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This tiny Thai takeaway started out as a side project without a permanent address, but it put down roots in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood late last year. Chef Wiley Frank, formerly of Lark, and his wife, Poncharee Kounpungchart, first sold their cuisine in two restaurants and a farmers market for a series of pop-ups before finally committing to a brick and mortar location. Little Uncle has a short, but deeply flavorful, menu that showcases Far Eastern favorites like sala bao neua buay (steamed buns with braised beef cheek), pad Thai, and housemade hibiscus soda.
In 2010, the humble burger was getting the gourmet makeover everywhere you looked. Last year, the simple sandwich finally got the respect it so richly deserves. At Graham Elliot’s Chicago sandwichery, which opened just before Christmas, guests can choose from gourmet options like the Waldorf Chicken – multigrain piled with flame grapes, candied walnuts, gorgonzola crumbles, shaved celery, and grilled chicken – and the Grilled Cheese – sharp cheddar, cheese curds, tomato marmalade, and cracked pepper pressed between slices of hearty Pullman loaf. The MasterChef star rounds out his menu with housemade pickles, and snacks like peanut butter oatmeal cookies dotted with chocolate chips.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
This ambitious shrine to shellfish has helped turn Washington, D.C.’s 14th Street corridor into one of the hottest dining districts. Since opening last fall, it has been packed to the gills. Since the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations, there’s usually a long line of diners looking forward to digging into icy platters of oysters, NOLA-inspired entrées, and comfort-focused desserts. To make sure that customers don’t go somewhere else before their names are called, owners opened Black Jack bar upstairs. The theory is that time always seems to pass quicker when you’re enjoying craft cocktails and playing a few rounds of bocce.
Beauty & Essex
Walking into this restaurant can be deceiving, since it’s styled like a funky pawnshop. But get beyond this fantastical facade and you’ll find a sprawling 10,000-square-foot establishment that includes three dining rooms, a private dining space, a bar, and a lounge. This not-so-hidden gem in New York’s Lower East Side focuses on shareable plates. Many dishes are clever reinterpretations of well-known dishes, such as the grilled cheese, smoked bacon, and tomato soup dumplings, and General Tso’s monkfish. Since it opened just over a year ago, Beauty & Essex has been able to transcend the considerable hype the surrounded its debut and simply concentrate on putting out memorable food in a truly unforgettable setting.