2000s Archive



Bay Ave. Trattoria

At this modest 42-seat spot, chef and co-owner Joe Romanowski embraces the natural riches of his bayside neighborhood. He roasts freshly caught littlenecks with pancetta, peppers, and sausage and simply grills pristine Navesink River soft-shelled crabs to bring out their sweetness. And he plays up the produce his dad collects from South Jersey farms with creative ethnic accents—a tangle of kimchi here, a hint of curry there. But if he dared to leave his trademark meatballs or “hoagie salad” off the menu, the locals would surely revolt. 122 Bay Ave., Highlands, NJ (732-872-9800)

Blue Bird Bistro

Now that downtown Kansas City has begun to breed swanky boutiques and chic galleries, it’s a relief to find that you can still enjoy a touch of the country at this charming corner spot. Details of produce deliveries from nearby farms are posted on the door, and the menu is constantly tweaked to accommodate seasonal ingredients. 1700 Summit St., Kansas City, MO (816-221-7559)

Bona Terra

Along the Allegheny River, upstream from Pittsburgh, sits this minimalist 14-table homage to the good earth. Chef Douglass Dick doesn’t live far away, but his ride in sometimes take hours as he picks and forages his way to work—he prints his nightly menus just before diners arrive. 908 Main St., Sharpsburg, PA (412-781-8210)


The Pacific Northwest’s Burgerville restaurant chain is a culinary oddity: It’s fanatically dedicated to serving locally sourced food. Cheeseburgers come draped with Tillamook cheddar. Sweet Walla Walla onions are caramelized for the tops of burgers and crisp-fried to accompany North Pacific halibut and chips. Oregon hazelnuts are featured in a salad of smoked wild coho salmon and are the basis of wintertime’s legendary chocolate hazelnut milkshakes. The milkshake repertoire rotates to fresh strawberry in spring, then to raspberry and blackberry, and finally to pumpkin in the fall. (The pumpkins, of course, are Oregon-grown.) Coffee is Portland-roasted, and the bottled water, for heaven’s sake, is collected at regional rain farms. Locations throughout Oregon and Washington; burgerville.com


The menu, scrawled on a big blackboard, is direct and sensuous—dandelion salad, pan-seared snapper with Italian peppers and heirloom tomatoes, roast chicken with corn cake and sage, orange butter cake. Slip onto a barstool or grab a seat at the communal table in the front window for a happy, clamorous meal at this unpretentious and honest little spot. 3219 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village, CA (323-666-7133)

Duo Restaurant

Exposed brick and high ceilings define the bustling, energetic dining room at Duo, which chef John Broening keeps an eye on from a pass-through reminiscent of a DJ booth above a trendy bar. Broening creates straightforward, satisfying comfort food (thick, succulent pork chops with hoppin’ John succotash, flatiron steak with chimichurri and charred sweet potato, grilled bread with bacon and sunny-side-up egg), while pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom focuses on pristine desserts: lemon icebox cake under mountains of meringue; strawberry shortcake paired with buttermilk lime gelato. The wine list is short, sweet, and supplemented by several local microbrews. 2413 W. 32nd Ave., Denver (303-477-4141)

The Farmhouse

If the name didn’t tip you off, the fact that “My Mother’s Heirloom Lettuces” star on chef Michael Adams’s menu might clue you in to the fact that this Lehigh Valley destination is backyard-proud. This farmhouse embodies the essence of rural, with a menu featuring homey fare like a salad of warm Oley Valley mushrooms, glorious golden gazpacho, and verdant asparagus sorrel soup. 1449 Chestnut St., Emmaus, PA (610-967-6225)

Fife restaurant

Chef-owner Marco Shaw’s farm-to-table credentials are outstanding, even for Portland: With the exception of things (such as citrus) that don’t grow in the Pacific Northwest, for eleven months of the year all of the produce, meat, and fish on the menu comes from sustainable or organic regional farms. 4440 N.E. Fremont St., Portland, OR (971-222-3433)

The Flying Fig

The place calls itself a “small eatery and bar,” a play on chef-owner Karen Small’s name, but it’s a deceptive description. The food is actually big and bold, from the rich goat-cheese mousse with strawberry preserves to the crisp chicken livers sweetened with dates and served over bacony greens. 2523 Market Ave., Cleveland (216-241-4243)

The Flying Pig on Lexington

The Flying Pig came early to the local movement, and its straightforward American food (trout, big salads, pork chops, pasta, and great burgers) has converted an entire suburban community to the sustainable ethic. The fact that the restaurant is in the process of becoming employee-owned, offers an Edible Education program, and recycles its cooking oil is all part of its charm. 251 Lexington Ave., Mount Kisco, NY (914-666-7445)

Local Burger

In a sunny lunch and dinner joint in downtown Lawrence, Hilary Brown is reinventing America’s favorite sandwich with local grass-fed meats and organic toppings. Juicy quarter-pound patties (beef, buffalo, pork, turkey, and elk) are the highlight here, but there’s nothing effete about the veggie burger, a surprisingly tasty patty of millet and quinoa. You’ll also find pork, beef, and buffalo hot dogs, trans-fat-free fries, and nine salads heaped with seasonal vegetables. 714 Vermont St., Lawrence, KS (785-856-7827)


Chef-owner Carl Schroeder has only to head two miles or so down the road to the famous Chino Farm stand to find inspiration for his seasonal California cooking. Recent menu offerings have included ramp and potato soup with miniature wild-mushroom and grilled-cheese sandwiches, and a confit duck à l’orange featuring organic oranges. His grapefruit and avocado salad with date sugar is lovely, as is his chicken soup with pearl pasta and a bouquet of vegetables. Some dishes have an Asian accent; others, like his intricate curried spring lamb tasting, an Indian or Middle Eastern influence—all of which makes for exciting, eclectic dining in a bistrolike setting. 3702 Via de la Valle (at El Camino Real), Del Mar, CA (858-523-0007)

Prairie Grass Cafe

Three years ago, the duo that led The Ritz-Carlton Hotel to the pinnacle of Chicago luxury dining in the 1990s transplanted themselves to the suburb of Northbrook, and neighborhood diners have responded with an explosion of enthusiasm. Chef Sarah Stegner was one of the founders of Chicago’s Green City Market, so peerless ingredients are a given here. She and her partner, chef George Bumbaris, specialize in earthy dishes such as grass-fed skirt steak served over a ragout of mushrooms, and moussaka topped with golden-crusted béchamel. Stegner still comes to the market each week for the ingredients, and city dwellers make the reverse commute to dine. 601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook, IL (847-205-4433)


You want corn? Iowa’s got corn: millions of acres of it, most destined for livestock feed. But local polenta? That’s harder. The best is made by chef Andrew Meek, at Sage, in Des Moines. In the fall, that polenta supports a rare Iowa pheasant breast; in the winter, it pairs with local Niman Ranch pork cheeks. The contemporary, airy spot, opened in 2000, has become the local fine-dining standard-bearer. 6587 University Ave., Des Moines (515-255-7722)


Brenda Langton relied heavily on local farmers markets when she threw open the doors of Cafe Brenda in the mid-’80s. For her latest venture, a casual spot on the Mississippi riverfront, she brought the market to her, in effect, by creating the now-bustling Mill City Farmers Market. The food at Spoonriver is more about flavor than flash—sautéed Lake Superior herring comes with wild rice pilaf, and a mushroom and pistachio terrine is paired with mustard sauce, cornichons, and fruit chutney. Local fish and grass-fed beef are always available, and the lamb burger, mixed with fennel and currants and topped with a tangy mint yogurt, is spectacular. 750 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis (612-436-2236)

Steelhead Diner

If chef Kevin Davis runs out of dried Chukar cherries for his baby-lettuce salad, Uli’s andouille sausage for his glorious gumbo, or the Beecher’s Flagship cheese that dresses his Wagyu beef burgers, he can step outside his restaurant in the heart of Pike Place Market and purchase them firsthand. The dazzling new diner—with an open kitchen counter, creative cocktails, and a view of Elliott Bay—is Davis’s playground. 95 Pine St., Seattle (206-625-0129)


Vindalho’s seasonal, farm-fresh approach to the classic dishes of India explains why there’s so much buzz about this loftlike space in southeast Portland. Take the usually ordinary, potato-stuffed samosa: In the spring, chef de cuisine David Anderson makes these fried dumplings with Yukon Gold potatoes, hand-shelled fava beans, and English peas and serves them with chutney made from locally grown mint; in the winter, they’re stuffed with sweet potatoes. Or consider the Indian street snack of watermelon and black salt, reinterpreted as a salad of eastern Oregon’s Hermiston melons (available for only 30 days in high summer) sprinkled with sour-salty chaat masala, serrano chiles, and lime juice. It’s a unique melding of Northwest produce and Spice Route flavors, executed with a sure hand. 2038 S.E. Clinton St., Portland, OR (503-467-4550)

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