Food and drink culture in 2021 seeks to remedy the problems that the past half-decade made so apparent — a need to support upstarts in their battle against the big guys, a reconnection to our fundamental foodways and ingredients, an understanding of the practices that produce the things we love, and new voices entering the culinary fray.

With capacity limits in place in many cities, the phrase “eat local” has never been so potent.

Brian Yazzie
Andi Murphy
Tocabe
Brian Yazzie
Indian Pueblo Kitchen
Indian Pueblo Kitchen
Zach Johnston
1

2021 is the year that Indigenous American food hits the mainstream.

The future of American cuisine is in its past. That might sound weird in a world where we’re always looking ahead for what’s next, what’s new, and what’s hot. But I really believe it.

For centuries, Indigenous culture has been systematically destroyed through multiple genocides carried out by European colonizers, migrants, and eventually the Americans, Argentinians, Canadians, Mexicans, Brazilians, Cubans, and so forth that they became. That cultural destruction means that people like me have not only lost their traditional names (my last name is that of an adopted, white step-parent only one generation back) but also our religions, languages, music, art, sciences, literature, and foodways. The very fact that there isn’t an Indigenous fast-food chain, fast-casual restaurant, family restaurant, grocery store, and high-end dining experience in every major, minor, and small city in places around the U.S., Canada, or Argentina is inherently tragic. But it is something that’s slowly changing, especially in the U.S. and Canada right now.

The Indigenous food movement is gathering speed across the nation, with Minneapolis at the heart of that movement. Chef Brian Yazzie, who recently cooked for Padma Lakshmi on her show Taste The Nation, offers a sterling example of how unique, important, and tasty the Indigenous food movement is. Gatherings Cafe started as a spot in an American Indian cultural center that was a bit adrift until Yazzie came along during the pandemic. The cafe was converted to serve the area’s Indigenous elders who were cut off from food due to the pandemic. Yazzie’s team worked tirelessly to put out meal after meal, day after day as the pandemic raged through Indian Country.

Nearly a year-and-a-half later, Gatherings Cafe has opened to the public with a menu that leans into the area’s Indigenous ingredients while highlighting traditional dishes and also creating a space for new chefs to learn about Native recipes and techniques. Cedar braised rabbit, blue-corn waffles, Tepary beans, Minnesota wild rice, slow-cooked bison tacos, and so much more adorn the menu. The clincher (and why we think you should try it) is that it’s a fast-casual concept at its heart. You can get a to-go box right now. There’s no gatekeeping at Gatherings Cafe, which reminds us of another Indigenous American fast-casual in Denver…

Tocabe — co-owned by Matt Chandra and Ben Jacobs — is the seminal fast-casual chain for Indigenous America. Their slow-braised bison ribs in a berry sauce are worth driving to Denver for on their own, literally right now. And while the pandemic certainly made life hellacious for all restaurants, Tocabe’s team pivoted towards creating a farmers’ market to help Indigenous farmers around the country stay afloat during these trying times. The Tocabe Indigenous Marketplace aims to be the comprehensive Indigenous American grocery store in the country with sundries, a butcher shop, and to-go meals all in one place.

The American Southwest is another cornerstone of resurgent Indigenous cuisines. Chef, podcaster, and activist Andi Murphy has been at the forefront of championing Indigenous food and chefs for years while also writing about and cooking food from her own kitchen.

“The menu at the Indian Pueblo Kitchen, located in the heart of Albuquerque, New Mexico, focuses on Pueblo and Indigenous Southwest foods,” Murphy tells us. “It includes a mix of traditional and contemporary comfort foods like red chile stew, corn mush, Frito pies, and sugar cookies. Executive chef Ray Naranjo is connecting and experimenting with ancestral flavors not only from New Mexico but from all over Indigenous America with wild rice, salmon, quinoa, chocolate, and so much more. And we get to have a taste of that on special and seasonal menus.”

Murphy’s advocacy goes beyond highlighting Indigenous chefs and farmers on her podcast, Toasted Sister Podcast. Murphy also hosts a constantly updated list of all the Indigenous-owned and operated food stops in America. The ever-growing list includes everything from local produce stands, fishmongers, and butcheries to cafes, food trucks, and dining experiences that support Indigenous cuisine in America. You’ll be able to find everything from Indigenous grown cornmeal, beans, and greens to cuts of wild bison and salmon to Indigenous roasted coffee and chocolate. It’s a priceless source for starting your journey on the road back to America’s Indigenous foods that actually puts money into the pockets of the folks growing or preparing that food.

The community that Andi Murphy, Matt Chandra and Ben Jacobs, and Brian Yazzie are creating goes beyond just serving you food. At its core, the movement addresses serious questions of food justice — extending even beyond the constraints of capitalism. Chef Sean Sherman, who just opened the high-end Indigenous food experience Owamni in Minneapolis, surfaced an important question on David Chang’s podcast recently when he asked, “why do our foodways have to be profit-based?” The moment left Chang, an unabashed food capitalist, speechless. But that bold ethos is imbued (on some level) in the Indigenous food conversation from the U.S. to Canada and New Zealand to the Pacific Islands.

Yes, this is about the return of millennia-old foodways that were supplanted by wave after wave of colonial migration for the last 500 years. But it’s also about rethinking every aspect of how and why we eat and how we get the food we do. The Indigenous food movement isn’t only offering you something completely fresh in the American food scene, it’s also asking why your food system is so unhealthy, destructive, and dehumanizing, all while offering another way.

It’s radical, educational, and genuinely delicious.

WHY 2021:

The Indigenous food movement is a ray of hope for Indigenous folks who are relearning our languages, religions, arts, sciences, and cultures. It’s an education on a plate or in a to-go box or in a bag of cornmeal. It’s a path forward while finally embracing forgotten and ignored histories.

The future of American food is, indeed, in its past. But that doesn’t mean it’s tired or old. In fact, supporting this resurgence and getting to know these dishes is absolutely thrilling.

By
Deputy Editor, Uproxx LifeTwitterInstagram
Indy Srinath
Indy Srinath
Indy Srinath
2

Understand food better by going to find some for yourself. Starting in your own backyard!

Let’s face it, many of our “big” trip itineraries in 2020 included jetting from the living room to the fridge to the pantry with a short layover in front of the TV. Or, for the more adventurous at heart, we summited the slopes of our local grocery store aisles, belaying to the tops of metal shelving for the last cans of pasta sauce. So we’re naturally craving a more gastronomically appealing adventure this year as we venture back to the outdoors.

Making 2021 the perfect year to try foraging for your own food.

As an experienced forager, I meet many folks who are still skeptical at the prospect of collecting food from nature (“is it safe?”) or are concerned about the impact foraging might have on the environment (“is it sustainable?”). The answer to both questions is a resounding “yes.” It’s also easy. With a little guidance, you can get started foraging your own food in the great outdoors in a way that’s safe and sustainable, even for the most inexperienced beginner.

Here are two pointers:

Start Locally: It’s best to keep your foraging hyper-local at first. Try taking a foraging class from an experienced forager (I highly recommend Pascal Baudar, if you’re in Los Angeles). Pick up a copy of a local foraging guide for mushrooms and plants, and use it to get to know some of the flora growing around you. If possible, learn from Indigenous teachers who have a connection to the land as stewards who are committed to ethical harvesting.

Test Before You Taste: Before eating anything, make sure you consult your foraging guide or instructor to ensure that you are eating what you think you are eating. There are lots of forums online dedicated to plant identification and folks (like me!) who are happy to look at a picture of what you found to help out with correct identification (there are also lots of apps focused on IDing plants). Always start by eating a small portion of what you have found. Certain people will have sensitivities to foods that are not traditionally inedible.

Once you have these fundamentals of foraging tucked in your wicker basket, you’ll soon realize that, while it might have felt like time stopped in 2020, nature truly thrived.

WHY 2021:

During a history-altering pandemic, we are walking back out into the world with a deeper reverence for our food systems and (as some of us learned during our pandemic gardening experiences) a fascination with how plants seem to flourish despite human folly.

By
Forager, Urban Gardener, & InfluencerInstagram
usta Somvichian-Clausen
Unsplash
Austa Somvichian-Clausen
3

Giving love to AAPI-owned restaurants in NYC is a no-brainer and scores of excellent options abound.

Over the past year, anti-Asian hate incidents have skyrocketed, with nearly 7,000 reported according to the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate. As a New Yorker and an Asian American, it breaks my heart to know that compared to other major cities, NYC actually had the largest increase of anti-Asian crimes. Data analysts at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism recorded a rise from 13 hate crimes between January and March 2020 to 42 in the same three-month period this year.

One thing I’ve learned from working in the media is that, unfortunately, anti-Asian attacks might not continue to dominate news headlines, as people move on to other topics and tragedies. But when eyes start to shift away from an issue, it doesn’t mean that the issue itself disappears. With all that being said, Asian-owned businesses all over New York desperately need our continued support. It helps that they serve up some pretty damn good food.

The amazing thing about New York’s Asian food scene is its vastness and diversity, from Michelin-starred Japanese restaurants like Sushi Noz, Masa, and Noda to hole in the wall spots like Chinatown’s Shu Jiao Fu Zhou, where you can nab a plate of pork dumplings and wonton for $5. You can find Filipino cuisine at Jeepney and Flip Sigi, Vietnamese at Wayan, Laotian at Khe-Yo, Korean at Mokbar, and there’s no lack of incredible Thai cuisine. My favorite has to be Fish Cheeks on Bond Street, where you can find spicy coconut crab curry, pandan-infused cocktails and a whole fish served in broth and covered in herbs.

Those without a specific restaurant in mind could pop out of the subway in a number of different areas and be just fine, too. Chinatown is a given, with cult favorites like Nom Wah Tea Parlor and Chinese Tuxedo amidst a plethora of incredible options, but there’s also K-Town with its karaoke bars and Korean barbecue, as well as downtown Flushing. If you visit the latter, grab freshly made tofu and flowers from Soy Bean Chan Flower & Gift Shop and gorge yourself on colorful xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at Shanghai You Garden.

Regardless of whether or not you live in New York, you can always support the AAPI community by making a donation to Heart of Dinner, a local nonprofit that delivers hot meals to the elderly Asian community.

WHY 2021:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know things haven’t been easy for Asian Americans as of late. Show your support right now by actually supporting AAPI communities directly.

Check New York City’s COVID guidelines here.

We’d like to acknowledge and honor the original peoples of this land, the Munsee Lenape nation.

By
Travel Writer & InfluencerInstagram
Zach Johnston
Zach Johnston
Zach Johnston
Zach Johnston
Zach Johnston
Zach Johnston
4

This new whiskey bar and restaurant in Seattle’s hippest neighborhood is tearing down the idea of gatekeeping in the whiskey world one pour at a time.

If I know anything about whiskey, it’s that the word “best” gets thrown around way too much when talking about the brown spirit. There’s a certain gravitas that’s lost when that level of hyperbole comes into play; it inspires an eyebrows-raised incredulity on the part of the listener. So when you find something that’s actually the best, you’re almost tempted to soften your stance — so that people will take you seriously.

Case in point, The Ballard Cut — a new restaurant/bar in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood which many fellow aficionados have told me is the “best” whiskey bar in the nation. I’m hesitant to agree, simply because I haven’t been to every whiskey bar in the country.

But in my experience? Yes, this experience is unparalleled.

It’s often hard for a great bar to pull off great food and vice versa. That’s not an issue at The Ballard Cut. Chef Rachel Peebles has positioned her kitchen right in the mix, allowing the flames from her pan to illuminate the pine-covered walls of the bar as wonderful food hits cast iron. That glowing light is an indicator of the good things to come when you order from the small plate and entree menu. The flavors on the plate meld Pacific Northwest ingredients — all sourced from local farms in Washington and the Ballard Farmer’s Market — with classic Spanish preparations and techniques. The sous vide and grilled octopus in a sweet romanesco sauce with sharp olives is a highlight. But the real small dish to get is the venison tartare, made with Axis deer from Maui (where they’re an invasive species threatening the local ecological balance). The main courses lean towards a Basque-levels of grilled acumen, with the on-the-bone pork chop over creamy yet robust grits being a clear highlight.

Look at that, we’re 250 words deep on a whiskey bar review and we’re still talking about the meal? Hell, I could go on about how they even nail the green salad with simple and fresh pickles, greens, and judicious use of salts, oils, and vinegar. But let’s get to the whiskey because that’s where this place truly rises above.

The selection at The Ballard Cut isn’t just outstanding, it’s astounding. There are bottles in play that date back to the Second World War. You can taste whiskey from a different era that will transcend any whiskey experience you’re likely to have access to. And while plenty of whiskey bars and vaults have old dusties that’ll blow your mind (while informing your palate), the staff at The Ballard Cut is incredibly adept at helping you understand and contextualize your picks.

Co-owner Tommy Patrick acts as the master of ceremonies by bringing trays full of whisk(e)ys that he thinks you might like to your table with Glencairn glasses and let’s you have a small taste before you commit to a glass. He’ll walk you through each bottle that he thinks you might dig, and then … he’ll leave you there with those bottles at your table and let you decide which one speaks to you for that all-important pour of “the good stuff.” There’s no pressure. There’s no gate-keeping. There’s no snobbishness. It’s a refreshingly interactive experience that’s fun to watch and participate in.

There’s a level of trust in play at The Ballard Cut, whether you’re there for a $6 Evan and Coke at the bar or looking to pour a $200 dram of Pappy. There’s no judgment. There are no waiters or bartenders looking aloof in white coats and snorting if you don’t know the mash bill on a random Japanese whisky from 50 years ago. It’s all about being inclusive while spreading the love for all things whisk(e)y to anyone who walks on by and decides to sit down (yes, they keep tables open for walk-ins every shift). Instead of pretense, you’re greeted by Tommy and his partner in crime John Slagle (a whiskey collector and hell of a bartender) with a soft smile, gentle hello, and a tray of bottles that will blow your mind.

WHY 2021:

As someone who writes about whiskey for a living and spent the better part of his young life working bars around the world, I felt like I’d seen it all. Places like The Ballard Cut prove that I haven’t. It’s the sort of place that gets you excited again for what might be coming around the bend when all of “this” is over.

More importantly, The Ballard Cut feels like the home you’ve been missing for a year or two, and Rachel, Tommy, John, and their genuine and warm-hearted staff are your old friends and family, eager to host you.

Book A Table

Check Seattle’s COVID guidelines here.

We’d like to acknowledge and honor the original peoples of this land, the Stillaguamish, Duwamish, and Suquamish nations.

By
Deputy Editor, Uproxx LifeTwitterInstagram
Slate Mill Wine Collective
Slate Mill Wine Collective
Fall Creek Vineyards
5

Everything is bigger in Texas and that attitude applies to the state’s burgeoning wine scene.

Usually, when you think of Texas, there are two extremes: thoughts of cowboys on horses enjoying a whiskey after a long day on the ranch or Beyoncé, beer, and BBQ. As a proud Texan, I can attest to the fact that we love our whiskey, cowboys, BBQ, and of course Beyoncé. However, it’s also been a treat to watch the state’s wine industry grow in reputation and size over the most recent years. Furthermore, if you’re not a native Texan or a wine industry guru, you probably haven’t heard of just how awesome the Texas terroir truly is. With the onslaught of the pandemic last year and the impact of the massive ice and snowstorm that hit the region, all wineries and vineyards were forced to close their tasting rooms and tours.

Now, Texas wineries are reopened and ready for visitors!

There are over 50 wineries in the picturesque rolling, lush, hilled region known as the Texas Hill Country. Many of the wines of this area stand up to Napa Valley and European varietals with ease. Each winery within the region has its own distinct personality, terroir, and winemaking style. Whether you’re into crisp rosé, a fruit-forward Viognier, or a robust red blend, there’s a delicious wine from Texas AVA that will quench your palate.

Black woman-owned, Kai-Simone Winery, is the gateway into the Hill Country nestled in between San Antonio and Austin. They offer a wide range of wines from Sangiovese to Petite Sirah and more.

Fall Creek Vineyards, established in 1975, is the oldest vineyard and winery operation in Hill Country. They not only make 100 percent Texas wine, but they are also 100 percent Texas terroir. They’ve focused their research the past four decades on finding and matching the perfect sites, soil, and terroir for the respective grape varieties.

Located in Fredericksburg (about an hour and a half outside of Austin), Slate Mill Wine Collective has one of the largest vineyards in the Hill Country resting on 35 acres offering mesmerizing views and equally amazing wine (try their 1851 Vineyards Tannat with brisket – you’re welcome).

Pedernales Cellars has one of the best Tempranillos ever, riddled with hints of blackberries and rich cocoa notes.

WHY 2021:

Throughout the year, the various Hill Country wineries host food and wine pairings that give you a taste of Texas culinary excellence and fun grape stomps that everyone should experience at least once.

Check Texas’ COVID guidelines here.

We’d like to acknowledge and honor the original peoples of this land, the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Jumanos, Waco, and Tawakoni nations.

By
Drinks & Travel WriterTwitterInstagram
Lotte Hotel
Lotte Hotel
Lotte Hotel
Lotte Hotel
Lotte Hotel
6

The newly opened Lotte Seattle is the city’s swankiest hotel but it also has one of the best food programs in the city.

There was a long stretch where restaurants in hotels were mediocre at best. The whole concept was to get people fed and out the door. But since hotels have again become the destination in-and-of-themselves, hotel restaurants have soared. They’re now often the vocal point of an overarching hotel experience — featuring locally-minded chefs with something important to say about the destination itself.

A great example of how dialed in the hotel dining experience can be is found at the newly opened Lotte Hotel Seattle. The property is a 16-story masterpiece of design, art, and luxury living in the heart of downtown Seattle. The rooms are bespoke and spacious while coming with commanding views of the Olympic Mountains, Salish Sea, and high-rises of the city. That view becomes the perfect backdrop for the hotel’s top-floor restaurant, Charlotte.

Charlotte’s menu is small but goes deep. Local is the play with each dish as Korean, Spanish, French, and Japanese techniques are melded with the local ingredients of the Pacific Northwest. Executive Chef Alexander La Motte leans heavily into the fruit of the sea. Hood Canal clams adorn a chorizo ragu tagliatelle; Hama Hama oysters are served with mignonette pearls and local apples; Oregon lamb is minced and mixed into a refreshing tartare; wild and pickled onions are tossed with chanterelles from the mountains visible just across the water. That’s just a sliver of the highlights of the current menu. But by the time you get there, it’ll have changed. Whatever is fresh and seasonal at the moment defines what’s on the plate.

The location of the dining room (which seats 100 but never feels crowded) helps sell each element of every dish placed in front of you. You can see all the way to the mountains and forest where the food on the plate comes from. You can practically smell the oyster farms, clam digs, and fishing boats as you eat. It’s truly a food experience that you won’t soon forget while also being one that feels very accessible. While the restaurant is a perk for guests, the majority of the crowd tends to be locals in the know — always a good sign. So while staying at the Lotte is highly recommended, don’t skip the restaurant if you aren’t sleeping there.

Lastly, the bar concept (attached to the restaurant and offering the same views) offers a hip and refined cocktail menu with a seriously well-selected bottle list of wines and spirits. The wine and beer specifically lean into Washington and Oregon products while the whiskey, gin, rum, and liqueurs are carefully curated to bring the best of the best. Don’t sleep on The Flagship, a mix of bourbon, shiso, Becherovka, honey, lime, and egg white. It’s a medicinal, bourbon-y sour that feels like Seattle in a glass.

WHY 2021:

Lotte Hotel Seattle opened back in September 2020 after a delay (for obvious reasons). Their restaurant was always at 25 or 50 percent capacity (or fully closed) until late June 2021. So it was never really running at full steam until this year. That makes now the time to enjoy the ever-changing menu of local delights just as soon as you can make it up to the Pacific Northwest.

Book A Table

Check Seattle’s COVID guidelines here.

We’d like to acknowledge and honor the original peoples of this land, the Stillaguamish, Duwamish, and Suquamish nations.

By
Deputy Editor, Uproxx LifeTwitterInstagram
J Wessel Photography
J Wessel Photography
Para Maria
7

The Para Maria pop-up is the perfect spot to find abuela-style cooking in the heart of Boston.

Outlook Kitchen is the upscale dining experience at The Envoy Hotel, Autograph Collection, part of the Independent Collection Hotels & Resorts portfolio. The kitchen is helmed by seasoned Executive Chef Tatiana Rosana, a two-time champion of Food Network’s “Chopped” and proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Outlook is American at its roots, drawing culinary inspiration from its unique surroundings and celebrating locally sourced ingredients to create a quintessentially Boston dining experience.

While Outlook in its traditional state is currently closed, in its place through mid-September is Latin-inspired pop-up concept Para Maria, a nod to Chef Tatiana’s abuela. Para Maria embodies the heartwarming relationship between family, friends, and food. It was through the lessons that she learned from her beloved abuela that Chef Tatiana discovered her passion for cooking and love of food, the same passion that drives the menu at this limited-run restaurant.

Para Maria’s menu is a must-try collection of vibrant small plates and cocktails that highlight the food, flavor, and feeling of Chef Tatiana’s abuela’s kitchen. Standout items include mojo pork carnitas tacos topped with citrus marinade; carne asada tacos with a house-made chimichurri and daily catch fresh ceviche.

WHY 2021:

As Para Maria is open in the Outlook Kitchen patio space from Thursday to Sunday through mid-September, now is the perfect time to plan a visit and experience the magic of Chef Tatiana’s cuisine and take in the incredible sights of the Boston summer and early fall. After dinner, pop up to Lookout Rooftop for craft cocktails and stunning views of Boston’s skyline.

Walk-in Only

Check Boston’s COVID guidelines here.

We’d like to acknowledge and honor the original peoples of this land, the Pawtucket and Massa-adchu-es-et (Massachusett) nations.

By
Food & Travel WriterInstagram
Heaven Hill
Unsplash
Beam Suntory
Unsplash
KY Bourbon Trail
8

Several Kentucky distillers took the pandemic break to recreate their visitor experience, making now the time to check out the bourbon trail.

Calling out the Kentucky Bourbon Trail on a hot and new travel experience list sounds a bit sketchy. The bourbon trail has been welcoming whiskey-seeking travelers for decades now. But now is the time to go as the trail expands deep into craft distilling and iconic whiskey heritage sites reopen with a new look.

As with all of the travel industry, the pandemic changed everything for distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. But as a byproduct of extended shutdowns, several spots had time to take a breath and rethink what their experience would be like when tourists started trickling in again. As a result, a whole lot has changed in between doors shuttering in 2020 and reopening in 2021.

This is the most evident at the newly opened Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience.

“The brand new expansion triples our footprint from the previous expansion,” Jeff Crowe, Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience General Manager, tells us. “We are very excited to offer so much more to the public from a Five Brothers Bar with a rooftop deck that overlooks our rickhouses.”

The new experience is more than just a tour of some “for-show” stills or barrelhouse, it’s an immersive experience. The $19-million upgrade is innovative and, most importantly, all about bourbon education.

“One of the key things we want guests to walk away with is to realize that our brands are based on real people,” Crowe adds. “They are not fictional characters. We have an educational brand gallery that really focuses on Larceny and Johnny Fitzgerald and the story behind that brand. There’s an Elijah Craig interactive space where you can learn more about the charring levels of barrels and Elijah being the father of bourbon.”

The highlight of the trip, though, is the “You Do Bourbon” immersive classroom where visitors learn how bourbon is made on a microscopic level. Then you get to blend your own bourbon to take home with you. This includes tasting barrel samples from Heaven Hill’s iconic Heaven Hill bourbon (Evan Williams, Elijah Craig), Heaven Hill wheat whiskey (Bernheim), Heaven Hill wheated bourbon (Larceny), and a fourth whiskey that’ll be on rotation. The experience goes through nosing, proofing, bottling in the room, and labeling the bottle yourself.

Of course, this is more than just about the whiskey. There’s the community aspect that Heaven Hill helps support not only in Bardstown (which has a fun bar and restaurant scene) but along the rest of the Bourbon Trail. Bourbon Experts are standing by at Heaven Hill to help you decide which stop along the bourbon trail you should hit next. In fact, this sort of “rising tide lifts all ships” camaraderie is evident throughout the state.

“The good thing about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail,” Crowe says, “and I tout this is the reason we are so successful — is we are all brothers and sisters in bourbon. We all work well together. When you leave either of our facilities, we encourage you to visit others. We will help you find the next stop. Yes, we all compete on some levels, but on the visitor center and the visitor experience level, we all are champions for each other.”

Heaven Hill isn’t the only stop along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail that’s both expanded and re-opened recently, either. Angel’s Envy Distillery in Louisville just announced its visitor experience expansion. Brough Brothers — the state’s first Black-owned bourbon distillery — just opened their doors in Louisville in July 2021. Sazerac has also announced a billion-dollar-plus expansion at their legendary Buffalo Trace facility. Four Roses just opened a brand-new visitors center. And Beam recently opened doors on a new distillery experience at the Fred B. Noe Craft Distillery. And all of that is before you even get into the ever-expanding craft distilleries on the trail.

WHY 2021:

The Bourbon Trail is all the things we love about travel in 2021 — it’s got new aspects, it’s hyper-local, it’s craft-driven, and it’s a ton of fun. Go now and drink in that fall Kentucky air that smells like brown sugar.

Plan your trip here.

Check Kentucky’s COVID guidelines here.

We’d like to acknowledge and honor the original peoples of this land, the Ni-u-kon-ska (Osage), ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East), Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee), S’atsoyaha (Yuchi), Adena, and Hopewell nations.

By
Deputy Editor, Uproxx LifeTwitterInstagram
Cara Restaurant
Cara Restaurant
Cara Restaurant
Cara Restaurant
Cara Restaurant
9

Cara Restaurant is where European-inspired dishes meet farm-to-table food sourcing in LA’s art-centric Los Feliz neighborhood.

A meal at Cara Restaurant inspires that age-old, incredibly cliché phrase, “hidden gem.” Part of the Cara Hotel, it’s tucked neatly into the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, which sits at the foothills of famous Griffith Park. The low-key area draws in passionate creative types for under-the-radar shops, eclectic bars, and independent theaters. With the recent opening of Cara in Fall 2020, Los Feliz is also becoming a hushed hub for upscale dining.

Cara feels like enjoying a meal in a dreamy Italian plaza during the summertime with a good friend, which makes sense considering that Cara translates to “friend” in Gaelic. The minimalist, tan-toned outdoor patio space is shaded with 100-year-old olive trees wrapped in twinkling lights. The flawlessly staged tables are lined around the property’s pool. While the ambiance of Cara is exemplary, we’re here to talk about what really counts: the food.

Cara’s thoughtfully curated California-Italian fusion menu is defined by freshness. Every single ingredient on the menu (all the way down to the biodynamic olive oil on every table) is blind taste-tested by the restaurant’s team and sourced from local, sustainable farms. All that energy translates to the plates, which are both straightforward and full of intention. Each bite feels special.

The menu reads as timeless — with fan-favorite apps and side dishes like chargrilled spring asparagus and crisp marble potatoes, main course originals such as the lemon pasta (a must-try menu item) and charcoal smoked roast chicken, and classic desserts like the olive oil cake topped with whipped créme fraîche and strawberries.

Cara Restaurant is yet another reminder that unadulterated ingredients and sustainable food sources can offer a diverse experience for every palate. And that straightforward dishes can be a thing of beauty.

WHY 2021:

2020 was a heavy blow to the restaurant industry, especially in major metropolitan hotspots. With the city of stars finally busy and buzzing again (for now), check out one of L.A.’s most promising, newish dining experiences.

Book A Table

Check Los Angeles’ COVID guidelines here.

We’d like to acknowledge and honor the original peoples of this land, the Chumash, Tongva, and Kizh nations.

By
Travel Writer & InfluencerTwitterInstagram
Jacob Dean
Jacob Dean
Jacob Dean
10

The D.C.-area’s Lao Food Movement is becoming a cornerstone of the community and now’s the time to dive in.

It’s been a particularly brutal year for the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community, who thanks to rampant covid-related conspiracies and hate speech have faced a surging wave of both discrimination and violence. One of the best ways to combat that right now is by showing some love to AAPI restaurant owners, and in Washington D.C. one of your very best options is the Laotian restaurant Thip Khao.

If you haven’t had Lao food before you’ve been missing out. The cuisine — which Anthony Bourdain famously loved — is known for its electric vibrancy. Lao food is packed with freshly chopped herbs and chiles and makes liberal use of fermented fish, sausage, and meat. It’s often laced with either the generally mild fish sauce you already know and love, or Laos’ own fish sauce (called padaek) which is so pungent and flavorful that it’s practically nuclear-powered. This is a complex cuisine, which pairs deeply fermented funkiness and the sting of chiles with the bright vivaciousness of lemongrass, cilantro, mint, and a huge range of other herbs and vegetables.

Thip Khao delivers all of this in spades, and with expertise that makes it one of the best Lao restaurants in the entire country. Their amazing food—and it is legitimately amazing—comes from chef/owner (and mother/son) team Seng Luangrath and Boby Pradachith, who together merge traditional dishes and flavors with more modern techniques and preparations.

The more modern side comes from her son Boby Pradachith, a CIA-trained chef who, in addition to helping helm Thip Khao and their Virginia-based Lao-and-Thai restaurant Padaek, also opened the temporarily covid-shuttered Laotian bar-and-restaurant Hanumanh.

In addition to representing the food culture of Laos in D.C. and Virginia, Luangrath also helms the Lao Food Movement, which is itself dedicated to promoting the growing number of Laotian-owned food businesses and projects across the United States. Luangrath, Pradachith, and their team present an outstanding vision of a cuisine that will feel familiar to fans of SE Asian flavors while also holding surprises for those who aren’t already familiar.

WHY 2021:

The rich food culture of Laos is emerging at restaurants across the United States., and Thip Khao is one of the best in the country.

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We’d like to acknowledge and honor the original peoples of this land, the Nacotchtank (Anacostan) and Piscataway nations.

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