The 38 Best American Restaurants to Visit in 2018

Better make your reservations now.

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It’ll take at least a year to get into most of the high-end restaurants named on this year’s list of the  “World’s 50 Best Restaurants.”  

Fortunately, many of the entrants on Eater’s annual list of America’s Essential Restaurants all have great food without the sky-high prices or epic wait times. 

You’ll see regional dishes like Texas BBQ and Nashville hot chicken as well as Asian cuisine, modern takes on classic French cooking, and a whole host of fine dining establishments with multi-course menus.

Check out what Eater had to say about the 38 best American restaurants of 2018 below: 

2M Smokehouse – San Antonio

In an ever-more-crowded genre, pitmaster Esaul Ramos and fellow San Antonian Joe Melig transcend the Texas smoked-meats melee by also serving a frictionless combination of dishes that express their Mexican-American heritage. 2731 South WW White Road, San Antonio, TX, (210) 885-9352,

Atelier Crenn – San Francisco

Crenn focuses the modernist kitchen on seafood and vegetables, using impeccable Bay Area ingredients while musing over her upbringing in Brittany, France, for inspiration. 3125 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA, (415) 440-0460,

Brennan’s – New Orleans

Among the city’s Creole restaurant institutions, Brennan’s now takes the lead with its balance of timeless pageantry and relevant, finely honed cooking. 417 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA, (504) 525-9711,

Here’s Looking At You – Los Angeles

Salsa negra, smoked beef tongue, nam jim, carrot curry, blood cake, almond dukkah, sprouted broccoli, New Zealand cockles: All have a place on [chef Jonathan Whitener’s] menu; all make sense in his electric, eclectic compositions; all reflect Los Angeles’s wondrous pluralism. 3901 West 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA, (213) 568-3573,

Himalaya – Houston

Numerous curries, including Hyderabadi chicken hara masala coursing with green chiles, evince several regional Indian cuisines, but it’s key to order the gems inspired by [owner] Kaiser Lashkari’s native Pakistan. 6652 Southwest Freeway, Houston, TX, (713) 532-2837,

Jose Enrique – San Juan, Puerto Rico

Whiteboards propped around the dining room list the daily-changing menu, a narration of the island’s comida criolla in which local seafood keeps diners rapt. 176 Calle Duffaut, San Juan, Puerto Rico, (787) 725-3518,

JuneBaby – Seattle

Among the menu’s familiar, gorgeously rendered comforts, the truest treasures (oxtails, vinegared chitterlings, collard greens with ham hock) are the ones that most resonantly invoke Jordan’s upbringing. 2122 Northeast 65th Street, Seattle, WA, (206) 257-4470,

Koi Palace – Daly City, CA

In a blur of dumplings, noodles, congees, sweet and savory cakes, piled greens, and crisp-skinned meats, a through-line of freshness and craftsmanship gives the feast cohesion. 365 Gellert Boulevard, Daly City, CA, (650) 992-9000,

Mary & Tito’s Cafe –  Albuquerque

There is no better indoctrination into the state’s culinary nucleus than the cafe started by Tito and Mary Ann Gonzales in 1963. Both have died, but their daughter Antoinette Knight, her family, and the restaurant’s longtime cooks keep the recipes and spirit alive. 2711 4th St NW, Albuquerque, NM, (505) 344-6266, no website

Momofuku Ko – New York

A course of frozen foie shavings, melting on the tongue like otherworldly snowflakes, is a forever trademark; it’s hard to look at the split shape of the “Ko egg” and not envision an alabaster Pac-Man gobbling dots of caviar. 8 Extra Place, New York, NY, (212) 203-8095,

Palace Diner – Biddeford, Maine

Eating here haunts me: I can’t find better light, lemony, buttery pancakes, or a more precisely engineered egg sandwich, and theirs is the only tuna melt I ever hunger after. 18 Franklin Street, Biddeford, ME, (207) 284-0015,

Park’s BBQ – Los Angeles

Certainly the tabletop-grilled meats (especially the kalbi, or short ribs, and anything offered as an American wagyu upgrade) deliver with sizzling edges and smoky depths. 955 South Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, (213) 380-1717,

Smyth & the Loyalist – Chicago

At Smyth, husband and wife John Shields and Karen Urie Shields certainly show off brainpower through 12 courses that uniquely coalesce Japanese, Nordic, and Southern-American flavors and techniques. 177 North Ada Street, Chicago, IL, (773) 913-3773,

Superiority Burger – New York

Brooks Headley departed from his top-of-the-food-chain gig as pastry chef at Del Posto in 2015 to channel his punk-musician origins into a solo project: a seditious, moshing, 270-square-foot Lower East Side restaurant that specializes in a remarkably gratifying vegetarian burger. 430 East 9th Street, New York, NY, (212) 256-1192,

Via Carota – New York

It’s the crowd’s smart air (especially at lunch, the ideal time to drop in). And it’s certainly the assured Italian cooking, heavy on vegetable dishes but also with soul-soothing pleasures like tagliatelle showered with Parmesan and draped with prosciutto. 51 Grove Street, New York, NY, (212) 255-1962,

Xi’an Famous Foods – New York

Hand-ripped noodles with spicy cumin lamb (its complexly seasoned chile oil reflective of Xi’an’s Eastern point along the spice routes), liangpi “cold skin” noodles, and a lamb burger stuffed in a hamburger-bun-shaped bao became phenomenons. 41-10 Main Street, Flushing, NY, (212) 786-2068, and other locations,

Xochi – Houston

Look for memelas (a thicker tortilla cradling roasted pork rib), tetelas (blue-masa triangles stuffed with house-made cheese), and molotes (crisp oval cakes painted with creamy and spicy sauces). 1777 Walker Street, Houston, TX, (713) 400-3330,

Al Ameer – Dearborn, Michigan

Kahlil Ammar and Zaki Hashem’s family business includes an in-house butcher facility, so the unrivaled stuffed lamb (and also lamb liver, a traditional breakfast dish) exhibits exceptional freshness. 12710 West Warren Avenue, Dearborn, MI, (313) 582-8185,

Benu – San Francisco

Lobster coral soup dumplings, mussels stuffed with glass noodles and layered vegetables, a combination of potato salad and caramelized anchovies that recalls two staples of banchan: After thousands of meals consumed for Eater, I don’t know another place in America that serves food more dazzlingly, gratifyingly singular than Benu. 22 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, CA, (415) 685-4860,

Bad Saint – Washington, D.C.

Inspirations like piniritong alimasag (fried soft-shell crab in spicy crab-fat sauce) also brilliantly signal the Chesapeake region in which [chef Tom Cunanan] cooks. 3226 11th Street NW, Washington, D.C., no phone,

Bateau – Seattle

Servers maintain a nightly running list of steaks on a chalkboard; lesser-known cuts like gracilis (the lean top round cap) receive equal billing with New York strips and ribeyes. 1040 East Union Street, Seattle, WA, (206) 900-8699,

Bertha’s Kitchen – North Charleston

Sisters Sharon Grant Coakley, Julie Grant, and Linda Pinckney carry on the culinary traditions of their deceased mother, Albertha Grant, serving red rice and shrimp, garlic crabs, lima beans, okra stew, and other specialties of the Gullah, former slaves who made their home in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. 2332 Meeting Street Road, North Charleston, SC, (843) 554-6519, no website

Blue Hill at Stone Barns – Pocantico Hills, NY

[Dan] Barber and his seasoned improvisers run the show, orchestrating scenarios of experimental squash varietals and no-waste animal cookery; perhaps there’s a mid-evening field trip to the bakery or a course or two in the refurbished manure shed (yes, it’s a thing) or the kitchen. 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, NY, (914) 366-9606,

Compère Lapin – New Orleans

Nina Compton, a native of St. Lucia, revives New Orleans’s often-forgotten connections to the Caribbean; at her three-year-old restaurant, she knits together cultures with dishes like snapper with vinegary pepper escovitch and carrot beurre blanc. 535 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA, (504) 599-2119,

FIG – Charleston

Mike Lata and Jason Stanhope’s ever-creative, always-consistent fixture, where the daily catch from Southern waters steers the nightly menu. 232 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC, (843) 805-5900,

Franklin Barbecue – Austin, TX

[Chef Aaron Franklin’s] brisket alone altered my brain chemistry, and did the same for a lot of other souls, forever changing our expectations of that Lone Star staple. 900 East 11th Street, Austin, TX, (512) 653-1187,

The Grey – Savannah, GA

Eater’s 2017 Restaurant of the Year resides in a former Greyhound bus station, restored to its original 1938 Art Deco grandeur in a multimillion-dollar renovation. Mashama Bailey culls Southern port city flavors into a jubilantly personal expression, with triumphs like salt-preserved grouper on toast and quail scented with Madeira. 109 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Savannah, GA, (912) 662-5999,

Highlands Bar & Grill – Birmingham, AL

A victorious year, with James Beard Awards for Outstanding Restaurant (after nine previous nominations) and a long-deserved win for pastry chef Dolester Miles, only emphasizes the timeless relevance of Frank and Pardis Stitt’s affable Southern-French haven. 2011 11th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL, (205) 939-1400,

Kachka – Portland, OR

Bonnie and Israel Morales recently moved their Belarusian-Georgian-Russian restaurant to a larger, splashier space without displacing an ounce of its inimitable spirit; their new lunch service offers the same signature dumplings, caviar, and newly supersized blini, and world-class vodkas. 960 SE 11th Avenue, Portland, OR, (503) 235-0059,

Mariscos Jalisco – Los Angeles

The taco dorado de camaron, filled with spiced shrimp, emerges sizzling from the fryer before being swathed with salsa roja and avocado slices. 3040 East Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, (323) 528-6701, no website

Milktooth – Indianapolis

Jonathan Brooks is a mad genius of the morning meal. There’s no more inspired destination for relentlessly inventive breakfasts in America. 534 Virginia Avenue, Indianapolis, IN, (317) 986-5131,

Mud Hen Water – Honolulu

In dishes like his version of grilled squid lūʻau, whole fish cooked in coals, and chicken long rice croquettes, O‘ahu native Ed Kenney connects the cultural dots like no one else on the islands. 3452 Waialae Avenue, Honolulu, HI, (808) 737-6000,

n/naka – Los Angeles

Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida’s menus careen through cooking techniques (sashimi, steaming, frying, searing), but the whole is a meditation on the ties between culinary tradition and individual imagination. 3455 Overland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, (310) 836-6252,

Parachute – Chicago

Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark’s dishes crisscross continents in their exceptionally vivid flavors, but the road always leads back to Korea with seasonal journeys like dolsot bibimbap and sesame-laced beef stew. 3500 N Elston Avenue, Chicago, IL, (773) 654-1460,

Prince’s Hot Chicken – Nashville

No matter how many people succumb to the masochistic pleasures of capsaicin and the endorphin rush that follows, or how many restaurant groups fashion their own variations, credit for the dish should — and will — always go straight back to the business that made it famous. 123 Ewing Drive, Nashville, TN, (615) 226-9442,

Spoon and Stable – Minneapolis

Gavin Kaysen brought New York star power back to his native Minnesota but keeps himself grounded with local ingredients and compelling yet comforting plates. 211 North First Street, Minneapolis, MN, (612) 224-9850,

Staplehouse – Atlanta

Ryan Smith crafts the right-now model of the mid-priced tasting menu, serving a dozen or so constantly evolving courses; dishes might involve modernist mousses and powders but never spiral too far from an end goal of accessible pleasure. 541 Edgewood Avenue Southeast, Atlanta, GA, (404) 524-5005,

Zahav – Philadelphia

Grilled duck hearts, roasted carrots with labneh, the signature smoked lamb shoulder lacquered with pomegranate molasses, riffs on kanafeh (a shredded phyllo dessert) with seasonal fruits: These communal plates all foster kinship, further cultural understanding, and of course bring immense enjoyment. 237 St James Place, Philadelphia, PA, (215) 625-8800,