Open Season

Where you'll be eating and drinking this spring, from Atlanta to Williamsburg

Is it us, or does it seem warm here? Snowy slush has finally given way to sunny scenery, which means one glorious thing: Spring is finally here.

Across the country, chefs, bartenders, coffee roasters, bakers and brewers are swinging into the season with exciting new projects, like The Spice Table team's return to Los Angeles, Chapel Hill favorite Andrea Reusing's much-anticipated second restaurant and an all-Tartine, all-the-time baking center in San Francisco.

Time to spring into action.

RESTAURANTS

The Big Comeback

Everyone likes a good comeback story, especially when it involves tangles of homemade pasta and wood-fired meat. Next month in New York City, the legendary Jonathan Waxman is rewinding his 80s-era hit, Jams, at 1 Hotel Central Park, with Cali-inspired dishes like grilled shad roe with tatsoi and spring lamb cooked three ways. L.A.'s massive MTA endeavor can't keep Bryant and Kim Ng down. They've bounced back from the city bulldozing their Southeast Asian gem, The Spice Table, last year, and now they're teaming up with Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb to open Cassia in June, featuring house-made charcuterie, wood-grilled meat and greens, and soups and noodles.

After Knife and the now-closed Spoon in Dallas, eel headcheese maker and critic of restaurant critics John Tesar is opening the Italian-leaning Fork (naturally) later this season. The chef who earned NYC Italian temple A Voce a mini galaxy of stars, Missy Robbins, is making her much-anticipated return to the city with Lilia. She's rolling out grilled fish and vegetables and, of course, fresh pasta. In our nation's capital, Nicholas Stefanelli, formerly of the acclaimed Bibiana, is opening Masseria in May, where he'll marry Puglian cuisine with local Union Market flavor.

Carne Borrachos or Bust

Last year, we saw an influx of exciting, soulful Mexican cooking (ahem, Cosme, El Machito and Empellón Al Pastor), and chefs' fixation on our southern neighbor continues. Clearly, Jonathan Waxman is a busy man (see above). He's gearing up to open Bajo Sexto in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he's brought reinforcement in the form of chef Kaelin Ulrich Trilling, son of acclaimed Oaxacan cooking school founder Susana Trilling, to oversee tortilla production and all the tacos, like the above-mentioned carne borrachos, or braised short ribs. In Boston, Alden & Harlow's Michael Scelfo is working on his own taqueria, Naco, which means "irreverent" in Spanish and answers any questions about his adherence to strict regional styles.

No Jackets Required

Save your fancy duds for summer wedding season, because these chefs are stripping down the formality. MSG lover and modernist master Grant Achatz is rumored to open Roister next door to Next and The Aviary in May, channeling a bustling bistro vibe with à la carte bites and lively music. Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson gave us a sneak peek at their upcoming L.A. project, Madcapra, and come spring, they'll be serving falafel in sandwiches and salads at Grand Central Market. Further north in San Francisco, Jennifer Puccio, Anna Weinberg and James Nicholas, the A-team behind Marlowe and The Cavalier are launching Marlowe Burger centered around their cult creation, with sweet treats from Emily Luchetti.

Meanwhile, in Plano, Abacus chef Kent Rathbun is swapping chef whites for black rubber gloves with the opening of Hickory Kitchen, his roadhouse joint dedicated to his two favorite food groups: burgers and barbecue. Harlem Renaissance man Marcus Samuelsson is setting up another uptown hit, Streetbird, where there will be rows of rotating birds and his own Ethiopian Swedish mash-up of sides, like sho'nuff noodles. In Minneapolis, casserole king Landon Schoenefeld will modernize diner food at Nighthawks just as he did with Midwestern fare at Haute Dish. For celebrated Aldea chef and My Portugal author George Mendes, home is where the hearth is. The NYC chef will be firing up his Portuguese grill and laying on frango and sardines any moment now.

Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson will be serving up falafel at L.A.'s Grand Central Market 

Chefs Got Some Major Beef(steak)

We're reveling in the return of sweet, leafy spring vegetables in the form of two servings of Beefsteak. José Andrés plans to debut his seasonally driven fast-food spot, Beefsteak, at George Washington University later this month with customizable bowls and fresh market ingredients. On the opposite coast, Top Chef alum Marcel Vigneron is cooking up Beefsteak, a casual "steakhouse for veggies" highlighting local California produce, and making "MeatFull Sundays" a thing.

But we're also ravenously awaiting this season's crop of meat-forward menus. Butternut squash lover Levon Wallace has uprooted from hotel garden-powered Proof on Main and is now getting his hands dirty opening Cochon Butcher Nashville. Eric and Sophie Banh, the sibs behind Seattle's Monsoon and Ba Bar, are revving up for 7 Beef, their Vietnamese-style steakhouse featuring the traditional seven-course, all-beef menu.

Home Turf Homage

These chefs are staying put, diving deep into local products and unearthing culinary traditions. Andrea Reusing, the James Beard Award-winning chef behind Lantern in Chapel Hill, is crossing Interstate 40 for The Durham in June, a restaurant and bar housed in the swanky boutique hotel of the same name. She's culling local ingredients, like barnyard chicken and country ham for an American melting pot menu. A road trip through his old Dallas stomping grounds inspired FT33's Matt McCallister to rediscover its regional cuisine and reimagine it at the upcoming Filament. Current experiment: spicy pork sausage with charred peppers, pickle onions and yogurt.

Berkeley is rubbing off on Oakland. Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz of Mission Chinese Food and Commonwealth in San Francisco are relying on locally grown aquaponic ingredients at The Perennial, their ecofriendly restaurant helmed by former MCF chef Chris Kiyuna. South of there, Bill Chait is collaborating with Courtney Ladin for Nuance, a playful Santa Barbara restaurant that's globally inspired and sourced locally. Right now, the two are smoking duck with tea and stuffing sweet corn into ravioli. Michael Anthony may be taking on Untitled, the new restaurant in NYC's recently moved Whitney Museum, but that doesn't mean he's strayed from his greenmarket focus. Case in point: his arctic char cured in citrus and drizzled with a yuzu vinaigrette.

Kent Rathburn and Jonathan Waxman will both be opening new restaurants

On the Rise

This summer, beloved San Francisco bakers Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt are building The Manufactory, where there's a new wood-burning pizza oven, all-day café and restaurant ladling out house-made ice cream, preserves and more. Atlanta's Cakes & Ale crew will open Proof Bakeshop next month, the sugar-flecked headquarters for the restaurant and upcoming Bread & Butterfly. Forager, fried mushroom fiend and Elizabeth chef Iliana Regan is indulging her sweet tooth with Bunny, the micro bakery, her tiny sweet shop brimming with doughnuts, breads and preserves.

Empire Builders

Like the Romans and the Lakers back in the early 2000s, these entrepreneurial chefs are expanding their reign, surging ahead with new restaurant projects and no signs of slowing down. Chicago golden girl Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat is collaborating with Boka Restaurant Group later this spring to take on the Chinese butcher shop staple: glistening, lacquered Peking duck at the aptly named Duck Duck Goat. Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, the offal-loving dudes behind Animal and two-thirds of Trois Mec in L.A., are delving into their farmers' market for Jon & Vinny's, their soon-to-open Italian spot fueled by local produce.

There's another Craft on the horizon, Tom Colicchio's Beachcraft, that is. The Top Chef judge and Craft kingpin is culling from the surrounding waters for his Miami Beach hotspot. Plus, there's a pool. Seattle restaurateur Tom Douglas is hopping the border with the opening of The Carlile Room in Portland, an homage to alt-country singer Brandi Carlile, with hearty vegetables and an aging room for NW steaks.

DRINKS

Counter Culture Coffee, the North Carolina-based roaster and maker of our favorite La Golondrina, is expanding this April to the West Coast, specifically into a 12,000-square-foot warehouse in Emeryville, California, to celebrate 20 years in the biz. This means more extensive coffee education programs and fresher beans for West Coast coffee nerds. For a different kind of buzz, Boston Harbor Distillery will be up and distilling later this season. Rhonda Kallman, co-founder of The Boston Beer Company, plans on making it a multifaceted boozing center with classes, bartending gear and events.

The Populist chef Jonathan Power and Koan Goedman of Huckleberry Roasters are joining forces for the ultimate pairing: cocktails and charcuterie at Bar Fausto in Denver. On the suds front, Alamo Beer Company is opening its beer garden and hall to the imbibing public after two months of humming quietly away on production of three new brews: ALAMO Lager, ALAMO Pilsner and ALAMO German Pale Ale. Bocado vets Brian Lewis and David Durnell will shake up adventurous tipples and craft small snacks at their upcoming Atlanta bar, Amer.