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Honestly, there are hundreds if not thousands of great restaurants in America. Nailing down the top 25 is challenging and an ever-changing thing, as the best restaurants in the U.S. are always evolving, changing their menus with the seasons, or further improving classic recipes. But we’re pretty pleased with this list, made up of restaurants all over the country that impress in a variety of ways, from culinary and hospitality facets to just plain being iconic.
These are the places that will make you love food even more. It could be the pairing of a dry red wine or the presentation of a remarkable dish. Maybe it’s a classic dish that’s been turned out in a city for generations. Perhaps it’s a Michelin star-winning chef redefining what it means to eat in America. No matter which direction the following establishments go; know that they excel at that very route. Hungry?
Support your local eateries, that’s one of the best things you can do these days. But sometimes, you want to try some of the top-rated places in all the land. Shoot, you can even build a trip around it, as some of these places create bucket list-worthy meals.
Here they are, the 25 best restaurants in America.
Set just outside of town north of Atlanta, Karv Kitchen is a family Greek spot that draws locals and tourists alike. The rotisserie meats are expertly cooked and the loukoubombs are the stuff of legend, a European donut of sorts that is bite-sized, golden brown, and a perfect way to cap off a meal (with a cup of coffee, preferably).
NYC, New York
One of the nation’s most famous restaurants and for good reason, Eleven Madison Park has been defining the high-end dining experience for years. The adored NYC spot just boldly went meatless, citing environmental, ethical, and health reasons. The fact that it has maintained its innovative edge and world-class experience while shedding so much of the old menu is nothing short of incredible. Chef Daniel Humm is clearly one of the best at his craft in the country, if not the world.
In a foodie town like Portland, it’s hard to hold on to the best restaurant crown. Higgins is always on the shortlist, home to an amazing seasonal menu and cozy bar as well as being responsible for incubating so many of the city’s best chefs prior to them going off and starting their own establishments. Everything is house-made and the service is unmatched. If you want to absorb the real bounty of the northwest in a genuinely farm-to-table format, this is the place to go.
Vera’s Backyard BBQ
You’ve heard the story before, the best barbecue is found in smaller towns in unassuming spots. If Vera’s has anything to say about that, it’s that it’s very true. The Brownsville institution specializes in barbecoa de cabeza, or barbecued cow’s head. It sounds a little alarming until you taste it. Benefiting from a half-day of cooking underground, the meat is all kinds of succulent. But don’t stop there; you can build your own tacos out of a few different kinds of meat, all spectacular. It’s recently received a deserving nod from the James Beard team.
Located in between the cities of San Diego and Los Angeles in the surf bum town of Encinitas, VAGA touts ocean views, al fresco dining, and some incredibly fresh southern California-inspired dishes. There’s Baja sea bass with spiced ghee and Marcona almond basmati along with tomahawk steak served alongside parmesan fondue. It’s heaven for surf and turf diners looking for more flair and creativity than your typical seafood joint or steakhouse can muster.
Christopher’s at the Wrigley Mansion
The pandemic delayed its grand opening, but Christopher’s is up and running in one of the coolest spots in the American West. Set beside the Wrigley Mansion overlooking the Phoenix skyline from the scenic desert, it touts breathtaking design and equally jaw-dropping food. The eight-course chef’s tasting menu is one for the ages, French-informed but highly aligned with the season, local produce, and proteins, and served with a presentation caliber not often seen — anywhere.
Marrying American and Korean cuisine, Joule is what proper fusion is all about. The Rachel Yang project plates everything from scallion pancakes with smoked salmon roe and smoked tofu with honshimeji confit to miso black cod and a bavette steak with lemongrass pesto. It’s not just the talk of Northlake in Seattle, it’s one of the better restaurants in all of the Pacific Northwest.
New Orleans, Louisiana
It’s hard to overemphasize the work the French have put into what we know and consider modern gastronomy. Gautreau’s is a classic French eatery in a city that knows its influence all too well. The uptown New Orleans restaurant excels as it all, from foie gras and steak tartare to filet mignon. Better, there’s a showcasing of local flavors, like gulf shrimp with green olive gnocchi that demonstrates not only a mastery of classic Old World cooking, but an embrace of the surrounding bayou.
Lucille’s has a firm and highly-capable grasp on southern cuisine, a real specialty in H-Town. The Museum District spot is a shining tribute to the owners’ grandmother and beautifully navigates the many comforts of the food genre, from perfectly fried meats and fluffy grits to braised oxtail and some of the best blackened fish you’re likely to encounter.
Demi rests in the North Loop, one of the coolest neighborhoods in all of the Twin Cities. The restaurant is a fine reflection of just how evolved the food culture is in Minneapolis. It’s intimate, ever-changing, and completely contemporary. Even the most confident home chefs walk away from a sitting here understanding the power of a real culinary mind. Demi will leave your soul nourished and your gears spinning as you try to replicate at home (and likely fail) what you enjoyed there.
This Italian restaurant from chef Marc Vetri calls itself a test kitchen. There’s seating for 32 and the menu pulls from classic Italian dishes as well as influences from all over the planet. It’s home to some of the best pasta out there along with some inventive desserts, like molten pistachio cake with strawberry-black pepper gelato. There are many, many reasons to visit Philadelphia but this elegant restaurant otherwise known as Vetri Cucina may just top the list.
San Antonio, Texas
Good tacos practically grow on trees in towns like San Antonio, which makes a place like Carnitas Lonja all the more special — a standout even among incredible nearby options. The Southside eatery starts with out-of-this-world tortillas, the base for exceptional dishes like ceviche, chorizo, and fresh fish, and of course, carnitas. Whether you live nearby or are visiting for the weekend, good luck not eating all three meals a day here.
In fairness, we could probably do an entire list of fantastic Italian-affected restaurants in the states. Denver’s Bar Dough is another, built around the small plate wonders of chef Russell Stippich. There’s a great happy hour outfitted with a great drinks program, but it’s dinner where the chef’s talents truly come to the fore. Come for the burrata and stay for the prosciutto and mushroom pizza, bucatini amatriciana, and squid ink tagliarini.
The Catbird Seat
A concept as much as a stellar restaurant, The Catbird Seat boasts an intimate setting built around a horseshoe-shaped table, fit for just a lucky few diners. It’s dinner theater at its best, with acclaimed chefs cooking haute cuisine right before your eyes, turning out imaginative dishes that change each time you go. It’s all a bit secretive at the Nashville spot, but that’s kind of the point. The culinary speakeasy tends to feature 10-12 course options, reservation only. Sign up, buckle up, and get ready to eat like you never have before.
San Francisco, California
We love Chinese food and its many, many delectable and often-mimicked signature dishes. This San Francisco restaurant fuses many of the pillars of Chinese dining with California cuisine, often seamlessly. On top of sharp-as-a-tack cocktails, Mister Jiu’s does great vegetable and tofu dishes, along with incredible wontons and larger plates like quail with goji berry, spruce, and sticky rice. Most aware of the classics, the beloved restaurant even does an exceptional (and hard-to-make) Peking duck.
South Florida is home to some amazing Cuban food and seafood options. It’s also home to Stubborn Seed, led by Top Chef-winning culinary mind Jeremy Ford. Here, modern gastronomy melds with both resident Latinx culture and some Japanese influence for some memorable eats. Options like mezcal cured king salmon, Japanese miyazaki striploin, and chili and ginger steamed walu will take you straight to that special, completely satisfied place. Stubborn Seed is stubborn only in that it can’t quite be placed into one specific food genre.
NYC, New York
Sushi is such a joy to eat, especially when it’s prepared by those who know it best. The folks at Manhattan’s Sushi Yasaka are artists, turning out a mix of hot and cold dishes. There’s quality across the board, from tempura and noodles to various rolls, sushi cuts, and sashimi. Want the best? Go for the restaurant’s signature maki, with options like fried Japanese oyster and soft shell crab.
Like Higgins and Eleven Madison Park, Chicago’s Alinea just keeps turning out greatness. Hence the three Michelin star rating, which is the highest there is. Dining at this level involves great food, sure, but there are added layers of enchantment, artistry, unpredictability, and utter awe. You’ll enter with the highest of expectations and still leave speechless, as countless others have, from not just Chicago, but all over the world, as it has become a real culinary destination.
Step aside shiny new restaurant and learn from a true classic. Ben’s has been at it since 1958, treating D.C. to incredible chili and the near-mythical half smoke, a chili dog adaptation. It is the very best of Americana, served up in timeless fashion. We can’t place it on the healthiest restaurant list, but it certainly belongs on this one.
Bean Town is worth visiting for the food alone these days. MIDA touts excellent homestyle Italian fare, including a barn-burning carbonara and detailed red sauces such as Bolognese that dazzle the palate. So often, American places like this get lost somewhere in the translation, not quite nailing the pasta type or spice to feed the particular sauce. Not so, here.
Austin is a playground for food enthusiasts, with magical BBQ, chili parlors, and taquerias. Odd Duck draws from Tex-Mex and southern cuisine and lifts it all to new heights. We’re talking mushroom chorizo quesadillas with Oaxaca cheese and aged pork loin with garlic-pecan mole. A significant chunk of the menu is locally-sourced and many of the dishes benefit from the house wood-fired oven, making them perfectly rustic.
Polish street food is the name of the game at Motor City‘s Pieterzyk Pierogi. And it’s no surprise, as the Midwest is home to a significant Polish population. If eastern Europe has soul food, this is it. They do pierogi any number of ways, showing just how satisfying and versatile the dumpling is. Whether you like sweet or savory or both, you’ll fall for one of the many adaptations at America’s unofficial pierogi headquarters.
Foodies flock to the other Portland these days and Fore Street is a big part of that migration. The Old Port District eatery has been cooking up magic since 1996, highlighting the bevy of fresh seafood just out the door as well as the many farms and purveyors located inland. There’s wood-grilled marinated squid, pork loin with fermented cabbage, and a half-chicken with collard greens, duck-fat-fried sourdough, and chicken jus.
This vegan restaurant out of Pittsburgh focuses on central and eastern European dishes. There’s a lot of slow cooking and braising, leading to dishes that tend to warm the bones and linger in the mind. Even if you eat meat, you’ll appreciate the ingenuity and flavor maximization on full display at Apteka.
Las Vegas, Nevada
One of Jose Andres’ more out-there concepts (which is saying something, given the eccentric nature of the guy), this Las Vegas eatery in the Sahara is a real fireworks display. Bazaar offers a bold, shared-plate experience, built around Andres’ sheer gift in the kitchen. Do it right and go with the tasting menu, allowing you and yours to be the acclaimed chef’s fellow passengers on an unforgettable journey. In addition to glorious cuts of meat, you’ll be treated to meticulous accompanying dishes like josper-roasted asparagus, chicken croquetas, and brilliant souffles.
Hungry? We are too. Make sure these great restaurants are on your list going forward. When it comes to top-shelf dishes and unrivaled hospitality, it’s the ultimate to-do list for the intrepid culinary enthusiast. Happy eating!