Counter Point: 5 Restaurants Offering Reservations and Counter Service

Traditionally, there was a strong split between casual counter service eateries and fine dining restaurants with table service. These days, enterprising entrepreneurs are trying to recalibrate restaurants by blending the two experiences together in a variety of creative configurations. Here are five restaurants offering reservations and counter service — rewriting the rules.

Megu, New York, New York
Make a reservation to sit down in the dining room or simply saunter up to the sushi counter where it’s first come, first serve. Chef Frances Tariga-Weshnak’s dishes delight the eye and the palate equally, so be prepared to shoot an Instagram before you take a bite. Hone in on the spicy tuna and truffled avocado roll, radish-adorned Wagyu beef, and the Matcha crepe layer cake. Make a reservation at Megu.

Restaurants offering reservations and counter service

Kingside, New York, New York
You’ll need a reservation if you want to score one of the plush booths at this New American stunner from chef Marc Murphy. However, the counter with red stools at the back is open to walk-ins. No matter where you sit, make sure to order the burger topped with fiery giardiniera relish, soppressata, and a slab of white cheddar, as well as Pecorino toast slathered with a snowdrift of ricotta and a golden drizzle of truffled honey. Make a reservation at Kingside.

Restaurants offering reservations and counter service

Little Gem, San Francisco, California
Counter service by day, reservations by night. This out-of-the-box groundbreaker is the brainchild of owner Eric Lilavois and chef Dave Cruz, both alums of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. The idea is to accommodate a casual crowd during the day, while making it a potential date-night spot after darkness falls. Expect globally inspired salads, soups, bowls, hearty plates, and a variety of shared plates. Read the full story of this modern California eatery in our blog post here. Make a reservation at Little Gem.

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Restaurants For Change Unites Chefs Across Canada to Make a Difference

Restaurants for Change

We have all experienced the power of food in one way or another. It brings people together, it fosters community and it nourishes our body and soul, among so many other things. In low-income communities especially, access to healthy food is a significantly transformative force. Organizations like Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) are not only important advocates for the life-changing power of food but seek to empower communities to work toward a healthy and fair food system. With issues like food insecurity, poverty, and poor diet on the rise, not just in Canada but all over the world, the work they do is more relevant and important as ever. But CFCC isn’t only up to speed with the current state of the food economy, they are in tune with the changing trends within the culinary landscape as well and how they can utilize those trends to make a change.

“As interest in food and cooking has increased, so has the influence of chefs,” says Danielle Goldfinger, fundraising and events manager for CFCC. “People who care about food care what chefs have to say and that’s why it’s critical they lend their voices in support of an equitable food system.”

To this end, CFCC has united 65 restaurants across Canada in 15 cities, from Vancouver to Halifax, to produce their national fundraiser Restaurants For Change. On Wednesday, October 19, proceeds from dinner service at participating restaurants will be donated to support CFCC and other like-minded organizations that bring people together to grow, cook, share, and advocate healthful food for all.Continue Reading

Dine Like a Local in Chicago: 8 Top Neighborhood Gems in the Windy City

A city of neighborhoods, Chicago is unsurprisingly full of hidden-gem eateries. Even in the most intolerably touristy areas, you can find a few spots packed mostly with locals if you know which tree-lined street to duck down or who to ask. We’ve done some of that legwork for you, highlighting nine Chicagoan-approved restaurants that span old-school red sauce joints, fine-dining temples, heartland-tinged gastropubs and even a few favorite haunts of local chefs. So, travelers, put away the map, and bring your Midwestern-sized appetite. Here’s where to dine like a local in Chicago.

High-end, retro pub fare at The Duck Inn, Bridgeport
A favorite among local and visiting chefs alike, chef Kevin Hickey’s gastro-tavern with retro decor in the warehouse district of southside Bridgeport raises the bar on this oft-overlooked dining neighborhood. Playful dishes range from potted foie gras with ginger-plum gelee and masterful rotisserie duck to one of the best gourmet takes on the legendary Chicago-style hot dog — a beef and duck-fat dog with onions, relish, and celery salt on a housemade brioche bun. Wash it down with clever cocktails like the Daily Intake with brandy, house “Newtoncello,” apple butter, brown butter, and lemon in a midcentury globe-lit lounge and you’re halfway to Mad Men. Make a reservation at The Duck Inn.

Dine like a local in Chicago

Multi-course theater at goosefoot, Lincoln Square
This diminutive, 24-seat BYOB spot in the tree-lined Lincoln Square ‘hood isn’t listed among the fine-dining spots you hear about all the time (Alinea or Grace ring a bell?). But it should be. Chef Chris Nugent’s market-driven, modern American tasting menu seamlessly blends disciplined French training and contemporary artistry for a memorable, dozen-odd courses. It may start with lemongrass-tinged scallops with lobster and sun blossoms, building to asparagus tortellini with smoked rabbit or Angus beef with fragrant nasturtium. Dessert is always followed by a packaged treat from the kitchen’s chocolate lab. Such intricate dishes make for a slow-paced meal, so give yourself a couple hours to soak in this intimate bit of dinner theater. Make a reservation at goosefoot.

Dine like a local in Chicago

Unique sea-inspired fare at Sink | Swim, Logan Square
You might overlook this nautically tinged Logan Square restaurant in search of newer, buzzier spots — all of which seem to flock to this super-trendy hood. But the 18-month-old Sink | Swim from the team behind Scofflaw (a gem of a gin bar in its own right, just down the street) offers some of the most unique takes on seafood you’ll find in the city — not in the oddity of sea creatures they source, but rather in how they punctuate everyday dishes with oceanic nods. Take the refreshing crushed cucumber salad with crème fraîche, dill, and the subtle funk of dried seaweed or the BBQ fish collar with tangy kimchi. Roomy booths, a long wood bar, and easy-drinking cocktails make it an ideal weeknight retreat in this area. Make a reservation at Sink | Swim.

Dine like a local in Chicago

Whimsical tasting menus at Ruxbin, West Town
Five years after Edward Kim’s Ruxbin splashed on the scene, this BYOB New American spot with its funky, repurposed interior remains a fave among Noble Square residents. Kim’s subtle creativity in blending his French training and Asian heritage is on display better than ever since the a la carte menu was replaced by a five-course, prix-fixe one late last year. Unlikely yet whimsical matchups range from yuzu ponzu-bathed cobia with horseradish pomme puree, heirloom cucumber, and foie gras to chicken-fried celery root with white bean “ranch”, smoked tomatoes, and wild watercress. Make a reservation at Ruxbin.

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7 Creative Cranberry Cocktails: Seasonal Sips Chock Full of Good

The fall kicks off cranberry harvest time when those adorbs little red berries, ripe for harvesting, float to the top of the bog. In many areas of the country, the harvest is celebrated with festivals with bonfires and fireworks. Restaurants and bars also honor the tart, antioxidant-rich berry. Here are seven creative plays on cranberry cocktails that transcend the Cosmopolitan (#sorrynotsorry, Carrie Bradshaw!) and embrace autumn. Keep calm and cranberry on!

Seasons 52-Perimeter, Dunwoody, Georgia
The refreshing Cranberry & Sage cocktail stars PrairieOrganic Gin, white cranberry juice, fresh muddled cranberries, simple syrup, and lime accompanied by a fresh cranberry and sage leaf garnish. Make a reservation at Seasons 52-Perimeter.

Cranberry Cocktails

Streets, Williamsburg, New York
An edgy and local BK take on the classic Moscow Mule, Streets’ Cranberry Ginger Mule stars cranberries, fresh lime, and Ginger Beer. Streets sources the fresh cranberries from the farms at Brooklyn Terminal Market. Make a reservation at Streets.

Cranberry Cocktails

Lucy Restaurant & Bar, Yountville, California
The craftologists at fun-loving Lucy in the Bardessono Hotel & Spa have debuted hand-crafted I Love Lucy-inspired cocktails. “The Ethel” cocktail features Hardy Cognac, fresh cranberries, white wine, orange juice, apples, and club soda. We’re guessing Lucy loves it. Fred? Who knows! And Ricky wants to add a splash of rum. Make a reservation at Lucy Restaurant & Bar.

Cranberry Cocktails

Mr. Purple, New York, New York
Mr. Purple is the signature drink at this rooftop bar and restaurant on the 15th floor of the Hotel Indigo Lower East Side — and it will color your world. Their cran-centric drink is a blend of Casamigos Reposado Tequila, Mr. Purple punch mix (cranberry liqueur, Allspice Dram, apple, and lemon) and a garnish of six healthful cranberries. Make a reservation at Mr. Purple.

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