When I was asked to name the top 10 restaurants in the country, I was floored. Just 10? How would a jet-setting foodie pick between Thomas Keller’s Per Se, in New York, and his original French Laundry, in Napa Valley? For me, I picked the original, because I feel it expresses more about Keller’s cooking soul, and also what’s important about California as it relates to global cuisine. Would I respect an argument that Per Se was better? Yes, but I’m not sure I’d accept an argument that you could fully appreciate the elegant pageant of Per Se without experiencing the farm-rooted French Laundry. Which is to say that in the end I did pick just 10, these 10—my humble list of the top American restaurants every advanced food-lover must experience.
Of course, once you hit this 10, you’ll want to add more, and that will be the time for Per Se, and time too to agree that experience is its own reward.
1. Daniel - New York, NY
Daniel Boulud’s namesake restaurant features contemporary, seasonal French cuisine in a setting that combines striking neoclassical architecture with elegant modern furnishings. The sophisticated bar and lounge are a welcoming spot for before and after dinner drinks. Daniel is a three Michelin starrestaurant and one of five Manhattan restaurants with The New York Times’ coveted four-star rating.
2. Le Bernardin - New York, NY
For 20 years, Le Bernardin has maintained its status of excellence and its international acclaim as one of the world’s top seafood restaurants. Zagat’s top pick for 2007, celebrity chef and owner Eric Ripert’s hot spot has also been awarded The New York Times’ highest rating of four stars.
3. The French Laundry - Yountville, CA
Celebrity chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain has called world-renowned chef Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley hot spot “the best restaurant in the world, period.” The moment Keller laid eyes on the rustic two-story stone house that had been a French laundry for more than 100 years he knew immediately that the comfortable, fine dining restaurants he’d visited in France could be replicated stateside. More than 20 years and countless accolades and awards later, The French Laundry is a must-visit for any foodie. With 15 tables, dining time is three to four hours with two prix-fixe menus from which to choose. Reservations are taken two months in advance to the calendar date.
4. Frasca - Boulder, CO
Frasca is the creation of master sommelier Bobby Stuckey and chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson. Their shared passion for Friuli-Venezia Giulian cuisine and fine wine is reflected in the exquisitely prepared fare and a comprehensive wine list boasting more than 200 varieties. The meticulous attention to detail, expert wine pairing, extensive knowledge of the menu, and a friendly feeling sets the award-winning Frasca apart.