restaurants (we) love

I believe you can and should have fun as you journey through a healthy lifestyle. Making better choices doesn’t mean food should ever lack personality and there should always be room for a little indulgence!

Here are a few of my favorite restaurants and my friends’ favorite restaurants from cities around the US and beyond. Some healthy, some indulgences, all certified YUM. Because reviews from actual people trump random internet bot reviews any day! Dig in... (and check back regularly as this is constantly being updated throughout my food journeys!) 

VF = Vegan Friendly

GF= Gluten-Free Friendly

WESTERN USA:

California:

  1. Mad Beet - San Diego - best açaí bowl you’ll ever taste - it’s the first place I go every time I’m in San Diego! VF

  2. Il Fornaio - amazing Italian with a water view in Coronado'; great wine great atmosphere!

  3. Jupiter - Berkeley - a neighborhood favorite of my cousin; we went here when I visited her and her now-husband! Their Xanthia pizza is to die for and they have great brews as well! Fun outside seating with gorgeous greenery

CA READER FAVORITES:

  1. Ravioli di Uovo at Bottega - Napa Valley

  2. Halu- Richmond, SF

Denver, Colorado:

BRUNCH in DENVER

  1. Atomic Cowboy aka Denver Biscuit Co aka Fat Sullys

    • if you live in Denver, but you haven’t been here, do you really live in Denver? DBC is their brunch name, get the biscuit cinnamon roll - just do it, we take every single visitor here - it’s a staple. Big fan of the “3 Run Double”, Sausage Gravy & Biscuits, any of their biscuit sandwiches, and even their greek yogurt with homemade granola + berries!

      1. Fat Sully’s is the name of their lunch/dinner entity - they have incredible NY style pizza the size of your face.

  2. Lucille’s- always wanted to go to Cafe du Monde in New Orleans but haven’t been able to justify the plane ticket just for beignets yet… so I am thrilled to have this gem of a brunch spot (homemade beignets included!!) at my fingertips here in Denver. Their biscuits are incredible, they do brunch very very well. Delicious collard greens, shrimp & grits, and everything else creole -inspired.

  3. Jelly Cafe - Delicious classics, and their signature donut holes (YUM)

  4. Snooze - good luck finding a table, but if you can get in, they do breakfast very well. It’s a chain now so it’s not as unique but very good pancakes, hashes, with a diner feel.

LUNCH in DENVER

  1. Snarf’s - really good, fast sandwiches with cool Denver-vibe-y staff

  2. Pizzeria Locale- super fast salads and pizza made in front of you - delicious and inexpensive

  3. Maci Cafe- this hole-in-the-wall cafe is owned by our neighbor Massimo- a Chef from Italy! They have such wonderful service and their paninis are divine- I love the Raffy. Also try their nitro cold brew!

DINNER AND DESSERT in DENVER

  1. Marcella’s - amazing italian food -highly recommend the lamb bolognese gnocchi or their signature fettuccine with meatball, but also their cocktails are incredible too!

  2. Euclid Hall- their cheesy spaetzle, duck chips, and bratwurst burger are incredible. German food with a twist

  3. Fire on the Mountain - their bone-in wings are divine

  4. Rhein Haus - german food done well, big fan of their apple strudel and bratwurst

  5. Parisi - for quick quality italian cuisine (we like the butternut squash ravioli with sage butter and their margherita pizza with bufalo di mozzarella), imported gelato (try the sea salt caramel) and cookies (they also have Firenze downstairs for upscale dining)

  6. Kaos Pizzeria - amazing brick oven style with a twist - we love the “Smokestack” and their outdoor patio is super cozy

  7. OTOTO- best ramen in Denver in my opinion - I get the spicy pork miso ramen. Always fresh, always good service. Also get the spicy edamame, katsudon bowl, pork gyoza.

  8. Sushi Den - best sushi hands down, and sister restaurant to OTOTO

  9. Uncle Ramen - also good ramen! Also related to OTOTO

  10. Hapa Sushi - less expensive, still good quality, fun rolls

  11. Hops and Pie - not a fan of the atmosphere (it’s very dark inside) but their pizza is so good and you can customize your own! Pretty good caesar salad too

  12. High Point Creamery - very fresh, made from scratch local ice cream - try the basil lime or the tin cup whiskey or the cookies 3

Local Colorado Breweries:

  1. Prost Brewery - magical because I met my husband there, but also some of the best german beer you’ll find in the city

  2. Odell’s - Fort Collins - so many good choices

  3. Denver Beer Co - try the Princess Yum Yum (it sounds girlier than it is- it’s a raspberry kolsch that’s not overly sweet and runs a little bit sour)

  4. Station 26 - the Tangerine Cream Ale and Colorado Cream Ale are two of my all time favorite beers I’ve ever had

  5. Platte Park Brewing Company - SUPER fun place for a date - they have tons of board games, but also their Nitro Cream Ale is incredible

New Mexico:

  1. Paloma - Santa Fe- delish traditional Mexican

Texas:

  1. Magnolia - Waco - Chip and Joanna Gaines’ restaurant - the food is as fun as the atmosphere

  2. Steel City Pops - Fort Worth- Gourmet popsicles - so yummy!!

  3. Righteous Foods - Fort Worth- delicious açaí bowls, delicious breakfast options, really good thick cut nitrate-free bacon, great coffee

  4. Whataburger- I know, really, a fast-food place on your list? YES. I was not a believer until I was sitting there watching my husband eat the patty melt on Texas toast.. i had to try it. I am so glad I did. Their chicken tenders are also pretty darn divine as well. Sometimes you just have to dive in!

MIDWESTERN UNITED STATES:

Illinois:

IL READER FAVORITES:

  1. Hardware - Chicago - Seasonal menu, with a focus on environmental sustainability. They grow their own herbs and veggies, smoke their own meats and brew their own beer!

  2. Little Goat Diner - Chicago

  3. Au Cheval- Chicago- “I get the traditional single cheeseburger and add bacon ( it’s super thick) so simple but soooo good.” Also get the crispy fries with mornay sauce, garlic aioli, and egg on top


EAST COAST:

Connecticut:

  1. Colonial Grill Fairfield, CT- DIVINE, extremely thin pizza - my favorite is their meatball pizza - and add extra hot oil! They have also been known to make a killer corned beef and cabbage pizza for St. Paddy’s - a staple for us when we were in college at Fairfield!

  2. Westfair Fish and Chips - Wesport, CT - in my and my family’s opinion the BEST lobster roll … they also carry whoopie pies for all of you whoopie pie fans out there

  3. The Stand Fairfield, CT: great sandwiches, juices VF

  4. Sugar and Olive's Norwalk, CT - awesome brunch

  5. The Chelsea Fairfield, CT (amazing amazing amazing food)

  6. Isabelle et Vincent Fairfield, CT amazing french bakery complete with quiche, macarons, beignets, homemade chocolates

Delaware:

  1. HomeGrown Cafe Newark, DE fun, upbeat restaurant serving local cuisine, wide variety. I love the pot of fries - Parmesan and herb fries served in an actual flower pot! VF

  2. Kid Shelleen's they give you unlimited homemade cinnamon buns instead of rolls for brunch!

  3. The Charcoal Pit - A DE classic - I personally like them best for their dessert - the kitchen sink or their black and white malt milkshakes!

  4. Pizza By Elizabeths - Greenville, DE - theme is famous Elizabeths … their breadsticks and pizza are delicious, also big fan of their tomato soup and salads! Great atmosphere for a lunch with friends or date night YUM

District of Columbia:

  1. Sweet Green -Georgetown- amazingly tender lettuce, fresh and local produce, yummy frozen yogurt and unique iced herbal drinks VF GF

  2. Pizza Paradiso -Georgetown- best gluten free pizza I've ever had GF

  3. El Centro DF- My go-to spot for margs in DC… delicious chips and salsa too

  4. Good Stuff Eatery - Cap Hill- yummy milkshakes and burgers

  5. The Sweet Lobby -Washington- delish cupcakes- also featured on Friday on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars

  6. Baked and Wired -Georgetown- delish and huge gluten free cupcakes! Plus coffee..if you're in the mood

  7. We The Pizza Capitol Hill-- amazingly delicious pizza

  8. Ted's Bulletin -Eastern Market-- homemade pop tarts and a peanut butter bacon burger please!

DC READER FAVORITES:

  1. Bombay Club

  2. Founding Farmers

  3. Casolare

  4. RPM

Georgia:

GA READER FAVORITES:

  1. Cristina Italian -Eggplant Parmesan

  2. Blue Ridge Grill- Seafood Tower

  3. Barcelona- Tapas

Maryland:

MD READER FAVORITES:

Baltimore:

  1. Woodberry Kitchen

  2. Swallow at the Hollow - burgers

  3. Little Havana - brunch

Massachussetts:

MA READER FAVORITES:

BOSTON:

  • Alive and Kickin’ Lobsters

  • Coppa- “Best brunch I’ve ever had. Lemon ricotta pancakes will always have a special place in my heart”

  • Fat Baby

  • Tiger Mama

  • Al Dente

  • Trattoria Il Panino

  • Pinnocchio’s Pizza- Harvard Square

  • Felipe’s Taquiera - Harvard Square - “The spicy margarita with tamarind is 100”

  • Alden & Harlow - “the pickled corn cakes are a must!”

  • Dali

  • Tasting Counter

  • Neptune Oyster

  • Giulia

  • Pammy’s

  • Oleana

New York City:

  1. Beauty and Essex- Get the veal tagliatelle with whipped ricotta, you will drool!

  2. Olio e Piu- my siblings and I used to go here for dinner after Sunday night Mass and it was always absolutely divine. Delicious wine, amazing carbonara and bolognese, comfortable home-like Italian feel.

  3. Brasserie Ruhlman- when I interned at NBC my coworkers would take me here to spoil me at lunch time. On one occaision we sat next to Hoda Kotb (and based on that lunch observation she seems to be just as lovely in person as she is on TV). Thankfully they paid for me because as a college student the only thing I could afford was the side salad. Get the lobster salad entree tho- it’s incredible.

  4. Fresh&Co the most lovely salads, similar to Sweet Green, but they chop for you VF

  5. Carmine’s - giant servings of pasta for the whole family

  6. Umami Burger - soo good, also try their cookie ice cream sandwiches

  7. Blue Bottle Coffee Co. the absolute best cappuccino I've ever had (and they make cafe art w/ the foam)

  8. Pommes Frites- incredible Belgian fries as well, with authentic belgian mayo - giant cut fries in a cool atmosphere

  9. Le Pain Quotidien French/Belgian style organic cuisine-- they sell speculoos and authentic french beignets for when you are feeling sentimental

  10. Clarke's Standard really good hot dogs and shakes

  11. Baked By Melissa adorable mini cupcakes for when you just want a bite of sweetness!

SOHO:

  1. Spring Street Natural-- delicious kale salad with apricots, hazelnuts, amaze.

  2. Balzam-- yummy soups!

  3. Dominique Ansel Bakery: the home of the Cronut! This guy knows his food, and he doesn't sacrifice quality for quantity!

Brooklyn:

  1. River Styx--if you're looking for a heavenly sticky bun and killer nachos as the perfect brunch, lovely atmosphere!

  2. Roberta’s -Bushwick- the BEST pizza, the coolest atmosphere

  3. Five Leaves-- so you want a kickass breakfast? or lunch? or Dinner? or coffee to go... with hipsters? go here.

  4. Allswell-- best fries I've had since I was in Belgium... no joke.

  5. Pies N' Thighs-- gourmet fried chicken and buckwheat waffles...and killer donuts

  6. The Meatball Shop- delicious meatball subs, cookie ice cream sandwiches

  7. Fabbrica Restaurant and Bar: fun fact, I used to work here! Amazing from-scratch hand-rolled pasta-- My fave? Pici al Limone

NYC READER FAVORITES:

  1. Mexicue - “the entire menu - but we love the tuna ceviche nachos, lobster taco, Nashville hot chicken taco, mexican street corn. They also have a BOMB brunch - breakfast margs with cinnamon sugar rim, bloody maria, breakfast sliders I dream about daily”

  2. Flex Mussels- “SO many types to choose from! I usually do Thai with coconut curry and lemongrass, or Maine with lobster, or there’s one with blue cheese that is SOOO good! They also have amazing crab guacamole and donuts where you can choose the cream filling! The Meyer lemon one is outstanding”

  3. Toloache -Ceviche is amazing, they do table-side guacamole, suckling pig carnitas!! And they usually have my fav pumpkin beer in the fall so bonus points!”

  4. Sushi Ren - “best sushi on UES. The sashimi is amazing, super thick-cut salmon sashimi. I love the spider roll, tempuras, reg rolls are great.”

  5. JG Melon- known for their amazing burgers. I get a bacon cheeseburger with cottage fries and a Manhattan and die every time. Cash only”

  6. Uva - “Pappardelle! They have a great crostini app too with honey goat cheese/sundried tomato! Gnocchi is also fantastic”

  7. Antica Pesa

  8. Buvette - french

  9. Tre -Italian

  10. The Smith - American fusion

  11. Blue Ribbon Sushi

  12. Raoul’s - “The burger that you can only order at the bar and is not on the menu is unreal. You have to know about it to order and they only make [a certain amount] per day. The steak au poivre is a must (order extra au poivre sauce to dip your fries in)”

Pennsylvania:

  1. Woodside Farms Creamery Kennett, PA delicious homemade ice cream

  2. SIW Vegetables Chadds Ford, PA farm stand, awesome fresh corn and lettuce, heirloom tomatoes

  3. Harvest Glen Mills, PA local/organic upscale restaurant-- pricy-but-delicious, ever-changing menu

  4. Cuba Libre Philadelphia, PA fun Cuban atmosphere, delicious, unique food. try the plaintain chips and mango salsa!

PA READER FAVORITES:

  1. Buddakan - “Small plates, pork belly Chinese eggplant, black pepper beef, lobster fried rice - everything is amazing! “

  2. Zahav - Old City Philly - amazing Israeli food

  3. Royal Boucherie - French- inspired American food

Virginia:

  1. Sweet Water Tavern -Fairfax- get the Ozzy rolls, chicken havarti sandwich, chicken tenders, chopped salads, flourless waffle, firecracker shrimp, banana pudding - SO many good items! Also in the same restaurant group: Coastal Flats, Ozzy's, Mike’s American Grill.)

  2. Dixie BonesWoodbridge-- BBQ and banana cream pie are on point

  3. Pig N' Steak -Madison- fried pickles, pulled pork barbeque sandwiches... southern cooking done right, a camp favorite

VA READER FAVORITES:

  1. Pippin Hill- vineyard and restaurant - a favorite spot for date nights!


EUROPE

England:

ENGLAND READER FAVORITES:

  1. Nando’s - delicious South African food known for their peri-peri chicken - you can choose how hot you want it.

  2. Dishoom - ”best Indian food in London!” -

  3. Fortnum and Mason - “I sometimes consider a weekend trip to London just for an afternoon tea [here].”

  4. Chiltern Firehouse -

  5. Hugo’s -”[they] have the yummiest pavlova”

France:

PARIS:

  1. Laduree - macarons

  2. La Maison du Chocolat - dark chocolate covered orange slices, marzipan champignons

AIX-EN-PROVENCE:

  1. Jeff de Bruges - chocolates

Italy:

RAVELLO:

  1. Mimi Bar - delish pizza, amazing buffalo mozzarella, incredible cypress salad - very fresh!

  2. Mama Aggata’s Cooking School - you will not be disappointed - join the list of celebrities before you who have cooked and learned and eaten well here!

POSITANO:

  1. Il Ritrovo - gorgeous cliffside views, amazing zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta, black truffle ravioli, lobster

CAPRI:

  1. Le Zodiac - for seafood and caesar salad!

Japan:

READER FAVORITES:

TOKYO:

  1. The Alley -Sumida, Tokyo - Amazing bubble tea!

  2. Loving Hut - international chain, very reliable for vegan friendly options VF

  3. Mr. Farmer- Shinjuku- vegan cuisine VF

  4. Falafel Brothers - Roppongi- “one of my favorites [in Tokyo for vegan cuisine]” VF

YOKOHAMA:

  1. Sitar- “Favorite indian place in Yokohama!” VF

Russia:

READER FAVORITES:

  1. Cippolini - Yuzhno-Sakhalinski - Italian food

  2. Kyoto-