Every year, dozens of publications and critics and “foodies” come out with a list of the Top 100 Restaurants in the World, or the Top 50 Restaurants in the U.S., or some variation on that theme. Inevitably, those lists feature high-end, ultra-expensive restaurants that mere mortals like myself can rarely (if ever) afford (Over $400 per person for a meal at Masa in NYC? Um…I’ll wait until I win the lottery, thanks), and/or restaurants in far-flung places that I haven’t traveled to yet, like Slovenia, Finland, and Macau (I know, I really need to cross some of these places off my destination list).
So I was happy to see that Poortastemag.com just came out with its own list: The 100 Greatest Cult Restaurants in America. But what exactly is a “cult” restaurant? They’re defining it as the following:
- Having a highly devoted customer base, divided between locals and tourists
- Stellar and unique food
- An almost unbearable wait
- Not too many multiple locations
- Cheap—less then $20 per person for a meal
That sounds right up my alley (well, except for the long waits—that’s actually one thing I can’t stand). But everything else makes sense. My only other issue with the list is that the top half skews very New York/Chicago/Los Angeles/San Francisco, but hey, no list is definitive. I’ve tallied up my count, and I’ve hit 21 of them—more than I thought. I won’t bore you by listing them out, but the majority are in NYC (no surprise there), with some randoms thrown in, like Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Memphis (absolutely the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten) and the Salt Lick Bar-B-Que in Driftwood, TX (a must-visit every time I go to Austin).
The open pit at one of my all-time favorite cult restaurants, the Salt Lick. Here’s where they cook amazing sausages, brisket, and ribs (and their peach cobbler á la mode is surprisingly fantastically good, too).
Check out the top 100 cult restaurants, then tell us what you think of the list. How many have you been to?