Top 50 Restaurants in US


The October 2006 issue of Gourmet has a list and short description of what they consider to be the top 50 restaurants in the US. They also repeat the top 50 restaurant list for 2001. There have been many changes in 5 years.
#1. Alinea in Chicago. Grant Achatz is supposed to be redefining the American restaurant for an entirely new generation. You get many tiny samples of wildly original creations. When he perfects a dish he drops it and replaces it with something entirely new. Thus your meal on a return visit may be wildly different. Matching wine must be a nightmare, considering the extreme difference in the many bite sized courses. One course is a single perfect bite of lamb served in smoldering eucalyptus leaves. A tiny ravioli is filled with very intense liquid truffle. But these dishes likely have been replaced by something new by now.
#2 Chez Panisse in Berkeley. One hardly needs to discuss this long time top restaurant of Alice Waters.
#3 The French Laundry/Per Se. These two Thomas Keller restaurants hardly need any discussion. It is interesting that in the kitchen of each you will find a TV monitor tuned to the kitchen of the other restaurant. I guess this helps Keller keep control of both restaurants despite one being on the West coast and the other on the East coast.
#4 Spago in Beverly Hills. Despite being a restaurant for the stars, this restaurant still manages to put out top food.
#5 Joel Robuchon at the Mansion in Las Vegas. Apparently this new restaurant is turning out top food despite the location. It also is very expensive.
There now are many restaurants on the top 50 list scattered nearly all over the US. Most of these restaurants likely have a decent to outstanding wine list, but I doubt if you find any bargins in most of them.
Reply to
cwdjrxyz

Hmmm... Time to add that to my list.
I'm amazed that it ranks this high on the list, as good as it is.
I suppose that depends on what you mean by bargains. Perhaps because of the close relationship of Alice Waters and Kermit Lynch, Chez Panisse has usually got a fair number of reasonably priced, nontraditional wines in addition to the high end stuff. Their wine list can be found at:
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and on it you will find such reasonably priced gems as: 2005 Clos de Briords ($32) 2004 Closel Clos du Papillon ($44) 2004 de Villaine Aligoté ($36) 2004 Graillot Crozes-Hermitage ($46) 2003 Navarro Pinot Noir Methode l'Ancienne ($44) 2004 Foillard Morgon Cote du Py ($46)
Granted, those prices are 200-300% of retail, but they still represent good bargains for a restaurant wine list. The half bottle selection is also quite attractive.
Mark Lipton
Mark Lipton
Reply to
Mark Lipton

I am aways surprized that Chez Panisse is not #1 of top 50.
It might not be the most pretentious restaurant...but for me and my wife....we consider it the best restaurant we have dined at.
I have been to many of Top50 but not French Laundry. Tried and could not get in.
Reply to
Richard Neidich

I am always surprised that Chez Panisse is not #1 of top 50. It might not be the most pretentious restaurant...but for me and my wife....we consider it the best restaurant we have dined at.
Sorry for typos...I swear I am going to wear my glasses more.
Reply to
Richard Neidich

I wonder if this is survey is done the same way as the sister publication determines "best" hotels and resorts. they stick a ballot in the middle of the magazine with most possible choices and let the general public vote on any and all they wish. from the results in that survey, i am convinced that the ritz carlton company buys thousands of copies of the magazine and stuffs the ballot box. there is no requirement in that survey to ever have even been on the correct continent to vote for various establishments.
I once bought a gourmet to eat in the 10 or so restaurants chosen to be the "best" in london. Certainly 8 of the 10 should not have made the top 50
On 22 Sep 2006 21:37:47 -0700, "cwdjrxyz" wrote:
Reply to
gerald

Hello, gerald! You wrote on Sat, 23 Sep 2006 09:48:18 -0400:
g> I once bought a gourmet to eat in the 10 or so restaurants g> chosen to be the "best" in london. Certainly 8 of the 10 g> should not have made the top 50
g> On 22 Sep 2006 21:37:47 -0700, "cwdjrxyz"
??>> The October 2006 issue of Gourmet has a list and short ??>> description of what they consider to be the top 50 ??>> restaurants in the US. They also repeat the top 50 ??>> restaurant list for 2001. There have been many changes in ??>> 5 years.
??>> ??>> #1. Alinea in Chicago. Grant Achatz is supposed to be
??>> I wonder if this is survey is done the same way as the sister publication determines "best" hotels and resorts. they stick a ballot in the middle of the magazine with most possible choices and let the general public vote on any and all they wish. from the results in that survey, i am convinced that the ritz carlton company buys thousands of copies of the magazine and stuffs the ballot box. there is no requirement in that survey to ever have even been on the correct continent to vote for various establishments. ??>>
I wonder if you could get a survey from an insert in the Journal of the American Medical Association? An honest cardiologist might have to downgrade most of Gourmet's choices even if they probably could afford them!
James Silverton Potomac, Maryland
E-mail, with obvious alterations: not.jim.silverton.at.comcast.not
Reply to
James Silverton

Did it mention the methodology of its picks? I wonder how many people have eaten at Masa. I always find these list fascinating- the Restaurant Magazine list had WD-50 and Spice Market among the 50 best in the world, but this list doesn't have them in 50 best in US. Both lists include Gramercy Tavern, which I love, but partly because of it's predictableness- not in the same league creatively as say Manresa. I'm not sure I knowa single food-obsessed NYer who counts Babbo as the best place in city. I like Fore Street in Maine, but could name 10 NY places I think are better. I know a bunch of people who've eaten at Magnolia Grill (I haven't)- they liked, but 11th best in country? This list looks like some folks sat around picking names they knew- "ok, give me a Southern one...how about Tx? .....did we mention New England yet....hey, we have lots of Northern CA but we need to throw in some SoCal" ...I'm just a nitpicker I guess.
Reply to
DaleW

"Richard Neidich" in news:R%9Rg.5104$ snipped-for-privacy@newsread2.news.pas.earthlink.net:
Its importance is also historical. When it opened in 1971 focusing on local, seasonal ingredients; cooking that exposes the ingredients rather than force-fitting them into something like the _Guide Culinaire's_ standard recipes; service in a simple, country-inn style -- i.e., emulating examples of what Europeans had long done in modest good local restaurants Alice Waters knew and enjoyed -- there was nothing like it in the region. (I was a teenager two blocks away when it opened at 1517 Shattuck* Avenue, and saw it evolve.) Despite the European roots, or because of the different produce, journalists dubbed this "California Cuisine" and Panisse and spin-offs put Berkeley on the map gastronomically.
1970s standard US fine dining was _Guide Culinaire_ with shortcuts, heavy interiors, pompous headwaiters with itchy palms. Panisse may have helped that cliché die.
However! A novel cultural side-effect developed. When people came from afar to Panisse and spread the word, it surfaced in national restaurant writing like the recent list. (By early 1980s** it was the Laundry / Per Se of its day, "no one can get reservations there.") More people sought it out, and some found the modesty and simplicity incongruous with the fame. A middle-aged New Yorker visiting in the early 1980s told me he'd seen through Panisse, and what a fraud it was. So low-key, and he couldn't even get his favorite cocktail, goddammit! Call that service?
This phenomenon has become itself a cliché, especially among restaurant-experienced visiting Northeasterners who declare that they don't "get" what the fuss is about. Enough of a phenomenon to garner some explicit writing.
-- Max
-- * Francis Kittredge Shattuck was a local entrepreneur and land owner who organized a train line into the new college town of Berkeley, late 1800s, in what became its main business street. And if you've read this far and want REAL trivia: 10 years after Panisse opened, another food fanatic who then lived near it started a newsgroup, net.cooks, one of the first. (Now rec.food.cooking.) From which, by strong consensus, a wine newsgroup spun off a month later, net.wines. Which evolved continuously into what you are now reading. A tiny but real link connects this newsgroup to Chez Panisse therefore.
** By that time a secondary, casual café had also opened, upstairs, with very different cooking techniques, much less "exposed:" grilling, pizzas, etc. Afriend who was a longtime chef at the restaurant characterized the café to me, 20 years ago, as an almost independent business. But now a standard shibboleth for visitors or unfamiliar journalists is to fail to distinguish them.
Reply to
Max Hauser

"DaleW" in news: snipped-for-privacy@i3g2000cwc.googlegroups.com :
I'd say, on the contrary, those looked like pretty astute observations. For what my opinion is worth. -- M
BTW to Mark's incidental comment on wine pricing of "200-300%," I don't know about all regions, but a 2.5 ratio is fairly standard for Bay Area fine dining and relates somewhat to the food-cost ratio though details differ. Many restaurants permit or encourage bottles brought in. (We routinely brought our own wines to Panisse when I ate there occasionally as a starving student. 1976 Gevrey-Chambertins, 1971 Fixins -- I don't mean anything ironic here, these were good-value wines, snapped up occasionally when the values surfaced, carefully saved for suitable food occasions.)
Reply to
Max Hauser

The article with the list says nothing about the methodology. However the table of contents has a short paragraph that says: "And how do you narrow a field of thousands down to a mere 50. It wasn't easy, but it sure was fun." So I guess ratings are based on Gourmet staff evaluations. Gourmet now reviews restaurants all over the US, so they do have some experience with many restaurants. I would guess that Ruth Reichl, editor in chief of Gourmet, had as much to do with the list as anyone. She took over Gourment several years ago, and there soon were drastic changes. I believe she was a restaurant reviewer for the NY Times before going to Gourmet. She impresses me as a woman who usually gets her way, although I have never met her.
Now for NYC. Besides Per Se in a tie for 3rd with The French Laundry, other NYC entries are: 7- Masa; 9- Daniel; 10- Le Bernardin; 17- Babbo; 27- Jean Gorges; 34- Gramercy Tavern. Absent from this list, but on the 2001 list are: 19- Nobu; 37- Gotham Bar and Grill; 49- Peter Luger Steak House (Brooklyn).
Chez Panisse was #1 on the 2001 list and Gene Georges was #2.
Of course any such "best of" list always causes much discussion because individual tastes vary quite a bit.
I was surprised to find Locke-Ober in Boston to be rated as #18 on the new list. I ate there once when I was young (quite a few years ago).It was something out of the late 1800s in a luxary hotel dining room style. It would not have been out of place to have seen ladies in hoop skirts and bustles. Many of the regulars likely came over on the Mayflower. Apparently the decor is still much in the old style. However their present chef, Lydia Shire, has turned this restaurant upside down. Apparently she has managed to keep many of the old regulars despite predictions to the contrary. She has brought in many new customers as well. Some of her dishes sound quite radical, such as rum-and-tobacco smoked salmon.
Reply to
cwdjrxyz

I had a 1/2 bottle of JL Chave Hermitage last year and the price was like $75 for a half.
Where I live in NC that would be just about the retail price. So its all relative.
I stand by my comments that Chez Panisse is the best restaurant I have eaten at in North America. That said I have not been to French Laundry and I have heard it too is without doubt excellent. I am sure I would love it but cannot get in no matter how hard I have tried.
Chez Panisse I get into every trip to SF/ Napa as I call well in advance.
Reply to
Richard Neidich

Max, I only added that comment to address those who might view the word "bargain" as meaning close to retail in price rather than low in price. I agree that Chez Panisse's pricing is completely in line (if not better) with most of its peers'. My point was that there is a plentitude of low priced wines on Chez Panisse's wine list, many of which are more than just drinkable.
Mark Lipton
Reply to
Mark Lipton

On 23 Sep 2006 16:43:27 -0700
An old friend of Adele's was a food editor at Gourmet for many years. We were privy to their methods rating the Paris places. They'd ship the entire editorial staff over for a week, and every meal would be at a leading restaurant en mass -- though I believe they did split of the whole group. They ate together and passed food around, so it was anything but discreet. I believe that places towards the beginning of the week had a substantial advantage over later ones, when palate saturation surely set in.
-E
Reply to
Emery Davis

Cwdjrxyz, I guess I just get frustrated at the word "best," when there is no clear guide to (1) who did the choosing, (2) if multiple visits were required, and especially (3) what criteria did they use?
1) I enjoyed Ruth Reichl's reviews when she was with the Times (and Betsy has enjoyed her books). But I would be curious as to how many staffers were involved, and how many staffers needed to vote to place a restaurant on the list.
2) I believe the Times requires the reviewer to visit the restaurant at least 3 times before a review can be issued. I'm curious as to the Gourmet policy. Masa seats 10 at bar, plus I think 2 tables. How many staffers did Gourmet send (at $300/pop before drinks, tax, and tip) before declaring it in top 10? Masa also made the Restaurant magazine list, though it had been opened a few months - I had the same question.
3) this is the biggie to me. Is it based solely on food, do decor and service count equally to the food, or is primarily on food but with significant attention to the other two? Is excellent service in a casual style (think Danny Meyers' places such as Eleven Mad, Union Sq, Gramercy) considered as good as more formal French ala Jean-George, Daniel, A. Ducasse?
Lugers may well have what many people think of as the best steak in the US. Yet with its shortcomings of decor, service, and winelist, I can easily see it not being on such a list (of course, some people think the anti-decor and crusty staff make it even better). I'm surprised Gotham would have made the list even in 2001.
I'm not criticizing this list as such, I found it interesting (and actually probably better researched than the Restaurant "50 Best in World" - I seriously doubt most of the writers who voted for Spice Market had been there - it hadn't been opened long, just like Masa). I do wish Gourmet had entitled it something such as "50 Restaurants We Really Love" rather than such a definitive "50 Best", but I guess that would sell less.
Reply to
DaleW

Most 'best' restaurant lists don't use the same criteria I would. Often they only list so called 5 star ultra expensive posh restaurants frequented by the rich and famous. Usually those restaurants are not the type I enjoy and absurd prices are often not the main problem I have. I prefer small one of a kind out of the way restaurants that are not the trendy place to be.
Reply to
miles

One of my favorite restaurants will never make any national top list. It's too small and in a small city to get recognition. Thats something that makes it all the more special. Lack of tourists!! It's an old converted house in a residential neighborhood. Hard to beat! Wine Spectator has mentioned it briefly many times. The wine list on their website is only a small fraction of what they have.
If ever in Flagstaff on the way to the Grand Canyon make it a stop.
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Reply to
miles

Miles, Some time when you're visiting Amador County, take Hwy 88 over the Carson Pass to 395 and then South to Bridgeport. There, go to 1881 Restaurant
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, which is close to what you've just described, although without nearly such an extensive wine list. Still, it's quite a surprise to find such a nice fine dining establishment in such a remote location.
Mark Lipton
Reply to
Mark Lipton

Thanks Mark. That looks exactly like the type of restaurant I really enjoy. Small, quiet, not trendy, touristy etc. These types of restaurants aren't easy to find. I'd like to visit Amador again soon. It's been several years since I've been there. I usually go in May when the Sacramento Jazz Festival occurs. I may also visit in Sept. during the Reno Air Races.
Reply to
miles

miles wrote in news:w01Sg.1558$tO5.267@fed1read10:
And how much do they pay for the Wine Spectator recognition? You do know there is a fee for that? Don't you?
Reply to
John Gunn

"miles" wrote ...........
Now you understand why this is a very small world.
In 1985 or 86 I was working in the US (actually, I was being hosted by an American company whose products I sold in the NZ market) and spent a week in Arizona.
I had driven across from Bakersfield, through Barstow and Needles (at the time I was unaware I was driving the famous Route 66!) and stayed in Flagstaff, before heading up to the Grand Canyon.
I was hosted out to dinner - guess where?
Yes, Cottage Place Restaurant. I had forgotten the name - and recall nothing about what I consumed - but I vividly remember the building - as soon as I saw it on the web site.
Thanks for the link.
I also remember dining at Mancuso's at Borgata in Scottsdale, a bizarre OTT place rather styled like a medieval castle.
Again, I was being hosted, and have no specific memory of the meal or ines - but I was really impressed by the following.
It must have been August / maybe September (I could work it out - I ran the Santa Monica Sports & Arts Festival Marathon a couple weeks after my sojourn in Az!!!) - but it was very hot in Phoenix.
I arrived at Mancuso's sans jacket and tie - but, calmly and professionally, I was ushered into a small anteroom and fitted with both jacket and tie - and I rejoined my hosts within 30 seconds.
For a hick NZer, this was an amazing service.
Maybe it is time for a return visit.
Reply to
st.helier

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