Naming the best restaurants in America might seem like an impossible task. According to the latest figures, there are some 660,755 quick-service and full-service eating establishments around the country. The population of the U.S. is something over 327 million. Some 76% of that population is over the age of 18 — that’s roughly 249 million people — and presumably a goodly portion of those people (as well as a number of under-18s) frequent restaurants of one kind or another and have their favorites. These are the cities where people go out to eat all the time.
They might like these places because of convenience and/or price; they might like them because they’re “hot” or trendy; they might simply like them because they consider that the food — whether a fast-food burger or some intricate creation involving truffles and foie gras or anything in-between — tastes really good. And we all know that there’s no accounting for taste.
Anyone who sets out to anoint certain restaurants as “best,” then, must expect disagreement. “You call THAT a great restaurant?” Or “What about XXX?” Another common complaint people have about these lists — and a justified one — is that they tend to be focused on a few big cities, primarily New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. What about the very fine restaurants in Naples, Florida, or Denver, Colorado, or Houston, Texas?
A list of America’s 100 or 200 or 1,000 best restaurants would doubtless include representatives from all of these places and many more. But the fact is that some cities have higher concentrations of very good restaurants than others, that the competition is increasingly stiff around the country, and that establishments that might serve superb food in a given community might not generate enough national interest to draw diners from other places (though there are certainly exceptions to this).
What 24/7 Tempo has assembled here, from a variety of sources, then, is a list of a mere 30 truly excellent restaurants across 11 states and the nation’s capital. All are expensive, sometimes stunningly so. All operate at the highest levels of the gastronomic game. Any one of these should provide a truly memorable dining experience.
“Average price per person” is computed by adding together the cost of the cheapest appetizer, main dish, and dessert on the dinner menu, along with those of the most expensive, then averaging the totals. In every case where an average price is given, it will be possible to dine for less than that amount. “Fixed-price menu” means that a restaurant offers only one or more multi-course tasting menus, or charges a set price for a three- or four-course meal.
None of these prices account for supplemental menu charges (as for luxury ingredients like truffles or Wagyu beef), beverages, taxes, or gratuities, unless otherwise noted. Some restaurants add a service charge for larger parties, typically six or more.
In some cases, these restaurants operate on a ticketing system instead of taking conventional reservations. This requires either prepayment in full or a substantial deposit, and tickets are not refundable (though they may be passed along to others).
Some of the restaurants listed have bar or lounge menus, which may be à la carte, but in any case will be less expensive than the main menus. Some of these restaurants are also open for lunch, offering à la carte and/or cheaper fixed-price menus.
If your favorites aren’t on this list, never mind. The best restaurant in America, for you, is the restaurant you like the best, no matter what or where it may be.
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