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United States Travel Guide

One aspect of their country that Americans frequently overlook – and which is blindingly obvious to most foreigners  is that they live in a continent-size land of unprecedented variety. The United States contains within its borders ...

One aspect of their country that Americans frequently overlook – and which is blindingly obvious to most foreigners  is that they live in a continent-size land of unprecedented variety. The United States contains within its borders the deep woods of Maine and the Everglades of Florida; the snowy peaks of Colorado and the sun-scorched desert of Arizona. When Chicago is buried under snow, the wine is on ice poolside in Los Angeles. And as well as booming hypermodern urban areas, we have cities like New York that are close to 400 years old. “So what?” you may ask. But reflect: Of nowhere else can the same claim be made. 

Russia, China and Brazil are all big countries, but in terms of landscape and climate, they contain a small percentage of the variety offered by the United States. And when you consider that their backyard extends to all of North America, from the Arctic to the tropics, then you begin to appreciate how fortunate American travelers really are. Everywhere, inns, hotels and resorts are constantly opening or reinventing themselves. Sophisticated spas and world-class cuisine now come virtually standard. So you may think that you know the classic destinations of New England, the Lowcountry, the Southwest and the California Wine Country, but when did you last take a look? Chances are, virtually everything will have changed  probably for the better  since your last visit.

Recommended Luxury Hotels in United States

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.
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Best Restaurants in United States

Chef/owner Beverly Gannon has long been a star on the Hawaii culinary scene, and our visit to this perennially popular restaurant on Maui showed why. A standout was the starter sashimi Napoleon, a sumptuous construction of crisp wontons layered with tartare of ahi tuna, smoked salmon, sashimi ahi and wasabi vinaigrette. And I had to try the kalua pork enchilada pie, with roasted pork, cheese, mole sauce, corn tortillas and salsa verde, and lime-cilantro sour cream.

900 Hali’imaile Road Makawao Maui http://bevgannonrestaurants.com/haliimaile/

Just three miles from the Bedford Post Inn, The Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges presents a splendid alternative for fine dining — especially while the former’s main restaurant is being renovated. Superstar chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten spotted an opportunity in the grand 1833 residence, and the property has been fully renovated and restored, including its four impressive fireplaces. Lavish use of wood and warm lighting create an exceptionally congenial atmosphere. The menu features seasonal farmto- table cuisine with ingredients from the Hudson Valley and New England whenever possible. A striking serving of little beets arranged like big strawberries on a swirl of Greek yogurt flavored with olive oil and balsamic vinegar was outstanding. And an entrée of a Berkshire pork chop wrapped in prosciutto with mushrooms and sage in a white wine sauce could not have been more delicious or satisfying. 258 Westchester Avenue Pound Ridge Hudson Valley http://www.theinnatpoundridge.com/

Although star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten oversees a global empire of restaurants, the quality here never falters. The dining room is a minimalist space with floral arrangements, flattering lighting and large windows facing Columbus Circle. The menu changes regularly, but you can always count on the best ingredients prepared in surprising ways. Look, for example, for dishes such as Santa Barbara sea urchin with black bread, jalapeño and yuzu; black bass crusted with nuts and seeds in a sweet-and-sour jus; and, for carnivores, caramelized beef tenderloin with poached daikon, mustard essence and crackling kale. 

Trump International Hotel 1 Central Park West New York City Three-course menu, $140; seven course chef's menu, $220 http://www.jean-georgesrestaurant.com/jean-georges/

This oasis of tranquility comes with dark-blue carpeting, custom-painted damask wallpaper, an enclosed patio and dramatic net-like lighting fixtures. The focus on seafood reflects the passions of co-owner Donato Poto and chef Michael Cimarusti. The menu is always changing, but starters have included Santa Barbara spot prawns with tomato and bronze fennel. The main courses could be black bass with turnip, hibiscus and Indonesian spices; John Dory with porcini, lardo and wild asparagus; or wagyu with wild asparagus, grilled favas and pickled plum. The wine list has a remarkable selection of more than two dozen wines by the glass and 400 labels. 

5955 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles Five-course menu, $90; seven courses, $180; chef’s multi-course menu, $220 http://www.providencela.com/

I’ve never been to Roy Yamaguchi’s original restaurant in eastern Honolulu, despite the urging of friends. But the Waikiki branch is lively and well-run. (While there is a core of recipes common to all, each location’s chef may also develop his or her own dishes.) With the option of ordering smaller portions, we tried everything that caught our eye: pot stickers came with a spicy chili aioli and a gochujang dipping sauce; blackened ahi tuna was rare inside and served with a hot soy-mustard butter; and I found butterfish, a personal favorite, prepared with miso and a ginger-wasabi beurre blanc. 

226 Lewers Street Honolulu $70 http://www.royshawaii.com/roys-waikiki.html

This former house a short walk from the Hotel Columbia has no view of note, but it ranks as one of Telluride’s leading restaurants. In a cozy space decorated with bright landscapes, we started with a selection of housemade sausages, of which the sweet and savory chicken-cranberry and the Asian-inflected duck-mushroom versions were especially delicious. I also relished my main course of Colorado striped bass, served with meaty mushrooms and crunchy haricots verts.

221 South Oak Street Telluride http://www.221southoak.com/

At chef Robert Wiedmaier’s romantic restaurant, the menu changes frequently, but dishes have included Santa Barbara uni served with shrimp tagliatelle and a pesto coulis; pan-seared turbot with sweet onion purée, leeks, crispy capers and a tarragon essence; and Angus filet mignon with cauliflower, cippolini onions and a cranberry-Cabernet sauce. The extensive wine list has 24 selections by the glass. 

2401 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. Washington, D.C. Four-course menu, $95; five courses, $115; six courses, $135; seven courses, $155 http://www.marcelsdc.com/

This is one of the prettiest restaurants in the city, set in a turn-of-the-century brownstone. The menu is contemporary French. Look for the rich assortment of house-made pâtés served with cornichons and toasted brioche. Main courses might include Alaskan halibut with quinoa, saffron potato cakes and morel mushroom sauce; or braised wagyu beef short rib with root vegetables and trumpet royale mushrooms in a Bordelaise sauce. The extensive wine list has 17 selections by the glass. Closed Sunday and Monday.

222 East Ontario Street Chicago Four-course menu, $125; six courses, $140 http://www.lesnomades.net/

The question of who makes the best clam chowder is a source of endless debate on the Vineyard. I have long since resolved this weighty issue to my satisfaction: The Bite. This is not a restaurant; it is a takeout stand in Menemsha. Not a typical Harper recommendation, to be sure, but still worthy of attention. The fried clams are also excellent. I invariably head to the nearby Menemsha Beach for a sunset feast.

29 Basin Road Menemsha Martha's Vineyard

Tucked into a handsome Dupont Circle townhouse, this restaurant proves that fine dining doesn’t have to be stuffy. Chef/owners Peter Pastan and Esther Lee present an Italian-inspired menu that changes daily, but choices might include pastas such as squab agnolotti with chanterelle mushrooms, and main courses like red snapper with preserved lemon, olives, capers and Roman artichoke; or roasted suckling pig with rapini and pepperonata (for two). The well-priced wine list emphasizes bottles from Italy and California. Closed Sunday and Monday.

2029 P Street N.W. Washington D.C. Five-course menu, $75 Tuesday-Thursday; $85 Friday and Saturday http://www.obeliskdc.com/

Among the casualties of Hurricane Sandy was this, one of New York’s most beloved restaurants. After 15 months and the expenditure of millions of dollars, the restaurant reopened in February 2014. With its garden of light-bedecked trees, lovely flower arrangements, live piano and incomparable Manhattan backdrop, The River Café is the embodiment of traditional fine dining. We thoroughly enjoyed every bite of our wild shrimp and king crab meat with white asparagus dressed with a Maltaise sauce (Hollandaise inflected with orange), and rack of lamb cooked to pink perfection. 

1 Water Street Brooklyn Prix fixe menu, $125. Six-course tasting menu, $155 http://www.rivercafe.com/

Chef Corey Lee, who worked for many years at The French Laundry, here oversees a menu that skillfully combines contemporary American, Continental and Japanese cuisines. The spare interior of white walls, gray banquettes and black tables reflects the minimalist style of the food. Look for varied dishes such as oysters with pork belly and kimchi; caviar, winter melon and chicken cream; white sea trout with roe, radish and perilla; sea urchin, okra and nori; whole baby sea bream, iceberg lettuce, black trumpet mushroom and aged tangerine peel; and beef rib, eggplant, broccoli, ramps and charred scallions. The exceptional wine list has 19 by-the-glass selections, as well as six sakes. The recommended wine pairings are spot-on. Closed Sunday and Monday.

22 Hawthorne Street San Francisco Multicourse tasting menu, $270 http://www.benusf.com/

Drew Nieporent, a perceptive restaurateur, has been operating a restaurant in this space since he opened Montrachet 30 years ago to enormous acclaim. This latest iteration uses the space much as it was when it was Corton (which I admired greatly), and the kitchen is under the skilled direction of Markus Glocker, who hails from Vienna. His cooking is precise, and the presentation is elegant and almost Japanese in its understatement. My main course, “Fisch Suppe Bâtard,” was one of the best things I’ve eaten in quite some time. The broth packed an ocean of depth, and each piece of seafood from the prawns to the trout was perfectly cooked. The wine list and service are exemplary. Closed Sunday.

239 West Broadway New York City Two-course menu, $60; three courses, $70; four courses, $80 http://www.batardtribeca.com/restaurants/batard/

This wonderful Italian restaurant is set in a townhouse on a quiet side street in Greenwich Village. The dynamos behind its success are chef Mario Batali and partner Joe Bastianich. The downstairs is lively; the more subdued upstairs is one of the most attractive dining rooms in the city. It’s hard to choose a favorite from the primi courses, but the beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab liver and black truffle is a classic. Among the main courses, whole grilled branzino with spring radishes, olives and lemon-oregano jam is a standout. 

110 Waverly Place New York City $70. Seven-course tasting menu, $100; seven-course pasta tasting menu, $100 http://www.babbonyc.com/

More than one winemaker recommended this stylish American bistro to us during our stay in Paso Robles. A joint venture of brothers Michael and Chris Kobayashi, the restaurant has a minimalist yet comfortable interior, and excellent contemporary cooking. To start, I tucked into a rich, tasty abalone tostada, served with avocado and pork-belly carnitas. And for my main, I tried the satisfying lamb chop with braised shank, carrots and a feta salsa verde. The wine list offers 26 by-the-glass choices.

843 12th Street Paso Robles, California http://www.artisanpasorobles.com/

This striking restaurant has impressive wood beams and rugged stone accent walls, while big peaked windows provide dramatic views of Lake Union. In business since 1950, it has been reinvigorated by chefs such as Brady Williams, who joined the kitchen in 2015 from the highly regarded Roberta’s in Brooklyn. Thus, you will see among the starters the iconic Peter Canlis prawns prepared with dry vermouth, garlic, red chilies and lime; and Dungeness crab with bok choy and fermented ajo blanco (a popular Spanish soup made from crushed almonds, garlic bread, water and olive oil). Main courses could be Copper River king salmon with spring vegetables and herbs; or grilled filet mignon served with morel mushrooms, spinach and cipollini onions. Reservations are a must. Closed Sunday.

2576 Aurora Avenue North Seattle Three-course menu, $90; four courses, $110; chef's tasting menu, $145 http://www.canlis.com/

Located in a former washateria east of downtown, Launderette is an imaginative addition to the roster of restaurants in the city. Menu highlights include a rabbit terrine starter, charred octopus and tandoori prawns cooked on a wood grill, and kabocha squash with beets, arugula, sweetened hazelnuts and ricotta. 

2115 Holly Street Austin $35 http://launderetteaustin.com/

I have followed the cooking and career of Stephen Pyles with admiration for many years; his advocacy of, and adventurous takes on, Southwestern cuisine have made his restaurants high on my Dallas list. So news that he would shutter Stephan Pyles filled me with a sadness that could only be vanquished by the concurrent news that he would be opening a new place. Flora Street Cafe features such imaginative dishes as sea scallops with a coconut gelée, pineapple, chipotle-buckwheat groats and a jasmine-sea essence; lobster tamale pie with wild paddlefish caviar; and Texas wagyu rib eye with bone marrow custard, brisket, kale and a sweet pepper relleno. 

2330 Flora Street Dallas $90. Eight-course tasting menu, $115 http://florastreet.com/

Edgartown provides excellent window-shopping, and once you have become immersed in this, you often find that more time has elapsed than you thought or intended. It was under just such circumstances that we discovered Espresso Love, just out of the bustling town center. The cool garden is perfect for enjoying the baked goods that draw morning crowds, as well as the fresh-made, generous sandwiches and salads.

17 Church Street Edgartown Martha's Vineyard http://www.espressolove.com/mv/index.html

The city’s finest Italian restaurant overlooks Oak Street Beach and showcases the talents of chef Tony Mantuano. The seasonal menu changes but includes exquisite pastas such as spaghetti with fonduta, peas, ramps and beech mushrooms; or potato gnocchi with ricotta sauce and black truffles. Main courses might include salmon with red cabbage and pea tendrils; or duck with foie gras, green walnuts, carrots and speck. 

980 North Michigan Avenue Chicago $130. Six-course tasting menu, $125 http://www.spiaggiarestaurant.com/

After an extensive renovation a few years ago, this inviting 30-year-old restaurant continues to gather plaudits as one of the finest on the Monterey Peninsula. Dapper proprietor Tony Salameh offers contemporary favorites such as beef brochette, prawns and angel hair, barramundi salad, and Hawaiian tuna tartare. Children’s menu available.

In the Court of Fountains Mission Street between Ocean and Seventh avenues Carmel http://www.antonandmichel.com/antonmichel/

Chef-owner Cindy Pawlcyn has been known to refer to this wonderful restaurant as a “deluxe truck stop.” I have eaten at Mustards for many years and am including it now because it is favored by so many constituencies: winemakers, farmers, off-duty chefs and, yes, truck drivers. They all come for the delicious food, a lively mix that includes ahi tuna crackers, wasabi crème fraîche and a san bai su sauce; and Dungeness crab cakes with espelette aioli, garden greens and sherry vinaigrette. From the woodburning grill and oven, look for main courses such as the beloved Mongolian pork chop with sweet-and-sour red cabbage and house-made mustard. You will, I’m sure, enjoy browsing the wine list as much as I do. 

7399 St. Helena Highway Yountville $55 http://mustardsgrill.com/

I have long admired the talents of Gabriel Kreuther, the opening chef at The Modern, Danny Meyer’s restaurant in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Earlier this year, Kreuther debuted on West 42nd Street, across from Bryant Park, in his new place. He has lost nothing in the move. Highlights on the menu include a starter of nori-flavored pasta with Pacific red crab, a purée of smoked parsnip and dulse seaweed; and a main of spice-rubbed Mangalica pork (an old Hungarian breed enjoying new vogue) with roasted fennel and pear. The inviting front bar area serves food rooted in Kreuther’s native Alsace. Closed Sunday.

41 West 42nd Street New York City Four-course prix fixe menu, $125; chef's menu, $205 http://www.gknyc.com/

A handsome room with large windows and generously spaced tables makes a fine venue for the New American-French cooking of chef Josiah Citrin, a hometown wonder who has cooked with stars Wolfgang Puck and Joachim Splichal. The wide-ranging menu could present starters such as a soft-poached egg with lemon crème fraîche and American osetra caviar, or Santa Barbara spot prawn with Hope Ranch black mussels, pea pods, celtuce (Chinese lettuce), sorrel and pea tendril broth. Among the main courses, you might find lobster Bolognese with fresh capellini, basil and brown butter-truffle froth; or the prime beef rib eye cap with braised beef cheek ravioli, beef tongue galette, wild ramps and carrots. Closed Sunday and Monday.

1104 Wilshire Boulevard Santa Monica Four-course tasting menu or five-course vegetarian tasting menu, $145 http://www.melisse.com/

This, the latest restaurant from the Sweet Basil team (see below), offers contemporary American cuisine in a casual, comfortable setting. The look is upscale tavern, with lots of wood, and a menu that features dishes prepared over an open fire. Appetizers include updated classics such as bruschetta with crushed avocado and fava beans, goat cheese, chermoula and preserved lemon, plus a great raw bar with oysters, Alaskan king crab and ahi tuna crudo. Among the mains, consider the Rocky Mountain trout with marinated summer squash, cherry tomatoes, chive gnocchi and citrus butter; and a grilled hangar steak with charred broccoli, new potatoes, “cheese whiz,” olives and garlic croutons. 

193 Gore Creek Drive Vail $55 https://mtnstandard.com/

A makeover has taken the signature restaurant of The Biltmore in Coral Gables from stuffy to stunning. The seasonal menu is as contemporary as the décor. Look for starters such as king crab with carrots, English peas, cipollini onions and grissini; or sea urchin custard with poached langoustines, golden osetra caviar and a Granny Smith apple gelée. Main courses might include Alaskan black cod poached in coconut milk with a sweet potato degustation and curry; or Japanese Kobe beef tenderloin with a confit of baby potatoes, tomatoes, green asparagus, spring onion and diable sauce. Closed Sunday and Monday.

The Biltmore 1200 Anastasia Avenue Coral Gables Four-course menu, $95; six courses, $115; 11-course chef's menu, $195 http://www.biltmorehotel.com/dining/palme.php#

Small-plate aficionados will be delighted by the Nuevo Latino flavors at this bright and simple space in South Beach. To begin, an astonishing variety of ceviches might include salmon with white soy sauce, citrus juices, chili-spiced cucumber, tarragon, red onion and crispy garlic. A starter could be the chicharrón plate, featuring crispy rock shrimp coated with rice and corn flour in a sweet-and-spicy sauce with micro cilantro. Among the main courses, you might find filet mignon cut and grilled churrasco style. 

The Sanctuary Hotel 1745 James Avenue Miami Beach $65 http://www.olamiami.com/

This elegant offering from chef Michael White is located in the Langham Place hotel on Fifth Avenue. (White also presides over Marea and Osteria Morini.) Look for pastas such as Trofie Nero, Ligurian-style squid’s ink pasta, with a tangy ragout of squid and scallops. The equally outstanding main courses may include halibut with fava bean caponata, chanterelle mushrooms and zucchini purée; or an excellent veal chop with new potatoes, prosciutto and sage. There are more than two dozen wines by the glass. 

400 Fifth Avenue New York City $85. Four-course menu, $100; seven-course chef’s tasting menu, $135 http://www.aifiorinyc.com/

With four dining rooms, each with its own fireplace, and an elm-shaded patio, this 1862 adobe house provides the venue for superb contemporary Southwest cooking. The menu changes seasonally, but classic starters include shiitake and cactus spring rolls with a Southwestern ponzu dipping sauce, and shrimp and spinach dumplings with a tahini sauce. Look for main courses such as grilled Angus filet mignon with glazed carrots and green chili mashed potatoes with a cilantro-lime Hollandaise. The extensive wine list offers a good selection by the glass. 

231 Washington Avenue Santa Fe $60 http://www.santacafe.com/

For more than 25 years, Grill 23 has been a Boston steakhouse favorite. The beef comes from a single herd on a family-owned ranch in California that uses neither hormones nor antibiotics. Some top choices include New York steak, filet mignon and a fine porterhouse. To begin, there is an extensive raw bar with oysters and a generous shellfish sampler, and appetizers such as a classic iceberg wedge with roasted tomato, bacon and blue cheese dressing; and a plump Jonah crab cake with scallop mousse and coleslaw. 

161 Berkeley Street Boston $80 http://grill23.com/

Hank’s is a modern evocation of an old Charleston seafood house, where Chef Tim Richardson serves imaginatively updated Lowcountry cuisine. Starters include a rich chowder-style oyster stew with leeks, potatoes and bacon. Among the specialties is local shrimp sautéed with smoked andouille sausage, then stewed with fresh tomatoes, garlic and white wine and served with grits. If you’re looking for a real taste of local seafood, Hank’s seafood platters are legendary. 

10 Hayne Street Charleston $60 http://www.hanksseafoodrestaurant.com/

Chef/owners Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison use only fresh, organic products in their New American, five-course prix-fixe meals. Main courses could include Gulf red snapper with red shrimp, field peas and tomato; or prime New York strip steak with moonshine turnips and grits. Wine pairings are offered with each course. Closed Sunday.

1198 Howell Mill Road Atlanta $85. Five-course menu, $85 http://www.starprovisions.com/

This beautiful restaurant with its soft lighting and dramatic floral arrangements is ideal for a romantic dinner. But it is about much more than the ambience. Piero Selvaggio is a consummate restaurateur and host, and you’ll not only feel welcome but also enjoy some of the best Italian food in the United States. The three-course menu might begin with superb prosciutto di Parma aged for 24 months with fresh burrata; while the second course could be classic tagliatelle with meat ragu, or the rich risotto made with aquarello carnaroli rice with radicchio di Treviso, buffalo blue cheese and Amarone. The third course might be the classic veal chop Milanese with an arugula and tomato salad. The wine list is beyond encyclopedic. Closed Sunday and Monday.

3115 Pico Boulevard Santa Monica $90 http://www.valentinorestaurant.com/valentino/

Set on an otherwise undistinguished block west of Fifth Avenue, this legendary establishment is the embodiment of a congenial club, with a ground-floor lounge and the bar/restaurant itself, plus a long curved bar. The menu here and in the upstairs dining room features favorites such as the ‘21’ Caesar salad, chicken hash, Dover sole grilled or sautéed, and, from the grill, a 14-ounce 28-day-aged rib eye. The wine cellar contains more than 1,300 selections. Closed Sunday.

21 West 52nd Street New York City $80. Three-course pre-theater bar dinner, $50; four-course menu, $95 http://www.21club.com/web/onyc/21_club.jsp

In this former warehouse, chef Sean Brock takes a more experimental tack than at his renowned Husk (a restaurant I also recommend), with smaller portions and carefully composed presentations. My dinner included courses such as oysters served with egg yolk and green garlic; medium-rare cobia (black kingfish) with cabbage, cooked sous-vide in pork fat; succulent duck breast with tart satsuma marmalade, mild radishes and a surprising cube of duck confit; and a caramelly frozen brioche “parfait” with contrastingly bitter kumquats. Creative wine pairings rose to the occasion. 

2 Unity Alley Charleston $90. Seven-course tasting menu, $125 http://mccradysrestaurant.com/

We enjoyed a fine Italian lunch at this classic restaurant on Colorado Avenue, Telluride’s main commercial street. I particularly enjoyed a plate of citrus-cured salmon served with crunchy white cabbage and tangy Borettane onions. The steep $29 price tag of the homemade tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms was less palatable. But I would return just to take advantage of the impressively broad selection of Italian wines. I ordered a sprightly Picollo Gavi di Gavi, and a lush La Cappuccina “Arzimo” Passito for dessert.

114 East Colorado Avenue Telluride http://www.rusticoristorante.com/

Commander’s Palace is set in a Garden District mansion and is under the management of Lally Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin. Tory McPhail continues the tradition of outstanding chefs. Among the appetizers, you’ll always find his rich turtle soup, as well as inventive takes on Creole heritage such as blue crab gratin of French triple-cream cheese and jumbo crab lumps with braised leeks, fennel, artichokes and buttery skillet bread. Among the best main courses is the pecan-crusted Gulf fish with Prosecco-poached Louisiana blue crab meat, crushed corn sauce and spiced pecans. 

1403 Washington Avenue New Orleans $70. Seven-course chef's menu, $105 http://www.commanderspalace.com/

It is the rare traveler to Maine who does not, at some point, hanker for a great lobster roll. We found our grail at Pier 77, on the water a short drive from Kennebunkport. In a picturesque building festooned with colorful lobster buoys, the restaurant overlooks the charming Cape Porpoise Harbor. While taking in the view, we enjoyed the plump Maine crab cakes and then indulged in the succulent lobster rolls, packed with sweet meat on a soft bun. The food is simple, straightforward and delicious—just what we had been looking for.

77 Pier Road Kennebunkport, Maine http://www.pier77restaurant.com/

Focusing on authentic bistro cuisine, this charming establishment also features one of the best wine stores in the village. Classics such as lobster bisque, duck confit and veal tenderloin are served with sunny California attitudes. A chef’s table is available.

Mission Street between Ocean and Seventh avenues Carmel http://www.andresbouchee.com/

For more than 100 years, Galatoire’s has been a French Quarter institution. The ground-floor dining room is as lovely as ever, with its tiled floors and elegant green fleur-de-lys wallpaper. The Oysters Rockefeller are fresh, plump and topped with Herbsaint-flavored spinach. Watch for main courses such as the legendary sautéed fish with crabmeat Yvonne, both the fish and the crabmeat sautéed in butter and a delicious mixture of mushrooms, artichokes and onions. Closed Monday. Jackets required after 5 p.m.

209 Bourbon Street New Orleans $65 http://www.galatoires.com/

Michael Schwartz’s airy, modern bistro is a Design District favorite. Schwartz cites Alice Waters as an inspiration, and his creative menu emphasizes unpretentious, locally sourced dishes at reasonable prices. It changes frequently, but look for selections such as house-made duck confit with orange marmalade, frisée and spiced pumpkin seeds; stracciatella with heirloom tomatoes, basil and extra-virgin olive oil; and slow-roasted and grilled Harris Ranch beef short rib with roasted cipollini onions, romesco sauce and hazelnuts. 

130 N.E. 40th Street Miami $55 http://www.michaelsgenuine.com/

This cheery local institution, once owned by Carmel’s most famous resident/mayor, actor/director Clint Eastwood, features plenty of hearty gastropub fare, an extensive beer selection and sun-splashed patio dining. Note the homage to its former proprietor in the barroom.

San Carlos Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues Carmel http://www.hogsbreathinn.net/

The interior of this vine-wrapped Spanish-style building is a dramatic space with exposed brick walls, a towering chimney, a beamed wood ceiling and theater-perfect lighting. This provides an apt setting for the superb cooking of chef Suzanne Goin, whose training included a spell in the kitchens of Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Campanile in Los Angeles. Her food is inventive and ever-changing. For starters, you might find ricotta dumplings with morels, spring vegetables, ramps and Parmesan. Main courses could include pan-roasted halibut with artichoke, frisée, lardons, soft egg and mustard crumbs; or beef short ribs with sautéed greens, roasted cipollini onions and horseradish cream. Goin has become famous for her three-course Sunday supper, a bargain at $45. 

8474 Melrose Avenue West Hollywood $80 http://www.lucques.com/

A short walk from the Camden Harbour Inn, the Hartstone Inn is a lovely Victorian building. Chef Michael Salmon, the inn’s owner, is dedicated to serving as much Maine produce as he can. The dinner menu is a five-course feast, and reservations are a must. Memorable selections from our meal were generously proportioned lobster tortellini, and beef tenderloin in a Gorgonzola-herb butter with potatoes Anna. Salmon teaches several cooking courses, which enjoy great popularity.

41 Elm Street Camden, Maine http://www.hartstoneinn.com/

Opened in 1981 by chef Elizabeth Terry and her husband, Michael, this sophisticated, stylish restaurant set a benchmark not only in Savannah but for the whole country. (It regularly wins coveted awards.) The kitchen is now under the direction of Terry’s former sous chef, Kelly Yambor, whose menus are filled with luscious fare such as a thick, creamy butter bean soup, and the delicious, spicy Savannah red rice with Georgia shrimp, sausage and okra. 

105 E 37th Street Savannah $65 http://www.elizabethon37th.net/

This elegant space has a bar flanked by a wall of backlit onyx, and a main dining room with rosewood accents and mounted seashells. Chef Michael White is a master of seafood presentations, whether it’s the extensive selection of raw sliced fish; antipasti like Nova Scotia lobster with burrata, eggplant and basil; superb pastas such as gnocchetti with red shrimp, chilies and rosemary; or the main fish dishes — wild striped bass with eggplant, spring garlic, pistachio and bomba calabrese being a fine example. 

240 Central Park South New York City $90. Four-course menu, $100 http://www.marea-nyc.com/

High ceilings, exposed brick walls and a spectacular wall of wine holding 4,500 bottles all contribute to the striking interior of this 1834 building in the Market district. The food is modern Lowcountry, with a woodburning grill giving many dishes an extra edge of flavor. Look for appetizers such as the plump crab cake with corn chow-chow and avocado cream. Among the main courses, the crispy wasabi tuna in a ginger-garlic glaze with edamame and shiitake mushrooms illustrates the restaurant’s flair with Asian ingredients and techniques. There are also tableside preparations for two, such as rack of lamb and Chateaubriand. 

167 East Bay Street Charleston $65 http://www.magnolias-blossom-cypress.com/

The dappled patio here draws a fashionable older crowd with upscale comfort food and unfussy presentations. I enjoyed a bowl of creamy and fresh corn chowder, as well as an expertly prepared fillet of parmesan-crusted halibut served atop al dente risotto studded with sweet peas. The three-course “Express Business Lunch” is one of Palm Springs’ better dining values, and you’re guaranteed some excellent people-watching.

701 W Baristo Road Palm Springs, California http://www.spencersrestaurant.com/index.php

A smart brick loft interior with a sleek bar provides the setting for the contemporary cooking at this lively and sophisticated restaurant. The crab cakes burst with lumps of blue crab with just enough binder, and come with a side of golden potato purée and a spiced crème fraîche. And the excellent benne (sesame seed)-encrusted black grouper filet is given a nice Asian touch with stir-fried vegetables and sweet soy accompanied by jasmine rice. 

110 Congress Street Savannah $65 http://www.sapphiregrill.com/

In this handsome bistro-style restaurant in Cambridge, chef Tony Maws has built a reputation for using the abundant produce of the area in exceptionally imaginative ways. The seasonal menu changes daily, but look for starters such as crisp fried clams from Essex, a New England favorite given a twist with preserved lemon, pickled peppers and a squid-ink anchovy paste; and main courses like olive oil-poached halibut with braised little gem lettuce, Manila clams, Serrano ham and sake; or Vermont pork prepared three ways: spice-crusted rib, slow-cooked belly and roasted loin. Closed Monday.

853 Main Street Cambridge Three-course menu, $70 http://www.craigieonmain.com/

L’Espalier features a mix of New England and French culinary approaches. Chef/owner Frank McClelland with chef de cuisine Matthew Delisle offers starters such as Georges Bank scallops and spring sunchokes with Maine crab salad and popcorn. Main courses could be butter-poached Maine lobster with braised Belgian endive, shrimp dumpling, white asparagus, grapefruit and basil. 

774 Boylston Street Boston Three-course prix fixe menu, $95; six-course degustation menu, $120 http://www.lespalier.com/

Neighboring Oak Bluffs is much more relaxed than Edgartown, with dainty Victorian gingerbread houses encircling the Methodist Tabernacle (the scene of lively band concerts in summer). There, The Sweet Life Café is a longstanding favorite. Its French-American cuisine strikes a judicious balance between casual and fine dining. Notable dishes include the beet and burrata salad, followed by the breaded Vermont quail breast served on a ragout of quail confit with favas, cherry reduction and foie gras mousse.

63 Circuit Avenue Oak Bluffs Martha's Vineyard http://www.sweetlifemv.com/

Chef Kent Rathbun traveled the world for inspiration in creating his “Contemporary Global Cuisine” and now presents it in this lively modern restaurant. Among the extensive listings, you might find tamarind-seared Texas bobwhite quail with pepperjack masa stack, fire-roasted poblano ranchera and a sunny-side up quail egg; one of the intriguing sushi rolls such as the VIP roll with snow crab, spicy tuna and soy paper, wrapped in fresh cucumber; pan-fried soft-shell crab with Spanish chorizo, fire-roasted peppers, charred corn and pimentón butter; pan-seared Hawaiian striped marlin with stir-fried glass noodles, bean sprouts, scallions and a ginger-lime broth; and wood-roasted beef tenderloin with Sangiovese butter. The wine list also covers the globe. Closed Sunday.

4511 McKinney Avenue Dallas $80. Chef's tasting menus Monday-Thursday; five-course menu, $65; eight courses, $95 http://www.kentrathbun.com/abacus/dallas/

Chef-proprietor Roland Passot sticks fairly closely to the French canon here, with some interesting innovations, so look for starters such as wild mushroom and charred leek salad with truffled egg yolk vinaigrette. Main courses might include lobster and mushroom risotto with leeks and lobster bisque; or rack of lamb with charred serpent cucumber, curried mint yogurt, lamb bacon and lamb jus. Closed Sunday and Monday.

2316 Polk Street San Francisco Three-course menu, $100; four courses, $120; five courses, $140 http://www.lafolie.com/

This rustic stone building just off St. Helena’s main street is the venue for some of the finest meals I’ve had in the Wine Country. Chef Hiro Sone, who works with his wife, Lissa Doumani, has opened Bar Terra for light meals and drinks, while keeping a vibrant full menu in the restaurant. The food embodies a skillful take on California cuisine with Asian accents. The menus change regularly, but look for dishes such as broiled sake-marinated Alaskan black cod with shrimp dumplings in a shiso broth, and soy-braised beef short rib with fried gnocchi, asparagus and watercress. The wine list is full of interesting bottles, and the staff is very knowledgeable. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

1345 Railroad Avenue St. Helena Four-course menu, $85; five courses, $105; six courses, $120 http://www.terrarestaurant.com/

For a city beside the sea, Miami has surprisingly few good seafood restaurants. The menu at Mandolin draws on the cuisines of Turkey and Greece. In this pleasant, light-washed space, look for mezzes such as the Greek sampler of tzatziki, eggplant purée and taramasalata, or marinated grilled octopus. The simply delicious mains might include fresh whole fish grilled with olive oil, lemon and oregano; a classic moussaka; or grilled lamb chops with an orzo pilaf.

4312 N.E. Second Avenue Miami $60 http://www.mandolinmiami.com/

Just south of Farragut Square, Equinox is sophisticated but understated. Chef Todd Gray is a strong proponent of Mid-Atlantic ingredients. On our most recent visit, I couldn’t resist the truffled risotto fritters with sweet garlic crème fraîche. Among the main courses, look for dishes such as seared pork belly with seafood bouillabaisse, herbed polenta, Maryland jumbo lump crab meat and pickled ramps. 

818 Connecticut Avenue N.W. Washington, D.C. Three-course menu, $60; five courses, $75; seven courses with wine, $115 http://equinoxrestaurant.com/

Part of a well-regarded West Coast-based restaurant group, this airy trattoria offers antipasti, wood-fired pizza, house-made pastas and rotisserie roasted meats. There is also a children’s menu for a casual early dinner with the family.

Ocean Avenue at Monte Verde Street Carmel http://www.ilfornaio.com/

The delightful Primo, just outside of Rockland, south of Camden, also occupies a Victorian house. The restaurant is on two levels, the downstairs being formal and the upstairs casual. The chef is Melissa Kelly, an alumna of Chez Panisse and, before Primo, the outstanding Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in upstate New York. Kelly here oversees a kitchen where almost every ingredient is grown or raised by the restaurant or obtained locally. It would be a shame not to start with one of the superb wood-fired pizzas, followed by a main course such as the pork chop marinated in hand-pressed cider. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

2 South Main Street Rockland, Maine http://www.primorestaurant.com/

This casually chic café, whose artful bric-a-brac interior seems modeled after a Keith McNally restaurant, is an excellent all-purpose option for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Specialties include brioche French toast, fresh fisherman’s stew and thin-crust pizzas from a wood-fired Mugnaini oven.

Dolores Street at Seventh Avenue Carmel http://www.labicycletterestaurant.com/

Set in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, Jar has the retro feel of an old supper club, with wood-paneled walls hung with portraits. Suzanne Tracht has reached back into the national recipe book to present new takes on classic favorites. Among the appetizers, do not pass on the deviled eggs with crab meat, or the fried Ipswich clams with cocktail sauce and roasted garlic tartar sauce. Then there are the meats: the 14-ounce prime rib eye and Jar’s justly famous pot roast with carrots and caramelized onions. Closed Monday.

8225 Beverly Boulevard Los Angeles $70 http://www.thejar.com/

Chef Mike Lata of FIG (also a superb restaurant) opened this local seafood-focused small-plate venture in late 2012, and it quickly became a great success. My favorite dish was the pickled shrimp, a humble-sounding appetizer that Lata updated into a gorgeously composed salad. Current selections include broiled oysters with green garlic and Parmesan, and blue crab-topped grouper with asparagus and artichokes in mustard sauce. Try the adroitly balanced Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail. Closed Monday.

544 King Street Charleston $60 http://eattheordinary.com/the-restaurant/

Despite its on-the-bay location, Elliott’s doesn’t have particularly good views. What it does have is supremely fresh seafood and a faultless list of the freshest area oysters (the restaurant goes through more than 7,000 per week), as well as preparations such as pan-fried oysters with tartar and bourbon sauces, and oysters Rockefeller. With a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc, they make a perfect meal. 

1201 Alaskan Way Pier 56 Seattle $55 http://www.elliottsoysterhouse.com/

"Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto's first American restaurant continues to serve top-quality Japanese cuisine in a brightly surreal space with futuristic table lamps and color-changing booths. A light but richly flavored whitefish carpaccio paired perfectly with a glass of Morimoto's dry and fruity daiginjo sake, and a bowl of pork belly ramen in pork broth made for a comforting and substantial lunch.

723 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA http://www.morimotorestaurant.com/

At this relaxing restaurant with light mustard walls, soft lighting and white linen tablecloths, co-owner Jodi Larner and chef Chris Lanter are committed to quality ingredients simply prepared. The menu changes, but look for starters such as the mussels in a lobster broth with tomatoes, garlic and Pernod. Main courses might include the delicious rack of mustard-crusted Colorado lamb with potatoes au gratin, all in a veal jus. 

205 South Mill Street Aspen $65 http://cachecache.com/

Star chef Charlie Palmer is the guiding light at this Wine Country restaurant, where big windows overlook the green oasis of Healdsburg Plaza. Everything is impeccably fresh and beautifully prepared. The menu features appetizers such as the delicious Oz Family Farm rabbit triangoli with rabbit loin roulade, shallot soubise, crisp artichoke and watercress; and main courses like char-broiled filet mignon with porcini mushrooms, smoked fingerling potatoes, charred shallots and sauce Bordelaise. The wine list features more than 500 Sonoma bottlings (with an emphasis on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), many unavailable elsewhere. 

317 Healdsburg Avenue Healdsburg $75. Five-course seasonal menu, $80 http://www.charliepalmer.com/Properties/DryCreekKitchen/

The owners here are the same Brennans of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, so, under the watchful eye of Alex Brennan-Martin, you will find culinary reminders of the Creole tradition. Look for starters such as a Texas wild shrimp remoulade with shrimp-boil vegetables, new potatoes, butter lettuce and preserved lemon. Main courses might include the Brennan classic pecan-crusted Gulf fish with crushed corn maque choux, French beans, spiced pecans and a Creole meunière. 

3300 Smith Street Houston $65 http://www.brennanshouston.com/

This small restaurant has a big reputation, which is just how partners Marc Vetri, the chef, and Jeff Benjamin, the sommelier, like it. Occupying a Center City brownstone with light walls, dark wood floors and white linen tablecloths, it is an oasis of calm. The fine Italian-inflected menu is structured around four courses: “fish,” “vegetable,” “from the earth” and “dessert.” It changes regularly, but dishes could include tonnarelli with razor clams and green tomato, or a sweet onion crêpe with white truffle. Look also for selections such as braised veal breast with endive salad, or duck confit ravioli with Pinot Noir and currants. The wine list has more than 500 labels.

1312 Spruce Street Philadelphia Four-course tasting menu, $135 http://www.vetriristorante.com/

The setting at this Big Island spot is unassuming, but we were delighted by the extensive menu and the imaginative and beautifully executed food. The island fish cakes may have been the best I’ve ever eaten, with a spicy wasabi aioli, ponzu reduction and a delicious Asian slaw. Also sensational was the “Sunset” roll, filled with ahi, unagi and avocado, rolled in tobiko (flying fish roe) and topped with a sweet ponzu sauce.

55-3435 Akoni Pule Highway Hawi Big Island http://sushirockrestaurant.net/

This time-honored restaurant within a restored 1756 adobe house has a charming dining area on the front porch and a contemporary interior with fireplaces and modern art. On chef Sllin Cruz’s eclectic menu, a main course could be elk tenderloin and apple-smoked bacon with garlic mashed potatoes, sugar snap peas and a creamy brandied-mushroom sauce; or mesquite-grilled salmon with green goddess aioli, fennel and house-made cavatelli. 

724 Canyon Road Santa Fe $70. Four-course vegetarian menu, $60 http://www.geronimorestaurant.com/

A 15-minute drive from downtown brings you to this serene restaurant next to Juanita Creek, with its high windows and big stone fireplace. Here, chef-owner Holly Smith creates ever-changing Northern Italian food. Starters and pastas might include foie gras, Bing cherries, candied ginger, thyme and cacao nibs; and the simple but delicious goat cheese gnocchi with fava beans and morels. Main courses could be rabbit with pancetta, porcini and herbs; or Anderson Valley lamb rack "scottadita" (quickly seared) with a radish-sunflower shoot tartina and Nebbiolo jus. The wine list has a fine selection of Italian regional reds, as well as those from Washington state. Closed Sunday and Monday.

9702 Northeast 120th Place Kirkland $85 http://www.cafejuanita.com/

This inviting seafood house features warm wood accents, leather banquettes and a colorful mural. Appetizers might include a terrific selection of oysters and chilled shellfish, as well as dishes such as lump blue crab cake and a rich clam chowder. Among the main courses could be plank-cooked wild Pacific swordfish with spaghetti squash and tapenade; or wild Stikine River ivory king salmon with lemon nage, English peas and heirloom tomatoes. 

544 South Grand Avenue Los Angeles $75 http://www.watergrill.com/

Also in Waimea, this rustic spot features outstanding casual fare of both Asian and Western derivation. I split the difference with a lemongrass Caesar salad followed by the exceptional burger — 8 ounces of island beef, apple wood-smoked bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, spicy cucumber, caramelized onions and house-made mayo. Exemplary.

65-1299 Kawaihae Rd Waimea Big Island http://www.redwatercafe.com/

This 1803 Beacon Hill townhouse offers a classic view over Boston Common. Chef Barbara Lynch’s fare can include appetizers such as Arctic char crudo with grapefruit, Aleppo chili and pistachio; or prune-stuffed gnocchi with foie gras, almond and Vin Santo. Equally fine main courses might be Faroe Island salmon with lentils du Puy, Burgundy escargot and saffron aioli; or Berkshire pork served two ways with red cabbage, chicharones (fried pork skin) and pearled barley. The intelligently crafted wine list highlights France and Italy. 

9 Park Street Boston $80. Three-course menu, $75; six-course chef’s menu, $120 http://www.no9park.com/

This airy restaurant features chef José Andrés’ imaginative take on the cuisines of Turkey, Greece and Lebanon. Mezzes abound with selections such as spanakopita (spinach pie) and mercimek köftesi, traditional seared patties made from red lentils. More substantial dishes include grilled octopus with marinated onions, capers and a purée of yellow split peas; and braised lamb shank with eggplant purée. The fascinating wine list has more than two dozen by-the-glass offerings. 

701 Ninth Street N.W. Washington, D.C. US$60 http://www.zaytinya.com/

Chef Donald Link’s restaurant is a celebration of pork, along with other Cajun staples. The airy space has rust-red walls and wood accents that create a sophisticated country ambience. The menu offers many small plates — the wood-fired oyster roast is superb — a section called “Boucherie” devoted to pork dishes, including excellent ribs with a tart watermelon pickle; and main courses such as the Louisiana cochon with cabbage, cracklins and pickled turnips. Closed Sunday.

930 Tchoupitoulas Street New Orleans $55 http://www.cochonrestaurant.com/

This attractive space has a lively front bar area where you can order casual meals — especially pleasant at lunch — and a main dining area. The ever-changing menu features starters such as beef tartare with ramps, pickled mushrooms and salted radishes; and pork Bolognese with pappardelle, scallions and carrots. Main courses might include striped bass, yellow-eyed beans, gem lettuce and country ham; or lamb loin and shoulder with carrots, couscous and salsa verde. The far-ranging wine list has more than two dozen selections by the glass. 

42 East 20th Street New York City Three-course menu, $100; six-course seasonal menu, $125; six-course vegetarian menu, $110 www.gramercytavern.com/

The name certainly cannot be disputed; the 18th-century mansion that houses this lovely restaurant is done up in a shade that would put a flamingo to shame. This completely belies the elegant, sedate interior of classic hues and furnishings. I could not resist the indulgent she-crab soup, and the sautéed local shrimp with ham gravy on just-crisp Cheddar-grit cakes with a generous helping of collard greens on the side. The obliging, attentive staff only added to our enjoyment of our meal here. 

23 Abercorn Street Reynolds Square Savannah $60 http://www.plantersinnsavannah.com/the-olde-pink-house/

Of the several dining spaces at chef Dean Fearing’s restaurant, The Gallery is our favorite. Fearing creates imaginative dishes with Southwest inflections, as seen in appetizers such as barbecue-glazed Lockhart quail and cider-braised pork belly with crispy iceberg “wedge,” Marfa tomatoes, cornbread croutons and Mississippi comeback dressing. Main courses might include maple/black peppercorn-soaked buffalo tenderloin on Brazos Valley jalapeño grits with greens and a butternut squash taquito; or wood-grilled Moroccan-spiced lamb chops and braised lamb-Marcona almond pastilla on saffron hummus with harissa-roasted heirloom carrots and tomato chutney. 

The Ritz-Carlton 2121 McKinney Avenue Dallas $75 http://www.fearingsrestaurant.com/

The food here is up-to-date yet rooted in the traditions of Southern cooking. For example, shrimp and grits comes with Benton's bacon, okra, scallion, beech mushrooms and a spicy shrimp butter; and the Langenfelders’ Grand View Farm pork rib chop is accompanied by baked beans, Benton’s bacon, okra and hush puppies. Extensive by-the-glass wine list. Closed Sunday.

1990 M Street N.W. Washington, D.C. US$70. Six-course tasting menu, $80 http://www.vidaliadc.com/

After garnering acclaim for tiny Talula's Table, chef Aimee Olexy opened this much larger farm-to-table restaurant on Washington Square in late 2011. Early reviews complained of fussy presentations, but we found no fault with the tender sweetbreads accompanied by sweet corn, savory tomato jam and pickled peppers, nor with the Berkshire pork chop topped with al dente runner beans and charred ripe peaches. The mouthwatering cheese menu proved impossible to resist.

210 W Washington Square Philadelphia http://www.talulasgarden.com/

Part of the Vail scene since 1977, Sweet Basil remains a favorite, offering a vibrant contemporary American menu with international inflections. The space has dark cherry floors, stone walls and a lively bar. Look for appetizers such as salmon tataki with soy caramel, tempura avocado, sesame puffed rice and mustard seed. For a main course, you might find Gold Canyon hangar steak with gnocchi di pane, grilled asparagus, horseradish and a Béarnaise egg jam. 

193 East Gore Creek Drive Vail $60 http://www.sweetbasil-vail.com/

Located in the fishing town of Menemsha, this long-established restaurant was a personal favorite for many years. But after a while, the place seemed to have lost its stride. I am happy to report that the good times are back. A short walk from the Coast Guard station, the Home Port serves excellent Vineyard seafood. I can’t think of a better starter than the smoked bluefish pâté; then I invariably opt for the baked lobster stuffed with shrimp and bread crumbs and topped with butter. Reservations are a must.

512 North Road Menemsha Martha's Vineyard http://www.homeportmv.com/

This elegant offering from chef Bryce Gilmore, ideal for lunch and dinner, is located in an all-glass building with a central bar and a woodburning oven. The innovative, locally sourced, Southern-inspired menu is best for sharing plates. Offerings change frequently, but look for duck egg accompanied with duck confit, feta, peach and shiitake mushrooms, or pork belly in a pecan jerk glaze served with a cheddar rice cake and strawberries. Here, you can be assured of a civilized atmosphere and attentive service. 

1201 South Lamar Boulevard Austin $50 http://oddduckaustin.com/

Well off the tourist track, Gautreau’s is beloved by locals. The dining room has trompe l’oeil walls and is hung with antique French mirrors. Chef Sue Zemanick’s starters could include duck confit with pepper jelly, Swiss chard, black-eyed peas and cornbread croutons. Main courses might be a Black Angus filet with sauce Bordelaise, spinach, crispy garlic potatoes and pickled shallots; or sautéed halibut with lemon beurre blanc gnocchi, artichokes, Castelvetrano olives and roasted red peppers. Closed Sunday.

1728 Soniat Street New Orleans $70 http://www.gautreausrestaurant.com/

Three of the most talented and creative people on the American restaurant scene are behind this wonderful place. Nancy Silverton has made her mark in L.A. with the restaurant Campanile and the landmark La Brea Bakery. Partners Joe Bastianich and chef Mario Batali are the driving forces behind favorite New York restaurants Babbo, Lupa and Del Posto. Here, the trio has created an exceptionally appealing menu with antipasti such as steamed mussels with tomatoes, chilies and herbs; and the mixed appetizer plate that might comprise veal tongue crostini with salsa rustica, mortadella, salame gentile, duck rillettes, prosciutto-wrapped grissini with truffle butter and bacon-wrapped pork and pistachio terrine. Pastas might include the rich tagliatelle with oxtail ragu, or squid-ink pasta with Dungeness crab, sea urchin and jalapeños. Look for hearty main courses such as the porcini-rubbed rib eye, or snapper alla Livornese. 

6602 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles $80 http://www.mozza-la.com/

Set in the historic Barclay building on the southeast corner of Rittenhouse Square, this handsome steakhouse has a stylish black-and-white deco lounge, a clubby wood-paneled bar and a main dining room that skillfully blends deco and contemporary designs. The menu offers all the classic dishes, done right. You can begin, for example, with selections from the raw bar that include oysters from the East and West coasts, caviar and shrimp cocktail. You could follow with the expected wedge of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing, and then proceed to the beef, with choices such as an 18-ounce dry- aged rib eye and a 16-ounce dry-aged New York strip steak. Seafood enthusiasts might opt for butter-poached lobster.

237 S. 18th Street Philadelphia $90 http://www.barclayprime.com/

Chef Kevin Rathbun creates contemporary American cuisine. Dishes might include jerk-seared ahi tuna with coconut-jasmine rice, pork belly tacos with citrus-hoisin sauce and sesame onions, and tarragon-roasted chicken with Vermont butter mashed potatoes. Closed Sunday.

112 Krog Street Atlanta $65 http://www.rathbunsrestaurant.com/dinner-menu.html

Set in an undistinguished shopping complex, this sushi restaurant is chef Tyson Cole’s second venue in Austin. Mixing global ingredients with classic Japanese flavors, Cole offers a seasonally changing menu that consistently surprises. 

4200 North Lamar Street Austin $55 http://uchikoaustin.com/

The view here, from the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, is magnificent. Chef Jean Joho hails from Alsace, and he combines that heritage with top American ingredients, as in a starter of crusted Berkshire pork cheeks with a choucroute salad. Among the main courses, you could find fillet of sole meunière with mousseline potatoes and petite capers, or Wisconsin veal with wild Michigan morels and spring peas à la Française. The wine list contains more than 1,600 selections. Closed Sunday and Monday.

440 South LaSalle Street Chicago $110 http://www.everestrestaurant.com/

This stylish and expensive restaurant comes with leather chairs, fine linens and soft lighting. Chef Curtis Duffy previously worked at Charlie Trotter’s and The Peninsula’s Avenues, and he now helms one of Chicago’s two Michelin three-star restaurants. Each night, he creates two prix-fixe menus, one vegetarian. Look for dishes such as English peas with huckleberry, sea beans and yarrow leaves; bigeye tuna with caviar, coconut and miner’s lettuce; and short rib with watercress, lime and Vietnamese herbs. Partner/sommelier Michael Muser’s fascinating wine list emphasizes the Loire and the Rhône. Closed Sunday and Monday.

652 West Randolph Street Chicago $300 http://www.grace-restaurant.com/

With its prime location and its reputation for serving the best steaks in town, Russell’s can be a difficult reservation — but it is warm, cozy and a must on my Vail dining list. Though it bills itself as a steakhouse, its menu is wider than the usual. Look, therefore, for starters such as lightly blackened tuna sashimi with marinated ginger and wasabi, or spicy homemade sausage wrapped in puff pastry with a wild mushroom sauce. Main courses can include the house specialty: steak Diane — grilled fillet with a mild sauce of shallots, mustard and brandy cream; a fine 12-ounce New York strip steak; or Atlantic salmon, grilled or blackened. 

228 Bridge Street Vail $65 http://russellsvail.com/

Long-lived restaurants are a rare species. This bright example has been humming along since 1979 under the direction of Nora Pouillon, an early proponent of local sourcing and organic food. Look for dishes such as mussels marinière with white wine, tomatoes, leeks, peppers and saffron aioli crostini; and pan-seared wild Alaskan halibut with black lentil ragout, chard, roasted tomato and an herb pesto. At our last meal, we ended with the flawless peach cobbler with ginger ice cream. Closed Sunday.

2132 Florida Avenue N.W. Washington, D.C. Three-course tasting menu, $70; vegetarian option, $60 http://www.noras.com/

In a city where restaurateurs invariably leverage their success, I greatly admire Alfred Portale. He stands steadfast in one place and continues to create wonderful food that is straightforward and delicious. The menu changes seasonally, but among the starters, you can generally find a decadent tuna tartare. The second courses always include a risotto: A recent offering was filled with red shrimp, English peas, pea tendrils, pancetta and a Manzanilla sherry emulsion. Among the third courses, the grilled aged New York steak is served with a custard of Dijon mustard, Vidalia onion rings and a Bordelaise sauce. 

12 East 12th Street New York City $120 http://www.gothambarandgrill.com/

The restaurant of the Inn and Spa at Loretto has one of the loveliest patios in the city, illuminated by chandeliers, candles and an immense kiva-style fireplace. Beneath the Gothic Loretto Chapel, guests dine on Southwest-fusion dishes such as Berkshire pork belly with Anasazi bean ragout, corn and harissa; salmon with huitlacoche flap jacks and radish salad; and 36-hour sous-vide buffalo short ribs with grits, market vegetables and buffalo jus. 

Inn and Spa at Loretto 211 Old Santa Fe Trail Santa Fe http://www.innatloretto.com/new-mexico-dining/santa-fe-restaurant.php

Ensconced in a charming little house within easy walking distance of the MacCallum House, Café Beaujolais has long been noted for its locavore sensibilities. I began with local Dungeness crab cakes, accompanied by a zesty Asian slaw and crispy noodles in a scallion vinaigrette. My main course was an utterly memorable pan-roasted California sturgeon fillet with house-made tagliatelle, wild mushrooms, beets and snap peas. Do not miss dinner here; the cooking is exceptional.

961 Ukiah Street Mendocino, California http://cafebeaujolais.com/

The contemporary décor of this stylish restaurant exudes warmth, comfort and welcome. Chef Richard Reddington’s resumé includes stints at San Francisco’s La Folie and Masa’s; New York’s Daniel; France’s Arpège and Le Moulin des Mougins; and four years heading the kitchen at Napa’s Auberge du Soleil. His memorable menu changes often but has included inviting dishes such as glazed pork belly accompanied by apple purée and burdock with soy caramel; sautéed skate wing with early summer squash, caramelized onion and green peppercorn butter; and Prime New York steak with potato-mushroom purée, lardons and fried shallots. Reddington works with the wine staff to create one of the most intriguing lists in the Napa Valley. 

6480 Washington Street Yountville $75. Five-course tasting menu, $85 (one of the best deals in Napa and Sonoma). http://www.reddnapavalley.com/

Austin has no shortage of Mexican dining options, but this is my favorite spot to sip margaritas and enjoy Mexican classics. With old wooden doors, dramatic lanterns, colorful ceramic tiles, hand-painted walls, intricate stained glass over the bar and a rotating art collection, this atmospheric restaurant is one of the loveliest in the city. Not to be missed is the pork relleno served in a roasted poblano with almonds, raisins and a light tomato sauce. Also an excellent Sunday brunch buffet. 

2330 West North Loop Boulevard Austin $50 http://www.fondasanmiguel.com/

John Besh’s flagship restaurant has a high-ceilinged main dining room, large windows and chandeliers. On his ever-changing menu, you might see starters such as potato gnocchi tossed with blue crab and black truffle, or his take on the classic crawfish etouffée with lemongrass and fermented pepper. Main courses could include crispy pompano with Royal Red shrimp, citrus and Swiss chard; or roasted duckling with lentil, charred cabbage and foie gras jus. 

301 Tchoupitoulas Street New Orleans $75. Five-course tasting menu, $100 http://www.restaurantaugust.com/

The name is a nod by chef/owner Ethan Stowell to revered food writer M.F.K. Fisher’s culinary classic. Here, the talented Stowell offers his take on Italian cuisine via the produce of the Pacific Northwest. Look to the appealing menu for starters such as polenta fritters with ricotta, sage and chestnut honey; or charred aprium (plumcot) bruschetta with whipped goat cheese, pickled red onions and basil. Main courses, with many superb pastas, might include spaghetti with anchovies, garlic, mint, parsley and bread crumbs; or grilled hanger steak with pea purée, smoked cippolini onion and mint gremolata. 

2208 Queen Anne Avenue North Seattle $50 http://www.ethanstowellrestaurants.com/locations/how-to-cook-a-wolf/

Chef Michael Tusk, who worked in the kitchens of Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, nightly creates three menus: an à la carte salon menu and a multi-course menu from the best of the market. Selections change daily, but look for dishes such as farfalle with summer squash, terra firma tomato and burrata; black cod with wild ramp, Manila clam and bronze fennel; and Watson Farm spring lamb with green garlic, fiddlehead fern and golden marjoram. Closed Sunday.

470 Pacific Avenue San Francisco Salon Menu, $80; Quince Menu, $220 http://www.quincerestaurant.com/

This relatively new place in Edgartown is located in a choice spot right on the harbor. The building’s exterior comes with the mandatory shingles and white trim, and the interior hums with activity. The fare is straightforward but enticing. Coming to the end of my starter of bone marrow and cod brandade topped with Asiago cheese gratin, I found myself wishing for more. Fortunately, a juicy swordfish steak, which needed nothing more than the accompanying lemon beurre blanc, was entirely satisfying. Other standouts include the wild striped bass crusted with pumpkin seeds and served with a charred tomato vinaigrette. Carnivores are not neglected, and I have particularly enjoyed the Moroccan lamb tajin.

Two Main Street Edgartown Martha's Vineyard http://www.atlanticmv.com/

Tucked into The Rittenhouse Hotel, this restaurant offers American contemporary cuisine with nods to other culinary influences. As the menu is market-driven, the listings will change accordingly, but look for starters such as asparagus salad with smoked trout roe. Main courses might include wild striped bass with beluga lentils, golden beets, raisins and mussels; or a satisfying rib eye with chickpeas, chilies and tamarind.

210 West Rittenhouse Square The Rittenhouse Hotel Philadelphia $75. Nine-course tasting menu, $75 http://www.lacroixrestaurant.com/

When I’m on the Big Island, I make a point to eat at Peter Merriman’s flagship restaurant, which for more than 25 years has championed Hawaii’s regional food. This time, I began with a hearty tomato soup, followed by kalua pulled pork with house barbecue sauce, macadamia nut rice and a small salad of fresh greens, and for dessert, stellar macadamia shortbread cookies.

65-1227 Opelo Road Kamuela Big Island http://merrimanshawaii.com/waimea/

Part of the Austin scene since the ‘70s, Jeffrey’s remains a favorite for steaks and seasonal Southern dishes. Aside from meats, consider grilled lobster accompanied by a succotash of corn, peppers, bacon and squash, and halibut served with roasted white asparagus, sautéed morels, fava beans and lemon. The wine list is wide-ranging, and there is also a martini cart. 

1204 West Lynn Street Austin $90 http://www.jeffreysofaustin.com/

Atmospheric restaurant in an 1860s adobe house on Sena Plaza with a fine collection of paintings and furniture, plus a lovely tree-shaded patio. The imaginative Southwestern menu might offer pan-seared ruby trout with jalapeño risotto, spinach and tarragon butter; or lamb chops with sweet potato pavé and a Cabernet-mint reduction. The 56-page wine list has more than three dozen by-the-glass selections. 

125 East Palace Avenue Santa Fe $75 http://www.lacasasena.com/

This newcomer to Palm Springs has an industrial-chic décor, with large booths flanking a lengthy communal table of polished concrete. Service was inexcusably slow, but the cocktails and food were delicious. I had a bracing Singapore Sling to pair with a plate of tender octopus, cooked sous vide and spiked with smoky paprika. For my main course, savory Texas redfish with delectably crispy skin crowned a bright salad with purple artichoke, slightly bitter radicchio and chewy bulgar.

800 N Palm Canyon Drive Palm Springs, California http://workshoppalmsprings.com/

Perfect lighting, cinnamon-colored leather seats and a fabulous art collection (just the two Rauschenbergs would render it notable) make this modern dining room one of the most captivating in Houston. Here, Tony Vallone offers superb French-Italian food. You might begin with one of the pastas, such as the orecchiette Genovese with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, prosciutto riserva and English peas. Main courses could include seared Mediterranean branzino with jumbo lump crab and a concentrated white asparagus sauce; or center-cut prime beef filet truffled the Tony's way. Closed Sunday. 

3755 Richmond Avenue Houston $85. Five-course tasting menu, $95; seven courses, $145; nine courses, $165 http://www.tonyshouston.com/

Not long ago, this classic New Orleans restaurant faced near-certain demise due to family dissension. And now here it is, with a new coat of its signature salmon-pink paint and a renovated interior, including the Roost Bar and the elegant Chanteclair Room, with hand-painted murals, all overlooking the serene garden courtyard. The restaurant became famous for “Breakfast at Brennan’s,” during which you’ll find classics such as turtle soup and eggs Sardou followed by the famous dessert created here years ago, bananas Foster. At other times, look for the New Orleans barbecued lobster with Creole-spiced butter, lemon confit and thyme; and smoked-pepper seared tuna. 

417 Royal Street New Orleans $60. Breakfast, $45 http://www.brennansneworleans.com/

With big windows overlooking Market Street, exposed brick walls and a double-deck warren of rooms, this is perhaps the most emblematic San Francisco restaurant. The crowd is a lively blend, and the best place to observe the scene is at the beautiful copper bar. Its creative force, beloved chef Judy Rodgers, died too young at 57, but her Mediterranean-inspired menu lives on. Typically, this includes fish of the day done in a woodburning oven, and a superb Caesar salad. The roasted chicken for two with Tuscan bread salad is peerless. At lunch, there’s the hamburger, made with fresh-ground meat and served on grilled rosemary focaccia. I’ve never eaten a better one. Closed Monday.

1658 Market Street San Francisco $65 http://www.zunicafe.com/

Chicago has no shortage of fine steakhouses, but the candlelit atmosphere of Bavette’s makes it more appropriate for couples than for businessmen. We had a wonderful dinner of cognac-infused foie gras with a blackberry compote, garlicky shrimp de Jonghe, tender lamb T-bone with rosemary and garlic, and flawless filet mignon with roasted tomatoes and spicy watercress. Our side dishes of creamy elote-inspired corn and flavorful roasted butternut squash with sage proved equally delicious. 

218 West Kinzie Street Chicago $95 http://bavetteschicago.com/

Staff at the Farmhouse Inn in northern Sonoma urged us to try this rustic place, centered on a wood-fired oven, and it comfortably exceeded its modest billing as a “Pizzeria & Salumeria.” Chef Dino Bugica aims to serve “cucina povera,” employing simple local ingredients in dishes that have been proven over the centuries. I can certainly recom- mend the outstanding chicken grilled under a brick and served with roasted potatoes and a Tuscan kale salad with Parmesan shavings. The wine list contains only local bottlings.

21021 Geyserville Avenue Geyserville, California http://www.diavolapizzeria.com/

This restaurant on Biscayne Bay is the Southern sister of esteemed Il Mulino in New York. Look for classic appetizers such as clams casino and arugula salad. The terrific pastas include a fine spaghetti alla carbonara and fettuccine alla Bolognese. The array of main courses features dishes such as veal saltimbocca, chicken scarpariello and roasted branzino. Service is excellent. Closed Sunday.

335 South Biscayne Boulevard Miami $75 http://www.ilgabbianomia.com/

Pronounced “kwa,” the name is an old French word meaning “tranquil.” Coi serves a multicourse tasting menu, which changes daily. Although the dishes are of Northern California, the meticulous presentation is almost Japanese, with each offered on a different style of plate as would happen in an elevated kaiseki meal. Choices have included buckwheat ravioli with asparagus, parsley and Meyer lemon, and progressed to dishes such as beef sirloin with farro, onions, wild mushrooms and nettle. The staff can recommend wine pairings for each dish. Although service is crisp, the meal can go on. This is not for everyone, but it is all delicious and will take you to the cutting edge of today’s cooking, without straying into the odd or gratuitously bizarre. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

373 Broadway San Francisco Tasting menu, $225 http://coirestaurant.com/

Celebrity chef Rick Bayless’ newest venture is already a tough reservation. The kitchen cooks everything over a woodburning grill, and the Baja-inspired menu offers strikingly complex flavors. One appetizer combined the sweet and charred flavor of roasted pineapple with creamy goat cheese, tangy orange-lime broth and spicy hazelnut salsa macha. I also loved our main courses, such as black cod with savory “pastor” marinade and sweet pineapple-shiso salsa. Bayless’ engaging daughter, Lanie, arranged for a superb selection of mezcals to pair. Closed Monday.

900 West Randolph Street Chicago $70 http://www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/lena-brava/

Gina and Linton Hopkins’ eclectic menu changes daily. Items have included New York strip steak with pommes Macaire (seasoned potato cakes); sweet garlic cream and beech mushrooms; and grilled trout with Creole shrimp perloo (a flavorful shrimp-and-rice preparation), lamb lardo and a ragout of morel mushrooms. The wine list is full of selections from small-production vineyards. 

2277 Peachtree Road Atlanta $70. Six-course tasting menu, $110 http://www.restauranteugene.com/

This beautiful, serene dining room houses the city’s finest seafood restaurant. A Midtown oasis run by delightful owner Maguy Le Coze, it attracts business tycoons brokering their deals. They also come for chef Eric Ripert’s extraordinary food. The innovative menu is divided into three categories: “Almost Raw,” “Barely Touched” and “Lightly Cooked.” Among the highlights are yellowfin tuna carpaccio with Iberico ham “chutney,” sea beans and lemon-inflected extra-virgin olive oil; and sautéed Dover sole accompanied by almond-pistachio-barberry golden basmati rice with a Chardonnay-shallot emulsion. Closed Sunday.

155 West 51st Street New York City $150 prix fixe. Seven-course tasting menu, $180; eight-course chef's menu, $225 http://www.le-bernardin.com/

New York was once home to numerous classic French restaurants, but tastes changed, and one by one, they faded and died — with a single exception. Ensconced in its own townhouse, La Grenouille is better than ever. The romantic dining room has silk-sheathed walls, plush banquettes and perfect lighting. While the menu abounds with French classics, there is room for innovation in the seasonal daily specials. Perfectly executed signature dishes include fluffy pike quenelles; flaky, tender grilled Dover sole in a gentle mustard sauce; and, of course, the stuffed frogs’ legs Provençale. The dessert soufflés are justifiably celebrated. The wine list is wide-ranging, and the staff’s advice is worth heeding. Closed Sunday and Monday.

3 East 52nd Street New York City Three-course menu, $140 http://www.la-grenouille.com/

Directly across the street from The Willows, this traditional French restaurant is close enough to provide room service from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. But in good weather, it’s a shame not to take advantage of the restaurant’s serene courtyard, shaded by a canopy of ficus trees. The cuisine lives up to the setting: I loved my garlicky escargots, and tender, perfectly caramelized sweetbreads.

385 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way Palm Springs, California http://www.levallauris.com/

I have fond memories of a Napa restaurant called Tra Vigne, whose chef, Michael Chiarello, won fans for his delicious takes on Italian cuisine. Chiarello is back in the kitchen at this venture in Yountville. He focuses on Italian regional dishes and relies on carefully sourced ingredients, with pasta, cured meats, fresh cheeses and cured olives all made in-house. Look for starters such as grilled short rib/pine nut meatballs in Sicilian tomato sauce with sweet Italian peppers in agrodolce, fresh ricotta and coal-roasted eggplant; pastas like the veal and pork Bolognese with porcini mushroom sugo, rosemary and Parmigiano Reggiano on tagliarini; and main courses that might include grilled acorn-fed pork shoulder loin with Tuscan beans and grilled stone fruit. 

6525 Washington Street Yountville $70 http://botteganapavalley.com/index.html

The most popular brunch spot in Carmel offers relaxed patio dining and a warm, family-friendly atmosphere. The house specialties are the omelets, the waffles and the eggs Benedict, of which there are a staggering 20 varieties.

Mission Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues Carmel http://www.katysplacecarmel.com/

Located in a corner of the Gramercy Park Hotel, this restaurant has a lively front bar where you can eat casually, and a slightly more formal main dining room. The wide selection of salumi presents several possibilities for starters, as does the list of appealing American and Italian cheeses. The many pastas include tonnarelli with Pecorino cheese and black pepper. Among the main courses, do not miss the suckling pig. I love the breakfast when I go to the nearby Union Square Greenmarket. 

2 Lexington Avenue New York City $80. Five-course tasting menu, $95 http://www.maialinonyc.com/

I have long admired the culinary vision of Nancy Oakes, who teamed up with noted designer Pat Kuleto to open Boulevard, just by the Ferry Building, in 1993. With its Belle Epoque flair and first-class staff, the restaurant has a lively hum. A starter of ahi tuna comes with prickly pear, pasilla, hearts of palm and watermelon-radish slaw, cara cara orange-and-cumin oil, avocado, duck fat tortilla and taro crisps. The equally imaginative and beautifully prepared Kurobuta pork chop comes with cherries, pancetta and mustard oil, roasted purple cauliflower, sweet corn-and-sage popcorn and a polenta fritter. 

1 Mission Street San Francisco $85 http://www.boulevardrestaurant.com/

The spare interior of this stylish restaurant provides the setting for Southwestern folk art, as well as chef Mark Kiffin’s creative fare. A starter might be tuna tartare with walnut toast, preserved lemon and caviar. Main courses could be Alaskan halibut topped with clams and mussels with fennel-potato purée and bouillabaisse broth; or beef tenderloin with cèpe mushrooms and foie gras Hollandaise. The excellent wine list has more than 200 selections. 

653 Canyon Road Santa Fe $80 http://www.compoundrestaurant.com/

At this beautiful restaurant in a renovated home, chef/owner Gerry Klaskala’s starters might include smoked trout and celery salad with rye crackers, or ruby red and golden beets with candied walnuts and Meyer lemon yogurt. Main courses could be mountain trout with oyster mushrooms, snow peas and hazelnuts; and beef short ribs with carrots, turnips, sugar snaps and potato purée. The extensive wine list has an impressive selection by the glass. Closed Sunday.

490 East Paces Ferry Road Atlanta $60 http://www.aria-atl.com/

This tiny BYOB restaurant hidden in an unpromising northside neighborhood is no longer a secret, since its acquisition of two Michelin stars. Tickets purchased through the website include the tasting menu, tax and tip, as well as seats at either a 10-person communal table or a counter facing the open kitchen (our preference). A wildly creative dish of asparagus gelato, salt-cured tuna, sea buckthorn cream, wood sorrel and apricot kernels created fireworks of flavor, as did courses such as triple-seared Miyazaki wagyu beef with baby bok choy, Japanese pickled plums and rich crumbs of dehydrated beef marrow. Well worth the taxi ride. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

4662 North Broadway Chicago Ticket: $260 https://www.42gramschicago.com/

An Aspen favorite since 1988, Piñons has been given a gentle makeover but still has memorable views of Ajax Mountain, and some of the best food in town. Chef Rob Mobilian’s menu features straightforward, flavorful dishes. Among the appetizers might be duck quesadilla with portobello mushrooms, spinach, pepperjack cheese and a zingy chili aioli. A main course could be pan-seared buffalo tenderloin with Boursin potatoes and a huckleberry sauce. 

105 South Mill Street Aspen $80 http://www.pinons.net/

Set in part of Cary Grant’s former estate, this restaurant has a romantic patio for alfresco dining. My appetizer of chilled duck breast over lentils and couscous with apples, red pepper and fennel presented an intriguing array of flavors and textures, and the barramundi with crab salad, spinach and spaghetti squash tasted fresh and sweet. The service felt professional but, alas, rather cold. This is a good choice if you can sit on the patio, otherwise, consider dining elsewhere. Closed June-September.

621 N Palm Canyon Drive Palm Springs, California http://www.copleyspalmsprings.com/

The sister property to Hidden Pond, the Tides Beach Club has a terrific bar/restaurant with a sophisticated deco look and a casual menu well-suited to its seaside setting. I’m always eager to try new versions of clam chowder, and the one here was exceptional—thick, with a nice sea tang and garnished with delicious clam fritters. I surprised myself by ordering the buttermilk fried chicken, and was glad I did: Perfectly crisp, it was nicely paired with cheesy grits. Closed Sunday and Monday.

254 Kings Highway Goose Rocks Beach Kennebunkport, Maine http://www.tidesbeachclubmaine.com/wineDine-en.html

Tucked off the main pedestrian mall, this charming bistro hits the right notes with linen-topped tables, pleasant lighting and menu options written on big mirrors. The cooking marries the ingredients of France and the Mediterranean in pleasing ways. Look for starters such as a board of fresh charcuteries, or Mediterranean favorites including clams and chorizo with fire-roasted tomatoes and garlic. Among the larger plates, you may find grilled fish of the day marinated with citrus, garlic and herbs; and veal loin scallopini with potato purée, garlic spinach and lemon-caper butter. 

315 East Hyman Avenue Aspen $70 http://thewildfig.com/

For a taste of some gleefully over-the-top glitz, you could try this restaurant in the Riviera Hotel in northern Palm Springs. A lounge lined with mirrored walls and glittery sofas leads to a dining room with equally dramatic red-and-black crystal chandeliers. The food could easily be overlooked in such a space, but powerful flavors demand attention. We began with a Peking duck-inspired appetizer served with corn crêpes and a spicy tamarind glaze, followed by a fine seafood stew with Spanish chorizo in a rich tomato-fennel broth.

1600 N Indian Canyon Drive Palm Springs, California http://www.psriviera.com/circa59-restaurant.aspx

A calm space with koa-wood panels, plus a glassed-in terrace and an open kitchen, provide the stage for chef Alan Wong’s celebrated take on Hawaiian regional cuisine. Starters might include clams steamed with kalua pig and shiitake mushrooms in a foil bag, or seafood cakes made from lobster, shrimp and crab with caper mayonnaise. Main courses could be pan-steamed opakapaka (pink snapper) with a shrimp-pork hash, truffle nage, gingered vegetables and tapioca pearls; or macadamia-coconut-crusted lamb chops with an Asian ratatouille. 

1857 South King Street Honolulu $70 http://www.alanwongs.com/

Tucked into a charming 19th-century building, this restaurant is home to the sublime cooking of chef Thomas Keller (who also presides over Per Se in New York). Here, Keller and his crew orchestrate two nine-course menus (one vegetarian) that change daily and focus on small, carefully considered dishes meant to intrigue and inspire. No ingredient is repeated in any menu. Offerings have included a sabayon of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar; Columbia River sturgeon with bacon, Savoy cabbage, turnips and Dijon mustard; and Snake River Farms prime beef with porcini mushrooms, carrots, a potato confit and a rich bone-marrow pudding in a sauce Bordelaise. The wine list is astonishing, and the staff is expert at recommending pairings. Reservations are extremely difficult to obtain and are accepted precisely one month to the day in advance. 

6640 Washington Street Yountville Tasting menu, $310 (service included) http://www.frenchlaundry.com/

At this renowned restaurant, chef/owner Charles Phan produces Vietnamese food using fresh Bay Area ingredients. Located at the northeast corner of the Ferry Building, it is invariably crowded and often noisy. However, a wall of windows looking out to the water makes this a bright spot during the day and provides a wonderful view of the glittering harbor at night. Begin with the signature spring rolls: pork, shrimp and mint wrapped in translucent rice paper. For a main course, try the caramelized wild Gulf shrimp with ginger and garlic in a slightly hot chili sauce. 

1 Ferry Building #3 San Francisco $55 http://www.slanteddoor.com/

Chef Gary Danko’s taste for the theatrical manifests itself here in striking art and dramatic pin-spot lighting. The setting is a fine showcase for his contemporary California cooking. The menu changes regularly, but starters might include risotto with rock shrimp, Dungeness crab, shimeji mushrooms and peas; or seared ahi tuna with avocado, nori, enoki mushrooms and lemon-soy dressing. Main courses could be branzini with fennel purée, Niçoise olives and a saffron-orange emulsion; or a seared filet of beef with potato gnocchi, olive oil, Swiss chard and Stilton butter. The wine list features more than 1,200 selections. 

800 North Point Street San Francisco Three-course menu, $85; four courses, $100; five courses, $120 http://www.garydanko.com/

Chef-owner George Mavrothalassitis creates French-style contemporary food with strong Hawaiian inflections. Dishes have included juniper berry-cured opah (moonfish) belly with red beets, pickled Japanese cucumber-dill pudding and coffee-flour rye bread crumble; Keahole lobster "à la française” with split English peas, Manoa lettuce, bacon, Tokyo turnips and essence of crustacean; and Niman lamb saddle, loin, and tenderloin roasted on the bone with crispy bread fruit, poached jack fruit, preserved Meyer lemon and ras el hanout sauce. Wine pairings are offered with each dish. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

1969 South King Street Honolulu Four-course menu, $105; six courses, $150 http://www.chefmavro.com/

This is an unpretentious but sophisticated Italian restaurant. Chef Marco Wiles comes from Friuli in Italy and spent many hours with his aunt learning the regional cuisine. Look for antipasti such as shaved celery salad with beets and Pecorino. Among the primi courses, you might find a single raviolo filled with ricotta, egg and truffles. Secondi might include Chianti-braised short ribs with a burrata risotto. The wine list is full of intriguing Italian regional bottles. (Jackets recommended.) Closed Sunday and Monday.

1520 Westheimer Road Houston $75 http://www.damarcohouston.com/

Attached to the Hotel Columbia, overlooking the gondola to Mountain Village, this contemporary American restaurant incorporates local ingredients in as many dishes as possible. My appetizer of goat-cheese burrata came with heirloom tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, savory pumpkin-seed oil and arugula. The buffalo tenderloin that followed was very flavorful, and was accompanied by risotto studded with foraged porcini mushrooms. A short but well-chosen wine list focuses on California, France and Italy.

300 West San Juan Avenue Telluride http://www.cosmotelluride.com/

A short walk from the Santa Ynez Inn, this convivial place serves very good Italian food. After simple but delicious ciabatta crostini with buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto and sage, I opted for the penne with Italian sausage and white truffle oil. This was followed by an excellent Milanese pork chop, pounded thin, breaded, pan fried and then served under arugula and cherry tomatoes with sliced potatoes. The wine list features 12 selections by the glass. Closed Monday for lunch.

3687 Sagunto Street Santa Ynez, California http://www.trattoriagrappolo.com/
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