I tend to have an apocalyptic frame of mind, and I often find myself thinking what few things I would save were Black Adam to destroy the world. These are not the best ten restaurants in America, mind you; they're the ones I would save from destruction. (And also the ones you need to visit someday.)
There's a couple of things you need to know about Roscoe's. First of all, it's no joke. This isn't a theme restaurant, but real soul food, as real as it gets. Second of all, don't go thinking Roscoe's only has chicken and waffles. The smothered pork chops are worth a trip by themselves.
There is no final, perfect hamburger. No quintessence of burger greatness. But if there were one, it would be this incredible little Pasadena diner, a national Mecca for burgerphiles.
There are very many pizzaphiles around the country that will tell you that this humble, old-school pizza joint is the best that America has produced. The clam pie is exhibit number one.
You can go anywhere in New Orleans to eat oysters, but you should got to Casamento's. Honestly, they're the same oysters, but the place has a kind of magic, timeless ambience, and fat housecats that lope around full of oysters, and a wonderful oyster loaf. It's the quintessence of NOLA.
Here's the thing about a lot of "classic" restaurants, especially in picturesque cities like New Orleans: they aren't always that good. Unlike Willie Mae's, which is fantastic, and serves a fried chicken so perfect it could serve as a standard for all future generations.
Union Oyster House is, as you will be frequently reminded, the oldest restaurant in the USA. It's certain that if you go here for a beer and a plate of oysters, and breathe its ancient air, you will be a better American for having done so.
Sometimes called the Mecca of deli, Katz's is more accurately the Dome of the Rock of Deli: the sanctum sanctorum, the source and shrine of all that deli means in America. Go for the mystique -- but stay for the pastami.
Yes, it's in the middle of nowhere. Yes, you have to wait a million years while owner Dom DeMarco painstakingly makes his pies one at a time. And yes, the pizza costs more than the crap sold on every corner. But these are masterpiece pies, unique in the world, and the standard by which all other pizza is judged. Live with it.
John's simply cannot be improved. The whole experience -- the dingy room, the camped-out South Philly locals, the dripping pork and soaked bread, the plastic forks and Styrofoam juice cups and bottle of Schmidt's -- deserves to be enshrined in the Smithsonian.
The chicken at Prince's isn't just hot; it's diabolically hot. But it's also diabolically good, and it would be worth going to anyway just by dint of its supremely old-school authenticity and its status as a true Southern landmark.
If Texas barbecue is a religion the "Church of Kreuz" is its vatican, the best there is. Though pitmaster Rick Schmidt has been cast out from the historic pits that are rightfully his, and has traded in his cathedral for a megachurch, in the end, it's the meat, and the master, that matter most.
The summit of sable is surely this Chicago classic, a South Side institution that is home of easily the best -- and cheapest -- seafood in the midwest.
The classic, timeless, unreconstructed Italian-American restaurant is so secret that for many years, even many Atlantic City residents never knew about it. The secret is out now, but the place hasn't changed -- yet.
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.
Carolina-style barbecue reaches its absolute summit at this landmark restaurant, which goes back over a hundred years and has never been better. The crackling is particularly majestic.