101 Best Restaurants in America for 2011

Great eating and great dining all over the nation


“Best restaurant” lists are tricky. How can any sensible eater compare an iconic pizza parlor or the joint that serves that simply transcendent cheeseburger with the lapidary perfection of a French Laundry or the genre-bending inventiveness of a WD-50? On what terms is it possible to stack the culinary monuments of Manhattan, Chicago, or Los Angeles up against the really-very-good but necessarily more modest establishments of, say, Buellton or Murphysboro? Talk about apples and oranges.

And yet here we are offering a best restaurant list of our own. Which means that it’s probably appropriate to explain exactly what this roster of eating places is supposed to be, and how we arrived at it.

We began with a simple premise: Where do we, the editors of The Daily Meal, like to eat? Taking into consideration our mood and our budget and where we happen to be when we get hungry, how would we vote — not with our finely honed critical faculties so much as with our mouths, and our pocketbooks? And where would we send our friends?

Collectively, we came up with a master list of 150 places from every part of the country, from ultra-casual to super-fancy, old-fashioned to avant-garde. Then we divided our choices into categories — according to cuisine, region, and a number of specific factors, including service, wine list, and price level — and invited an illustrious panel of judges, mostly restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, and assorted bloggers, from around America to help us narrow down the list. (Two of them requested not to be identified.) The panel and our editorial staff voted anonymously, and the percentages of votes for each restaurant were tallied in order to assemble a ranked list of the 101 best.

The results were, well, thought-provoking. It probably won’t surprise anybody that Thomas Keller’s superlative French Laundry in Napa Valley came out on top, but in a real coup his restaurant Per Se took the number two spot as well. It also might surprise a few people to find three barbecue places and two pizzerias outscoring pricey French restaurants run by Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon — or Katz’s Delicatessen edging out WD-50.

For American cooking, modern or traditional, our judges liked the West Coast: Seven of the 21 restaurants in that category are in the Golden State. Perhaps it indicates that the country looks to the West for revolutionizing America’s culinary heritage. However, New York seems to be the stronghold for maintaining the best ethnic cuisines, taking the top spots in the French, Italian, and Asian categories.

Overall, New York beat out California in the top ten, garnering five spots. Taking a deeper look into the big winners, the more “experimental” chefs like Grant Achatz, Michel Richard, and José Andrès seem to be panelist favorites. What’s America’s favorite cuisine? It turns out that American cooking with French influence makes up about 50 percent of the highest rated restaurants.

In regional breakdowns, our panel thought Bern’s Steak House in Tampa was the best restaurant in the South, Citronelle in Washington D.C. was numéro un in the Mid-Atlantic, and Clio in Boston was the winner in the Northeast (though Frank Pepe Pizza in New Haven was the next one down).

You may quarrel with our results, quibble over the panel’s choices, ask how we could call that dump a “best” or why we left out that temple of gastronomy. It would be astonishing if you didn’t, in fact. We’re not presenting objective truth here. In case you haven’t noticed, there is no objective truth when it comes to taste in restaurants (or anything else).

Rather, think of this list as the Senate of Culinary Greatness in our country — every region, cuisine and price level is represented, and if you wonder what some of them are doing there, hey, ask the voters. It’s the best of the best from each league, which is the reason why Katz’s sandwiches can stand alongside Peter Luger’s steaks and Arthur Bryant’s barbecue alongside Bazaar’s molecular gastronomy. We think our list turned out pretty well, and sincerely thank our panelists for helping us refine it. We stand behind these restaurants — and would sit down happily at any of their tables.

See all of the best restaurants by location and cuisine.

Note from the editor: A number of readers have commented that they found our slideshow format cumbersome to navigate. We present our choices that way not to satisfy advertisers or in some blind quest for “clicks” but because we like to see what restaurants look like and read a little bit about them before we go and assume you do too, and this is the presentation that does that best. Nonetheless, we understand that going through 101 pages to see the entire list might not seem terribly efficient, so here are all of them, in reverse order, in one place. Click on any one that interests you to learn more about it.

Best 101 Restaurants:

101. McCrady's

99. Rasika (tie)

99. Hot and Hot Fish Club (tie)

97. L'Espalier (tie)

97. Oklahoma Joe's (tie)

95. Lonesome Dove (tie)

95. Ad Hoc (tie)

94. Neptune Oyster Bar

93. Beast

90. Bar Masa (tie)

90. Urasawa (tie)

90. '21' Club (tie)

88. Animal (tie)

88. Lucques (tie)

87. Quinones at Bacchanalia

85. Hungry Mother (tie)

85. 17th Street Bar & Grill (tie)

84. Moto

83. Everest

82. Michael Mina

81. Radius

78. Valentino (tie)

78. The Barn at Blackberry Farms (tie)

78. Boulevard (tie)

75. Incanto (tie)

75. Redd (tie)

75. Mustard's Grill (tie)

74. Arun's Thai Restaurant

72. SriPhraPhai (tie)

72. Grand Sichuan International

69. Restaurant Eve (tie)

69. Michael's Genuine (tie)

69. L20 (tie)

68. Fore Street

67. The Fearrington House

66. Eugene

65. Al Forno

64. Osteria

63. Le Pigeon

62. Reef

61. Publican

59. Jitlada (tie)

59. Hominy Grill (tie)

58. Bouchon Bistro

57. Fearing's

54. Vetri (tie)

54. o ya (tie)

54.  Lambert's Downtown Barbecue (tie)

53. Restaurant August

51. Slanted Door (tie)

51. Le Bec-Fin (tie)

 50. Herbfarm

48. Marea (tie)

48. Locanda Verde (tie)

47. Joël Robuchon 

45. Osteria Mozza (tie)

45. CityZen (tie)

43. The Four Seasons Restaurant (tie)

43. Cut (tie)

40. The Hitching Post II (tie)

40. Casa Mono (tie)

40. L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (tie)

39. Guy Savoy

38. Kreuz Market

37. Galatoire's

35. Spago (tie)

35. Coi (tie)

34. Pizzeria Bianco

33. Frasca

31. Cochon (tie)

31. Canlis (tie)

29. Lotus of Siam (tie)

29. Fonda San Miguel (tie)

28. Del Posto

27. Minibar

25. The Pit (tie)

25. Momofuku Ssäm Bar (tie)

24. Joe's Stone Crab

21. Zuni Café (tie)

21. Frank Pepe Pizzeria (tie)

21. Clio (tie)

20. Frontera Grill

19. Bazaar

18.  Arthur Bryant's

16. Commander's Palace (tie)

16. Babbo (tie)

15. WD-50

14. Katz's Delicatessen

13. Peter Luger

12. Bern's Steak House

11. Masa

10. The Inn at Little Washington

9. Citronelle

8. Jean Georges

7. Chez Panisse

6. Blue Hill Stone Barns

5. Alinea

4. Daniel

3. Le Bernardin

2. Per Se

1. French Laundry

Click here to see the 101 Best Restaurants in America Slideshow.

 


Be a Part of the Conversation

Have something to say?
Add a comment (or see what others think).

Comments 238
2.61111
Ratings252


Like this story? Get updates by email, facebook and twitter
Get daily food and wine coverage


Latest from The Daily Meal

The Daily Meal Video Network
Strawberry Brie Grilled Cheese

238 Comments

tdm-35-icon.png

I think they threw this list together with what they had on hand. The presentation is clumsy and the list is not searchable by location or cuisine, showing that little or no care was taken to make this informative or worthwhile to read. As for the choices themselves, they are the standard ones.

tdm-35-icon.png

Restaurant Gary Danko? Umm. Arrows? Umm.

jeckwelch's picture

No doubt America is one of the biggest and the strongest country of the world these days however it also facing some severe economic crises..however the restaurant of America are feeling free and they are enjoying with their customers and money! Nice post..hats off! Most Popular Articles

tdm-35-icon.png

Tell me something about continental spices means how's their original taste..??
Buy, Sell & Trade

tdm-35-icon.png

You seem to have forgotten Cyrus, Healdsburg, CA.

tdm-35-icon.png

Too much informative post for me... Really appreciable... I really want that....
Collection of Articles

TSAC's picture

I always get a bit riled up and then let down hen I read restauraunt rating list. Obviously, nobody can dine at EVERY single good eating spot in America, but it is a bit of a downer to find none of my fave restaurants unrepresented.

(coincidentally I jst posted bout a great thai restaraunt)
http://bloomingtastebuds.blogspot.com/2011/07/art-fair-photos.html

tdm-35-icon.png

Try the Black Bear Diner! You get a ton of food on your plate at a very reasonable Price, and the taste is great.

tdm-35-icon.png

Sheena's Resturant in Barnardsville N.C. has some great food.

tdm-35-icon.png

To all the reviewers who contributed to this report: Thanks for ignoring any of our otherwise acclaimed and acknowledged eating establishments in Michigan. I think I'll look elsewhere for a more unbiased/ authoritative/experienced site.

tdm-35-icon.png

Yep, listing the locations by the names would have been logical, otherwise, it is a tedious search.

tdm-35-icon.png

House of Tricks, of Tempe, Arizona should be on this list. Chef Fletcher Kelly is God's gift to the foodie. The Chocolate lava cake with banana ice cream caused my rebirth. The rosemary cheesecake ain't bad either. The world has never been the same.

It's the Herb Farm (who yes, I do love with all my Woodenville loving heart) without the 2 year wait or without having to take out a mortgage.

tdm-35-icon.png

Wow, I've actually eaten at one...Bern's Steakhouse. Don't remember it being anything fantastic, though. Just very expensive. My date threw down some serious bucks that night!

tdm-35-icon.png

I have dined at one of those restaurants in Charleston, but outside of that I will admit that I have not been to many on this list. That said, I still feel comfortable in saying that this list is garbage. Osteria and Vetri? Two simillar restaurants owned by the same guy, and Le Bec Fin??! Those three aren't even at the top of the list of restaurants just in Philadelphia, how can they possibly crack the top 100 in the country?

tdm-35-icon.png

hard to tell from your listing but what about the great basue restaurants in boise hard to beat epis family style dinners leku onas octopus cooked in its ink and bar gernikas basque style tongue sandwiches

tdm-35-icon.png

Would it have been too much trouble to list the city next to the name of the restaurant???? Very awkward list.....

tdm-35-icon.png

I love the list but to not have the venerable Spiaggia on the list is an outrage!! Wake up an smell the espresso!

tdm-35-icon.png

Any Gordon Ramsay restaurants on the list?

tdm-35-icon.png

IT IS PAINFULLY CLEAR THAT WHOEVER MADE THIS LIST HAS NEVER BEEN TO THE HOFBRAUHAUS IN NEWPORT,KENTUCKY. IF THEY HAD, IT WOULD'VE BEEN A NO-BRAINER FOR THE TOP 25, IF NOT TOP 10. I SERIOUSLY SUGGEST SENDING SOMEBODY THERE TO CHECK IT OUT IF YOU'RE SERIOUS ABOUT FINDING THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN AMERICA. I'D EAT LUNCH & DINNER THERE EVERYDAY IF IT WAS CLOSER TO DAYTON, OHIO. ALSO, YOU CAN'T BEAT THE BEER THEY MAKE THERE. IT'S SIMPLY THE BEST YOUR EVER GOING TO DRINK THIS SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, PERIOD.

tdm-35-icon.png

Have you ever even eaten at any of the top ten restaurants? If you had, you level of surprise would most likely diminish. Don't be so offended if a restaurant from KY doesn't make it. Its not like it is considered a culinary mecca of any status. Suck it up and promote your favorites by being vocal but less abrasive. The all caps is really quite obnoxious.

tdm-35-icon.png

Oh stop being offended. It's Thee United States of America, called America for short. Doy.

tdm-35-icon.png

I have to assume america does not include Canada or Mexico anymore or any of the south american countries for that matter.

tdm-35-icon.png

The last I knew Canada or Mexico was not part of the United States of America and I'm sure they either have their own list or they could make one...

tdm-35-icon.png

This list is silly. Downright silly. Anyone can arbitrarily make up a list of restaurants and say they're the best. Katz Delicatessen one of the 100 Best Restaurants in the US? Ridiculous!!! and that's just the beginning.

tdm-35-icon.png

although Yanuzzi restaurant is basically italian food . their filet steak is the most tender and tasty you have ever eaten. located in south waverly pa. you can see the restaurant from the southern tier expressway traveling through waverly. ny try it and you will agree with hundreds of people in the area that it is the best.

tdm-35-icon.png

Wow, HUGE surprise that 90% of your picks are in NY or CA. Only 23 other states are represented. Typical coastal snobbery to be sure. Doubtless many top chefs gravitate towards such meccas of cuisine, but c'mon already! One pick from Kansas, and one from Missouri, the rest of the Midwest must simply be a barren wasteland with chain restaurants and truck stops right? Lists like this are incomplete, insulting to thousands of people, and only underscore the the grossly undeserved elitism of those living in New York and California.
Signed,
A dumb uncouth hick of a Wisconsinite.

tdm-35-icon.png

I agree. Those of us who live in the Midwest could come up with our own list and i am sure that there would be many fine restaurants on that list. Every region of the country has great food. A list such as this is purely subjective and speaks solely to an east coast-west coast bias.

tdm-35-icon.png

Whoops, I forgot the Chicago listings, but my ire still stands unchanged.

Signed,
The same dumb uncouth hick of a Wisconsinite.

tdm-35-icon.png

I have dined in but a few of your choices: but it is my belief that the best single restaurant failed to make your list. In fact it would be my further guess that the top dozen or so restaurant's never made your list. Maybe the top one-hundred. The singular best restaurant--or restaurant's--lies somewhere in a small town in the mid-west. All things considered ambience, friendly personnel, price, wholesomeness of meals and the like would probably be dished out by a person whose first name you know--and it would not take a long time to arrive. Oh--and they don't have a wine list mainly because they do not serve wine. The puffery, cost and time wasting element of your choices leave me always wondering why I went to such an establishment in the first place. I realize that in your book that makes me a total slob--and I'll just have to live with that. However,I very well respect your choices and you'll suffer no barbs from me for them--it's simple amounts to a difference in the way we enjoy our meals. Here's to a world of good eating for you!!!

tdm-35-icon.png

hmmm Thai restaurant is famous there...how bout Indonesian food ya??:)
www.seemeagain.com

Add a Comment

Upload a picture of yourself no larger than 3MB, please see Terms for details
CAPTCHA
Please answer this Captcha to prove you are human
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
CAPTCHA
Please answer this Captcha to prove you are human