Best Restaurants for American Cuisine: OpenTable 2010 Diners’ Choice Winners

Best-American-Restaurants-2010Independence Day is just around the corner, the time of year when we celebrate everything that’s great about our nation. Since those celebrations typically involve food, we’re patriotically pleased to announce the 50 restaurant winners of OpenTable’s 2010 Diners’ Choice Awards for Best American Restaurants. Derived from 5,000,000+ reviews submitted by OpenTable diners of more than 11,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, this list honors the restaurants that serve up a slice of the best of American cuisine at every meal.

The winners, which include A Toute Heure in New Jersey, Kansas City’s Bluestem, The French Laundry in Yountville, Manhattan’s Gramercy Tavern and Per Se, Tilth in Seattle, VOLT in Maryland, and many others, have honored our roots as a farming nation by helping renew interest in local sourcing and heritage techniques, including butchering, curing and smoking meats, canning, pickling, and preserving — as well as continuing to innovate in their kitchens.

Use this list to connect with the country’s rich culinary history and delicious future throughout the coming seasons.

Top Chef D.C. Episode 2: The Proof Is in the Pudding

"You gave sherry to children?"
"You gave sherry to children?"

Welcome to week two of “Top Chef: D.C.” To spice things up, I’ve enlisted Ed Hardy, a professional chef in Manhattan, to watch along with me. Ed has worked for Danny Meyer and Marcus Samuelsson and has auditioned for “Top Chef” twice. [Full disclosure: I attended the French Culinary Institute with Ed and he’s a friend, but he totally understands that if he were on the show, I might root against him. In fact, he expects that I would root against him. And that’s pretty much why Ed should be on “Top Chef.”]

Before the titles rolled, I asked Ed if watching made him envious about not being a part of this season, and he said, “I don’t envy the cast being stuck in D.C. traffic while on their way to Whole Foods. Of course, if you’re in the van without Angelo, you have plenty of time to scheme against him.” (See what I mean about Ed?)

Tonight’s guest judge is Sam Kass, who is the assistant White House chef. He’s nice to look at, but he’s not all that nice to the contestants, as you’ll see. He and Padma present a ‘Bipartisandwich’ Quickfire Challenge that has an extra challenge within it a la “The Brady Bunch”(or any family picnic, really). The culinary equivalent of the three-legged race, the cheftestants must don special aprons that allow them the use of just one hand. This means that there’s shared chopping, pouring, sautéeing, carrying, and so on. Timothy thinks its genius, and says, “Who got high and came up with this idea?” I’m guessing it wasn’t Tom or Gail.

Continue reading…

Status Salads; Meaningless Restaurant Concepts; and Other Trends in Dining

* Some upscale Manhattan restaurants, including 21 Club, The Four Seasons, Fred’s at Barney’s, and Michael’s, serve upscale “status” salads at upscale prices. [NY Post]

* Eater is calling for an end to certain restaurant concept trends, decrying them as meaningless. [Eater]

* San Francisco Chronicle scribe Michael Bauer ponders whether non-restaurants are justified in charging restaurant prices (They’re not). [InsideScoopSF]

* Bacon camp is the new rock star camp. [Washington Post]

* This is what summer looks like, to some of the UK’s best chefs. [London Times, registration required]

* Frank Bruni wasn’t fond of sidewalk seating, but some serious eaters are. [Serious Eats]

* It’s tough to wait for brunch — so don’t. [SF Weekly]

* Emily Stokes of the Financial Times wonders about “one-dish wonders.” [Financial Times]

* Bachelor parties have gone from tasteless to tasting menus. [The New York Times]

Continue reading…

What’s Your Favorite Type of Restaurant? OpenTable Wants to Know!

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a fan of food — and you probably enjoy dining at a variety of restaurants. Rather than type of cuisine, I’ve been pondering what my favorite type of restaurant is. Ultra-fine dining restaurants worthy of name-dropping and foodie photography? Swanky restaurants in posh hotels? Neighborhood gems that are just around the corner? Establishments with al fresco dining or spectacular views? Romantic restaurants that bring couples closer? I’m somewhat indecisive when it comes to making big choices like this (Full disclosure: I’m a libra), so I’m asking OpenTable diners — What type of restaurant are you happiest to visit? Before you answer, forget money, relationship status, the weather where you live, and whether or not you’re on a diet; just focus on the type of restaurant that makes you most content!

Share your favorite type of restaurant here or on Facebook — and tell us why, and we’ll include your comments when we revisit the topic in a post later this week.

Grading Restaurants’ Cleanliness: New York City Says Letters Are Better

Grading-Restaurants-CleanlinessThere’s been much heated debate around the New York City Health Department’s recent requirement that restaurants display sanitary inspection scores, which are now being awarded in more consumer-friendly letter grades. Prior to this approach, curious diners in the Big Apple had to search online to find out details about a restaurant’s sanitary inspection records. Restaurateurs, understandably, have worried that with this new grading system, which is also used in Los Angeles, anything less than an A might put them out of business.

Continue reading…

Top Chef D.C. Episode One: Find Out Who Are the Standouts

Photo: David Giesbrecht/Bravo
Photo: David Giesbrecht/Bravo

The first episode of Season 7 of “Top Chef” opens in Washington, D.C. with the lovely Padma Lakshmi calling the nation’s capital “the city of idealists, visionaries and ruthless powerseekers,” and you can’t help but wonder if she’s talking about the town or the new cast. This batch of hopefuls includes the usual suspects: The Award Winner (Andrea Curto-Randazzo), The Big Deal (Kelly Liken),  The Caterer (Jacqueline Lombard), The Dad (Stephen Hopcraft), The European (Alex Reznik), The Good Guy (Kevin Srbaga), The Hottie (Amanda Baumgarten), The Kid (Tamesha Warren), The Personality (Arnold Myint), The Quiet Threat (Tiffany Derry), The Sad Story (Timothy Dean), The Sass (Tracey Bloom), The Terminator (Kenny Gilbert), The Underdog (Ed Cotton),  and some welcome new additions — The Instructor (Lynne Gigliotti), The Michelin Star (Angelo Sosa), and The Oddball (John Somerville — Sorry!).

The Quickfire Challenge isn’t anything groundbreaking, just another mis en place tournament that we’ve seen before. The chefs have to peel potatoes, brunoise onions, break down raw whole chickens into 8 pieces, and then cook a dish with these and other ingredients. The slowest chefs will be weeded out at each leg so that only four remain for the cooking portion. What’s really interesting isn’t the $20,000 at stake (which has Jersey Boy and aspiring homemaker Kevin drooling) but rather that most of the cheftestants clearly didn’t bother to brush up on the basics after they were cast. This kind of challenge is classic TC yet so many of these chefs struggle. Given, they have to peel potatoes with a paring knife and not a speedy peeler, but still.

Continue reading…

Celebrating Father’s Day: Doesn’t Dad Deserve to Dine Out, Too?

Fathers-Day-2010Father’s Day is Sunday, June 20. Don’t let Dad spend his day standing at the grill! Say thanks for being a terrific father by treating him to a Father’s Day meal. Restaurants around the nation are offering up interesting perks for pops and moneysaving dining deals, so picking up the tab is painless.

SOHO in Atlanta is putting on a “Low Down Lobster Boil” that includes corn, potatoes, andouille sausage and a salad for just $25.

* Dads celebrating in Chicago should check out Kinzie Chop House, where you’ll receive a complimentary drink flight and free dessert.

* In New York, Havana Central Union Square is offering a complimentary hand-rolled cigar.

Philadelphia puts the free in freedom with Cork Restaurant. Fathers will enjoy a free rib eye steak when he dines with his family!

* San Francisco‘s Chaya Brasserie is serving a three-course brunch that includes bottomless draft beer and terrific views. Just make sure Dad’s not the designated driver.

* Frugal diners and sports fans will love what’s being offered at Sazerac in Seattle. For just $10, you can buy dad a burger, a beer, and a brownie while you watch the Mariners game.

* If Mom took your Dad out to celebrate in Washington, D.C. the night before, consider hitting up POV at the W Hotel for “Dad’s Hangover Washington Bellini Brunch.” At just $39, your father can get rid of a hangover (or work on another one), thanks to the  bottomless Bellinis.

Learn more about these and other Father’s Day offers at fine (and fun!) restaurants near you, and book a table today.

OpenTable for iPad Is Here: Satisfy Your iPad App-etite Today!

OpenTable-for-iPadMany people have been asking when OpenTable will bring its mobile app to Apple’s iPad.  We are excited to tell you that the answer is — today!  You can now download the latest OpenTable app here.
As a mobile product manager, I wanted to share our view of this exciting platform. While it’s not yet entirely clear, we believe people will use the iPad in different ways than they do the iPhone. Until there are a greater number of 3G-capable devices in diners’ hands, we won’t know whether the primary use will be at home, at work, or on-the-go, but when the iPad is used in the home, it tends to be a communal device. Like the TV remote, it’s something that is likely shared among friends and family while sitting on the couch.  Because most dining decisions are communal, the iPad, then, is a terrific platform for planning where to eat tonight (and every night). The iPad’s generous screen means that you can browse more information at once, making it easier and faster than ever to find the perfect open table any time.
Developed in close collaboration with Sequence, the OpenTable iPad app incorporates all the unique features iPhone users have come to know and love while putting even more information at diners’ fingertips. Where we go from here – and where you dine — is up to you, dear iPad user.
Don’t delay; download the free OpenTable for iPad today.  And, please be sure to share your feedback with us at iphonefeedback@OpenTable.com.
OpenTable-for-iPadMany people have been asking when OpenTable will bring its mobile app to Apple’s iPad.  We are excited to tell you that the answer is — today!  You can now download the latest OpenTable app here.

As a mobile product manager, I wanted to share our view of this exciting platform. While it’s not yet entirely clear, we believe people will use the iPad in different ways than they do the iPhone. Until there are a greater number of 3G-capable devices in diners’ hands, we won’t know whether the primary use will be at home, at work, or on-the-go, but when the iPad is used in the home, it tends to be a communal device. Like the TV remote, it’s something that is likely shared among friends and family while sitting on the couch.  Because most dining decisions are communal, the iPad, then, is a terrific platform for planning where to eat tonight (and every night). The iPad’s generous screen means that you can browse more information at once, making it easier and faster than ever to find the perfect open table any time.

Developed in close collaboration with Sequence, the OpenTable iPad app incorporates all the unique features iPhone users have come to know and love while putting even more information at diners’ fingertips. Where we go from here – and where you dine — is up to you, dear iPad user.

Don’t delay; download the free OpenTable for iPad today.  And, please be sure to share your feedback with us at iphonefeedback@OpenTable.com.

Still not convinced? Watch a demo of the OpenTable for iPad app in action below!

Dining Out With Kids: What’s Your Opinion?

Mom helping daughter cut food.At OpenTable, we’re fans of all kinds restaurants. We love romantic restaurants as well as those that are good for groups. We love to find places where you can dine with your four-legged friends. And because we were all little foodies once upon a time, we’re glad there are terrific kid-friendly restaurants. But, not everyone thinks kids and restaurants go together.

While there are plenty of ways to make dining out with children a positive experience for all parties (including the people at the next table), some parents choose not to bring their kids to certain restaurants. Also, not every restaurant goes out of its way to accommodate children. Still, there are upscale restaurants in New York (though Eater NY would disagree) and London that embrace tiny diners, as well as many more all around the U.S..

Do you take your children to fine-dining restaurants? Do they enjoy it? Have someone else’s children ever marred your fine-dining experience? Weigh in here or tell us what you think on Facebook.

Restaurants 86 Filament Bulbs, Special Requests; Beirut’s the New Vegas; More

Recent trends and tips from the restaurant world…

* Some folks have had their fill of filament lights in restaurants. [The New York Times]

* The age of celebrity-chef worship continues… [Time]

* …which may explain why they’re turning down your special requests. [NY Post]

* Shark has jumped the shark in Hawaii. [Associated Press]

* New York City restaurateurs fear a bad grade from the DOH will cause their businesses to fail. [Gothamist]

* Laptops in restaurants leave a bad taste in some diners’ mouths — and some guilt on Michael Bauer’s conscience. [InsideScoopSF]

* Certain Manhattan hotspots only want hot waitstaff serving up hot plates. Lawsuit, anyone? [NY Post]

* You can now become a food snob in seven simple steps. [Salon]

* Clean your plate — or one chef will make you pay, literally and figuratively. [MSNBC]

Continue reading…