Its the rabbit pasta, other great dishes and great service that keep bringing frequent business traveler Lisa Price of Franklin, Tenn., back to Mamma Maria restaurant in Bostons North End.
Price, a nurse for a medical-device company, says the Italian restaurant which has floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the city skyline and the cobblestones of North Square is a Boston icon and her favorite place for a meal on a business trip.
Many business travelers return regularly to cities iconic restaurants, places where a famous dish, local cuisine, decor, service or history make an out-of-towner feel as though theyre a part of a city or even a regular customer.
Restaurant guidebook and online publisher Zagat chose for USA TODAY iconic restaurants in 15 cities.
They embody the essence of each city, says Zagat co-chairman Tim Zagat. Wolfgang Pucks Spago has almost become synonymous with Los Angeles, and when people think of New York, they think of the Four Seasons.
Zagat says business travelers who spend one night in a city and have one chance for a first-class meal may want to follow the recommendations of Zagat editors.
In Chicago, Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse is the recommended stop.
A first-class icon, this Gold Coast beef palace and its suburban sequels tempt serious steak lovers with flavorful meat and all the trimmings, towering desserts, stiff drinks and a wide wine selection, Zagat editors and reviewers say.
Service, they say, makes you feel like a regular whether its your first time or 55th, and the bustling crowd of heavy-hitters is prime for people-watching.
Gibsons where diners can expect to pay an average of $66 a person for dinner with a drink and a tip and many other iconic restaurants chosen by Zagat are expensive.
In Boston, Zagats reviewers agree with Price that Mamma Maria is a top-quality restaurant, but Zagat editors choose Parkers Restaurant as the most iconic.
The glorious restaurant in the Omni Parker House is the only place to go for Parker House rolls and Boston cream pie, the editors and their reviewers say.
Parkers is where the elegance of another era thrives via old-time, pricey New England eats, beautiful, formal digs and wonderful service, they say. If youre looking for something innovative, go elsewhere, but to experience a piece of incredible history, this is the spot.
Where Elvis ate
For the iconic eatery in Las Vegas, Zagat editors steer travelers to The Golden Steer.A veritable blast from the past, this vintage west-of-the-Strip restaurant known for meats couples its rich history with thick, juicy cuts and an Old-Vegas-style interior. Staff can point out where Elvis ate, to put you in the spirit of the old days, Zagats editors and reviewers say.
Honolulus icon, they say, is Alan Wongs, a pioneer in Hawaii regional cuisine.
The chef, Alan Wong, continues to innovate, plating up the best of local farms and island seas in dishes with brilliant flavors.
Seafood is the name of the game at San Franciscos iconic Swan Oyster Depot, a food counter inside a fish market.
This century-old institution serves the freshest seafood imaginable until 5:30 p.m., Zagat editors and reviewers say. The uncomfortable stool seating is as informal as the docks, but the crew behind the counter treats you as one of their own.
Shellfish also abounds on the East Coast, where Zagats choice in Washington, the Old Ebbitt Grill, has one of the best happy-hour deals for oyster lovers. Its a tavern with a tasty American menu that appeals to all budgets.
Imagine if the walls could talk at this iconic tavern convenient to the White House, Zagat editors and reviewers say. Its vast space bustles with an interesting mix of tourists and politicos seated in the rich, paneled Victorian-style rooms or perched at the long, stately bars.
In the Austin area, Zagats icon is The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas. Its also a relative bargain, costing an average $24 per person for dinner.
Bring your appetite to this true Texas barbecue restaurant for a first-class orgy of meat via piles of pit-smoked, fork-tender brisket, spicy sausage and fall-off-the-bone ribs, Zagat editors and reviewers say. The food is served family-style in a rustic atmosphere with great live music on weekends.
The Salt Lick accepts only cash. Its a bring-your-own-beer restaurant that sells bottles of wine in its tasting room.
To some business travelers, even a chain restaurant can be iconic. Rudys, another Austin restaurant, makes frequent business traveler Ken Stead of Lisle, Ill., hungry.
My mouth started watering just thinking about it, he says. Its a rustic atmosphere an old gas station where you eat off paper and eat old-fashioned sliced white bread. And the brisket is to die for.
Rudys has three restaurants in Austin and 32 others in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.
On its website, Rudys says it uses a dry spice for its meats, which are cooked in barbecue pits that are 100-percent wood-fired with oak, a slower-burning wood than the mesquite used by others.
Its formula, food quality and atmosphere have hooked Stead, a manager in the electronics industry. Ive been fortunate to have eaten in fine restaurants around the world, but Rudys was the first iconic restaurant to come to my mind.
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