“Best” is the most subjective word in the English language, and narrowing down this group is as grueling as it is exhilarating. Of course these places all serve wonderful food: avant-garde noodle bowls in Manhattan, soul-soothing roast chicken in San Francisco, Lebanese mezze in Michigan, the Russian layered salad known as “herring under a fur coat” in Portland, Oregon. Their culinary excellence is a given. But each of these restaurants also leads the dining conversation in their communities — and by extension, the nation. Together, they form a mosaic illustrating how we eat in this country, and how we build culture around food.

Like the city-based Eater 38 maps on which it is modeled, this roster of restaurants evolves slowly. The worst part is removing places from the list to make way for new ones (or, in the case of Houston’s Oxheart, a stalwart of previous years’ lists, because of its upcoming closure to revamp). Both inclusion and exclusion ultimately always come down to the question of which restaurants feel most relevant right now — even if their relevance comes in the form of a certain timelessness. Newcomers this year include a Sichuan upstart in California’s San Gabriel Valley, a fine-dining star in Minneapolis, and a standard-bearer of Southern graciousness in Birmingham, Alabama. (To qualify for inclusion on this list, restaurants must be open for at least 18 months; the too-young serious players get their own list, our annual Best New Restaurants in America roundup).

This is the third year of this list; more than half of the restaurants recognized have been here before, and those standard bearers who’ve made it in every time — there are fourteen of them — are hereby designated Hall of Famers. Just as exciting: This year, for the first time, I’ve named a Best Restaurant in America. Dining at this luminary is such a dynamic experience that, honestly, the decision to name it as the finest among paragons wasn’t all that difficult.

Most of all, in a complicated time for our country, this body of restaurants represents a definition of the United States that I cherish: multicultural, ambitious, welcoming. These are places for us all to savor. I’ll meet you at the table.

 

The Best Restaurants in America

Al Ameer, Dearborn, MI |  Alinea, Chicago |  Benu, San Francisco | Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY | Cosme, New York |  Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME |  FIG, Charleston, SC | Franklin Barbecue, Austin |  Frasca Food & Wine, Boulder | Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, San Antonio | Herbsaint, New Orleans | Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, AL | Hugo’s, Houston |  Husk Nashville, Nashville | Kachka, Portland, OR | Liholiho Yacht Club, San Francisco | Milktooth, Indianapolis | Miller Union, Atlanta |  Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York | Parachute, Chicago | Petit Trois, Los Angeles | La Petite Grocery, New Orleans | Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix | Poole’s Downtown Diner, Raleigh |  Prince’s Hot Chicken, Nashville | The Publican, Chicago | Raku, Las Vegas |  Roberta’s, Brooklyn |  Rose’s Luxury, Washington, DC | Saison, San Francisco | Sarma, Somerville, MA | Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis | Sqirl, Los Angeles | Szechuan Impression, Alhambra, CA | The Willows Inn, Lummi Island, WA | Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore |  Zahav, Philadelphia | Zuni Cafe, San Francisco

Restaurant of the Year

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Pocantico Hills, New York

Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns
You can start to understand chef Dan Barber’s revolutionary ethos by reading his books, watching his TED Talks, or dropping by the Manhattan outpost of his Blue Hill mini-empire. But for the most thorough — and deeply pleasurable — immersion into his world, you have to make the trek 30 miles north of New York City to the Stone Barns Center. There, you’ll find Barber’s crown jewel: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a restaurant tucked in the hills of a century-old working farm. Stone Barns isn’t just an exquisite fine-dining restaurant serving magnificent tasting menus; it’s an experiment, a laboratory, a learning center, and a model for the future of agriculture. The travel itself builds anticipation: on the train or in a car, the city falls away, mile after mile, until finally you turn down the farm’s long, winding driveway, where the surrounding lushness tunes your mind and senses for the feast ahead.

Meet the Newcomers

Beyond their freshness on our list of the best restaurants in America, there’s no easy throughline with this group—and that’s as it should be. Our freshman class includes restaurants from every corner of the country, with menus reflecting cuisines both homegrown and far-flung, mostly young trailblazers but also one institution that’s been around since 1962. One thing they do all have in common: After dining at each of them, I sighed with intense satisfaction and thought to myself, “This place is special. Everyone needs to know about it.” —BA

Petit Trois, Los Angeles | French cuisine is making gains again as a front-and-center cuisine across America, and I’d wager that Ludo Lefebvre’s transcendent take on bistro food has singlehandedly nudged things along. He runs this tiny, open-all-day, card-only, walk-in-only spot with Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook (their sensational tasting menu counter Trois Mec, which was on this list last year, sits next door), and in his hands classics like rolled omelets, butter-drenched burgundy escargot, and croque monsieurs have more refinement and moxie than you remember. 718 Highland Ave., 323.468.8916, petittrois.com

Al Almeer, Dearborn, MI | Detroit’s metropolitan area is home to one of the largest Arab American populations in the United States; Dearborn in particular houses an abundance of Lebanese restaurants serving mezze like hummus and tabbouleh as well as colossal kebabs. Al Ameer, opened by chefs Khalil Ammar and Zaki Hashem in 1989, shines as an example of hospitality and superb cooking. They also run a butcher shop, an advantage that shows in the freshness of their peerless stuffed lamb. 12710 West Warren Ave., Dearborn, 313.582.8185, alameerrestaurant.com

La Petite Grocery, New Orleans | The elegant dining room at Justin Devillier’s Garden District charmer—hardwood floors, crown molding, dim lighting as thick as caramel—unwinds the senses with its quintessential New Orleans vibe, and the bartenders craft an impeccable Sazerac. Devillier’s kitchen style leans contemporary, but with flawless dishes like crab beignets and turtle Bolognese, still evokes an unmistakable sense of place. 4238 Magazine St., New Orleans, 504.891-3377, lapetitegrocery.com

Cosme Meringue

Cosme, New York | Cosme heralds a new generation of outstanding upscale Mexican restaurants, gradually appearing around our nation, run by natives of Mexico (many of whom also own successful restaurants in their home country). Chef-owner Enrique Olvera and chef de cuisine Daniela Soto-Innes won over New York — and America — with triumphs like lush, crackly-skinned duck carnitas for two and their genius, already-iconic dessert, cornhusk meringue with silky corn mousse (pictured above). 35 East 21st St., New York, 212.913.9659, cosmenyc.com

Saison, San Francisco | First, the sticker shock: Saison’s tasting menu costs $398 per person, not including an optional wine pairing of $298. But what you get is one of the country’s most remarkable dining experiences: Joshua Skenes’s brilliant cooking is at once surgically precise and disarmingly comforting. Before a meal veers into sea urchin, abalone, and hairy pig, for example, you might be served a mound of caviar paired with biscuits fresh from the oven. 178 Townsend St., San Francisco, 415.828.7990, saisonsf.com

Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, San Antonio | Singling out one Tex-Mex restaurant above all others in the Lone Star State? Any answer I could give would be fighting words. But let’s squabble at Garcia’s, while we scarf down a Deluxe Mexican Dinner plate (it includes two cheese enchiladas, a pork tamale, and the essential web of yellow cheese, for starters) and two of the restaurant’s unorthodox, awesome tacos: one with brisket, and one folded around a bone-in pork chop. 842 Fredericksburg Road, San Antonio, 210.735.5686, no website

Sarma, Somerville, MA | Inspired by the mezze spreads served at meyhanes(Turkish taverns), Cassie Piuma maps out an exhilarating survey of the herbaceous, sun-baked flavors of the Middle East. Her recipes meld with the local seasons, assisted by produce from the farm of co-owner Ana Sortun. 249 Pearl St., Somerville, 617.764.4464, sarmarestaurant.com

Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham | Decades before the country’s turned to its latest round of having paroxysms of delight over Southern food, Frank Stitt returned to his native Alabama from cooking stints in California and France and made Highlands, the flagship of his three Birmingham restaurants, a national destination, and his elegant presentation of regional cuisine is as vital as ever. The restaurant’s hospitality has long been equally distinguished as its food, due to Stitt’s secret weapon: his gracious wife (and front-of-house maven) Pardis Stitt. 2011 11th Ave. South, Birmingham, 205.939.1400,highlandsbarandgrill.com

Spoon and Stable | Gavin Kaysen returned from New York to Minnesota, his home state, to open a restaurant that serves modern American cooking at its most fully realized. He draws on cuisines from around the globe for inspiration, but he always links his menu back to the upper Midwest with splendors like bison tartare and whimsies like fried cheese curds over creamed spinach. 211 North First St., 612.224.9850, spoonandstable.com

Hugo’s, Houston | The enduring crown jewel among the four restaurants that chef Hugo Ortega owns with his wife, Tracy Vaught, Hugo’s recounts Ortega’s culinary travels, research, and memories through his native Mexico — gastronomic stories told via dishes that are complex, but always balanced. His mastery of chiles and meats and maize (truly, don’t miss the lechón with habanero salsa and tortillas) stands out even in a city rife with excellent Mexican restaurants. 1600 Westheimer Road, 713.524.7744

Sqirl, Los Angeles | If Jessica Koslow’s tiny storefront in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood wasn’t already a phenomenon — shorthand for the California breakfast and the ascent of the grain bowl — then the publication of her cookbook sealed it. There are reasons for her victory: The combined flavors in her famous sorrel rice bowl suggest how sunshine on a lemon tree might taste, and the ricotta toast painted with three jams (upon request) resembles a flag to which I’d gladly pledge allegiance. 720 North Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, 323.284.8147, sqirlla.com

Liholiho Yacht Club, San Francisco | In the dishes that make up Liholiho’s menu, Ravi Kapur weaves flavors that reflect his Hawaiian, Indian, and Chinese heritages; the result is a personal, self-assured style of cooking that joyfully transcends easy labels. After a meal of tuna poke, fried oyster and beef carpaccio in lettuce wraps, and twice-cooked pork, don’t miss the “baked Hawaii,” a torch-bronzed beehive meringue filled with caramelized pineapple ice cream. 871 Sutter St., San Francisco, 415.440.5446, liholihoyachtclub.com

Szechuan Impression | In seeking out Sichuan restaurants coast to coast, none have impressed me more than Lynn Liu and Kelly Xiao’s bright corner perch in a San Gabriel Valley strip mall. Dishes like lamb on toothpicks and hot pots with a dozen different animal cuts bubbling in red oil show off exceptional clarity of flavor and an alchemical approach to spicing, a take on the cuisine that’s famously fiery but also incredibly nuanced. 1900 Valley Blvd., Alhambra, CA, 626.283.4622, szechuanimpressioninc.com

Milktooth, Indianapolis | Jonathan Brooks is at the vanguard of those skilled chef-disruptors changing how America thinks about daytime eating. His dishes — like savory puffed Dutch baby pancakes with roasted broccoli, aged cheddar, beer mustard, and pickled fennel — have the kind of punchy, finessed flavors you’d expect at dinnertime, but the restaurant only serves customers for breakfast and lunch. 534 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis, 317.986.5131,milktoothindy.com

Willows Inn, Lummi Island, WA | On a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest, two hours north of Seattle, Blaine Wetzel orchestrates four-hour dinners that double as manifestos on the area’s unparalleled bounty. Stay the night to fully relax into the spectacular setting; sitting down to the array of local fruits at breakfast is a waking dream. 2579 West Shore Drive, Lummi Island, 360.758.2620, willows-inn.com

Miller Union, Atlanta | Steven Satterfield draws on the breadth of the culinary South — its agrarian roots and its modern, immigrant-rich perspective — to craft dishes with the depth and sly intricacy of a Faulkner short story. Among his many talents, the man is a rice whisperer — if Savannah red rice or shrimp and andouille gumbo happen to be revolving through the menu (which is as terrific at lunch as it is at dinner), you know exactly what to order. 999 Brady Ave., Atlanta, 678.733.8550, millerunion.com

Zuni Cafe, San Francisco | Zuni Cafe is the nation’s neighborhood restaurant. Judy Rodgers, who died three years ago, built the place into a guidepost of physical and culinary comfort. Owner Gilbert Pilgram and head chef Rebecca Boice maintain her legacy triumphantly. Menus evolve daily with the season, but there’s no escaping the Zuni classics: the iconic roast chicken for two, the trend-igniting burger, the peerless Caesar salad, and the bowl of polenta that is surely more dairy than corn. 1658 Market St., San Francisco, 415.552.2522,zunicafe.com

 

Returning Greats

Alinea, Chicago | This year’s renovation made America’s most audacious fine-dining restaurant more interactive and more luxurious — which is to say, better than ever. 1723 N. Halstead, Chicago, IL, 312.867.0110, alinearestaurant.com

Benu, San Francisco, CA| Corey Lee’s unique, eloquent, and lavish bridging of East and West cuisines is in itself a reason to visit the Bay Area. 22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA, 415.685.4860, benusf.com

Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME | The oyster bar of everyone’s dreams also sneaks in surprises like dashi chowder and green curry lobster stew. 86 Middle St, Portland, ME, 207.774.8538, eventideoysterco.com

“Herring under a fur coat” at Kachka in Portland, OR

FIG, Charleston, SC | Only one meal in Charleston? Make it Mike Lata and Jason Stanhope’s paragon, which takes its cues from the Lowcountry’s abundant waters. 232 Meeting St, Charleston, SC, 843.805.5900, eatatfig.com

Frasca Food & Wine, Boulder, CO | Bobby Stuckey leads the most attentive service team in America; thrilling Italian cooking and an astounding wine list send the meal over the moon. 1738 Pearl St, Boulder, CO, 303.442.6966, frascafoodandwine.com

Franklin Barbecue, Austin, TX | Like seeing the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty, everyone should experience the long waits and ample rewards of Franklin Barbecue at least once. 900 E 11th St, Austin, TX 512.653.1187, franklinbarbecue.com

Herbsaint, New Orleans, LA | Nola’s myriad cultures assimilate on Donald Link and Rebecca Wilcomb’s graceful menu. 701 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA, 504.524.4114, herbsaint.com

Husk, Nashville, TN | Multidimensional tastes of the South coalesce onto gorgeous plates at Sean Brock’s genial tour de force. 37 Rutledge St, Nashville, TN, 615.256.6565, husknashville.com

Kachka, Portland, OR | Bonnie and Israel Morales offer the most spirited introduction to Russian dining (and drinking!) in America. 720 SE Grand Ave, Portland, OR, 503.235.0059, kachkapdx.com

Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York, NY | Even with a global empire, David Chang’s East Village prototype still best exemplifies his radical, game-changing approach to casual counter dining. 171 1st Avenue, New York, NY, 212.777.7773, momofuku.com

Broccoli with ras el hanout and dates at Parachute in Chicago

Parachute, Chicago, IL | Korean flavors mark the starting point for Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark’s unexpected but always exceptional forays into global flavors. 3500 N Elston Ave, Chicago, IL, 773.654.1460, parachuterestaurant.com

Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix, AZ | Smoky pies from the godfather of America’s pizza revolution can still rewire synapses with their greatness. 623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ, 602.258.8300, pizzeriabianco.com

Poole’s Downtown Diner, Raleigh, NC | Ashley Christensen’s flagship blends high-low dining and Southern-French sensibilities (oh, that macaroni au gratin!) in a singular ode to Americana. 426 S McDowell St, Raleigh, NC, 919.832.4477, ac-restaurants.com/pooles

Prince’s Hot Chicken, Nashville, TN | Trace the unending hot chicken craze right back to the long, long lines at Andre Prince Jeffries’ perennial must-vist. 123 Ewing Dr, Nashville, TN, 615.226.9442, princeshotchicken.com

The Publican, Chicago, IL | Paul Kahan defines the twenty-first century beer hall, serving a raucous excess of craft brews, oysters, and pork. 837 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL, 312.733.9555, thepublicanrestaurant.com

Raku, Las Vegas, NV | Get off the Strip to find the true soul of Vegas dining at this Japanese robata grill specialist. 5030 W. Spring Mountain Rd. #2, Las Vegas, NV, 702.367.3511, raku-grill.com

The dining room at the Publican, Chicago

Roberta’s, Brooklyn, NY | Carlo Mirarchi takes a uniquely freethinking approach to composing a menu; his inventiveness begins with — but reaches far beyond — unbelievable pizza. 261 Moore St, Brooklyn, NY, 718.417.1118, robertaspizza.com

Rose’s Luxury, Washington, DC | Often-lengthy waits for a table end with calming hospitality and Aaron Silverman’s strikingly thrilling acts of culinary daring. 717 8th St SE, Washington, DC, 202.580.8889, rosesluxury.com

Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore, MD | The kitchen at Spike and Amy Gjerde’s always-thronged flagship mines the Chesapeake region’s under-rated culinary treasures, which reach far beyond blue crab. 2010 Clipper Park Rd, Baltimore, MD, 410.464.8000, woodberrykitchen.com

Zahav, Philadelphia, PA | To best appreciate Mike Solomonov’s passionate, exuberant distillation of his Israeli heritage, bring a group, and prepare to feast on mezze and smoked lamb. 237 St James Pl, Philadelphia, PA, 237 St James Pl, Philadelphia, PA, zahavrestaurant.com

 

Photos: Pinterest

Source: www.eater.com