In September, the New York Times released its 2022 Restaurant List of the 50 eateries and restaurants across the country they are most excited about. So, I decided to chat with some of the chefs and managers that run these delicious establishments to get the inside scoop on their businesses.
Brennan’s Restaurant—New Orleans, Louisiana
With 75 years of rich New Orleans history shining in every detail of this homegrown eatery, Brennan’s Restaurant is rooted in comfort food, offering an “innovative menu [that] shares modern interpretations of classic New Orleans cuisines,” says General Manager Christian Pendleton.
Some of the fan favorites include its Eggs Sardou with Crispy Artichokes, the Parmesan Creamed Spinach and Choron Sauce, and the Eggs Hussarde with Prosciutto, Hollandaise, and Marchand de Vin sauce. Additionally, “cocktails for breakfast and lunch are what set Brennan’s apart from others 75 years ago, and that tradition continues,” notes Pendleton. The eatery is open Thursday to Monday, with breakfast and lunch served 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and dinner served 6-10 p.m.
The most ordered dish on the menu is Bananas Foster, which was first invented in the Brennan’s kitchens. The chefs “flame, on average, 35,000 pounds of bananas for Bananas Foster per year,” says Pendleton. It was created by Chef Paul Blangé and Ella Brenna in 1951 as New Orleans was historically a hub for imported bananas from South America. The dish is made from bananas, ice cream, and a sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and a banana liqueur that is ignited—all prepared in front of guests.
Brennan’s is home to “eight glamorous dining rooms, each steeped in New Orleans architecture and ambiance, celebrating the city’s opulence,” says Pendleton. “The Queen’s Room is a dedicated, dazzling tribute to feminine reign,” he continues. Swathed in shades of aquamarine, lavender, and pink, the room offers chairs that replicate the design of the coronation throne of Queen Elizabeth II.
Kann boasts a delicious Haitian menu using Pacific Northwest ingredients. James Beard Award-winning chef Gregory Gourdet is the founder, a first-generation Haitian American. He tributes the restaurant to his treasured childhood memories, offering traditional Haitian flavors with inspiration from African, Caribbean, and Southeast Asian cuisines.
Opened in August of this year, Kann is Portland’s first Haitian-inspired eatery, and one of few in the nation. Using local, seasonal ingredients, the restaurant’s live-fire preparation is a nod to the origins of barbecue in Haiti. The menu is entirely gluten- and dairy-free, and a full vegan menu is also available.
Popular dishes include its Crispy Taro Root Fritters, a classic Haitian starter; the Griyo Twice Cooked Pork, which is the national dish of Haiti; and Peanut Creamed Greens, which is collards slow cooked with spiced tomato and peanut. The latter is a meal that honors enslaved West Africans brought to Haiti by the French.
The richly textured space emphasizes natural materials, providing “a soft glow [that] welcomes guests into the restaurant via a custom recessed cove ceiling of golf brushed metal,” according to the restaurant’s 2022 opening announcement. Kann’s Yanick Room, named after Gourdet’s mother, also has a private dining space with floor-to-ceiling windows and a hydroponic garden for groups of up to 30 seated or 40 reception style.
Restaurant Abacá —San Francisco, California
This modern restaurant boasts traditionally Filipino cuisine with California ingredients. General Manager and Beverage Director Justin Goo notes that staff go to the market twice a week to retrieve the local ingredients that make up fan favorite dishes like the Sisig Fried Rice and the Squash Okoy Fritter.
The space in its entirety boasts a “70s-chic” vibe, says Goo, offering a light and airy ambiance via the two large skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the sunken patio, which is available for semi-private events. The eatery can also take private groups of up to 10 in the main dining room and offers a traditional Kamayan dinner where the whole table is covered with banana leaves and the food is laid out for guests to eat with their hands—the ultimate Filipino finger food feast.
A private dining space off the main room is also available for meetings and events, and can seat up to 40, or 60 standing. “We really pride ourselves on being a pamilya (“family” in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines), [the] Abacá pamilya. We want everyone to feel that,” says Goo.
Ma Der Lao Kitchen—Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Located in the artsy neighborhood of Plaza District in Oklahoma City, Ma Der Lao Kitchen features the top hits of all of Jeff Chanchaleune’s favorite dishes growing up. Having spent most of his career cooking Japanese food, Chanchaleune decided that it was time to return to his roots as a Laotian and part Thai and Vietnamese man.
“I wanted to introduce Oklahomans to Lao food,” he says. “The goal was to educate Oklahomans on Lao food, the culture, and the history of it.”
The menu highlights family-style plates— “small plates that are meant to be shared,” he says. Guest favorites include the Crispy Rice Salad, made with cooked and seasoned jasmine rice, and the Steamed Catfish. “It doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Lao food culture could be or what Lao food is, but these are all my favorites,” says Chanchaleune.
Aside from the Crispy Rice Salad, almost everything on the menu revolves around sticky rice. “If you don’t have sticky rice, you don’t really have a complete meal,” he says. “A complete meal would be sticky rice, a chili dip, a protein of choice, and some veggies.”
While the restaurant does not have a private indoor dining space, the adjacent three-walled outdoor patio can take larger parties of up to 18 on a case-by-case basis—and the same applies for catering services. Chanchaleune hopes that the recognition Ma Der Lao is receiving will “help us push the Lao food movement even further and even more into the [public] light.”