The 20 Best Restaurants in America for 2016

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These restaurants aren’t just great, they’re legendary

Jean Georges is chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's New York flagship. 

What makes a good restaurant a "best?" Food that's better than just good, of course. A dining room and a level of service that suit the quality of what's on the plate. A good wine list (which doesn't always mean an encyclopedic one), good beers and/or cocktails where appropriate. And then the less easily quantifiable stuff: personality, imagination (or intelligent commitment to a lack of same), consistency. All these restaurants don’t just fit the bill, they transcend it. We’re pleased to present the 20 best restaurants in America for 2016, pulled from our annual ranking of the 101 best.

The 20 Best Restaurants in America for 2016 (Slideshow)

For this year's 101, we reached out to hundreds of restaurant experts of various stripes around the country, asking them to vote on an admittedly rather long "shortlist" of some 638 establishments. The task of choosing our nation's best restaurants — as our panelists would surely tell you — becomes more difficult every year, because the number of excellent places to eat continues to grow. As our interest in, and appreciation of, good food continues to increase — as more great chefs train more younger good ones — fantastic food continues to spread across America. Exceptional culinary landscapes in big cities get better, while new and different dining scenes in every corner of the country are born, in turn attracting and inspiring more talented cooks. All this makes trying to rank the country’s best restaurants more and more challenging, but also more and more worthwhile and intriguing.

There are more than 600,000 restaurants in America, counting fast-food outlets, dinner house chains, small places where the food might be fine but the amenities are slim, and places with no particular pretensions to quality at all. But some restaurants stand apart from the heap, and have reached levels of greatness all other restaurants aspire to. Read on to learn what the 20 top restaurants of 2016 are, click here for the full ranking of the 101 best restaurants, and find our ranking of 2016’s best casual restaurants here

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Additional reporting by Dan Myers and Arthur Bovino.