Let’s just be honest. Gail Simmons inspires rampant, rabid jealousy when she gets to sample countless amazing dishes as a judge on Top Chef. (Well, most of the time.) And guess what? Even her low-stakes, normal-person eating style is pretty inspirational. But don’t just take our word for it. Gail’s very own Instagram feed will tip you off to her favorite places to dig in when the cameras stop rolling.
1. J.T. Farnhams
This is one lady who knows how to do summer right. Gail loads up on fresh seafood (fried or stuffed, if you please) with a view at J.T. Farnhams in Essex, MA. The old-school shack is only open seasonally, so she’s clearly figured out that strategic vacation planning leads to strategic deliciousness.
2. Park Restaurant
Leave it to this Canadian to manifest longtime foodie dreams into Insta-reality at Park Restaurant in Montreal. The edible art plated up at the sushi spot blends traditional Japanese cuisine with Korean and South American flavors for a fusion that almost looks too stunning to eat. (Emphasis on almost…)
Should Gail decide to suddenly abandon the whole food writer/judge thing, she could apparently slip easily into a food photography career, if this artichoke snap is any indication. The kitchen at Lilia in Brooklyn (Williamsburg, to be super precise) turns out Italian-inspired housemade pastas, wood-fired seafood, and the kind of veggie gems that clearly catch the trained Simmons eye.
Okay, crowning something the best biscuit around is NOT to be taken lightly—a fact that Gail is quite aware of. And Austin’s Olamaie takes the art of the biscuit very, very seriously. Of course, they’ve also got some non-dough-based grub, and the elevated Southern fare on the menu is served up in a cozy-yet-classy refurbished house.
Gail appreciates that a classic never goes out of style. She’s obviously been known to laissez les bons temps (and the remoulade) rouler at Galatoire’s, a bona fide institution in the New Orleans culinary world. Adding a major dose of elegance to Bourbon Street, it's been serving up the likes of turtle soup, crabmeat gratin, and chicken creole to the festive masses for more than a century.
Can we get an amen? We're not totally sure if we’re more into the perfect boxes or the straight-up sushi porn, but either way we’re fully on board with Gail’s assessment of the situation at Hatsuhana in New York City. The no-frills, all-thrills sushi restaurant uses ancient Japanese methods of prep to plate (or box) up the best bites the ocean has to offer.
This is one culinary expert with a true respect for the first meal of the day. And Gail opts to get her breakfast on at the down-home Lee’s when she’s in Gloucester, MA—which speaks volumes. Oh, and learning that potato skins is a publicly acceptable morning food choice? Massive game-changer, people.
If any pasta can be brilliant by Gail standards, it sounds like this spiritual mash-up of a soup dumpling and a tortellini more than fits the bill. Los Angeles’ Alimento is offering up “alternative Italian” fare (translation: don’t expect any lasagna) to discerning palates that are ready for the unexpected on their forks. Not unlike like a certain food-competition judge we know…
9. Érablière Charbonneau
Turns out that “sugar shacks” (a.k.a. cabane à sucre) are a real-life thing in Canada. But before you make a beeline for the nearest plane headed north, heed the expertise of someone who grew up with these sugary delights in her life. Gail vouches for the yum-legitimacy of the traditional, oh-so-Canadian treats at Quebec’s Érablière Charbonneau, where literally every dish is accompanied by maple syrup. We swear to Trudeau.
10. Russ & Daughters
Gail’s culinary happy place is found on a simple plate at Russ & Daughters Cafe in New York City, and we totally get it. Her nosh of choice is a dreamy toast heaped with whitefish and salmon salad, wasabi-infused fish roe, and horseradish dill cream cheese. Jewish comfort food is the name of the game at this beyond-iconic spot. Come for the lox platters and potato latkes, stay for the herring and blintzes.
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