12 Delicious (and Unpretentious) Restaurants You Must Try
Snagging a reservation at one of the finest restaurants in the world is an occasion worth celebrating, but sometimes you’re not in the mood for a suited waiter to cut your porterhouse. There are times that call for a gourmet meal without all the fuss of fine dining. Luckily, casual dining is a global trend and chefs around the world are serving up five-star cuisine for the jeans-and-sneakers set.
Here are 12 spots for an honest, delicious meal no matter where you may find yourself.
Gjelina, Los Angeles, California
The laidback vibes of Venice’s beach community carry through Gjelina, the restaurant that’s quietly helping to redefine California cuisine. Grab a communal table upfront or keep your fingers crossed for a spot on the back patio for your meal and order up the house-marinated olives or the burrata toast for starters. You won’t need to be reminded to eat your veggies as Gjelina does them better than anyone, and before you get too healthy, finish off with a pizza topped with housemade chorizo or wild nettles and raclette. If you’re too impatient to wait for a table, try Gjelina’s takeaway spot next door.
Drogheria, Bologna, Italy
Around the world, Italy is known as the pinnacle of homey, mouth-watering food. Within the borders of Italy, that honor goes to Emilia-Romagna. The unpretentious, but utterly delicious Drogheria shows off the region’s bounty to great effect. The restaurant has a few tables indoors, but the real action is outside on the white-clothed tables lined up under Bologna’s famed arches. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to gorge on some of the best food in Italy (and the world) with a prime people-watching spot. Start with a plate of the house-made tortellini, follow with the freshly-caught fish of the day, and make good use of the restaurant’s extensive wine list.
Holiday, Helsinki, Finland
When you step into Holiday, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re in Florida, not Finland. Tucked into an historic building on Helsinki’s picturesque harbor, Holiday is a welcome retreat filled with warmly glowing lights, inspired cocktails, and fresh, eclectic fare that uses local ingredients when the Finnish weather allows it. The warm atmosphere extends to the obliging staff and a flexible menu that features many vegan and gluten-free options—the chef can elevate even the lowliest of cauliflower florets into an Instagram-worthy dish. On colder nights, grab a spot on the long bench that lines the restaurant, but in good weather, sit outside and sip on small batch Napue gin while watching the boats sail on the North Sea.
Bollywood Theater, Portland, Oregon
Grab a menu to peruse while you wait in line to order at this casual spot that specializes in Indian street food. Order a plate of Goan-style shrimp, a paneer-filled Kati Roll, or a spicy Vada Pav that will transport you to the streets of Mumbai. Take a seat at a picnic table outside or at one of the wooden counters inside. Fix a plate of chutney and dive in. Wash away the heat with an Oregon IPA or gin and tonic, which was invented by the East India Trading Company.
Can Culleretes, Barcelona, Spain
If a restaurant has been in business since 1786, you know they’re doing something right. Can Culleretes (a.k.a. “the house of teaspoons”) has been serving up honest, hardy food and respectable wine at a decent price for generations. While this may be Barcelona’s oldest restaurant, the menu mainstays never go out of style. Order up a plate of grilled squid, cava-stewed pork, or the classic sausage with white beans and enjoy a life-changing meal at a fair price.
Manioca, São Paolo, Brazil
Opened by chef Helena Rizzo—who won the title of Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef back in 2014—and her husband, Daniel Redondo, this refined comfort food restaurant serves up Mediterranean recipes with Brazilian flair in a laidback spot behind a mall bookstore (really). The food is impeccably fresh, seasonal, and masterfully prepared. Stop in for a quick burger, a plate of pasta, or a roast chicken that you won’t soon forget.
Claro, Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv celebrity chef Ran Shmueli opened Claro in Tel Aviv’s bustling Sarona district back in 2015 and it’s become a go-to restaurant for those craving modern farm-to-table cuisine in a relaxed environment. The menu changes with the seasons, but try the slow-cooked lamb in pomegranate sauce with sabzi or beef with za’taar and potatoes paired with a glass of the house blend wine made in conjunction with a local vineyard.
Whale Wins, Seattle
The menu changes daily at this casually chic spot in Seattle’s Fremont district, but there is usually a perfect roast chicken, a wood-fired piece of locally caught seafood, and a rainbow of exciting vegetable options. The rustic fare that James Beard Award-winning chef Renee Erickson cooks up at this friendly eatery is the pinnacle of refined farm-to-table cuisine, but is offered up with little pretense and exceptional service.
Restaurante Contramar, Mexico City, Mexico
One of the best seafood restaurants in Mexico City is constantly packed, but it’s worth the wait to try their ultra-fresh tuna tostadas topped with chipotle mayo and avocado, their brightly flavored aguachile (which is similar to ceviche), or the whole grilled fish smeared with chile paste and parsley. Save room for their famous coconut flan, too. Grab a table outside for people-watching in the bustling Roma district, or sit in the white-table cloth dining room and try to get a peek of the chefs working their culinary magic.
Bruno Pizza, New York City
This pizza place has an ambitious menu, but doesn’t put on airs during its journey to the (Michelin) stars. The East Village restaurant has a stripped down, minimalist ambiance that lets the food shine—not that a place that grinds its own flour for its pizza crust needs any help with that. They serve Italian comfort food and Neapolitan pizza with a modernist bent (think: pepperoni pizza with dehydrated ranch dressing or cacio e pepe with a Szechuan twist served with a local beer or French wine) While pizza is the star, the market-inspired salads are truly Instagram-worthy.
Restaurant Hubert, Sydney, Australia
For a low-key meal, grab a spot at the bar and order up a perfect steak frite or a gruyere-covered burger and a glass of wine from the thoughtfully curated list. For a more lavish, yet still casual affair, grab a booth and a friend and order up their steak tartare served with a pile fries, or dive into the restaurant’s famous chicken fricassee, served with sautéed mushrooms and a tarragon-infused gravy. Round out the order with pommes Anna or a cheesy kimchi gratin. Kids will love trying the restaurants Melon en Surprise—a half melon covered in coconut sorbet, melon balls, lime pearls, and sorrel and pastis jelly.
Les Trois Marmites, Paris
This Belleville charmer has everything you want in a Parisian bistro—a welcoming interior, traditional French farmhouse fare, and a wine list that reminds you that you don’t need to pay a fortune for an incredible glass of red. Each night they serve up honest food for a diverse crowd eager for the terrine de campagne, porc confit, or chunky salade niçoise paired with the house fries. Save room for the caramelized apple tart with Calvados and the goat and cow cheeses hand-picked from regional farms.