San Francisco, CA
Inventive pizzas and fresh, delicate pasta are the highlights of this restaurant from chef Thomas McNaughton, two-time James Beard Award finalist for Rising Star Chef.
Small plates such as roasted cauliflower, scallop crudo and mushroom toast take center stage here. Edison bulbs swing above a long communal table surrounded by drafting chairs, and there’s also a quieter patio in the back.
Los Angeles, CA
Son of a Gun
After conquering all things meat with Animal, chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo opened this seafood spot in 2011. Fishing nets and anchors surround diners sharing lobster rolls and octopus salads.
The Purple Pig
As promised, this popular restaurant fronted by a quartet of chefs is all about swine, wine and group seating.
Salt of the Earth
Here, diners are instructed to “come as you are.” Walk-ins can take a seat at one of the three communal tables on the sleek first floor and watch chef Kevin Sousa in the exposed kitchen.
An in-the-know crowd gathers by 5:30 at D.C.’s reservation-less hotspot. The weekly menu of northern and northeastern Thai dishes is worth the wrangling and the wait.
New York, NY
Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria
A spin-off of the date-night destination Il Buco, this laid-back trattoria greets people with an alimentari pantry stocked with in-house cured salumi and cave-aged
pecorinos. Beyond the shop, communal tables and benches lend the vineria a rustic ambience.
New York, NY
The crowd refuses to be tamed at David Chang’s boisterous East Village outpost, an early entry in his fast-growing Asian-fusion empire.
Puritan & Company
This New England destination by chef Will Gilson is heavy on the charm. The long custom tables harken back to a simpler time, even if you are eating lamb belly and Muscovy duck.
At this longtime Boston establishment, the wait for a table is agony, but the warm lobster roll on brioche is pure ecstasy. This tiny locale is consistently overrun with fans for good reason.
Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room
Late owner Sema Wilkes originally ran the kitchen in this space which used to be a boardinghouse. The lodgers left in the ’70s, but the dining room remained and happy diners pass fried chicken, greens and biscuits at tables set for 10.