The 100 Greatest Cult Restaurants in America: 51-75
75. Melt Bar & Grilled (Cleveland, OH) Melt Bar and Grilled’s goal is to serve as many savory gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches as possible. They’re doing exactly that with classics with a twist like a beer-battered monte cristo, a meatloaf grilled cheese that includes mashed potatoes, and the sandwich that will probably kill someone one day: The Godfather, a three-cheese lasagne melted inside of two thick garlic-bread slices. Suck it, Double Down.
74. Jacques-Imo’s Café (New Orleans, LA) This New Orleans restaurant may be the only thing that can get tourists to leave the French Quarter. Everything is a celebration. Over-the-top decor, Chef Jack spreading cheer in his signature birkenstocks, and honest-to-goodness Southern hospitality. The Alligator Cheesecake, more quiche than cake, is a favorite. Expect free cornbread with every meal, and for just $14.95 you can get some of the best fried chicken around with a salad and two sides. Get there early if you want to eat at a normal hour, and ogle the walk-through kitchen as you head to your table.
73. Pappy’s Smokehouse (St. Louis, MO) It’s no wonder Pappy’s is constantly crowded — it’s sending up smoke signals. We suspect the smell of Pappy’s hard-working smoker is responsible for luring unsuspecting dinner guests onto the premises. A Memphis-style barbecue joint in St. Louis, this place has ribs that walk the perfect line between tender and chewy, and enough sauce options to satisfy barbecue lovers from all walks.
72. Crif Dogs (New York, NY) Oh, the things you can find on St. Mark’s Place. Like deep-fried hot dogs wrapped in bacon for a few bucks. The dogs themselves are crispy, tender, and full of flavor. Choose between the pork-and-beef classic or the all-beef New Yorker. The toppings are presented in endless combination; so many decisions. Wash everything down with an ice-cold PBR. Nothing but the best.
71. Back A Yard Caribbean American Grill (Menlo Park, CA) Right off Highway 101 in Menlo Park, CA, this hole in the wall seats only 16. The low capacity wouldn’t be an issue if Chef Robert Simpson didn’t cook the best jerk-style chicken outside of Jamaica. Simpson has also cooked in Belgium, an experience that has refined the traditional Caribbean fare of red beans and rice and fried catfish. One bite, and you’ll be asking yourself if you’re really in Northern California.
70. Dinosaur BBQ (Syracuse, NY) A row of expensive, shiny bikes parked outside, some with handlebar fringe blowing in the wind. Rough and tough waitresses. Rowdy patrons and loud blues music. It’s all part of the fun. While it may be more gimmicky theme restaurant than the roadside biker joint of yore, the delicious, smokey barbecue still draws a loyal crowd. Don’t leave any of the three New York locations without trying the spice-rubbed, pit-smoked chicken wings. Get 13 for $12.95.
69. Anchor Bar (Buffalo, NY) Merely serving great buffalo wings can produce a cult following, so you can imagine how devoted the customers are at the place that invented the buffalo wing. Tender, meaty, and finger-licking spicy, Anchor’s wings have been drawing crowds since 1964.
68. Pike Place Chowder (Seattle, WA) The people lining up at Pike Place don’t care how you pronounce it, they just want to eat it. Considered Seattle’s best, which puts it in serious contention for the country’s best, this spot serves five chowders daily — New England Clam Chowder, Seafood Bisque, Smoked Salmon Chowder, Manhattan Clam Chowder, and Southwestern Chicken-and-Corn Chowder — in freshly baked sourdough bread bowls.
67. The Oinkster (Eagle Rock, CA) Piles of meat and craft beer — it’s a tried and true recipe for a cult following. Known for piled-high pastrami, pulled pork, and rotisserie chicken sandwiches, this oddball Eagle Rock eatery is also celebrated for its Belgian fries and ube shake (made from sweet purple yams).
66. Zeitgeist (San Francisco, CA) “Zeigeist is notorious for their large back patio, which consistently makes its way into the collective consciousness of San Franciscans when the weather gods smile upon our city by the bay. Get there early and try what the Guardian has deemed the ‘Best of the Bay Bloody Mary.’ Otherwise, beers from local breweries are always on tap and are suggested to wash down a tasty Niman Ranch burger off the grill for just five bucks. Stick around late enough and you may find yourself flagging down the Tamale Lady along with all your new hipster friends.” — Yo Noguchi
65. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana (New Haven, CT) Right off Wooster Street, this 85-year-old Mecca is now known throughout New Haven as Neapolitan “apizza.” The style is thin-crusted and flaky with a little bit of crispy golden char on the outside. The simple tomato sauce and cheese is the most popular version, but not all the pies contain cheese. One of Pepe’s original recipes lacked mozzarella and to this day, the pizzeria honors that tradition with its clam pie: fresh shucked clams, olive oil, garlic, and oregano. There is no need for cheese, because the salty clams provide plenty of flavor.
64. Dottie’s True Blue Cafe (San Francisco, CA) Even though the wait outside is terribly long, the Tenderloin location makes for interesting people watching, to say the least. You can barely get inside unless you’re at one of the 40 seats. Chef and owner Kurt Abney was a pastry chef who never liked cooking breakfast, but now he’s in the open-faced kitchen everyday. The pastry section is versatile, and their house bread is a buttermilk-dill. Another house favorite, the cornbread with a kick, contains jalapeños, green onions, and sharp cheddar with a sweet-and-sour sauce. Don’t except plain pancakes or omelettes.
63. Red’s Eats (Wicasset, ME) This little stand causes quite a traffic jam from people traveling from different states to get a taste. If you make the journey, you must try the lobster roll. Thick, soft bread loaded with fresh, juicy lobster and butter or mayo on the side. Patrons say it is definitely worth the wait!
62. White House Sub Shop (Atlantic City, NJ) After a weekend of beaches and casinos, do not leave Atlantic City without stopping at this brilliant sub shop. Sixty years of experience guarantee perfection. The bread is baked fresh all day long by an Italian bakery just down the street, and it’s sturdy enough to handle a generous helping of meat, toppings, and sauces. A large is 2 feet long. Any normal person will have leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day.
61. Café Du Monde (New Orleans) The iconic yellow tin of Café du Monde coffee can be spotted at Vietnamese restaurants all around America. Back in the bayou, however, it’s all about the beignets. Piping hot, perfectly fried, and coated with a comical amount of powdered sugar, these fritters are so good that locals still brave flocks of tourists and pigeons for a table at the original French Quarter location.
60. Pine State Biscuits (Portland, OR) Featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Pine State is beloved for serving up flaky, buttery delicious biscuits. Patrons often order the signature biscuits smothered with sausage or mushroom gravy, or they opt for a biscuit sandwich. A favorite is the Reggie, biscuits filled with juicy fried chicken, crisp bacon, and cheese — naturally topped with gravy.
59. Piroshky Piroshky Bakery (Seattle, WA) Pike Place Market in Seattle may be known for its salmon tossing and coffee brewing, but it would be unfair to neglect a Russian treat. A pie of sorts, Piroshky is super sweet or savory with a Pacific Northwest personality. Stuffed with smoked salmon or baked apples, the bakery roll is both gooey and satisfying. They are served in a paper bag because the place is tucked away and too tiny for seating, but this allows for a stroll around the market and a waterfront view.
58. Primanti Bros. (Pittsburgh, PA) Featured on the Travel Channel’s 101 Tastiest Places to Chowdown and Man vs. Food, this Pittsburgh sandwich shop is taking an interesting twist on the lunch staple. Thick Italian bread is loaded with typical ingredients such as cheesesteak, ham, or corned beef. It’s then topped with coleslaw, provolone, a tomato, and Primanti’s award-winning fresh-cut fries.
57. Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue (Kansas City, KS) Don’t be confused by the name. Oklahoma Joe’s is in Kansas City. Don’t be confused by the location. Yes, it is in a gas station. But you’re not going to find stale doughnuts and burnt coffee here. OK Joe’s is known for its delicious barbecue — particularly its pulled pork, beef brisket, and smoked chicken.
56. Rainbow Drive-In (Honolulu, HI) With its colorful, vibrant decor, there’s no missing Honolulu’s Rainbow Drive-In. If you’ve ever wondered where the locals eat in Hawaii, wonder no more. For 45 years, this diner has been serving up what might be the most eclectic menu on earth; there’s fried rice, mahi-mahi, chili-dogs, and, of course, plenty of Spam.
55. Crisp (Chicago, IL) “People love to equate the addictive quality of good piece of fried chicken with crack cocaine. That’s all fine and hyperbolic, but here’s the thing: people go to narcotics anonymous, they find god, and they get over crack. You will never get over Crisp’s Korean-style Seoul Sassy marinade fried chicken. You can stand on the scale at Weight Watchers week after week. You can call Jenny Craig, but she can’t help you. The siren song of sticky sweet glaze, the shower of biting scallion over cracklin’ skin and moist-to-the-bone meat will dash you on the rocks. The abandon will be fierce. Garlic and soy will drip from your chin. But, a sated grin will follow. There will no regret. You’ll forgive yourself ten times over, but you will never forget.” — Mike Nagrant
54. Voodoo Doughnut (Portland, OR) Voodoo may have huge, delicious doughnuts, but they are definitely not your typical bakery. Apparently working under the assumption that glaze has been done to death, Voodoo opts to top its pastries with things like mini M&Ms, Captain Crunch, bacon, and marshmallow. First-timers often opt for the adorable Voodoo Doll — a chocolate-frosted doll, stabbed with a pretzel, and stuffed with raspberry guts. One bite, and they’re under the Voodoo spell for life.
53. Domilise Sandwich Shop & Bar (New Orleans, LA) This classic sandwich shop can construct a mean po’ boy, if you can find it. Indeed, the curb appeal of Domilise is virtually non-existent, but that’s okay. Sandwich fans know how to get in. It’s the bread that makes this shop unique to New Orleans. Fluffy and fragile, a Domilise baguette is able to firmly hold fried shrimp, oysters, or catfish smeared with an array of sauces, from creole mustard to gravy.
52. Frank’s Diner (Kenosha, WI) Frank’s is known far and wide for serving up huge breakfast portions at an affordable price, inside a tiny box car. But that’s not enough to earn it cult status. That’s where the garbage platter comes in: the famous breakfast platter is filled with eggs, hashbrowns, veggies, cheese, and meat, and it skyrocketed the Wisconsin diner to new fame after being featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
51. Momofuku Noodle Bar (New York, NY) Have you tried David Chang’s Pork Buns? Most of New York City has. The functional East Village restaurant serves an American take on Japanese ramen and other American-Asian cuisine. After the pork buns, continue your pork-centric feast with Momofuku Ramen — an expansive bowl of broth and noodles with pork shoulder, pork belly, poached eggs, green onions, and nori.