12 Must-Try Restaurants in the United States

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  • The United States has a whopping 155,000+ restaurants.
  • Of these restaurants, only a few establishments have earned a coveted three-star Michelin rating.
  • This rating, the highest accolade from the famous Michelin Guide, identifies them as exceptional dining experiences that are worth a special journey.

America is known for its rich and diverse culinary culture. From coast to coast, travelers can find cuisines from all over the world, and special dining experiences abound in just about any major center. True standouts, though, have attracted the attention of the red Michelin Guide. This prestigious guide originated in France to identify restaurants worth visiting; a three-star restaurant is worth a special journey. Here are some American restaurants that have earned that distinction.

1. Alinea (Chicago, IL)

Recognized for appearing on multiple lists of the world’s 50 best restaurants for years, Alinea is the only restaurant in Chicago that bears a three-star Michelin rating. For 17 years, it has been known for approaching cuisine with a theatrical flair and ingenious creativity. The restaurant constructs dining experiences that involve all the senses and take guests through a performance full of unexpected blends of flavor and texture that elevate meals to the next level. A meal at Alinea can be a grand performance worthy of the stage, as much about creative concepts, wordplay and flavor association as it is about conventional cooking.

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2. Atelier Crenn (San Francisco, CA)

Chef Dominique Crenn created the Atelier Crenn as her homage to her father: a painter who introduced her to fine dining in childhood and influenced her passion for combining food with artistic creation. Crenn is credited with the concept of “Poetic Culinaria,” the idea that food should tell a story, and every dish at Atelier Crenn is accompanied by lines of written poetry. Dishes are crafted both for visual impact and finely balanced, unique flavors. The restaurant’s offerings are meat-free, with ingredients from a sustainable, regenerative farm. Its pescatarian tasting menu showcases the flair and flavor that makes Atelier Crenn globally iconic.

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3. Benu (San Francisco, CA)

Benu is a legendary extravagant fine dining experience in San Francisco, sparing no expense in the pursuit of excellence. With a menu featuring iconic dishes, including a faux “shark fin” soup with Dungeness crab and a foie gras xiao long bao, Benu starts meals with a series of carefully calibrated small bites that alone rival some of the finest tasting menus nationwide. Chef Patron Corey Lee marries a wide variety of contemporary Asian influences with American progressive touches to create a truly unique cuisine. Dinner here can include everything from thousand-year-old quail egg to caramelized anchovies with potato egg salad to an elevated take on Korean beef barbecue.

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4. Le Bernardin (New York, NY)

Eric Ripert’s storied seafood restaurant has been gracing the New York scene for decades with a refined but inviting atmosphere and an indulgent food selection. Known for impeccable service and the spectacular execution of its diverse seafood offerings, Le Bernardin serves exquisite dishes such as smoked sea trout tartare, langoustine, and buttery leeks in a sea urchin sauce américaine and geoduck chawanmushi in pork dashi. Paired with a perfect wine by master sommeliers and finished with famously rich desserts, a seafood dinner at Le Bernardin has been a must-try experience for more than 30 years.

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5. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare (New York, NY)

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare is a curious oasis of fine dining amid an otherwise unremarkable supermarket in Hell’s Kitchen. Known among aficionados of the world’s most exotic ingredients and finest wines as an evolutionary achievement in dining, it’s well worth the nearly $600 price tag of a 15-course tasting menu with wine pairings. The preparation and plating of each course in the extraordinary menu is an event all on its own. Servings of king crab topped with Kaluga caviar, spoon-tender A5 Wagyu beef, exquisite grilled Saba and other such luxuries come alongside an astonishing 7,000-bottle wine list.

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6. The French Laundry (Yountville, CA)

Yountville’s The French Laundry may well be one of the most famous fine dining establishments in the world. This nearly three-decade fixture is so hot that a month’s worth of table reservations is typically snapped up within a few hours (there’s even reputed to be an online black market as a result). Known as a pivotal restaurant in the evolution of fine dining this side of the Atlantic, The French Laundry’s innovative takes on classic European and American dishes have always proved widely influential on the culinary scene at large.

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7. The Inn at Little Washington (Washington, VA)

The Inn at Little Washington is a life’s work of custom-crafted luxury in both hospitality and cuisine. Nestled in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, it features bedrooms and suites arranged by London stage and set designer Joyce Evans. The Inn’s cuisine is the work of Chef Patrick O’Connell, known for creating innovative dishes alongside enduring classics, such as herbed lamb loin with Caesar salad ice cream or juniper-flavored big-eye tuna with foie gras. Dinner is served in a relaxed and conversational atmosphere, and the luxurious food comes paired with a selection of wines from a 14,000-bottle cellar, including standout offerings from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Virginia and California.

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8. Manresa (Los Gatos, CA)

Manresa offers stylish and distinctive cuisine in a welcoming atmosphere, with custom-created culinary compositions that provide a fresh experience on every outing. It combines approachable flavors and textures with cerebral food concepts, each course often designed to represent a moment in a particular season. Diners can expect exquisite selections, such as lightly smoked albacore with puttanesca or slow-roasted duck with fig, amaranth, milk and honey. Manresa also serves elevated takes on simple dishes, such as asparagus with beurre blanc or medium rare young lamb, diverse customized cheese plates and rich desserts, such as chocolate mousse cake.

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9. Masa (New York, NY)

Omakase — which roughly means “I leave it up to you” or chef’s choice — is the go-to of the sophisticated sushi customer. It’s executed to a particular standard of excellence and ceremonial reverence at Chef Masa Takayama’s famously exclusive sushi counter. The experience is a tour of custom-designed flavors, executed by Takayama himself, often including signature dishes such as caviar on o-toro with a selection of masterfully prepared sushi ranging from tuna to Spanish mackerel to sea urchin. Dessert includes choices such as yuzu sorbet and delicate matcha crepe cake, and a noted selection of sakes completes the experience.

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10. Per Se (New York, NY)

Thomas Keller’s Per Se is one of the best-known stops on the New York fine dining circuit. This fixture in Manhattan sports stellar views and provides French-influenced American fare, including a vegetarian menu that matches the creativity and exquisite flavors of its regular offerings. Either menu culminates with grand desserts that range from seasonal confections to classic pastries such as brioche donuts with cappuccino semifreddo. Per Se is notably expensive, even in the world of fine dining, with a nine-course tasting meal reaching $355 per diner and a selection of luxurious supplements easily pushing the price of a meal for two north of a thousand dollars.

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11. Quince (San Francisco, CA)

Noted for combining ecological sustainability with exquisite food, Quince has a proclaimed relationship with a nearby 25-acre organic farm that lays claim to being one of the region’s oldest such endeavors. Known for its refined atmosphere that caters to a stylish audience, this is a common choice for affluent tourists seeking something special and discerning locals celebrating special occasions. Chef Michael Tusk built the restaurant’s name on superb traditional cooking but has not flinched from integrating more contemporary offerings such as potato gnocchi topped with black truffle and a green garlic sauce.

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12. SingleThread (Healdsburg, CA)

Another remarkable example of fine dining excellence combined with ecological sustainability, SingleThread holds not only a three-star Michelin rating but also a Michelin “green star” rating for both achievements. It’s based on a 5-acre organic farm that supplies all the olive oil and floral material used in its dishes along with 70% of its produce. SingleThread is known for a menu built around locally sourced food and the seasonal rhythms of Sonoma County. Chef Kyle Connaughton combines a mastery of Japanese donabe or clay-pot cooking with an overall philosophy of omotenashi: anticipating every need of one’s guest.

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Ian Samuels

Ian Samuels

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