Tucked away on a side street and under scaffolding, Aria is literally hidden and truly a gem of a restaurant. Great cured meats and cheeses, wonderful small plate Italian food, nice wine list and comfortable ambiance. It gets crowded but there always seems a place to sit at a small table or at the bar. Get there early or get there late, and if you’re looking to host a larger party there is a very cool room downstairs that they might open up for you.
Where: New York, City
What makes it special: The cocktails are all very good, but ask for the Moscow Mule. This vodka and lime juice drink is served frothy in an iced down, frosted copper mug and hits the spot.
More specifically, the BAR at the Bedford Post is the hidden gem that is worth the time to visit. It’s also worth the amount of money you are likely to spend on hard to find and readily available whiskies, brandies, wines by the glass and–most likely–a plate of something from the kitchen to nibble on while enjoying the cozy, dark, and well-appointed space in Richard Gere’s restaurant-inn-yoga studio-cafe complex. The beverage director/sommelier, seems always to be on duty at Bedford Post and brings a casual sophistication and scholarly passion to any visit if you make it a point to say hello and ask about the offerings he so carefully and strategically stocks. He’ll just as happily pour you a taste of this or that spirit to make sure you find something new and noteworthy, as he will quietly spend weeks or even months searching out rare bottlings of something he knows you like but can’t find.
Where: Bedford, New York
What Makes it Special: Regardless of the season, time of day or night, Bedford Post makes for a worthwhile visit and represents the country-casual sophistication that merits the reputation it has as a restaurant, but presents a hidden gem of a bar for people looking to find hidden gem spirits in the NYC suburbs.
An incredibly versatile, consistent, and addictive piece of cooking equipment that has relegated many a gas powered grill, traditional smoker, and charcoal kettle grill to back up status, the Big Green Egg is equally effective–and superior–as a high-heat grill and slow smoker, to any of the others. The best part is that it is as simple to use as it is low maintenance. The space age ceramic is designed to withstand the highest heat and sear double thick steaks in minutes flat, while also providing draft and heat retention that lets a mere handful of hardwood charcoal slowly and evenly glow at a happy 200 degrees for half a day with little or no monitoring or adjustment. Your smoked chicken, brisket, ribs, turkey or any other barbecue choice will come out tender, smoky, juicy time and time again–and if you fire it up by opening the manual air vents all the way, enjoy the best steaks you’ll ever grill at temperatures as high as 700 degrees.
Where: Available at specialty hardware, patio, home and high end cooking retailers. Comes in different sizes–like a wine cellar, be sure to go as big as you can afford, you’ll always need as much space as you can when it comes to cooking on your Egg.
What Makes it Special: It’s easy to get fired up, beyond simple to use for anything from grilling meat, seafood, and vegetables, and the perfect smoker. This is an expensive investment, but well worth the money and backed up with warrantees, and the company’s pride and word, and should last a lifetime.
A hidden gem of a chicken fest on the main road from San Jose out towards the west coast of Costa Rica. Tucked off to the right under towering tropical trees, the first thing you see along with the colorful sign is an open front, multi-row, rotisserie oven with no less than 30 dripping birds roasting away. After speeding past, turning around and coming back to sample the chicken and other plates typical to the area, it’s equally enjoyable drinking a cold beer in the open dining room as it is chowing down on the delectable, fresh and steaming food once it’s placed in front of you on a big banana leaf. Costa Rica, itself, is a hidden gem relative to many other Caribbean and Central/South American destinations, and Fiesta Del Pollos is a fitting hidden gem that eases you into the epicurean and other adventures that lie outside San Jose.
Where: Main road to the West Coast of Costa Rica
What Makes it Special: It’s a happy surprise when you’re already anticipating a fun adventure in beautiful Costa Rica. It confirms that you can get exceptional, local food in a comfortable, clean, and relaxing place and is just one of many more that you are likely to find as you explore this gem of a country which has something for everyone, and wonderful friendly people who are only to happy to share it with you.
One of America’s famous barbecue joints, but still a hidden gem that deserves its place alongside others like Arthur Bryant’s, the Lockhart, Lexington, and Nashville joints that have become perennial favorites. Dreamland, like most of the other great bbq destinations, is a bit off the beaten track on a side road in semi-commercial Tuscaloosa. You see the smoke from a mile away, step out of the heat and bright dust of the parking lot into a dim but welcoming dining room when you venture inside. Pictures, autographs and lights along the wall celebrate Dreamland’s owner and history, but order the racks of ribs, sausage, and brisket and you’ll quickly understand why it’s up there as one of the best. The meat tastes top tier, it’s always perfectly cooked (the ribs have that nice “snap” to them when you bite in), and the sauce has just the right flavor balance of zing, sweet and smoke—and just the right body, not too heavy and not too watery.
Where: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
What Makes it Special: Unlike many of the best barbecue restaurants, Dreamland puts all the pieces together—food, ambiance, friendly staff, great history, classic sauce, and across the board high rankings in each of the above.
This might go down as the best hidden gem of all time. Who would have thought that the most sought after, best rated, and rarest of all bourbons came from Pennsylvania of all places? There are many stories and myths you’ll likely find online about this legendary whisky, but take the time and make the investment, if you’re inclined to know the truth, to order The Best Bourbon You’ll Never Try by Chuck Cowdery to not only know the facts about Hirsch 16 but also enjoy a great read on the history of whisky in general. Hirsch 16 was distilled in 1974 in Schaefferstown, PA and at some point relocated in barrel to Kentucky where it was bottled, and therefore labeled, as Kentucky Bourbon. That’s all that this site will share in terms of historic detail, we’ll leave it to you to find out the rest. In terms of taste and current availability, however, know this: It is ethereal in its aroma and taste (sweet, caramel, vanilla) and it is nearly impossible to find. Ebay may have a bottle or two in the $500+ range—if it’s the real thing is your gamble. Or look up on the dusty shelves of small, old liquor shops around the country and you might happen upon one. Either way, the hunt would be fun if the odds were better in finding more bottles.
One of several Donald Link restaurants, and if you’ve read his book Real Cajun or had the pleasure of meeting this passionate, local, somewhat humble chef-genius, quite possibly the one that best reflects his personality and upbringing. Cochon, a Cajun word for pig, is down to earth, big, bold, adventurous, and yet somehow simple and unassuming. Pig makes a big showing on the menu in any number of different ways—hot, cold, cured, stewed, smoked, etc—but so do other Louisiana standby’s like alligator, boudin, crawfish, okra, beans, and watermelon, to unfairly name only a few. They take a lot of pride in their selection of bourbons and moonshine, as well, because they know the people who come to Cochon again and again do so not only for some of the best Louisiana fare you’ll find outside the small towns back in the swamps but for the libations that go so well with them.
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
What Makes it Special: Aside from the magic that Cochon employs to consistently surprise and satisfy customers who already have such high expectations in a town known for its great restaurants and cuisines, it’s the passion, knowledge and friendliness of its wait staff that make Cochon a best hidden gem. Where else would a waiter challenge you to try the fried rabbit livers with fresh mint leaves and offer to pay for it himself if it’s not “the best thing you ever put in your mouth?” Even if it wasn’t quite the best thing, it’s certainly worth trying and appreciating the passion behind such things.
What a strange find this hidden gem is. For people in search of hard to find spirits—be they rare collectibles, spirits no longer available via distributors, bottlings that you might not even know existed, or mature vintages of a broad array of wines, champagnes or ports—Northridge Liquors is one of the best hidden gems of its kind. For over 50 years, this odd little shop sits within a commercial and residential side street and is basically the front section of a small Texas home. Racks, rows and shelves of bottles cram this 20 x 20 foot room, with spirits along the wall and wines in the middle. On one recent trip they were selling their last bottle of Pappy Van Winkle (a surprise to hear they had been allotted any), still carried three bottles of Elijah 18 Year bourbon (currently no longer distributed), and had numerous, obscure bottlings of everything from top Scotches to California Cabernets, to old Bordeaux and Italian Brunello’s. The prices are, expectedly, high for the classics like Mouton Rothschild or The Macallan 25 but within reason or even a steal, if you want to sample an old Chardonnay, Chianti, or Burgandy that may or may not still be in drinkable shape. On one hand buyer beware, but on the other hand, if nothing else, visit Northridge Liquors to browse through decades of wine and spirits, and do some cherry-picking.
Where: San Antonio, Texas
What Makes it Special: Aside from everything noted above, if you are fortunate enough to be there when the owner stops in, it’s likely he’ll want to strike up some pleasant and informed conversation and guide you towards some special finds. He has sampled most of his offering and in doing so makes one believe that this best hidden gem of a liquor shop still has some ripe hidden gems within.
You can smell the aroma of roasting coffee beans well before you spy this hidden gem in New Canaan, Connecticut. New Canaan has so many great little restaurants, markets, and shops but Zumbach’s stands alone in that it boasts an inordinately broad and deep selection of coffee beans, handmade drinks to order, a service staff of local young men and women who are always smiling and helpful, and an atmosphere that you’ll drive well out of your way to visit. On one recent swing by, they had just gotten in a rare delivery of freshly harvested Blue Mountain beans from Jamaica. While the cost for a satchel of this uniquely rich, complex and flavorful coffee was pricey to say the least, it was well worth the opportunity to feel the warmth of this freshly roasted and freshly ground treasure and anticipate the first cup of French press that it would produce.
Where: New Canaan, Connecticut
What Makes it Special: Zumbach’s meets all the criteria for a hidden gem–unique, out of the way, worth coming back to, difficult to replicate–but what makes it a Best Hidden Gem is the intimacy you feel as you wait for your brew, look around and realize the entire operation is happening in that one little room, in front if your eyes as Doug, the owner, casually roasts his beloved beans in a gorgeous old European roaster–something few coffee aficionados are likely to ever experience firsthand.
The web hosts so many great sites, but this one deserves it’s rightful place aside real life destinations because it is fun, informative, and rewarding. And best of all, like a real hidden gem, you don’t even realize you wanted to pay it a visit until stumbling upon it by accident. The tag line says it all “You are how you eat” so pay it a visit and find out more about your friends, family, fellow goodies, and yourself.