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101 Best Restaurants in America for 2011

101 Best Restaurants in America for 2011

“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.

Note from the editor: A number of readers have commented that they found our slideshow format cumbersome to navigate. We present our choices that way not to satisfy advertisers or in some blind quest for “clicks” but because we like to see what restaurants look like and read a little bit about them before we go and assume you do too, and this is the presentation that does that best. Nonetheless, we understand that going through 101 pages to see the entire list might not seem terribly efficient, so here are all of them, in reverse order, in one place. Click on any one that interests you to learn more about it.

Best 101 Restaurants:

99. Rasika (tie)

99. Hot and Hot Fish Club (tie)

97. L'Espalier (tie)

97. Oklahoma Joe's (tie)

95. Lonesome Dove (tie)

95. Ad Hoc (tie)

94. Neptune Oyster Bar

93. Beast

90. Bar Masa (tie)

90. Urasawa (tie)

90. '21' Club (tie)

75. Redd (tie)

75. Mustard's Grill (tie)

53. Restaurant August

51. Slanted Door (tie)

51. Le Bec-Fin (tie)


Esquire's Best New Restaurants in America 2011

For the 27th year, I've scoured the U.S. in search of the very best new restaurants for our November issue &mdash twenty of them, including the single, very best of them all and Chef of the Year, along with a dozen more not to be missed. Additionally: Food editor Ryan D'Agostino's report of the rise and fall of the much ballyhooed restaurant M. Wells Tom Chiarella's visit to a restaurant whose chef "controls your experience" great post-Katrina restaurant openings in New Orleans Design of the Year four chefs to keep a close eye on in the future Cal Fussman on the pop-up restaurant phenomenon, recipes from our restaurant picks two great Hall of Fame restaurateurs and our gorgeous Hostess of the Year.

It's been a very exciting year in every way. Excellent, highly creative Latino restaurants &mdash like Salinas and Tertulia in New York, Playa in Los Angeles, El Real in Houston, Komali in Dallas, and Tico in Boston &mdash have reached a critical mass so as to push Spanish-Latin American cuisine beyond trendy and into the mainstream. Gastropubs like Girl & the Goat in Chicago and Citizen Public House in Scottsdale, Arizona, continue to flourish. Italian food dominates as always, with new ideas and scrumptious regional food at places like Cotogna in San Francisco and Lincoln Ristorante in New York. Pizza, now ubiquitous in almost every kind of restaurant except sushi bars, gets better and better at places like Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, Donatella in New York, and the Backspace in Austin. And Southern food keeps rising above its down-home image at places like the Capitol Grille in Nashville and Husk in Charleston.

French restaurants &mdash which never went away &mdash have spread out to include the cooking beyond Paris, as in Lyon Bouchon Brasserie and Boulud Sud in New York. And if there is any trend to watch, it's upscale Indian restaurants, like Junoon in New York and All Spice in San Mateo, California.

If this year's Best New Restaurants list proves anything, it's that Big Eating is back, from lobster-stuffed popovers in Boston to bay scallops and bone marrow in New York, from grilled sweetbreads with butternut cream in Austin to pig's-feet bonbons with sauce piquante in Chicago. Who cares anymore about sea urchins carpaccio in a miso broth or artichoke ice cream made with liquid nitrogen? Let's all just eat well whenever we can afford to, or as the old song goes, "Enjoy yourself &mdash it's later than you think."

The Rules of Esquire's Best New Restaurants:

1. Restaurants must have opened after mid-August, 2010.

2. Restaurants must not be part of a chain or a branch.

3. Chef-driven restaurants are favored over corporate projects.

4. Esquire pays for the meals.

5. We love mom-and-pop restaurants.

6. We do not like restaurants that don't take reservations.

7. We frown upon restaurants where you literally cannot engage in conversation because of the loudness of the house music.

8. We take off points where:

&bullThere is a beets-and-goat's-cheese salad on the menu 365 days a year.

&bullWaiters have more tattoos than at a circus sideshow.

&bullWaiters are dressed as if they just got out of bed and threw something on.

&bullMen are allowed to wear shorts and sandals. (Exceptions: seaside restaurants, food trucks, Disney World.)

&bullYou cannot read the menu in the darkness.

&bullAny cast member from Jersey Shore would be allowed to dine.

&bullWine lists are marked up 300 percent above wholesale.

&bullMaître d's wear those really, really fat necktie knots.

&bullAdam Richman of Man v. Food eats.

&bullLiquid nitrogen, oysters, chocolate syrup, or caviar are used to make ice cream.


A Cascade of Comfort: Where to Score Decadent Warm Dips

Get your dunk, dip and scoop on with these sumptuous spins on the beloved party staple.

Related To:

Photo By: Holsteins Shakes and Buns

Photo By: Easy Bistro & Bar

Photo By: Mary Eddy's Oklahoma City

Chips All In

Cozy up to these warm dips churned out by restaurants, bars and other top spots across the country. Brimming with silky cheese, luscious seafood, succulent meats and more, these comforting creations are perfect for scooping, dunking or dipping with your vehicle of choice.

Palak Paneer

A Wicker Park pub may not be the first place that springs to mind when searching for Indian food in Chicago. That may well change after you visit Pub Royale, which is proving that brews matched with Northern India-inspired bites make for a pleasing combination. One favorite "dip" at the pub is the Palak Paneer, a traditional Punjabi vegetarian dish. Milky morsels of mild-flavored paneer cheese come enveloped in a blanket of creamed spinach spiced up with plenty of garam masala seasoning. The dish is accompanied by a mound of crisped-up paratha (aka flatbread), which serves as an ideal vehicle for scooping up the velvety and vibrant spread.

Bagna Cauda

Angeleno favorite Alimento is known for its beautiful pastas and platters brimming with culinary creativity. One such staple of the Northern Italian restaurant is its take on bagna cauda. A traditional Piedmontese dip that resembles fondue, bagna cauda is typically made with garlic, olive oil, anchovies and butter. At Alimento, however, Chef-Owner Zach Pollack ups the richness of the recipe by dropping a 62-degree egg into the dip. This salty, garlicky creation is served with housemade bread, to sop it all up, and a rainbow of seasonal vegetables, perfect for dunking.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

From the splashes of colorful, cartoony art throughout the dining area to the array of comfort food options that cram the menu, Holsteins Shakes and Buns exudes a playful vibe. In addition to mega-sized shakes and loaded burgers, this Las Vegas spot serves satisfying snacks such as a Buffalo chicken dip that's great for sharing. The signature flavors of Buffalo wings shine through in this spicy dish, which comprises hot sauce, shredded chicken and ranch dressing finished with a blizzard of bleu cheese, an extra drizzle of hot sauce and a flurry of scallions. An ideal pairing for this dunkworthy dip is a crunchy side of tortilla strips or carrot and celery sticks.

Queso Fundido

Though billed as a taqueria, this Steel City spot is far from a no-frills taco joint. Täkō in Pittsburgh features an artful fusion of disparate flavors inspired by Latin American and Asian cuisines. Take the queso fundido, for instance. This Mexican dish starts traditionally enough, with Chihuahua cheese and housemade chorizo, but then it gets amped up with an Asian-inspired topping of shishito peppers and chopped scallions. And to ensure you can sop up every last bit of this distinctive dip, Täkō serves it alongside a toasty stack of fresh flour tortillas.

Artichoke Dip

Though Willa Jean's beauteous display of baked goods is a sweet enough reason to visit this New Orleans spot that was featured on Guilty Pleasures, there are also plenty of savory options that are worth trying the artichoke dip is one of them. Perfect for anytime of day (it's even served as a breakfast snack here), the sumptuous creation is made with artichoke hearts, Parmesan, mozzarella and hot sauce &mdash complete with a smattering of scallions across its glorious golden-brown surface. Slather it on the complementary crostini to create a creamy, crunchy bite.

French Onion Fondue

At sultry Chicago spot Maude's Liquor Bar, the focus is on French food &mdash both classic preparations and creative interpretations of traditional dishes. One of those "almost French" dishes is a popular fondue inspired by an indulgent soup. The rich creation emulates the flavors of French onion soup by pulling in many of the staple's ingredients and translating them to dip form. If you break off a piece of the accompanying baguette and plunge it into the dish, the bubbling Gruyère cheese crust will give way to a silky fondue studded with caramelized onions.

Spicy Beer Cheese Dip

The name of this Philadelphia gastropub means "from the tap" in Italian, so you can be sure that its draft game is on point. But in addition to the suds sourced from both local and Italian breweries, Alla Spina draws the crowds with its elevated take on typical pub fare. One signature dish is a beer cheese dip whose silky cream cheese base is punched up by the addition of a spicy Asiago fresco and a Belgian-style witbier. It's accompanied by a side of housemade signature soft pretzels, perfect for plunging into the luscious, bubbly dip.

Crawfish and Artichoke Dip

Chef-Owner Erik Neil breathed new life into one of the world's first Coca-Cola bottling plants when he opened his restaurant in the historical building back in 2005. This same innovative spirit informs the menu at Easy Bistro & Bar. Neil's Southern dishes tinged with French influences have been drawing the crowds for more than a decade, with house favorites that include a crawfish and artichoke dip. Neil adds a Southern lilt to the typical spinach and artichoke dip by inflecting it with Creole-inspired flavors. He seasons the dip as he would a gumbo or etouffee, then stirs in the trinity (celery, onions and peppers) and juicy morsels of crawfish tail meat. After shaking on a generous amount of Tabasco sauce, Neil bakes his creation in a cast-iron skillet until the dip turns deliciously bubbly and hot. Crunchy shards of the thin flatbread known as lavash round out the plate.

Pork Neck-Bone Gravy

At the Purple Pig in downtown Chicago, it's all about the wine and swine. Crowds swarm here for the pork-centric creations dished out by Chef-Owner Jimmy Bannos Jr., such as his neck-bone gravy that was featured on Guilty Pleasures. This riff on a traditional Sunday gravy brings together bright tomatoes, fresh basil, chile flakes and wisps of shredded pork. After stewing for a number of hours, the rich concoction is ladled into a cast-iron skillet with a heaping dollop of silky ricotta at its center to offset the acidity of the tomato-laden gravy. This succulent, spicy and creamy combination comes paired with thick slices of toasted bread.

Molten Lobster Dip

Though the rich steakhouse fare served at Stake Chophouse in Coronado, California, definitely catches the eye, make sure to leave some room for the unexpected dishes nestled between the fork-tender cuts of meat and other indulgent standards on the menu. One such sumptuous surprise is the molten lobster dip, which marries lobster with fresh melted cheese curds and fiery Calabrian chiles that pack in the heat. The bubbling pot is served with crisp crostini.

Artichoke and Goat Cheese Dip

At The Wren in New York City, you can cozy up with elegant cocktails, craft beers and elevated bar bites in a charming setting that lacks pretention. One standout is an ultra-creamy dip from Chef Nick Testa. To create the dish, he pulls in a trio of cheeses (goat, Parmesan and cream), as well as creme fraiche. A broiled layer of Muenster cheese creates a satisfyingly crunchy crust on the top, which gives way to a silky dip studded with artichoke hearts and pimentos. The dish is garnished with additional artichoke hearts, along with tomatoes and scallions, and served with super-crisp crostini.

Catfish Dip

This chic yet charming spot in Louisville pays homage to its environs by incorporating regional influences into its decor, drinks and dishes. Rotating exhibits at Proof on Main often feature the work of local artists, while the beverage selection leans largely toward Kentucky's signature spirit (you can choose from more than 75 bourbons at the bar). Native flavors are also figured heavily in the food, such as the spot's signature catfish dip. This unique take on the typical smoked trout dip makes one major substitution with Kentucky smoked catfish. A housemade hot sauce and sea salt crackers accompany the silky, spreadable appetizer.

Smoked Brisket Queso

Dallas destination Ivy Kitchen churns out a hodgepodge of comfort foods &mdash think flatbreads, sushi and much more. The shareable plates are worth a gander, especially the creamy queso with a distinctly Texan accent. This version is made with 12-hour smoked brisket and slow-roasted poblano peppers, tomatoes and onions that are mixed into a blend of three different cheeses, then slicked with a drizzle of BBQ sauce and finished with a flurry of green onions. Warm tortilla chips are perfect for dunking into the hearty dip.

Roasted Shallot Dip

Classic Americana gets an injection of contemporary innovation at Mary Eddy's Kitchen x Lounge, where the artsy dining space in a former Ford assembly plant is as creative as the dishes on the menu. One superb snack at this Oklahoma City spot is the roasted shallot dip. This elevated riff on onion dip combines caramelized shallots with cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, zest, garlic and other seasonings. The sumptuous mixture is finished with a flurry of scallions, then paired with a side of tangy salt and vinegar chips.

Baked Goat Cheese

Classic Italian cuisine is viewed through a Pacific Northwestern lens at Pazzo in downtown Portland, Oregon, where Old-World recipes are reinterpreted with regionally sourced ingredients. Locally sourced goat cheese, for instance, makes for a superb starter. The dish sings with a medley of flavors, thanks to the addition of garlic, chopped basil, salt and pepper &mdash along with a bit of cream cheese to mellow out that distinctive tanginess. The sumptuous mixture is scooped into a ceramic casserole dish, then drenched with ladleful upon ladleful of a housemade tomato sauce that's made fresh daily. The hearty concoction is baked until the center of the cheese is hot, then drizzled with olive oil and served with sliced focaccia bread.

It's Not Spinach and Artichoke Dip

It's all about the egg at this aptly named New York City haunt, even when it comes to dips. Egg Shop's riff on a spinach and artichoke dip marries sauteed leafy green spinach and tangy artichoke hearts with slow-coddled eggs, which lend a lusciously creamy texture to the dish. The indulgent creation, known as It's Not Spinach and Artichoke Dip, comes paired with crisp pecorino toasts.

Scituate Lobster Cheddar Dip

Old meets new at Boston's MET Back Bay. Here, a historic townhouse exterior opens up to a contemporary restaurant within, where the kitchen turns out modern interpretations of beloved American standards. Regional ingredients play a major role here, as the menu is brimming with New England staples such as seafood that's served in various iterations. For instance, a creamy dip makes for the ideal dish to showcase lobster sourced from the nearby harbor town of Scituate. The dip, which comes in a cast-iron skillet, features succulent morsels of lobster submerged in a luscious cascade of warm liquid Cheddar. A side of griddled corn cakes perfectly complements this comforting creation.

Chipotle Crab & Artichoke Dip

The satisfying dishes served at Seabird in New York City sing with the flavors of the ocean, as this West Village spot is known for its comforting spins on seafood staples. Crab is one seasonal favorite that shows up in various iterations, including this indulgent Chipotle Crab and Artichoke Dip. Served warm, this appetizer features a creamy chipotle base studded with crab and artichoke. The sumptuous snack comes flanked by a heap of salty blue corn chips sturdy enough for scooping.

Baked Brie

Casual Louisville, Kentucky, restaurant Noosh Nosh is an ideal destination for a meal of shared dishes. Its Mediterranean-inspired menu is stuffed with snacks and starters dreamed up by Chef-Owner Anoosh Shariat. His baked Brie takes a particularly warming turn during the cooler months, thanks to the addition of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon maple syrup and red wine pear jam. Crunchy crostini provide a satisfyingly crunchy (and bite-size) base on which to spread the boozy, creamy Brie.


This makes an extra quart of cooked beans. Save (or freeze) for another batch of escarole, or serve them simply warmed in their broth.

Never have button mushrooms been more delicious than in this veg-packed spicy dip recipe, also ideal as a sandwich spread or finisher for simply prepared vegetables. This recipe is from Palizzi Social Club in Philadelphia, PA.

Recipes you want to make. Cooking advice that works. Restaurant recommendations you trust.

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No. 8: M. Wells, Long Island City, NY

Let me get this out of the way, since it's the first thing people ask about M. Wells: From Grand Central Station, take a Queens-bound 7 train two stops to Hunters Point Avenue in Long Island City. Your reward for the seven-minute trip is diner food unlike any other. Starters include pickled pork tongue and escargots with bone marrow. Want a sandwich? Try the General Tso's sweetbreads, or a hot dog with bacon chili and maple syrup coleslaw. The we're-not-at-Mel's-Diner-anymore feeling is courtesy of Canadian chef Hugue Dufour (he cooked at Montreal's cult favorite, Au Pied de Cochon) and his wife, Sarah Obraitis, who oversees the front of house. Go for lunch and order the French onion soup if they have it—it's the best I've had. If you ask, they'll put foie gras on top. In fact, you can add foie to a lot of things here. Looks like I'm gonna need to walk back to Manhattan.

Note : After the September issue went to press, we learned that M. Wells had lost their lease and would be closing at the end of August. Bummer—we liked that old diner cart. Thankfully, they've found a new location nearby and will be opening shortly. Long live snails and bone marrow!

Photo: Sarah Obraitis and Hugue Dufour of M. Wells, where "diner" food includes beef tartare and torilla española.


We Found The Best Appetizers At Your Favorite Chain Restaurants

Appetizers are the best part of any meal&mdashthis isn't up for debate, it is simply the cold hard truth. Nothing comes between me and my carby, buttery, gorgeous apps. Here are the best apps at your favorite chain restaurants whether you choose to share them or not is totally up to you.

Can you imagine if we DIDN'T put this on here? These golden, tender biscuits are bottomless and can turn any bad day around. Some will say these biscuits are meant to be filler and keep you from getting to the good stuff, but I think these *are* the good stuff.

We've had our fair share of calamari on our restaurant adventures, and honestly. most of them suck. If you're going to get calamari, I recommend only getting it from here. It's lightly breaded and tender, and comes as a large serving size for a group.

Somehow the best part of this burger isn't the thick blanket of cheddar cheese. The generous slathering of tangy bacon jam and crispy fried onion makes this one of the best sliders I've had.

Do you love lasagna? OK, what about deep-fried lasagna? The parmesan breading, marinara drizzle, and creamy alfredo sauce make this app a work of damn art.

How did it take us this long to get to a dip?? This dip is the perfect example of an app that you're expected to share but you simply won't. The creamy lemony dip is loaded with shrimp, scallops, and crab and it will make you feel like the fanciest person at the table.

I really didn't want to like these. Everyone and her mother was screaming about these flaky, golden egg rolls and, to be frank, I assumed they were overrated. I'm here to report that they are just as legendary as expected. Chili's wraps chicken, black beans, corn, jalapeños, cheese, red peppers, and spinach in a flour tortilla and fries it in all its glory. If you don't dip it in the avocado-ranch, you're doing a disservice to yourself.

Another extremely common and overrated app is the onion ring. Often, the onion is too slippery and falls out leaving you with a breading carcass. I am thrilled to say that Red Robin has nailed the onion ring game and these thick-cut onion rings are my new pride and joy. You'll be dipping them in the campfire mayo and ranch debating which dip is better until it's all gone. (But we all know the campfire mayo is best, yes?)

We're going to take a quick break from all things fried and brown for these chicken lettuce wraps. This app is great activity for the table and is light enough that you'll be able to make it to dessert. The garlic, ginger, hoisin sauce, and green onions give some serious flavor to the chicken, making you almost forget this is healthy-ish.

Look, I know this might be crazy to put this at number 2&mdashbut I've never had a reaction to bread and cheese like I did to this combo. The pretzels are puffy and salty and the beer cheese dip could truly go on everything. I had a spiritual awakening with these damn pretzels and I will stand by this ranking.

I'm also surprised this took the top spot, but when I really reflect on my favorite apps, this one immediately comes to mind. It was garlicky, buttery, and made me want to get up and dance. Every restaurant should put bread under their proteins to catch the sauce. It made so much sense, yet most places don't do this. If I talk about this app anymore I will have to order it for delivery, so I'm just going to tell you the obvious: Try it. Please.


The Best Restaurants in America for 2014

It becomes more difficult every year to rank America's best restaurants. We say that having done it for nearly a half-decade. As interest in dining out increases, and more great chefs train younger good ones, fantastic food continues to spread out across the country. Exceptional culinary landscapes in big cities get even better, and new and different dining scenes are born and in turn attract and inspire even more greatness from a growing number of talented cooks. This makes trying to rank the country's best restaurants in 2014 all the more challenging, but also all the more interesting, worthwhile, and intriguing.

We have always believed that good food is good food, and so our previous 101s have compared iconic pizza parlors and joints serving transcendent cheeseburgers with the lapidary perfection of a French Laundry or the genre-bending inventiveness of a Next. That said, as we continue to watch the nation's culinary scene improve, we've come to the conclusion that in fairness to both categories of restaurants we should now rank them in their own lists. In 2014, then, for the first time, The Daily Meal's ranking of 101 Best Restaurants in America will be followed by a list of America's 50 Best Casual Restaurants -- the most amazing spots in the United States serving the ribs, red hots, pizzas, burgers, tacos, and other less expensive (but no less important or mouthwatering) dishes. Watch for it next month.

We formed our first 101 list in 2011 by asking: Where did we, The Daily Meal's editors, like to eat? Accounting for our mood, budget, and where we happen to be when we get hungry, how would we vote -- not only with our critical faculties, but with our mouths and our wallets? Where would we send friends? We devised a list of 150 places and argued, advocated, and cajoled each other on behalf of restaurants ranging from old-fashioned to avant-garde, ultra-casual to super-fancy. Then we invited an illustrious panel of judges (restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, and bloggers) from across America to help order restaurants via an anonymous survey and tallied results to assemble a ranked list. We did that again in 2012, considering 2011's winners and nominees, and suggestions from judges and readers, resulting in 202 nominations, and again in 2013, considering readers' suggestions and those of panels with a wider geographic reach than ever.

In 2014, we took the added step of asking restaurant experts and critics across the country to submit nominations of their own, both locally and nationally. We ended up with more restaurants to consider than ever, some 430 from Maine to California, Washington to Florida, and everywhere you can imagine in between.

The results were thought-provoking and contentious. Evenly distributed across the nation? Absolutely not. While we try hard to represent a wide geographical spread, and as good as our overall food scene has become, there are "food towns" around the country -- Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, both Portlands, San Francisco, and a few others, including (grumble away) New York City -- where many of the best restaurants are congregated, often because talented chefs and restaurateurs from other regions gravitate to them. We realize that there are some 71 urban areas in the U.S. with populations of 500,000 and above, and though they're full of restaurants, does every one of them have one or two places that can really be compared with America's best? Maybe. But even today, probably not.

As always, the question we'd encourage panelists (and readers) in areas that seem underrepresented to ask themselves is: Is the restaurant I love here, something I'd recommend people make a special trip to experience? The answer would be yes for most of the top-ranking restaurants that made 2014's 101 best list, one that includes every kind of restaurant you could imagine.

You may question the results, you may think you know better than we do how to order this list, you may think it obvious that we should replace a number of winners with restaurants you think are more deserving. With a ranking like this, it would be surprising if there weren't disagreements. Indeed, there were places we were pulling for ourselves that didn't make the cut, and places we thought should have been higher or lower.

Please let us know what you think we missed or misranked -- we do read your comments even if we don't always agree with them. As we have every year, we'll publish a follow-up with your opinions -- and hey, if you turn us on to places we missed, so much the better.

We're excited about our 2014 list of America's best restaurants. Their quality and sheer diversity of menus and cuisines and the hundreds that almost, but didn't quite make it demonstrate that we live in an exciting time in America for food. There are some truly exciting chefs in America, chefs raising the bar to a level this country has never seen. We salute the hard-working people who make dining out in America a rewarding adventure. We'd also like to thank our panelists for helping. You can be certain we will continue to sign up more trusted panelists and refine the process by which we make our choices. What will the next 101 installment bring? You'll find out on The Daily Meal.


A culinary bucket list: ‘101 Best Restaurants in America’

New Yorkers looking to eat in the best restaurants in the America are at quite an advantage. According to a ranking just released by the Daily Meal of the 101 Best Restaurants in America, 27 of the country's top restaurants are in the Big Apple.

The restaurants were chosen by a panel of 176 food critics, cookbook writers and others in the food business, said Colman Andrews, the editorial director of The Daily Meal.

The results mix fine dining restaurants — like Eric Ripert's swanky Le Bernardin, with affordable options like Shake Shack and SriPraPhai in Queens.

The list serves as a sort of culinary bucket list of places to try across the country.

"In the back of my mind, I had an idea similar to what the Michelin Guides do, where one star means it's really good food, two stars means it's worth a detour and three stars means it's worth a special trip," Andrews said.

There are places on the list where people regularly make special trips, like French Laundry in Calif., but also places like Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, in New Haven, Conn. where pizza lovers would definitely make a detour — if not plan a trip around it, Andrews said.

"These are all places I'd recommend to food lovers. If you went to ever restaurant on this list, you'd have a really good idea of the state of American food. You might be poor, sick and fat," Colman joked. "But you'd really know what was going on."


The 100 Best Places to Eat in America, According to Yelp

Yelp has released its 2020 list of 100 Best Places to Eat in America and with eateries in nearly all 50 states, we can’t think of a better reason to start planning that road trip.

To be clear, this isn’t a pure list of the 100 restaurants with the best overall Yelp ratings, but rather a curated list showcasing some of the best Yelp-reviewed joints across the country. To determine Yelp’s Best Places to Eat in 2020, a data science team first pulled the top restaurants by ratings and number of reviews in 2019 across the U.S. and then curated a list with representation based on the regions overall share of top-rated restaurants.

The results are a dynamic and sometimes quirky snapshot of American dining with a little bit of everything, from white-tablecloth Italian in Chattanooga to a gumbo food truck in Portland, Oregon. Despite good overall diversity, a whopping 20 restaurants on the list are located in California—by far the most of any state.

  1. Shawarma Guys – San Diego, CA
  2. Pisces Poke & Ramen – Los Angeles, CA
  3. Farmbird – Washington DC
  4. Burgerama – Valley Village, CA
  5. Cocina Madrigal – Phoenix, AZ
  6. Fratellino – Coral Gables, FL
  7. Yardie Spice – Homestead, FL
  8. Sweet Rice – Gardena, CA
  9. Soichi Sushi – San Diego, CA
  10. Pikul Thai Bistro – Fairfield, CA
  11. Kahuku Farms – Kahuku, HI
  12. Shish Ke Baba – San Francisco, CA
  13. The Fuel Shack – San Clemente, CA
  14. PorkChop & Bubba’s BBQ – Bakersfield, CA
  15. Roundhouse Deli – Roseville, CA
  16. Tommy Tamale Market & Cafe – Grapevine, TX
  17. SP Brazilian Steakhouse – Lakeway, TX
  18. Kra Z Kai’s Laotian Barbeque – Corona, CA
  19. Karved – Las Vegas, NV
  20. Southern Charm Cafe – Cape Canaveral, FL
  21. Gino’s Deli Stop N Buy – San Antonio, TX
  22. Craft Pita – Houston, TX
  23. Taneda Sushi in Kaiseki – Seattle, WA
  24. Mumbo Gumbo PDX – Portland, OR
  25. Garlic Yuzu – Las Vegas, NV
  26. Mr bibi – Oceanside, CA
  27. Bulegreen Cafe Yard – Oakland Park, FL
  28. Sky Rocket Burger – Dallas, TX
  29. Scotty’s Cafe – Columbus, OH
  30. The Aussie Grind – Frisco, TX
  31. Greek Unique – Ashburn, VA
  32. Yahya’s Mediterranean Grill & Pastries – Denver, CO
  33. Nini’s Deli – Chicago, IL
  34. Lewis Barbecue – Charleston, SC
  35. Daybreak Pleasant Street – Gainesville, FL
  36. Otis – Brooklyn, NY
  37. ACHILLES – Santa Clara, CA
  38. Gotta B Crepes – Evanston, IL
  39. Taqueria La Familia – Denver, CO
  40. Hometown Cafe & Poké Bar – Providence, RI
  41. Zaap Thai – Portland, OR
  42. Asiana Thai & Sushi – Cincinnati, OH
  43. Selam Ethiopian & Eritrean Cuisine – Orlando, FL
  44. Chellas Arepa Kitchen – Lancaster, PA
  45. New Mexico Tamale Co – Ferndale, WA
  46. German Knoodle – St. Petersburg, FL
  47. Kuji Asian Grill – Woodland, CA
  48. Bombay River – Red Bank, NJ
  49. Carmelina’s – Boston, MA
  50. Arario Midtown – Reno, NV
  51. Indo – St. Louis, MO
  52. The Curry Pizza Company 2 – Fresno, CA
  53. Barista Del Barrio – Tucson, AZ
  54. Korai Kitchen – Jersey City, NJ
  55. 310 Eatery – Albany, CA
  56. Dia De Los Takos – Albuquerque, NM
  57. Healthy Substance – Chicago, IL
  58. Forma Pasta Factory – Brooklyn, NY
  59. Flight Restaurant & Wine Bar – Memphis, TN
  60. Croby’s Urban Viddles – Charlottesville, VA
  61. Mr. Pollo – Pensacola, FL
  62. Yassin’s Falafel House – Knoxville, TN
  63. The Local Wood Fired Grill – Alpharetta, GA
  64. Hold Fast Kitchen and Spirits – New York, NY
  65. Tibbitts @ Fern Hill – Tacoma, WA
  66. Acevedo’s Hawaicano Cafe – Kahului, HI
  67. Tuna Kahuna – Burlingame, CA
  68. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que – Kansas City, KS
  69. Hawaii Poke Bowl – Eagan, MN
  70. Trattoria 360 – Campbell, CA
  71. Porque No? Tacos – Oakland, CA
  72. Stella’s – Richmond, VA
  73. Indian Gardens Cafe & Market – Sedona, AZ
  74. Noodle Man – Virginia Beach, VA
  75. Peck Peck Korean Style Chicken – Teaneck, NJ
  76. Pruller Restaurant – Marlborough, MA
  77. Jackie M’s & Son – Augusta, GA
  78. JJ’s Caffe – Brockton, MA
  79. Odd Duck – Milwaukee WI
  80. Chez Genèse – Greensboro, NC
  81. Otaru Sushi Bar – New Haven, CT
  82. Fox & Fig – Savannah, GA
  83. The Box & Burgers Eatery – Kirkland, WA
  84. Yummy Pollo – Louisville, KY
  85. El Bocado – Philadelphia, PA
  86. Inizio – Buffalo, NY
  87. MOZZ – Provo, UT
  88. Bae Bae’s Kitchen – Pittsburgh, PA
  89. Alleia – Chattanooga, TN
  90. Yannis Golden Gyros – Indianapolis, IN
  91. Sunny Point Café – Asheville, NC
  92. Wright’s Barbecue – Johnson, AR
  93. Banh Mi Brothers – Charlotte, NC
  94. Ten/6 – Coeur d’Alene, ID
  95. Los Primos Tex Mex & Grill – Rockville, MD
  96. Plank Seafood Provisions – Omaha, NE
  97. Cafe Kacao – Oklahoma City, OK
  98. MAKS Asian Kitchen & Sushi – Fort Myers, FL
  99. Vizo’s African Bar & Restaurant – Lubbock, TX
  100. Falafel cafe – Birmingham, AL

Header image courtesy of Getty images.

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