The Michelin Guide is only in four cities in the United States. I’ve dined at all of the 3 Michelin starred restaurants, so I decided to rank them.
First and foremost, not all Michelin starred restaurants are the same. I’ve been to many Michelin starred restaurants around the world and it’s one of the most consistent inconsistent things I’ve noticed. Is the Michelin Guide accurate and consistent? In my opinion, it comes down to personal preference and tastes. The thing about food is it’s very subjective. It’s probably the most subjective thing in the world.
However, the Michelin guide has an objective rating method versus a subjective one. I will give the guide credit for their strict guidelines and being completely anonymous. The anonymous inspectors don’t reveal who they are, so there isn’t special treatment from the restaurant. They’re not well-known critics with their pictures in the local newspaper. There is no outside influence in their ratings, which I greatly appreciate. The anonymous inspectors are required to write up a detailed report along with pictures of the restaurant. It’s a pretty intense process.
The United States has four Michelin rated cities — New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington DC. It used to rate Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but those guides have been abandoned since 2009. In 2015, I decided to eat at all the Michelin 3 stars within a year. I completed my mission in 9 months while living in Los Angeles. It was a lot of time and money spent on my part, but I wanted to see what the hype was all about.
With that said, I’ve decided to rank the 3 Michelin starred restaurants in the United States. Here is my ranking:
1. Benu, San Francisco – Chef Corey Lee takes a modern approach to some classic and traditional Asian dishes. There’s a lot of hate online from people saying they could get the dishes cheaper at their favorite Asian restaurants. However, it’s a little stupid to think their local Asian restaurant serves truffles and foie gras. I’ve still trying to get decent service at my local Asian restaurants. Anyway, Benu is my favorite 3 Michelin starred restaurant in the United States.
2. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, New York City – Chef César Ramírez serves a seafood based tasting menu. Chef’s Table has the best dining experience out of all the restaurants on the list. It’s an intimate dining experience with no more than 18 people seated around a chef’s counter. The meal progression is perfect with every dish melted in my mouth.
3. Saison, San Francisco – The most expensive meal in San Francisco. It started as a pop-up then it became a brick and mortar restaurant. Saison does amazing things in a casual environment with 80s music playing in the background.
4. Quince, San Francisco – Quince recently received their third Michelin star. It’s definitely well-deserved as the service was impeccable and it was only matched by their French/Italian dishes. Quince is one of the more economical restaurants on the list.
5. Jean Georges, New York City – Jean Georges has been on the 3 Michelin starred list for ages. The chef is a pioneer that serves flavorful and colorful dishes in a light-filled dining room. It’s definitely worth the visit since they offer an a la carte menu.
6. The French Laundry, Yountville – The holy mecca of American fine dining. Chef Thomas Keller has been in grand master for more than 20 years. He is the only chef in the United States to have 7 Michelin stars and consistently ranked on the World’s 50 Best restaurants list. All the top American chefs come out of his kitchen. The French Laundry serves great classic French cuisines with unforgettable dishes like Pearls & Oysters and Foie Gras Terrine.
7. (tie) Le Bernardin, New York City – Le Bernardin’s chef is Eric Ripert. He is best known for being Anthony Bourdain’s travel buddy. The chef serves modern French cuisine using a lot of seafood in his dishes. It’s been considered one of the top restaurants in the world for more than five years.
7. (tie) Per Se, New York City – Per Se is the East Coast’s French Laundry. The classic French restaurant serves a variation of the French Laundry’s menu. Thomas Keller’s signature Pearls & Oysters could be found on the menu year round.
7. (tie) Eleven Madison Park, New York City – Eleven Madison Park is considered 2017’s best restaurant in the world. The dining experience is a New York theme journey through old New York stories and local ingredients. The service is impeccable and the creativity of the dish is amazing.
7. (tie) Masa, New York City – The only sushi restaurant in the United States with more than 1 Michelin star. Masa is a journey like no other in the United States. The seasonal omakase takes diners through a journey with its dishes and ingredients. However, it’s the most expensive tasting menu among the Michelin 3 starred restaurants.
11. Alinea, Chicago – The famous Chef who turned his menu into an art gallery. Alinea is known for their theatrics. It’s a complete haute cuisine (i.e., molecular gastronomy) dining experience. Chef Grant Achatz is considered a pioneer when it comes to progressive cuisines. The artistry in his Balloon dish is something completely unforgettable.
12. The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena – Meadowood is the other 3 Michelin starred restaurant in Napa Valley. It’s often overshadowed by the French Laundry. The farm-to-table restaurants serves an impressive chef’s table dining experience with ingredients from its own garden. It’s a fun dining experience to watch the cooks run through the kitchen as Bob Marley and Sublime is used as background music.
13. Manresa, Los Gatos – Manresa was recently awarded a third star. The restaurant is a world away from San Francisco’s city center. The restaurant serves New American cuisines drawing influences from different cuisines in America. Chef David Kinch’s farm-to-table tasting menus is amplified by his extravagant restaurant.
14. Grace, Chicago – Grace is one of two restaurants with 3 Michelin stars in Chicago. The other is Alinea; however, Grace is often overshadowed by Alinea’s theatrics. The restaurant is a fairly casual restaurant serving New American cuisine.
Finally, those are my rankings for the 14 three Michelin starred restaurants in the United States. I know a Michelin dining experience isn’t a regular experience for a lot of people. As I wrote this list, I realized that I’ve been very fortunate enough to have experience all these wonderful restaurants. Hopefully, this lists helps you out when it comes to the anniversary dinner or the special occasion. Safe travels.