Restaurant Industry Insights

May the Restaurants of the Year Stand Up

As the Oscars wait in the wings, we in the restaurant industry have our own ‘best of’ declaration. USA Today just released their 2024 Restaurants of the Year. Journalists from across the country laid claim to the best eateries in their area, from small-town favorites to destination fine-dining establishments. 

Should these be on your dining bucket list? Let’s see what these journalists deemed their favorite eateries as we roll out the red carpet and highlight a few of the 47 that made it to this list. And the winners are… 

Urban Bar & Kitchen in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama and the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Urban Bar & Kitchen made the headlines for its Southern comfort food. Think Bacon Bombs, Crab Claws, Fried Green Tomatoes, Southern Chicken BLT, and Shrimp & Grits for brunch. They describe their restaurant’s interior as minimalist boho meets industrial and their restaurant as a “cultural epicenter showcasing unique roots, originality and bold flavors.”

Comfort food and community ties made the list of several predictions for restaurant industry trends in 2024. UBK stayed true to both and has become a favorite in Druid City. They’ve also incorporated two additional trends this year: social hour and brunch.

Cocina Chiwas in Tempe, Arizona

Mesquite-fired Mexican cooking and unique agave spirits take center stage at Cocina Chiwas. It’s described as comfort food taken to new heights (there seems to be a theme here). One of the owners, Armando Hernandez, built all the tables, chairs, and mesquite grill. A ceramic artist handmade the bowls and plates. A few of their offerings include Parrillada, Pulpo Pipian, and Chicharron.

Alps Village in Palm Desert, California 

Alps Village offers Balkan cuisine with dishes derived from Bosnia, Croatia, Germany, and Serbia. Items like Cevapcici combine sausages with lepinja, a Balkan pita bread, onions, and kajmak, a cheese spread. Sljivovic is the signature drink, a traditional plum brandy from the Balkan region. This restaurant also offers brunch.

Another trending feature in these restaurants is the adoption of regional flavors and food. 

Beijing Noodle in Fort Collins, Colorado

Described as a hidden gem inside a squat strip mall, Beijing Noodle serves Chinese food from Henan Province, including scratch-made noodle dishes. Here, you’ll find traditional fare that is far different from Americanized Chinese dishes. 

Try Rou Jia Mo, Chinese hamburgers, or Five Spice Pig Ears. According to the Coloradoan, they go through 200 pounds of flour a week making noodles.

Harry’s Savoy Grill in Wilmington, Delaware

Harry’s Savoy Grill has been the city’s premier steakhouse since 1988. Their signature prime rib au jus is aged 45 to 60 days. With a beautiful patio, an award-winning wine list, and a reputation for the ‘Best of’ in fine dining in the Delaware region, it’s nice to see a restaurant going strong after 35 years.

Brother Fox in Pensacola, Florida

If you’re a fan of Food Network’s Chopped, you may remember Darian Hernandez, a one-time Chopped champion. Now, he is the executive chef of Brother Fox, a restaurant that was once a church. The cooking is a “live fire” approach rooted in rustic Old World cooking. 

Barn 8 in Goshen, Kentucky

Located on the 600-acre Hermitage Farm, Barn 8 is a restaurant that offers a unique ambiance with tables inside horse stalls accompanied by bourbon barrels. This is farm-to-table at its peak, with a seasonal menu that serves the freshest ingredients found right outside their door.

Owamni in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Chef Sean Sherman, also known as The Sioux Chef, created Owamni, an Indigenous restaurant that has removed all colonial ingredients, including wheat flour, cane sugar, and dairy. Sherman opened the restaurant to bring more jobs to the area and purchase Indigenous products from Native food producers. In September 2023, it was acquired by North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems, a nonprofit organization.

And that’s the tip of the iceberg of America’s restaurants of the year, as journalists saw. There’s some commonality among many, including regional cuisine, unique experiences, and chefs incorporating the food they grew up with. It looks like there are some great restaurants here to put on your dining-out bucket list. 

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