We feature restaurants that are pushing the envelope on some of America's beloved comfort foods. Plan Check in Los Angeles offers the most indulgent burgers, fried chicken and pastrami sandwiches, plus a unique towering doughnut dessert. A food truck in Nashville uses big, fat biscuits for hearty sweet and savory sandwiches. Cold fried chicken and baked potatoes are transformed into imaginative pizzas at Pete Zaaz in Brooklyn. And, in Atlanta, guilty pleasures can be found in creative hot dogs, sausages and fries at HD1.
Atlanta is a hotbed for unique eats. Heirloom Market BBQ brings together Korean and American barbecue in a quirky roadside eatery. Seafood dishes are brought to delicious new heights at swank newcomer The Optimist, while cozy corner restaurant One Eared Stag serves edgy American food. And Abattoir adds global touches to its Southern dishes.
Americans continue to pine over all things swine. Korean restaurant Palsaik in Los Angeles serves bacon in eight different flavors. Martin's Bar-B-Q in Nashville smokes whole hog right in the center of their dining room. At Cemitas Puebla in Chicago, diners sink their teeth on quesadillas stuffed with chicharones or their signature Mexican sandwich stuffed with sliced deli ham, fried pork and grilled pork. New York's The Cannibal celebrates nose-to-tail eating with their whole slow-roasted half pig's head, whipped lardo toast and boudin noir sausages.
Authentic global flavors can be savored right here in America. Folks craving Mediterranean and Israeli food flock to charming Balaboosta in New York. Popular Nashville food truck Riff's Fine Street Food marries Caribbean and Asian flavors. At Cook's Torta in Los Angeles, there's always a crowd for their Latin-style sandwiches, while Pecking Order in Chicago serves Filipino-style chicken that comes roasted, grilled or fried.
Chicago continues to draw hungry foodies from all corners of the country with their innovative restaurants. Publican Quality Meats sells farm-raised meats and housemade charcuterie from their butcher counter, but the real draw is the hearty, meat-filled sandwiches. Yusho creates a buzz with their creative Asian-inspired street food. Antique Taco in Wicker Park offers authentic Mexican tacos and classic American comforts foods with a Mexican twist. Familiar brunch dishes get a fine-dining makeover at the Trenchermen.
The lunch hour just got a little longer because the dishes at these restaurants are meant to be savored. Perla in New York City's West Village serves rich Italian sandwiches and delicious pizzas. It's all about the unique "baco" sandwich served daily at Baco Mercat in downtown Los Angeles. At Local Three Kitchen and Bar, diners order fast food classics without the guilt because only fresh, top-quality ingredients are used. Merchants Restaurant in downtown Nashville is a quiet retreat from bustling Broadway and serves elegant Southern food.
These restaurants are putting their modern spin on some Italian classics. Parm in New York's Little Italy dishes out classic Italian-American sandwiches and brings out the kid in all of us with their colorful ice cream sandwich cake. Italian comfort food is paired with beer at gastropub Alla Spina in Philadelphia, while Superba Snack Bar in Venice, California, crafts their own pastas using unusual ingredients and cooking techniques. City House in Nashville puts a Southern twist on Italian sausages and seafood and uses leftover pizza dough to create gnocchi.
These innovative chefs are creating uniquely modern food across the country. In Austin, Chef Paul Qui is keeping it weird and uniquely delicious at East Side King. In New York City's Atera, Chef Matt Lightner and his kitchen are the stars of this jewel-like culinary theater. A well-known Philadelphia innovator keeps it kosher while wowing the crowds, and in Los Angeles, a couple has gone from illegal dinners in their apartment to a full-fledged restaurant serving irresistible Pan-Asian fare.
It's easy to sample everything on the menu when it comes in the form of small bites. My Ceviche in Miami Beach, Florida, keeps it light with the freshest local fish and zesty dressings that define the traditionally Latin-American ceviche dishes. Barley Swine in Austin, Texas, features 13-15 small plates a day, each highlighting ingredients from the local farmers' market. Amis in Philadelphia puts a twist on classic Roman trattoria food where diners are encouraged to order several dishes to share, and Momo Sushi Shack in Bushwick, Brooklyn, serves sushi and dumplings that have Manhattanites crawling through the tunnel to try.
We're looking for the most unique old-school eats across America. Yardbird in Miami gives a taste of the true South with its fried chicken and fried green tomatoes. Dinic's in Philadelphia's Reading Terminal has been serving up some of the best old-school sandwiches to crowds for decades. In New York, old school meets new school at Quality Meats steakhouse, while La Camaronera in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami honors a family seafood tradition.
We love classic dishes, but appreciate when they're uniquely reinvented. The Wakin' and Bakin' Brunch at Eating House in Miami, Florida, has something new for both savory and sweet lovers. Lucy's Fried Chicken in Austin, Texas, spruces up the traditional fried chicken dinner with lots of creative fixings and sides, while Josh's Deli in Surfside, Florida, brings the traditional Jewish deli to a whole new level by reinventing the ubiquitous matzoh ball into gnocchi. And Easy Tiger in Austin combines an artisanal bakery with a beer hall.
We've found the most unique new Asian eats across the country. In Austin, Texas, an authentic ramen house is taking classic broths and adding intense flavors. At Pubbelly in Miami, Florida, the pig is big and served at this gastropub in unique Asian-inspired ways. Traditional Thai food has reached the people of Austin, and they couldn't be happier with Sway. And in Brooklyn, Dassara is transforming brunch favorites into an Asian noodle dish.
The borough of Brooklyn is the new rival to Manhattan on New York's dining scene. Celebrated chef Elizabeth Falkner makes her New York debut with her pizzeria Krescendo, which has grabbed the city's attention with creations like Finoccio Flower Power Pizza. Court Street Grocers takes the deli sandwich and raises it to new heights. La Vara is owned by a husband-and-wife team who turned to Brooklyn to open their most imaginative take yet on Spanish food. And Brooklyn's diversity even makes room for Southern hospitality at Pies-n-Thighs, a down-home fried chicken joint in the shadows of the Williamsburg Bridge.