Top 18 local institution restaurants
These are the West’s culinary roots––the classic restaurants that weave together culture, atmosphere, and the best ingredients
Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles
Pizzeria Mozza is the queen bee of the upscale-downscale scene, where a wood-burning oven turns out cutting-edge, stunning pizzas with super-fresh tomatoes and mozzarella—not to mention with egg, bacon, potato, and onions.
Natural Selection, Portland
Natural Selection is a restaurant built on vegetables, fruits, and grains. Served in a stylish and warm European supper club setting, the cuisine features both rustic and modern cooking techniques while highlighting the flavors of France, Italy, and Spain.
Buckhorn Exchange, Denver
Step into the two-story brick tavern, and you’re back on the frontier. The menu stars the signature prime beef steaks, plus buffalo and other game, served in a dining room filled with more than 500 pieces of taxidermy. The upstairs bar is the best place to nurse a glass of whiskey during performances by singing cowboys.
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Helena’s Hawaiian Food, Honolulu
Hawaii wasn’t yet a state when the late Helen Chock opened her doors. Over sixty years, U.S. statehood, and a James Beard Foundation award later, her colorful cafe is run by her grandson, but tourists and locals alike still vie for one of the 12 tables to feast on traditional Hawaiian dishes like poi, poke, kalua pig, and luau chicken.
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Tadich Grill, San Francisco
Everything about this Financial District icon is old school: the waiters in white coats, the dark wood booths, the straightforward seafood menu worthy of its spot near the waterfront. Yet despite being sandwiched between two of the city’s top dining destinations, Tadich Grill continues to draw crowds—regulars, business people, and tourists who clamor for its famous cioppino served with San Francisco sourdough, best paired with a glass of California Chardonnay.
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Huber’s Café, Portland
In the land of house-cured pickles and barrel-aged cocktails, this decidedly untrendy place rests its reputation on turkey dinner and flaming Spanish coffee (pictured). Housed in the historic Oregon Pioneer Building, the restaurant has an art deco skylight as dramatic as the coffee, which is prepared tableside by the waiters.
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Noriega Hotel, Bakersfield, CA
Dinner at this former Basque boardinghouse—once used by California sheepherders—is served as it always has been: family-style, promptly at 7. Diners sit at the long communal tables for the parade of dishes, starting with soup, pickled tongue, herbed cottage cheese, spaghetti, and bread. Then come the mains, like lamb stew and prime rib on Wednesdays, or oxtail stew and fried chicken on Saturdays. $20; 525 Sumner St.; noriegahotel.com
The Shed, Santa Fe
Run by the same family for three generations, the Shed occupies a sprawling, brightly painted hacienda built in 1692. The menu hinges on the famed Hatch chiles, milled on-site before being put to good use in dishes like blue-corn burritos filled with beans and cheese and drenched with spicy red chile sauce.
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In 2008, this landmark ditched the sauced fish fillets and chops that made it famous, and recruited chef Jason Franey from Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park in New York City. Now classics like prawns sautéed in dry vermouth appear alongside Franey’s more modernist smoked foie gras. The restaurant’s 180° views of Lake Union and the Cascade Range remain, as do traditions that require men to don a jacket to sit at certain tables.
Langer’s Delicatessen, Los Angeles
Even the late Nora Ephron, New York City’s opinion maven, once claimed that this no-frills deli in L.A.’s MacArthur Park neighborhood makes the “finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world.” You could tuck into a button-back banquette and read the dense menu, but don’t bother: Hand-cut pastrami with Swiss and homemade coleslaw on rye is all you need to know.
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Coi, San Francisco
Daniel Patterson’s superb, cerebral cooking is shown off with an 11-course tasting menu that ranges from dishes like spiny lobster salad with fennel and chervil to quince parfait with huckleberry and thyme. The Michelin guide has handed the place two coveted stars.
Ad Hoc, Napa Valley
Thomas Keller's "temporary" restaurant is now a permanent fixture, and that's a good thing. Ad Hoc raises family-style dining to a new level: no tater tots here, but four-course prix fixe meals that feature superbly done comfort foods. Don't miss the artisanal-cheese third course.
Nora's Fish Creek Inn, Jackson Hole
Everyone from ranchers to Hollywood moguls and ski bums jostles for a table next to the soapstone Finnish hearth or a seat at the bar inside the 1930s log cabin for the best breakfast (but there’s also lunch and dinner).
Cafe Pasqual's, Santa Fe
Hit the Plaza early to grab a spot at the community table at Santa Fe’s favorite breakfast nook, Cafe Pasqual’s, home of the best huevos in town. The hordes line up before 8 for smoked-trout hash over poached eggs, gruyère potato cake, and tomatillo salsa, served in a cozy room decorated with hand-painted tiles and murals.
Steelhead Diner, Seattle
The steelhead trout is the iconic, wild part of the Pacific Northwest mystique and this Pike Place Market diner honors it by not serving it, but by instead using only local, sustainable products. Go for the alder-smoked salmon rillette, sweet Dungeness crab cakes, and perfectly crisped fish and chips.
La Super-Rica, Santa Barbara
Milpas Street’s Mexican dive is famous for serving freshly made antojitos to people who don’t necessarily know what the word means (little portions, aka appetizers). Must-try: La Super-Rica Especial (marinated pork and cheese-stuffed pasilla chile).
Oxbow Public Market, Napa Valley
More than 25 local purveyors of all things organic, artisanal, and delicious have gathered in a 40,000-square-foot cathedral of sustainable yumminess. Need to pick up organic, handcrafted charcuterie? Look no further. In the mood for a piping-hot Venezuelan arepa? It’s here. Seasonal produce? Local wine? Freshly baked bread? Check, check, and check.
Elote Cafe, Sedona
Indulge in Sedona’s best Mexican food—we love the lamb adobo. The cafe is a labor of love for Chef Jeff Smedstad, who spends as much time in Mexico as he can, visiting markets and dining in Mexican homes, honing his authentic techniques.