April feels like an eternity ago, but there’s a plate of memelas that has stayed with me since then: The blue corn cakes sported a swish of white bean puree, and were topped with pickled onions and jackfruit in cindery mole almendrado. The porcelain plate itself is one LA’s most iconic, white with large blue fonts that spelled “Sqirl Los Angeles.”
The memelas are a glimpse into the upcoming collaboration between Sqirl chef/owner Jessica Koslow and Gabriela Cámara, of Mexico City’s Contramar and San Francisco’s Cala — a project that Koslow described earlier this year as trying to find “the common language between sister-cities: Los Angeles and Mexico City.” If that April preview dinner is any indication, that common tongue promises pulsing acidity, deep char, and plenty of fresh herbs. When Onda opens soonish in Santa Monica (its debut is now looking like September), it’s poised to herald the arrival of what’s traditionally the busiest time of the year for restaurant watchers. Fall restaurant season is finally here.
There’s plenty of other Mexican cooking to get excited about in the coming months, too. Chef Edgar Rico’s Nixta Taqueria in Austin will focus on corn tortillas with a menu of tacos and tostadas. Helio Bernal, the chef behind hit Atlanta mobile operation the Real Mexican Vittles, is going brick-and-mortar with D Boca N Boca. Fresh off her James Beard Award win for Best Chef: Midwest, Ann Kim will tackle tortillas for her next Minneapolis destination, and in addition to Koslow and Cámara, another power restaurant couple is filtering Mexican cuisine through a California lens in Los Angeles: Pujol’s Enrique Olvera and Cosme’s Daniela Soto-Innes, with their restaurants Damian and (the more casual) Ditroit. Even Guy Fieri is joining in with a promised Mexican concept called Guy Fieri’s Tequila Cocina (congrats Boston!!!!).
Finally, 2019 might be the year when Eastern European cooking comes to the fore in America’s buzziest restaurants, fulfilling the hopes many of us have had since Kachka exploded onto the Portland scene a half-decade ago. In San Francisco, Dear Inga will explore the foods of Georgia, an ode to the Eastern European heritage of chef David Golovin, who partnered with Liholiho Yacht Club’s Ravi Kapur and Jeff Hanak on the project. And Kachka’s Bonnie and Israel Morales will at long last open their casual spin-off Lavka, which will feature both counter-service dining options as well as Eastern European pantry staples and frozen Kachka pelmeni.
Meanwhile, America’s renewed love affair with French cuisine is still smoldering, so there’s plenty of bistro fare to look forward to before year’s end, especially on the west side of Los Angeles, which will welcome Dialogue chef Dave Beran’s upcoming Pasjoli and Republique owners Walter and Margarita Manzke’s Bicyclette. In New York City, Frenchette hitmakers Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr will be tackling the classics at the historic Le Veau d’Or.
Some other openings to keep an eye out for:
• New York City’s seen a boom in hip Vietnamese restaurants, and Saigon Social stands to become a particularly compelling addition to the mix; it’s from fine-dining vet Helen Nguyen, who’s stepping out of the Restaurant Daniel catering kitchen to transform the former home of Mission Cantina.
• D.C. star Kevin Tien is leaving Himitsu, the restaurant where he made his name, and striking out on his own with Emilie’s, which leans into family-style and tableside service.
• Michael and Tara Gallina, the couple behind 2017 Eater Best New Restaurant Vicia, is opening their second St. Louis restaurant, taking over the longstanding Winslow’s Home restaurant and making it their own.
• After a successful Kickstarter round, Seattle chef Melissa Miranda is poised to take her Filipino dishes from pop-up to permanent with the approaching arrival of Musang.
• Normally I wouldn’t use this space to call out a bar, but Oakland’s oncoming drinking den Friends and Family comes from Blake Cole (Hopscotch) and Kimberly Rosselle (Trick Dog, Bon Voyage) — and they just tapped Tartine Manufactory’s Christa Chase to do the food, so consider me much anticipating.
Without further ado, here are the most exciting openings in 22 American cities (we’ll update as they publish:
Atlanta | Austin | Boston | Charleston | Chicago | Dallas | Denver | Detroit | Houston | Las Vegas | Los Angeles | Miami | Nashville | New Orleans | New York | Philadelphia | Portland, OR | San Francisco | Seattle | Twin Cities | Washington, D.C.
For a look at the most-anticipated reads and shows this season, see our fall cookbook preview and fall entertainment preview. Listen to Hillary Dixler Canavan discuss fall’s new openings with editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt on Eater’s Digest: