Critics’ choice: Dinner with a little bit of everything
Brewery Bhavana Raleigh, N.C.
“On paper,” Brewery Bhavana “sounds like a misstep,” said Andrew Knowlton in Bon Appetit. A dim sum restaurant that’s also a brewery, a floral shop, and a bookstore? Miraculously, it works, because you can feel the team spirit behind it the moment you settle into the “bright, light, and cheery” space. Created by a brother and sister with friends who brought their own passions for beer and floral arrangements to the project, Brewery Bhavana “feels like a community center for like-minded individuals who value diversity, open-mindedness, and, yes, Cantonese pork buns.” Any meal you have at Bhavana should begin with a beer—“even if you don’t drink beer.” The resident brewer makes wonderful sours and saisons that pair beautifully with dumplings—stuffed with corn and shrimp, perhaps, or with pork and snowpeas. “You’ll order too much, but that’s OK. Take a deep breath and find the strength to persist, because you don’t want to miss the crab-fried rice that arrives covered in an egg crêpe, or the whole Peking duck with textbook crunchy skin and confit-like meat.” 218 S. Blount St., (919) 829-9998
Palizzi Social Club Philadelphia
Welcome to “a South Philly time capsule,” said Craig LaBan in The Philadelphia Inquirer. For nearly a century, the Palizzi Social Club has been a gathering place for Abruzzo, Italy, immigrants and their descendants, and chef Joey Baldino maintained the club’s look when he recently inherited it from his uncle and expanded the charter. Demand has since compelled a halt to new members, but if you ever get your hands on a membership card and get in the door, you’ll be transported: Live accordion music plays and Negronis are being mixed behind the art deco bar. Anchovy fritters and grilled fennel sausage over broccoli rabe establish a theme of familiar fare done just right. “You’ve had escarole and beans, but probably not as silky as these,” and no other crab sauce over pasta in town is “as profoundly steeped with briny deep-sea sweetness.” It all makes you want to wait out the membership freeze and turn Palizzi into your new go-to for dinner, cocktails, singalongs, and even house-made spumoni. “Who knew this old trope of trattorias gone by could suddenly be so sublime?” 1408 S. 12th St.
Holy Roller Austin
“By going against the grain,” Callie Speer “has again shown us the way forward,” said Brandon Watson in The Austin Chronicle. At a moment when other Austin restaurateurs are playing it safe, the celebrated pastry chef has opened a punk-rock all-day brunch saloon, and the party feel she’s created “couldn’t have come at a better time.” The broad, airy dining room references rebellion everywhere: in its black-leather bar stools, kitschy religious iconography, and mammoth portrait of Iggy Pop. But the members of Speer’s all-female executive staff are as serious about service as they are creative about sandwiches and cocktails, and there’s a sense of humor in everything they do. Sandwich fare includes an “instant cult classic” burger, piled high with shaved ham, hash browns, and a fried egg. You can pair that with “Trash Fries” slathered in gravy, cotija cheese, corn, and lime. But don’t miss the yellow-cake pancakes topped with fried chicken and Sriracha butter. Today’s Austin, it turns out, really needed a punk-rock diner. 509 Rio Grande St., (512) 502-5119