Call it the carnivore's dilemma: the question is no longer "Should we eat meat?" but rather "Where—and what kind?" Because across the nation, the number of inventive, sustainable options is exploding. Acclaimed chefs are serving ever-more-creative dishes, drawing on far-flung meat-centric cuisines. Farmers are raising heritage- and heirloom-breed animals that are healthier and more delectable. And new-school meat markets are popping up, led by high-end butchers who are more likely to recommend exotic-yet-prime cuts and Mediterranean charcuterie you've never heard of than a filet mignon. Take a rare, rarefied look at meat.

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The New Cathedrals of Meat
A fresh wave of inventive destination restaurants are pushing culinary boundaries, combining exotic flavor profiles with local sourcing to produce the kind of carnivorous fare of which flesh fantasies are made.

KR SteakBar
Atlanta |
The Scene: Cut-crystal glasses and tobacco-leather chairs give co-owner Kevin Rathbun's suave, Italian-accented Buckhead hideaway a vibe suited for the Mad Men of 2014—and fans like Jennifer Lawrence and Falcons QB Matt Ryan. Gents in side parts and Billy Reid oxfords throw down with nine cuts of prime steak and reservation-only "Whole Beast" feasts.
The Order: Beef-intestine meatballs, lamb-brain tortellini, and other offal bites from the Quinto Quarto (the "fifth quarter," what the Italians call the internal leftovers) section of the menu.

Del Campo
Washington, D.C. |
The Scene: Beltway players feast beneath crystal chandeliers at this rustic-glam steak house inspired by chef-owner Victor Albisu's South American heritage. The grass-fed Maryland beef is cooked under a 1,000-degree broiler, then rests in a chamber of smoking herbs.
The Order: 48-ounce Piedmont Ridge tomahawk rib eye for two, carved tableside.

Old Major
Denver |
The Scene: This constantly packed yearling (in a salvaged roller rink) was one of the first restaurants in the state to land an elusive license to cure meat. Justin Brunson's in-house butchery program focuses on wild venison, grass-fed cows, and Duroc pigs.
The Order: The Nose-to-Tail Plate, a recent example of which was a mix of schnitzel, confit rib, braised belly, and crispy ears with house kraut.

Restaurant Michael Schwartz
Miami |
The Scene: Globe lanterns slung between sea grape trees surrounding the Raleigh Hotel's pool create a magical garden vibe as East Coast snowbirds, Saudi royals, and eerily beautiful Brazilians feast on house-made beef jerky, Indian-spiced pork loin, and White Oak Pastures porterhouses as thick as a phone book.
The Order: The Buffalo rabbit—cooked in duck fat, fried, and coated in habanero hot sauce—is worth a few stains on your winter whites.

Salt & Time
Austin |
The Scene: Refrigerated display cases show off local pork, goat, game meat, and beef at Austin's only combined whole-animal butcher shop and full-service restaurant. "The Angus beef we get comes from cows sold to ranchers to improve breeding stock," says co-owner Ben Runkle.
The Order: Whatever cut's on tap from the rotating From the Case option, always dry-aged in-house and "cooked as rare as people will let us," followed by beef-fat-fried doughnuts for dessert.

Fish & Game
Hudson, New York |
The Scene: The menu at this converted blacksmith shop fronted by Zak Pelaccio (of Fatty Crab/Fatty 'Cue fame) and Kevin Pomplun changes weekly based on the heritage hogs, Tunis lambs, and venison arriving from local farms. "Our meat is coming from 15, 20 miles from the restaurant," says Pelaccio, who hopes to also use blood and stomachs from the local slaughterhouse.
The Order: Slowly smoked bone-in Mulefoot pork loin with pork-fat potatoes and kimchi.

San Francisco |
The Scene: After nibbling on petals of jamon; beef short ribs with sherry-chocolate glaze, pomegranate, and Seville orange; and other Spanish tapas at Michael Chiarello's rustic 60-seat taberna on the bayfront Embarcadero, diners turn to the meatier, family-style raciones charred on a double-decker grill. "One of my mantras at all my restaurants is cooking over live fire," Chiarello says. "Thinking 45 minutes ahead for your fire is not built into America's culinary DNA." Yet.
The Order: The pork shoulder, cut from an Iberian hog and shipped from Spain. "It may be the only frozen meat I've ever bought," says Chiarello, who glazes the meat with an elixir of chilies and honey. "But because of the high fat content, it actually never freezes." Don't tell Customs.

Chicago |
The Scene: Despite the jet-engine-esque ventilation and the fancy smokeless Japanese grills, there's no sucking the aroma of caramelizing soy and sizzling beef from this industrial, birch-beamed barn of a dining room. Chef-partner Bill Kim pushes the boundaries of Korean barbecue with a menu flavored with Wagyu beef, spicy maple glazes, and curry-braised lamb shank; regulars order the secret multicourse Belly Feast (available only at the first-come, first-served grill tables) for a little bit of everything.
The Order: Ribs. Beef, pork, and lamb get treated in a Chinese water smoker that perfumes the meat in vapor while a wood-chip tray of Kim's own MacGyvering introduces smoldering apple and peach smoke.

Los Angeles |
The Scene: L.A.'s offal aficionados fill this Little Tokyo temple dedicated to beef. "We wanted to focus in on one protein to see how we could use every single part of the animal," says chef David Bartnes, whose heritage—he grew up in Korea and owned a restaurant in Thailand—translates to marrow bones with house furikake and sesame gochujang, kimchi tripe, and Hunan short ribs.
The Order: Miso-marinated, flash-grilled beef heart, which Bartnes compares to "working with a beautiful piece of bluefin tuna," served like sashimi in (nearly) raw slices.

Pass, Provisions
Houston |
The Scene: Old warehouse bones frame très-French terrines, coffee-rubbed venison, and Ham o' the Day sliced on a red Berkel at not one but two of Houston's hottest restaurants: the fine-dining, tasting-menu-only Pass and the casual, congenial Provisions, built around a mesquite-thyme-and-oak-burning oven. "Scraps from ham that we use in Provisions become ham powder that we dust over a giant chicharrón with caviar at the Pass," says Seth Siegel Gardner, who co-captains the restaurants with Terrence Gallivan.
The Order: Provisions always has a large-format protein for two, "but it really feeds closer to four," like the pound-and-a-half lobe of foie gras accompanied by house-baked breads and preserves.

Portland, Oregon |
The Scene: Oregon may be the vegetable garden of the Pacific Northwest, but at Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton's brick-and-wood Argentinean joint, the clipboard menus celebrate meats (cocoa-braised lamb shoulder, smoked beef tongue, local and Uruguayan rib eyes) alongside kale salad and sunchoke gratin.
The Order: The Asado Argentino, a gift for the indecisive, loaded with grilled short ribs, house-made chorizo and morcilla, skirt steak, and sweetbreads.

Bar AmÁ
Los Angeles |
The Scene: A chicken-wire-and-glass door opens into chef-owner Josef Centeno's dark, convivial cantina. After bringing life after dark to downtown L.A. with Baco Mercat, Centeno salutes "all the women in my family" with a menu of the hearty Tex-Mex dishes he grew up eating: chicken-fried steak, chicharrón with fiery "bus driver" sauce, and cabbage-slaw-heaped platters of juicy steak fajitas served by the pound.
The Order: Slow-roasted young goat rubbed in coffee and chilies (market price and not always available, so ask as soon as you sit down).

Washington D.C. |
The Scene: Top Chef freaks, Greek expats, and A-listers like Michelle Obama, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer, and Mayor Vincent Gray populate the Byzantine-barnyard dining room at Mike Isabella's new Eastern Med taverna on D.C.'s happening 14th Street corridor. Artfully plated meze herald Border Springs lambs, Shenandoah goats, and Kurobuta pigs carved to order from ten spits rotating over a pair of Texan hickory grills. "It's a common thing for Easter at Greek Orthodox churches to have these big parties with spits outside," says Isabella. "I decided to do it every single day." Amen.
The Order: Spit-roasted baby goat rubbed with a Middle Eastern spice blend involving all spice, cinnamon, turmeric, and coriander.

The Cavalier
San Francisco |
The Scene: Chesterfield banquettes, plaid wallpaper, and equestrian accents evoke the dining room at an English polo club; SoMa residents and savvy guests of the Hotel Zetta next door occupy the tufted perches. Ale-brined pork, marinated lamb legs, and British-style bangers rotate on rotisseries in chef-partner Jennifer Puccio's kitchen. The rotisserie "allows us to do different meats that are treated in cool ways," she says. Customers customize with sides. "As a chef, when I go out on my days off, I don't necessarily want all the components put together on plate for me. I'd rather pick and choose."
The Order: Steak and oyster pie, a crust-encased surf-and-turf featuring three cuts of beef: rib-eye, cheek, and hanger.

Los Angeles |
The Scene: Painted china, pressed-tin ceilings, and wood paneling set the backdrop for homey cassoulets and accomplished charcuterie at this French country house airlifted to West Hollywood. House-made fresh and dried sausages fortify the menu, which co-owners and chefs Elia Aboumrad and Uyen Nguyen consider "meaty and masculine, but still light." Though you may be tempted, the name is not a suggestion to overeat but a reference to the French battle cry 'a la gorge,' or 'to the throat.'
The Order: Filet of venison, sauced with Burgundy and blueberries.

Han Dynasty
New York City |
The Scene: Chile zealots and Chinese expats converge at this quince-colored Sichuan sweat lodge in the East Village, an import from Philadelphia, where owner and head chef, Taiwan-born Han Chiang, runs six area outposts. "We don't use the fanciest cuts of meat, but we tenderize the hell out of them," he says. The restaurant's wok jockeys fry big bowls of beef, pork, and lamb in several different sauce styles (options include black bean, garlic, cumin, and pickled chilies), graded one to ten based on heat.
The Order: Cumin lamb, a street food staple in the Sichuan province.

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Sausages to Try Now
Sausage-making is being revitalized with meticulously sourced ingredients and globally inspired flavors.

Fermented Rabbit Nam | Qui | Austin |
Thai-style, enhanced with fish sauce, lime, and guanciale and aged for five days.

Pigs in a Blanket | Alder | New York City |
A hot-dog bun flattened in a pasta roller wraps Chinese-style pork-and-duck-sausage bites and is then deep-fried.

Kaffir Lime Sausage | Khe-Yo | New York City |
Wrapped in Kaffir-lime and banana leaves and served over crispy coconut rice, this slow-poached pork-belly sausage get its heat from minced Thai chilies.

LinguiÇa | Fat Rice | Chicago |
"It's not like taking a bite of sausage," says chef Abraham Conlon of this garlicky Portuguese staple. "It's like taking a bite of cured meat in a sausage casing."

Zungenblotwurst | Bronwyn | Somerville, Massachusetts |
Unlike loose blood sausages, this entry contains pork belly, which gives it more of a traditional bratwurst texture.

Foie Gras Stopfleberwurst | Brauhaus Schmitz | Philadelphia |
This spreadable take on liverwurst replaces pork or calf's liver with foie gras and gets a kick from cardamom, ginger, and allspice.

Footlong | Butcher & the Boar | Minneapolis |
Grass-fed Minnesota beef and sheep casing start this 12-incher, finished with chowchow, Fresno chilies, cilantro, mayo, and mustard.

Smoked Duck | TanakaSan | Seattle |
Szechuan pepper and Johnny Walker spike this sultry smoked-duck-leg-and-pork link, placed in a poppy-seed pinch bun with cucumber relish and hoisin hot mustard.

Galbi Sausage | Seoul Sausage Co. | Los Angeles |
Korean flavors like garlic, soy, and sesame provide the marinade; garlic-jalapeno aioli and kimchi relish are the toppings.

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3 Carnivorous Classics, Reinvented

Le Pigeon's beef cheeks bourguignon

"This is one of the only dishes that never leaves the menu" at Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon, says chef Gabriel Rucker. This soulful twist on the peasant stew swaps beef chuck for fat-rippled cheeks cooked overnight, per tradition, in tons of red wine.

At Carbone in New York City, the massive $54 veal chop gets breaded, fried, and topped like a pizza with vivid tomato sauce, ovals of mozzarella, and fragrant basil. The bone is served on the side, gnawing encouraged.

Local bison lightens this staple at Stephan Pyles' mod-Texas eatery, Stampede 66, in Dallas. Chef Jonathan Thompson tenderizes rib eye with a mallet—then come the traditional flour-and-buttermilk coating and nontraditional chorizo gravy.

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