In America, there are restaurants known for serving excellent examples of a certain dish like sushi or steak; there are those that specialize in a certain cuisine, such as Thai or French; and there are those that consistently deliver such a special culinary experience that they are counted among the country’s very best.
Finally, there is an elite group of restaurants whose chefs and menus change the way we think about dining, significantly influencing their guests and colleagues across the nation — and perhaps even around the world.
Of course, it isn’t just about who demonstrates the highest level of skill in the kitchen; we address that in naming our annual Chef of the Year. The holder of that title isn't necessarily the man or woman behind the year’s game-changing restaurant. As The Daily Meal’s editorial director, Colman Andrews, so aptly stated, “We are talking about more than just good or innovative food here. This is about restaurants that mean something, either through demonstrable influence on other places or maybe just because they have gone their own way so firmly that they are inspiring even to those who don't imitate or riff off them.”
This year, we considered 10 restaurants from around the country that we thought best fit this description, looking at reports from our own site and other respected food sites and publications, finding our nominees in metropolises such as Chicago and New York, but also in smaller cities and towns like Cleveland; Clayton, Missouri; and Los Gatos, California. It didn’t matter the size of the restaurant; the sole criterion used while identifying nominees was that the establishments made significant contributions to the American restaurant scene in 2015 and changed the way we thought about dining out in this country.
Once our list was finalized, we asked select members of The Daily Meal Council — including writers, journalists, bloggers, and restaurateurs — who did not have an establishment in the running for the title to either vote for one of the restaurants we had identified, or write in one that we missed but they believed deserved the accolade. We also polled our knowledgeable Daily Meal staff and our passionate city editors from around America.
In the end — just like last year — there was a clear winner and two restaurants that deserved honorable mentions. We proudly present: the Restaurant of the Year for 2015.