Three restaurants beyond city limits
Superior Motors Braddock, Pa.
The very existence of Superior Motors is “a testament to the power of persistence,” said Jordana Rothman in Food & Wine. The story started with a big idea: Chef Kevin Sousa wanted to open a high-end restaurant in a broken-down steel town, and he wanted the venture to revitalize the community. The unveiling finally arrived last summer, after a record-setting Kickstarter campaign but near-fatal cost overruns, and so far, so good: “Superior Motors is the restaurant Sousa promised Braddock it would be.” Not that it’s perfect, said Hal Klein in Pittsburgh magazine. Sousa’s cooking is “more cerebral than soulful,” so he overcomplicates dishes that could get by on taste. Still, “I was thrilled with the textures, balanced flavors, and bright plating of fresh-as-the-sea hamachi dressed with avocado, black garlic, and pineapple.” What’s more, Sousa is surrounded by pros, employing locals, and offering lifetime half-off discounts to all Braddock residents. If you seek out his lively dining room, set in an old car dealership, be sure to get a seat with a view of the Edgar Thomson Steel Works, still belching steam and flames across the street. 1211 Braddock Ave., (412) 271-1022
Buttonwood Newton, Mass.
People typically head to suburban Newton for its schools, “not the crispy pork ribs with honey za’atar and labneh,” said Devra First in The Boston Globe. But if you’re in Boston and looking for a great place to eat, you must try Buttonwood. Consider those ribs: Equal parts Mediterranean and Southeast Asian, they have bite and bark, with meat that’s “the perfect compromise between tenderness and chew.” Folks who live in Boston’s suburbs are “basically city dwellers with better backyards,” and chef-owner Dave Punch knows better than to cater down. For a special-event dinner, try the New Bedford sea scallops with artichokes and almond and grape salsa verde, or the monster pork chop with Muscat grape compote. Though house-made sausages have become common, Punch’s flavorful chorizo “blew my mind,” and he can satisfy burger or vegetable cravings too. You could make a meal from a baguette and berbere-spiced red lentil spread plus a salad of cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, and pine nuts dressed in sumac and honey. “Punch just has a knack for getting things right.” 51 Lincoln St., (617) 928-5771
Craft Urban Geneva, Ill.
“Urban” might be the last word any Chicagoan would associate with the town of Geneva, but the owner of Craft Urban is quite serious about his vision, said Phil Vettel in the Chicago Tribune. Bernie Laskowski was a notable Chicago chef before his push into the suburbs, and in Geneva, a bedroom community 45 miles from the Loop, he was determined to create a city vibe by combining a handsome bare-brick dining room with a compact, upscale menu. How compact? You’ll find no appetizers here. Instead chef Andrew Sikkelerus offers a choice between bar snacks like tempura-fried cheese curds or various “breads and spreads.” Fish entrées are well sourced, and headlined by Rushing Waters rainbow trout in a lemon-caper sauce. The porchetta, served on a bed of cannellini, is a star among the meaty options, and desserts include such “classic indulgences” as a tall apple pie and excellent chocolate mousse. One truly urban touch: After 10 on Friday and Saturday nights, the kitchen spoons out ramen, and canned beers are half price. 211 James St., (331) 248-8161