By Maureen Post Special to Published Nov 24, 2008 at 2:31 PM

For years, as diners opted for American cuisine the choices were chicken tenders, burgers and hot dogs. It seems even mainstream ethnic restaurants prescribe to the quintessential Americanized fried appetizers, ranch filled salads and half-pound burgers.

Yes, we relish the regional delicacies like Boston clam bakes, New Orleans southern gumbo and Milwaukee's own fish fry. Unfortunately, American food has come to be defined by the turn and burn fixings of cross country chains like Applebee's, Friday's and Perkins.

But, recently, things have changed. If you look just a bit closer, you'll see there's an American cuisine. And then there's the New American cuisine.

New American chefs are reinventing everything about American cuisine. From the ingredients to the method of cooking, New American savors the freedom to experiment and create.

Characterized by seasonality, New American cuisine remakes classic American dishes in appreciation of the freshest ingredients available. Chefs playfully work with unlikely meats such as bison and antelope while opening the door to meat replacements like tofu and tempeh.

Evolution and transition of flavors and ingredients is key. Adding ethnic twists to American classics, New American food tantalizes savory comfort and traditional sweets by integrating traditions from abroad.

If you're looking for a good, home cooked New American meal, check out any one of the spots listed below. What's your take? Do you like the New American style? Use our talkback feature to let us know.

Café Manna
3815 N. Brookfield Rd., (262) 790-2340
A completely vegetarian menu, everything about Café Manna is seasonal. Twists on ethnic classics include cashew coconut hummus, Mediterranean portobello sandwich and a Jamaican spiced lentil burger.

Crazy Water
839 S. 2nd St., (414) 645-2606
Potentially working in the smallest kitchen in Milwaukee, the chefs at Crazy Water keep big tastes coming out of a small space. The seasonally changing menu ranges from coriander crusted lamb tenderloin and roasted beet salad to potato rosti tilapia and mushroom dusted grilled ribeye.

Hinterland Gastropub
222 E. Erie St., (414) 727-9300
Hinterland's gastropub style combines great American beer with upscale dining. A daily changing menu has pan-seared seafood flown in from both coasts, grilled meats from free-range ranches and plays with locally grown produce, much of which comes from gardens in Door County.

5921 W. Vliet St., (414) 479-0620
Like other New American restaurants, Meritage's contemporary menu changes with the season. The menu is full of new takes on classic meatloaf, the BLT and fried chicken; incorporating sweet glazes, decadent cheeses and unexpected vegetables.

North Star Bistro
4515 N. Oakland Ave., (414) 964-4663
19115 W. Capitol Dr.,  (262) 754-1515
Self described as "American food with a twist," North Star Bistro's two Milwaukee locations fervently embrace the New American culinary shift. Chefs work hard to recreate American staples like macaroni and cheese, bistro salads and beef short ribs with imaginative twists and ingredient additions.

1818 N. Hubbard St., (414) 374-8480
Combining aspects of regional and ethnic infusions, Chef John Raymond focuses on locally grown produce and Wisconsin based purveyors.  Continuously shifting menu selections make use of rich black truffle mushrooms, chevre whipped potatoes, fava bean ragout and pork belly blackbean fried rice.

Maureen Post Special to staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.

After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.

Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.