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Want to Support Your Favorite American Restaurant? Here’s How.

By Aislyn Greene and Jennifer Flowers

May 29, 2020

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These cookbooks will inject a much-needed dose of inspiration into your dining-at-home life. 

These cookbooks will inject a much-needed dose of inspiration into your dining-at-home life. 

As we wait to revisit our favorite restaurants around the country, buying a cookbook (and actually cooking from it!) is an excellent way to show our love.

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It’s no secret the devastation the pandemic has wrought on the restaurant industry. And while some restaurants around the world take the first steps toward reopening—and employing some rather unusual tactics to keep diners six feet apart—many others are still struggling to figure it out. It’s going to take legislation and many other larger efforts to ensure our indie restaurants get through this, but that doesn’t mean we, as travelers and home chefs, can’t still support our favorite places.

One of the easiest things to do is to buy a cookbook or merchandise (like these dumpling-inspired sweatshirts). We’ve provided links directly to the restaurants’ websites, where possible, since this is the most effective way to make sure your dollars go straight to the restaurant and its employees. Here are a handful of our favorite restaurants in the United States, and the cookbooks they’ve penned, plus recipes to get your mouth a-watering. You’ll eat well—and feel good about it too. 

Chicago: Fat Rice

Buy the cookbook: The Adventures of Fat Rice (Ten Speed Press, 2016), fatrice.kitchen/support

When Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo opened Fat Rice in 2012, they didn’t offer reservations. Everything about the restaurant was creative, eclectic, and hard to pin down—including the menu, which was inspired by their travels and world cuisine (most predominantly, the Portuguese-influenced island of Macao off the coast of China). 

Recipe to make: Learn the secrets of minchi, Macanese minced meat hash, a classic dish on the island and just the kind of comfort food many of us are craving these days. 

If you’re in Chicago: The restaurant is closed to the public “for the foreseeable future,” but the team has pivoted to offering Fat Rice–inspired meal kits for folks in the Chicago area. Anyone, however, can order from their new pantry shop, stocked with fancy imports like Portuguese olive oil, “weird stuff” like Chinese fungus, and all-American treats, like Skippy peanut butter. 

Boulder, Utah: Hell’s Backbone Grill

Buy the cookbook: This Immeasurable Place (HBG Press, 2017)hellsbackbonegrill.com

Chefs Blake Spalding and Jen Castle transformed Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm into a destination restaurant, seemingly, in the middle of nowhere. (Boulder, Utah, has a population of 240 and is best-known for what surrounds it: the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument.) In the years since, the duo has become a vocal opponent to President Trump’s move to divide the monument (garnering Blake a spot on our Women to Watch list) and been nominated to the James Beard list four times, this year as a finalist. 

Recipe to make: Their Strawberry Streusel Coffeecake—“It smells amazing while it’s in the oven,” they said. “And you can leave some on your neighbor’s porch.” Or clean out your fridge and make their Pickled-Everything Bloody Mary. “That way you get a veggie serving, too, plus the benefit of fermented things for your immune support!”

If you’re in Utah: Hell’s Backbone is still closed to the public, but you can order its dry mixes so quarantine chefs can make the signature cowgirl chipper cookies and blue corn pancakes at home. 

San Francisco: Mourad

Buy the cookbook: Mourad: New Moroccan (Artisan, 2011)mouradsf.com

Chef Mourad Lahlou has long channeled his Moroccan roots in his San Francisco restaurants. In 1999, he opened Aziza, which went on to become the first Michelin-starred Moroccan restaurant in the United States (Aziza shuttered in 2016, finally reopening again in fall 2019). More recently, he opened Mourad, his namesake restaurant (which also has a star), where diners could revel in his modern, California-inspired takes on everything from couscous (studded with candied sunflower and fava leaves) to lamb (served with butternut squash, romanesco, and pomegranate). 

Recipe to make: Finally get the hang of making couscous. And learn how to make a chicken tagine that sings. 

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If you’re in San Francisco: Pick up to-go food from Aziza or order delivery from Mourad. (Lahlou, a member of the Bay Area Hospitality Coalition, an advocacy group, has also been a vocal champion of legislation to support the restaurant industry during reopening.

Los Angeles: Guelaguetza

Buy the cookbook: Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico (Abrams, 2019), ilovemole.com

Opened in 1994 by Bricia Lopez and her siblings, Guelaguetza is a Los Angeles institution for Oaxacan culture, and it quickly became one of the best places in America to experience the regional Mexican cuisine. Angelenos flock to the restaurant, located in L.A.’s Koreatown, for tacos made with Oaxacan heirloom corn, tamales with mole, and tlayudas, tortillas topped with bean paste, queso fresco, and any number of proteins, ranging from grilled pork to house-made chorizo.

Recipe to make: Well, any of Guelaguetza’s iconic dishes—and then snuggle up to read: The cookbook doubles as a touching memoir that chronicles the Lopez family’s arrival in L.A.

If you’re in L.A.: Guelaguetza is offering some of its most popular classics for takeout or delivery, including those mole tamales, barbacoa chicken, and a variety of tacos.

Portland, Oregon: Kachka

Buy the cookbook: Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking (Flatiron Books, 2017), kachkapdx.com

Chef Bonnie Morales’s Portland restaurant is an ode to Belarussian cuisine, the potato-powered food she grew up with. Her first cookbook is gorgeous, funny, and packed with cultural information (such as healing vodkas, as administered by a babushka). As you cook through—making borscht, pelmeni (Siberian dumplings), and the iconic “herring under a fur coat” salad—you’ll think about Russian food in a totally different way.

Recipe to make: The only thing better than buying Morales’s pelmeni (see below) is learning to make your own. “There is no better time to make a mountain of pelmeni than right now,” Morales says. “You can buy a pelmenitsa to make them or do it by hand.” She adds that “they’re perfect to freeze, so make a batch and eat for weeks!”

If you’re in Portland: In addition to cooking to-go food, Morales is selling her famous pelmeni, which anyone can now buy and enjoy at home.

Seattle: The Walrus and the Carpenter

Buy the cookbook: A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus (Sasquatch Books, 2014), eatseacreatures.com

With her clutch of Seattle-area restaurants, including the Walrus and the Carpenter and the Whale Wins, Renee Erickson has been romancing the natural bounty of the Pacific Northwest for more than a decade now. She’s built a loyal community of diners around her fuss-free, seafood-driven cooking with a touch of French inspiration (think manila clams with fresh herbs and crème fraiche).

Recipe to make: Erickson showcases a few standout coastally inspired recipes, including a July crab feast and salmon in a sorrel cream sauce. (The book isn’t just for seafood lovers—there’s a delicious recipe for roasted chicken with fried capers and preserved lemons.) She also weaves in stories about the people and purveyors—staff, butchers, beekeepers—that make her dishes possible.

If you’re in Seattle: Erickson had to temporarily close many of her restaurants, but Seattlites can still nosh on her creations: Bateau is offering a to-go menu with burger kits, Reuben sandwiches, and short-rib croquettes; Willmott’s Ghost is still turning out its beloved pizzas (try the sausage, pecorino, mozzarella, and lemon concoction).

Charleston: S.N.O.B.

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Buy the cookbook: The S.N.O.B. Experience (Advantage Media Group, 2016), hallmanagementgroup.com

Chef Frank Lee, who is now retired, is a culinary legend in Charleston. The restaurant he created, S.N.O.B.—which stands for Slightly North of Broad, located in downtown Charleston—has been a temple to Lowcountry-style cooking for more than 25 years. His dishes capture some of the best of regional cooking (shrimp and grits; collard greens), but Lee says the true secret sauce for his restaurant’s success comes down to creating community around food. “You want to entertain and take care of your guests over and over again, and give them a place of solace, a place to feel good, a place to be taken care of,” says Lee.

Recipe to make: Longtime patron favorites, such as gazpacho, shrimp and grits, and softshell crab. The crowd-pleaser he recommends that home cooks try? Sour cream apple pie, composed of granny smith apples, a custard with sour cream, and a brown-sugar-and-walnut topping.

If you’re in Charleston: S.N.O.B. Restaurant recently reopened as part of a citywide effort, with limited seating, but the restaurant is still offering curbside and to-go service.

New Orleans: Saba

Buy the cookbook: Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel (Knopf, 2018), eatwithsaba.com

For many restaurant obsessives, Alon Shaya is the first name that springs to mind when thinking of Israeli cooking. He’s dedicated to the cuisine of his home country but always looking to iterate and improve. (In fact, he recently took his restaurant team back to Israel, a trip that transformed his cooking.) His latest pair of restaurants—Saba, in New Orleans, and Safta, in Denver—are casual joints that put inventive pita, hummus, and other Israeli treats front and center. 

Recipe to make: All of them—once you’ve read the book. It’s easily the most narrative cookbook you’ll open all year. Organized into 26 chapters, Shaya revolves around stories from the chef’s life, each of which inspires a recipe or two. 

If you’re in New Orleans: You can still order takeout. But Saba recently reopened to the public, at limited capacity, for lunch, brunch, and dinner, so it’s time to get your lamb ragu hummus and harissa-roasted chicken on. 

New York City: Danji

Buy the cookbook: My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes (W.W. Norton & Company; 2020), amazon.com

Danji, a pocket-size, 36-seat restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, was the first Korean restaurant in America to earn a Michelin star, thanks to Seoul-born chef Hooni Kim’s brilliant tapas-style menu, which melds French technique with bold Korean flavors. Some of his more popular menu items include bulgogi beef sliders and soy-poached black cod with spicy daikon.

Recipe to make: My Korea is as much a cultural study as it is a book of recipes: Kim explains the reverence of such unusual items as Spam and Yakult; there’s also an entire chapter dedicated to kimchi. We especially love the one-dish hits, such as Dolsot bibimbap (served in a hot stone bowl) and buckwheat noodles in a chilled broth.

If you’re in NYC: During the citywide lockdown, Danji continues to offer pick up or delivery. Choose from the Family Dinner of Four (beef bulgogi; spicy wings, vegetable japchae noodles, soup of the day, rice, and kimchi) or the Korean-style bento box—a smaller version of the family meal.

Austin, Texas: Franklin Barbecue

Buy the cookbook: Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto (Ten Speed Press, 2015), franklinbbq.com

If you’re a barbecue devotee, you likely already know about Aaron Franklin, who has become a modern-day icon in the American art of smoked meat. The mouth-watering, Texas-style barbecue creations coming out of this famous pitmaster’s Franklin Barbecue restaurant in East Austin are now a bucket-list meal for many carnivores.

Recipe to make: Franklin himself will be the first to admit that his meat-smoking manifesto gets a bit geeky and elemental. He goes into the nitty-gritty behind smokers, wood, and fire that lead to that perfect barbecued product, whether you’re cooking brisket or ribs.

If you’re in Austin: Dining in still isn’t an option at Franklin Barbecue, but Austin residents can order brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and other delights to go—complete with pickles, onions, barbecue sauce, and white bread.

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