Don't be afraid to splurge — as cities begin lifting their COVID-19 restrictions, the fine dining experience is sure to make a comeback. Why not make your return to dining out an extra-special occasion, maybe using it as an excuse to stay a night out of town?
Here are a few suggestions for post-pandemic destination restaurants.
The plates served in this intimate, industrial space give credence to the saying that you eat with your eyes first. Bastion is where you go for presentation worthy of a special occasion splurge, with top-notch service to match. Chef Josh Habiger's always-evolving menu is designed for guests to order five courses in the "choose your own adventure" style, with minimal information given about each dish; though you're welcome to order whatever you like. The 24-seat restaurant is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday and reservations can be made online (no calls) up to five weeks in advance. The same-named bar next door offers a completely different vibe and is also worthy of a visit, but only serves (beautiful) plates of nachos.
434 Houston St.; 615-490-8434; bastionnashville.com
Henrietta Red: Nashville
From green curry oysters to cauliflower steak to smoked mussel toast, the menu at this repeat James Beard Award semifinalist is full of unique combinations that make the restaurant worth a drive. Guests can have brunch, lunch or dinner in the chic, modern space, and the casual-yet-classy ambiance also helps to make it a flexible option. It's debatable whether it's the food or the restaurant's atmosphere that really make it destination-worthy. Take advantage of its central location in Germantown to check out nearby shops before or after you eat.
1200 Fourth Ave. N; 615-490-8042; henriettared.com
Profits from this little neighborhood restaurant in Atlanta's Fourth Ward go to the eatery's nonprofit organization, Giving Kitchen, which supports restaurant workers during unexpected crises. The coronavirus pandemic has more demonstrated the importance of the resources Giving Kitchen provides, further cementing Staplehouse as a perfect post-pandemic destination restaurant. Plus, the food! At press time, the restaurant had market-style offerings like small plates, charcuterie and cheeses you could eat on the cozy covered patio. Join Staplehouse's mailing list now so you can make a reservation as soon as they start serving in the dining room again, because this restaurant is extremely popular.
541 Edgewood Ave. SE; 404-524-5005; staplehouse.com
After a year of takeout, the interactive dining experience at Gunshow is just what we need. Adventurous foodies will love the concept, which doesn't involve ordering from a menu. Instead, you'll receive eight to 10 dishes that are intended to be shared by two people for a fixed price of $99 per person. Dishes change from day to day, as do the craft cocktails that are prepared tableside. Almost every table in the casual food hall-style dining room has a view of the open kitchen, and each dish is brought to the table by the chef who prepared it. Reservations required.
924 Garrett St.; 404-380-1886; gunshowatl.com
The Barn at Blackberry Farm : Walland, Tenn.
Foodie mecca Blackberry Farm's fine dining restaurant, The Barn, features a seasonal tasting menu and dishes made with ingredients sourced from the farm and around the region, such as Elysian Fields Farm lamb and Alabama Royal Red shrimp. Blackberry's culinary team includes a baker, forager, cheesemonger, master gardener and James Beard Award-nominated chef Cassidee Dabney, so every aspect of your meal is handled by artisans specializing in their craft. You'll find refined takes on Smoky Mountain cuisine, such as crispy pig ears with pickled spring onion, and country-fried mustard sweetbreads. Pair your meal with a wine from a selection of more than 9,000 options from The Barn's Wine Spectator Award-winning wine program, or sip on a rare whiskey or brandy. You don't have to be a guest staying at Blackberry Farm to eat at the elegant yet rustic restaurant, but reservations are required and The Barn does not accept same-day reservations.
1471 West Millers Cove Road; 865-273-8513; blackberryfarm.com/wine-food/dinner/barn