It’s the Little Things: 10 Thoughtful Restaurant Amenities #hackdining

Michelin-level food, stellar service, or awe-inspiring settings can go a long way to creating a memorable meal. However, sometimes it’s the littlest touches that make the biggest impact. Here are 10 thoughtful restaurant amenities that help diners enjoy a next level experience.

Madison, San Diego, California
Situated in the trendy University Height’s neighborhood, the sleek Mediterranean eatery boasts a gorgeous cedar-lined patio. On evenings when the temperatures dip, guests dining al fresco can request one of the monogrammed fleece blankets. As they snuggle up, we recommend ordering another round of well-executed cocktails – such as the View From Above with rye and ancho chili liqueur – to help ward off the chill. Make a reservation at Madison.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, San Francisco, California
A lot of restaurants have valet parking. But this waterfront eatery is one of the few to offer free valet parking — for diners’ boats. The dock and dine perk allows waterborne guests to enjoy a seamless experience from the decks of their yachts to the restaurant’s patio. Make a reservation at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

Besito, Burlington, Massachusetts
There are amenities galore at this Mexican restaurant. Little diners are given complimentary banana and avocado when they arrive, giving them something to nosh on while their parents peruse the menus. During the summer months, outdoor tables are stocked with sunglass cleaning wipes and treat/water bowls for dogs. And guests are sent home with still warm, freshly made churros at the end of their meal. The only perk we can’t guarantee is a besito (little kiss). Make a reservation at Besito.

Thoughtful Restaurant Amenities

Stars, Chatham, Massachusetts
Forgot your glasses at home, so now you can’t read the menu? Never fear, there’s an array of Moscot glasses on hand in a variety of prescriptions and styles. Once the menu is in focus, we recommend the butter poached lobster and the oyster stew topped with pork belly and caviar. Make a reservation at Stars.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

Swift & Sons, Chicago, Illinois
Want tickets to the sold out Kanye West concert happening that night? Forget to bring flowers to your anniversary dinner? Looking to get into an exclusive speakeasy for post-dinner drinks? The in-house concierge can help with all these problems and more. Frankly, we wish they were available to tag along with us on all our nights out on the town. Make a reservation at Swift & Sons.

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Get Out! Top San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants for ‘Summer’ in the Bay Area

It’s September, which in San Francisco means the beginning of Indian Summer and the end of Fogust. As the temperatures climb into the 70’s and 80’s, we channel our inner Elaine Benes and tell everyone to get out – outside, that is. It always feels special to dine al fresco, and while many restaurants offer sidewalk seating, these spots feature honest-to-goodness patios, verandas, and terraces that amp truly amp up the ambience. Of course, most of these top San Francisco Outdoor Dining restaurants also have heat lamps — because Bay Area weather. Read on to find out where to make the most of this special SF season.

Le Colonial
This classy French-Vietnamese eatery has a charming and unique patio space. The tiled promenade leading to the restaurant’s entrance is an atrium-like veranda, featuring outdoor seating at tables nestled among palm fronds and banana trees — romantic and evocative of the storied elegance of Vietnam in the 1920’s. The French and Vietnamese chefs offer a menu of classic Vietnamese dishes, such as crispy Saigon crepes and fresh spring rolls, as well as fusion dishes like Pot Au “Pho” with braised oxtail and short ribs in a oxtail bouillon, crispy vermicelli noodles, turnips, pearl onions, and shaved radish served with mushroom bone marrow fondue. Make a reservation at Le Colonial.

San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants

Richmond neighborhood Italian joint Fiorella serves up pizzas and pastas, but equally good are the comfort food classics like luscious wood-roasted chicken and Guittard chocolate budino with hazelnuts and Maldon sea salt made from a recipe handed down from the mother of one of the partners (a retired chocolatier). The newly opened back patio is bright and cheery with yellow chairs and a soothing rock garden perimeter with desert plants and cacti giving the space a decidedly SoCal vibe. Make a reservation at Fiorella.

San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants

The patio right along the Embarcadero,that fronts Americano is a magnet for après workday libations as well as for business lunches and dinners. The outdoor space is set back from the street but affords a view of the San Francisco Ferry Building, peeking at the Bay Bridge and the bay itself, and yet it’s frontage is swathed with greenery and is the front yard space every apartment dweller wishes he or she had. The California and Mediterranean menu offers pizzas, pasta, and snacks aplenty, including deviled eggs, crispy chickpeas, and feta piquillo dip to nibble on while you enjoy the nature at its urban best. Make a reservation at Americano.

San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants

El Techo
San Francisco isn’t known for roof bars — but there is one notable exception. In the heart of the Mission lies El Techo de Lolinda, a choice spot for cocktails and Latin American street food. It’s also beloved for its lively brunch that showcases Mexican dishes like the chorizo scramble with roasted vegetables, avocado, potatoes, and chipotle or carnitas served with black beans, escabeche, chipotle salsa, and housemade tortillas. Pro tip: Wash it all down with pitchers of margaritas or palomas. Make a reservation at El Techo.

San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants

Palm House
No time for a vacation? You can take a Caribbean staycation without leaving the city, courtesy of Palm House. Chill at this fun spot facing Union Street and savor an eclectic menu under a covered terrace just beyond the sidewalk. Watch the world go by while sipping on a chipotle mango margarita and nibbling on macadamia nut crusted mac and cheese, jerk chicken tacos, and bay scallop ceviche. Make a reservation at Palm House.

San Francisco Outdoor Dining Restaurants

Trou Normand
This downtown destination, known for creative cocktails and for one of the best in-house charcuterie programs in the city, has a covered and heated patio just behind the restaurant in the courtyard of 140 New Montgomery. Akin to a secret garden in San Francisco’s Financial District, it’s enclosed in a striking steel and glass awning and outfitted with heaters and retractable canvas walls. The patio is weatherproof and available year round making it perfect for private events and parties — but it’s open to lunch and dinner diners as well. Make a reservation at Trou Normand.

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Visual Sugar Rush: 8 Pastry Chefs on Instagram to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Pastry Chefs on Instagram

Scrolling through your Instagram can give you a visual sugar rush. That’s because pastry chefs are using the  photo-driven app to show off their most dazzling creations, give diners a peek into the baking process, and hint at what sweet treats might be coming to their menus next. Here are eight highly accomplished pastry chefs on Instagram you should follow if you’re trying to figure out what delicious dessert to dive into next.

Scott Green, aka @chef_scottgreen, of Pavilion, Chicago

Before he got into pastry, Green attended fine arts school to study oil painting and ultimately received a degree in graphic design. His dexterity with composition, color, shape, and form are showcased in the drool-inducing photos he posts. “Different medium, different tools, same principles,” he says.

He shoots on a Nikon D3200 using a strobe light and holds his photo sessions in a storage closet in the hotel where the restaurant is located. “When my colleagues see flashes going off under the door, they know I’m shooting and they shouldn’t come in,” he says.

Rather than follow fellow pastry chefs for ideas, his feed is full of architects, textile enthusiasts, tattoo artists, and illustrators. “I don’t want to repeat what I’ve seen,” he says. “There are a lot of people who will shoot specifically for Instagram, but I want to just shoot pictures that I like.”

Pro Tip: “Be in tune with what your audience likes and doesn’t like. I don’t put savory dishes up. I don’t put up personal shots very often. It makes me cringe when I post a photo that doesn’t fit with that I do.”

Pastry Chefs on Instagram

Chris Ford, aka @butterloveandhardwork, of THE Blvd, Los Angeles

“I want to kill it with every single post,” says Ford. “No filler. I’m not going to put a picture up if isn’t going to further me, my team, or the larger community of chefs. This attitude makes you push yourself further and harder.”

The self-taught shutterbug uses a Canon Rebel XSi to turn his pastries into Instagram stars. Occasionally, he snaps shots of his adorable French bulldog, Josephine. One of his most liked posts (nearly 6,000 hearts) features Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner. Along with Khloe and a film crew, they stopped by the hotel to score some of Ford’s well-loved cream puffs, which he topped off with edible pictures of Kanye and North. “Kris took my number, but I’m still waiting for the call,” says Ford.

We’re not sure what she’s waiting for, but we can’t urge her strongly enough to pick up the phone and call.

Pro Tip: “I shoot plated desserts from above, so you see the flow and the story of the dish. I want the viewer to see what I see.”

Pastry Chefs on Instagram

Brian Mercury, aka @mercurybrian, of Oak + Rowan, Boston

You won’t see any selfies in Mercury’s feed. No rants and raves. No political posts. His pictures fall into two distinct categories: family and food. “I’ve got a 3-year-old and an 11-month-old,” says the chef. “If I’m not cooking, I’m home with them.”

He captures his baked goods and his little ones using his iPhone 6. His go-to method for scoring a sweet shot of his baked goods is to place it outside or near a bright window and shoot it over the top. Occasionally, he’ll place a plated dessert on dirt or in the grass to add a natural element with interesting textures. “Sometimes you have to add some whimsy or put something in the background,” he adds. “But sometimes getting a good shot is just dumb luck.”

Pro Tip: “I’m a huge fan of negative space, both on the plate and in the background. I like bright white plates that makes colors pop.”

pastry chefs on instagram

Alex Levin, aka @alexnlevin, of Osteria Morini, Washington, D.C.

There’s a cult following for Levin’s best-selling warm dark chocolate cake. If he posts pictures of it too often, the restaurant gets swamped with orders and he runs the risk of running out. So, he keeps his feed lively with a mixture of his other desserts and a backstage look at the life of a pastry chef. “I enjoy inviting people to see what I do,” he says.

He wants to get his followers’ salivary glands working overtime, their hearts pumping, and have their eyes pop out of their head. “It’s about being a source of temptation,” he says. “It’s supposed to be food pornography.”

As well as enticing viewers, Instagram is a way for him to be a part of a larger community and to get a glimpse of what his peers are doing in kitchens around the world. “I get excited when I see what other chefs are doing,” he says. “It’s inspiring.”

Pro Tip: “You have to be smart about using hashtags, so you don’t annoy people.”

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Announcing the 100 Best Restaurants for Foodies in America 2016 #OpenTable100

As locals and travelers continue to explore cities through their dining cultures this fall, we are pleased to unveil the 100 Best Restaurants for Foodies in America 2016. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Best Restaurants for Foodies in America 2016

Highlighting oft-lauded fine dining and fine casual dining restaurants in well-known and emerging food cities, the complete list features restaurants in 30 states and the District of Columbia and includes Acquerello in San Francisco, Boka in Chicago, and Zahav in Philadelphia. California has 17 winning restaurants, followed by New York with nine, Pennsylvania with eight, Virginia with six, and Illinois and New Jersey with five each. North Carolina and Texas each have four honorees, while Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C. have three each. Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington state all have two eateries. Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, and Rhode Island are also represented.

Established restaurants have a strong presence on the list, although newcomers, such as Gabriel Kreuther in New York and Shaya in New Orleans, are sprinkled throughout. The most popular cuisine is American by far; however, French and Italian fares are also prevalent. Other cuisines include Asian, Hawaiian, Israeli, and Persian.

Check out a slideshow of select winners of our awards for the 100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America 2016 below.


The 100 Best Restaurants for Foodies in America list is generated from more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners between August 1, 2015, and July 31, 2016. All restaurants with a minimum “overall” score and number of qualifying reviews were included for consideration. Qualifying restaurants were then scored and sorted according to the percentage of qualifying reviews for which “fit for foodies” was selected as a special feature.

Based on this methodology, the following restaurants, listed in alphabetical order, comprise the 100 Best Restaurants for Foodies in America 2016 according to OpenTable diners:Continue Reading