I opened the unmarked, dusky-blue arched door, stepping into a dimly lit antechamber leading to Maydan, and it pulled me in. That’s how it felt. I was on my own, a walk-in at a restaurant that was fully booked, and I was hoping for a stray spot at the bar to sample a drink and a bite and the overall feel of the place. Past an enormous open-fire hearth sending delicious smells of roasting meats and smoky spices wafting through the two-level atrium, past the surrounding tables and prep area I went. There at the end of the bar, I found my spot, no stool, but just enough room to stand and sip a glass of crsip sauvignon blanc, scoop up the creamy hummus and fatoosh salad with flat bread hot from the clay oven, and munch on chunks of roasted barramundi smeared with zhough, a spicy condiment tasting of cilantro and cumin. “I love beets, and these are the best I’ve ever tasted,” the stranger next to me volunteered, pointing to his bowl of beet borani, a hot pink dip peppered with black sesames. I soak up the atmosphere, both otherworldly and embracing. Artful Islamic shapes flourish in wooden screens and tabletops. Lights dangle from long wooden beaded cords that look like “…upside-down pepper mills,” my beets neighbor suggested.

Open since late 2017, Maydan shot to everyone’s immediate attention, listed by both Food & Wine and the James Beard Foundation as one of the top new restaurants in America. Its name, appropriately, means gathering place. And that’s just what Maydan does; it gathers you in and makes you feel at home. And, as I discovered that evening, the food is scrumptious. If I could recommend only one restaurant for you to go to, this is the one. But first you have to find it! Be sure to read the directions to Maydan on its website, and then look for that dusky blue door.