Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area
Claiming to hail from a family of great non-professional cooks, this wife and mom uses her blog ShesGotFlavor.com to showcase meals and menus, in which flavor is top priority.
Best sweet ending: The Sweet Lobby (pictured in lead); 404 8th Street, SE, Washington, D.C. 20003
“The addicting Sweet Potato Marshmallow is like a sweet potato pie met a cake, fell in love and had a marshmallow baby. It is the perfect combination of flavors.”
Best restaurant to impress an out-of-towner: The Hamilton; 600 14th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.
“The Maryland Crab Soup from The Hamilton is rich and creamy with loads of flavor with fresh vegetables and huge chunks of crab. Each spoonful will leave a memory that will keep you coming back for more.”
Best new chef to follow: Chef Malcolm Mitchell (private chef and event chef)
“Chef M. Mitchell was a finalist on season eight of Food Network Star in 2012. His latest adventure is Promiscuous Palette, in which he creates popup restaurants from city to city that serve delicious four to five course meals.”
Best essence of the city: Ben’s Next Door; 1211 U St., NW, Washington, D.C.
“Ben’s Next Door is a great place to enjoy music, sports, networking and great food. The dry rubbed ribs are seasoned to perfection and will make you want to lick your fingers.”
Best annual food event: National Harbor Crab & Beer Festival; 165 Waterfront St., National Harbor, Md. 20745
“If you love crabs you’d love the Chesapeake Crab and Beer Festival on the National Harbor in Maryland. They are so fresh, it’s as if someone went crabbing that morning and steamed them to perfection. You can also find some of the best coleslaws and juicy corn on the cobs!”
Best place to feel and eat healthy: The Protein Bar; 398 7th St., NW, Washington, D.C.
“They have warm organic quinoa that is just heavenly, and it’s served with fresh fruits, almonds and mixed with organic agave; this is a great treat after a hard workout.”
Best African-American–owned venue: Muffin Man Caribbean Café; 9434 Lanham Severn Road, Lanham, Md.
“Muffin Man Caribbean Café is one of Maryland’s hidden jewels. Two of my favorite dishes are the Ziggy Wings and the Oxtail. For dessert, they sell these huge muffins in tempting flavors."
Through her blog KitchenistaDiaries.com, this single mom and self-taught cook shares with her readers her inspiration for soul food and appreciation for her grandmother’s Cape Verdean dishes.
Best sweet ending: Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor; 128 S. Federal Highway, Dania Beach, Fla.
“They have every ice cream flavor you can imagine and sundaes big enough you have to share.”
Best place to fill up on the breadbasket: El Chalan Restaurant; 7971 Bird Road #17, Miami
“This Peruvian restaurant serves delicious hot bread with a spicy green sauce.”
Best place to get a deal: Doraku (pictured right); 900 S. Miami Ave. #133, Miami
“Try Doraku in Miami for happy hour sushi specials.”
Best place to feel and eat healthy: Chill Bar at Yellow Green Farmer’s Market; 1940 N. 30th Road, Hollywood, Fla.
“Go for the delicious upscale organic food and cocktails, located in the largest farmer’s market in South Florida.”
Best place to “turn up” after a crazy work day: Gaby’s Lounge; 11226 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines, Fla.
“All-you-can-drink happy hour specials on Fridays with DJs, live music and awesome bartenders…what’s not to like?”
Pierce is an Upscale Magazine contributing editor and is a former assistant food editor and test kitchen director for the Chicago Tribune. Her blogs BlackAmericaCooks.com and SkilletDiaries.com offer a national perspective about family recipes, chefs and restaurants.
Best under $10 lunch: Hot Doug's; 3324 N. California Ave., Chicago
“There's always a line at this restaurant, which features hot dogs and sausages in surprising flavor combinations…I dream about the fries cooked in duck fat.”
Best place to dine with the “it” crowd: RPM Italian; 52 W Illinois St., Chicago
“Nibble on grilled octopus while you scan the room for celebs and public figures, including owners Giuliana and Bill Rancic. First Lady, Michelle Obama is said to have requested D.C. for a future location when she was spotted hosting friends at this popular Italian restaurant.”
Best sweet ending: Hot Chocolate; 1747 N. Damen Ave., Chicago
“My idea of a big treat would be their pie made with the unfiltered bacon fat crust, the buttermilk cake with fresh raspberry jam and the hot chocolate with house-made marshmallows.”
Best place to fill up on the breadbasket: Ethiopian Diamond (multiple locations)
“At the landmark restaurant on Broadway and the new Clark Street location, traditional Injera bread is made the old-fashioned way, without any processed yeast, baking powder or baking soda.”
Best essence of the city: Lou Malnati's (multiple locations)
“In Chicago, we love our luxurious, deep-dish pizzas such as the "Lou" at Lou Malnati's, layered with fresh spinach, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, mozzarella, Romano and cheddar cheese."
Best Taste of Soul or Soul Food: Lem’s; 311 E. 75th St., Chicago
“The year 2014 marks 60 years since the Lemon brothers launched what has become a southside institution for rib tips and hot links.”