Restaurants That Will Blow Everyone Away In 2017

Dining out isn't just about a good dish anymore. It's about experiencing food you never knew existed. It's about knowing where the food came from and how it got in front of you. And perhaps, most importantly, it's about how good your food looks in pictures. Because what good is truffle bacon avocado toast if you can't share it with 2,000 of your closest Instagram followers?

Yep, 2017 is the year of sustainability, experiential dining, and ridiculously high standards. And with the internet putting the power of the review in the people's hands, restaurateurs have their work cut out for them to please these most discerning critics. Good news is, chefs don't scare easy. We found seven restaurants around the country that are up for the challenge of blowing everyone — and their Instagram followers — away this year.

Mahina & Sun's

A 3-pound pink snapper (also known as opakapaka) graces your table with an array of side dishes including Kualoa Ranch oysters, fern salad, roasted roots, buttered breadfruit (ulu), house pickles, hapa rice, fried boiled peanuts, and dessert (ideally something with macadamia nuts). The food before you is the Family Feast. Your butt is sitting in the same seat that former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama sat in just a couple months ago. You have arrived at Mahina & Sun's, Ed Kenney's eatery in the beautiful Surfjack Hotel of Waikiki.

Chef Kenney is a proponent of protecting Hawaii's marine sanctuary, Papahanaumokuakea (the world's largest), and a supporter of sustainable eating here in Hawaii. It should come as no surprise then, that everything from your snapper to your swordfish was sustainably – and locally – sourced. Honolulu-born Kenny takes a lot of pride in his home state. And it shows in the food and on the walls. The interior features more than a dozen local artists. The pivoting windows were inspired by manapua trucks, Hawaii's version of the food truck in the '70s before food trucks were cool. The outdoor seating overlooks the pool, which features four words at the bottom that we all can't help but say when we're staying in a place like Waikiki: "Wish You Were Here!" And the piece with the biggest aww factor: the oil portrait of Kenny's mom that hangs behind the host stand. She formerly worked as a hostess at Kenny's first restaurant. All together now. Awwwww.

Mahina & Sun's | Honolulu, Hawaii


Sean Azari, founder of Breakthrough Social (a social media agency based outside of NYC) and the voice behind @NYCHungry, believes that restaurants should construct their decor, food, and ambiance to be more "Instagramable." Azari told me, "People love taking pictures of food, so if you have food that looks outrageous, with contrasting colors that stand out in pictures then it makes it 10 times more fun (plus it's a huge benefit for restaurants)." Which is why he is putting Megu at the top of his list for mind-blowing restaurants of 2017. Best described as a "club restaurant," the decor is meant to blow you away. An infinity-mirrored staircase leads you down into the subterranean main dining room. Dining room walls seamlessly transform the room with customizable lights and 3-D-activated imaging. And then, of course, there's the food.

The menu is nuts. There's edamame that resembles lollipops. There's vegan tartare that replaces the beef with beets. Sake-braised short rib. Tuna katsu branded with "Megu" on its pink-seared skin. But Sean's favorite is the tuna tartare. Why? Because it comes in an ice cream cone and it's topped with crispy bits that look like ice cream sprinkles. Ice cream and sushi, together as one. This place was built for likes.

Megu's foodie showmanship used to be only available in Delhi, Doha, Moscow, and Switzerland. But you can thank your lucky picture-perfect stars because, as of 2017, this show-stopper has now taken up permanent residence in New York. Where else, right?

Megu | New York, New York


It doesn't get much cooler than the pop-up dining scene in New York. A secret location. A surprise menu. No invite = no entry. But for pop-up supper club Wednesdays (formerly I Forgot It's Wednesday), it was never about being the trendiest spot in town. The mission was to make the dinner conversation as interesting as the meal itself.

"You can have the best food and drink, but if the environment doesn't draw you in, immerse you, and make you feel something, then what's the point?" Wednesdays founder Jenny Dorsey told me. Trendy or not, Wednesdays is doing something right. It's been named the No. 1 supper club in San Francisco (its home for a one-year experiment), has officially re-launched in New York last year, and has since been featured in UrbanDaddy, Business Insider, Thrillist, The Huffington Post, and more. In fact, it got so popular that "Wednesdays" just wasn't enough anymore. In 2017, it's moving into a permanent location in Manhattan so it could be open every day of the week.

If you plan on paying a visit – Wednesday or otherwise – come hungry and ready to be entertained. They offer seven courses paired with a four-course cocktail flight. But before the first course even arrives, you will start with a five-station interactive "tasting salon." You will need the following: the patience to mix your aperitif with a magnetic stirrer, the wherewithal to eat terrariums hanging from the ceiling, the skill to toast your s'mores and cookie shot over an open fire, and the courage to try roasted bugs on toast. No awkward shuffling and small-talking for Wednesdays guests. It's these subtle cues and interesting surprises that spark conversations between strangers and friends alike. "While the food & drink changes every time they come to a dinner, they know the experience interacting with everyone else will always be meaningful," says Dorsey.

Wednesdays | New York, New York

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

What happens when a Japanese native moves to central Texas, falls in love with food, and grows up to become a chef? Kemuri Tatsu-Ya happens. It's a Texas-influenced izakaya (an informal Japanese gastropub) serving smoked meats, yakitori, ramen, and izakaya classics created by chef Tatsu Aikawa. Kemuri Tatsu-Ya is far from pretentious. In fact, you aren't even allowed to make reservations. "Just show up and we'll take care of you," the Facebook page proclaims.

Appropriately, the restaurant space was once a barbecue joint. Now it honors Aikawa's roots with smoke stained walls in a traditional izakaya setting. Memorabilia from Aikawa's trips to Japan adorn the restaurant. This is a place to bring friends of all backgrounds and cultures. Whether Southwestern cowboy or Japanese foodie, you'll appreciate the fact that you can find duck, mackerel, brisket, meatballs, beef tongue, chinmi, and ramen all on the same menu.

Things I'd love to try include the Texas chili cheese takoyaki (a riff on Frito pie), the Texas ramen (a beef bone broth with barbecue brisket), and the tofu Hot Pocket (because Hot Pocket). Oh, and don't forget the drink menu — as if you would. Sake, shochu, beer, and whiskey – gang's all here. If you're going to order a cocktail, you might want to make it the Puff Puff Pass. The well-reviewed drink is served in a puffer fish goblet and made for sharing with all of your ramen-loving cowboy compadres.

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya | Austin, Texas

Hearth & Dram

Denver's bustling LoDo neighborhood has a new kid on the block. In January 2017, Hearth & Dram came into the world. What makes Hearth & Dram so special? Well, to start, the restaurant takes its prep very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that, if you're coming in for the Whole Beast Feast, you need to make a reservation five days in advance. That's because dishes like whole roasted suckling pig, dry-aged and glazed duck, salt-crusted sturgeon, and standing rib-roast need a little warning. Served in three courses, this meat-eater's paradise is cooked in a 7-foot wood-fired hearth in the open kitchen.

Its other claim to fame? The restaurant has the largest whiskey selection in downtown Denver. Around 350 whiskeys from around the world grace its menu, along with whiskey on tap and a custom-made whiskey cart featuring the special reserves. Oooohh. Ahhhh.

Hearth & Dram | Denver, Colorado

Soul Tavern

In a world of pork belly lollipops and fried chicken mania, what's a vegetarian to do? Two words: Soul Tavern, Miami's first vegetarian gastropub and elixir bar. Sure, wellness hot spots seem to be popping up left and right these days, but Soul Tavern has something to set it apart: ancient Chinese traditions. Its menu is based on the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. According to Chinese philosophy, you must balance all five for optimal health. Element symbols on the menu and placemats serve as a guide for what guests need to help balance their body, mind, and spirit.

So what's on the menu? Well, it'll have plenty of plant-based proteins, noodle alternatives, herbal elixirs, and cold-pressed juices, on par with the biggest culinary trends of 2017. But it's hard to get much more detailed than that. It's so new that the menu has yet to be released to the public. I can tell you, though, that one of the masterminds behind the culinary creations is sommelier Dale Thomas Vaughn, author of Beer Snobs are Boring and Wine Snobs are Boring. This is not your typical bar menu. These elixirs will help guests get restful sleep, soothe muscle aches, calm mood swings, and aid in workout recovery. Thirty-seven in all, they can be taken hot, similar to a tea, or cold, with sparkling water and one of five element syrups.

Wow. When Chinese medicine and foodies meet, magical things happen.

Soul Tavern | Miami, Florida

Nic's Organic Fast Food

This is the only fast food joint on this list for good reason. Because this is not your average fast food chain. The menu will feature burgers, fried chicken, grilled chicken, fries, junior meals, salads, and sundaes. Very similar to what you'd expect from the Golden Arches or the King. There's just one very important distinction: put "organic" before every single item on the menu. That's right, Nic's Organic Fast Food is the first 100 percent certified organic drive-thru restaurant in the United States. Nic's guarantees that all its foods are free from antibiotics, added hormones, GMOs, artificial dyes, colors, preservatives, synthetic herbicides, synthetic pesticides, and ionizing radiation.

What's important to note here, is that Nic's is not trying to be the next superfood, super-healthy, free-from-everything establishment. CEO Benjamin Brittsan told Eater Chicago, "The organic lifestyle doesn't mean you're eating any healthier in terms of the food. What you're benefiting from is from what's not in the food." Makes sense considering that the birth of the concept was inspired by his pregnant wife's burger cravings and their frustration with the lack of organic, toxin-free options available.

The first location opened in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, in February, but Brittsan said he has fast plans for growth, starting in nearby Illinois suburbs and Chicago. He hopes to eventually make the jump to California. An organic double-cheeseburger with organic fries and organic soda for $8.60? Are you kidding? That's a steal. I'm in.

Nic's Organic Fast Food | Rolling Meadows, Illinois