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The Midwest’s 38 Essential Restaurants

The spectacular, diverse dining scenes in the heart of America

Zingerman’s Deli
Zingerman’s Deli

The cooks at Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles in Detroit know the secret for glorious waffles: Pour extra batter over the hot iron so an overflow ring forms around the edges of the thin cakes — a sort of crunchy, jagged bonus. I order the “Trey-Deuce” — two waffles and three pieces of chicken, each fried to bronzed crispness — and begin my meal by snapping off those crackly edges. Truth be told, I want to eat the whole plate of food with my hands.

I have to remind myself I’m sitting in the northwest outskirts of Detroit, Michigan, and not, in fact, at home in Atlanta. Kuzzo’s cooking — a legacy of the Great Migration by African Americans out of the South a century ago — is one resonant example of how today’s Midwestern dining defies the region’s meat-and-potatoes stereotypes.

The Midwest is our center, an enduring hub of transportation and trade, the nation’s Silk Road lined with tracks of steel. Immigrant cultures, both longstanding and recent, nourish communities with traditional foods: Serbian goulash in Milwaukee, snapper over mole verde in Chicago’s Logan Square, Somali sambusas in Columbus, and yes, chicken and waffles in Detroit. These plates have become just as fundamental to the culture here as cheese-stuffed burgers and Michigan cherry pie. Together they form this guide, a collection of the region’s essential dining destinations created by 10 experts and me.

What even is the Midwest? Its boundaries are vague, and like leagues of journalists and culture pundits before us, we at Eater debated its possibilities for social, political, and geographic definition. In the end we focused on the Great Lakes region, which for our purposes includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. (St. Louis? Kansas City? Des Moines? We’ll cover you in another Heartland survey, don’t worry.)

These six states alone gave us plenty to research and relish. Over the past year I visited them all, glutting myself on Dutch babies blanketed in summer berries, Cincinnati-style chili covered in a blizzard of shredded cheddar, Lebanese lamb with rice and homemade yogurt, and pizzas in all manner of geometry and thickness.

Really, though, a lone diner, no matter how voracious, could never fully grasp such an overwhelming expanse. Enter the local expertise: The insightful writers based throughout the region helped me whittle down scores of remarkable restaurants to the vital 38. Their collective wisdom gives this project its true cred.

A word on Chicago: It is one of our country’s defining food cities. This is no secret — Eater’s always-authoritative Chicago site has its own list of essential 38s. We’d made an in-house rule never to include more than 10 restaurants from one city with our series of “regional 38s” (we tackled the South and New England earlier this year), but narrowing down the Windy City’s standouts felt impossible. After pleading, I shoehorned in 11 Chicago greats. I trust every inclusion — among them, a new guiding light for Mexican dining, a barbecue stalwart, and an evolutionary leap for the steakhouse — will speak for itself. — Bill Addison, restaurant editor

The 38 essential restaurants in the Midwest, mapped >>>



Chicago, Illinois

Dry ice centerpiece at Alinea
Bill Addison

WHAT: Dinner theater for the new millennium. WHY: One can’t overstate the influence of Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas’s star restaurant, a modernist playground that’s continually evolved to include themes of nostalgia, Americana, and culinary globalism. It gave a generation of chefs the permission to explore connections between science, art, and cooking, and its fame helped turn Chicago into one of the nation’s energized hotbeds for tasting-menu dining. The restaurant currently offers three menus of different lengths and complexities; they range from $175 to $385 per person. Whether the torrent of courses ultimately evokes wonder or whimsy or puzzlement, every food obsessive should splurge on the Alinea experience at least once. — B.A.

1723 N Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-0110 |

Peach and berry trifle at Big Jones
Bill Addison

Big Jones

Chicago, Illinois

WHAT: The sexy nerd among the country’s great Southern restaurants, helmed by an impassioned (and, yes, Midwestern) chef-scholar. WHY: Paul Fehribach acknowledges the universal hankerings for fried chicken, pimento cheese, and shrimp and grits, and serves stunning versions of them all. But he also deeply researches the breadth of the Southern lexicon, updating 1800s-era dishes like Florida red snapper “caveach,” calas (sourdough rice fritters), and fried steak. His approach brings richer context to Southern cooking, but most importantly, he recognizes the countless hands, many of them African American, that made our finest regional cuisine the glory that it is. — B.A.

5347 North Clark Street,
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 275-5725 |


Chicago, Illinois

Dry-aged ribeye at Boeufhaus
Barry Brecheisen

WHAT: A Chicago steakhouse that’s not a “Chicago steakhouse.” WHY: The mighty Chicago steakhouse is more than a category in a restaurant guidebook, it’s an idea. They are the sum of many parts — mahogany bars tops, Caesar salads, and $20 valet fees — the majority clustered in the River North neighborhood frequented by corporate muckety-mucks with black credit cards. Boeufhaus lies several miles west of that scene, and despite calling itself a French-German brasserie, the restaurant is one of the city’s finest practitioners of the seared beef steak. The money item is the dry-aged ribeye, cooked flawlessly in a cast-iron skillet. At lunch, Boeufhaus transforms into a delicatessen, applying its meat-cooking knowhow to a slate of classic sandwiches. — Kevin Pang

1012 N. Western Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 661-2116 |

Fat Rice

Chicago, Illinois

Baked pork chop rice at Fat Rice
Bill Addison

WHAT: A restaurant that doubles as a culinary culture seminar. WHY: Drawing in part on their backgrounds, chef-owners Adrienne Lo and Abraham Conlon interpret the uniquely East-West dishes of Macao and other postcolonial Portuguese cuisines. The kitchen’s repertoire veers through creamy bacalhau, chive pancakes riddled with enoki mushrooms and dried shrimp, and turmeric-stained cabbage fragrant with mustard seed and curry leaf. It sounds like a random jumble, but in the subtle interplay of ingredients and techniques between dishes, a meal here winds up making a delicious sort of sense. — Bill Addison

2957 West Diversey Avenue
Chicago, IL
(773) 661-9170 |

Cochinita pibil at Mi Tocaya
Bill Addison

Mi Tocaya Antojeria

Chicago, Illinois

WHAT: The Windy City’s new lodestar of Mexican cooking. WHY: With one of the country’s largest Mexican-American populations — and of course Rick Bayless’s famous restaurant empire — Chicago offers a serious selection of tacos, tortas, stews, regional specialties, and alta cocina Mexicana. In the spiritual center of the many options stands Diana Dávila’s casual, 38-seat Logan Square charmer. Her menu is a love letter to family and identity and place. She approaches cooking with a fierce individuality you can taste in her signature starter of “peanut butter y lengua,” in an elaborate sculpture of elotes, the cactus stew in which a blob of burrata melts like ice cream, and especially on Sundays in the caldo de res, modeled after her father’s beef stew. — B.A.

2800 West Logan Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60647
(872) 315-3947 |


Chicago, Illinois

Monteverde’s interior
Bill Addison

WHAT: An unrepentant celebration of pasta. WHY: Sarah Grueneberg’s ever-changing list of shapes and strands isn’t long. There will be several creative twists, like cappelletti filled with pork and veal and staged in an autumn tableau of mushrooms, sage, apple, and truffles. There are the recognizable pleasures: cacio e pepe, gnocchi in pesto, spaghettini with tomato and basil (though slyly zinged with za’atar in a nod to Southern Italy’s Arabic influences). All are magnificent. Start with ’nduja arancini or skate schnitzel over polenta. Really, though, save most of your appetite for pasta. — B.A.

1020 West Madison Street,
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 888-3041 |


Chicago, Illinois

Broccoli with dates and ras el hanout at Parachute
Bill Addison

WHAT: A riveting excursion into worldwide flavors, with Korean cuisine as base camp. WHY: No traditional recipe is sacred in the hands of chef-owners Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, yet they come up with one heavenly dish after another. Mandu, the thin-skinned Korean dumplings, might be vehicles for duck and minty perilla, or veer Italian with fillings of ground pork, ginger, and ’nduja served in a glossy pecorino Romano broth. Look around the snug, 40-seat dining room: Everyone is eating the baked potato bing bread, shot through with bacon, cheddar, and scallions and pan-fried. Follow that caloric wonder with a Gallic-inspired entree like skate with hollandaise. — B.A.

3500 North Elston Avenue
Chicago, IL
(773) 654-1460 |

A plate with grilled chicken and slices of summer sausage, and french fries
Chicken and sausage platter at Publican
Bill Addison


Chicago, Illinois

WHAT: One of those ineffably Chicago restaurants that splits the difference between highbrow and salt-of-the-earth, whose chefs look to the fresh waters of the Great Lakes and the dark-soil farms of Wisconsin, but also know their way around a California peach or an Italian prawn. WHY: Publican — a Paul Kahan endeavor, which modestly bills itself as a beer hall and oyster bar — was the first and remains the best of this group. The food is exquisitely executed, massively portioned, and indefinably global, fueled by ingredient quality and a dazzling culinary creativity. — Helen Rosner

837 West Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-9555 |

Ramen House Shinchan

Palatine, Illinois

Ramen at Ramen House Shinchan

WHAT: On the shortlist for the finest bowl of ramen between the two coasts. WHY: Tonkotsu, the most hedonistic of ramens, often connotes heavy, creamy, rich, heartstopping. But a proper bowl of tonkotsu shouldn’t require a two-hour nap afterward; it toes the line of overindulgence without crossing over. At Ramen House Shinchan, inside a cookie-cutter suburban strip mall 30 miles outside downtown Chicago, chef Shinji Sugiura spends 15 hours producing a broth wondrously luscious and silky, yet balanced and restrained from the excess of porky bombast. Chicago’s ramen scene has flourished over the last decade, and Ramen House Shinchan’s tonkotsu just might be — oh heck, forget qualifiers — it is the best bowl of ramen within 100 miles. — K.P.

1939 S. Plum Grove Road
Palatine, IL 60067
(847) 496-4189 |

Epiphany Farms Restaurant

Bloomington, Illinois

Berry fruit tart with strawberry sorbet
Kevin Pang

WHAT: A fine dining restaurant connected to a farm in small-town Illinois. WHY: First, the food: it’s lovely, considered, thoughtful. It’s classic French technique with American roots and the occasional hat tip to Korean cooking. It’s approachable for city and suburban palates alike. But here’s the backstory: Ken Myszka — a veteran of kitchens of Guy Savoy and Thomas Keller — grew tired of luxury dining culture and moved back to his Central Illinois hometown, population 760. He convinced three others to buy into his wild experiment: build a farm from the dirt up and use the produce grown and animals raised to supply a sustainable restaurant. Epiphany Farms now has three restaurants to its name — the eponymous fine dining flagship, a pizza/dumpling parlor, a diner inside an old bank — with two more on the way. — K.P.

220 E. Front Street
Bloomington, IL 61701
(309) 828-2323 |

Honey 1 BBQ

Chicago, Illinois

Honey 1 BBQ.
Kevin Pang

WHAT: One of the last bastions of true South Side Chicago barbecue. WHY: South Side Chicago-style barbecue pitmasters are a dying breed. In the last two years, two of the city’s best-loved practitioners passed away, and it’s a trade few new-generation cooks are interested in pursuing. At Honey 1 BBQ in the Bronzeville neighborhood, pitmaster Robert Adams Sr. is acclaimed for the care and attention paid to his rib tips and hot links (the genre’s two defining meats). Cooked over hard oak, Adams’ tender ribs emerge with a crusty bark, fat pulling away from cartilage with a toothsome tug. His smoked hot links sport a crackling casing and a chile spice not for the meek. Like most South Side barbecue restaurants, Honey 1 is takeout-only and void of frills. But to eat barbecue minutes out of the smoker, on the hood of your car and straight from the styrofoam container, is one of the great tactile experiences of Chicago gastronomy. — K.P.

746 E. 43rd Street
Chicago, IL 60653
(773) 285-9455 |


Chicago, Illinois

Schwa’s exterior
Bill Addison

WHAT: The restaurant that pioneered the marriage of the multi-course tasting menu with the dim, loud setting of a rock club. WHY: By the time your ears and eyes adjust, your bottle of wine opens up, and you figure out the odd service rhythms, Schwa really gels, delivering an evening like none other. Chef de cuisine Wilson Bauer is largely responsible for the menu these days, where each dish plays loosely off a theme. “Glogg” seems a bizarre conceit for crudo, but when you pull together a mouthful of candied almonds, macerated raisins, foamy “spice clouds,” and slips of raw cuttlefish, the mulled wine flavors come into focus and make a kind of weird, bright sense. Best is mulligatawny soup, where pickled apples, shaved carrots, and crisp-fried beluga lentils come together over a piece of crisp-skinned branzino. Once the exciting textures sort themselves out, you taste the gentlest of coconut curry spice. — John Kessler

1466 N. Ashland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 252-1466 |


Dutch baby with berries at Milktooth
Bill Addison


Indianapolis, Indiana

WHAT: A sunny, postmodern diner that redefines our notions of daytime Americana dining. WHY: Chef-owner Jonathan Brooks continually finds ever-fresher ways to recast morning foods. He stirs together sourdough zucchini-bread batter for waffles, which he zings with chocolate, maple, orange cream cheese, and, for crunch, pearl sugar. Puffy, bronzed Dutch babies might cradle the flavors of chorizo and manchego, or berries with cucumber-lemon curd. Around noontime, the lamb burger tempts, but you’ll still want a corn biscuit with cherry jam on the side. To drink: a righteous macchiato or a shockingly boozy cocktail laced with pisco and mezcal. — B.A.

534 Virginia Avenue
Indianapolis, IN
(317) 986-5131 |


Indianapolis, Indiana

Coconut-curry ramen with jumbo prawns
Sergio Bennett

WHAT: A hyper-stylized noodle house along the city’s newest restaurant row. WHY: The embellished ramens, rice bowls, and umami-rich East-meets-Midwest dishes explore the soulful territory between innovation and tradition. Head chef Carlos Salazar is at his best when he’s deconstructing the Filipino standards he grew up eating, like crunchy crab lumpiang fried inside purple-yam crepes and halo halo with lemongrass milk and a rainbow of Fruity Pebbles. This is Hoosierfied Asian with a wink: Dainty steamed buns hold a delicious (if daring) mash-up of sizzled Spam, American cheese, house pickles, and white barbecue sauce. The head-turning Rook Burger is a knife-and-fork tower of meat, cheese, and overlapping sauce streaks — banana ketchup, and charred scallion mayo — between thick Chinese pancakes. Nouveau-tiki cocktails provide pops of color in a dining room as sleek and blocky as an Ikea showroom. — Julia Spalding

501 Virginia Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46203
(317) 737-2293 |



Dearborn, Michigan

Stuffed lamb at Al Ameer
Bill Addison

WHAT: A welcome center for the fresh, diverse, and subtly spiced pleasures of Lebanese cuisine. WHY: Michigan is home to one of the largest Arab-American populations in the United States; Dearborn, just outside Detroit, houses dozens of Lebanese restaurants specializing in mezze (a spread of salads, small plates like falafel, and dips such as hummus and baba ghanoush) and extravagant kebabs. Al-Ameer stands out for its front-of-house conviviality and its superbly skilled kitchen. Breathe in the warmth of pita baking in the oven near the entrance. Indulge in stuffed lamb with rice and yogurt as well as the Middle East’s equivalent to steak tartare — kibbeh nayeh, minced raw meat kneaded with pureed onion and bulgur wheat. — B.A.

12710 West Warren Avenue
Dearborn, MI
(313) 582-8185


Eastpointe, Michigan

Supreme pizza at Cloverleaf
Bill Addison

WHAT: Crisp-edged, deftly proportioned, wholly satisfying Detroit-style square pizza. WHY: In America’s restless and unending hunger for pizza, the national floodlights have recently beamed down on Motor City’s square pie, a pan-baked variation (technically a rectangle) with roots in Sicilian focaccia that has been around since the 1940s. Gus Guerra originated the square at Buddy’s Rendezvous — now Buddy’s, the most famous of the city’s Detroit-style pizzerias. Guerra left Buddy’s in 1953 and bought Cloverleaf, which is still run by his children. Its pizzas stand out particularly for the all-important crust: singed and lacy on the fringes, not too bready in the middle. Skip Cloverleaf’s carryout locations and head to the Eastpointe original. — B.A.

4443 Gratiot Avenue
Eastpointe, MI 48021
(586) 777-5391 |

Kuzzo's Chicken & Waffles

Detroit, Michigan

Kuzzo’s interior
Michelle and Chris Gerard

[Note: This restaurant is temporarily closed for renovations]
WHAT: The perfect plate of chicken and waffles. WHY: Four years ago former Detroit Lions football player Ron Bartell set out to bring a homey spot with great food to the neighborhood where he grew up. Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles opened in 2015 and demonstrated how new businesses could not just survive outside the city center, they could thrive. Any day of the week you’ll find the place teeming with locals feasting on juicy morsels of light- and dark-meat chicken affixed with light and crunchy batter and stacked high on top of thin, cinnamon-spiced waffles. Don’t hold back on the syrup. — Brenna Houck

19345 Livernois Ave.
Detroit, MI 48221
(313) 861-0229 |

Mabel Gray

Hazel Park, Michigan

Asparagus with Béarnaise mayo at Mabel Gray
Bill Addison

WHAT: Local Michigan ingredients transformed into an ever-changing lineup of globally inspired small plates. WHY: An upbeat soundtrack pumps through the low-key fine dining destination, perched on the outskirts of Detroit in the blue-collar city of Hazel Park. The setting is as unexpected as the handwritten menu, which might highlight crispy octopus with kimchi one night or a pile of tender pappardelle pasta with confit chicken the next. When owner James Rigato isn’t bringing his improvisational style and personality to the kitchen, he’s handing over the restaurant entirely to his talented chef friends from across the country. The operation leans high end, but its spirit is unpretentious. — B.H.

23825 John R Road
Hazel Park, MI 48030
(248) 398-4300 |

Blueberry-lemon thyme pie at Sister Pie
Bill Addison

Sister Pie

Detroit, Michigan

WHAT: A tiny pie shop brimming with heart, talent, and incredible pastries. WHY: Lisa Ludwinski, a 2015 Eater Young Guns winner, masters the tricky art of balancing tradition and understated imagination in her baking. Her crust recipe leans buttery, but with enough sturdiness to cradle generous fillings. Count on salted maple as a year-round staple, but make a special trip for summer flavors like Michigan cherry perfumed with bourbon, gingery peach, blueberry with lemon thyme, and plum covered with oat streusel (and billows of whipped cream). On quieter mornings, relax at the communal table with a slice of pie — or maybe the potato galette topped with an over-easy egg — and a mug of coffee to savor the shop’s radiant cheer. — B.A.

8066 Kercheval Avenue
Detroit, Michigan
(313) 447-5550 |

Zingerman's Deli

Ann Arbor, Michigan

One of Zingerman’s pastrami sandwiches

WHAT: An Ann Arbor institution, as famous for its Jewish deli fare as its exceptional customer service. WHY: For 35 years, Zingerman’s Delicatessen has made its home in a brick building across the street from the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. Thanks in part to its mail-order service and well-regarded hospitality training program, the small shop has developed a reputation that far outstrips Michigan’s borders. The sheer variety (and free samples!) of meats, breads, jams, and cheeses is overwhelming, but trust the process. Just past the mesmerizing maze of deli cases and counters you’ll find all of those enticing components folded into an incredible selection of superb sandwiches. — B.H.

422 Detroit Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 663-3354 |


Matt’s Bar

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Matt’s Bar.
Bill Addison

WHAT: A dive bar that serves the definitive “Jucy Lucy” burger. WHY: It’s unclear whether Matt’s or 5-8 Club, another South Minneapolis bar, originated the Twin Cities culinary mascot, a burger with the cheese (traditionally a lava flow of American cheese) stuffed into the center of the patty. Matt’s has served their willfully misspelled Jucy Lucy since 1954; their burger, presented in wax paper, is a small, unceremonious thing of blue-collar beauty. A cook mans a small flattop near the entrance, griddling the hell out of the meat until its edges are browned, frizzled, and crisp. Ask for griddled onions, and let the burger rest for a couple of minutes to avoid a scalding liquid-cheese facial. — B.A.

3500 Cedar Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 722-7072 |

Spoon and Stable

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Burrata with peach chutney and dandelion greens at Spoon & Stable
Bill Addison

WHAT: Minneapolis’s restaurant of the decade — a handsome, soaring space (indeed, once a horse stable) steeped in natural light and designed for maximum usefulness. WHY: Gavin Kaysen uprooted his life in New York, where he gathered accolades as the chef de cuisine at Cafe Boulud, to return to his home state in 2015 and command his own dominion. Spoon and Stable, his flagship, serves the community equally as a special-occasion restaurant and, with its brick-lined front bar, as a casual stop-off for drinks and apps. The modern American cooking shows polish without too much rigid control; I loved the way that burrata, topped with dandelion greens for a smack of bitterness, slowly seeped cream into thick peach compote underneath. For a wink at state fair food, order the creamy greens crowned with fried cheese curds. — B.A.

211 North First Street
Minneapolis, MN
612-224-9850 |


St. Paul, Minnesota

Foie gras terrine at Meritage
Bill Addison

WHAT: A modern brasserie in the truest sense — a restaurant, wine and oyster bar, and neighborhood anchor. WHY: French cuisine is re-emerging overtly in both casual and upscale restaurants across the country. Desta and Russell Klein beat the trend by a decade, opening Meritage in 2007 and drawing on Russell’s training under Jacques Pepin at New York’s French Culinary Institute. Beyond the textbook menu of raw seafood platters, moules frites, eggs poached in red wine, and crackly-skinned roasted chicken, look for spectacular shout-outs to Minnesota, including sublime foie gras from local supplier Au Bon Canard and squid tossed with native wild rice in bacon vinaigrette. — B.A.

410 Saint Peter Street
Saint Paul, MN 55102
(651) 222-5670 |

Young Joni

Minneapolis, Minnesota

“The Pepe” with fresh clams at Young Joni
Bill Addison

WHAT: Globally inspired small plates… plus pizza. WHY: The elevator pitch for Young Joni might sound like a boilerplate template for contemporary casual American dining, but chef and co-owner Ann Kim evades cliches by winningly personalizing every element of her restaurant. Feast first on the design details: the copper pizza oven, the Japanese tiles that shimmer black and green around the oak-burning oven, the communal table near the entrance built from smooth walnut wood. Kim runs Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza, two Twin City institutions, so of course the pies are fantastic. But start first with finessed dishes like lamb kofta kebabs over pureed eggplant, and the signature Japanese sweet potatoes covered in undulating bonito flakes. — B.A.

165 13th Avenue NE
Minneapolis, MN
(612) 345-5719 |


Camp Washington Chili

Cincinnati, Ohio

The counter at Camp Washington Chili
Gina Weathersby

WHAT: A 60-plus-year-old favorite for Cincinnati chili — the cinnamon-, paprika-, and (sometimes) chocolate-spiked meat sauce invented by Greek immigrants in the early 20th century. WHY: Of the more than 250 chili parlors in and around the city, Camp Washington is a local favorite when it comes to its signature “sauce,” which is either served coney-style or on top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese (aka, a three-way). Opened in the 1950s by Johnny Johnson, a Greek immigrant, Camp Washington has a version that’s a little spicier than most, and the owners insist on using lean bull meat instead of regular beef, giving the bowl some appealing chew. The retro-1950s dining room only adds to the experience. — Keith Pandolfi

3005 Colerain Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45225
513-541-0061 |

Hoyo’s Kitchen

Columbus, Ohio

Spiced goat with sides at Hoyo’s Kitchen
Kathryn Heitkamp

WHAT: An authentic Somali restaurant. WHY: Columbus’s northeast side is a sea of strip-mall restaurants owned by immigrants from nearly every continent. Hoyo’s Kitchen is the neighborhood’s welcome mat, and owner Abdilahi Hassan (regulars know to call him A.B.) is its affable host. He opened the restaurant in 2014 to serve the east African food he grew up eating — dishes known more for their comforting spices than aggressive heat, like tender goat meat tossed in aromatic berbere sauce. The kitchen really shines with its plentiful vegetarian options, including lentils long-stewed in tomato and paprika. — Beth Stallings

5786 Columbus Square
Columbus, OH 43231


Cleveland, Ohio


WHAT: A Vaudeville-era performance house—completely and totally dedicated to ice cream. WHY: The flagship location of Cleveland's beloved Mitchell's Homemade Ice Cream doubles as an observation deck for the entire eight-shop enterprise, churning out classic and innovative flavors like almond caramel apple and wildberry crumble, many with ingredients sourced from Ohio farmers. Brothers Pete and Mike Mitchell converted this Cleveland nightclub into their operational home base, where cone-lickers on one side of soaring glass walls can watch dozens of workers on the other side as they mix, churn, and freeze award-winning ice cream — always in batches of three gallons, max, so quality stays sky-high. — H.R.

1867 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 861-2799 |

The Plum Cafe & Kitchen

Cleveland, Ohio

Fish with spiced chickpeas at The Plum
Bill Addison

WHAT: A low-key, casual, and continually surprising restaurant with a pinball machine at the front, well-inked servers patrolling the floor, and a small menu of playful, yet exacting, dishes. WHY: Offerings like the painterly beet taco — a tart and earthy blend of beets, buttermilk, and fermented hot sauce — may sound whimsical, but they are seriously innovative, dynamic, and alive with flavor. Chef-partner Brett Sawyer deftly combines familiar, farm-fresh ingredients with such unlikely companions as spruce tips, black tahini, and soy pickled eggs, and serves them up, like tiny works of art, on a canvas of mismatched china. — Elaine T. Cicora

4133 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 938-8711

Sokolowski’s University Inn

Cleveland, Ohio

Sokolowski’s dining room
Bill Addison

WHAT: A humble, family-owned eatery overlooking Cleveland’s post-industrial Flats. WHY: This Polish cafeteria is miles removed from Cleveland’s contemporary dining scene, which is exactly the niche it was designed to fill: a welcoming spot for cheap, familiar eats, just right for the Eastern-European steelworkers who once toiled in the nearby mills. Today, it functions as a sort of living shrine to the city’s blue-collar heritage. — E.T.C.

1201 University Road
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 771-9236


Cincinnati, Ohio

Tuna bruschetta

WHAT: An intimate underground (as in, it’s in a basement) trattoria that serves the city’s best pasta in a room that feels like an Italian farmhouse fantasyland. WHY: When it comes to pasta, David Falk is Cincinnati’s Midwestern virtuoso. He started out small, serving rustic dishes at Boca, a beloved spot in the working-class neighborhood of Northside. While Boca is now an enormous (and rather pricey) fine dining establishment downtown, it’s downstairs at Sotto where the rustic pasta dishes that made Falk famous can best be savored. The candlelit wood-beamed and brick dining room serves perfect briny campanelle con cavolfiore (cauliflower, anchovy, and parm), and sublimely meaty short-rib cappellacci. There are also wood-grilled dishes like branzino and bistecca fiorentina. — K.P.

118 East Sixth Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
513-977-6886 |

Spice Kitchen + Bar

Cleveland, Ohio

Butter lettuce salad

WHAT: A farmhouse-chic space on the edge of one of Cleveland’s most up-and-coming ’hoods, serving a relentlessly seasonal menu. WHY: As chef, owner, and farmer, Ben Bebenroth takes his daily inspiration from the produce that gets planted, picked, packed and plated by his small, hardworking team, including farm manager Andrea Heim and culinary director Joshua Woo. The result is the freshest menu in town — an ever-changing array of rustic but authoritative compositions that reflect both classical culinary technique and an extraordinary commitment to the Midwest’s bounty. Be sure to check out the “botanical bar” on the garden-like patio, where herbs illuminate the potential of your everyday cocktail. – E.T.C.

5800 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 961-9637,

Tony Packo’s

Toledo, Ohio

Packo’s original hot dogs
Tony Packo’s

WHAT: An 80-year-old sausage landmark that’s become Toledo’s most celebrated restaurant. WHY: The inexorable march of time means that fewer people each year step into the ruddy light of Tony Packo’s dining room and declare their fulfillment at visiting Corporal Klinger’s favorite hometown restaurant. The M*A*S*H fandom may make up less of the clientele than it used to, but the garlicky sausages, heartily spiced chicken papricaś, and flaky strudels are more than enough to keep the seats filled. It’s been a stopping point for most of the celebrities who’ve come to town, and they leave their mark on baked goods — yeah, that’s really Burt Reynolds’s signature on the hot dog bun next to your table — H.R.

1902 Front Street
Toledo, OH 43605
(419) 691-6054 |

Tucker’s Restaurant

Cincinnati, Ohio

Breakfast burger

WHAT: A welcoming downtown diner serving comfort food and Cincinnati specialties. WHY: Almost 80 years ago, Mamie and E.G. Tucker opened a diner in the city’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood to nourish its growing Appalachian community with dishes like pot roasts, pork chops, and soup beans. These days, their son Joe Tucker and his wife Carla offer a diverse clientele the best breakfasts and lunch in town, rife with phenomenal biscuits and gravy and country fried steak. Joe is known for his goetta, a local specialty of sausage and steel-cut oats, while Carla makes a veggie chili that could win any cook-off. Feeding so many people at affordable prices in this gentrifying neighborhood is tough. But whenever the Tuckers fall on hard times (including a 2014 fire many here thought spelled the end), the community props them back up, donating as much money and manpower as needed. — K.P.

1637 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202


Pasta with escargot
Kevin J. Miyazaki


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

WHAT: The standard bearer for molecular Midwestern comfort food. WHY: Ardent is a triumph of rustic Midwestern flavors served with modernist cooking panache. Chef-owner Justin Carlisle’s pedigree spans from sushi to haute-French, but as the product of a local farming family, the terroir of Wisconsin is his muse. He takes weekly trips across the state to his family’s land to procure ingredients, which he then plates at Ardent with an adroit, inventive, and sentimental mind. It’s not often a restaurant is named a semi-finalist for a James Beard Foundation award within eight weeks of opening. This place is just that good. — Kyle Cherek

1751 North Farwell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 897-7022 |

Driftless Café

Viroqua, Wisconsin

WHAT: A reverent homage to the land through inventive farm-to-table menus and masterful flavors. WHY: The Driftless Café, owned by Ruthie Zahm and her chef husband Luke, is a small town cafe in Viroqua, Wisconsin, that feels as if buoyant hipsters snuck in and staged an ongoing pop-up dining concept. Situated in the Driftless region (where there is a higher concentration of organic farms than anywhere in the state), the cafe is a magnet for locals and visitors alike who appreciate rustic cuisine and sustainable ingredients grown nearby. Chef Zahm’s menu is all heart, strained through a nouvelle cuisine-farmboy aesthetic. — K.C.

118 West Court Street
Viroqua, WI 54665
(608) 637-7778 |


Madison, Wisconsin

Buckwheat cavatelli at Forequarter

WHAT: A neighborhood restaurant with the ambition and chops to represent the modern Midwest’s culinary diversity. WHY: Forequarter does all of the things today’s trendier restaurants do, but it does them because they make sense, not just headlines. For instance, dishes like pan-fried mushrooms with black garlic or green and wax beans with sobrasada are served in petite portions because the flavors are intense, not because small plates are a thing. Trout, served in the summer with radishes and butter, is cured in-house because it’s just better that way. Executive chef Jonny Hunter’s passions — from bagels to brisket — inform the plates and perspective here. The weekend late-night menu has a truly killer double cheeseburger. — Kyle Nabilcy

708 ¼ Johnson Street
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 609-4717 |

Pork chop at L’Etoile
Bill Addison


Madison, Wisconsin

WHAT: The Chez Panisse of the Snow Belt, with an identity and evolution all its own. WHY: Founder Odessa Piper opened L’Etoile in 1976 and spent decades cultivating relationships with Wisconsin producers. In 2005 she sold it to her chef de cuisine, Tory Miller, who carries on Piper’s commitment to hyper-regionalism. The dining room looks out on a sweeping view, through floor-to-ceiling windows, of the city’s Capitol Square — which, conveniently for Miller, hosts one of the country’s largest farmers markets. The geometric plating of his daily-changing, purely New American dishes reflect his time cooking in New York fine dining stalwarts like Jean-Georges. But the ingredients themselves brim with such life, such barefaced freshness, that they transcend any fussy presentations and simply radiate goodness. — B.A.

One South Pinckney Street
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 251-0500 |

Three Brothers Restaurant

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The interior of Three Brothers

WHAT: Sublimely executed traditional Serbian dishes that — much like the timeless space — feel straight outta Belgrade. WHY: It was already crowned an American Classic by the James Beard Foundation in 2002, and the accolade echoes what so many in Milwaukee already knew: Three Brothers Restaurant — a third-generation spot opened in 1955 — is intimate, humble, and caught in amber. Situated in an old Schlitz bar, the menu nails classic Eastern European recipes to a T. I am Hungarian, and it is the only place outside of Budapest where I can reliably revisit the flavors of my mother’s and grandmother's cooking. The legendary made-to-order bureks require an hour wait — just enough time to travel the menu. — K.C.

2414 S St Clair Street
Milwaukee, WI 53207
(414) 481-7530

New England’s 38 Essential Restaurants | The South's 38 Essential Restaurants | The Best New Restaurants 2017 | The Best Restaurants in America 2016

Bill Addison is Eater's restaurant editor, roving the country uncovering America’s essential restaurants. Read all his columns in the archive, and subscribe to his newsletter here.

Edited by Lesley Suter
Copy edited by Emma Alpern
Map illustration by Victor Ware
Special thanks to Amanda Kludt, Sonia Chopra, Adam Moussa, Mary Hough, Jesse Sparks, and James Park

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