It's all happening. It's a new year, a new president, and, lo, a new crop of restaurants to obsess over. Winter's not known for being the busiest season when it comes to openings, but this year, there's a slew of chefs who set their eyes on making the first months of 2017 way more delicious. Among the many restaurants coming down the pike, a few really stand out:
• Michael Solomonov's restaurant group is opening Rooster Soup Co., a long-dreamed-of restaurant whose profits will go to a local charity organization that offers hunger relief in the Philadelphia area. In the wake of the New York Times’s recent, controversial zero-star review for the mission-minded restaurant Locol, this opening feels more exciting, and braver, than ever.
• This year, more chefs are exploring the intersections between personal and cultural histories. In Seattle, chef Edouardo Jordan is thinking of the menu at his upcoming restaurant JuneBaby as a journey and education in the cuisine of African diaspora, while chef Jessica Koslow is planning on tackling the foods of the Jewish diaspora at her as-yet-unnamed second restaurant in Los Angeles.
• The Major Food Group deserves a special shout out here, as well. Taking over a space as storied as the Four Seasons in New York City takes guts (and whole lot of money). There's no way this opening doesn't make waves, and the dining public should brace now for the inevitable deluge of hot takes.
But these are just four of the 16 spots to watch this year (and that doesn’t even count the leftovers from 2016, also outlined below). Without further ado, and in projected chronological order, here are the restaurants poised to define dining in the first half of 2017:
Location: Los Angeles
Key Players: Sara Kramer, Sarah Hymanson, Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo
Target Open: January 15, 2017
This one's actually in soft open mode right. freaking. now. Kismet, a Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant by the team behind the Madcapra falafel stand in Grand Central Market, will be an all day-affair: Service will start with a "breakfast-y lunch" around 10 a.m., moving into snacks and modestly priced beer and wine from 3 to 5 p.m., then transition into a dinner service that will meet the needs of "a quick Monday night dinner but also provide an epic feast for the next table over," says co-chef Sara Kramer, who as with Madcapra, has once again partnered with Sarah Hymanson. "I love the idea of being a real neighborhood canteen, where people know we're open and don't have to check our hours,” Kramer says. "We want to become a fixture in the neighborhood."
Fans of the Brooklyn restaurant Glasserie — at which Kramer won a 2013 Eater Award for Chef of the Year, then left a few months later — will find similar inspiration on Kismet’s menu (a version of Glasserie’s famous rabbit entree, for example, will return). “The food is going to feel clean but really punchy with a lot of spice,” Kramer says. For their first full-service venture together, Kramer and Hymanson partnered with prolific LA restaurateurs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo as "operational partners." Kramer explains that their role is in support and not creative — like the relationship the Animal guys have with chef Ludo Lefebvre at Trois Mec and Petit Trois. | Website | Update 1/14: The opening has been pushed to January 15, as reflected above.
Key Players: Chris Shepherd, Nick Fine
Target Open: January 2017
One Fifth is a shape-shifter debuting in Houston in the next week or two. Run by Underbelly chef Chris Shepherd and lieutenant Nick Fine, this restaurant is what happens when a star Houston name is offered a five-year lease. Each year, the restaurant will completely re-concept, with only its cold bar and rolling tableside carts remaining. It will debut as One Fifth Steak, where "things can be pushed outside of the box a little bit," Shepherd says. Steaks will be seared in cast iron pans or grilled — no broilers and no "9,000 degree" plates.
While it's not a new idea — Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas have the chameleon restaurant Next in Chicago which, incidentally, transformed itself into a steakhouse in 2014 — it's still a fun one. After the steakhouse, Shepherd has plans for One Fifth Romance Languages (Spanish, Italian, and French fare) and then for One Fifth Fish. The five-year term’s final two themes are undecided. But if any concept seems exceptionally exciting to the team, Shepherd says, "100 percent, all of these could be spin-offs into their own thing — not all of them, but maybe one." | Website
Rooster Soup Co.
Key Players: Michael Solomonov, Steve Cook, Erin O'Shea
Target Open: January 23, 2017
From the team that brought you beloved Philadelphia staples like Zahav and the expanding Federal Donuts comes Rooster Soup Co. This long-awaited restaurant is charity-oriented: 100 percent of net proceeds will go to the Broad Street Ministry, a local organization known for its hunger relief work. "It’s steps from the fanciest residential neighborhood, steps from the powers that be in City Hall, and steps from the highest economic powers in the city," says restaurateur Steve Cook of Rooster Soup Co.'s location. "We want this place to be a hub for everyone — a gathering place where all can contribute to being a part of this city together."
The original idea was to make soup from the leftover scraps of FedNut's wildly successful chicken program, but once the team saw the space, the plan morphed into a full-blown luncheonette, with an all-day menu of salads, soups, sandwiches, and more. "The menu is an expression of us as a restaurant group — Israeli influence with Yemenite chicken pot pie, chef Erin [O'Shea]’s expert Southern imprint throughout, and Jewish matzo ball soup," Cook says. "We’re trying to create a good experience for all… I do believe it would be hard to leave Rooster without knowing about the mission. There are a lot of ways in which it could be shared while having a meal there. It's the fabric of the restaurant." | Website
Key Players: Edouardo Jordan
Target Open: February 2017
Second restaurants are a risky business, but for his, Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan (of Eater’s 2016 Best New Restaurant Salare) isn't just going for the easy A. That’s because for Jordan, serving Southern food is about way more than perfecting a fried chicken recipe. JuneBaby is going to be "a history lesson, a journey; from the whole Middle Passage to the building of America, which was built on the back of African slaves, who became African-Americans,” he says. “That's the story that I'm going to tell.” To that end, he plans on serving smoked meats and various salt-cured preserved items; off-cuts, staples of the African slave diet, will have a place of pride on the menu; and he'll showcase rice from the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida, some of the places where his family traces its history. "I'm not here to over-manipulate and touch the ingredients that much. Let's cook it proper and serve it proper."
For Jordan, diving into Southern food is not just intellectually fulfilling; it is deeply personal. "My whole cooking journey has been a kind of avoidance," he says. "Everything I've been going after [was] leading me further away from Southern cooking because most of my experience has been French, Italian, and some Spanish cooking. Nothing was from my roots." He hopes JuneBaby will be a "great representation of me, who I was, who I am, who I will be." While his ambitions for the 60-seater are lofty, Jordan says the dining room will be loud and fun, with plenty of drinks to go around. "I'm just ready to share." | Website
Key Players: Gavin Kaysen, Diane Yang, Nick Dugan
Target Open: March 2017
Okay, technically the restaurant is located in Wayzata, a small city in the Western part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and, crucially, a short drive from chef/owner Gavin Kaysen's home and his debut restaurant, Eater’s 2015 Best New Restaurant Spoon and Stable. Named for the plaza at the center of Lyon, France, Bellecour is an ambitious two-part project: Spoon and Stable’s pastry chef Diane Yang will lead a daytime bakery slinging housemade French pastry and breads, while Kaysen and chef de cuisine Nick Dugan will command an on-trend bistro serving proudly French classics like escargot and steak frites.
If Spoon and Stable was Kaysen's big return to Minneapolis, Bellecour is his grand return to French cooking, the genre which defined his career in New York City as the longtime chef of Cafe Boulud and longtime coach of Team USA in the Bocuse d'Or competition. "I thought, ‘What do I miss cooking, doing, and eating?’ French cuisine is part of my DNA," Kaysen says. It's also a part of the space's DNA; it was once home to Chouette, a restaurant Kaysen describes as the area's first a la carte French dining option. "I knew right when I walked in — a feeling of warmth and memories — that it was a live restaurant." As with Spoon and Stable, Bellecour also has an investor dream team: Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jérôme Bocuse are all on board again. | Website
Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room
Location: Kansas City, MO
Key Players: Michael Corvino, Christina Corvino
Target Open: Mid-March 2017
Double-duty restaurants are still very much a thing in 2017, as at Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room, where there truly is a restaurant within a restaurant. The first solo project from husband-and-wife team chef Michael and Christina Corvino, the larger of the two concepts — the supper club, so to speak — will occupy the large, sleek 80-seat dining room with a long bar and a stage for live music. The food will be casual but modern, drawing influences from Michael's diverse CV that includes time at a Chinese restaurant in Chicago and the pan-Asian Departure in Portland, Oregon. He's thinking about fried chicken with butter lettuce and white kimchi for ssam-making; house-made bread and cultured butter with olive oil, black garlic, ricotta, and pepper; and a dry-aged ribeye with huitlacoche sauce.
In the 18-seat tasting room, diners will experience a 10-course menu, plated before their eyes at a finishing table in the room. The tasting menu is very much in development — and will debut a month after the bigger dining room opens — but Corvino teases an on-trend chawanmushi topped with charred foie gras, trout roe, and crispy buckwheat. Tasting menus are few and far between in Kansas City, but the Corvinos are confident in the city's interest and enthusiasm. | Website
Location: New York City
Key Players: Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, Jeff Zalaznick
Target Open: March 2017
The closure of Four Seasons, the decades-old bastion of New York City wealth and style (if not great food), was the restaurant news item of 2016, in no small part thanks to who’s taking over the hallowed space: the Major Food Group, aka restaurateur/theme park imagineer Jeff Zalaznick and acclaimed chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, the team behind often-expensive, precisely designed hits like Carbone, Sadelle's, and Santina. Rechristened as the Landmark, and also referred to as the Landmark Rooms, the Four Seasons interior will remain sectioned into separate spaces. The pool area will be called the Pool and focus on seafood. The former brasserie space downstairs will likely remain, as the Brasserie. The former grill room will be called the Grill, and Zalaznick tells Eater that this room will open first, hopefully in March.
It's hard to overstate what a big move it is that anyone, let alone the MFG crew, is taking over this space. "Some people hate Major Food Group, but a far greater number of diners love them,” says Eater senior editor and onetime Eater NY editor Greg Morabito. "No matter what happens, their revamp of the Four Seasons space is guaranteed to be a grand spectacle. I think there's a strong chance that it will be a slam dunk in terms of both food and vibe. It's shaping up to be the New York City opening of the decade, if not the century." | Website
Rec Pier Chop House / The Cannon Room
Key Players: Andrew Carmellini, Luke Ostrom, Josh Pickard
Target Open: March 2017
He's in New York, he's in Miami, and come this spring he's in Baltimore: Chef/hit-maker Andrew Carmellini and his NoHo Hospitality Group will spearhead the food and beverage program at the upcoming Sagamore Pendry Baltimore hotel. At Rec Pier Chop House, Carmellini envisions a restaurant that's "Italian and handsome," with a mix of his signature dishes and new items, too. (It's "going to be a looker," he promises.) Along with the restaurant, there will also be a bar, the Cannon Room, with a focus on brown spirits like bourbon, whiskey, and rye. Carmellini, a serial hotel-restaurant operator, says he wants his projects to be both “a local favorite and a destination," describing the plans for the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore as "world-class." | Website
Key Players: Thai Dang, Danielle Dang
Target Open: Early spring 2017
It's been an admittedly rocky opening road, but the husband-and-wife team of chef Thai Dang and designer/beverage director Danielle Dang can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. HaiSous will draw on Thai's Vietnamese heritage, focusing on both the northern region where his parents are from and the southern region where he and his siblings were born. According to Thai, the menu will "be [his] homage to the past, present, and the future of Vietnamese cuisine," with an eye to the influence of French colonization. In concrete terms, that means clay-pot cooking (a first for Chicago, according to Thai) and an open-flame rotisserie for suckling pig and fire-roasted whole fish. Danielle adds that the space’s design will feature pieces "from Thai's family of craftsmen and furniture makers," all in service of creating a dining room that "reflect[s] the spirit of Vietnam." | Website
Lady of the House
Key Players: Kate Williams
Target Open: Spring 2017
Detroit chef-about-town Kate Williams is at it again: After a brief but well-received tenure at the restaurants in the high-profile G.A.R. Building, the chef is heading to Corktown to open Lady of the House. "When I left my last job, I thought, 'Why do I cook? What do I want to provide for people?'" Williams says. "So the idea that this would be like my dining room came about: small, intimate, [a] changing menu, focused on hospitality… it all made me really excited to do my own thing." Williams will bring her familiar zeal for local produce and butchery — including the use of “ugly food” in order to minimize waste — with dishes that "lean old-world European with flavors from all over the world." She’s still working on the menu details, but is thinking about "a pork fat candle dish" — making use of the fat constantly stored during whole animal cooking, and using that to jazz up smoked clams or act as a savory dip for bread. | Website
As-Yet Unnamed Cocktail Bar from Lazy Bear
Location: San Francisco
Key Players: David Barzelay, Nicolas Torres
Target Open: May/June 2017
Don't you dare call this Lazy Bear 2.0, says chef David Barzelay of his second restaurant project in San Francisco. "First and foremost, this is a bar. I know when I go to a bar I also like to be able to eat really great stuff,” he says. “To me, a bar with great food is not a dissonant combination.” To that end, he's partnering with Lazy Bear bar manager Nicolas Torres on this venture, where cocktails are the main focus but food remains absolutely delicious. Following in the footsteps of Lazy Bear’s smash-hit ticketed tasting menu format, though, he and Torres are bringing a ticketed cocktail tasting experience to their joint venture — think five or so cocktails paired with small two-bite snacks.
There will also be a standard bar experience, with a la carte drinks and more casual food than Barzelay serves at his tasting menu spot. "We can't do a burger at Lazy Bear. We can't do a fried chicken dish, and those are things I really love," he says. Expect a San Francisco-inspired menu, highlighting and riffing on iconic dishes and local ingredients. Take garlic fries: While normally they'd be served topped with raw garlic, Barzelay envisions dusting his fries with a powder of various dried and smoked alliums to create "all the things you want from garlic fries, but a little deeper and more refined." | Website
The Charter Oak
Location: St. Helena, CA
Key Players: Christopher Kostow, Nathaniel Dorn, Katianna Hong
Target Open: Late spring 2017
If you've ever wanted to try Christopher Kostow's food without shelling out $500 for the full Restaurant at Meadowood tasting menu, here's your chance. The Charter Oak will be a casual restaurant with family-style service but the same obsessive devotion to local produce as its tasting menu sibling — the two restaurants will share Meadowood's famous culinary garden. “Our intentions are to create a restaurant that is beloved by our community,” says service director and co-owner Nathaniel Dorn. “We want our 'neighborhood' to have a restaurant where they always feel welcomed — a restaurant for every occasion.” Along with a main dining room, there will be a terrace, a courtyard, and private dining options. The current plan involves operating seven days a week, with lunch on weekdays, weekend brunch service, and nightly dinner.
Kostow has been describing the food as “elemental,” which, he says, means “showcasing things — food, surfaces, materials — in such a way that their essence is revealed… In thinking about this project, we asked ourselves, why not eschew the idea of casual and instead focus on the simple, essential, and elemental? Make something that at the same time is affordable and free of pretense.” Kostow tells Eater to expect "food cooked and presented with a lot of care,” though that doesn’t mean simple equates to easy: “When you’re serving a farm egg boiled and dressed with olive oil and sea salt,” he says, “that egg better be perfect.” Kostow has tapped Katianna Hong, Meadowood's first chef de cuisine, to run the kitchen. | Website
As-Yet Unnamed Gjelina New York City Project
Location: New York City
Key Players: Travis Lett, Fran Camaj, Shelley Armistead, Ken Friedman
Target Open: Late spring 2017 / Who knows!
New Yorkers have been crushing on LA hard for the past few years, so it's about time some industrious LA restaurateur took advantage of that. Cue Travis Lett and his merry band of vegetable-obsessed collaborators, who together run what is arguably the most LA restaurant in all LA: Gjelina (and its companion takeaway spot Gjusta). Crash course: Gjelina is the achingly cool Venice restaurant with a menu of wood-fired pizzas and Mediterranean-leaning vegetable dishes that effectively articulates how the American dining public wants to eat right now.
Details have been painfully scant. Eater was unable to get fresh intel from the Gjelina camp beyond "we don't have a projected opening date yet," and their partner on the project Ken Friedman, of Spotted Pig fame, is staying tight-lipped. But Friedman's been associated with the NoHo restaurant space for a while, so there's reason to hope for an opening in the first half of 2017. Word on the street is that this will be a new concept and not a carbon copy of Gjelina. Let's just hope they bring the pizza. | Website
Location: Los Angeles
Key Players: Jessica Largey
Target Open: Early summer 2017
Meet Jessica Largey. She's the James Beard Award-winning chef who, after absolutely crushing it as the chef de cuisine of Manresa, left the Bay Area for sunny Los Angeles. For her first solo restaurant project, this Eater Young Gun is planning an ambitious yet friendly restaurant in LA's burgeoning downtown Arts District. Simone will be many things: It will be a casual lunch destination for the community; it will be a vibrant a la carte dining experience that can seat 75-80 people; and three nights a week, it will also host a six-person kitchen counter tasting menu, making one more double-duty restaurant to get excited about this year. "We're going big," says Largey. "LA is the place for it… people here like being challenged." | Website
Location: Cornelius, NC
Key Players: Joe Kindred, Katy Kindred
Target Open: Early summer 2017
Husband-and-wife team Joe and Katy Kindred are heading to water with Hello, Sailor. The pair was initially looking in Charlotte, the nearest urban center to their acclaimed Davidson, North Carolina restaurant, Kindred, but couldn't resist a lakeside restaurant with its own dock. It's big, too: The building is roughly 4,000 square feet, with a dining room and bar. Outside there's a three-tiered patio clocking in at 3,000 square feet and also another bar space, which will become a seasonal tiki bar. "It’s a very unique location, one of the few restaurants on the lake up here," says Katy.
"We want people to be able to park their boat and grab a quick meal or come with friends and family and linger and share. So the menu will reflect that balance," says Joe. The couple is going for a "North Carolina fish camp meets mid-century Palm Springs" vibe. Since they're hoping for a June opening, it's a bit early for menu specifics beyond fish and seafood, but Joe says "food here will be a little less composed for the most part, and less of a small-plate restaurant." | Website
As-Yet Unnamed Jessica Koslow Project
Location: Los Angeles
Key Players: Jessica Koslow, Scott Barry
Target Open: Summer 2017
Get ready: Sqirl, the absolutely obsessed-over LA cafe with comically large ricotta toasts that made grain bowls something to actually crave, is aiming for the sky with its sophomore restaurant. It's not just that the unnamed project will live in an 8,000-square-foot space, it's what will happen in that space: a restaurant will seat 120 (by comparison, Sqirl is so small its seating spills onto the sidewalk) and serve a menu inspired by the Jewish diaspora; there will be a take-away section, where customers can get various foods and even batched cocktails to go; and there will be an event space and catering operation. Chef Jessica Koslow describes her menu vision as "very California meets Israeli meets Georgian, Moroccan, and Mexican technique." She's thinking about za'atar-dusted bagels, Israeli-style whole-roasted cauliflower drenched in mole, anything to bridge what she sees as a current distinction in Jewish food with Ashkenazi-style places like Russ & Daughters and delis on the one hand, and more Sephardic-style options like Zahav and Shaya on the other. "But what about the idea that there's a oneness to it?" she wonders.
If that's not ambitious enough, there will also be an art component. Along with curator Chiara Giovando, creative director Scott Barry will treat the restaurant space like a museum lobby. He's currently imagining "very movable, event-based work," with lectures and both visual and sonic art installations. "You can imagine walking into this restaurant and being surrounded by work that's been thought about and produced there, and how they affect the flavor of the food and your experience." The crew plans to then repackage these talks and experiences into art-book-like publications. "I really like the idea of taking stuff that we're interested in and actually handing that information out to people," says Barry.
And there's more. Koslow and crew have their own farm in Malibu, where they cultivate drought-tolerant produce. Eventually, Koslow hopes to make the farm public-facing in some way, most likely for events. Koslow is also partnering with scientist and former MAD/Noma research manager Arielle Johnson to create an offsite fermentation lab that will provide support to Sqirl and the new restaurant. | Website