Emerging Concepts

What Bon Appétit’s 7 Best New Restaurants this Spring Have in Common

“Best of” lists are quite common in the restaurant industry, with numerous platforms selecting destination restaurants around the country you don’t want to miss. What makes these restaurants stand out from the crowd? Is it a well-known chef? Are they part of a restaurant mega-group? Do they have an in with the publication? 

To come up with an answer, we looked at the well-known food and entertainment magazine Bon Appétit. Recently, they came out with the “Must-Visit New Restaurants of Spring.” While some have already opened their doors, others anticipate their grand entrance to the culinary world in May or later. Let’s explore what makes these new restaurants worthy of the must-see category.

New Restaurants Making the Grade

The restaurants that made Bon Appétit’s list include: 

  • Camelia in Los Angeles
  • Dogon in Washington, D.C.
  • Gene’s in Atlanta
  • Lenox in Seattle
  • Lola’s in New York City
  • Minyoli in Chicago
  • Xiquita in Denver

The Location

The first commonality is that all these restaurants are opening in major cities, many known as food capitals of the U.S. Atlanta has been called the American South’s foodie capital. New York City has been defined as the food capital of the entire nation. Denver is gaining traction, being ranked as one of the most foodie-friendly cities by WalletHub and even beating out all the others on the list. 

Food & Wine listed Seattle as one of the best cities for food and drinks, noting the fresh seafood and produce and a diverse population. Washington, D.C. is home to 25 Michelin-starred restaurants, and Chicago is, well, Chicago—a city that’s been on the best foodie destinations since creating the Chicago hot dog and the deep-dish pizza.

According to Eater, one of the hottest new restaurant trends in Los Angeles is restaurant resurrections. As with most big cities, a month doesn’t go by without some restaurants closing their doors. In March, 3rd Stop, El Muelle 8, El Torito, and Mezcalero were a few of the many to shut down in Los Angeles County.

On the upswing are the resurrections, closed restaurants finding a new life with new owners. Those with a recent new lease on life include Sweet Lady Jane, Café Tropical, and Souplantation. Despite its closures, you’ll still find Los Angeles on the list of must-visit restaurant havens.

The Food

Almost every restaurant on the list offers a unique spin on regional cuisines.

Camelia offers a Tokyo-style French bistro. While that may be somewhat hard to visualize, its menu items align with classic French offerings containing Japanese influences. One example is a bouillabaisse with yuzu, ginger, and chorizo oil.

The menu at Dogon will incorporate numerous culinary cultures, including Jamaica, Louisiana, and Nigeria. Expected items include Jamaican patties and braised oxtails.

Gene’s focuses on Viet-Cajun-style barbeque, frozen drinks, and Jell-O shots. This unique combination incorporates fresh herbs with some heat and utilizes the Viet-Cajun cooking style of heavily smoked meats.

Lenox will offer Afro-Latin style food with items like a sofrito-brined fried chicken sandwich and a smoked brisket-based ropa vieja. Much of the cooking is inspired by the chef’s upbringing in Spanish Harlem.

Lola’s combines classic South Carolina food, like crispy chicken thighs, with flavors from the chef’s Filipino American heritage. Menu items include fish of the week with daikon som tum and coconut red curry as well as fried tilefish lettuce wraps with kohlrabi slaw.

Minyoli focuses on the distinct fare in Taiwan’s Juan Cun, or military dependents’ villages. These villages served as housing for the armed forces of the Republic of China, and it’s where the chef and owner, Rich Wang, was born. Here, you’ll find traditional beef noodle soup with herbal broth incorporating spices like cinnamon and cardamom, along with hand-crafted springy noodles and tender beef shanks.

Inspired by Mexico City, Xiquita explores the indigenous flavors of Mexico while letting guests watch fresh corn tortillas and tamales being made to order. Some of the indigenous ingredients include hoja santa and epazote herbs. One offering, tikin xic, is a Yucatan dish that wraps kanpachi fish in a banana leaf and grills it over charcoal.

The Chefs

Some of the chefs opening these must-see restaurants are well-known in the industry.

Chef Kwame Onwuachi is a James Beard Award winner and Top Chef contestant well-known for his Afro-Caribbean-inspired Tatiana, a popular New York restaurant. Now, he’s returning to Washington, D.C., to open Dogon.

Chefs Charles Namba and Courtney Kaplan opened their first restaurant and next-door sake bar in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Tsubaki, a classic izakaya, opened in 2017 and soon garnered the title of the best restaurant in Echo Park. Ototo, the sake bar and sister restaurant, won the 2023 James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine or Other Beverages Program. Now, with the help of the restaurant group Sprout LA, they’ve set their sights on Camelia.

Chef Avery Cottrell started Gene’s as a pop-up that has grown in popularity, often selling out. Known for his beef tallow refried beans and zesty barbeque flavors, many of Chef Cottrell’s flavors and combinations are derived from his time spent cooking in New Orleans. Cottrell partnered with the owners of Kimball House and John Ward of Victory Brands restaurant group.

Another pop-up turned brick-and-mortar, Lenox is the creation of Chef Jhonny Reyes, a winner of Food Network’s Chopped in 2022. He’s also known for helping open JuneBaby, a popular soul food restaurant.

Lola’s is the creation of Chef Suzanne Cupps, a one-time intern turned sous-chef at Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern in New York. Lola’s is Cupps’ first foray into restaurant ownership.  

Taiwan-born Chef Rich Wang worked at award-winning restaurants such as Fat Rice and Boka before setting out on his own with Minyoli. Between employee and restauranteur, he headed to Lanzhou in China to study hand-pulled noodle making.

Chef Erasmo Casiano and business partners Diego Coconati and Michelle Nguyen are opening Xiquita. This trio also owns Create Kitchen & Bar and Lucina Eatery & Bar. Both Casiano and Coconati are 2024 James Beard Award semifinalists for Best Chef in the Mountain region. 

The Commonalities

So, what did we learn from our foray into the spring’s best new restaurants? Unique regional cooking inspired by a chef’s childhood or heritage plays heavily in reaching “best of” stardom. It also doesn’t hurt to have a James Beard Award or background as a contestant on a popular food show.

At Emerging Concepts, we help leading restaurants and entertainment concepts successfully expand their brands nationwide. Our data scientists, real estate experts, and restaurant professionals evaluate numerous opportunities, determining which ones minimize risks while maximizing returns. To learn more about Emerging Concepts or to schedule a consultation, contact EMERGING today.

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