Picky Eater’s Paradise: Restaurants to Please a Crowd #friendsgettogether

You’ve been there before. You’re planning dinner with out-of-town guests and you have to find a venue. You don’t know everyone’s personal dietary restrictions or preferences, and, more important, you don’t have time to make inquiries. You just need to find a place that is going to serve delicious food that will satisfy each guest – a tall order given the number of possible considerations there are around what people choose to eat.

You’ll want to steer clear of single-cuisine (or single-dish!) restaurants, but fusion and seasonally focused eateries typically have expansive menus that can both satisfy the finicky and wow the adventurous. To help you plan a get together with any number of picky eaters, here are five types of restaurants to please a crowd.

The Dazzler: FT33, Dallas, Texas
The menu is a head-turner, but the first thing that will catch your group’s collective eye is the restaurant itself. The Dallas Design District darling has a modern, rustic feel with a crisp open kitchen and a farmhouse-meets-industrial design aesthetic. Chef Matt McCallister creates artistic dishes featuring fresh ingredients from the restaurant’s personal garden as well as local purveyors. The oft-changing menu is broad and exciting — think chicken liver and onion sausage with potato porridge and black truffle, and smoked potato with maitake, pictured. The chef’s tasting menu, available Tuesday through Thursday with advanced notice, will create long-lasting memories for you and your out-of-town guests.

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The Casual-Yet-Cool Catch-All: Fig Tree Café-Hillcrest, San Diego, California
A quick glance at the menu for Fig Tree Cafe reveals a cornucopia of offerings that includes short ribs, pork belly, pork chops, pizza, ravioli, jidori chicken, crispy eggplant, and much, much more. The short-rib flatbread, pictured, and meatloaf hash are persistent favorites in this relaxing venue with a fresh-air vibe. Gorgeous boards of cheese and charcuterie will whet your appetite for more, and a broad list of drinks both soft and hard will rejuvenate your group any time of day. Try one of the antioxidant juice shots (açai, mangosteen, or goji) or a flight of all three! Or, throw caution to the wind and settle in with a pomegranate Bellini or strawberry mojito.

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The Hotspot with the Broad Menu: Essex, New York, New York
From oysters and tacos to veggie burgers and seared ahi tuna, pictured, this Lower East Side Sunday brunch favorite has the goods and the space to make your group meal a winner whatever day of the week it is. If you’re a drinking crowd, you’ll want to hit their wallet-friendly happy hour for $1 oysters and half-price drinks Sunday through Friday.

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Six Super Satisfying Soul Foods to Celebrate Soul Food Month

Though the term ‘soul food’ wasn’t introduced until the 1960’s, this heritage cuisine has roots extending back to African slaves in the 14th century. Its original dishes were forged out of the off-cuts and leftovers they were given by their owners, supplemented with whatever produce they could grow or forage and the wild game they hunted. Over time, it evolved to include a broader variety of ingredients and has become the backbone of what most people consider Southern cuisine. Traditionally, this comforting cooking was served mainly below the Mason-Dixon line, though now you can easily find it to the north in New York City and beyond. To honor Soul Food month, we’ve assembled six super satisfying soul foods that will stick to your belly and give you a little taste of history.

Blujeen, Harlem, New York
Chef-owner Lance Knowling is a master of elevating rootsy cuisines to new heights. A perfect example is his smothered pork tenderloin, which comes spangled with sweet potato succotash and a dappling of pan drippings. No wonder Chelsea Clinton hired him to cater her wedding.

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Café B, New Orleans, Louisiana
Mac ‘n’ cheese may well be the ultimate comfort food. This winning rendition is made with Irish white cheddar, Gruyere, and Parmigiano-Reggiano – plus a Parmesan topping. Gloriously gooey and über-rich, it’s the perfect kickoff to a meal or a satisfying side.

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Macon Bistro & Larder, Washington, D.C. 
There are few more satisfying sides than a basketful of warm biscuits. These butter-rich rounds are flaky, fluffy, and filling. Split one open to spread on your choice of sweet honey butter or piquant pepper jelly.

Paschal’s Restaurant, Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, and Aretha Franklin have all made pilgrimages to this soul food mecca. They came for the restaurant’s blue ribbon fried chicken, which has been made with the same recipe since 1947. Each order comes with a breast, leg, and wing, plus your choice of a side (go for the collard greens or black-eyed peas).Continue Reading

Calling All Chefs: Top Chef Season 12 Auditions in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles + NYC

TCNOLASeason 11 of Top Chef just wrapped (Congrats, Nicholas Elmi!), but we’re already looking forward to the next mouthwatering competition. If you’ve always aspired to compete on the show that has helped usher in the next generation of America’s best chefs, come on down! Casting calls for season 12 of Top Chef are being held in cities across the U.S. This is the ideal opportunity to get in front of the folks who have had a hand in furthering the cooking careers of dozens of Top Chef winners and cheftestants.

Auditions begin TODAY in Atlanta and Dallas and head to other cities in the coming weeks. The current schedule is:

* ATLANTA: February 18 10AM-1PM, at The Spence, 75 Fifth Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia.

* CHICAGO: February 24, 10AM-1PM, at Spiaggia, 980 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

* DALLAS: February 18, 10AM-1PM, at Hotel Palomar Dallas, 5300 East Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, Texas.

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On Our Plate: Top Tables with a View; Boston + Washington, DC Restaurant Week Reservations; Snap Better Foodspotting Pics + More

DCRWHappenings on and around OpenTable…

* Congratulations to the winners of the 2013 Diners’ Choice Awards for Top 100 Scenic View Restaurants. Find out which restaurants have heart-stopping views and mouthwatering dishes.

* Are you a Foodspotter? Use these insider tips from Luke McKinley of Ravish to make your pics look even more delish!

* New York City Restaurant Week continues. Three-course $25 lunches and $38 dinners through August 16.

* Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week is on like Tron. Take advantage of $35 dinners for one or two through August 25.

* Dining out in the Big Easy is even easier with COOLINARY New Orleans. Enjoy 2 or 3-course lunches for $20 or less and 3-course dinners for $35 or less through August 31.

* Houston Restaurant Weeks continue! Enjoy $20 + $35 brunches, $20 lunches, and $35 + $45 dinners through September 2.

* Spice up your summer with Miami Spice. Order up special $19 or $23 lunches and $33 or $39 dinners through September 30.

* Baltimore County Restaurant Week starts TOMORROW! Get charmed by $15.13-$30.13 lunches and $15.13-$35.13 dinners through August 25.

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