Sure, big showpiece restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs are glamorous and exciting. Their atmosphere makes for great theater, plus they turn out some seriously delicious food. But if you’ve had enough showboating and are seeking less swagger, then check out our picks for the coziest tiny restaurants around the country, where the food is micro-prepped, the atmosphere is intimate, and the experience often includes a ringside seat to the chef’s open kitchen.
MKT, Seattle, Washington
With only 28 seats (six tables and ten seats at the chef’s counter), MKT makes it feel like you’re sitting around the kitchen island of a very good cook rather than in a renowned outpost of chef Ethan Stowell’s mini-empire. And that’s why diners love it. “When people are seated at tables or in booths, they’re in their own little world,” says chef Alvin Go, who interacts with guests as he preps, and watches complete strangers connect while asking questions about each other’s meals. “At MKT, everyone interacts with each other.” To complement all this coziness, MKT is offering plenty of items cooked on its wood fire grill, including seared duck breast with pickled huckleberry. There’s also porcini ricotta ravioli, and several dishes integrate local apples, and quince (which comes from neighbors’ fruit trees.).Make a reservation at MKT.
Loosie’s Kitchen, Brooklyn, New York
Steps away from the Williamsburg Bridge, hidden behind Loosie’s Rouge, a bar with killer cocktails and Cajun-inspired small plates…there’s Loosie’s Kitchen, which has just 30 seats in the off-season (the number doubles in summertime thanks to an outdoor area). Come for the family-style dishes of fried chicken with house pickles and hot sauce, the duck confit with a shepherd’s pie, the macaroni with bacon, and the Nutella beignets — but stay for the impromptu games of Twister, the Hangover Brunch (dress code: pajamas), or maybe even a yoga class (No kidding. The staff puts these events on at random, which adds to the tight-knit community vibe). If you go, also prepare to be dazzled by high design, both in the décor and on the plate. There’s lots of white (painted bricks, oversized plates) paired with splashes of color and warm, natural wood. And given all that Loosie’s has going on, count on leaving full and with a slew of new BFFs. Make a reservation at Loosie’s Kitchen
Joe and Misses Doe, New York, New York
The best way to describe this place: a quirky mom-and-pop establishment smack dab in the middle of the big city with ambitious and totally successful food. Ya feelin’ the vibe yet? With only 26 seats and a 100-square-foot kitchen, Joe and Misses Doe will dazzle you with its four-course chef’s menu (choice of appetizer and entrée, set dessert, and a bread courses) that changes every two weeks. “Our space is unassuming,” explains Jill Dobias, who owns the restaurant with her husband, chef Joe Dobias, “but prepare to be wowed by what Joe creates.” Because it’s small, the restaurant gets to work with highly-focused purveyors who turn out top quality products in small batches. The result: a devoted clientele who sometimes cram in several visits during a two-week period to enjoy a menu a few times before it’s switched out. Make a reservation at Joe and Misses Doe.