At home or on the road, you can enjoy discounts on meals this month at cities across the nation, thanks to August 2016 Restaurant Weeks.
At OpenTable, we believe that one of the best ways to connect with a city and its culture is through its cuisine. Putting lens and pen at two cultures on either side of the Atlantic, we commissioned British photographer Emma Hardy with New York writer Ian Frisch to document the life of New York City restaurant Hundred Acres and its relationships to family, farm, and purveyor. In London, we teamed New York-born photographer Daniel Shea with native London writer Tom Morris, and together they experienced Grain Store and its many connections to city, land, and sea. Through these pairings between a local and a traveler, we sample a compelling contrast between these sister cities – one person encountering a place for the first time and another developing a profound appreciation for their home.
The results are documented in Connected, a quarterly journal from OpenTable that shares visual and written stories that go beyond the restaurant table. In celebration of the journal’s launch, on July 12th, we held our “TransAtlantic Tables: As cultures converge, new perspectives emerge” event nearly simultaneously in New York and London at the restaurants chronicled in the journal. We invited local writers in attendance at each event to pen an open letter to the people of the sister city about their love for restaurants in their native city for an opportunity to win a trip across the pond for a dining spree recommended by a savvy local in the Connected community. The winning entries are Kayla’s Five Things entry on New York and The Bearded Bakery on London. Click on over for their unique takes on their respective cities.Continue Reading
Whether it’s the iconic three-tiered silver tray with canapés and white-glove service or something fresh like al fresco iced brews and a “TeaJ” in lieu of a harp, afternoon tea is getting pinkies and thumbs up. Boston Public Library has even gone so far as to cancel its lunch service to make space for sippers all week long, and dads can get in on the game with boozy brews and heavier snacks like s’mores with maple-smoked bacon at another seaside hotel in that historic city. Blame it on an urge to celebrate British traditions with all of this Brexit talk — the union of savory and sweet in the afternoon will always win on this side of the pond at one of these top high tea restaurants.
The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts
Tea is just as much a feast for the eyes as the stomach at Boston Public Library, where the historic McKim Building, circa 1895, was declared a U.S. national historic landmark in 1986. The Courtyard Restaurant overlooks an open-air Italianate courtyard with a vaulted ceiling and ornate chandelier originally installed over a grand staircase in the 1950s, and the aesthetic was completed with the installation of a marble floor in the nineties. “Enjoying tea in the restaurant is transportive,” says manager Akiko Yamagata. “Sitting in the serene dining room in a historic building, one’s imagination takes hold, into a different time and its customs — just like reading a captivating novel.” The extensive menu — which changes several times a year — is just as captivating and features blends from Massachusetts-based outfit MEM Tea Imports, including the popular Wedding Blend, a fruity, flowery, and herbaceous green. Make a reservation at The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library.
Pavilion at The Langham, Chicago, Illinois
Pavilion at the Langham in Chicago, truly brings a tradition from across the pond to the shores of Lake Michigan with its Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood — which first debuted at the Langham in London in 1865. Sweet and savory bites like artichoke and melted leek quiche, a grilled asparagus sandwich with petite lettuce salad, pickled mustard seeds, and fresh ricotta, lemon-cherry scones with grapefruit marmalade and blackberry jam, and chocolate verrine with dark chocolate brownie and milk chocolate mousse are served much the same way they were more than a century ago. The Pavilion serves up 25 blends including five blends exclusive to the Langham, including a fruity rhubarb for kids. Make a reservation at Pavilion at The Langham.
Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia
It’s no surprise that being in British Columbia the folks at Butchart Gardens would honor the British tradition of teatime — but what is unique is the way in which they incorporate West Coast flair. Both executive chef Travis Hansen and pastry chef Keith Tran — both of whom have worked at the Gardens for more than 25 years each — pride themselves on signature items such as locally smoked wild salmon, curried Cowichan Valley chicken salad, and candied ginger scones from an old family recipe. Summer is an especially ideal time to visit the Gardens for another reason, says sommelier and dining room manager Dave Lane, who notes that the Backyard Flight program is a “must-try. We’re extremely fortunate to be surrounded by wineries and orchards that provide us with world-class wines, spirits, and liquors, and every year we pick the best to pair with our teas to showcase the terroir and character of the growing conditions. It’s a unique experience not found anywhere else.” Make a reservation at Butchart Gardens.
Modern Tea, Chicago, Illinois
A tradition gets a makeover at Modern Tea in Chicago, where the Radisson’s swanky lobby with couches and a gold-plated mirror puts a new spin on live music from a jazz or string quartet with a “TeaJ.” There are eight Rishi teas from which to choose (available over ice when the mercury climbs) and outside seating for al fresco dining featuring sweets from the hotel’s new pastry chef Caroline Kolaja. One of her specialties is a basil passion tart, though she also admits to having a penchant for cake batter ice cream — her first industry job was as a Ben & Jerry’s scooper in high school. Make a reservation at Modern Tea.
Pembroke Room, New York, New York
Good things come in threes at the Pembroke Room, which features three styles of service: the classic, the Pembroke Royal, and the Lowell Imperial. Each includes a selection of more than 20 Dammann Frères fine French tea varieties, classic finger sandwiches (curry chicken, cucumber and watercress, lobster roll) a dill, egg, and cornichon salad, caviar blinis with goat cheese, scones, petit fours, and more. But the latter two options give you a chance to enhance your experience with a glass of rosé, port, or sherry as part of the Pembroke, and Champagne and caviar with the Lowell Imperial. Look for further enhancements starting in September, when the space will get a spruce-up with new furnishings, carpet, window treatments, and design elements meant to keep the spirit of the room while maintaining the tradition of classic elegance that’s been the setting for generations of bridal bashes and baby showers. Make a reservation at the Pembroke Room.
To find under-the-radar gems, head out to the neighborhoods. Often run by husband and wife teams, these noteworthy spots are just off the beaten path. But they are definitely not just for insiders only. Try one out on your travels to the Bay Area to dine like a local in San Francisco.
Noe Valley is known for many things—it’s where Mark Zuckerberg resides (along with the church that was featured in Sister Act)—but it’s not typically a dining destination. However, there are a couple of places that are destination-worthy including Contigo. Opened by a chef with a passion for Barcelona and his wife who runs the front of the house, the menu offers both tapas and larger raciones both cold and hot. Staple items since day one include wood oven-roasted Half Moon Bay sardines with avocado toast served with pickled red onions and smoked salt and Catalan coca flatbreads with seasonal toppings. A must-order dish is the Monterey chipirones (squid) a la Plancha with arroz negro, chorizo, squid ink, and aioli. Make a reservation at Contigo.
Spaghetti Brothers is off the main drag of the Marina and practically on the edge of the Presidio. True to its name, the spaghetti with uni could make an Italian diner weep tears of joy. The restaurant’s dark interior, strong drinks, and retro specialties, such as toasted ravioli served with marinara, garlic bread, and a chopped salad with feta, sharp cheddar, and salami give it an old school Italian-American vibe. In a word, it’s fun. Don’t miss the lively happy hours and the popular brunch, which is served until 4PM on Sundays. Make a reservation at Spaghetti Brothers.
Chef Kris Toliao is a rising star to be sure. His skills were honed working for Dominique Crenn and at a 2 Michelin star kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo. His wife, Yuka Loroi, smoothly oversees both the front of the house and the beverage program. The reasonably priced wines, beers, and sakes perfectly complement Toliao’s imaginative cuisine. Dishes include the creative use of grains, housemade pickles, cured salts, and jams. Locally sourced fish is a specialty often combined with seasonal ingredients in dishes like Seared Catalina Island Yellowtail with summer corn, olive oil-poached carrots, summer kale kimchee, and bacon black rice. Even simple salads are elevated to something special, such as the Sonoma Little Gem, Green Beans & Strawberry Salad with Armenian cucumbers, dried blueberries, herbed crème frâiche, crispy brown rice, and almonds. Make a reservation at Cassava.
1601 Bar & Kitchen
Another restaurant owned by a husband and wife team, 1601 Bar & Kitchen serves food from chef Brian Fernando that is a fusion of Sri Lankan and California flavors — and positively compelling. In fact, you can’t go wrong with a single dish on the menu. There are two choices for dining — a tasting menu or small plates. And the small plates are very well portioned for sharing. A few of the dishes on the tasting menu, such as the street food favorite egg hopper, are available as a small plate as well. It’s a lacy rice flour and coconut milk crisp crepe, topped with an egg and served with sambals. It’s in a decidedly odd location South of Market but still well worth seeking out. Though the house-smoked salmon and bavette steak are incredible, the vegetarian dishes, including a kale salad with coconut, Parmesan, and black garlic vinaigrette and the crispy okra with cashews, are equally satisfying. Make a reservation at 1601 Bar & Kitchen.
1760 is on a stretch of Polk Street more known for late night drinking than eating, and yet it’s fitting that it’s the perfect spot to indulge in a post-work drink or a leisurely brunch on the weekends. The current chef adds welcome Filipino touches to the menu. On the menu, you’ll find Crab Fat Congee with crispy pork, a soft-cooked egg, and heirloom tomato, and on the dinner menu Pork Sisig with sieved egg, kohlrabi, and ginger aioli. These dishes are so tasty it, will make you wonder why Filipino food has yet to take the country by storm! Make a reservation at 1760.