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weinoo

25 Most Important Restaurants of the Last 30 Years

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For no specific reason, I'm wondering what people think are the 25 most important restaurants to open over the last 30 years, throughout the United States. I want to do 25, but I could only come up with 22 - I need help with the final 3.

My reasons are many and varied. It might be because the chef or owner went on to fame and fortune, once the restaurant(s) listed opened. Maybe the chef already had some fame, but this restaurant brought she or he the fortune.

Maybe it's a seminal restaurant; a restaurant that so (re) defines a genre, clones start sprouting up, usually first in New York City and then all over the damn place.

It might be because I've been reading about a particular chef/restaurant for my entire, adult, food-centric life - and I've never been, but want to go.

So, do you have one that isn't on this list? Let me know - and give a reason or two.

If a restaurant is on this list that shouldn't be, by all means, I want to know that too.

I'm also aware that a lot of restaurants on this list are in New York or California. Could be because those are the 2 places I've lived my entire, adult, food-centric life; but maybe it's because that's where those restaurants happen to be. And, interestingly enough, most of the restaurants I've listed are still open; if not the original, a spin-off somewhere or other.

So, in alphabetical order, a list of 22 restaurants, that should be 25:

Alinea

Babbo

Coyote Cafe

French Laundry

Gotham Bar & Grill

Gramercy Tavern

Inn at Little Washington

Jean Georges

Le Bernardin

Lupa

Mansion on Turtle Creek

Manresa

Mesa Grill

Momofuku Ssam Bar

Norman's

Nobu

Per Se

Spago

Star's

Topolobampo

Union Square Cafe

WD-50


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Gotta have Chez Panisse.

(I hope Weinoo realizes I mean it as a compliment when I say I suspect he left it off on purpose, in order to make a point when we all jump to fill it in.)


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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Very interesting topic.

Definitely agree re: Babbo, Chez Panisse (though maybe you chose Stars instead for that general camp of resturants), French Laundry, Momofuku Ssam Bar.

Especially agree with Manresa, which is, to my mind, the single best restaurant I've been to in the United States, and also one of the most frequently overlooked and under-appreciated.

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why mesa grill?

since we're looking back 30 years, i'd add lutece. i'd also add masa.

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never mind lutece -- "opened in the last 30 years" oops

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why mesa grill? 

since we're looking back 30 years, i'd add lutece.  i'd also add masa.

Mesa Grill essentially launched Bobby Flay and even, to a certain extent, the Food Network, as well as bringing that style of cooking to New York City.

Lutece opened in the 60's.

Masa - what's the reason behind that choice?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Well, actually Chez Panisse isn't on the list because it opened more than 30 years ago... :wink:

You mean you're NOT as crafty as I think?

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Not necessarily.

He came out of Commander's Palace (which has generated enough significant chefs that it would otherwise be worthy of inclusion) -- and it's too old for the list by a lot.

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Mesa Grill essentially launched Bobby Flay and even, to a certain extent, the Food Network . . .

On that basis, you'd have to include Emeril's.

On the basis of chef fame only, yes. I don't think the food was as revolutionary to New Orleans as Mesa Grill's was to New York City.

This could be one of those cases where Flay and Mesa came before the Food Network, whereas the Food Network probably begat Emeril's fame as both a chef and a restarauteur.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Well, actually Chez Panisse isn't on the list because it opened more than 30 years ago... :wink:

You mean you're NOT as crafty as I think?

Absolutely not! Imagine if I had said 40 years and left off CP?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I might get laughed out of the joint with this suggestion, but I would add Chapel Hill's Crook's Corner to the list. Why? Because its owner/chef, Bill Neal, re-introduced Southern cooking to the country. There aren't many Southern restaurants that weren't influenced by the work of Bill Neal in his little pig-adorned restaurant.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Interesting that you've got both The French Laundry and Per Se on there. French Laundry I buy, but how do you justify Per Se?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I might get laughed out of the joint with this suggestion, but I would add Chapel Hill's Crook's Corner to the list.  Why?  Because its owner/chef, Bill Neal, re-introduced Southern cooking to the country.  There aren't many Southern restaurants that weren't influenced by the work of Bill Neal in his little pig-adorned restaurant.

Many people besides Neal make a claim to that sort of influence, and I'm not sure I'd pick him. Regardless, there should definitely be someone representative of the "(new) southern" movement on the list.


Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Mesa Grill essentially launched Bobby Flay and even, to a certain extent, the Food Network . . .

On that basis, you'd have to include Emeril's.

On the basis of chef fame only, yes. I don't think the food was as revolutionary to New Orleans as Mesa Grill's was to New York City.

This could be one of those cases where Flay and Mesa came before the Food Network, whereas the Food Network probably begat Emeril's fame as both a chef and a restarauteur.

I will respectfully disagree. First of all, if Mesa's food was more revolutionary to NYC than Emeril's was to New Orleans, then that has more to say about NYC itself than it does about Emeril's restaurant. Furthermore, Bayless had already opened both Frontera and Topolobampo before Mesa, so I would suggest those restaurants had already introduced the concept of high end, fine dining, neuvo-Mexican food.

Second, in my opinion, for better or worse, Emeril made the Food Network.

Also, what about Charlie Trotter's? It opened in '87

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Mesa Grill essentially launched Bobby Flay and even, to a certain extent, the Food Network . . .

On that basis, you'd have to include Emeril's.

On the basis of chef fame only, yes. I don't think the food was as revolutionary to New Orleans as Mesa Grill's was to New York City.

This could be one of those cases where Flay and Mesa came before the Food Network, whereas the Food Network probably begat Emeril's fame as both a chef and a restarauteur.

Both Emeril's and Mesa opened in 1991. The case that Flay "launched" the Food Network is pretty weak, I think. At a minimum, he'd have to share credit with Lagasse, Sara Moulton and a few others.

I wasn't aware that influence in New York was part of the criteria. More than Prudhomme, Lagasse (let's not forget that he was the one with the five-nights-a-week prime-time show) brought Louisiana cooking to the country.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Jean Louis @ The Watergate

Charlie Trotter's

Le Bec Fin

Le Cirque

Four Seasons

le Pavillon? (too long ago?)

etc, etc, etc


Edited by GordonCooks (log)

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Jean Louis @ The Watergate

Charlie Trotter's

Le Bec Fin

Le Cirque

Four Seasons

le Pavillon? (too long ago?)

etc, etc, etc

Le Cirque, Four Seasons, Le Pavillon, probably Le Bec Fin, ALL too long ago.

You must be really young.

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Both Emeril's and Mesa opened in 1991. The case that Flay "launched" the Food Network is pretty weak, I think. At a minimum, he'd have to share credit with Lagasse, Sara Moulton and a few others.

I wasn't aware that influence in New York was part of the criteria. More than Prudhomme, Lagasse (let's not forget that he was the one with the five-nights-a-week prime-time show) brought Louisiana cooking to the country.

It isn't. As I stated above:

For no specific reason

So, a pretty good case is made for the inclusion of Emeril's, though as Sneakeater mentioned, Emeril was kind of already a star at Commander's Palace. Was Commander's Palace more of an important restaurant than Emeril's?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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My point was that it is. It's kind of Ground Zero for contemporary Cajun cuisine (and too old for inclusion on your list).


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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