Best Michelin Star Restaurants in the US
Michelin Star Dining
The guide to fine dining in the United States is going through a renovation. Michelin was founded in France but now puts out guides for cities around the globe. Its American guide started in 2007. Michelin’s name represents the best of the best, but some industry experts feel it’s struggled to adapt to the rapidly changing industry.
The Meaning of the Michelin Stars
Michelin’s famous star system consists of three levels: one star, two stars, and three stars. A restaurant can earn up to three stars. For example, it might earn one star for food, two stars for ambiance, and two stars for service. The cumulative score ends up between zero and three overall stars.
While Michelin still holds sway in some corners of the restaurant world, more and more diners are eschewing its staid notions of luxury. As a result, fine-dining establishments with white tablecloths and an extensive wine list can struggle to attract the young, moneyed crowd that prefers to dine at casual restaurants with a playful vibe and creative food.
This list features our ten picks for the best Michelin-star restaurants in the US, and they’re contemporary venues with dining that’s anything but old-school.
Alinea – Chicago
Alinea is one of the three-star Michelin restaurants in Chicago. It deserves a place among the best restaurants in our restaurant rankings as a temple of molecular gastronomy. Some dishes are dehydrated, and you may even be fed an edible balloon.
The second restaurant from Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, who also own Michelin-starred Next in Chicago’s West Loop, Alinea, was awarded three stars by Michelin for its first three years after opening in 2005. Two Michelin stars were awarded to Alinea when it reopened in 2017 after a year of renovations, and it has stayed at that level since then.
Atelier Crenn – San Francisco
When Dominique Crenn earned the title of first female chef in America to receive three Michelin stars, she didn’t forget all the women who had influenced her and helped her succeed. So instead, she opened a wine bar in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood, naming it after her grandmother, Bernadette Crenn.
The French-born Crenn is known for her poetic cooking style and avant-garde dishes that often come with a narrative that ties into nature. She’s also known for speaking out on gender bias in the restaurant industry and climate change and animal welfare; Bar Crenn offers vegetarian options, while her Atelier Crenn became a meat-free establishment (with an exception made for lab-grown chicken) in 2019.
The menu at Atelier Crenn is a meditative poem. It’s the story of her life told through the food on her plate. When she’s not in the kitchen, she can be found hosting an event or working on her next project. It’s time to celebrate. Atelier Crenn has its third Michelin star, making chef Dominique Crenn the first woman in America to receive this honor.
Benu – San Francisco
Benu is an intimate, 22-seat restaurant located in San Francisco’s South of Market district. The cuisine is progressive, contemporary American, and rooted in classical French and Chinese culinary traditions.
Two Dining Experiences at Benu
One of the best Michelin Star restaurants on the west coast offers two distinct dining experiences. The first is a 15- to 17-course tasting menu that explores the interplay between California and Asian culinary traditions.
The second experience is at Benu’s bar, where guests can order à la carte from a selection of dishes from the tasting menu or small plates inspired by local San Francisco ingredients.
The wine list at Benu emphasizes minimal intervention wines from producers throughout Europe, California, and Oregon. Since its opening, sake has also been an essential focus and features bottles from various Japanese prefectures. A curated selection of spirits and cocktails is also available at the bar.
Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare – New York City
Brooklyn Fare has always been one of the unique multi-Michelin-starred restaurants in New York City: It’s the only three Michelin-starred restaurants without table service. Instead, diners sit at a counter surrounding an open kitchen and watch their meal be prepared before them—a performance that’s a part cooking demonstration, part theater, and part dinner party.
But now the name is a bit of a misnomer: Cesar Ramirez, the chef who opened Brooklyn Fare on Third Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn and earned it three Michelin stars, has moved his fine-dining restaurant from Brooklyn to Manhattan.
Two factors prompted the move: Ramirez’s lease was up for renewal. In addition, he wanted to expand his operation to include more casual dining options and expand his catering business. To do so, he needed additional space. So he looked for a new home in Manhattan and settled on an old Irish pub on 36th Street in Hell’s Kitchen.
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Eleven Madison Park – New York City
The world-famous Eleven Madison Park restaurant has announced that it will reopen after pandemic closures as a vegan eatery. Eleven Madison Park is a three Michelin-starred restaurant on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Daniel Humm, the restaurant’s Swiss chef, said that he decided to change the menu because of sustainability and animal welfare concerns. “Throughout our years at Eleven Madison Park, we have worked endlessly to develop a close and personal relationship with our farms and purveyors.”
The French Laundry – Yountville, CA
The French Laundry chef/owner Thomas Keller isn’t one to rest on his laurels – not after collecting a six-pack of Michelin stars, three James Beard awards, or the title of Best Chef in California.
Keller continues to improve and innovate at The French Laundry. But he’s also added a new restaurant to his portfolio: Ad Hoc, located just down the street from The French Laundry. The fixed-price menu at Ad Hoc changes daily and features comfort food classics like fried chicken and root beer floats.
No matter which restaurant you choose, make sure you’re hungry. The French Laundry and Ad Hoc offer prix fixe menus only, with no substitutions.
The Inn at Little Washington – Washington, VA
Our next pick of best Michelin Star restaurants in US locations is The Inn at Little Washington, founded in 1978 by Patrick O’Connell and Reinhardt Lynch. The restaurant serves French-American cuisine or fare described as “modern American cooking with an accent…”.
The restaurant was initially located in a former garage. It later moved to a new building and opened in 1990, following $3 million of renovations. In 1992, The Inn at Little Washington received its first major award when awarded three stars from the Mobil Travel Guide. In 2008, it was named one of the 20 most influential restaurants in America by Bon Appétit magazine.
Forbes Travel Guide rated The Inn at Little Washington as a five-star hotel and restaurant, and it also has the highest three-star rating awarded by Michelin. The restaurant is located on Middle Street in Washington, Virginia, which Bon Appetit called “one of those picture-perfect Main Streets…”
Le Bernardin – New York City
When Eric Ripert took over Le Bernardin in 1994, he was just 28 years old. Nevertheless, he made a name for himself as one of the best chefs in the world.
The accolades result from Chef Ripert’s commitment to the freshest fish and most simple preparations that highlight the ingredients rather than disguise them. As a result, the restaurant has been a mainstay on Restaurant Magazine’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list since 2006. Ripert has dedicated his career to elevating seafood cooking, and he does so with great precision, care, and deliciousness.
Inflight Le Bernardin
Le Bernardin is an institution among New York restaurants, and its influence is felt far beyond Manhattan. In recent years, Ripert has partnered with companies like Chase Sapphire Preferred and Delta Air Lines to provide unique culinary experiences for their travelers, including an inflight gift of caviar service on Delta flights outbound from New York City!
The traditional Le Bernardin experience consists of tasting menus served tableside.
Manresa – Los Gatos, CA
The first thing to know about Manresa is that it’s a restaurant that takes food very seriously. This is chef David Kinch’s labor of love. He and his kitchen staff regularly visit local farms to source ingredients. And, you can expect to find dishes like abalone with pork jowl and sweet potato or smoked foie gras with cabbage, plum, and sesame.
The second thing to know about Manresa is that it takes reservations seriously. To get a table at this Los Gatos spot, you’ll have to book a month or two in advance (unless you’re willing to eat at 5:30 p.m.). However, the experience at Manresa – which includes a front desk service area, an intimate dining room, and an open kitchen in the back – is worth the wait.
Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted warmly by a host who will take your coat and offer a menu before leading you to your seat. Once settled, you’re served a series of amuse-bouches (small complimentary bites) while you peruse the menu. Then, you’ll advance to nine courses and three desserts with optional wine pairings.
Masa – New York City
Masa may be the most expensive restaurant in America, but it’s also one of the United States’ best Michelin-star establishments. Since it opened in 2004, it has never served anything other than an omakase menu. That means that Masa’s chef-owner, Masa Takayama, and his team decide what you eat.
So you won’t find a menu or a wine list at this three-Michelin-starred sushi counter in the Time Warner Center. Instead, there’s a simple paper form asking about your likes and dislikes (and allergies) and then a stream of dishes prepared by Masa himself or his right-hand man, Chef Toshi Yoroizuka, working behind the counter.
Chef Masa is something of an enigma. He doesn’t talk much during service as he’s focused on making impeccable sushi rolls while also managing to tell you what each piece is as he delivers it to you. The dishes are all primarily Japanese ingredients, but they can have international touches.