Sure, there are certain restaurants and chefs that gain nationwide renown — places recognized among America’s 38 Essential Restaurants, for example. But the beauty of dining out is that, even in this day and age, it’s a local game: The best restaurants, bars, bakeries, and even food trucks are born of their communities, reflect local flavors, and are indispensable parts of their neighborhoods.
Which is why we’re pleased to announce the ninth annual Eater Awards across 24 Eater cities, recognizing the establishments that have taken their cities by storm. These are the restaurants that emerged as community hubs, the bars that became destinations, the pop-ups that made waves, and the chefs who made an impact on the local dining scene and perhaps beyond.
Below, take a peek at the establishments and individuals in 24 cities that emerged as truly award-worthy in 2018 — and head here for this year’s national Eater Awards winners.
Eater Atlanta’s Restaurant of the Year is Tiny Lou’s: “Hotel restaurants never caught on as a dining option for local Atlantans. That is, until Tiny Lou’s opened on the ground floor of the newly-renovated hipster paradise, Hotel Clermont on Ponce De Leon Avenue, above the infamous strip club, the Clermont Lounge. The French-American restaurant’s eponym danced at the hotel’s Gypsy Room in the 1950s. The timeless design of Tiny Lou’s includes elegant touches — white marble floors, brass accents, and bold wallpaper — harkening back to the golden age of fine dining at luxury hotels. With a dream team of culinary talent, including executive chef Jeb Aldrich, who worked alongside his father, Jay Swift, at 4th and Swift, veteran manager and director of restaurants Nick Hassiotis, and young pastry chef dynamo, Claudia Martinez, the restaurant is a breathtaking example of a nouveau French brasserie.”
Eater Austin’s Restaurant of the Year is Better Half: “In a year where many Austin restaurants and chefs turned to the oh-so-casual, all-day dining craze, it is West 5th Street cafe and bar Better Half that best exemplifies how the trend is done well. It makes sense, since co-owners Matt Wright, Matthew Bolick, and Grady Wright already run the very good East Austin cafe and beer bar Wright Bros Brew & Brew — they know what they’re doing when it comes to creating a warm, inviting, and, most importantly, accessible restaurant.
The result is a space that is, well, just perfectly Austin. There’s the easygoing yet still refined menufrom chef Rich Reimbolt (of course there are tater tots made out of cauliflowers and a solid cheeseburger), a killer coffee program, effortless cocktails, a perfectly curated wine and beer list, a very dog-friendly back patio, and — as a sigh of relief to Austinites — plentiful parking. Better Half is a place that fulfills every potential need.”
Eater Boston’s Restaurant of the Year is Celeste: “Created by a passionate team with roots in the arts — a filmmaker, an architect, a writer, an artist — Union Square’s new Peruvian spot Celeste is more of an experience than a restaurant. Sure, you’ll eat and drink, and it’s all wonderful, from the gorgeous ceviches to the fragrant lomo saltado, not to mention the pisco- and mezcal-based cocktails or the carefully chosen beer and wine selections. (Try Oyster River’s pét-nat, Morphos, a bubbly mainstay on the wine list that complements everything, including Celeste’s celebratory vibe.) But it’s not just about the food...”
Eater Charleston’s Chef of the Year is Evan Gaudreau of Renzo: “Chef Evan Gaudreau helms the kitchen at modern, buzzing pizzeria Renzo. his Neo-Neapolitan pie is a riff on the classic — it’s similar in style but not quite traditional. The main difference is his addition of a savory natural levain, which leads to a fermentation of the dough — the entire process takes about 60 hours. He’s also the mind behind the wild toppings, savory starters, and Fernet ice cream. Gaudreau keeps it weird, yet approachable.”
Eater Chicago’s Restaurant of the Year is Pacific Standard Time: “Chicago’s food scene has been trending away from meaty gut bombs and towards lighter fare in recent years, and arguably no restaurant in recent memory has done it better than Pacific Standard Time. The California-inspired spot, helmed by former Nico Osteria and Avec chef de cuisine Erling Wu-Bower, in partnership with mentors and Chicago hospitality icons Paul Kahan and Donnie Madia, overcame obstacles to help Chicago diners fall in love with an outside-the-box menu that draws from an array of different cultures inside a breezy space in River North.”
Eater Dallas’ Restaurant of the Year is Macellaio: “After opening Lucia in 2010 and earning a reputation as one of Dallas’s most talented chefs, David Uygur returned in 2018 with Macellaio, a modern Italian restaurant with a major focus on salumi. ... Macellaio is also responsible for one of the year’s most-discussed dishes: tender confit duck tongues served with an addictive onion dip. Unlike Lucia, where a reservation is still pretty difficult to score, Macellaio makes for a more accessible entry point into Uygur’s cuisine that’s a little more affordable.”
Eater Denver’s Bar of the Year is The Family Jones: “The Family Jones Spirit House is hard to pin down, and that’s precisely why we love it — a distillery, a bar, and a restaurant combined, each with talent at the top of their respective games steering the larger ship. Distiller Rob Masters sets the tone here with his imposing copper still, perched in plain sight above the half-moon bar downstairs. Barman Nick Touch is behind the drinks, made with all-house spirits and crèmes and shrubs. And chef Tim Dotson creates a food menu that pairs well but also stands up just fine on its own. Meet the Denver bar scene 2.0. In a city that has produced enough over-the-top cocktails and vodka sodas alike, this new combination at the Family Jones is a refreshing twist.”
Eater Detroit’s Restaurant of the Year is Marrow: “Good things come to those who wait. That’s the case with many of Detroit’s restaurants but even more so with Marrow, whose West Village space was originally designated for a restaurant in 2015. By 2017, the Royce Detroit wine bar’s Ping Ho had stepped in to help usher in a new concept that combined a neighborhood butcher shop with a restaurant. Marrow, which arrived earlier this fall, manages to seamless blend the two halves and doesn’t take itself too seriously in the process. Customers enter through the bar and butcher shop passed a sign that unabashedly declares “We Got Hot Birds” in its advertisement for rotisserie chicken.”
Eater Houston’s Chef of the Year is Jonny Rhodes of Indigo: “ Chef Jonny Rhodes, an alum of Oxheart and chef-owner at Indigo in Lindale Park, is at the forefront of the city’s most innovative, socially aware cuisine. At his 13-seat restaurant tucked into the neighborhood where he grew up, Rhodes experiments endlessly with preserved ingredients of all kinds, whether fermented, smoked, pickled, dried or cured. He also offers diners a lesson in the history of the cuisines of the African diaspora, and the influence they’ve had on dining in America and beyond. It’s a lesson worth hearing, and it’s paired with some of the most captivating dishes in town.”
Eater Las Vegas’ Restaurant of the Year is the NoMad Bar: “The name NoMad Bar is a misnomer, since the restaurant from chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara is really an all-day restaurant with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night dishes along with that award-winning bar program from bar director Leo Robitschek. The bar and restaurant sits off the lobby of NoMad and the new NoMad casino, a perfect spot for a cocktail before a show or a bite to eat late at night. The bar comes draped in oxblood red velvet chairs and sofas, some elevated as they approach the commanding bar, while an Austrian velvet and sheer curtain, custom made by Rosebrand, cloaks the bar. In the corner, a Steinway piano sits ready for live performances, often jazz in the evening. The restaurant’s menu offers a lesson in perfection. From the carrot tartare and black truffle tart to the hot and cold oysters and mixed fry, diners here will find a playful yet carefully executed menu that only exhibits why the sister bar in New York earned a Michelin star.”
Eater London’s Chef of the Year is Clare Smyth: “For a chef to open their first restaurant in London is never easy. To do so having been in charge of one of the country’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurants — while working for Britain’s most famous chef — for eight years, means that expectations might hinder rather than help the effort. For Clare Smyth to open Core and earn two Michelin stars at the first available opportunity, with a fine dining restaurant in Notting Hill that is table-clothed without being claustrophobic, and to earn a controversial title by the World’s 50 Best awards body that overlooked Core itself, indicates that she remains firmly among this country’s and the world’s greatest chefs.”
Eater LA’s Design of the Year is The Wolves: “One of the city’s most unexpected cocktail and restaurant projects, The Wolves comes from Al Almeida and Daniel Salin, with partner Isaac Mejia as a managing partner and bartender Kevin Lee helming the drink menu. And what a drink menu it is. ... But the ultimate star of The Wolves is the space, an homage to Parisian salons that uses actual European antiques and period-authentic pieces, creating something that’s unlike anything LA has ever seen. Tucked into the Alexandria Hotel, a century-old building in Downtown’s Historic Core, The Wolves is an antique designer’s delight from the entrance up to the stunning illuminated ceiling.”
Eater Miami’s Restaurant of the Year is Amara at Paraiso: “After years of anticipation, Michael Schwartz’s Edgewater stunner Amara at Paraiso finally debuted in the beginning of 2018. And more importantly — it lived up to its hype. The two-story, waterfront eatery, which Schwartz called his “love letter to Miami,” was one of the most exciting new spots of the year, seemingly knocking every detail out of the ballpark. From its enviable waterfront location, to its flavorful Latin American inspired fare, to its well-executed wine list, every part of the dining experience was thought out in meticulous detail. Proving once again, good things come to those who wait.”
Eater Montreal’s Restaurant of the Year is Pastel: “Kabir Kapoor and Jason Morris were already accomplished Montreal restaurateurs — they made that clear with their Griffintown restaurant Le Fantôme. Now, three years later, their talents have become even stronger as they brought Pastel to Old Montreal. With Kapoor dubbing Pastel as “the complete yin to the yang of Fantôme”, the new restaurant marked progression from the pair’s first opening. Where Fantôme was playful, Pastel skewed intellectual in its approach, boosted by a much larger space and kitchen that allowed for greater experimentation.”
Eater Nashville’s Restaurant Import of the Year is Emmy Squared: “Opening in March of this year, Hyland’s Nashville outpost of the Detroit-style pizza joint has already found its way onto most every best pizza and burger list in the city. While there have been a flurry of restaurateurs nationwide focusing on importing restaurants to Nashville, many of them relocating here to do so, the Gulch’s Emmy Squared shows that yes, the city did really need another place for pizza and burgers.”
Eater New Orleans’ Restaurant of the Year is Bywater American Bistro: “Bywater American Bistro, the feverishly anticipated restaurant from James Beard Award-winningchef Nina Compton, followed a tough act considering the meteoric success of Compton’s first restaurant, Compére Lapin. Opened by Compton, Larry Miller, and former Compére sous chef Levi Raines, Bywater delivered big-time.
Already named one of Eater’s Best New Restaurants in America, the precisely executed menufrom Compton and Raines acknowledges the various groups that make up New Orleans’ cuisine as it also reflects America’s current culinary landscape with tuna-brasaola-topped toast, rabbit curry, crab fat rice, and a spaghetti pomodoro that has critic Bill Addison ‘wondering if Compton has the lock on the next pasta trend.’”
New York City
Eater NY’s Chef of the Year is Kyo Pang: “For a couple years, plenty of people knew that Kyo Pang was a talent. Her tiny version of Malaysian cafe Kopitiam had a cult following for her deft take on sweets and classics from her native country. But it closed due to a rent hike — and as far as shutters go, turns out this one might have been a blessing. Her bigger and more ambitious version of Kopitiam, opened along with restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai, has been one of the most satisfying new restaurants of the year, and with it, Pang’s following has reached an expanded audience.”
Eater Philly’s Restaurant of the Year is Suraya: “The one restaurant everyone was talking about in 2018 was Suraya, an all-day destination spot in Fishtown (1528 Frankford Avenue). The Lebanese menu of flatbreads and sandwiches during the day and kebabs and whole grilled fish in the evenings is inspired by dishes siblings Nathalie Richan and Roland Kassis grew up with in Beirut — the restaurant is named after their grandmother. They own Suraya with Greg Root and chef Nick Kennedy of cocktail bar R&D (formerly Root). With attractive design both indoors and in the courtyard garden, shelves stocked with olive oils and spices for sale, creative cocktails, and an expertly executed Middle Eastern menu, it’s no wonder Suraya was an immediate hit.”
Eater Portland’s Restaurant of the Year is Canard: “This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone: Gabriel Rucker’s exceptional restaurant, which was originally branded a wine bar, extends far beyond that classification. Think of it, instead, as a modern diner, a restaurant defined by its accessibility, playfulness, and eclectic style. Beyond its eye-catching dishes and drinks, like its foie-gras-washed bourbon cocktail and its borderline excessive stack of smothered duck fat pancakes, Canard’s beauty comes in its simple touches — a piece of cinnamon toast in the morning, a cabbage salad tossed in a house-made creamy dressing, a slider with American cheese. Rucker understands that a restaurant should be both understated and creative, but most of all, it should be fun.”
Eater San Diego’s Casual Restaurant of the Year is Lola 55: “In a town inundated by tacos, Lola 55 has dominated the conversation since its summer opening in the East Village. With a structure set up for success and the intention to become a serious contender in the fast-casual market, the eatery is banking on a crave-worthy menu from executive chef Drew Bent, made using admirable ingredients, to put them above the pack.”
Eater SF’s Bar of the Year is True Laurel: “From its inception as a spinoff to showcase Lazy Bear bar director Nicolas Torres’s cocktails, True Laurel was destined for greatness. The bar’s design — a quirky mid-century-inspired room filled with primary colors and an homage to the work of Isamu Noguchi — invites creativity, which extends from cocktails to the menu of bar bites like crispy hen of the woods mushrooms with a gourmet approximation of sour cream and onion dip. The “Pea-casso” cocktail combines aquavit, snap peas, Espodol, clarified lime, flat tonic, and Arak Sannine to create one of the city’s best cocktails of the year, complete with a Picasso-esque garnish of snap peas. Above all, it’s a fun, bustling addition to SF’s craft cocktail scene.”
Eater Seattle’s Restaurant of the Year is Little Neon Taco: “With popular eateries Neon Taco, Tortas Condesa, and Westman’s Bagel and Coffee, chef Monica Dimas has been showing off her range of cooking skills, leadership, and adaptability for years. But until 2018, Dimas’s projects have all been walk-up windows, rather than full-fledged restaurants. With Little Neon Taco on First Hill, Dimas finally spreads her wings in a charming space bedecked with Mexican ephemera. Here, she slings her tacos — some of the best in the city even when they were only available inside the Capitol Hill bar Nacho Borracho — alongside additional winning dishes like mole ribs, elote, tortas, posole menudo, and horchata. She’s truly realizing her immense potential with this opening, taking her rightful place among Seattle’s top chefs.”
Eater Twin Cities’ Chef of the Year is Jose Alarcon: “Alarcon went from working the line with the chef collective at Lyn65 and helming a few pop-ups to opening not one, but two Mexican restaurants that beguiled Twin Cities dinners. ... [At Popol Vuh and Centro] Alarcon and his team single-handedly elevated exceptions for what Mexican cuisine can be - moving far away from fried tortillas and cheese into a world of subtlety that celebrates the regions into the rightful world arena where people everywhere are realizing the astounding breadth and depth of the country’s food.
That this chef opened not one, but two restaurants to such success and still managed the tightrope walk of Minnesota’s expectations and busting through boundaries of fine dining is nothing short of extraordinary.”
Eater DC’s Chef of the Year is Marjorie Meek-Bradley: “Tasked with lending a local perspective to an established Brooklyn brand, Marjorie Meek-Bradley pulled off a major feat. At the St. Anselm tavern that opened in Northeast D.C. in September, Meek-Bradley has flipped the stuffy D.C. steakhouse stereotype on its head, deploying a fun, fresh menu full of salads and sides that draw attention away from a full complement of animal proteins. Her grilled winter squash salad with hazelnuts and beets sounds simple enough, but a precise injection of grapefruit purée whisks its to a higher place.”