Must-Try Dishes For Spring 2023, According To Tasting Table Staff

The days of snuggling on the couch with takeout or a can of soup to avoid venturing out into the cold are officially over, spring has arrived. You can feel the joy in the air from chefs and customers as they dine al fresco and enjoy the fresh ingredients of the new season. Meat and potatoes take a backseat to vibrant produce ranging from impossibly green peas to tart rhubarb to earthy mushrooms. Cocktails are accented with aromatic herbs like fresh mint and rosemary, and happy hour starts a little earlier as people ditch work for some much-needed sunshine. 

Enjoying a sunny patio on a spring afternoon or evening is what we all need, but where's the first place you should go after slamming your laptop shut? Well, from Wyoming to Romania, our talented group of food experts is eager to share their favorite spots for you to venture out for a spring meal.

Foraged Mushroom Tartine at The Market Place in Asheville - Ayomari

The Foraged Mushroom Tartine was created by chef William Dissen of The Market Place Restaurant to offer guests a taste of locally foraged spring flavors. Since taking over as owner in 2009, chef Dissen has continued the restaurant's farm-to-table tradition, using only locally grown and sourced foods. In fact, the restaurant has maintained a deep connection to Asheville's farmers, serving as an outlet to sell their harvests since it opened in 1979.

For this dish, wild mushrooms are carefully foraged from massive patches near hiking trails in Asheville's Blue Ridge mountains. Then, peeled shallots and garlic are blended together with olive oil, bourbon, and vegetable stock and added to the mushrooms to make a ragout. The mixture is laid atop buttered sourdough bread, then garnished with black pepper ricotta and herbs. I love how each bite packs Asheville's seasonal array, grounding you from the first crunch to the final crumb. If you enjoy savory and earthy flavors, I definitely recommend stopping by to try it out.

Albacore Confit at Humble Spirit in McMinnville - Jill Barth

Humble Spirit is located on bustling Third Street in McMinnville, Oregon. It's the heart of Willamette Valley wine country and I visited the restaurant for the first time with some colleagues and Guillaume Large, the winemaker at Résonance Wines in nearby Carlton. The dinner menu is gorgeous, and on an early spring day, the albacore confit was a refreshing and satisfying dish. 

Not only did I love it, but several staff members also had high praise for this creation from chef Brett Uniss. I asked him to tell me more about his inspiration for the dish and he says it is like a "delicious tuna salad sandwich, but presents it in a more sophisticated form." The focal point of the dish is local albacore tuna that has been cured with fennel pollen and lemon zest, then poached in olive oil.

Chef Uniss confirmed my inkling that this is one of the most popular small plates at Humble Spirit — he says it will always have a place on the menu. "The scallion mayonnaise is prepared in-house, and pickled red onion, sliced celery, cucumber, lemon zest, focaccia croutons, and fresh tender herbs bring the dish together and give the traditional flavors of a tuna salad sandwich a bit of a glow-up," the chef added. A glow-up indeed! If you go, I suggest pairing the albacore confit with a glass of Willamette Valley Chardonnay.

Celeriac, Black Truffle, and Chervil Appetizer at The Musket Room in New York City - Lauren Cahn

At New York City's Michelin-starred Musket Room, the menu selections change throughout the four seasons. Yet the restaurant, tucked charmingly into Manhattan's Nolita neighborhood, still manages to possess an almost seasonless vibe. In part, that's dictated by the long, narrow jewel box of a space, the bones of which resemble a quaint 18th-century tavern (albeit with a modern Scandinavian design aesthetic); once you're seated inside, the outside world all but disappears.

Of course, it may also have something to do with the creative choices made by Executive chef Mary Attea with regard to her border-crossing international cuisine. During a recent springtime visit, I had the privilege of tasting Attea's celeriac with black truffles and chervil, which was the fifth course in the Musket Room's seven-course vegan tasting menu. It was made with fettuccini-like raw celeriac "noodles" tossed with celeriac puree suffused with earthy umami-laden truffle shavings and punctuated with bright herbaceous bursts of chervil.

When I saw this dish on the menu, the mention of celeriac had me expecting a "wintry dish" (despite that spring had sprung more than a week earlier). Indeed, "wintry" is the word Attea, herself, used in describing this dish in a statement to Tasting Table. However, Attea also noted that the dish delivers a "lightness that works as a refreshing welcome to spring." Indeed, I can't imagine a more thematically appropriate appetizer for the first days of spring than Attea's celeriac with black truffles and chervil.

Wild Nettle Soup at The Brukenthal Palace in Transylvania - Corina Gruber

Wild nettles are the epitome of spring in Transylvania, Romania. The small, vibrantly green plants are some of the first to appear in March and are abundant in the region's forests and fields, so there's no wonder many people are eager to use them in cooking. They have many health benefits and a strong, grassy, earthy flavor that perfectly summarizes spring.

The Brukenthal Palace restaurant is located at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains and offers spring seasonal nettle dishes yearly: wild nettle cream soup and creamed nettle side dish. While the traditional Transylvanian nettle soup comes with a robust, herbal taste, and a rougher texture, the restaurant's version of the soup is creamy and has a softer texture, which I prefer. Wild nettles are steamed and finely chopped, then mixed with potato to thicken the soup. The dish is finished with cream and garnished with virgin olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and freshly ground pink pepper. It comes with freshly baked croutons sprinkled with pink pepper, perfect for dipping into the cream soup.

Not everyone enjoys the taste and texture of wild nettle soup; it's an acquired taste. But Brukenthal Palace restaurant's version is one of my favorite spring dishes, as it perfectly captures the forest's aromatic and fresh air.

Crab tower at Zephyr Grill & Bar in Livermore - Katie Lenhardt

When the fruit trees bloom in Livermore, California, I head downtown to Zephyr Grill & Bar to enjoy my favorite spring appetizer, the crab tower. Sweet and tender lump crab meat joins fire-roasted corn, smoky poblano peppers, creamy avocado, red peppers, diced fresh onion, and tangy heirloom tomatoes before being tossed in a light and flavorful avocado-cilantro vinaigrette. The crab salad is made into a tasty tower topped with spring greens and served with crispy mini wontons that provide an essential crunch. Just yum.

The crab is so succulent, and its natural sweetness is enhanced by the fresh pop of spring flavors and zesty dressing. It makes a great appetizer if you're willing to share but also satisfies as a light entree. The crab tower pairs nicely with a crisp sauvignon blanc, and you'll likely catch me raising a glass to the new season in between bites of this refreshing spring dish.

Middle Eastern breakfast plate at Cafe Mogador in New York City - Claire Redden

Cafe Mogador has been serving Moroccan-inspired cuisine out of its East Village location since 1983, and I look forward to stopping by every time I'm in the city. The weekday menu has everything from Moroccan tagines and couscous to sabich — but the vibrant brunch menu is what I crave when spring arrives.

The Middle Eastern breakfast plate is always the first thing on my mind when I walk in the door. Two eggs cooked to your liking served alongside their house-made hummus, herbaceous tabouli, fresh Israeli cucumber salad, and warm za'atar pita, this dish is a Middle-Eastern take on the traditional American breakfast — and it's everything I, a Moroccan girl raised in the U.S., dreams of waking up to. The eggs and pita are warm and satiating, while the combination of herbs and salads provides the light, bright flavors that remind you that summer is near.

To get the most out of this dish, I like to order it with a side of their Moroccan Sauce or stewed tomatoes, which I smear on top of the za'atar pita along with some hummus and top off with a poached egg. To really kick off spring, I wouldn't hesitate to complete it all with a blood-orange mimosa.

Sweet pea and feta salad at Alder & Sage in Long Beach - Erin Shaw

When spring rolls around, the dish that I crave is the sweet pea and feta salad from Alder & Sage in Long Beach, CA. Situated on the popular Retro Row section of 4th Street, this adorable cafe serves up comforting breakfasts as well as delicious lunch and dinner options.

This fresh and fragrant salad is perfect for the warmer and longer days of spring and has everything that I want to feel nourished and refreshed. The combination of sugar snap peas, English peas, pea tendrils, arugula, and radish provide the satisfying crunch factor you want in a salad. The vibrant vegetables are complemented by luscious feta cheese, tart shallots, and sweet fresh mint. The salad is topped with za'atar seasoning and a Meyer lemon vinaigrette. 

It's herbaceous, tart, a bit sweet, and savory. You can try this delightful spring salad during lunch or dinner service. After your meal, take a stroll down 4th Street and enjoy the myriad of vintage shops, plant stores, book shops, a record store, and even a roller skate shop. What a perfect way to kick off the spring season!

Bagel BLT at Brown Sugar Coffee Roastery in Riverton - Anna Staropoli

No sandwich screams spring quite like a BLT. There's something about the onset of May's tomato season — not to mention ultra-crispy bacon — that evokes the feeling and flavors of a warm-weather picnic. While BLTs leave plenty of room for variation, perhaps the bread presents the best opportunity for creative liberties. I've spruced up my homemade BLTs with everything from fresh sourdough to buttery brioche. But, as a lifelong Jersey girl, my favorite carb is none other than a bagel — a BLT base Brown Sugar Coffee Roastery in Riverton, WY knows perfectly well.

Step inside the art-adorned cafe, where you can order your open-faced BLT as a half-portion or a whole. The bagel starts with a smooth layer of cream cheese: the perfect bagel-specific twist on a BLTs standard mayonnaise. Tomato and bacon bits complete the next layer, then crisp arugula and a drizzle of balsamic dressing top off the sandwich and add a fresh and slightly sweet finish.