World’s Best Restaurant Winner Will Guidara Picks His World’s Best Casual Eateries
by Will Guidara
Fresh from winning World's Best Restaurant for their groundbreaking fine-dining flagship Eleven Madison Park in New York City, Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm just opened Made Nice, a fast-casual eatery a block from their upscale NoMad restaurant — proving, perhaps, that the intersection of high and low is where food is at its most interesting. Curious where Will finds his inspiration, we asked him to share his favorite casual restaurants around the world.
There are so many things I love about my job. One of my most favorite parts, however, is that I get to travel. A LOT. My partner, chef Daniel Humm, and I are on the road several times each year — creating special dinners, speaking at conferences, promoting a new cookbook. Sometimes, we are just trying to get away and find inspiration to bring back to our restaurants. And a big percentage of that inspiration happens, yes, at other restaurants. We definitely eat at a lot of fancy restaurants, but some of my favorite places around the world are the more casual ones. They're the ones that I want to return to over and over again, the ones whose food I find myself craving months later. Here are some of my favorites.
My absolute favorite casual restaurant in Singapore. The vibe is incredible, and chef Dave Pynt's food is off the charts — cooking directly on coals as well as in massive ovens. Try everything, but don't miss the beef marmalade with pickles and the crab — REALLY delicious. And while I'm in Singapore, I have to mention Restaurant Andre for the incredible tasting menu.
The most amazing restaurant in the world — located inside a strip mall. Chef Ludo Lefebvre is a genius. This is some of the best French food I've ever had, and that includes all the meals I've had in France. The atmosphere allows a front-row seat to a style of cooking that most refer to as performance art. Get the omelette, thank me later.
Charleston, South Carolina
An amazing way to test some of the best dishes of the South! It truly is hard to just recommend one dish: Everything here is just so damn delicious. Chef Sean Brock has become a great friend, one I'm consistently inspired by. Go for the Southern hospitality, stay for my favorite cheeseburger in America.
New York City
Gabe Stulman is, in my opinion, one of the best restaurateurs in the United States. He understands hospitality in a way that very few people do. Yes, everything he serves at his restaurants is on point, but the thing he cares about most is how the entire experience makes you feel. And although it is hard to choose from his many NYC neighborhood spots, Perla Café is my favorite. It serves Italian food, after all.
Din Tai Fung
It's hard to imagine that this is a global chain restaurant because they do such an unbelievable job with details. The service is always good, but the food is incredible. I've been to eight of them, and there is always a line, sometimes snaking around the block (at 45 years old!) for a table at this Michelin-starred dumpling empire. I challenge you to see how many dumplings you can eat in one visit. (I'm at 22.)
Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas are two of the best in the business, so it's no surprise that this place is as awesome as it is. With the open-format layout, it feels as if you are sitting in their kitchen eating the most elegant, creative, and casual food Chicago has to offer. Bottom line: Everything about it is perfect. Try the fried chicken, and just try not to order another round.
Chef Matt Abigail has created something so unbelievably special. Daniel and I spent two weeks in Hong Kong a few years back for an Eleven Madison Park pop-up, and though we were in a city light years away from Manhattan, but when we walked into Yardbird and met Matt, we felt like we were at home. The izakaya-style format is fantastic. Just go for it when ordering, especially when you Korean fried cauliflower on the menu.