The list is curated by Bill Addison, Eater’s national critic who travelled to 36 cities in 34 weeks to prepare the list. Released on Tuesday in the 5th edition of Eater’s series, 17 restaurants made it to the list for the first time.
Restaurants that make it to the essential list become indispensable to their neighborhoods, according to Addison. The list notes Tom Cunanan’s peerless Filipino cuisine at the Bad Saint restaurant as a “payoff” for customers. The restaurant has a no-reservations policy, and 24 available seats.
“Inspirations like piniritong alimasag (fried soft-shell crab in spicy crab-fat sauce) also brilliantly signal the Chesapeake region in which he cooks,” the list notes.
“This annual guide, compiled after 34 weeks of travel and almost 600 meals in 36 cities, aims to accomplish something else,” wrote Addison. “It’s a distillation of the foods and the communities to which I’ve borne witness. The undertaking has defined my work — my life, really — for nearly the last five years as Eater’s national critic.”
In total, 38 restaurants from all across the country made it to the list, including 17 newcomers. “They’re the places where I had especially meaningful aha moments,” adds Addison.