Haute & Hidden Low-Profile Dining Destinations

Located in gas stations, country stores and on odd blocks, these restaurants prove that location isn't everything. Fly high at these down-to-earth eateries.
Fung Tu, New York City / Photo by Matthew Dimas

New York City

Fung Tu

22 Orchard St.
212.219.8785

Imagine a Chinatown cafe with a French Laundry pedigree (if less comfortable chairs) and you get a sense of dinner at Fung Tu. Jonathan Wu worked for famed chef Thomas Keller before he opened this innovative American-Chinese spot where the Lower East Side meets Chinatown. Smart fusion dishes like pork belly egg rolls or chow fun noodles with chorizo can be teamed with wines from Austria, Alsace and beyond.

Les Clos
Les Clos

San Francisco

Les Clos

234 Townsend St.
415.795.1422

This little all-day wine bar and bistro in the SoMa district is owned by Mark Bright, the general manager/sommelier at top-rated Saison. He also runs a wine brokerage and draws on a vast collection that favors Burgundy. Even the West Coast selections are Pinot Noir-oriented to accompany the charcuterie, cheese and small tasting menu, with California-inspired variations on classics, from French onion soup to profiteroles. The restaurant also offers an impressive tea and coffee service.

The Fat Ham
The Fat Ham

Philadelphia

The Fat Ham

3131 Walnut St.
215.735.1914

In a tiny space not far from 30th Street Station, Kevin Sbraga’s team is turning out exceptional barbecue and other Southern classics, including what’s been called America’s best cornbread, baked to order with tasso and molasses butter. The wines are fine, but explore the cocktails that are heavy on the Bourbon. Gooey desserts come in little Mason jars, perfect if you have to rush for a train.

The Parker Pie
Parker Pie Company

West Glover, Vermont

Parker Pie Company

161 County Road
802.525.3366

Tucked in the back of a country general store, this pizzeria has a cult following for its creative pies, craft beers on tap (featuring a local brew, Hill Farmstead, that has a national following) and a small but excellent wine list. The Green Mountain pizza, topped with apples, local Cheddar, bacon, spinach and more, helped put the place on the map. It’s constantly packed with locals, food travelers and actors from the nearby Bread and Puppet Theater.

2016’s Top Under-the-Radar Food Towns
Table, Donkey and Stick
Table, Donkey and Stick

Chicago

Table, Donkey and Stick

2728 West Armitage Ave.
773.486.8525

Aficionados describe this little restaurant, which draws a crowd of European ex-pats, as having a vibe that feels like a German weinstube—warm and low key. The décor, however, is more unassuming than the food and beverage program. Here you’ll find quality cocktails and simple German reds like Spätburgunder in sync with the food. Highlights on the Alpine menu include duck liver mousse with hazelnuts and seasonal fruit, served with a hot, house-made rye baguette.

El Carajo
El Carajo

Miami

El Carajo

2465 SW 17th Ave.
305.856.2424

A gas station is not where you would expect to find a great wine bar, but this one is renowned for featuring more than 50 wines by the glass, updated each month. Tapas include boquerones and sardines along with clever twists like a Caesar salad with chorizo. The wine shop is open 24 hours, just in case you need a Tempranillo with your morning coquito from the on-site bakery.

Papilles
Papilles / Photo courtesy Facebook

Hollywood

Papilles Bistro

6221 Franklin Ave.
323.871.2026
This cafe is far off the beaten path, located above Sunset Boulevard in a grungy strip mall, but inside feels like a Parisian boîte. And the cooking, too, looks and tastes like the New Paris, with artful compositions showcasing local and seasonal ingredients on the $38 prix fixe menu. Choose your natural wine from a rotating selection off the wall, not a list.

Cafe Momentum
Cafe Momentum

Dallas

Cafe Momentum

1510 Pacific Ave.
214.303.1234

“Eat. Drink. Change Lives.” is the slogan for this ambitious restaurant staffed by nonviolent juvenile offenders. They work under the supervision of three professional chefs who bring serious chops from experience at top kitchens in the city and beyond. Daily specials can include fried chicken as well as fancier fare, like shrimp-and-grits beignets. Wines are sold by the bottle at slight markups from retail prices, with none more than $80.

Toutant
Toutant

Buffalo, New York

Toutant

437 Ellicott St.
716.342.2901
This is one of the hottest spots in the burgeoning restaurant scene that’s luring diners to the formerly deserted downtown. Louisiana native James Roberts serves stunning Southern favorites, including a New Orleans-worthy muffuletta, a barbecue of the week and a hush puppy of the day. Cocktails are, of course, regionally appropriate, with a good selection made with rye. The industrial space feels neither Cajun nor Rust Belt—just transporting.

Bollywood Theater PDX
Bollywood Theater PDX

Portland, Oregon

Bollywood Theater PDX

3010 SE Division
503.477.6699

Troy MacLarty, a Chez Panisse alum with a passion for the flavors of India, recently opened the cafe’s second location. Bollywood films projected on a wall, courtyard seating and a little Indian grocery are added amenities. The menu emphasizes street food and thalis, all served on metal plates. There are also daily wine specials, good beers available beyond Kingfisher (on tap here) and Indian takes on classic cocktails. Devotees rave about the pork vindaloo and the beets with coconut sauce.

Published on October 11, 2016
Topics: Restaurant Trends


SUBSCRIBE TO
NEWSLETTERS
The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories
Please enter a valid email address
privacy policy