Nick Pironio
Raleigh, North Carolina's Death & Taxes was a James Beard finalist for Best New Restaurant.

Top 100 Independent Restaurants in the State Capitals

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Our annual list of Top 100 Independents highlights leading operators in the state capitals.
By Connie Gentry, Danny Klein, Amanda Baltazar, Korsha Wilson July 2016 Research

Put political buzz and party affiliation aside—this year the spotlight focuses on the top independent operators in state capitals throughout the U.S. As a starting point, FSR sought nominations from state and local restaurant associations. A number of factors contributed to the reasons these restaurants were recommended: Food, beverage, and hospitality were clearly considerations, as were community engagement and giving back to the industry.

See All 100 Independents in a Sortable Chart.

While there were some capital cities where one or two restaurants dominated, in most cases we received a long list of worthy contenders. Curating the list down to the 100 most notable was a labor of love and arduous research, but the end result is a collection of notable restaurants that range from landmark destinations with generations of family ownership to newcomers boasting edgy chefs and innovative cuisine.

See last year's story on the Top 100 Independents

From a gem hidden in a tiny airport terminal in Augusta, Maine, to a soul food mecca built by its owner’s hands in Jackson, Mississippi, the Top 100 Indies are helping to grow capital cities into culinary destinations. Granted, some of the state capitals have already left their mark on food maps across the nation—booming markets like Atlanta, Denver, Boston, and Austin, Texas. Others, such as Pierre, South Dakota, Frankfort, Kentucky, and Helena, Montana, have smaller populations but feature local restaurants ingrained in the city's proud culinary history.

All of these restaurants are strong players in their cities and have garnered local, regional, and, in some cases, national recognition.

Eastside Grille

Montgomery, Alabama

Opened: February 2003

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $15

Menu: American Grill

Owners: Eric Duggan and Mitch Johnston

Chef: Mimi Faulkner

The Rookery Café

Juneau, Alaska

Opened: November 2010

Annual Sales: $1 to $1.5 million

Average Check: $21

Menu: Inventive and Elevated Alaskan Cuisine

Owners: Chef Beau Schooler and Travis Smith

Known for adventurous cuisine that captures the spirit of Alaska, native game, and locally sourced ingredients, The Rookery Café brings upscale-casual dining to the city's historic downtown. Alaskan Reindeer heart tartare, anyone?

Salt

Juneau, Alaska

Opened: January 2014

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $40

Menu: Alaskan Seafood

Owner: Kristopher Schwartz

Chef: Lionel Uddipa

Ocotillo Restaurant & Bar

Phoenix

Opened: September 2015

Annual Sales: $4.5 to $5 million

Average Check: $28

Menu: New American Seasonal

Chef/Owners: Sacha Levine, Walt Sterling

Ten

Phoenix

Opened: August 2014

Annual Sales: $750,000

Average Check: $40

Menu: Classic America

Chef/Owners: Jeff Hostenske and Brian Feirstein

Big Orange

Little Rock, Arkansas

Opened: July 2013

Annual Sales: $3.9 million

Average Check: $22.50

Menu: New American

Owner(s): Chefs John Beachboard and Scott McGehee, partner Russ McDonough

Big Orange is committed to executing an ambitious menu that highlights original burgers (there's a new one every month) with an emphasis on local products. The restaurant also operates with a focus on infrastructure, organization, career building, community relationships, and consistency. Big Orange is one of the largest purchasers of Arkansas products and produce in the state.

One Eleven at the Capital

Little Rock, Arkansas

Opened: August 2014

Average Check: Breakfast $16, Lunch $23, Dinner $75

Menu: Contemporary and Upscale Americana

Owners: Warren and Harriet Stephens

Chef Joël Antunes led One Eleven to a semifinalist nod for James Beard: Best New Restaurant in 2015.

South on Main

Little Rock, Arkansas

Opened: August 2013

Annual Sales: $1.2 million

Average Check: Lunch $12, Dinner $28

Menu: Creative Southern

Chef/Owner: Matthew Bell

Billed as the place where literary lifestyle pub The Oxford American magazine transitions "from the page to the stage," diners can get lost in the performances—as well as in the creative take on Southern dishes.

The Kitchen Restaurant

Sacramento, California

Opened: May 1991

Average Check: $135

Menu: Farm to Fork

Owner: Selland Family Restaurants

Chef: Kelly McCown

The Kitchen serves a seasonal, mostly local, demonstration dinner. Guests can visit the kitchen and wine cellar, and chat to chefs. At "intermission," they're invited to sample food at the chefs' stations. Awarded the AAA Five Diamond Award five years running.

Paragary’s

Sacramento, California

Opened: 1983

Annual Sales: $3 million

Average Check: $50

Menu: Seasonal Cuisine

Owners: Chef Kurt Spataro, and Randy and Stacy Paragary

Paragary's has been serving fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients since its conception 33 years ago. In 2015, Paragary's reopened after being closed a year for an extensive renovation. The restaurant is a local landmark, with a patio that features three waterfalls, a fireplace, and two 60-year-old olive trees.

Fruition

Denver

Opened: February 2007

Annual Sales: Over $1 million

Average Check: $65

Menu: Sophisticated Comfort Food

Chef/Owner: Alex Seidel

At this neighborhood restaurant, guests are treated to produce and hand-crafted cheeses courtesy of Chef Seidel's own dairy farm.

Mizuna

Denver

Opened: April 2001

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $120

Menu: French

Owner: Bonanno Concepts, Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno

Chefs: Frank Bonanno and Ty Leon

Mizuna describes itself as "the biggest food laboratory in Colorado," where the menu changes monthly and there is "a marriage between science and epicuria."

Rioja

Denver

Opened: November 2004

Annual Sales: $3 to $5 million

Average Check: $69

Owners: Chef Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch

It was the right city, right time, when Rioja came on the scene a dozen years ago. Now, Chef Jasinski has added three more restaurants to her downtown empire and helped make Denver a dining destination with national recognition.

TAG

Denver

Opened: May 2009

Annual Sales: $3.3 million

Average Check: $55

Menu: Continental Social Food featuring small plates of Hawaiian and Pan-Asian Cuisine

Chef/Owner: Troy Guard

TAG's Continental social food hearkens back to the heritage of owner and executive chef Troy Guard and his Hawaiian roots, with a nod to Pan-Asian and Hawaiian inspirations using local Colorado ingredients that meld classic and contemporary styles.

Vesta Dipping Grill

Denver

Opened: July 1997

Annual Sales: $4 million

Average Check: $47

Menu: World Grill Cuisine

Owners: Josh and Jen Wolkon

Vesta Dipping Grill

Vesta Dipping Grill has won awards ranging from Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence five years in a row to being named among Denver's "10 Most Important Restaurants" according to Thrillist. This chef-driven concept is undergoing a transition, however: Chef Brandon Foster, who was a fixture at Vesta for 11 years and helmed the kitchen since 2012, left in May to lead Project Angel Heart, a nonprofit that provides nutritious meals to people with life-threatening illnesses.

Firebox

Hartford, Connecticut

Opened: 2007

Annual Sales: Almost $2 million

Average Check: $40–$50

Menu: Seasonal Farm to Table

Owner: The Melville Charitable Trust

Chef: Tony Camilleri

At Firebox, the message goes beyond the food: the restaurant's profits are donated to Billings Forge Community Works, a non-profit that invests in Hartford's Frog Hollow neighborhood. The menu—an eclectic mix of small and large seasonal plates—lists all of its local vendors.

Grants Restaurant & Bar

West Hartford, Connecticut

Opened: July 2001

Annual Sales: $4 to $5 million

Average Check: $40–$45

Menu: Contemporary American

Chef/Owner: Billy Grant

Restaurateur Billy Grant, who has received three invitations to cook at the James Beard House in New York City, is the name behind Restaurant Bricco, BG Catering, and Grants in the West Hartford area, as well as Bricco Trattoria on the east side.

Cool Springs Fish Bar & Restaurant

Dover, Delaware

Opened: December 1999

Annual Sales: $1.3 million

Average Check: $35–$45

Menu: Old-Fashioned Fish House

Chef/Owner: Dennis J. Forbes

Seven varieties of fish come into the restaurant daily, sourced locally from fishermen in Maryland and North Carolina, but prime rib is the No. 1 bestseller. The restaurant, open for dinner five days a week, recently underwent a major remodel, which was unveiled in May. Chef Forbes opened a second restaurant next door, Restaurant 55, in 2010.

Restaurant 55

Dover, Delaware

Opened: November 2010

Annual Sales: $1.4 million

Average Check: $18–$30 (e)

Menu: Craft Beer and Burgers

Owners: Desiree DiAntonio and her father, Dennis Forbes

Bella Bella

Tallahassee, Florida

Opened: September 2001

Annual Sales: $1.5 million

Average Check: $17

Menu: Italian

Chef/Owner: Marc Schwartz

The Edison

Tallahassee, Florida

Opened: September 2015

Average Check: $30 (e)

Menu: New American

Owners: Adam Corey and Ryan Grindler

Chef: John Minas

Housed in a historic electric company building that was built in the 1920s, The Edison is the latest addition to the Tallahassee Hospitality Group, which also owns 101 Restaurant and three cocktail lounges. At The Edison, Chef Minas serves internationally inspired dishes in a dramatic setting with panoramic views of Cascades Park.

Bacchanalia

Atlanta

Opened: 1993

Average Check: $75 (e)

Menu: New American Farm to Table

Owners: Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison

Chef: Joseph Schafer

Not a raucous party, as its name suggests, Bacchanalia is Atlanta's home for contemporary American dishes created by Chef Joseph Schafer. The front of the house is just as impressive as the food coming out of the kitchen: The restaurant was a 2015 semifinalist for the James Beard: Best Service award.

Gunshow

Atlanta

Opened: May 2013

Annual Sales: $2.5 million

Average Check: $75

Menu: Southern-inspired Dim Sum

Chef/Owner: Kevin Gillespie

Chef: Joey Ward

DAVID CRAWFORD

Chef Kevin Gillespie mashes up Southern food and dim sum–style service at Gunshow, where guests pick what they want to eat by choosing from options on rolling trays and carts that are moving through the dining room. Gillespie was a finalist this year for the James Beard Best Chef: Southeast.

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

Honolulu

Opened: September 1946

Annual Sales: Under $1 million

Average Check: $15–$20

Menu: Traditional Hawaiian

Owners: Chef Craig Katsuyoshi and Kalei Katsuyoshi

Helena's was named in the top 100 U.S. restaurants for 2016 by Yelp and in 2000 it won the Regional Classic Award from the James Beard Foundation. Craig Katsuyoshi, the founder's grandson, runs the restaurant and serves local ingredients using cooking techniques from his Hawaiian heritage.

MW Restaurant

Honolulu

Opened: October 2013

Annual Sales: Over $3 million

Average Check: Lunch $25–$35, Dinner $55

Menu: Upscale Local and Regional Cuisine

Chefs/Owners: Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka

High Tea in Hawaii seems an incongruous notion, yet once a month MW hosts an afternoon tea featuring a prix fixe menu, $35, of sweet and savory snacks. Known for its Hawaiian cuisine, the restaurant attracts local residents as well as tourists.

Bardenay Restaurant

Boise, Idaho

Opened: 1999

Annual Sales: Over $10 million

Average Check: $22

Menu: Eclectic Pub Fare

Owners: Kevin Settles and Lisa Fraser

Chef: Travis Levi

Bardenay Restaurant

Bardenay features a fully licensed distillery producing rum, gin, vodka, and fruit liquors. It also has a full bar, and its wine program is a recurring Wine Spectator award-winner. Voted best family restaurant in Boise in 2015, it bills itself as the nation's first restaurant distillery, and it has three locations—each specializing in distilling different spirits.

Berryhill & Co.

Boise, Idaho

Opened: March 1998

Annual Sales: $1.5 million

Average Check: $40 (e)

Menu: Northwest Cuisine

Chef/Owner: John Berryhill

In January, owner John Berryhill combined Berryhill & Co., which serves Northwestern cuisine punctuated with tastes of the South, and Bacon, a breakfast and lunch spot serving you-know-what in flavors from chocolate to maple rosemary.

Chandler’s

Boise, Idaho

Opened: May 2007

Annual Sales: $6 million

Average Check: $78

Menu: Classic American Steakhouse and Seafood

Owner: Rex Chandler

Chef: Luis Flores

State & Lemp

Boise, Idaho

Opened: October 2013

Annual Sales: $500,000

Average Check: $75

Menu: Contemporary and Eclectic Local

Owners: Remi McManus and Jay Henry

American Harvest Eatery

Springfield, Illinois

Opened: April 2011

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $35

Menu: Modern American, Farm to Table

Owners: August Mrozowski and Sharon Ehrat

Chefs: Jordan and Aurora Coffey

Delicia

Indianapolis

Opened: March 2013

Annual Sales: Over $2 million

Average Check: $42

Menu: New Latin

Owner(s): Nicole Harlan-Oprisu, Rita Oprisu, Tim Oprisu, James Browning, Bill Ficca, and Bryce Hill

Chef: Ricardo Martinez

Using traditional and modern methods of preparation, its cuisine stays true to the style, flavors, and history of the Americas, the Caribbean, and Spain.

Harry & Izzy’s

Indianapolis

Opened: 2007

Annual Sales: Approaching $11 million

Average Check: $40

Menu: Upscale American Grill

Owners: Steve and Craig Huse, Chris Clifford, Tom Browne, and Peyton Manning

A casual rendition of the city's landmark St. Elmo Steak House, this upscale tavern has three locations in the capital city, including a downtown flagship that houses a cellar with nearly 3,000 bottles of wine.

Milktooth

Indianapolis

Opened: October 2014

Annual Sales: $1 million (e)

Average Check: $19 (e)

Menu: Breakfast and Brunch

Owners: Chef Jonathan Brooks and Ashley Brooks

Housed in a former auto repair shop, filled with rough wood tables and vintage tableware, Milktooth serves brunch—and nothing else—but with a vibrant, bustling vibe. Named a best restaurant by Bon Appétit last year, while Food & Wine named Chef Jonathan Brooks one of America's best new chefs.

St. Elmo Steak House

Indianapolis

Opened: 1902

Annual Sales: $17.7 million

Average Check: $88

Menu: Classic American Steakhouse

Owners: Steve and Craig Huse

Before steak comes shrimp—some 135,000 shrimp cocktails are served in this landmark restaurant that is the iconic eatery in Indianapolis.

Centro

Des Moines, Iowa

Opened: November 2002

Annual Sales: Over $2 million

Average Check: Lunch $15, Dinner $40

Menu: Italian

Chef/Owner: George Formaro

Chef: Derek Eidson

One of seven concepts in the Orchestrate Hospitality group, this upscale urban Italian eatery is located in a restored Masonic temple that dates to 1911.

Proof

Des Moines, Iowa

Opened: Spring 2008

Annual Sales: Under $1 million

Average Check: $30–$50

Menu: Mediterranean-Inspired Comfort Food

Chef/Owner: Sean Wilson

Three times a semifinalist for James Beard Best Chef: Midwest, Sean Wilson blends Old World charm with locally sourced ingredients to deliver a superior dining experience.

Row House Restaurant

Topeka, Kansas

Opened: April 2007

Annual Sales: Under $1 million

Average Check: $60

Menu: American Fusion

Chef/Owner: Greg Fox

Kansas-raised Greg Fox's seasonal menu is always served in prix fixe format, with a salad, soup, three entrée choices, and three dessert choices. A garden in the back supplies fresh herbs, supplemental greens, and vegetables. The building, originally a residence, dates to 1876, and the original footprint remains intact.

Garcia’s

Frankfort, Kentucky

Opened: October 2004

Annual Sales: $1.5 million

Average Check: $10

Menu: Traditional Mexican

Owner(s): Juan Garcia, and Chefs Francisco and Maricella Garcia

Staxx

Frankfort, Kentucky

Opened: May 2011

Annual Sales: $1.3 million

Average Check: $12

Menu: Traditional Barbecue

Owner: Dan Liebman

Chef: Jo Liebman

City Pork Brasserie and Bar

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Opened: December 2014

Average Check: $38 (e)

Menu: Global Louisianan Cuisine

Owners: Chase Lyons and Stephen Hightower

Chef: Ryan Andre

Juban’s

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Opened: 1983

Average Check: $49 (e)

Menu: Cajun-Creole-French Fusion

Owners: Michael Shane Boudreaux and the Juban Family

Chef: Joey Daigle

Ruffino’s

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Opened: October 1998

Annual Sales: $6.4 million

Average Check: $50

Menu: Creole Italian

Owners: Chef Peter Sclafani and Ruffin Rodrigue

Chef: Jeremy Langlois

Ruffino’s

Ruffino's serves food with a story, and most of its customers are repeat business. It's won many awards including Restaurateur of the Year from the Louisiana Restaurant Association, Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence, and OpenTable's Fine Dining Award.

Sweet Chilli Thai

Augusta, Maine

Opened: August 2008

Annual Sales: Under $1 million

Average Check: $10–$15

Menu: Thai

Owners: Suparinya Mungtanya, Ratsada Itthipalakorn, and Chef Pringpanee Itthipalakorn

Chef: Nuttawut Saelun

Visitors arriving at the Augusta airport find dining gem Sweet Chilli Thai in the terminal. It crafts authentic Thai curries, soups, and other traditional dishes—spiced to order—without any MSG.

O’Learys Seafood

Annapolis, Maryland

Opened: April 1983

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $50–$60

Menu: Fine-Dining Seafood

Owner: Wil Peterson

Chef: Ben Janes Sr.

O’Learys Seafood

The O'Leary name has held a lot of weight in Annapolis over the decades. Before its current operation and ownership was established, there was the O'Leary's Fish Market, and then the old version of the current eatery, which regardless of the details, has kept its focus on the water. Fresh seafood drives the business, with dishes like the Crispy Rockfish on the menu year after year.

Preserve

Annapolis, Maryland

Opened: April 2015

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $35

Menu: Casual American

Owners: Chef Jeremy Hoffman, Michelle Hoffman, Matthew Hetrick, and Chris Oland

Husband-and-wife team Jeremy and Michelle Hoffman held some high-profile jobs before deciding to open their own restaurant. Michelle worked as a maître d' at Danny Meyer's famed Union Square Café, while Jeremy clocked time at Thomas Keller's Per Se for two years. At Preserve, pickling and fermentation is a major focus and passion of the restaurant.

Vin 909 Winecafé

Annapolis, Maryland

Opened: April 2011

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $30

Menu: Mediterranean New American

Owner: The Manfredonia Family

Chef: Justin Moore

Davio’s

Boston

Opened: May 1985

Annual Sales: Over $10 million

Average Check: $100–$150

Menu: Northern Italian

Chef/Owner: Steve DiFillippo

Owner Steve DiFillippo believes so strongly that "it's all about the guest" that he's written a book with that title. Davio's also works with fundraisers including the Taste of the NFL to raise money for food banks.

Myers + Chang

Boston

Opened: Fall 2007

Average Check: $33 (e)

Menu: Asian

Owners: Chef Joanne Chang and Christopher Myers

Chef: Karen Akunowicz

Myers + Chang dishes up Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, and Thai fare using lighter sauces, and offering either fun and innovative takes on classic dishes, or creating new dishes that stay true to original flavors. It's especially inspired by Taiwanese soul food and Southeast Asian street food, all done with a great deal of care.

The Creole

Lansing, Michigan

Opened: December 2015

Annual Sales: $2 million (projected)

Average Check: $65

Menu: Progressive Creole

Owners: Alan Hooper, Aaron Matthews, and Sam Short

Chef: Dan Konopnicki

Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct

St. Paul, Minnesota

Opened: October 2002

Annual Sales: $2.5 million

Average Check: $65

Menu: North American Midwest

Owners: Chef Lenny Russo with K. Mega Hoehn and Kris Maritz

Heartland works with regional farmers who practice humane and sustainable agriculture and pay fair trade and living wages. Whole animals are processed in-house, and the restaurant has a full line of artisanal products including jams, ice creams, breads, and pickled vegetables that it sells in its adjoining market.

Bully's Restaurant

Jackson, Mississippi

Opened: September 1982

Annual Sales: $400,000

Average Check: $9

Menu: Southern Soul Food

Owners: Chef Tyrone Bully and Greta Brown Bully

One of five recipients of this year's James Beard: America's Classic award, Bully's has a firm place in Mississippi's rich culinary history. Chef Tyrone Bully and his father built the restaurant with their own hands in the early 1980s, and his collards, ribs, fried chicken, and catfish are the stuff of legend among fervent locals.

Madison’s Café

Jefferson City, Missouri

Opened: April 1982

Average Check: $20 lunch / $30 dinner

Menu: Northern Italian

Owner: Rob Agee

Chef: Matt Callison

Open for 34 years, Madison's Café offers relaxed yet elegant dining, which features Italian and American fare with global influences. The menu changes often to reflect seasonable availability and the restaurant's long-established relationships with local growers and farmers. In addition to using locally sourced products, Madison's Café uses herbs from its own garden. The restaurant only serves sustainable fish, and offers gluten-free fare and a wide variety of vegetarian choices. The newest menu item, Cioppino, has been added to its signature dish listing. Among other awards, this year the restaurant received the national Talk Award for Excellence in Customer Satisfaction for the fifth consecutive year; a Jefferson City Magazine poll voted it first place in seven categories and second place in two; Jefferson City News Tribune named it the city's most romantic restaurant and the best lunch spot in town, and it was awarded the Certificate of Excellence by Trip Advisor for the fifth straight year.

Lucca’s Italian

Helena, Montana

Opened: June 2006

Annual Sales: Under $1 million

Average Check: $44

Menu: Italian

Owner: Frederick Stout

Chef: Mike Hyyppa

Named The Best Restaurant in Montana by Business Insider in both 2015 and 2016, Lucca's is a fine-dining dinner-only venue that prides itself on comfort and from-scratch cuisine.

Vincenzo’s

Lincoln, Nebraska

Opened: July 1994

Average Check: $28

Menu: Italian

Owners: Chef Steve Nagle, Mike Frank, Mark Johnson, and Bill Whitley

Café at Adele’s

Carson City, Nevada

Opened: November 1977

Annual Sales: $1.5 to $2 million

Average Check: $40

Menu: New American

Owners: Chef Charlie Abowd and wife Karen

Adele's has been in the Abowd family since 1977, when Paul and Adele, the parents of current chef and co-owner Charlie, founded the restaurant. Charlie and his wife, Karen, took the reins in 1998 and have stockpiled accolades ever since. That includes a 2005 trip to the James Beard House in New York City to showcase their celebrated locally sourced cuisine, which offers everything from the family's Falafel recipe to House-Smoked Salmon. However, the couple are best known for their passionate giving to the community, from The Greenhouse Project—Karen's dream that evolved into an agricultural program at the local high school, providing food to those in need—to the restaurant's annual Concert Under the Stars, which raises funds for the arts and The Greenhouse Project.

The Barley House

Concord, New Hampshire

Opened: March 2000

Annual Sales: $2.5 million

Average Check: $28

Menu: Gastropub

Chef/Owner: Brian Shea

Granite Restaurant & Bar

Concord, New Hampshire

Opened: 2007

Annual Sales: $1.3 million

Average Check: $45

Menu: New American Farm to Table

Owners: Norman McCloud

Chef: Corey Fletcher

Homestead Inn

Trenton, New Jersey

Opened: 1939

Average Check: $30 (e)

Menu: Italian

Owners: Peter Rosati and Chef Randy Forrester

Georgia

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Opened: June 2014

Annual Sales: $1.5 million

Average Check: $28

Menu: American

Owner: Geronimo Hospitality

Chef: Leroy Alvarado

izanami at Ten Thousand Waves

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Opened: November 2013

Annual Sales: $1.5 million

Average Check: $40

Menu: Southwest American meets Far East

Owner: Duke Klauck

A semifinalist for James Beard: Best New Restaurant in 2014, the accolades just keep mounting for this spa-based eatery that touts more than 40 varieties of sake.

Restaurant Martin

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Opened: September 2009

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: Lunch $22, Dinner $55

Menu: Progressive American

Owner: Chef Martin Rios and wife Jennifer

A native of Guadalajara, Chef Rios started working in Santa Fe restaurants at age 17—as a dishwasher. After graduating from The Culinary Institute of America, his career took off. Now, he and his wife share the acclaimed restaurant and a passion for bettering their community: She is president of The Horse Shelter, and he volunteers with Cooking with Kids.

Albany Pump Station & C.H. Evans Brewing Company

Albany, New York

Opened: 1999

Average Check: $50–$75

Menu: American Pub

Owner: Neil Evans

Chef: Todd Cutler

18 Seaboard

Raleigh, North Carolina

Opened: May 2006

Annual Sales: $2.9 million

Average Check: $25

Menu: Eclectic Contemporary Southern

Owners: Chef Jason Smith, Lauren Smith

Chef Jason Smith and his wife, Lauren, opened 18 Seaboard in 2006 as a simple restaurant that paid tribute to Southern cuisine, local ingredients, and sustainable practices. Today, the team operates three other restaurants in the area, but the downtown flagship spot is said to be the place where movers and shakers meet for lunch.

42nd Street Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill

Raleigh, North Carolina

Opened: 1987

Average Check: $30

Menu: Seafood

Owners: Brad Hurley and John Vick

Known to locals as one of the best seafood restaurants in the state, it's also a destination for wine and in 2015 it won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its wine list. Co-owner Brad Hurley has been an active leader in the state's restaurant industry for decades, and his dinner-only restaurant is where politicians and business leaders gather.

Angus Barn

Raleigh, North Carolina

Opened: June 1960

Annual Sales: Over $15 million

Average Check: $60

Menu: Classic Steakhouse

Owner: Van Eure

A landmark restaurant not only for the state, but also for the entire Southeast region: Diners know to expect the best beef in town, but the wine list is nationally recognized as one of the best in the nation and the hospitality knows no bounds.

Death & Taxes

Raleigh, North Carolina

Opened: June 2015

Average Check: $65 (e)

Menu: New American

Chef/Owner: Ashley Christensen

The latest from James Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen, Death & Taxes focuses on wood-fired cooking and craft cocktails. The restaurant was a finalist for the 2016 James Beard: Best New Restaurant award.

Peacock Alley

Bismarck, North Dakota

Opened: 1933

Annual Sales: Over $2 million

Average Check: $28

Menu: American Grill

Owners: Dale and Melodie Zimmerman

Chef: Dustin Swenningson

The oldest bar and restaurant in North Dakota, located in the historic Patterson building, is a place to be seen in the capital city. U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson visited the Patterson Hotel, which was built in 1911. Beef is the restaurant's main draw, with The National Cattlemen's Beef Association naming the restaurant the Beef Innovator of the Year in 2012. The owners also operate 40 Steak and Seafood, and are opening two new concepts, Loco and Edwinton Brewing, this year.

Barcelona Restaurant & Bar

Columbus, Ohio

Opened: 1996

Average Check: $48 (e)

Menu: Spanish

Owner: Scott Heimlich

Chef: Jacob Hough

Not to be confused with the Barteca Restaurant Group's similar brand, this Barcelona is a one-of-a-kind independent operation.

Refectory

Columbus, Ohio

Opened: 1976

Annual Sales: $3 million

Average Check: $60

Menu: Classic and Contemporary French

Owner: Kamal Boulos

Chef: Richard Blondin

The Refectory offers a relaxed and elegant space serving contemporary American and classic French cuisine, complemented by more than 700 wines. Open for 40 years, it has received the AAA Four Diamond Award for more than 20 consecutive years, been named among the Top 100 U.S. Restaurants by OpenTable, and the Top 25 for Service by Zagat.

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse

Oklahoma City

Opened: 1910

Annual Sales: Almost $10 million

Average Check: Lunch $14.50, Dinner $26

Menu: Classic Steakhouse

Owner: Dick Stubbs

The stories this restaurant could tell! The history is almost as good as the steaks, and legendary guests run the gamut from real cowboys to movie stars to U.S. presidents. The cows came first, but this is the place that put the city on the map.

Cheever’s Café

Oklahoma City

Opened: April 2000

Annual Sales: $3.5 million

Average Check: $35

Menu: Contemporary Comfort Food

Owners: Keith and Heather Paul

Chef: Robert Hodgkinson

CHOATE HOUSE IN OKLAHOMA CITY

History runs deep at Cheever's Café. The restaurant—part of A Good Egg Dining Group's seven concepts—is located in the former home of "Oklahoma Belle Cunningham" and her husband, Lawrence "L.L." Cheever. The pair owned and operated a flower shop for close to 60 years, dating back to 1927. Belle, in fact, was the first baby born in the newly formed Oklahoma City back in 1912. Keith and Heather Paul purchased the building in 2000 and have continued to honor the heritage, keeping the name as well as the original terrazzo floors.

Archive Coffee & Bar

Salem, Oregon

Opened: December 2014

Annual Sales: $1 million

Average Check: $26

Menu: Seasonal Global Fusion, Specialty Coffee

Owner: Jesse Hayes and Justin Doyle

Chef: Jon McCloud

Archive Coffee & Bar lives a double life: roasting and serving specialty coffee by day, and by night, serving food paired with cocktails, spirits, wine, and beer. The establishment pays meticulous attention to detail in food and beverage with a well-articulated tapas menu. Even the popcorn—a bar snack staple—is prepared with Ginger Thyme Syrup and a cranberry reduction.

Mangia Qua & Suba Tapas Bar

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Opened: Mangia Qua in February 2002 / Suba Tapas Bar in December 2007

Annual Sales: Almost $2 million

Average Check: $55 Mangia Qua / $35 Suba Tapas Bar

Menu: Regional Italian / Spanish Tapas

Owners: Chef Rosemarie Musarra, Staci Basore, and Elide Hower

Two concepts in one restaurant—where the owners take a hands-on approach, grow their own vegetables and herbs, and maintain strong ties in the community.

What If Café

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Opened:1999

Annual Sales: Under $1 million

Average Check: $18–$25

Menu: Continental Mediterranean

Owner: Liz McQuaid

Chef: Ed Monuteaux

Located in a 1917 home, the intimate setting veers elegant. Food is offered in a three-course prix fixe menu, priced $25, or à la carte; the bar program is BYOB.

Cook & Brown Public House

Providence, Rhode Island

Opened: March 2010

Annual Sales: $800,000

Average Check: $40–$45

Menu: New and Classic Americana

Chef/Owner: Nemo Bolin

The menu changes daily, staying true to seasonality and sincere hospitality.

Siena

Providence, Rhode Island

Opened: March 2005

Annual Sales: Over $2.5 million

Average Check: $40

Menu: Tuscan Italian

Owners: Chef Anthony Tarro and Chris Tarro

Mr. Friendly’s New Southern

Columbia, South Carolina

Opened: 1995

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $40–$50

Menu: New Southern

Owners: Chef Ricky Mollohan and Harold Ham

Mr. Friendly's, a 10-time Award of Excellence winner from Wine Spectator, opened in the early 1980s as a sandwich and cookie shop. The restaurant began serving refined and innovative Southern cuisine in 1995, focusing on fresh seafood, poultry, wild game, and small-batch spirits, like Bourbon, single-match Scotch, and flavored vodkas. The restaurant's sister concepts, Cellar on Greene and Solstice Kitchen, are also celebrated locales in the Palmetto State.

Terra

Columbia, South Carolina

Opened: August 2006

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $40–$50

Menu: Contemporary American

Chef/Owner: Mike Davis

Terra

Mike Davis' restaurant has earned a Wine Spectator award each year since opening, including an Award of Excellence in 2015 for its 140 selections focusing on California and Italian varietals. The menu changes daily and dips into Davis' regional expertise at taking classic local dishes and giving them a modern twist. In 2010, David cooked his Southern Roots dinner at the James Beard House in New York City.

La Minestra

Pierre, South Dakota

Opened: May 1998

Average Check: $25

Menu: Modern American, Greek, and Italian

Owners: Chef Mark Mancuso and Stacey Mancuso

La Minestra is the passion of military veterans Mark and Stacey Mancuso. Mark served 13 years in the U.S. Army, while Stacey was there for seven. The food is from-scratch, such as pasta made daily and hand-cut steaks. Every dish is cooked to order and every sauce, dressing, and sausage is crafted by hand.

Myril Arch’s Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse

Pierre, South Dakota

Opened: February 1986

Annual Sales: $1 million

Average Check: $20–$25

Menu: American Steakhouse

Owner: Cindy Arch

Chef: Rick Farris

Serving the same food that was on the menu in 1986, when founder Myril Arch didn't have enough money to afford carpet in the restaurant, the Pierre landmark goes through around 60,000 pounds of aged, choice beef a year. Myril's favorite is a 24-ounce bone-in Ribeye that arrives simply with soup or salad, potato or vegetable, and Texas toast. It's a no-frills kind of restaurant so popular that it has its own gift shop.

City House

Nashville, Tennessee

Opened: December 2007

Average Check: $50 (e)

Menu: Italian

Chef/Owner: Tandy Wilson

Italian food with Southern influences is served in this former sculptor's studio on a residential side street. The open kitchen is a favorite. Chef Wilson, winner of this year's James Beard Best Chef: Southeast award, is often credited with giving Nashville its status as a food town.

Etch

Nashville, Tennessee

Opened: August 2012

Annual Sales: $4.2 million

Average Check: Lunch $24, Dinner $65

Menu: Contemporary Cuisine

Chef/Owner: Deb Paquette

A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and the first woman in Tennessee to qualify as a certified executive chef, owner Deb Paquette has won national accolades and made Nashville her own—as well as a top dining destination across the region. Next up: She's on track to open a second restaurant, Etc (sans the "h"), later this year.

The 404 Kitchen

Nashville, Tennessee

Opened: October 2013

Annual Sales: $1.2 to $1.5 million

Average Check: $80

Menu: Modern European

Owner: Mark Banks

Chef: Matt Bolus

The focus is on local, seasonal fare: Unsurprising given the rooftop herb garden atop this eatery that's housed in a recycled shipping container.

Barley Swine

Austin, Texas

Opened: December 2010

Annual Sales: Over $2.5 million

Average Check: $72

Menu: Food Inspired by Farmers

Chef/Owner: Bryce Gilmore

Small space, big taste: Barley Swine has been a commanding presence in the industry ever since it opened five years ago. The restaurant recently expanded from its original 36-seat capacity to 90 seats, including 10 at the Chef's counter overlooking the kitchen.

Launderette

Austin, Texas

Opened: February 2015

Average Check: $39 (e)

Menu: Mediterranean Bistro

Chef/Owners: Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki

Olamaie

Austin, Texas

Opened: August 2014

Average Check: $50 (e)

Menu: Contemporary Southern

Chef/Owners: Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas

The Copper Onion

Salt Lake City, Utah

Opened: 2010

Average Check: $42 (e)

Menu: Local, Seasonal, and Inventive

Owners: Chef Ryan Lowder and wife Colleen

Chef: Jamison Frank

HSL

Salt Lake City, Utah

Opened: April 1, 2016

Annual Sales: Too new to forecast! One to watch!

Average Check: $40 (e)

Menu: Contemporary American

Owners: Chef Briar Handly with Meagan Nash and Melissa Gray

This is the second concept from Chef Handly and partners Nash and Gray, the first being Handle—30 miles away in Park City. Like its predecessor, HSL promises all things local and fresh, including foraged and seasonal fare.

Log Haven

Salt Lake City, Utah

Opened: October 1994

Annual Sales: $3 million

Average Check: $58

Menu: Contemporary American

Owners: Chef David Jones with Margo Provost, Ian Campbell, and Faith Scheffler

Acclaimed as Utah's most romantic fine-dining restaurant, Log Haven is situated on 40 private acres in the Wasatch National Forest. It has garnered top Mobil, AAA Four Diamond and Zagat rankings as well as Awards of Excellence from Wine Spectator.

J Morgan’s Steakhouse

Montpelier, Vermont

Opened: April 1995

Annual Sales: $2 to $3 million

Average Check: $30–$40

Menu: American Steakhouse

Chef/Owner: Fred Bashara

J Morgan’s Steakhouse

In 2011, the restaurant—in a building that once housed a Days Inn—underwent an extensive renovation, basically stripping away everything but the quality menu, which offers high-end steaks and seafood, as well as a locally revered Sunday brunch complete with maple-bourbon-glazed ham and Belgian waffles.

Graffiato

Richmond, Virginia

Opened: September 2014

Annual Sales: $2.5 to $3 million

Average Check: $40

Menu: Italian meets Southern

Chef/Owner: Mike Isabella

In a historic building on the city's revitalized Broad Street, between the downtown government mecca and the artsy Fan district, Graffiato brings upscale-polished dining with a hip vibe.

L’Opossum

Richmond, Virginia

Opened: August 2014

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $56

Menu: French-Inspired Southern

Chef/Owner: David Shannon

This 50-seat restaurant features Chef Shannon's 25-plus years of French-inspired Southern professional cooking. The restaurant was a semifinalist for James Beard Best Chef: Midwest this year, and in 2014 was listed in Virginia's 10 Best Restaurants: A Foodie's Ultimate Guide.

Millie’s Diner

Richmond, Virginia

Opened: May 1989

Annual Sales: $1.5 million

Average Check: $20–$30 lunch; $30–$40 dinner

Menu: Global Inspirations, Local Ingredients

Owners: Paul Keevil and Lisa Edwards

Chef: Taylor Nucklos

Millie's Diner is tiny—just 40 seats plus a patio—with a tiny kitchen, too, which just adds to the ambiance of this 1940s-style diner. It may be diner food, but it's seasonal, local, and globally inspired.

Rappahannock Restaurant

Richmond, Virginia

Opened: December 2012

Annual Sales: $2.5 million

Average Check: $45.50

Menu: Seafood and Local Meats

Owners: Ryan and Travis Croxton

Chef: Dylan Fultineer

Iron Rabbit

Olympia, Washington

Opened: 2005

Average Check: $42

Menu: American

Owner: Christian Skillings

Bluegrass Kitchen

Charleston, West Virginia

Opened: October 2005

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $24

Menu: Elevated Comfort Food

Owners: Keeley and Jonathan Steele

Chef: Kelly Stephens

Noah’s Eclectic Bistro

Charleston, West Virginia

Opened: March 2012

Annual Sales: Under $1 million

Average Check: $50

Menu: Seasonal World Fusion

Chef/Owner: Noah Miller

Eclectic is a fitting word for Chef Noah Miller's 11-table restaurant. The international menus can change on a whim, and always shy away from standard fare. In May, Chef Miller, a Charleston native who clocked time at Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud in Palm Beach, Florida, held a six-course wine dinner featuring selections sourced from volcanic soil.

Harvest

Madison, Wisconsin

Opened: September 2000

Annual Sales: $1 to $1.5 million

Average Check: $45–$55

Menu: Modern American Farm to Table

Owner: Tami Lax

Chef: Matthew Schieble

L’Etoile

Madison, Wisconsin

Opened: 1976

Annual Sales: $1 to $2 million

Average Check: $150

Menu: Global Cuisine with Old World techniques

Owners: Chef Tory Miller and his sister Traci Miller, with Dianne Christensen, Tracey Solverson, and Krys Wachowiak

SAMANTHA EGELHOFF

The Madison landmark is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Odessa Piper started the restaurant and carried it to national acclaim, winning the James Beard Best Chef: Midwest award in 2002. In 2005, Piper's chef de cuisine, Tory Miller, purchased the restaurant and has continued that impressive legacy. In 2012, Miller, who now owns Graze, Sujeo, and Estrellón, captured the same award and was a 2016 semifinalist for James Beard: Outstanding Chef.

The Albany

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Opened: 1942

Average Check: $25–$30 (e)

Menu: Hearty Americana

Owners: George and Gus Kallas

Family-owned since 1942 and in the same location for more than 70 years: History is just one reason that The Albany is Cheyenne's landmark restaurant (and premier watering hole). All steaks and chops are cut in-house, with Prime Rib and Chicken Fried Steak the bestsellers, and the soups, sauces, and gravies are made from scratch. In 1991, the restaurateurs become retailers as well, adding a discount liquor store next door.