Out of the thousands upon thousands of restaurants that open across the country every year, only a handful really make a certified splash, ending up on both local and national radars and receiving enough buzz and positive press to elicit big crowds from day one. Here are 13 restaurants that opened in 2015 that people will most likely be talking about for years to come.
Yelp / Alex P
Broken Spanish / Facebook
Yelp / Michael U
Santa Monica had a great year for restaurants, with chef Bryant Ng’s Cassia leading the pack. Menu items include flatbread with garlic and lemongrass snails, Vietnamese pot-au-feu with Creekstone Farms short rib, and one of the country’s most intriguing new charcuterie platters (think Sichuan lamb ham, Singaporean candied pork, and smoked curried duck).
Yelp / Shuang C
If there’s one chef who can turn the humble fried chicken sandwich into something that commands lines around the block, it’s David Chang. The fast-casual concept, selling a tiny menu of spicy fried chicken sandwiches, salad, chicken fingers, Milk Bar desserts, and slushies, was an instant hit, and has commanded lines every day it’s been in business.
Momofuku / Facebook
The Village Voice called it “a great sandwich, with fatty thigh meat crisped to an audible crunch and at the same time possessing enviable juiciness,” The Observer said, “The Velveteen bun, the crispy exterior of the chicken and its chewy insides—these are not new forms discovered but classic ones well done,” and Eater calls it “formidably crusty, without being soddenly so, and there’s nothing better than one of these sandwiches hot out of the grease.”
Intro / Facebook
Intro is completely unlike any other restaurant out there: Guest chefs (generally lauded up and coming talent) create tasting menus; reservations are sold through a ticketing system. Chefs remain “in residence” for about three months, essentially turning the space into an entirely new restaurant every time they swap out.
Yelp / Laurie W
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are the golden boys of the L.A. dining scene at the moment, running several of its most popular restaurants, including Animal, Trois Mec, Son of a Gun, and Petit Trois. Their newest arrival, Jon & Vinny’s, is serving an Italian-accented menu of pizzas, house-made pastas, salads, and entrées including meatballs and chicken parmesan.
Yelp / Thomas O
Eater called the red sauce joint “the next Great Fairfax restaurant,” Jonathan Gold called it “a neighborhood pizzeria the way that Spago in 1982 was a pizzeria,” and L.A. Weekly praises the pizzas, meatballs, and chicken parm, calling the restaurant “a great leap forward for the idea of a family restaurant.”
Yelp / Jeanne K
Chef David Chang brought his Momofuku empire to Washington with the hotly-anticipated Momofuku CCDC, drawing huge lines from day one. The restaurant features a bar, a noodle bar, a main dining room, and a private dining room, with a seasonal menu with items including four types of buns, rotisserie chicken, ramen, ginger scallion noodles, and Old Bay pork rinds. There’s also an adjacent outpost of the popular Momofuku Milk Bar.
Yelp / Taylor H
The jury is still out as to whether or not it lives up to all the hype (it only opened in late October), but the fact that it’s packed every night of the week can only say good things about this certified hotspot.
Chef Sarah Grueneberg, a veteran of Top Chef and Spiaggia, opened her first restaurant after plenty of advance buzz. It focuses on handmade fresh pasta, small plates including tortellini in brodo and octopus spiedini, and large plates including ragu a la Napoletana and a grilled 23-ounce ribeye. It’s Italian, but with a whole lot of international flair.
Rebelle / Facebook
This modern French restaurant, which comes from the team behind the lauded Pearl & Ash, is serving an elegant menu with dishes including fluke with brown butter, caper, and lemon; scallop with sea urchin, turnip, and squid ink; duck with quince and watercress; and hazelnut, chocolate, and honey with thyme ice cream.
Rebelle / Facebook
Reviews have been excellent, with the New York Times’ Pete Wells awarding it two stars and calling it “a very good place to eat seasonal food that flirts with French ideas in exciting ways,” and Bloomberg’s Tejal Rao’s glowing review called it “fresh and modern, referring to the Parisian bistro without a hint of blurry eyed nostalgia.”
Revival / Facebook
Chef Kevin Gillespie opened this homey and upscale Southern restaurant in a renovated Victorian house in the Atlanta suburbs in July, serving comforting entrées including fried chicken, spiced Carolina catfish, wood-grilled bone-in pork chop, and bacon-wrapped meatloaf and trimmings including grits with caramelized onion, macaroni and cheese, and smoked local beans.
Revival / Facebook
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution hailed its hearty menu and overall concept, saying “There is a place for the hourslong, hearty Sunday dinner of old, and Gillespie makes that available — and affordable — almost every day at Revival.” Atlanta Food Critic adds, “If Southern food had a church, Revival is it and Kevin Gillespie is the Executive Pastor.”
Yelp / Art P
When Major Food Group, the team behind game-changers including Torrisi Italian Specialties, Parm, and Carbone, opened a shrine to classic Jewish deli fare (serving dishes including including bagels and smoked fish, triple-decker sandwiches, and matzo ball soup) in September, people stood up and took notice.
Yelp / Mallory B
Bloomberg’s Tejal Rao hailed bagel maker Melissa Weller’s superior product, New York Magazine says it “takes the humble schmear into brave new territory,” and The Wall Street Journal called the bagels “crusty on the outside and not bloated like many New York bagels.” It’s expensive, and it’s a scene, but when was the last time a new Jewish deli was a bona fide scene?