As many of you know, in the restaurant industry there are countless “Best Of” lists, from world-renowned restaurants to the best in every city in the U.S. Do you ever wonder how restaurants make these nearly limitless lists?
What is it that makes these restaurants stand out? What instance transported them from a local go-to spot to a national celebrity? Is it the chef’s personality, their extreme prowess in the kitchen, or a combination of both?
Let’s explore one of the most recent lists, Bon Appétit’s 10 Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings of Fall 2023, and discover what led these brands to this prestigious position.
Global Authentic Food & Pop-Ups
There are two commonalities you’ll notice immediately. These restaurants focus on global fare, with many bringing local regional cuisine to their area. While growing for some time, in 2023, authenticity combined with local and traditional flavors is the defining trend.
The other common element is that many of these new brick-and-mortar establishments started out as pop-ups. Pop-ups enable chefs to test their ideas and fare before making a major investment in a restaurant and garnering the attention of investors. Some started as test markets, while others realized their exceptional concept thanks to the excitement and booked reservations their pop-ups provided.
3rd & Fernwood – Charlotte, NC
The boutique, chef-driven Bayhaven Restaurant Group, and husband and wife team Greg and Subrina Collier are behind this much-anticipated restaurant. Its focus is on the cuisines of the African diaspora, with the James Beard nominated chef, Cleophus Hethington, leading the way. You can expect dishes like grilled catfish with okra gravy and sides like creamed collard greens and hambone grits. An 18-seat speakeasy will also call 3rd & Fernwood home.
Anelya – Chicago, IL
This soon-to-open restaurant was inspired by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Johnny Clark, a chef with family ties in the besieged country. The owner of Chicago’s Parachute, a Korean-American restaurant, and his wife, Beverly Kim, hosted Ukrainian pop-up dinners that featured regional specialties, donating all proceeds to aid Ukrainian initiatives. The pop-up is turning into a permanent restaurant and will offer dishes like varenyky, potato and sweetened cheese dumplings.
Erba – Miami, FL
Chef Niven Patel, the well-known restauranteur responsible for Miami hotspots like Mamey, Orno, and Ghee Indian Kitchen, is bringing his pop-up, which closed at the onset of the pandemic, to a permanent location. Erba, an Italian restaurant, will turn ingredients from his farm, Rancho Patel, into the dishes he prepared while in Florence. You can expect items like Ibérico Porchetta Chop with mango agrodolce.
Hiraya – Washington, DC
Another pop-up turned brick-and-mortar, Hiraya is the creation of chef Paolo Dungca and Juan and Jeremy Canlas. The tasting menu focuses on the food of Dungca’s childhood in the Philippines. His pop-up, with 28 seats and a Filipino tasting menu in a food hall, was a huge success. On the first floor of his new venture, you’ll find a casual all-day café serving Filipino pastries and breakfast fare while the Hiraya Restaurant & Bar welcomes you upstairs.
King BBQ – Charleston, SC
Beijing-born Shuai Wang grew up in Queens, where he met his wife-to-be, Corrie. They moved to Charleston and opened a food truck, which found a way to a permanent location three years later—a heritage-driven New Chinese American restaurant called Jackrabbit Filly. Next came a roving pop-up focusing on Chinese BBQ, reminiscent of larger cities’ Chinatowns. This is to become their next brick-and-mortar, with chef de cuisine Brandon Olson. Olson brings his North Carolina classic barbecue influence, while Wang delivers traditional Chinese cooking. You can expect items like smoked pork shoulder with a Sichuan peppercorn dipping sauce.
Naks – New York City, NY
Unapologetic Foods describes itself as a “group of rebels, outliers, and passionate foodies, out to redefine Indian food.” And, apparently, this restaurant group is doing just that. Their concepts include Dhamaka, addã Indian Canteen, Semma, Masalawala, and Rowdy Rooster. While these restaurants highlight the regional cuisines of India, Naks is focused on Filipino cooking by chef de-cuisine Eric Valdez. Here, you’ll find food wrapped in banana leaves meant to be eaten by hand and dishes like lechon liempo, a crisp pork belly with unique, regional dipping sauces.
Other up-and-coming restaurants to make Bon Appétit’s list include Sailor in New York City, Suá Kitchen & Superette in Los Angeles, Tuk Tuk Snack Shop in Lexington, and Zoé Tong in Austin.
Are pop-up restaurants profitable?
Many are profitable and innovative—creating unique menu items and testing their concepts. Pop-ups also have many challenges, including local regulations and time constraints.
What are some examples of regional cuisines?
In the restaurant industry, regional cuisine is often based on local regions. For instance, Italian food may have its roots in regions like Tuscany, Campania, or Abruzzo.