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Sonya Chudgar

Top 100 Independents: The Southwest

Virtù Honest CraftScottsdale, ArizonaMediterranean cuisine in a posh Bed and Breakfast setting, where delicacies such as ox tail and the grilled Spanish octopus are standouts, and this James Beard semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in 2014 elegantly blends wines and cocktails with Chef Osso's approachable menu.

Top 100 Independents: West by Northwest

LangbaanPortland, OregonThai comfort food crafted with no open-flame cooking; only ovens and induction burners.Opened ∕ March 2014Annual Sales ∕ $1–$3 millionAverage Check ∕ $65 (without alcohol)Chef/Owner∕ Akkapong Earl NinsomThe Squeaky BeanDenverA pop culture–driven atmosphere grounded by a garden-inspired menu (produce is grown in the neighborhood) and creative cocktails defines The Squeaky Bean, where weekend bingo is a popular draw.

Top 100 Independents: The Heartland

The 404 KitchenNashville, TennesseeHoused 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 2013Annual Sales ∕ $1.

Top 100 Independents: The Southeast

RhubarbAsheville, North CarolinaThe restaurant upholds old-school traditions such as Sunday Supper with specials like Fried Green Tomato and Pickled Shrimp, Fried Hominy, and Lobster Corn Dogs.Opened ∕ October 2013Annual Sales ∕ $1–$3 millionAverage Check ∕ $45Chef/Owner∕ John FleerHeirloomCharlotte, North CarolinaWith a sustainable, farm-to-fork focus, Chef Barlowe uses the entire animal and also sources everything—from all the beer, wine, and spirits to the Outer Banks sea salt—from within North Carolina.

Top 100 Independents: The Mid-Atlantic

GraffiatoRichmond, VirginiaChef de Cuisine Matthew Robinett delivers Italian-inspired small plates with a Southern flair, in this upscale take on casual, hip dining, housed in a historic building with massive windows lining the dining room—a legacy item from the early 20th- century furniture showroom that was the original tenant.

Let's Make a Deal

Gaurav “G” Patel and his broker, Sam DiFranco Jr. of Trinity Partners, have a little joke. Patel first approached DiFranco to be his broker nearly eight years ago, when he was 23 years old and just starting out in the restaurant business.

The Man with the Plan

A few weeks ago, Tim McEnery was at a supermarket in the suburbs of Chicago, perusing the cereal aisle, shopping basket dangled nonchalantly over the crook of his elbow. He glanced from name to name on the shelves—did he want his favorite, Frosted Flakes, or a more robust wheat bite?—while tugging on his polo, which had a logo of a delicate white feather in the corner, along with a few inscrutable words that dissolved into a wrinkle.

All Grown Up

Chef Jonathon Sawyer is having a moment. He’s rhapsodizing about the pork chop at his Cleveland restaurant, The Greenhouse Tavern, voice cresting as he describes the delicate flavors, the opaque gravy, the creamy purée that finishes the plating.

HALO Awards Continue to Honor Healthy Initiatives

In 2014, Food News Media, publisher of FSR and QSR magazines, posed a simple question to the industry: Can chain restaurant food be healthy? The response that flooded in from operators, chefs, and industry experts was, overwhelmingly, yes.

The Guide to Menu Design

For San Diego seafood institution the Brigantine, the road to a new menu began with an old website.The Brigantine is one of those restaurants that’s been around for quite a while. Founded in 1969 by Mike and Barb Morton—and now run by their son Mike Jr.

Game Changer

It’s a crisp 57-degree Sunday morning in Santa Clara, California. The late-autumn sun sits shrouded behind clouds. On the corner of Tasman Drive and LaFayette Street is Levi’s Stadium, the 70,000-seat home to the San Francisco 49ers that opened in fall 2014.

Puerto Rican Chefs Pig Out

Rising protein prices last year did not discourage chefs from going hog-wild over pork. In Puerto Rico in particular, chefs are advancing pork in ways the U.S. can learn from, like incorporating pig fat to infuse more flavor into a dish and thinking of texture to invoke a pleasant surprise in the mouth.

The Melting Pot Raises its Perception of Value

This is the age of the customer.“The consumer has more power today to give feedback in a number of ways, from social media, websites, and call centers to actually coming to a restaurant and having an experience,” says Lonnie Mayne, president of InMoment.

Hot Beverages on the Market

Beer & Wine | Spirits & Craft Soda | Coffee + Tea & Juice +WaterSnapshot WheatBeerNew Belgium Brewing/ 2014 / 5% ABVThe wheat was added to New Belgium’s full-time lineup this year, and it’s a winner.

A Ruth’s Chris Love Story

Mark Oswald wasn’t sure who would be on the other end of the phone when he answered. “Hello?”A low, gravelly voice rasped, “Mark! Something’s wrong with your numbers.”It was the fall of 1991, and Mark was sitting in the Buckhead, Atlanta, location of Ruth’s Chris Steak House.