Average check total: $400
Think Le Bernardin and you think accolades: Michelin, The New York Times, James Beard Foundation. Is it a little stuffy? Sure… But with a super sleek renovation recently completed and a lengthy new lease, this iconic restaurant isn’t going anywhere. And if cooking fish well is an art, then chef Eric Ripert is a Michelangelo; his contemporary French touch has led some to call his creations the world's best seafood.
Average check total: $400
Patrick O'Connell, self-taught as a chef, opened this restaurant in 1978 in what was originally a garage in a little town about an hour's drive from D.C. 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. His partnership with The Inn co-founder Reinhardt Lynch ended in 2007, but praise for this Five Diamond Award-winning property has continued.
Average check total: $404
Despite its young age (it opened in 2010), Menton has accomplished much in the culinary world, having earned four stars from the Boston Globe, as well as being named one of the best new restaurants in both Esquire and Bon Appétit magazines. Located in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, Menton offers a seven-course tasting menu for $155 a person as well as a four-course prix fixe for $95 a person. According to the restaurant, both are equally popular with diners. The restaurant is also continuing its Chef’s Table Dinner Series in which nine guests are invited to enjoy wine, hors d’ourves, and a four-course menu, as well as lively culinary discussions for $145 per person.
Average check total: $408
This very grown-up restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side maintains standards of service and cuisine — French haute cuisine, very much an endangered species today — that hark back to an earlier era. But the cooking is up-to-date and really, really good. It’s so good in fact, that President Obama is a regular of sorts — he held a $15,000 (per person) fundraiser in January and has already visited again since then. The restaurant offers two tasting menus, one for $195 per person and one for $220 per person — they also offer a $108 per person prix fixe.
Average check total: $410
Anthony Martin, the young and ambitious chef helming the kitchen at Tru, quietly took the reins from Rick Tramonto a few years ago when Tramonto decided to shift primary focus to his other restaurants. Tru has received four stars twice from the Chicago Tribune (once in 1999 and then again in 2010), a AAA Five Diamond Award, and a Michelin star among its long list of accolades. The restaurant offers two tasting options; a six-course for $110 per person and a nine-course for $145 per person. They also offer a three-course prix fixe for $95 as well as an à la carte menu.
Average check total: $410
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.
Average check total: $411
Located just outside of Seattle, Herbfarm offers a seasonally inspired dining experience that celebrates the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Each unique, nine-course meal features the freshest ingredients from forest, farm, and sea, and is paired with five or six wines; the themed menus change with the season about every two weeks. They have one seating per night and offer a deluxe gift certificate for two for $525.
Average check total: $412
True to its name, Everest towers head and shoulders above many of Chicago's other upscale restaurants — literally, from its perch on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange Building, and also gastronomically, through Alsatian-born chef Jean Joho's superlative French food. The wine list is almost as stunning as the views — above most other restaurants in its collection of great wines from Joho's home region of Alsace. Most people order the tasting menu, which costs $135 per person; though Everest also offers a four-course and three-course meal for $115 and $94 a head, respectively.
Average check total: $413
Addison is the signature restaurant located in the Grand Del Mar resort in San Diego, Calif. Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef William Bradley combines French cooking with local ingredients to create his menus. Most first-timers opt for the 10-course le menu gourmand, which costs $225 per person. However, the most popular menu is the four-course standard, which costs $98 per person. The elegantly styled dining room overlooks the resort grounds and centers on a wine room. The frequently changing menu offers dishes such as sea scallops sashimi with Dutch white asparagus.
Average check total: $415
Cyrus has become one of the premier dining destinations in California's Sonoma Valley. Chef Douglas Keane uses seasonal, locally sourced produce to prepare French- and Asian-inspired dishes. The restaurant has two Michelin stars and offers a couple of dining options: an eight-course meal for $135 per person, and a five-course meal for $108 per person.
Average check total: $421
Bruno Chemel’s macrobiotic experiment, Baumé, is named after the French chemist Antoine Baume — appropriate for a French cuisine moderne approach. The 12-course custom tasting menu (which costs $178 per person) incorporates unique ingredients like dehydrated "sand" made of apples, 62-degree eggs, and parchment sheets made of acorn. The restaurant earned its second Michelin star this year.
Average check total: $436
Chef David Kinch’s picturesque restaurant located in Los Gatos, Calif., is known for providing diners with innovative food that’s cooked using hyper-local ingredients. Love Apple Farms, a biodynamic farm in the Santa Cruz mountains, supplies most of the produce used at the restaurant (they have an exclusive partnership). This year, Manresa snagged the 48th spot in Restaurant Magazine's list of the top 50 restaurants in the world. They offer a $125 per person prix fixe menu as well as a seasonally changing tasting menu.
Average check total: $440
Using carefully sourced ingredients, Coi chef Daniel Patterson serves thoughtful Northern California cuisine, balancing classical methods with modern techniques to create unusual and evocative experiences for diners. Some of Coi’s many accolades include a two-star Michelin rating, four stars from San Francisco Magazine, and the title of 58th best restaurant in the world according to Restaurant Magazine. The most expensive tasting menu at Coi is $165 for 12 courses, and they only take parties of eight guests or less.
Average check total: $450
Located in the lower level of a gourmet grocery store in downtown Brooklyn, the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare is one of the toughest tables to book in New York City. Their web site clearly states that they reserve by the week six weeks in advance, meaning that beginning at 10:30 every Monday morning, they’ll take your reservation for Tuesday through Friday… in six weeks. Part of the exclusivity stems from the fact that the entire restaurant includes only 18 seats, but mostly it’s because those diners lucky enough to enjoy a meal at Brooklyn Fare get hooked so quickly that they’re back on the phone the following Monday in the hopes of returning six weeks later. Currently, the restaurant does not have a liquor license, but they encourage guests to bring their own (and they don’t charge a corkage fee).
Average check total: $468
Acclaimed chef-owner of Mélisse and native Southern Californian Josiah Citrin draws inspiration from ingredients available at the farmers market and the local purveyors he partners with to craft his seasonally changing menu. With two Michelin stars, four from the Mobil Guide, and a host of various industry awards, Mélisse attracts locals and visiting food enthusiasts alike who are looking to celebrate special occasions. The 10-course tasting menu costs $150, but according to the restaurant the average ticket costs about $200 per person.
Average check total: $552
Located in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in the Walt Disney World Resort, this iconic restaurant is known for being among the last in the country to still require jackets for men. The modern American fare is crafted by chef Scott Hunnel, who makes a point to source ingredients from the most prime locations, such as truffles from Italy and beef from Japan. The restaurant has received the AAA Five Diamond Award.
Average check total: $556
At the top of his profession, with a well-deserved three Michelin stars, Savoy has translated the best in contemporary ingredient-based French cooking to the world’s most famous gambling mecca without missing a beat. The artichoke and black truffle soup, crispy sea bass, cold-steamed lobster, and other such extravagances will remind you why French chefs got so famous in the first place and why the bill is so pricey. In addition to a $258 per person signature menu, Guy Savoy also offers a $750 per person Krug menu (that’s served in their private room) and a $120 per person pre-theater menu.
Average check total: $570
Diners at Moto should be prepared to eat anything from "trash" to a "Cuban cigar" — that is, with his sense of whimsy and cerebral molecular gastronomy, chef Homaro Cantu’s creative dishes have been known to fool his guests, leading to playful culinary optical illusions like a flowerpot with edible dirt or the Blackout dish on his current seasonal menu — black bass three ways, ranging from "black" to "blackest" on the plate. According to chef Cantu, the average party size is two guests and the bill runs an estimated $285 per person. However the 16-course tasting menu alone costs $160.
Average check total: $693
There's little question that Grant Achatz, whose training includes stints with Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, and Ferran Adrià, deserves the title of America's most creative chef. The menu at his Alinea sounds deceptively simple (bass with black pepper, vanilla, and lemon), but what shows up on the plate is absolutely original. However, there are rumors going around that he and partner Nick Kokonas have plans to make some major changes to the Alinea concept now that they’ve successfully launched two new ventures, Next and The Aviary. Whether that means adjusting the $210 per head tasting menu has yet to be disclosed.
Average Check Total: $800
Taking over what had been a good but far simpler restaurant, chef Thomas Keller approached contemporary American food with classical technique, and his French Laundry established new standards for fine dining in this country. In 2012, Keller and the French Laundry received a coveted AAA Five Diamond Award, just another honor to add to the pile. Like is true at Per Se, The French Laundry offers a daily rotating nine-course tasting menu for $270 per head.
Average Check Total: $851
This elegant dining room overlooking Central Park in the Time Warner Center remains a must-have experience in New York, even for Sam Sifton, who chose the restaurant for his final review as The New York Times' restaurant critic last year — giving it four stars. Per Se upholds the standards set by Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, winning a James Beard Award in 2011 for Outstanding Service and being named the sixth best restaurant in the world in this past year by Restaurant Magazine.
Average Check Total: $1,111
This Japanese culinary shrine, with a sushi bar and just enough room for 10 diners nightly, is located in a shopping center off Rodeo Drive. Some might call it the West Coast version of New York City's Masa, which is not surprising considering that not only did Urasawa chef-owner Hiroyuki Urasawa train under Masa Takayama before opening his restaurant, but also the restaurant's spot previously housed Ginza Sushi-ko, where Takayama made his reputation. Urasawa has a nearly 30-course omakase menu that changes daily.
Average Check Total: $1,269
This past June, former New York Times critic Sam Sifton pegged Masa down to three stars from the four given to it by his predecessor Frank Bruni. Given that his reasons seemed to be that they asked him to wait outside when he showed up early, some of the dishes weren’t explained, and the staff didn’t pay him much attention after dessert, you may want to take a magnifying glass with you to discern the "wrinkles in Masa's fine silk." By all accounts, Masa's toro-stuffed maki rolls are still inspiring the lip twitching and eye rolling that characterized Bruni's 2004 review, establishing it as the premier sushi spot in New York City, if not the U.S. The swanky Time Warner Center setting and elaborate omakase-only menu is accompanied by a high bar for entry: the price. At $450 per person before tip, you're looking at a bill that can easily total more than $1,000 for two.
Average check total: $750
Chef Chris Kostow's widely acclaimed three-Michelin-starred restaurant recently underwent a full renovation under the direction of architect Howard Backen and designer George Federighi. They debuted their new digs in March, including a kitchen outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment and a five-seat Chef's Counter. The renovation also included a bump up in the meal prices, which now cost $225 per person for nine courses. The restaurant must be a popular date spot, because reservations are overwhelmingly for parties of two.
Average check total: $640
The cooking is simply exquisite in this opulently furnished dining room in the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. As the first restaurant opened in America by the famed, award-winning Robuchon, commonly considered the greatest of modern French chefs, it maintains the highest standards, from its superb service and impressive (and impressively pricey) wine list to such finely crafted dishes as truffled langoustine ravioli and guinea hen with roasted foie gras and braised potatoes. The 16-course tasting menu is a truly memorable experience as well it ought to be at $425 a head, wine not included. However, their most popular tasting menu is the two-course, which costs $120 a head. They also offer six-course and four-course menus.
Average check total: $360
This iconic New York restaurant opened its doors on a snowy night in 1962, and has survived while its onetime counterparts like Lutèce, La Caravelle, and La Côte Basque have shuttered. So what makes this restaurant so special that it's continued to flourish? La Grenouille is a captivating snapshot of the dining trends of past eras, where the signature dish, pike quenelles lyonnaise, is the same as it was on the first night of service, and the luxurious dining room, decorated with fresh flowers and scarlet banquettes, feels positively refreshing (even though the décor hasn't changed at all, either). Yes, the prices are high (topping out at $165 per head for a seven-course prix fixe) and the menu is devoid of the kind of culinary drama often experienced at more modern fine dining restaurants, but when the food is as expertly prepared as it is here, there's no need to change a thing.
Average check total: $387
Corton, a Manhattan restaurant located in the heart of Tribeca, is a partnership between chef Paul Liebrandt and restaurateur Drew Nieporent. Chef Liebrandt combines classical cuisine with a modern approach to different ingredients. The clean, precise flavors are evident in dishes such as Burgundy snails and tandoori monkfish. The self-described "intense" flavors do not come cheap, though the tasting menu costs $155 per person, and the spring seasonal tasting menu will set you back $115 a head.
Average check total: $396
Benu is located in a historic building in the heart of San Francisco’s SOMA district. James Beard Award-winning chef Corey Lee offers the chef’s tasting menu Tuesdays through Saturdays for $180 per person, and an à la carte menu Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays only. The former French Laundry chef spent more than a year creating the perfect design, feel, and food for his restaurant. Sample tasting menus include such dishes as "thousand-year-old quail egg" and "salt and pepper squid."