FOOD FINDS: Some of the Country's Best Restaurants / by Anthony Michael Contrino

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I've been lucky enough to work in some of my favorite cities this summer.  Whenever I travel, I make it a rule to try as many new restaurants as I can.  Luckily, I haven't been disappointed!  Here are some of my faves, ranging from no-frills breakfast joints to fine dining - there's something for everyone!

LOS ANGELES // CAFE JANE

While in LA, I stayed in an AirB&B and the host left, as most do, an informative packet with local attractions, info and food recommendations,  Cafe Jane was on the list.  Featuring breakfast, lunch, and coffee options, this spot is as casual as it gets, but the food is on point.  Everything is made to order and fresh, fresh, fresh.  DO NOT skip the bacon - it's crack!! If you're not hungry, the coffee here, alone, is worth the visit.

FAVE DISH: 2x2x2 (2 eggs, your way, 2 strips of bacon and 2 pancakes)

LAS VEGAS // AMERICANA

In my opinion, the Vegas food scene is as good as it gets.  You can find whatever you want, pretty much when ever you want it.  I ventured off the strip to Desert Shores near Summerlin to try Americana.  Full disclosure:  My cousin Joe grew up with the executive chef/owner, Stephen Blandino, so we wanted to see what the Staten Island native had up his sleeve.  Having worked at some of the best restaurants in town, Chef Blandino knows his way around the kitchen.  Each dish is meticulously conceptualized, prepared and plated.  While this restaurant is by definition a fine dining establishment, eating at Americana will not set you back as much as its competitors on The Strip.   Also, contact the restaurants for specials - they'll even pick you up (on their dime) via Uber, so that you can enjoy a peaceful meal away from the strip.

FAVE DISH: Compressed Watermelon Salad with Watercress, Burrata, Heritage Tomatoes

NEW YORK CITY // GIUSEPPINA'S BRICK OVEN PIZZA

I almost hate to share this joint with the world - it's that good!  Chris, the owner, and all-round good guy, knows how to make a pie.  After all, he did learn from his brother who owns the celebrity-filled post, Lucali.  While Lucali is AMAZING, it's not worth the crazy wait (and not always friendly waitstaff,) unless you are desperate to see Beyonce.  Anyway, the pizza is banging, but the calzone will make you hear angelic voices.  You really can't go wrong with anything on the menu, just bring cash because credit cards are a no-no here.

FAVE DISH: THE CALZONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NASHVILLE // KITCHEN NOTES

I came across this restaurant by accident.  Located in the Omni Hotel, Kitchen Notes is a southern-inspired restaurant serving favorites like Fried Green Tomatoes, Fried Chicken (by the bucket) and Shrimp and Grits.  Not only do they source local ingredients, this is the only joint in Nashville with a biscuit bar.  Oh, those tasty biscuits!

FAVE DISH: Rustic Meatloaf with Braised Green Beans, Whipped Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy

CHICAGO // MINDY'S HOT CHOCOLATE

This is possibly my favorite restaurant in Chicago.  I need to go whenever I'm in The Windy City.  Chef Mindy Segal is a James Beard Award Winning Pastry Chef.  While her desserts (and hot chocolate, of course!) are drool-worthy, she knows her way around the savory kitchen.  The menu is seasonal and Mindy sources as many local products as possible.  The only things that seem to never vanish from the menu - because they're AMAZING - are the Mac N Cheese and Burger.

FAVE DISH: The Mac N Cheese.  Not only is it gooey goodness, it's probably the only restaurant that cooks their pasta al dente for a Mac N Cheese.  Pair with a seasonal salad and have whatever your server recommends for dessert!