The golden age of American dining is upon us, thanks in no small part to an emerging cadre of talented young chefs. Coming from a variety of culinary disciplines and regions, this collection of cooks creates inventive and undeniably American experiences, bringing friends, family and strangers together over food.
Spanning both coasts and covering an array of cuisines, the following chefs are worth keeping an eye on — and worth paying a visit the next time you’re nearby.
Mission Chinese Food (New York + San Francisco) / Mission Cantina (New York)
Born in South Korea and raised in Oklahoma, Danny Bowien brings a decidedly irreverent and delightfully inauthentic style to his restaurants. Bowien’s first solo endeavor was Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco, which took the culinary world by storm, earning honors from Bon Appetit and GQ in 2011.
In 2012, the chef expanded his empire to the east coast, opening an outpost of Mission Chinese Food in a disheveled split-level space on New York’s Lower East Side. Mission
Chinese featured pan-Asian flavors infused with a heavy dose of infusions from across America, resulting in dishes such as Beer-Brined Smoked Pickles and Kung Pao Pastrami. Bowien’s most recent endeavor is Mission Cantina, a Tex-Mex-and-everything-else restaurant serving Country Fried Chicken Livers, Smoked Pork Jowl, and Crispy Pig’s Head Terrine.
After working in some of America’s most highly acclaimed kitchens during his rapid ascendance (Alinea, French Laundry, Tru, Charlie Trotter’s), Christopher Kearse opened his first restaurant, Will, in 2012. Located on a charming stretch of Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, Will serves a modern mix of French dishes in an unassuming 30-seat space.
The chef’s carefully crafted menus include a Tuesday Tasting Menu, a Sunday Prix Fixe, and a nightly smorgasbord of dishes that marry ingredients from America’s East Coast and techniques from France’s Burgundy. Specialties include Kearse’s Hudson Valley Foie Gras + Rabbit Terrine, Roasted Garlic Parisian Gnocchi, and Rhode Island Skate Wing.
Tao Yuan (Brunswick, Me.) / Bao Bao Dumpling House (Portland, Me.)
Maine isn’t known as a hotbed of cutting-edge Asian cooking, but Cara Stadler is changing that, one restaurant at a time. Stadler learned from the best during her formative years in Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai before landing in Maine and founding Tao Yuan alongside her mother, Cecile.
Tao Yuan’s menu, which changes daily, brings Asian street food flavors and more refined favorites to Brunswick, Maine. Recent Tao Yuan specials include Heirloom Carrot and Watermelon Salad with Barley Miso Carrot Dressing, Pork and Pumpkin Dumplings, and Curry Coconut Parsnip Soup. Stadler’s most recent venture is Bao Bao Dumpling, a casual dumpling house tucked away on a tree-lined street in Portland, Maine. Dumpling filling options run the table from simple (Chicken Cashew) to complex (Lamb, Black Bean Chili and Peanut) at the restaurant, which opened in October 2014.
Corazón y Miel (Bell, Calif.) / Picnik (Pasadena, Calif.)
Corazón y Miel blends the high-end culinary background of chef Eduardo Ruiz with the flavors of his youth to create a unique take on Salvadorean cuisine. Tucked away just 10 minutes from Downtown LA in the working-class suburb of Bell, California, the restaurant boasts a menu bursting with a rainbow of tastes, including Salmon with Black Mole and Pickled Cauliflower, a two-pound Salvadorean Turkey Leg Sandwich, and house-made Potato Chips with Tarragon Crema.
Ruiz recently expanded his SoCal empire to the other end of Los Angeles County, opening Picnik in Pasadena. The multi-concept restaurant blends a casual Beer-and-Bratwurst menu with full-service cocktail-and-entree options, all served in the heart of Pasadena’s top shopping strip.
The Grocery (Charleston, S.C.)
Charleston stands at the vanguard of contemporary American cooking, and The Grocery is one of the city’s top standard-bearers. Chef Kevin Johnson parlayed almost two decades of experience in kitchens along the eastern seaboard into this newest venture, where he serves a seafood-forward selection of dishes pulled from local purveyors.
In addition to his sea-sourced items, Johnson plates refined twists on classic southern flavors, crafting vegetable-driven dishes like Wood Roasted Broccoli and Braised Roma Beans alongside a rich duck-and-pork Cassoulet and Pig Skin Pad Thai.
Get a taste of Kevin Johnson’s cooking: Visit www.thegrocerycharleston.com or follow him on Twitter: @KevinJohnson_