In last month's column, I expressed my disappointment with restaurants that act like they're doing the world a big favor by merely opening their doors. It's a foolhardy way to operate a business, particularly during these tough economic times. I was happy to get lots of nice notes and calls from folks in the business who get just as ticked off as I do when they're subjected to such stupidity.
About the only lesson you can learn from places like these (before they close … and they will close) is don't do what they do. On the other hand, there are tons of very good restaurants out there and, happily, some great ones, which brings us to this month's cover story. Boldly titled, America's Best Damn Restaurants, Period!, the feature identifies three restaurants that we believe you can learn a lot from.
There's nothing scientific about the report, which begins on page 24. The editors of this magazine just wanted to present three examples of what we and many others believe are beautifully run restaurants. We're not arguing that they're the only three. We're merely suggesting that you'd do well to follow their lead. Space is too tight in the magazine to cover them adequately, so we urge you to check them out the next time you're in their vicinity.
The restaurants we've profiled are Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami Beach and Central Michel Richard in Washington, D.C. All three are the antithesis of the aforementioned restaurants that seemingly don't give a damn. Having eaten in all of them, I can tell you the experience at each is so pleasant, there's no second thought about returning again and again. And isn't that what it's all about?
The best damn restaurants story was penned by the lovely and talented Megan Rowe, our features editor, who also quarterbacked another piece about iconic American foods (page 30). Last year, the James Beard Foundation identified five foods that are quintessentially American. And though the Foundation is known for its lofty aspirations, the foods it singled out are comfort food classics — burgers, barbecue, fried chicken, mac 'n cheese and apple pie.
Any attempt to get your arms around the concept of an American cuisine is a hard one. This country is too big and diverse. However, these five classic foods (keeping in mind that barbecue encompasses a style of food) are represented from sea to shining sea. So, we've taken a look at each category to shine a light on ordinary items that are actually not so ordinary. There isn't a menu in the land that couldn't benefit from adding at least one of these items.
And speaking of American icons, I'd like to tip my hat to Norman Brinker, who recently passed away. Through his restaurant company Brinker International, Brinker demonstrated that one can be a good, honest, likeable man and succeed. He will be sorely missed.