Top 100 Independents: The Heartland
Historic landmark restaurants, high-performers, outstanding new concepts—meet the best operators in cities that are gaining traction as culinary destinations.
The 404 Kitchen
Housed in a shipping container with an herb garden on its rooftop, The 404 Kitchen and Chef Matt Bolus give a modern interpretation to European cuisine.
Opened ∕ October 2013
Annual Sales ∕ $1.2–$1.5 million
Average Check ∕ $80
Owner∕ Mark Banks
The Greenhouse Tavern
Winner of this year's James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes and the first certified green restaurant in Ohio, it serves about 500 guests on a weekend night and 200 to 300 diners on weekdays.
Opened ∕ April 2009
Average Check ∕ $47
Owners ∕ Chef Jonathon Sawyer, Amelia Sawyer, Robert Voth, Umesh Ramakrishnan
Wolf's Ridge Brewing
Combining high-quality beers with California-French cuisine, Wolf's Ridge Brewing focuses on a superior dining and drinking experience, and Chef Seth Lassak took home the Best Restaurant of 2013 award presented by Columbus Monthly.
Opened ∕ September 2013
Annual Sales ∕ $1.7 million
Average Check ∕ $30
Owners∕ Alan and Bob Szuter
Le Mars, Iowa
Owner Bob Rand and his sister Lorrie Luense are the third generation of their family to run this iconic steak and seafood restaurant, which received the James Beard Foundation's America's Classics award this year.
Opened ∕ 1949
Average Check ∕ $25
Owner∕ Bob Rand
Ox Yoke Inn
This fifth-generation family-owned landmark features German-American cuisine and has served an estimated 16 million guests since opening.
Opened ∕ April 1940
Annual Sales ∕ $3 million
Average Check ∕ $19 per person, $55 per transaction
Owner ∕ Bill Leichsenring
Des Moines, Iowa
Located in a restored Masonic temple that was built in 1911, this urban Italian restaurant is a favorite stop for press and politicians during Iowa's caucuses, and even supplied the meal Bill and Hillary Clinton ate after attending Senator Tom Harkin's last political rally.
Opened ∕ November 2012
Average Check ∕ Lunch: $16, Dinner: $40
Chef/Owner ∕ George Formaro
Hog & Hominy
Known for its Italian cooking with Southern roots, the restaurant turns its back patio, aka "the holding pen," into a themed pop-up twice a year. Once a dive bar featuring a special burger, the most recent pop-up was a raw bar.
Opened ∕ June 2012
Annual Sales ∕ $1–$3 million
Average Check ∕ $40
Chef/Owners∕ Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman
St. Elmo Steak House
A storied history of serving superior steaks, seafood, and chops sets the stage for this landmark eatery, where 199,165 entrées were served in 2014 and an estimated 135,000 shrimp cocktails are served each year.
Opened ∕ 1902
Annual Sales ∕ $17.7 million
Average Check ∕ $88
Owners∕ Steve and Craig Huse
Harry & Izzy's
This upscale American grill boasts a wine cellar with nearly 3,000 bottles of wine, serves 22,000 martinis annually, and keeps a running chalkboard that highlights the odds of upcoming sporting events.
Opened ∕ 2007
Annual Sales ∕ $10.8 million
Average Check ∕ $39.80
Owners∕ Steve Huse, Craig Huse, Chris Clifford, Tom Browne, and Peyton Manning
The restaurant, where celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Hayden Panettiere are often sighted, donates $1 from each purchase of its roasted cauliflower appetizer to the Taste of the NFL Kick Hunger campaign.
Opened ∕ August 2012
Annual Sales ∕ $4.2 million
Average Check ∕ $65 at dinner, $24 at lunch
Chef/Owner ∕ Deb Paquette
For more than 20 years, New Orleans native John Currence has brought the influence of his European travels to City Grocery's eclectic cuisine, also known for its famous Shrimp and Grits.
Opened ∕ June 1992
Annual Sales ∕ $2.3 million
Average Check ∕ Lunch: $18, Dinner: $45
Chef/Owner ∕ John Currence
One Eleven at the Capital
Little Rock, Arkansas
A semifinalist for James Beard: Best New Restaurant this year, Executive Chef Joël Antunes serves such fare as Berkshire Pork, Orecchiette Pasta, Chorizo, and Seared Black Bass and Pumpkin Risotto.
Opened ∕ August 2014
Average Check ∕ Breakfast: $16, Lunch: $23, Dinner: $75
Owners ∕ Warren and Harriet Stevens
South on Main
Little Rock, Arkansas
Chef Bell, who co-owns the restaurant with actors Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson, serves refined Southern dishes like Duck Breast with Jalapeño-Cheddar Corn Pudding, Kale & Bacon Jam, and Veggie Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Crust.
Opened ∕ August 2013
Annual Sales ∕ $1.2 million
Average Check ∕ Lunch: $12, Dinner: $28
Chef/Owner ∕ Chef Matthew Bell
Winner of this year's James Beard Best Chef: Midwest, Executive Chef Nate Hereford makes everything in-house, from the charcuterie to Camembert cheese, and no ingredient can come from outside the region, beyond a range of about 300 miles.
Opened ∕ November 2012 (In a different location for seven years prior.)
Annual Sales ∕ $3–$5 million
Average Check ∕ Four-course menu: $67, Chef's tasting menu: $100
Chef/Owner∕ Gerard Craft
Elaia and Olio
Two halves of a dual-restaurant concept, Elaia is a romantic, candlelit spot where service is elegant, yet casual. Olio, by contrast, is a casual wine bar located in a renovated 1930s Standard Oil Filling Station. The two are connected by a corridor and each seats 36 guests.
Opened ∕ October 2012
Annual Sales ∕ $2 million
Average Check ∕ Elaia: $100, Olio: $32–$35
Chef/Owner ∕ Ben Poremba
Kansas City, Missouri
The fine-dining restaurant Michael Smith shares staff and space with its casual partner-concept, Extra Virgin, an upscale, hip gastropub.
Opened ∕ July 2007
Annual Sales ∕ $2.9 million
Average Check ∕ $65
Owner ∕ Chef Michael Smith and wife Nancy Smith
The restaurant still serves many of the same items that it did when it first opened nearly 100 years ago, and this year Beaumont Inn received the James Beard Foundation's America's Classics award.
Opened ∕ 1917
Annual Sales ∕ $1.25 million
Average Check ∕ $25–$35
Owners ∕ Chuck and Helen Dedman, Elizabeth and Dixon Dedman
Located below street level, the restaurant has a private, cozy, modern speakeasy feel about it. Ironically, its famous chicken and waffles dish has been photographed more often than many celebrities.
Opened ∕ February 2013
Average Check ∕ $40
Chef/Owner∕ Edward Lee
A landmark restaurant that was rescued by Chef Lee from years of neglect, the restaurant features a prix fixe tasting menu of contemporary Southern fare—but Chef Lee has never repeated a tasting menu at the restaurant.
Opened ∕ First opened in 1978. Edward Lee took it over in June 2004.
Average Check ∕ $125
Chef/Owner∕ Edward Lee