dumplings" from Slovenia filled with roasted chicken, prosciutto, and ricotta and garnished with fresh porcini mushrooms. 1738 Pearl St, Boulder, (303) 442-6966, frascafoodandwine.com

King crab leg with nasturtium at The American Restaurant

The American Restaurant, Kansas City

The dining room’s gilded decor and sweeping expanse speak to the restaurant’s 1974 origins as the anchor of Hallmark’s Crown Plaza. Michael Corvino, the executive chef since 2013 who was previously executive sous chef at Dallas’s Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, doesn’t play to the past. His tasting menus draw from an up-to-date trove of global ingredients and techniques. One fine example: hunks of king crab leg nuzzled against satiny chicken mousse and covered by nasturtium leaves and chips made of turnip greens. 200 East 25th Street, Kansas City, Missouri, (816) 545-8001, theamericankc.com

A snack of king salmon with pickled green strawberry at Lazy Bear

Lazy Bear, San Francisco

"Don’t be late!" warned a friend who’d eaten the night before at the dinner party-themed restaurant that uses a ticketing system and sells out monthly. Indeed, I rushed in almost five minutes late at 6:04 p.m. and the staff was already serving my tablemate nibbles like king salmon with pickled green strawberries. I didn’t relax until sometime around the rabbit served with snails, stinging nettles, and green garlic, one of eight singing-of-spring courses served at long communal tables. 3416 19th Street, San Francisco, (415) 874-9921, lazybearsf.com

Sweet corn risotto at Gunshow

Gunshow, Atlanta

Chef-owner Kevin Gillespie is busy with his new restaurant, the seriously Southern Revival in neighboring Decatur. Gunshow’s crew, though, continues to rock the weekly-changing menus full of comforts and winning curios delivered to tables by the cooks who made them. At a July dinner, the tastes of summer were distilled into sweet corn risotto with goat cheese and a trompe l’oeil flourish of chopped tomato and watermelon.924 Garrett Street, Atlanta, (404) 380-1886, gunshowatl.com

Acorn's king salmon with pickled ramps, edamame, and white miso

Acorn, Denver

Mile High City’s standard in modern American dining occupies the southeast corner of The Source, a food hall in a rehabbed 1880s foundry now lined with shops selling craft beer, meats, pastries, and coffee. Acorn’s approach is familiar: righteous cocktails, graffiti on the walls and other industrial chicness, small plates like kale and apple salad or beef tartare punctuated with some offbeat hits like boudin blanc with turnips and cherries. Sharp service and precise kitchen execution make it all feel distinctive. 3350 Brighton Blvd, Denver, (720) 542-3721, denveracorn.com

Jon & Vinny's meatballs with ricotta and garlic bread

Jon & Vinny’s, Los Angeles

It’s easy to make comparisons between the latest restaurant from Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Animal, Son of a Gun, partners in Trois Mec and Petit Trois) and the Parm outposts in New York: They filter the nostalgia of the Italian-American red sauce joint through the perfectionist sensibilities of some of our most ingenious culinary minds. At Jon & Vinny’s, the genre definitely takes on a West Coast flavor: sparkly salads precede the pizzas with improbably thin but sturdy crust (The LA Woman variation dolloped with burrata is sensational) and the fluffy, lightly seasoned meatballs braised in marinara and served with ricotta and garlic bread. Note that the place gets raucously loud (and only reopened this week after a fire); conversation is easier at lunch. 412 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, (323) 334-3369, jonandvinnys.com

Clam chowder with squid at Townsman

Townsman, Boston

If pushed to name the one restaurant I most debated over including on this year’s best new restaurant list and didn’t, it would be this looker on the edge of Boston’s Chinatown. Like Brian Wilson with musical arrangements, chef Matt Jennings has a knack for throwing in elements that might seem discordant but actually uplift the entirety. I’m most enamored of his riffs on New England staples, including the Boston brown bread that begins the meal and his kaleidoscopic clam chowder dotted with squid and squid ink chips.120 Kingston St, Boston, (617) 993-0750, townsmanboston.com

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