Most important restaurants in America
(Credit: Courtesy Animal)
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Los Angeles, CA
In the history of American cooking, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo will probably go down as the guys who introduced stoner cuisine to the masses. Their signature dishes, like Buffalo-style pig tails, melted petite Basque cheese with chorizo, and foie gras biscuits and gravy, may share an entry with Doritos Locos Tacos and deep-fried Twinkies. That would be a shame. Animal's food is smart, not smart-ass. Every dish is generous and freewheeling, but also exacting, disciplined, and balanced—in other words, very unstoner. By serving a menu of upscale munchies in a gritty, minimalist space in the old Jewish neighborhood of Fairfax, the two also changed the dining culture in L.A., making food, not the scene, the centerpiece. Not bad for a pair of self-made chefs, who deserve to be remembered for creating dishes rooted in satisfaction and comfort—no matter why you crave them.
(Credit: Matt Duckor)
New York City and beyond
David Chang wasn't the first to transform brussels sprouts from a side to a star. He wasn't a pioneer when it came to playing any music he wanted, and loudly. Backless chairs and no tablecloths were nothing new. And his world-renowned pork buns? Chang admits he ripped those off. But Michael Jordan wasn't the first guy to dunk, either. What Chang did was put it all together and turn a tiny East Village storefront into the most important restaurant brand of the past decade—on his own terms. Momofuku is fun, unexpected, and full of attitude (too bad if you want something served "on the side"). The food avoids easy categories, and it is always evolving. Pork buns and ramen led to bo ssäm, crudo, and Fuji apple kimchi with jowl bacon, each dish addictive and, above all, on the leading edge of where food was—and is—going. Chang's empire, which has expanded to include Noodle Bar, Ssäm Bar, Ko, Milk Bar, Má Pêche, and Booker and Dax, plus spots in Sydney and Toronto, has changed our dining culture for good (and for the better). I know because I see it—and taste it—every time I eat out.