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What makes a good restaurant a “best”? The food? The service? The chef? The legacy? All of the above?
These 101 restaurants serve food that’s thoughtful and thought-provoking, and they also have a dining room and a level of service that suit the quality of what's on the plate, a good beverage list and a true sense of personality, imagination and consistency. Visiting one of these restaurants feels like a truly memorable culinary experience.
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In order to compile the ranking, The Daily Meal reached out to hundreds of dining experts (restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, chefs, restaurateurs and bloggers) around the country, asking for the restaurants that they consider to be the absolute best in their respective cities, taking into account food, décor, service and the overall experience. Those picks were supplemented with other restaurants that have garnered near-universal acclaim over the years, returning favorites from last year’s ranking and newer restaurants from lists including The Best Restaurants of 2019.
The restaurants were then ranked according to the classics like food, service and beverage lists, but also those special things that elevate an experience like imagination and consistency.
We recognize that many of these restaurants are out of most people’s price range, which is why we also publish a ranking of America's 101 Best Casual Restaurants, accommodating the pizzerias, taquerías, wing joints, burger joints and other fine, family-friendly establishments that are worth your time.
The quaint, cozy Comptoir du Vin has become a Baltimore must-visit in a short period of time. This charming, 35-seat bistro and wine bar in the Maryland metropolis wouldn’t be out of place in the French countryside, and neither would the menu, which is scrawled on a blackboard. Sample the house-made sourdough with Normandy butter and grated radish, French lentils with curry and grilled flatbread, and blood sausage with celeriac puree. Then, wash it down with a bottle from the small yet intriguing wine list.
Located in the heart of Auburn, Alabama, chef David Bancroft’s Acre is a charming and sophisticated restaurant serving a modern Southern menu that showcases traditional ingredients in new and exciting ways. Local farm-raised meats are turned into charcuterie in-house, and on-site gardens provide much of the produce. Start with a charcuterie and cheese board, some pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes with gulf crab. Follow up with chicken-fried bacon with sawmill gravy and Gulf red snapper with collard green spaetzle.
At Washington, D.C., restaurant The Dabney, chef/owner Jeremiah Langhorne sources his ingredients from regional purveyors, and he’s cooking that bounty over embers in a wood-burning hearth that’s the centerpiece of the open kitchen-dominated dining room. The menu is primarily composed of small plates. Offerings include charred squash with mustard greens, pecan, smoked feta and local maple syrup; Eastern shore-style chicken and dumplings; and the must-order fried sugar toads, the tails of a type of pufferfish, with hot honey and buttermilk dressing.
Millwright’s is located inside a beautifully renovated old mill in Simsbury, Connecticut, a classic town that looks like it’s stuck in time. This is where chef/owner Tyler Anderson is showcasing New England ingredients like few other chefs do. The restaurant offers two separate dining experiences — you can grab a burger, a fried chicken sandwich or fish and chips in the tavern, or go all-out with a seven-course tasting menu with clam chowder tapioca custard and venison osso bucco with rye spaetzle in the dining room. And with a spectacular brunch also on offer, this is the kind of restaurant you’ll want to return to again and again.
Located in downtown Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, Ristorante Bartolotta — the flagship restaurant of Paul and Joe Bartolotta’s restaurant group — was an instant hit upon its 1993 opening and remains one of America’s best Italian restaurants. Chef Paul utilizes fresh ingredients to turn out flawless interpretations of traditional fare. Sample the pappardelle with braised duck ragu, an assortment of simply grilled seafood or whatever is on Paul’s four-course “Menu Dello Chef.”
Cochon is the New Orleans domain of pork-loving chef Donald Link and his partner Stephen Stryjewski. Inspired by Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole culinary traditions, they’re sourcing many ingredients from local farms and purveyors and turning them into cravable, unabashedly NOLA dishes like crawfish pie with basil mayo and the namesake cochon (a seared patty of pulled slow-roasted pork) with cracklins and pickled peaches. Honorable mention goes to Cochon Butcher, the hybrid meat and housemade charcuterie market, incredible sandwich shop and wine bar located right next door.
Chef Bryan Voltaggio’s Volt is a Frederick, Maryland, must-visit, serving eclectic seasonal fare in a Victorian-era brownstone. Voltaggio is a meticulous and exacting fine-dining chef, and that certainly comes through in elegantly plated dishes including salmon with kale-nori lasagna, and yellow corn chowder with shrimp, coconut and aerated potato.
At Chester, Connecticut, restaurant Grano Arso, chef/owner Joel Gargano and his wife Lani are so committed to serving America’s best pastathat he mills native New England grains in-house. Along with the stellar traditional pasta dishes, they’re also turning out classic Italian-inspired fare like eggplant al forno with housemade ricotta, and seared scallops with spinach and carrot-ginger puree.
At Alewife, chef/owner Lee Gregory’s seafood-focused menu is inspired by the local catch of the Chesapeake Bay in the Richmond, Virginia, area and changes based on what’s in season. Expect dishes like crispy crab claws with hot sauce mayo, rockfish with sweet potato puree, and cobia with rice porridge and roasted cauliflower. There’s a relaxed vibe and some of America’s best beers are on tap.
What started off as a place to serve fried quail to the masses ended up as one of San Francisco’s most beloved restaurants. Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, the team behind State Bird Provisions, serve about 30 small, clever plates via dim sum-style rolling carts. The fried quail (the official state bird of California), which is buttermilk-marinated and encrusted with bread and pepita crumbs, is the signature dish, but don’t overlook the section devoted entirely to pancakes and toast.
Rose’s Luxury, a small, limited-reservations converted townhouse in Washington, D.C., is the brainchild of chef Aaron Silverman, who opened the restaurant in 2013. His small menu showcases international flavors with a decidedly American twist, with sample menu items including green tomato panzanella, ‘nduja strozzapreti with honey and pecorino, and crispy cauliflower with golden raisins and Greek yogurt. There will most likely be a line out the door when you arrive, but this is one of those restaurants worth waiting for.
Located in an old industrial warehouse in downtown LA, Bestia has an upscale urban feel with exposed brick walls, concrete floors and an open kitchen where chef Ori Menashe (who owns the restaurant with his wife, pastry chef Genevieve Gergis) turns out insanely delicious Italian-inspired creations. Standout menu items include a wide selection of house-made salumi and spaghetti with Dungeness crab and citrus.
Chef Alon Shaya opened the absolutely stunning Safta in Denver in 2018. Flawless pita bread made in-house in a wood-burning oven is used to scoop up hummus with your choice of six toppings. Small plates include falafel, lamb kebabs and cheese borekas; and larger plates include a pomegranate-braised lamb shank. A meal here is a celebration of modern Israeli cooking, and there’s nothing else like it in Colorado.
Chef Sarah Grueneberg opened Monteverde in Chicago’s West Loop in 2015, and it earned her a 2017 James Beard Award. The atmosphere is upbeat and lively, fresh pasta is made in full view of diners throughout the day, and guests can spot barrels that are aging balsamic vinegar in the traditional fashion. One bite of bucatini cacio whey pepe with four peppercorn blend or skate schnitzel with tricolore polenta will leave diners understanding this restaurant’s greatness.
Atlanta’s Staplehouse started as an underground supper club in 2009 run by husband and wife Ryan and Jen Hidinger. Unfortunately, Ryan Hidinger died in 2014. Soon thereafter, Jen partnered with Kara Hidinger and chef Ryan Smith to turn Ryan Hidinger’s dream of opening a restaurant into a reality. Staplehouse opened in 2015. The warm and welcoming restaurant sources its ingredients from local purveyors and the menu changes regularly. Most diners opt for a tasting menu of dishes like sturgeon with fennel and green onion, Grandma Lillian’s potato bread and duck sausage with pepper shoyu and cashew.
Commander’s Palace has been going strong in New Orleans since 1893, but it fully came into its own when the Brennan family took it over in 1974. Since then, the restaurant, with its many bright and lively dining rooms, has gone down as a New Orleans legend. Try some of the most famous New Orleans dishes, like turtle soup or pecan roasted Gulf fish, and be sure to finish with chef Tory’s famous Creole bread pudding souffle. Its pantheon of executive chefs — including Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme and now James Beard Award winner Tory McPhail — have firmly cemented Commander’s Palace as one of America’s best restaurants for celebrating a special occasion.
Few restaurants go as far to ensure the quality of their beef as chef Renee Erickson’s Bateau in Seattle: heritage cattle are selected, owned and raised by the restaurant’s team. Meat is dry-aged in-house for 21 days and butchered, then sold by weight (specific cuts change daily) and served topped with your choice of five butters. It’s an intensive process, and individual steaks can take up to an hour to prepare. In addition to the steak, Bateau is turning out spectacular small plates and accompaniments including a Reuben mille-feuille with smoked brisket, and French onion croquettes with black barley and comte cheese.
Owned by chef and Food Network star Michael Symon, Roast is a Detroit steakhouse that’s not afraid to think outside of the box. It’s a popular happy hour destination (be sure to try the bar menu’s Roast Burger, topped with bacon, cheddar, a fried egg and pickled onion), but don’t skip out on the main dining room. Here, you’ll find traditional steaks with non-traditional accompaniments (a filet mignon with crab bearnaise, a dry-aged rib-eye with umami butter and grilled endive) and seriously delicious non-steak entrees like beef cheek pierogies with horseradish.
Chef Gio Osso’s Virtù opened in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2013, and almost immediately, his menu of handmade pastas, impeccably sourced seafood, prime meats and regional vegetables began to rack up accolades. The offerings at his stylish and inviting Old Town restaurant change regularly based on what comes in, but expect truly creative Mediterranean fare like asparagus with a local duck egg, feta, bacon candy and foie gras hollandaise, or gnocchi with housemade sausage, fava beans, chanterelles and marsala butter.
Ling Shan C./Yelp
Katie Button, the chef/owner of Cúrate, a popular tapas bar located in Asheville, North Carolina, spent time working under Spanish masters José Andrés and Ferran Adrià before opening the restaurant along with her husband Félix Meana in 2011. Since then, Cúrate has become one of Asheville’s most beloved restaurants, with an all-Spanish wine list and an attached vermouth bar. The menu, as all great tapas menus are, is sprawling, but don’t miss the patatas bravas, housemade morcilla, seasonal vegetable paella and baked-to-order Marcona almond tart.
Frasca Food and Wine/Yelp
Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson opened Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colorado, in 2004. The restaurant is inspired by the local neighborhood gathering places of Italy’s sub-Alpine Friuli-Venezia Giulia region with a slightly more formal vibe that has racked up three James Beard Awards. If you opt for the tasting menu, expect dishes like smoked black cod with apple and horseradish, and lamb with polenta, squash, broccoli rabe and wild mushroom.
At Comedor in Austin, Texas, chef Gabe Erales serves modern Mexican cuisine, combining cutting-edge culinary techniques and flavors with ones that have been used in Mexico for hundreds of years. Dishes like huauzontle fritters with quesillo and habanero ash emulsion or Mextlapique halibut with charred allium dashi and pasilla mixe exemplify what it means to look forward and backward at the same time, and the end result is one of America’s best Mexican restaurants.
New Orleans-born chef John Currence opened the elegant and casual City Grocery in 1992, and it remains a culinary cornerstone of Oxford, Mississippi, to this day. A former livery stable with hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, a charming second-floor balcony and one of America’s best bars, City Grocery is the perfect place for a muffuletta or roast beef po’boy for lunch, or sorghum-braised duck leg or grilled Gulf snapper for dinner.
Alan Wong’s has been a Honolulu staple since 1995, when Wong first started serving his signature brand of innovative and high-end Hawaiian fare using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Snag a table in the comfortable, light-filled dining room and order the signature ginger crusted onaga with miso sesame vinaigrette, mushrooms and sweet local corn.
A true Washington landmark, Canlis has been open in Seattle since 1950, serving fresh, seasonal dishes. This historic restaurant was revolutionary when it opened due to its stunning architecture and trailblazing menu of upscale Northwest cuisine. Today, it’s still blazing new trails while keeping the classics, such as the famous Canlis salad (romaine, bacon, mint and lemon), on the menu. Jackets are recommended, and the soaring dining room, with its white tablecloths, well-spaced tables and air of luxury, is the height of Seattle fine dining.
At José Andrés’ expansive Las Vegas steakhouse Bazaar Meat, the menu is full of Spanish flavors and signature bites like cotton candy foie gras as well as an extensive raw bar and seafood, but the focus is appropriately meaty. A whole suckling pig, wagyu beef cheeks and braised lamb neck are all tempting, as is a classic chateaubriand with truffle sauce and pomme souffle. But be bold and try the “vaca vieja,” a bone-in rib-eye from a flavorful, mature California Holstein cow.
Chef Naomi Pomeroy’s Beast opened in Portland, Oregon, in 2007. There are only 24 seats (certainly qualifying it as a hole-in-the-wall), and all guests sit at communal tables for one or two nightly seatings. Pomeroy’s six-course menu changes every two weeks to reflect what’s in season, but expect delicately plated compositions like a butter-poached Shigoku oyster with caramelized leeks, trout roe, sorrel, olio nuovo and potato-oyster espuma.
Unabashedly elegant and upscale, chef William Bradley’s Addison opened in San Diego in 2006 and has since racked up a Michelin star (the only one in San Diego), a five-star AAA rating and the Grand Award from Wine Spectator. The five- or 10-course tasting menus change regularly, but expect elegantly plated dishes like Alaskan king crab with coconut, Thai basil and passion fruit, or barbecued pigeon with red cabbage, beetroot and blackberry. Shell out some extra cash for the tableside cheese service.
Open since 2003, Michelin-starred Boka is the flagship fine-dining restaurant of Boka Restaurant Group. Under the auspices of James Beard Award-nominated executive chef Lee Wolen, Boka is serving refined and comforting seasonal American fare in a warm and elegant dining room. Spring for the signature whole roasted dry-aged duck, which is served with grilled heart, apple and rutabaga.
Husband-and-wife team Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim are turning top-notch locally sourced ingredients into groundbreaking Korean-inspired fare at their wildly popular Michelin-starred Chicago destination Parachute, and they earned a 2019 James Beard Award for their efforts. Take a seat at the communal table and dig into their signature potato bing bread, clams with chili butter and Chinese sausage, or kkanpunggi (spicy fried chicken chunks) with chili garlic sauce.
At Coquine, an unassuming neighborhood bistro in Portland, Oregon, chef Katy Millard has created a restaurant that’s just about impossible not to fall in love with. She turns seasonal, locally sourced ingredients into memorable French-inspired dishes like leeks vinaigrette with Matsutake mushrooms and Asian pear or a whole roast chicken for two with wild rice pilaf and roasted cauliflower sauce. Drop in for a weekday lunch and treat yourself to the “Perfect Lunch for Two”: chicken noodle soup, cornbread, roasted beets, your choice of a daily special and a half-bottle of wine for just $85. Be sure to get some bread with house-made butter.
Chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo helped usher in a new era of nose-to-tail dining when they opened Animal in 2008. They’re still serving dishes like chicken hearts with pomegranate molasses, spicy beef tendon chips with charred onion pho dip and crispy pig head to crowds of hip Angelenos in a no-frills dining room.
Nopa, a 2019 James Beard Award nominee for Outstanding Restaurant, specializes in simple fare made with seasonal ingredients from local producers and cooked in a wood-fueled fire. Chef Laurence Jossel works with his team to create a menu that changes weekly, but representative dishes include wood baked white beans with feta and oregano pesto, Dungeness crab (which you absolutely need to try when you’re in Northern California) with garlic potatoes and grilled lemon, and rotisserie herb chicken with romanesco and ricotta.
At O Ya, chef Tim Cushman brings innovative sushi and new-Japanese fare to his menu with imagination and flair in an understated dining room whose simplicity belies the complexity of flavors on the plate. At this Boston sanctuary, which is easily one of America’s best sushi restaurants, opt for the $285 omakase. You can expect to be served impeccably sourced dishes including Japanese kin medai (golden eye snapper) with umeboshi and shiso; chutoro and caviar with barrel-aged soy, fresh wasabi and nasturtium; and Japanese A5 wagyu strip loin. If that’s a little rich for your blood, an a la carte menu is also available.
Legendary Tampa destination Bern’s has been going strong since 1956, and the key to its greatness, aside from its old-school steakhouse vibe and spot-on service, is its unabashed sense of excess. There are 20 kinds of caviar, four kinds of steak tartare (one with truffles), 15 different cheeses, more than 50 desserts (enjoyed in a separate “dessert lounge”), and a 500,000-bottle wine cellar. Six different steaks are available in a total of 51 different sizes, and “luxe beef” options including a 100-day dry-aged Delmonico and dry-aged Japanese wagyu. All this and more puts Bern’s in the No. 1 spot of America’s best steakhouses.
Galatoire’s in New Orleans has been a Bourbon Street staple since its 1905 founding, and it remains a composed and elegant bastion of fine Creole dining on an otherwise rowdy thoroughfare. All those classic high-end New Orleans dishes are prepared with expert precision and served with just the right amount of pomp, and the food is best exemplified in dishes like souffle potatoes, oysters Rockefeller and shrimp etouffee.
Zuni Cafe is an icon of San Francisco cuisine, with top-notch seasonal and organic ingredients and sustainably raised fish and meats simply prepared with French and Italian inspiration and cooked in a wood-burning oven. The menu changes daily, but one icon that never leaves the menu is a whole roast chicken for two served with a warm bread salad with scallions, garlic, mustard greens, dried currants and pine nuts. The menu notes that it takes an hour to prepare, but it’s well worth the wait.
Under the direction of James Beard Award-winning chef Gabriel Rucker, Le Pigeon lures diners to its cozy, bistro-like dining room for hearty, imaginative French-inspired fare. In business since 2006, Le Pigeon has established three must-have dishes: beef cheek bourguignon (currently served with fried sunchokes, herbed ricotta, sage and pickled onion); the Le Pigeon burger (one of the best things to eat in the entire country); and the foie gras profiteroles for dessert.
The Catbird Seat is an informal, 22-seat, U-shaped marble counter in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee. In business since 2011, it’s an interactive experience with the chef at the center of the action. Offerings change daily, there’s no set menu, diners don’t know what to expect until they arrive and the 10- to 12-course meal clocks in at $140 per person. One thing is certain, however: Guests are in for a singular dining experience featuring only the freshest seasonal ingredients at one of America’s most consistently exciting restaurants.
Many consider Le Coucou to be a legitimate paradigm-shifter. It won the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2017 and brought old-school French classics like quenelle de brochet and sole Veronique to their rightful place in New York’s fine-dining canon without the usual stuffiness or pretension. Don’t be mistaken, the crisp linens, whitewashed brick and flickering lighting are undeniably upscale. It’s classic New York, classic French and an absolute must-visit.
Simple, farmstead-inspired cooking is the name of the game at chef Steven Satterfield’s down-home Atlanta eatery Miller Union. Satterfield transforms fresh seasonal ingredients into refined yet accessible plays on regional classics. Red pea hummus, buttermilk fried quail with carrot and turnip, and coffee- and chile-rubbed brisket with polenta and greens are just a few examples of what you might find on the constantly changing menu.
Fat Rice, in Chicago’s Logan Square area, serves expertly prepared dishes inspired largely by the cooking of Macau. Macanese cuisine incorporates the flavors of Portugal, India, Southeast Asia, Africa and China, and salty, earthy, sour flavors are everywhere on the distinguishable menu. Sample such items as chili prawns with garlic and fermented black bean; stir-fried rice noodles with shrimp, char sir pork, tofu and egg; and traditional Macanese “fat rice” loaded with meats, seafood and sausages.
Surprises are the name of the game at Komi, an upscale, modern Greek restaurant in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle. There’s a tasting menu that changes regularly and there are no clues as to what might be on it until diners arrive. Past dishes have included trout roe with watermelon and scallop, amberjack collar, and katsikaki and suckling pig. If you like the idea of putting complete control of your dining experience in the hands of the chef, then you’ll like Komi.
Hugo’s opened in 2002 and launched into a diverse regional approach to Mexican food. Chef Hugo Ortega prepares scratch-made food inspired by the many regional cuisines of Mexico, from traditional ceviche to cochinita pibil tamales to crispy duck in mole poblano. Order the slow-cooked carnitas, traditional tortilla soup and the much-heralded lamb barbacoa braised in garlic and chiles then slow-roasted in agave. It's easily one of the top Mexican restaurants in the country.
Venezuela-born chef Enrique Limardo’s Seven Reasons in Washington, D.C. serves pan-Latin fare inspired by his travels to Peru, the Amazon and the Caribbean. It’s a boisterous space with a bustling bar and an open kitchen. The regularly changing menu is fun, accessible and seriously inspired. Plan on sharing: start with mini cheese arepas, hamachi tiradito and a swordfish belly tostada with green mango Tajin salad; then move onto cauliflower tempura and lamb loin palo-a-pique with coconut curry; and finish with a lamb shank chocolate mole casserole. Limardo will also customize a feast for your table for $95 per person.
In 2015, Alsatian-born chef Gabriel Kreuther opened a gorgeous eponymous restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. The interior has a rustic charm with massive timbers salvaged from a barn in Vermont and suffused with warm, soft light. Here, Kreuther crafts two tasting menus in a style that owes much to his native Alsace, the freedom of imagination afforded to a chef of this caliber and to his first-rate raw materials. His expertise has earned the restaurant two Michelin stars, the AAA Five Diamond Award and a host of other honors. The menu changes daily, but expect dishes like langoustine tartare fleischnecke, aged duck breast smoked in hay and a savory kugelhopf (a type of cake) with chive fromage blanc.
Trois Mec is a collaboration between chef Ludo Lefebvre with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, and since it opened in 2013 (in a former Los Angeles strip mall pizzeria) a meal here has come with one of the most difficult reservations to snag in the entire country. When you do get in, expect to be served a cutting-edge tasting menu of courses including fried tapioca with parmesan and passionfruit, mustard creme brulee, and avocado sushi with salt cod cream. A meal here is a ridiculously fun experience presided over by some of the country's hottest chefs, and its $110 price tag is a steal.
Open since 1997 in Baltimore, chef Cindy Wolf’s and restaurateur Tony Foreman’s Charleston has been the go-to destination for well-to-do Marylanders for more than two decades. Drawing on both French and South Carolina Lowcountry influences, the elegant restaurant offers a constantly changing prix fixe menu of three to six courses of dishes like artichoke beignets, shrimp and grits with andouille and tasso, fresh black winter truffle risotto, and pan-roasted foie gras with brioche toast and quail egg.
José Andrés is the king of Spanish food in America, bringing diners authentic ingredients and preparations in the traditional and avant-garde modes. Hidden away inside a private room in his Jaleo location in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, é features a tasting menu costing $275 to $290 per person at a tasting counter that seats just nine. The menu sounds pretty basic — foie gras empanada, truffle tree, clams in escabeche — but these dishes are anything but.
Chef Eric Lees has taken over Chicago’s iconic Spiaggia with a steady hand. The stunning modern dining room is a perfect setting for both an a la carte and tasting-menu experience. Highlights include tortellini in brodo with rabbit mortadella; robiola risotto with pepper gastrique; and the restaurant's most famed culinary contribution, ricotta gnocchi with black truffle in a creamy parmesan sauce.
Chef Marc Vetri's Philadelphia flagship, Vetri Cucina, opened in 1998 and serves astoundingly delicious Italian fare to Pennsylvanians via multi-course tasting menus personalized by chef de cuisine Matt Buehler after a discussion with your server. You might end up with, for instance, a sweet onion crepe with white truffle fondue, busiate with pork shank ragu, squab with boudin noir and sweet potatoes, and a chocolate polenta souffle for dessert. There is also a wine cellar of more than 2,500 bottles to choose from.
Under the guidance of chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, New York’s Frenchette has become one of the city’s most popular dining spots and picked up the James Beard Award in 2019 for Best New Restaurant. This hotspot is giving traditional French food new life by making it fun, unfussy and spectacularly delicious. Can’t-miss dishes include veal tongue and mackerel tonnato, duck frites, and rotisserie lobster with curry beurre fondue.
Led today by chef de cuisine Richard Lee, Saison in San Francisco focuses its kitchen around a blazing wood fire, in which fresh seasonal ingredients sourced from local fishermen, hunters, gatherers, ranchers and farmers are simply prepared with expert precision. The two-Michelin-starred restaurant was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2019 for Outstanding Service, and the kitchen and dining room are both a part of the same open space. The wine list, which emphasizes Burgundy, is also spectacular.
Chef/owner Jeremy Fox’s Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, California, earned its first Michelin star in 2019 thanks to its often-changing menu of simple, seasonal farmers market-inspired fare. It thrives on community and fosters a neighborhood atmosphere, and every dish is plated with sharing in mind. Representative items from executive chef Andy Doubrava's menu include Autonomy Farms chicken with hot honey and California pecans, and Channel Islands rockfish with sugar snap peas and carrot curry. And just like the menu, the wine list focuses on small producers.
The lively and casual Cotogna is the San Francisco sister restaurant to chef/owner Michael Tusk’s Quince, and the open kitchen is serving up a daily-changing menu of rustic Italian-influenced meats, fish, pastas and wood-oven pizzas. Thankfully, the agnolotti del plin is one item that’s always on the menu — it’s one of America’s best pasta dishes.
Siva Sankar G./Yelp
Since 2011, Acadia chef/owner Ryan McCaskey has been channeling the flavors and ingredients of his time spent in Maine into stunning seasonal tasting menus, with many ingredients sourced from Maine’s Deer Isle area. The Chicago restaurant has two Michelin stars, serving fine dining dishes like acorn squash with sunchoke mole, maple and lime; smoked hamachi with chicken and golden caviar; and wagyu with smoked soubise, beet, barbecued eel and apple.
Dean Fearing is considered a father of Southwestern cuisine, and his eponymous Dallas restaurant, located inside the Ritz-Carlton, has been going strong since 2007. Fearing sources local ingredients including chiles, tomatillos, fruits, cheeses, Gulf seafood and Hill Country wild game and crafts them into dishes including crispy barbecued Gulf oysters and maple black peppercorn tenderloin with jalapeno grits. But if you order one thing, make it his signature tortilla soup, one of America’s most iconic dishes.
Spago is one of those rare touristy restaurants locals love. Few restaurants have done more to influence American dining culture than chef Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hills, California, flagship. Its iconic pizzas, like the one topped with smoked salmon and caviar, influenced California Pizza Kitchen, one of America’s favorite pizza chains, and its seasonal, Asian-influenced market-driven menu ushered in a new era of California fine dining. Today, it remains one of LA’s essential restaurants.
Lucy W. H./Yelp
Opened in 1998 by Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne, Luques in Los Angeles has a warm and intimate dining room with wood beams, brick walls and a wood-burning fireplace that makes it one of America’s most romantic restaurants. The creative and inspired menu is market-driven and focused on sustainability, and sample items from the regularly changing menu include grilled salmon with shaved roots, avocado, turmeric, pepitas and pomegranate salsa or the suckling pig with Blue Hubbard squash, cavolo nero, golden raisins and Pedro Ximenez.
Located inside a historic 19th-century building in New Orleans’ Central Business District, the warm and inviting dining room at August is the perfect setting for contemporary fare that’s as much inspired by French cuisine as Creole. There’s an a la carte menu as well as both vegetarian and non-vegetarian prix fixe menus, with sample offerings including flounder with local chanterelles, shrimp and blue crab; and smoked ricotta cappelletti with fresh corn and chiles. Whatever you do, don’t miss the gnocchi with blue crab, parmesan and black truffle, one of America’s most iconic dishes.
Chef Mashama Bailey is serving a menu of deeply soulful, locally sourced fare at The Grey in Savannah, Georgia, and it earned her a James Beard Award in 2019. Located inside a 1938 Art Deco Greyhound bus terminal, The Grey is speaking Southern in a completely new language via dishes like sunflower seed hummus with cauliflower and chimichurri; sheepshead with chow chow, lemon and jalapeno; and smothered quail with blackening spice, Creole sauce and grit cake. It’s one of the South’s best restaurants in one of the country’s prettiest cities.
Delfina, which opened in San Francisco in 1998, helped redefine the term “Cal-Italian” to mean restaurants that use local, seasonal ingredients to craft Italian-inspired fare. Even after 22 years, a visit to Delfina reveals what put this restaurant on the map. Still very much a neighborhood joint, it’s boisterous and buzzing, and you’ll still find many of the original classics on the menu, including its most famous dish: a simple plate of spaghetti in tomato sauce.
Husk in Charleston, South Carolina, celebrates heirloom indigenous Southern products like no other restaurant can. If it’s not Southern, they won’t cook with it, not even olive oil. The market-driven menu changes daily, but if they’re available, try the cheddar pimento cheese with house-made benne (sesame) crackers and crispy country ham; Southern-fried chicken skins with hot sauce, honey, and scallions; or skillet-fried catfish with Carolina Gold shrimp rice. If you come during lunch, be sure to try the Husk Cheeseburger, which is one of America’s best burgers.
With its minimalist interior, Paul Kahan’s Chicago flagship Blackbird continues to please diners with a highly imaginative menu executed by executive chef Ryan Pfeiffer. Sample dishes include boneless baby back ribs with fermented strawberry and shiitake, roasted acorn squash with serrano ham and preserved citrus, or roasted Rohan duck with glazed Brussels sprouts and peanuts. Earthy and hearty, this is Midwestern modern cuisine at its finest.
Located in a circa-1906 horse stable, chef Gavin Kaysen’s Spoon and Stable’s menu focuses on seasonal Midwestern ingredients and deft French-inspired artistry, evident in menu items including pasta made with heritage grains, Minnesota foie gras with black lentils and celeriac fondant, and pot roast inspired by his grandmother’s recipe with slow-cooked flat iron roast, pommes aligot and mushroom confit. Oh, and it also serves one of the best brunches in America.
Chef Edouardo Jordan’s second restaurant, JuneBaby, is a celebration of Southern food and one of America’s best soul food restaurants. The menu here looks like those of plenty of other Southern restaurants: buttermilk biscuits, fried catfish with Carolina Gold rice grits, fried pork chops with peanut gravy, fried pig ears, collard greens and fried chicken on Sundays. But this restaurant is so much more than that: these dishes are executed perfectly, with the precision and technique of a fine-dining chef.
The legendary Birmingham, Alabama, restaurant Highlands Bar & Grill was focusing on local and sustainable ingredients before anyone coined the phrase “locavore.” Opened by chef Frank Stitt in 1982, the restaurant features a daily-changing menu that’s based on what’s fresh and in-season, from regional specialties shad roe and soft shell crabs in early spring to shell beans and okra in the summer. There’s an emphasis on regional, heritage ingredients, which are put to good use in dishes like stone-ground baked grits with country ham and mushrooms, or veal tenderloin with roasted Jerusalem artichokes.
Chef Andrea Reusing’s Lantern is an Asian-influenced Chapel Hill, North Carolina, restaurant with a strong priority for using local ingredients and has won widespread recognition. The menu is variable, but standouts include local beef sashimi with smoked chestnuts, salt and pepper shrimp with fried jalapenos, a hotpot with housemade soba, and steamed wild local black bass with local bok choy.
At Washington, D.C.’s two-Michelin-starred Minibar, legendary chef José Andrés channels Spanish avant-garde cuisine into a tasting counter experience. Perch at one of two counters that overlook the kitchen, watch the chefs meticulously use tongs and tweezers to plate an ever-changing flurry of small courses, and expect a molecular gastronomy experience filled with culinary hat tricks and some truly creative morsels hiding behind simple-sounding names like Huckleberry and Hibiscus, Parmesan Danish and Lobster and Honey. Prepare for around 30 courses, and be ready to pay $295 per person before drinks.
Relaxed, approachable, and one of the city’s best restaurants since opening in 2003, Charleston, South Carolina, gem FIG serves seasonally inspired food using locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. Chef Mike Lata offers a rotating menu of simple yet refined Southern classics like Jimmy Red cornbread with fromage blanc and winter citrus, and brick-pressed chicken with daikon and celery alla romana. The cuisine may appear to be simple at first glance, but with the freshest, highest-quality ingredients available, the food speaks for itself.
Gary Danko has received accolades from the likes of the James Beard Foundation and Michelin since he opened his eponymous 75-seat San Francisco wharf-area restaurant in 1999. Choose from the three-, four-, or five-course prix fixe menus and prepare for French-inspired dishes like glazed oysters with salsify, leeks, and lettuce cream, or pork tenderloin with confit pork belly, Brussels sprouts, chestnuts, butternut squash, apples and raisin-pine nut relish. At Gary Danko, everything is expertly executed and everything has a purpose and place.
Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, still reigns as one of the most influential restaurants in American history. Before Chez Panisse opened in 1971, practically nobody in America served only fresh, local foods and wrote daily menus based around the season. Alice Waters, an organic-living pioneer (who originally brought the restaurant to greatness with the legendary Jeremiah Tower), is still serving superb fare, both in the downstairs restaurant where the dishes tilt toward Italy and Provence — think Dungeness crab salad with Meyer lemon vinaigrette followed by spit-roasted pork loin — and the lively, diversified upstairs café.
Ellia and Junghyun Park followed up their popular New York restaurant Atoboy by giving modern Korean cuisine the chef’s-counter treatment at the show-stopping Atomix, where 10 courses are served at two nightly seatings. Instead of presenting a menu to guests, each diner at the two-Michelin-starred Atomix receives a series of cards with essays about each dish. Diners can expect a parade of inspired flavors that seamlessly merge the old and new worlds: lamb saddle with chopi, gochugaru and hickory smoked salt; Korean bracken fern with jungjang; and deep-fried Japanese scallop with taro and truffle. Reservations are extraordinarily difficult to come by, but if you manage to snag one, your perception of Korean food will likely be changed forever.
Chef Michael Cimarusti serves market tasting menus as well as an a la carte lunch menu of carefully selected sustainable seafood prepared with great originality at the super-upscale LA spot Providence. Santa Barbara spot prawns with sweet pea and mint; Quinault River steelhead with celery root, black truffle and nettle; and spiny lobster with carrot coconut curry are just a few examples of Cimarusti’s brilliance. The impeccable service combined with the quality of the seafood and the simple perfection of the plates Cimarusti sends out make it clear that this two-Michelin-starred restaurant is in a league of its own.
Since chef Corey Lee opened Benu in the heart of San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood in 2010, it has consistently been considered one of the finest restaurants in the country. Lee is a certified culinary star, and he continues to collect stars, too: In 2016, Michelin gave three to Benu, and it’s held onto those stars since then. Lee’s menus incorporate the best of Asian and American cuisine, combining them in thoughtful ways. On the plate, this all translates to a $325 tasting menu featuring “a wide variety of seafood and vegetables, a few meat courses and some sweets.” Set aside three hours for your meal and a few days to come down from the high.
Inspired by a 17th-century Florentine villa, the rustic “gastroteca” Via Carota is the playground of chefs Jody Williams and Rita Sodi, who have turned it into an essential New York Italian restaurant. The floors, chairs and cabinets are reclaimed and servers wear long linen aprons. If you snag a table, you can expect honest, expertly prepared traditional Italian fare like white radicchio with robiola and hazelnuts, tonnarelli cacio e pepe, fried rabbit with rosemary and garlic and Sicilian meatballs with pine nuts and raisins.
Zahav is a modern Israeli masterpiece — a melting pot of Middle Eastern and Central European cuisines, interwoven with a fine hand to create a feast of flavors by chef-owner Michael Solomonov, who’s won a whopping five James Beard Awards for his efforts. Settle into the warmly lit casual dining room and start by ordering the ethereally silky hummus with house-baked laffa flatbread. Then move on to mezze including halloumi in brik with passion fruit, walnuts and pickled onion before finishing with a coal-grilled entrée like chicken shashlik with olives, preserved lemon and ginger. Imaginative cocktails and a large selection of Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese and Turkish wines complete the picture.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten is one of the few chefs in New York City with the distinction of four stars from The New York Times. At his eponymous restaurant in the Trump International Hotel and Tower, his classic French technique bridges old and new worlds, eschews heavy sauces and embraces the spice and flavors of Asian cuisine. The prix fixe menus feature dishes including sea urchin with black bread crostini and sea trout crispy sushi, langoustine with buckwheat crepe and an herbal kombu broth, and slowly roasted carrot with red coconut curry. Vongerichten’s signature “Egg Caviar,” a lightly scrambled egg topped with whipped cream and osetra caviar, is a must-have.
With legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer running the show and James Beard Award winner Michael Anthony in control in the kitchen, New York’s renowned Gramercy Tavern continues to excel at serving refined American cuisine 26 years after opening. Think pork loin and belly with collard greens and hazelnuts, duck confit with beets and citrus and butternut squash with burrata and chiles. Whether you sample the tasting menus in the dining room or opt for a more casual, a la carte meal in The Tavern on-par with America’s best burgers, a meal at Gramercy Tavern is one you’re not likely to forget anytime soon.
Tucked away in a West Loop alley, Chicago’s Oriole opened in 2016, and it’s since earned itself two Michelin stars. The tasting menu-only restaurant seats 28 in a comfortable, loft-inspired space, and the cavalcade of thought-provoking courses sells for $215. Sample items include jamon Iberico with black walnut, quince and egg yolk; fresh and dried golden enoki mushrooms with black truffle and tarragon; sablefish with Alaskan king crab and red kuri squash; and a Delice de Bourgogne cheese souffle with sesame and lemon. Pair your meal with non-alcoholic cocktails custom-crafted by mixologist Julia Monroe.
In 2008, chef David Chang opened a simple counter with a handful of stools and chefs preparing a constantly changing tasting menu inspired by the tradition of Japanese kaiseki in full view of the diners. Today, diners hoping to enjoy the multi-course, $255, two-and-a-half-hour, daily-changing tasting helmed by Momofuku veteran chef Sean Gray will thankfully find dishes that sound simple on the menu — “wagyu - foie gras,” “duck - celery root, calamansi,” “butternut squash - black truffle” — that are anything but simple in execution.
In an elegant dining room overlooking New York City’s Central Park, Per Se upholds the standards set by Thomas Keller, earning it three Michelin stars. There are two tasting menus, a chef’s tasting menu and a vegetarian one, and both clock in at $355. Those menus change daily, but expect super-refined dishes like slow-cooked filet of Montauk John Dory with mousse de crevettes, wilted bok choy, pickled salsify and yuzu emulsion. One item that never leaves the menu? Keller’s famous “Oysters and Pearls,” with sabayon, tapioca, oysters and caviar.
The Las Vegas version of Guy Savoy (the original is in Paris) is in Caesars Palace and is airy and modern. Both prix fixe and a la carte menus are available, showcasing signature dishes including Savoy’s famous artichoke and black truffle soup and a $125 plate of wild squab, pleasant, duck, foie gras and cabbage with light game jus that carries its own buckshot warning.
Open since 2011, chef Grant Achatz’s groundbreaking restaurant Next serves a prix fixe menu with a theme that completely changes every four months. You never know what’s going to be placed before you — it could be anything from a classic ris de veau (Nouvelle Cuisine) to abalone with cucumber and red sea grapes (Kyoto menu). Well, technically, it will be neither, given that those dishes are from past menus. Whatever genre they set their sights on (2020 brings the cuisine of Tokyo, Mexico City and a tribute to England’s famed Fat Duck) isn’t just faithfully replicated, it’s usually improved upon.
Courtesy of Daniel
The flagship restaurant of the tireless Daniel Boulud, the stately and sophisticated Daniel has been serving seasonal, globally inspired modern French cuisine on New York City’s Upper East Side since 1993. In a succession of 28 to 30 dishes served in four courses, diners can expect delicate and ultra-luxe creations like squab consomme with port, foie gras, king oyster mushroom, pumpkin seeds and black truffle, and a tasting of Pennsylvania rabbit with green olives, braised leg ravioli and Brussels sprouts. The menu changes slightly every week, and it completely turns over with each season. There’s also a bar there that’s up there with America’s best cocktail bars.
At San Francisco’s three-Michelin-starred Quince, chef and owner Michael Tusk creates a dining experience rooted in his relationships with a tightly knit network of only the best Northern California food purveyors. Every night, the eight- to 10-course tasting menu features vegetable-driven dishes highlighting the season’s produce, much of which is grown on a Bolinas, California, organic farm exclusively for Tusk. Expect dishes like celtuce with kombu and finger lime, and lamb in diverse preparations with shelling bean, fennel and Jimmy Nardello pepper.
Girl and the Goat/Yelp
Stephanie Izard’s always-packed Chicago restaurant Girl & the Goat is a daily party where endlessly creative, boldly flavored, globally inspired family-style dishes comfortably walk the line between envelope-pushing and comfort food. Dishes like apple gjetost pierogis, milk braised pork pasta with kale and pickled persimmon, and confit goat belly with bourbon butter are just part of the reason why this place is one of the greats.
Courtesy of Dialogue
Dialogue is an 18-seat restaurant and tasting counter from which chef Dave Beran and his team serve a seasonally inspired multi-course tasting menu. The market-driven menu changes on a near-daily basis depending on what’s fresh and in season, but Beran’s objective is to guide diners on a progression from the previous season, to the current, to the one ahead. Expect whimsically named dishes like “thoughts on oysters,” “three years of plums” and “onion, entirely…”
Chef Daniel Patterson is back in the kitchen at Coi, the restaurant he founded in 2006, and he’s once again serving creative, elegant daily-changing tasting menus. Patterson’s cooking defies categorization, but diners can expect seasonal, inspired creations like Dungeness crab and beef tendon soup with finger lime and pear, abalone wrapped in chicken broth and yuba, and inverted sheep’s milk fromage blanc tart with wheatgrass and anise.
Courtesy of Manresa
Since opening his three-Michelin-starred Los Gatos, California, restaurant Manresa in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2002, chef David Kinch has defied conventional culinary categorization. The best way to describe him and his cuisine is to use one word: original. His $295 tasting menu uses local, seasonal products and changes daily, and dishes feature vast landscapes of ingredients and flavors that are thoughtful and experimental, but never overwrought.
Chef Blaine Wetzel has been at the helm of The Willows Inn on Washington’s remote Lummi Island (about 30 miles from the Canadian border) since 2010, and in that time he’s turned it into a true fine-dining locavore destination, showcasing the bounty of the small island, and has also taken over the circa-1910 inn the restaurant is connected to. There’s one seating nightly, and diners can expect a cavalcade of endlessly creative dishes served alongside bread (The Willows grows and mills its own wheat) with chicken pan drippings for dipping.
Legendary locavore Dan Barber has found the perfect home at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a beautiful restaurant on a year-round farm and education center in a tiny New York hamlet called Pocantico Hills that’s become a tourist attraction in its own right. This farm-to-table restaurant prepares meals based largely on the day’s harvest, served in a gorgeous and minimalist dining room with a vaulted ceiling, reclaimed wood floors, cream-colored walls, plenty of windows, well-spaced tables, hanging plants and white tablecloths. The serene and upscale dining room, the high-end cuisine and the pastoral setting combine to create one of the most picturesque and pastoral dining experiences in America.
Thomas Keller is a perfectionist who approaches contemporary American food with classical technique. His French Laundry in Napa Valley, with its now-famous blue door, has established new standards for fine dining in this country since opening in 1994. Like at its sister restaurant Per Se in New York, the two tasting menus (one vegetarian) change daily, but diners can always expect refined and elegant interpretations of the highest-quality-available ingredients. If you can spare the expense and are able to get a reservation, it’s one of the restaurants you absolutely need to visit.
The cuisine at The Barn at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, is so influential that it has inspired a new category: Foothills Cuisine. The dining room here is about as upscale and romantic as it gets, and the menu from chef Casidee Dabney is part rugged, part refined and always inspired by the ingredients and foodways of the Smoky Mountains. A good representative of what’s on offer is a hearth fried farm egg with grilled broccolini, roasted mushrooms, crispy chicken skin and honey gastrique.
Courtesy of Restaurant at Meadowood
Chef Christopher Kostow’s three-Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood is Napa Valley’s premier dining experience, serving a daily-changing tasting menu of simply prepared local, seasonal ingredients on the grounds of a sprawling luxury resort. Kostow’s team has built relationships with local artisans, growers and foragers and there’s also a 3.5-acre garden on-premises for growing produce. How’s the food, you ask? Expect modern American cuisine featuring masterful technique and deft mixes of texture and flavor — alternately playful, straightforward and serious.
Courtesy MGM Resorts International
The opulent and ornate Joël Robuchon in the MGM Grand is about as fine-dining as fine-dining gets. Joël Robuchon was the first restaurant opened in America by the famed, award-winning Robuchon, and today the kitchen is run by chef Christophe de Lellis. Everything is impeccable, from its superb service and impressive (and impressively pricey) wine list to such finely crafted dishes as Le Caviar Imperial, a disc of king crab topped with an ample amount of osetra caviar atop a crustacean gelee dotted with cauliflower puree. Just be prepared to shell out — it’s one of the most expensive restaurants on Earth.
The Inn at Little Washington/Yelp
Self-taught chef Patrick O'Connell opened his Washington, Virginia, restaurant Inn at Little Washington in 1978, and it is ornate, eclectic, and one of America’s most romantic restaurants. He formed alliances with local farmers and artisanal producers long before it was fashionable and developed into a sophisticated modern American chef of the highest order. Menu items at The Inn at Little Washington might include a “sandwich” of pan-roasted quail with braised endive and huckleberries, green bean tartare with tomato vinaigrette, and a crispy Napoleon of chilled Maine lobster with caviar and spicy bloody mary coulis. O’Connell was awarded the 2019 James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Inn is the longest-tenured Forbes Five-Star restaurant in the world.
Courtesy of Le Bernardin
The elegant, seafood-focused Le Bernardin, which opened in 1986 and has been led by chef Eric Ripert since 1994, has more James Beard Awards than any other restaurant in New York City. Ripert is an artist working with impeccable raw materials. Eat in Le Bernardin’s modern dining room against a backdrop of painted waves and enjoy dishes from the chef’s tasting menu like warm langoustine with seaweed-mushroom salad and dashi broth; sauteed Dover sole with almonds, chanterelles and soy-lime emulsion; and barely cooked Faroe Islands salmon with black truffle pot-au-feu.
Courtesy of Atelier Crenn
There are only 22 seats and eight tables at James Beard Award-winning chef Dominique Crenn’s three-Michelin-starred flagship Atelier Crenn, where guests drop $345 on advance reservations in order to experience her acclaimed multi-course modernist tasting menu. This is some truly high-concept dining, yet it is not precious or pretentious. As of 2019, the restaurant is meat free, focusing only on sustainable, seasonal seafood and vegetables.
Eleven Madison Park opened in 1998, and with Swiss-born chef Daniel Humm in the kitchen since 2006, it's become the very best restaurant in New York City. Humm and his team work their magic inside a soaring and elegant dining room overlooking Madison Square Park, where they serve an eight-to-10-course tasting menu with a modernist French twist. It changes daily, but Humm’s signature honey and lavender duck is always on offer. Reservations are extraordinarily difficult to get, but if you can snag one, this is easily one of the best restaurants in America for a special-occasion meal.
The menu at Chicago’s three-Michelin-starred Alinea, which trailblazing chef Grant Achatz and business partner Nick Kokonas opened in 2005, can sometimes sound deceptively simple and opaque (“Contrast | Osetra, Sesame, Yogurt,” for example), but what shows up on the plate is guaranteed to be dazzlingly good and unlike anything you’ve ever tried before. Achatz consistently turns out some of the most imaginative and delicious modernist cuisine in the country — his goal is to completely rethink what a restaurant can be. At Alinea, you never quite know what you’re going to be served, but a paradigm-shifting experience is all but guaranteed. If you want to experience America’s best restaurant for yourself, keep in mind that it’s also one of America’s most expensive restaurants.
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