Dozens of restaurants open around the country every season. What makes one more exciting than another? Track record, for one. When a restaurateur like Stephen Starr announces that he's launching a new venture (like he will this fall with Il Pittore in Philadelphia and Caffè Storico in New York City) the news carries certain expecations. But there are plenty of other things that go into raising new openings across the country to the top of your must-go list.
More fodder for the hype machine? A great underdog story. Nothing highlights the American dream better than a young chef stepping out from his mentor to open his own place — entering the fickle realm of the restaurant industry for the first time. Even better, there's the story of the veteran chef making a triumphant return after some bad breaks, as Govind Armstrong surely hopes to do with Post and Beam next month.
There are also restaurants that garner anticipation because of far less calculated factors. Take for instance, the eatery helmed by a chef who found her way into America's heart due to an appearance on TV. You'd think Tiffani Faison's appearances on Top Chef will draw customers to her new Boston barbecue joint.
Sometimes restaurants have concepts so revolutionary that diners can't help but be drawn to them, like that of Next in Chicago, which allows Grant Achatz to reimagine his restaurant every season. Not every restaurant can expect to burn so brightly, but in looking at the most notable restaurants opening this fall several trends emerged.
Burgers and Butchery
Burger bars have been hot for a while, and it looks like the trend is not slowing — from Nancy Silverton opening a Shack-style joint in LA to Cathal Armstrong slinging patties in his new place. In a similar vein, restaurants serving up meats butchered and cured in-house are everywhere, such as at Paul Kahan's new Publican Quality Meats.
• District Commons, Washington, D.C.: With Acadiana, TenPenh, Ceiba, and DC Coast under his belt, chef Jeff Tunks has been around D.C. a long time. But this foray into D.C.’s burgeoning burger scene will be his first attempt at counter service. Expect burgers made with wet-aged, whole chuck roasts and brisket, ground in-house (a 3:1 ratio). (Photo courtesy of Facebook/District Commons)
• Society Fair, Washington, D.C.: The food hall trend continues to spread. This one, by star D.C. chef Cathal Armstrong and his wife Meshelle will be a "European-style" food market near Howard University that combines a "butchery, bakery, wine bar, and restaurant with 30 outdoor seats and 50 indoor seats."
• Publican Quality Meats, Chicago: An artisan, full-service butcher shop by Paul Kahan that will source meats from local family farms. There will be housemade charcuterie and bread, made-to-order sandwiches for lunch, and down the road, continental-style breakfast at this spot across the street from The Publican.
• Nellcôte, Chicago: Pastas, pizzas, small plates, bachelor’s jam (an intense rum and fruit drink), and dishes made in a wood-burning oven. It’s been said that Jared Van Camp (Old Town Social) sees this project as his coming out party, a way to show he can do more than just great bar food.
• Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf, Chicago: Brendan Sodikoff's (Gilt Bar, Maude's Liquor Bar, The Doughnut Vault) “European steakhouse” concept in River North includes a burger joint at the back of it.
• HD1, Atlanta: Three Flip Burgers, now a hot dog joint. You have to wonder if Richard Blais ever plans to open a real restaurant ever again. Muse over that while sampling the menu, which includes house-ground meats and sausages. Eater Atlanta noted that the chef’s own favorites are: “chicken wings with lemon curd and Szechuan pepper, waffle fries with maple-soy, crispy hominy with chile and lime, fennel sausage with San Marzano ketchup, lamb sausage with cranberry and cucumber, fried chicken livers, and the crawfish roll with shrimp head aioli.”