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If, as we observed in our roundup of the best French restaurants in America, contemporary American cuisine has its roots in France, its future may belong to Spain. It was the Spanish, after all, who introduced us to the now-commonplace notion of small plates; it was they who mainly led the way in popularizing the techniques of molecular gastronomy so widespread today. (A single glance at the nation’s toughest restaurant reservations or the best restaurants in New York, L.A., Chicago and beyond goes to show the depth and breadth of the Spanish influence.) And our 16 picks for the best Spanish restaurants in America—be they the most rustic of tapas bars or pioneering of avant-garde temples—make that future look exceptionally bright.