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The 12 Hottest Chef Counters Across the United States

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All across the country, cooks have been developing intimate, ambitious, and inevitably exclusive kitchen counters in their restaurants. Though some critics and diners have recently called into question the idea of extended tasting menus that offer paying customers few, if any, choices, the trend of leaving matters in the chefs' hands shows few signs of letting up.

Several of these spaces have been specifically designed to offer one long tasting menu only (José Andrés revamped minibar in DC, Carlo Mirarchi's Blanca in New York City), while others are counters within larger and slightly less expensive restaurants (Mike Solomonov's Zahav in Philadelphia, Joshua Skenes' Saison in San Francisco, Bryan Moscatello's Storefront Company in Chicago). Some might be called pioneers of the format in their cities (Catbird Seat in Nashville, Oxheart in Houston), while others represent the latest in the trend for their metropolis (Atera in NYC).

While for the most part very expensive, all of these embrace the fact that diners these days don't seem to want a traditional, haughty fine dining experience. It can be argued that these represent a different kind of pretentiousness, but the hyper-focus on food and the raw action of the kitchen is unquestionable. Here are twelve of the most recent entries in the genre:

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Atera

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77 Worth St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 226-1444
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Matt Lightner left a great gig at Castagna in Portland to come to the big city and launch a tasting-menu-only restaurant in what seemed like a doomed TriBeCa space. It's been less than a year, and he's already got two Michelin stars and three and four stars from critics Pete Wells and Adam Platt, respectively. [Photo Credit]

2. Blanca

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261 Moore St
Brooklyn, NY 11206
(646) 703-2715
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Instead of cashing in on the success of his Bushwick, Brooklyn hit Roberta's and opening up another large restaurant, Chef Carlo Mirarchi opened Blanca, an ambitious, sleek, and small 12-seat counter behind his first restaurant. The move seems to have paid off, since it is probably the hardest reservation in town and just earned a Michelin star. It only does one seating a night, Wednesday through Saturday, and closes whenever the Chef is out of town. One tasting menu, and one tasting menu only. [Photo Credit]

3. Zahav

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237 St James Pl
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 625-8800
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There's nothing else like it on this list: a kitchen counter dedicated to Israeli food, both classic and interpretive. That's what they've been putting out at the counter of Chef Mike Solomonov's Zahav, considered one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia. [Photo Credit]

4. Sbraga

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440 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19146
(215) 735-1913
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At Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga's successful Philly restaurant, the chef's counter menu switches up every week. Recent editions have been inspired by school lunches and Sbraga's winning dishes on the Bravo program that put him on the map. Next month, he'll unveil one inspired by a football tailgate. [Photo Credit]

5. minibar

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509 9th St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20004
Minibar is the whimsical progressive chef José Andrés' flagship playground, a 12-seat bar where he and his ThinkFoodGroup operatives test out their latest developments. The restaurant has moved into a new space, where, as Tom Sietsema describes it, ""diners will start the evening with a drink in the bar, move on to a dining room with an open kitchen and end the night with something sweet in a study with a see-through fireplace — 'just as if you were in Jose's home.'" Reservations by e-mail only. [Photo Credit]

6. The Catbird Seat

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1711 Division St
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 810-8200
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Feature writer Andrew Knowlton declared The Catbird Seat one of the best new restaurants of 2012. It's a 32-seat tasting counter, the first of its kind in Nashville, Tennessee, from two chefs who've cooked in some of the world's great kitchens. [Photo Credit]

7. Storefront Company

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1941 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 661-2609
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Can't get enough people to join you for the kitchen table at Next (that's if you can get in)? Book at Bryan Moscatello's new restaurant Storefront Company, where $80 dollars will give you a five-course kitchen counter tasting of excellent New American preparations that won't break the bank. [Photo Credit]

8. Oxheart Restaurant

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1302 Nance St
Houston, TX 77002
A recent addition to Houston's dining scene that already is being hailed as the city's premiere restaurant, Oxheart is the product of husband and wife team of Justin Yu and Karen Man. It does have some tables, but you'll want to sit at the U-shaped counter, right in front of the action. [Photo Credit]

9. é by José Andrés

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3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
José Andrés has complemented his two large restaurants in the Cosmopolitan (Jaleo and China Poblano) with é, an eight-seat bar with two tasting-menu-only seatings a night. é is in a tiny space behind Jaleo, where Andrés' team puts on a dinner that doesn't skimp on showmanship: there's truffle cotton candy, dishes served in life-size molds of Andrés' hand, and a golden ticket that gets you into the meal. It is Vegas, after all. Andrés provides instructions on how best to get in here. [Photo Credit]

10. Saison

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2124 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 828-7990
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Bloggers and globetrotting gastronomes have flocked to the kitchen counter at Joshua Skenes' two-Michelin-star Saison, where the chef, for $498, fully expresses his abilities with the hearth and flame. [Photo Credit]

11. The Restaurant at Meadowood

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900 Meadowood Ln
St Helena, CA 94574
(800) 458-8080
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The four-seat kitchen counter at Christopher Kostow's ambitious, precise, three-star-Michelin Restaurant at Meadowood is the best way to experience the chef's cooking. Sure, it's $500, but Kostow assures that "you'll see and you'll know that we cook with our hearts and our hands. The attention you receive, the food itself, the overall experience — I don't think we've had anyone question the value." [Photo Credit]

12. Roe

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3113 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202
(503) 232-1566
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Trent Pierce has opened a small restaurant in what used to be the back room of his izakaya Wafu. The restaurant marks the chef's return to seafood, which was his focus at the beloved but now-defunct Fin. Sit at the four-seat bar and get the closest view of the chefs in action. [Photo Credit]

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1. Atera

77 Worth St, New York, NY 10013
Matt Lightner left a great gig at Castagna in Portland to come to the big city and launch a tasting-menu-only restaurant in what seemed like a doomed TriBeCa space. It's been less than a year, and he's already got two Michelin stars and three and four stars from critics Pete Wells and Adam Platt, respectively. [Photo Credit]
77 Worth St
New York, NY 10013

2. Blanca

261 Moore St, Brooklyn, NY 11206
Instead of cashing in on the success of his Bushwick, Brooklyn hit Roberta's and opening up another large restaurant, Chef Carlo Mirarchi opened Blanca, an ambitious, sleek, and small 12-seat counter behind his first restaurant. The move seems to have paid off, since it is probably the hardest reservation in town and just earned a Michelin star. It only does one seating a night, Wednesday through Saturday, and closes whenever the Chef is out of town. One tasting menu, and one tasting menu only. [Photo Credit]
261 Moore St
Brooklyn, NY 11206

3. Zahav

237 St James Pl, Philadelphia, PA 19106
There's nothing else like it on this list: a kitchen counter dedicated to Israeli food, both classic and interpretive. That's what they've been putting out at the counter of Chef Mike Solomonov's Zahav, considered one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia. [Photo Credit]
237 St James Pl
Philadelphia, PA 19106

4. Sbraga

440 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19146
At Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga's successful Philly restaurant, the chef's counter menu switches up every week. Recent editions have been inspired by school lunches and Sbraga's winning dishes on the Bravo program that put him on the map. Next month, he'll unveil one inspired by a football tailgate. [Photo Credit]
440 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19146

5. minibar

509 9th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20004
Minibar is the whimsical progressive chef José Andrés' flagship playground, a 12-seat bar where he and his ThinkFoodGroup operatives test out their latest developments. The restaurant has moved into a new space, where, as Tom Sietsema describes it, ""diners will start the evening with a drink in the bar, move on to a dining room with an open kitchen and end the night with something sweet in a study with a see-through fireplace — 'just as if you were in Jose's home.'" Reservations by e-mail only. [Photo Credit]
509 9th St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20004

6. The Catbird Seat

1711 Division St, Nashville, TN 37203
Feature writer Andrew Knowlton declared The Catbird Seat one of the best new restaurants of 2012. It's a 32-seat tasting counter, the first of its kind in Nashville, Tennessee, from two chefs who've cooked in some of the world's great kitchens. [Photo Credit]
1711 Division St
Nashville, TN 37203

7. Storefront Company

1941 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Can't get enough people to join you for the kitchen table at Next (that's if you can get in)? Book at Bryan Moscatello's new restaurant Storefront Company, where $80 dollars will give you a five-course kitchen counter tasting of excellent New American preparations that won't break the bank. [Photo Credit]
1941 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

8. Oxheart Restaurant

1302 Nance St, Houston, TX 77002
A recent addition to Houston's dining scene that already is being hailed as the city's premiere restaurant, Oxheart is the product of husband and wife team of Justin Yu and Karen Man. It does have some tables, but you'll want to sit at the U-shaped counter, right in front of the action. [Photo Credit]
1302 Nance St
Houston, TX 77002

9. é by José Andrés

3708 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
José Andrés has complemented his two large restaurants in the Cosmopolitan (Jaleo and China Poblano) with é, an eight-seat bar with two tasting-menu-only seatings a night. é is in a tiny space behind Jaleo, where Andrés' team puts on a dinner that doesn't skimp on showmanship: there's truffle cotton candy, dishes served in life-size molds of Andrés' hand, and a golden ticket that gets you into the meal. It is Vegas, after all. Andrés provides instructions on how best to get in here. [Photo Credit]
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

10. Saison

2124 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Bloggers and globetrotting gastronomes have flocked to the kitchen counter at Joshua Skenes' two-Michelin-star Saison, where the chef, for $498, fully expresses his abilities with the hearth and flame. [Photo Credit]
2124 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103

11. The Restaurant at Meadowood

900 Meadowood Ln, St Helena, CA 94574
The four-seat kitchen counter at Christopher Kostow's ambitious, precise, three-star-Michelin Restaurant at Meadowood is the best way to experience the chef's cooking. Sure, it's $500, but Kostow assures that "you'll see and you'll know that we cook with our hearts and our hands. The attention you receive, the food itself, the overall experience — I don't think we've had anyone question the value." [Photo Credit]
900 Meadowood Ln
St Helena, CA 94574

12. Roe

3113 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202
Trent Pierce has opened a small restaurant in what used to be the back room of his izakaya Wafu. The restaurant marks the chef's return to seafood, which was his focus at the beloved but now-defunct Fin. Sit at the four-seat bar and get the closest view of the chefs in action. [Photo Credit]
3113 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202

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