Vegetable cookery has now entered the culinary mainstream -- which means that the best chefs in the US strive to do it well. But only a few can be the best. And these are those chefs.
No one has cooked high-end, modern, exciting vegetarian food longer than Millennium; you could even go so far as to say that they were the first great (and for many years the only great) vegetarian restaurant. The world has caught up to some extent but this is still a very find restaurant.
Still, to my mind, the defining New York restaurant, Gramercy Tavern is the crown jewel in Danny Meyer's restaurant group, partially as the result of chef Michael Anthony's amazing greenmarket cooking, and partially because of its incredible service, great cocktails, and Nancy Olson's superb dessert program. One caveat: the front room is all air and color and excitement, and the back room is a drab dungeon.
The model of New Scandinavian dining -- wildly original dishes composed of foraged food from the immediate vicinity of the restaurant -- has no more faithful acolyte than this rarefied restaurant, set on a tiny island off the coast of Seattle.
There are two schools of modernism in America: hi-tech and naturalist. Their apexes, respectively, are Alinea and Manresa. Every chef that pays homage to nature with exquisitely composed tributes to natural flavors, composed in harmony, is to some extent drawing from the spring of David Kinch's seminal work at his remote Los Gatos restaurant.
While claims that this is the French Laundry 2.0 may be overstated, there's no question that this Napa luxury restaurant, with a charismatic young chef and world-class cuisine, is a worthy peer of America's most famous restaurant.
Daniel Patterson's precise, original, and elaborately composed and presented food occasionally annoys some diners who are just there to eat dinner. But this is a restaurant with a singular vision and you just need to go with the flow. Patterson isn't world famous for nothing.
A lot of LA chefs talk the seasonal / local game, and why shouldn't they? California is a food paradise. But few have the art, originality, and sophisticaton of Quinn Hatfield, the brilliant chef behind Hatfield's.
The city's coolest vegetarian restaurant is wholly a product of Amanda Cohen, the spunky chef who redefined what meatless cooking could be like through her embrace of modern technique and the liberal use of butter and cream. (Don't ever mistake Dirt Candy for vegan.) It's small to the point of being cramped and by no means cheap, but if, like me, you have vegetarian food, come here and change your mind.
With a young chef direct from The French Laundry -- where he ran the show for Thomas Keller, mind you -- this small but intensely original and refined Asian-American restaurant has established itself very quickly as one of the finest in America.
Superchef Sean Brock's tribute to Southern heritage foods is righly famed the world over. Obviously, fried chicken is the ticket here, but if you go at lunch don't miss the stupendous double cheeseburger, a true hidden gem. The bourbon bar next door is your next stop.
Vegetable whiz Justin Yu has carved out a place for his genius creations in the unlikeliest of destinations -- meat-mad Houston, Texas, which has responded to his tweezer dishes with acclaim and enthusiasm.
Hip, casual, and creative, this Philadelphia restaurant is, as its name suggests, vegetarian, but not in the stuffy, unpleasant, nasty way that many diners associate with the term. It's so fun, and the food so flavorful, that you could forget you're not eating meat.
Bryan Voltaggio's wildly original, elegant, modernist restaurant sits in an old townhouse on a quiet street in a remote Maryland town. But people come from all over to see his startling creations, and they are seldom disappointed.
Just a year or so ago this was just another LA restaurant, primarily known for having a good gourmet hamburger. Then the genius vegetable chef Jeremy Fox showed up, an eccentric megatalent who had been out of the game for a couple of years. Now it is a can't miss culinary experience.