20 of the Most Absolutely Delicious Women-Run Restaurants in the Country
It’s no secret that it’s tough to succeed in the restaurant biz. But when it’s good, it feels effortless. And we gotta say, there are so many talented women accomplishing just that in a world that was once (and OK, still is) so heavily populated by men. So here, we spotlight 20 extraordinary women running and cooking in restaurants with food that will bring you to your knees—that is, if you can get a reservation. (Are we missing some heavy hitters? Of course, so honorable mentions go to O.G.s like Chez Panisse, Plum, Girl & the Goat and Dirt Candy.) Ready, set, make your rezzies.
Concord Hill (Brooklyn, New York)
Owned and operated by high school friends Kate Sheldrick and Szoke Schaeffer, this Williamsburg neighborhood favorite serves up ever-changing seasonal American fare with a very fun wine list (their specialty is natural wines, aka no hangover). From avocado toast to after-work happy hour oysters, a meal at Concord Hill will make you thank your lucky stars that Sheldrick and Schaeffer kept up their friendship.
Silvia (Woodstock, New York)
Sisters Doris and Betti Choi’s upstate restaurant immediately envelops you in its warm and inviting aesthetic. But it’s the food that will completely wow you. Committed to using local, sustainable, cruelty- and GMO-free food—you know, how people used to eat food back in the day—the menu is a nod to the classics (think: wood smoked half chicken) that’s not afraid of the future (hello, house-made vegan burgers).
The Whale Wins (Seattle, Washington)
Salt-roasted chicken, housemade pickled vegetables, Hama Hama clams—the menu at Renee Erickson’s Seattle restaurant may have nabbed a James Beard Award, but it’s also approachable and welcoming. That dualism appropriately matches its casual-yet-refined, bustling-yet-thoughtfully designed space. While Erickson’s other restos are certainly worth a visit (Bar Melusine, Barnacle, Bateau and the Walrus and the Carpenter), we have to agree with Mr. Beard.
The Lost Kitchen (Freedom, Maine)
Almost as soon as reservations open at this 40-seat restaurant set in a historic mill 16 miles outside of Belfast, it’s completely booked…for the year. From the mind of self-taught chef Erin French, the best-known attraction in Freedom, Maine, has one seating per night and one menu. And while French is the obvious mastermind behind the supper-club-turned dining mecca, the entire scheme is mostly female-run—from the operations to growing the ingredients. And if you’re trying to get a reservation, best of luck. You’ll need it.
Bad Saint (Washington, D.C.)
Genevieve Villamora, co-owner of the Filipino hot spot, brings food memories from her childhood to the tiny, no-reservations enclave in D.C.’s Columbia Heights. Although the menu changes frequently, we hear the Kare Kare (braised oxtail stew) is to-die-for—or at least to-wait-in-line-for.
Lady of the House (Detroit, Michigan)
Chef Kate Williams’s roots are unmistakable in this Corktown bar and restaurant. The potato doughnuts are a nod to her Irish ancestry. Everything else—the tables and shelves; the produce and meat; even the gin—is born out of her connection to Detroit and her mission to bring business back to Motor City. So order some shrimp butter, a carrot steak and fettuccine and join Williams’ delectable endeavor.
Chef & the Farmer (Kinston, North Carolina)
Chef Vivian Howard and her husband, Ben Knight, opened their first restaurant in hopes to “light a spark in our little town and help transition some of Eastern Carolina’s displaced tobacco farmers into food farmers.” And with dishes like Guilford Mills grits (pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, ham chips) and Sunburst Farms trout (corn bread puree, green tomato chow, fried tomatoes), we wholly support the mission.
Holy Roller (Austin, Texas)
Callie Speer is the executive chef and owner of this punk rock, nostalgic diner (meatloaf sandwiches and Waldorf salad, yum) with a side of religious kitsch (Bolivian Bible Thumper, anyone?). Complemented by pastry chef Britt Castro, the immense creativity in this downtown spot spills over into every nook and cranny of the space—from the decor to the yellow cake pancakes.
Café Gratitude (Los Angeles, California)
Some people make the tastes, and some people are the tastemakers. Lisa Bonbright, CEO of the mother of all vegan restaurants, is a tastemaker. Along with her husband, Chris, Bonbright dined at the original NorthCal outpost and had the vision of bringing the gourmet, plant-based food to L.A. We mean…but of course. Who wouldn’t go crazy for coconut ceviche, an eggplant parm panini or mole enchiladas? Did we mention it’s vegan?
Himitsu (Washington, D.C.)
The food at this tiny Japanese restaurant is nothing short of wonderful. But the drinks are no less inspired, and those come from the mind of co-owner Carlie Steiner. Since the restaurant is so small, actually getting a table (don’t bring more than a party of four) can be a struggle. So you’ll definitely deserve a cocktail once you get seated—they even have an entire section of “Pride Cocktails” where ordering drinks like the #MasQueer means donating to local LGBTQ organizations.
Fat Rice (Chicago, Illinois)
Adrienne Lo and James Beard award-winning chef and partner, Abe Conlon, ran an underground supper club in Chicago before opening Fat Rice—could they sound cooler? Today, the popular restaurant they built is an ode to Macau, a city the duo visited in 2011. The Chinese resort town has a fascinating food culture: The region was once a Portuguese colony, creating a Chinese-Portuguese fusion cuisine. The kicker? Lo is Chinese-American, and Conlon is Portuguese-American. They knew this was their food, and one bowl of fat rice later, it will be yours, too.
Kismet (Los Angeles, California)
The family-style Mideast-meets-California restaurant is owned by chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson. The duo’s first endeavor, Madcapra, is in L.A.'s Grand Central Market. But Kismet has a place of its own on Hollywood Boulevard which is open, sunny and deliberately casual. From veggie-forward dishes like spiced carrots with almond broth to a carnivore’s dreamscape of lamb belly with Meyer lemon, Kismet certainly seems meant to be.
Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours (Atlanta, Georgia)
Perhaps it was her early career as a flight attendant that opened the doors to a taste for global food, but today, chef Deborah VanTrece is firmly planted in Atlanta, Georgia. Still, the worldly mantra remains the same: While the menu at her renowned restaurant serves up soul food, she considers it global soul food—the kind of cuisine beloved by cultures around the world like hoisin oxtail fried rice, vegan jambalaya and harissa lamb ribs.
Maydan (Washington, D.C.)
After years helping run her mother’s catering business-turned-restaurants (OK, and getting her master’s in Public Policy, traveling the world and opening beloved Compasse Rose in 2014), Rose Previte created the Middle East-inspired Maydan, one of the hardest reservations in town to nab. With clay-oven baked bread at the center of every table and dips, spreads, salads and roasted and grilled meats to share, you’ll feel like part of the family here.
Henrietta Red (Nashville, Tennessee)
Helmed by chef Julia Sullivan and sommelier Allie Poindexter, this seafood and oyster spot in Germantown is as gorgeous as it is delicious. And while you’ll be tempted to go Instagram crazy with the decor, try to focus on the experience…which might just include a craft cocktail Jell-O shot. But it’s the oysters that are the stars of this show. You might not be on the ocean, but a bite at Henrietta Red transcends its geography.
High Street on Market (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
If you live in or around Philly, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of (or eaten at) High Street (or in NYC, at High Street on Hudson). But you may not know about the force behind the powerhouse restaurant: Ellen Yi (pictured right), co-owner of High Street Hospitality Group. She’s also the person behind Fork, a groundbreaking restaurant in the Philly food scene. Before her “bistro cuisine” concept, good dining in Philly was more of a jacket-required type of thing. Here, if you happen to be wearing a jacket, you’ll want to take it off while eating the pastrami on rye. Things could get messy…
Laffa (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Chef Miranda Kaiser spent 14 years in Israel, and when you sample the delicious spread at her Medi-Eastern restaurant, it’s obvious—get the mezze, the medley of hot and cold appetizers meant to share at the table. It’s designed to spark conversation (not that you’ll want to do anything but stuff your face after trying the West African hummus—sweet potato and peanut chickpea mash with a touch of coconut).
Granor Farm (Three Oaks, Michigan)
Abra Berens, chef at Granor Farms and co-founder of Bare Knuckle Farm, is all about celebrating the Midwest and its ingredients with simple, delicious food that changes with the seasons (hello, she’s cooking grains and vegetables harvested the same day). The dinners (private bookings only) at Granor Farms’ renovated farmhouse definitely help to accomplish Berens’s mission of connecting diners with their local food source. Before eating, guests walk the farms, tour the fields and then get to sit down for an out-this-world (and by that we mean, super-hyper-local) meal.
Split Rail (Chicago, Illinois)
Executive chef and co-owner Zoë Schor, along with business partner Michelle Szot, opened Split Rail, their first restaurant after Schor helmed the kitchen at Ada St. for three years. The menu puts a modern and mouthwatering spin on classic “American” dishes like pasta primavera and loaded baked potato gnocchi. But it’s the Happy Hour “value” menu that had us at hello: $1 chicken nuggets and $5 cocktails? Yeah, we have a feeling this is definitely our happy place.
Honey Hi (Los Angeles, California)
Gluten-free, vegan, Paleo, keto—what about food that just makes you feel good? That is Caitlin Sullivan and Kacie Carter’s mission with their little Echo Park café, serving yummy, and dare we say, trendy, food. Will you find GF, V, etc. food on their menu? Of course. But their approach is to include the best things from all philosophies—you’ll find adaptogens in the smoothies, bee pollen on the banana toast and an entire section dedicated to bone broth on the menu. What you won’t find? GMOs or refined sugar, natch.