What was once old often becomes new again through the eyes of a creative chef. A grandmother’s vintage recipe for lemon chicken, a mid-century Baked Alaska, and nostalgic beef noodles slurped off the streets of Vietnam have all inspired countless modern renditions of the classics.
Whether they’re resurrecting unsexy old dishes, illuminating long-forgotten cuisine, or raising Sunday gravy dinners to new heights, these eight restaurants are reviving the past with contemporary swagger.
The Bachelor Farmer
City: Minneapolis, MN
Address and phone: 50 2nd Ave N (612-206-3920)
Yes, the overwhelming success of Copenhagen’s Noma ushered in an American obsession with spare Scandinavian cooking. But The Bachelor Farmer, housed in a late-19th-century warehouse in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood, doesn’t follow the Redzepi-blazed trail of foraged ingredients and aesthetically striking plates. Instead, chef Paul Berglund’s creations—like wild rice with crispy beets, buckwheat, and yogurt, and meatballs accompanied by cranberry compote and pickled summer squash—are contemporary odes to the city’s robust Nordic roots. (Photo courtesy The Bachelor Farmer)
Eating House 1849
City: Koloa, HI
Address and phone: 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Rd (808-742-5000)
Back in 1849, Portuguese businessman Peter Fernandez opened Hawaii’s first restaurant, a casual eatery embracing a plethora of local and seasonal ingredients. Inspired by this bold debut, Roy Yamaguchi—a pioneer himself for his distinct Pacific Rim cuisine—unveiled the Eating House 1849 on Kauai. The plantation-like restaurant melds Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, and Chinese flavors in dishes like Big Island kampachi, salmon, and ahi with smoked orange yuzu, and Portuguese shrimp-stuffed turnovers, which harken back to the mid-19th century. (Photo courtesy Eating House 1849)
City: New York, NY
Address and phone: 529-1/2 Hudson St (212-691-9700)
Hundreds of years ago, Peking duck became the quintessential dish synonymous with Beijing. The allure of the tableside production, with its DIY pancake-wrapping and scallion-scattering, is at once fussy and glamorous. Decoy, however, has made the old-fashioned ritual a decidedly more casual and fashionable affair. Ed Schoenfeld and Joe Ng, the masterminds behind New York’s contemporary Chinese restaurant Red Farm, opened this intimate, dark space downstairs from their West Village outpost. Here, a $65 prix-fixe feast includes not only the whole duck with all the trimmings, but also other playful dishes like fried fish skins and Jamaican-Chinese–style jerk baby chicken. (Photo courtesy Decoy)
City: New Orleans, LA
Address and phone: 830 Conti St (504-577-2237)
Despite its spiffy design overhaul, this New Orleans classic goes back in time on its menu. Chef Nathan Richard, who grew up in Cajun country, brings the soulful cooking of his childhood to the forefront. The blood sausage and grits, and boudin-wrapped Scotch eggs mesh perfectly with the restaurant’s upscale colonial vibe.
Fodder & Shine
City: Tampa, FL
Address and phone: 5910 N Florida Ave (813-234-3710)
When Americans started making Florida their home, the food they ate from the 1820s up until the Depression was known as Cracker cuisine. This little-known style of cooking intrigues chef/owner Greg Baker, who makes it the focus of Tampa restaurant Fodder & Shine, his follow-up to the Refinery. Over the course of this century, Floridians gorged on the likes of speckled butter beans and Seminole pumpkins. By working with local farmers, Baker recreates that era by draping shrimp and sherry vinegar-soaked cucumbers atop cornmeal hoe cakes, and braising pot roast in rye whiskey. (Photo: Chris Kelly)
City: New York, NY
Address and phone: T181 Thompson St (212-254-3000)
Linguine vongole and chicken scarpariello are go-to staples at even the most mediocre of red sauce-fueled trattorias. Not so at clubby Carbone in the West Village. Instead, New York hit-makers Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick decided to elevate this everyday suburban fare by serving quality (and costly) iterations in the company of seductive blue walls and Zac Posen-clad waiters. (Photo: Daniel Krieger)
City: San Francisco, CA
Address and phone: 564 4th St (415-974-0700)
Both tangy, ubiquitous Green Goddess dressing and tetrazzini, named for an Italian opera singer, were created at San Francisco’s fabled Palace Hotel. Classics such as these are the inspiration behind offal-loving chef Chris Cosentino’s Cockscomb. At this collaboration with Oliver Wharton, set in an old shoe factory in the SoMa neighborhood, a Green Goddess salad is elevated with crispy pig’s ear, and tetrazzini flaunts quail and crème fraîche. (Photo: Blake Smith)
Chef & the Farmer
City: Kingston, NC
Address and phone: 120 W Gordon St (252-208-2433)
An old mule stable in tiny Kinston, NC is where Vivian Howard and husband Benjamin Knight give rural Eastern Carolina dishes the spotlight. At the Chef & the Farmer, the kitchen translates beloved historic ingredients into new urban classics like boiled peanut risotto with Benton’s bacon and cornbread, and stuffed guinea hen with pecan romesco.