101 Best Restaurants in America

Is your favorite on the list?


By the editors of The Daily Meal
This article originally appeared at The Daily Meal

“Best restaurant” lists are tricky. How can any sensible eater compare an iconic pizza parlor or the joint that serves that simply transcendent cheeseburger with the lapidary perfection of a French Laundry or the genre-bending inventiveness of a WD-50? On what terms is it possible to stack the culinary monuments of Manhattan, Chicago, or Los Angeles up against the really-very-good but necessarily more modest establishments of, say, Buellton or Murphysboro? Talk about apples and oranges.

And yet here we are offering a best restaurant list of our own. Which means that it’s probably appropriate to explain exactly what this roster of eating places is supposed to be, and how we arrived at it.
We began with a simple premise: Where do we, the editors of The Daily Meal, like to eat? Taking into consideration our mood and our budget and where we happen to be when we get hungry, how would we vote — not with our finely honed critical faculties so much as with our mouths, and our pocketbooks? And where would we send our friends?

Collectively, we came up with a master list of 150 places from every part of the country, from ultra-casual to super-fancy, old-fashioned to avant-garde. Then we divided our choices into categories — according to cuisine, region, and a number of specific factors, including service, wine list, and price level — and invited an illustrious panel of judges, mostly restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, and assorted bloggers, from around America to help us narrow down the list. (Two of them requested not to be identified.) The panel and our editorial staff voted anonymously, and the percentages of votes for each restaurant were tallied in order to assemble a ranked list of the 101 best.

The results were, well, thought-provoking. It probably won’t surprise anybody that Thomas Keller’s superlative French Laundry in Napa Valley came out on top, but in a real coup his restaurant Per Se took the number two spot as well. It also might surprise a few people to find three barbecue places and two pizzerias outscoring pricey French restaurants run by Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon — or Katz’s Delicatessen edging out WD-50.

For American cooking, modern or traditional, our judges liked the West Coast: Seven of the 21 restaurants in that category are in the Golden State. Perhaps it indicates that the country looks to the West for revolutionizing America’s culinary heritage. However, New York seems to be the stronghold for maintaining the best ethnic cuisines, taking the top spots in the French, Italian, and Asian categories.

Overall, New York beat out California in the top ten, garnering five spots. Taking a deeper look into the big winners, the more “experimental” chefs like Grant Achatz, Michel Richard, and José Andrès seem to be panelist favorites. What’s America’s favorite cuisine? It turns out that American cooking with French influence makes up about 50 percent of the highest rated restaurants.

In regional breakdowns, our panel thought Bern’s Steak House in Tampa was the best restaurant in the South, Citronelle in Washington D.C. was numéro un in the Mid-Atlantic, and Clio in Boston was the winner in the Northeast (though Frank Pepe Pizza in New Haven was the next one down).

You may quarrel with our results, quibble over the panel’s choices, ask how we could call that dump a “best” or why we left out that temple of gastronomy. It would be astonishing if you didn’t, in fact. We’re not presenting objective truth here. In case you haven’t noticed, there is no objective truth when it comes to taste in restaurants (or anything else).

Rather, think of this list as the Senate of Culinary Greatness in our country — every region, cuisine and price level is represented, and if you wonder what some of them are doing there, hey, ask the voters. It’s the best of the best from each league, which is the reason why Katz’s sandwiches can stand alongside Peter Luger’s steaks and Arthur Bryant’s barbecue alongside Bazaar’s molecular gastronomy. We think our list turned out pretty well, and sincerely thank our panelists for helping us refine it. We stand behind these restaurants — and would sit down happily at any of their tables.

See pages 2 and 3 for the list

1 2 3 next

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: epices6
    792527 1

    I have eaten in at least half of the restaurants listed here and while the list includes some great restaurants and chefs, it really is, in the end, a disappointing list in that it simply reiterates the same old/same old list of magazine - and popular favorites (many times, a good publicist is more important than the actual quality of the food). There are odd juxtapositions - not that a great barbecue joint is not worth a special trip or that Thai food as prepared at Jitlada is not memorable - but the muddled criteria, save for the top spots (restaurants that all received three Michelin stars) are unclear and applied in a pell-mell fashion. So an overrated place like Casa Mono beats out Joel Robuchon, the tired concept of Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia sits next to Herbfarm, a place that epitomizes dedicated seasonal, local cooking on the highest level.
    In the end, though, it is hard to compare restaurants except by the category that they aspire to represent (French, Italian, Thai, Barbecue, New American, Fried Chicken, etc.) and even then, the categories are too big to offer a good comparison (what regions of France and Italy, China and India?). That is why the list should get rid of the “best” moniker and simply suggest 100 interesting and good places to eat.

    Mar 07, 2011 at 3:03 PM

  • Snooth User: Momish
    225947 59

    It would have been helpful to have the name of the city, along with the restaurant name.

    Mar 07, 2011 at 3:41 PM

  • very surprising. Cannot understand how Melisse and Providence in LA, both with two Michelin stars , failed to make the list. Both are outstanding.

    Mar 07, 2011 at 3:52 PM

  • Snooth User: ElleK
    247673 2

    Yeah, rather a pointless list if it's just names with no cities. There are dozens of restaurants by the same name in different cities. You have to click through the slide show to get cities.
    In the end, it's a list of the 101 best restaurants the folks at Daily Meal have eaten at.

    Mar 07, 2011 at 4:07 PM

  • Snooth User: ssigaud
    299760 23

    Sorry - because I respect and can only imagine all the work that went into this - but are we supposed to know where the restaurants are just from reading their names? Big miss for the list and it would be a shame to leave it that way... can you send a modified list with the city names next to the restaurant names?

    Mar 07, 2011 at 5:19 PM

  • While two great Charleston restaurants are on your list. I agree it is a bit dated. Next time you visit please eat at Husk(up for Best new restaurant and won James Beard Southeast) and Trattoria Lucca(Ken Vendrinski up for James Beard as well). Not to mention Fig(Mike Lata) etc etc. I am very blest to have such fine offerings and such generous chefs who donate much to their community!

    Mar 07, 2011 at 6:09 PM

  • Snooth User: khd
    214606 11

    ha ha ha, Reef is #62!!!!
    While it is an OK restaurant, it is not the best in Houston, and it lacks many things in order to reach a top 101!!

    Mar 07, 2011 at 10:06 PM

  • Snooth User: lsherr
    479042 6

    Totally agree, without the city names the list is no longer fun but a chore. In this day and age, it's a lot to ask of a reader.

    Mar 08, 2011 at 12:16 AM

  • Snooth User: mawili
    643747 3

    I'm from Europe , how can I find these restaurants without the city names.

    Mar 08, 2011 at 2:16 AM

  • Snooth User: mac9275
    539161 3

    Very limited in your travels.

    Mar 08, 2011 at 7:50 AM

  • I'd like to second (third, fourth, more...) the desire to have the city names appear next to the restaurant name. No way I'm going to click on each restaurant just to find out where it's at. Bad presentation. That said, I do like the idea of being able to bypass the slide show.

    Mar 08, 2011 at 9:40 AM

  • Snooth User: winemann13
    745570 16

    sorry, but a bunch of bull, not a balanced representation of the United States

    Mar 08, 2011 at 11:53 AM

  • Snooth User: Catherine Gin
    Hand of Snooth
    592568 297

    Thanks for your comments everyone. With a list like this each of us is going to ask have a different opinion -- and that's what keeps it interesting! We are sorry for the frustration caused by our list not including the city or state each restaurant is located in, especially to our readers not based in the U.S. So, by popular demand, we have now added in the full location for all the restaurants. Hope that makes it an easier read, and keep those comments coming on what you think should, or shouldn't, be on the list!

    Mar 08, 2011 at 1:29 PM

  • I have dined in 23 of these restaurants, many of which were great, and some not so great. I am just surprised to see the uninhibited range of price, quality and service levels across your list. You may be surprised to know that I would not put the French Laundry at the top of any list, unless it was for pretentious displays of culinary snobbery.

    Mar 08, 2011 at 5:31 PM

  • Last I checked Hawaii was a state in this fine country, further it is one of the country's most popular vacation destinations with a whole lot of restaurant eating going on. I would have thought the judges could have included at least one restaurant from Hawaii.

    Mar 17, 2011 at 3:08 PM

  • Your "Tweet" thing coming down the page and covering names is annoying and when I did click on a name of interest the page automatically changed so I couldn't read the article. Your site is horrible.

    Apr 02, 2011 at 7:48 PM

  • I work in Hunter Valley Restaurant Australia, where a well travelled couple commented that the food was on par and as good as Per se (NYC).
    Wow Go chef well done

    Apr 07, 2011 at 8:21 PM

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