Making his way into the limelight through his Food Network shows, restaurant ownership, many cookbooks, and now his spot on ABC’s daytime cooking talk show The Chew, chef Mario Batali has quickly become a household name. But where does this former [he's not on the show anymore] Iron Chef love to eat when he’s not cooking for himself and the public? The Daily Meal recently caught up with Batali and asked him to fill us in on where he likes to whet his appetite when he’s out and about.
Batali’s top nine restaurants span the globe and range from fine dining in New York to a small sandwich shop in Traverse City, Mich., where Batali maintains a second home, to a seafood restaurant in Singapore’s red-light district — Batali makes it clear that quality product is the most important factor to him when choosing where to eat.
"I like technically great cooking, but I’m just as much excited about having a fried grouper sandwich when I’m in Florida as I am to go into any fancy chef’s restaurant," said Batali. Since he's known for his mantra that food is best when served simply, it’s no wonder that this idea carries into Batali’s restaurant suggestions as well. Here, in no particular order, are Batali’s nine favorite restaurants around the world.
The Cooks' House (Traverse City, Mich.)
The Cooks' House prides itself on using almost entirely locally sourced ingredients. Opening in 2008, co-chefs Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee teamed up to create a menu that is fresh, simple, and delicious, and follows a "field to plate" philosophy. With only 30 seats, the tables are kitchen-side and offer a great view of the cooking of the French-inspired fare. Meals range from $25 to $50.
Le Louis XV (Monte Carlo, Monaco)
With a menu by acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse, the cuisine of Louis XV offers a peek at what Louis XV might have enjoyed. Located in the ritzy Hôtel de Paris, Louis XV requires jackets, ties, and a hefty pocketbook. Based on the price to dine, this is definitely a special-occasion spot, but not one that will soon be forgotten.
"I would eat the vegetarian tasting menu; it would blow you away how good it is," said Batali. Lunches start at $180 and dinners at $260.
Le Bernardin (New York City)
Ranked number 15 on the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Le Bernardin has also upheld a four-star review from The New York Times for more than two decades. Reservations and jackets are required at this swanky French destination in Midtown Manhattan. Owner/chef Eric Ripert takes care to ensure diners have a memorable experience, offering tasting menus, and private dining for the ultimate culinary adventure. Lunch starts at $50 and dinners start at $125.
Hosteria Guisti (Modena, Italy)
A renovated old slaughterhouse, Hosteria Guisti combines exposed beams and terra-cotta floors with fine china and linens to create an ambiance that is anything but forgettable. It’s a family affair with owner Adriano Morandi, his wife Laura, and their two sons running the lunch-only spot. They offer menu suggestions upon seating that include traditional Italian recipes from their grandmother.
"It’s a four-table restaurant in the back of what looks like a deli, only open for lunch but serves the most magnificent and delicious things," said Batali.
Sin Huat (Singapore)
Batali raves about this small, one-man-show eatery on Geylang Road. He tells The Daily Meal of his misadventures while trying to find this restaurant in the red-light district of Singapore.
"They fish out of the tank, and they cook it right before you in the wok, and I had one of the greatest meals I’ve ever had! It’s in a crazy neighborhood where the even streets are restaurant streets and the odd-numbered streets are prostitution… We pull up at this house, they tell us to sit down, we’re like 'Where’s the menu?' and they start bringing these people out and I’m like, 'I think we’re in the wrong place!'"
Meals and a memorable adventure start at $50.
Owned by Batali’s sister, Salumi serves up cured meat products, sandwiches, and weekly specials including soups and pastas. The lines can be long, but locals and Batali swear it’s worth the wait. Salumi is also a full artisan factory that produces high-quality cured meats and other Italian products all inspired by a traditional Italian salumeria. Salumi’s products can be purchased in its store-front and online. Meals are less than $20.
Joe's Stone Crab (Miami Beach, Fla.)
With a fun history, Joe’s Stone Crab started as a small lunch counter in 1913. After gaining popularity for his killer fish sandwiches and fries, owner Joe Weiss started serving local stone crabs that locals didn’t even know were edible. Stone crabs are served today the same exact way they were served then, cracked with hash brown potatoes, coleslaw, and mayonnaise.
"Even though it’s probably not hip anymore, I would still go to Joe’s Stone Crab," said Batali. Appetizers and meals begin at $10.
Num Pang (New York City)
Offering Cambodian-inspired sandwiches, salads, and side dishes, the fare at Num Pang is delicious and "crafty," according to Batali.
Touting that "their sandwiches are made to be enjoyed as they are," owners Ratha Chaupoly and Ben Daitz serve gourmet sandwiches on freshly toasted semolina flour baguettes with Num Pang’s signature chile mayo. Rotating selections of fresh-made sandwiches are offered daily, all based on Chaupoly’s mother’s Cambodian cooking. Sandwiches are $10 or less.
Frenchie's Famous (Traverse City, Mich.)
Located on unassuming Randolph Street in Traverse City, Mich., this coffeehouse/lunch café offers up delicious sandwiches, breads, and desserts. Batali suggests arriving before 2 p.m. because, "He’s cranky between two and three," referencing owner French Clements. Clements and his wife run the whole show; French plays maître d’, waiter, line cook, and barista, while his wife Alisa bakes each day’s fresh bread, pastries, and cookies. Try the house-made pastrami or fist-sized chocolate chunk cookies. Meals are $10 or less.
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