Just Released List of – The 100 Best U.S. Restaurants

Just Released List of – The 100 Best U.S. Restaurants

Just Released List of – The 100 Best U.S. Restaurants

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A few months ago I wrote about a new and different dining guide,Opinionated About U.S. Restaurants 2011,  an interesting alternative to the Zagat or Michelin ratings.

The book is the work of Steve Plotnicki, one of the highest profile, most opinionated, and most obsessive eaters in the food blogging world, and formerly involved with  the site e-gullet. Plotnicki described his tome by saying, “This is a guide for people who regularly travel long distances solely for the purpose of eating at interesting restaurants.” I am definitely in that target audience.

Now Plotnicki is back in the spotlight with his 2012 comprehensive list of America’s 100 Best Restaurants, updated for 2012. The opinions are not Plotnicki’s alone, and like Zagat, the list is based on a survey, with about 3,000 raters covering some 70,000 eateries. The difference ostensibly is that these panelists are somehow qualified, or in the words of the press release I got, “including many of the top food bloggers in the country.”

Since I can’t speak to the nameless raters, I’ll address the list itself, which suffers from the same strengths and weakness as the book. Strengths are that it mostly hits the mark with a lot of great restaurants, and covers some (but not enough) interesting geography often overlooked by urban centric mainstream food media, from Princeton, NJ to Birmingham, AL to Portland ME. On the other hand, the list skips large swaths of the country and many entire cuisines and is distressingly NY-LA-Chicago-San Francisco Bay Area centric, while preoccupied with trendy Urban “localvores,” molecular gastronomy and sushi. Fourteen of the top Twenty restaurants are in New York or California.

But the overall list is helpful for picking places to eat or finding new interesting options, like the acclaimed Husk in Charleston, SC which opened last year. The list occasionally gives into food media hype, which is not surprising, because many of the survey’s participants are presumably the authors of this hype. For instance, New York “insiders” can continue to praise Momofuko all they want, presumably because their competition already has and they don’t want to be left out, but the idea that it is the 22nd best restaurant in the country, or even the 22nd best restaurant in Manhattan is patently absurd. Peter Luger is another example, and while I am well aware that for some bizarre reason it has many fans, I don’t know why, except to guess that they went for the hype and haven’t actually been to other high-end steakhouses. It’s probably not the best steakhouse in Brooklyn, certainly not in New York City, and a far cry from best in the nation, yet here it is, the highest rate on the list.

Otherwise the list looks pretty good, and you won’t find many people arguing with most of these picks, myself included. Ratings are always going to be subjective, and I don’t care whether French Laundry or Alinea or Jean Georges are second, third and eleventh respectively, as they are, or whether you flipped them with each other, because they are all undeniably among the nation’s best.

My biggest complaint is the near total absence of Las Vegas. I have and would make the argument that Vegas has a stronger high-end fine dining scene than any US city, yet the first entry on the list is Guy Savoy at 35th, and Sin City does not resurface until Picasso at 76th – and that’s it. These are both excellent choices, and either – or both – could have cracked the Top 10 and they are certainly both better than Luger. Now, you could make the argument that you can’t compare 3-Star Michelin French to steakhouses, but if we adopt a best-in-breed approach that embraces sushi, steak and haute cuisine, how is it that there is no barbecue reflected? Or pizza? Or any other food that can and has been elevated to an incredible level? But getting back to Vegas, I firmly believe that Joel Robuchon is one of the finest restaurants, if not the finest restaurant, on earth, and while I haven’t eaten at all of the top choices on this list, it is better than any I have eaten at, including French Laundry and Jean Georges. As if to reinforce this anti-Vegas bias, Robuchon’s second-tier L’Atelier in New York makes the list, ahead of his flagship – while the New York restaurant is in turn a spin-off of his second-tier Vegas L’Atelier eatery, also omitted. I’ve eaten at both and can’t imagine anyone preferring New York. I’d like to see the gastronomic temple at Number One, but I could live with Top 10. What I can’t live with is it being left off this list completely, along with most of the rest of Vegas, much of the South, all of Texas, the Rocky Mountain States and almost the entire Southwest.

Here’s the list. You be the judge. More detailed information, a slideshow, and more about the surveys can be found at the Opinionated About Dining website.

1. Manresa, Los Gatos, CA 102.06
2. The French Laundry, Yountville, CA 101.94
3. Alinea, Chicago, IL 101.34
4. Per Se, New York, NY 101.19
5. Town House, Chilhowie, VA 100.91
6. Masa, New York, NY 100.76
7. Urasawa, Beverly Hills, CA 100.73
8. Mini-Bar, Washington, D.C. 100.49
9. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY 100.08
10. McCrady’s, Charleston, SC 99.37
11. Jean Georges, New York, NY 99.06
12. Sushi Yasuda, New York, NY 98.95
13. Komi, Washington, D.C. 98.69
14. Saam at the Bazaar, West Hollywood, CA 98.46
15. Kuruma Zushi, New York, NY 98.33
15. Eleven Madison Park, New York, NY 98.33
17. Le Bernardin, New York, NY 98.28
18. Coi, San Francisco, CA 98.10
19. Corton, New York, NY 97.97
20. Schwa, Chicago, IL 97.74
21. Restaurant at Meadowood St. Helena, CA 97.54
22. Momofuku Ko New York, NY 97.11
23. Providence, Los Angeles, CA 96.71
24. Saison, San Francisco, CA 96.64
25. Cyrus, Healdsburg, CA 96.55
26. Spago, Beverly Hills, CA 96.51
27. Marinus, Carmel Valley, CA 96.46
28. Soto, New York, NY 96.44
29. Peter Luger, Williamsburg, NY 96.43
30. Bouley, New York, NY 96.31
31. L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, New York, NY 96.21
32 . Commis, Oakland, CA 96.19
33. The Herbfarm, Woodinville, WA 96.14
34. Guy Savoy, Las Vegas, NV 96.02
35. Elements, Princeton, NJ 96.00
36. Sushi Taro, Washington, D.C. 95.92
37. Charlie Trotter’s, Chicago, IL 95.91
38. Daniel, New York, NY 95.75
39. Quince, San Francisco, CA 95.74
40. Ubuntu, Napa, CA 95.71
41. Sugiyama, New York, NY 95.70
41. Sushi Seki, New York, NY 95.70
41. Uni, Boston, MA 95.70
44. Moto, Chicago, IL 95.61
45. Spiaggia, Chicago, IL 95.40
46. North Fork Table & Inn, Southold, NY 95.33
47. Chez Panisse, Berkeley, CA 95.14
48. O Ya, Boston, MA 95.01
49. Roberta’s (Tasting Menu), Bushwick, NY 94.93
50. Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham. AL 94.86
51. Marea, New York, NY 94.84
52. Brooklyn Fare, Brooklyn, NY 94.79
53. Atelier Crenn, San Francisco, CA 94.75
54. Miyake, Portland, ME 94.65
55. Kyo Ya, New York, NY 94.62
55. Craft, New York, NY 94.62
57. American Restaurant, Kansas City, KS 94.60
58. Patina, Los Angeles, CA 94.56
59. Momofuku Ss
60. Hugo’s, Portland, ME 94.52
61. Morimoto, Philadelphia, PA 94.47
61. Michy’s, Miami, FL 94.47
63. Citronelle, Washington, D.C. 94.39
64. Charleston, Baltimore, MD 94.31
65. Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta, GA 94.26
66. Aubergine, Carmel, CA 94.24
67. Niche, St. Louis, MO 94.23
68. wd-50, New York, NY 94.19
69. Sushi Ran, Sausalito, CA 94.18
70. Matsuhisa, West Hollywood, CA 94.15
71. Blue Hill, New York, NY 94.14
72. Volt, Frederick, MD 94.10
73. L20, Chicago, IL 94.09
74. Sawa Sushi, Sunnyvale, CA 94.05
75. Gary Danko, San Francisco, CA 94.03
76. Picasso, Las Vegas, NV 93.94
76. Benu, San Francisco, CA 93.94
78. Masa’s, San Francisco, CA 93.82
79. Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York, NY 93.81
80. Vetri, Philadelphia, PA 93.80
81. Totoraku, West Los Angeles, CA 93.75
82. Canlis, Seattle, WA 93.68
82. Blackbird, Chicago, IL 93.68
82. The Bazaar, West Hollywood, CA 93.68
85. Stella!, New Orleans, LA 93.58
86. Il Grano, West Los Angeles, CA 93.57
87. Quinones Room at Bacchanalia, Atlanta, GA 93.56
88. No. 9 Park, Boston, MA 93.54
89. Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA 93.45
90. Husk, Charleston, SC 93.27
90. Baume, Palo Alto, CA 93.27
90. Everest, Chicago, IL 93.27
93. Gramercy Tavern, New York, NY 93.26
94. Next, Chicago, IL 93.24
94. Red Medicine, West Hollywood, CA 93.24
96. Sanford, Milwaukee, WI 93.23
96. George’s California Modern, La Jolla, CA 93.23
98. Cut, Beverly Hills, CA 93.19
98. Nishimura, West Hollywood, CA 93.19
100. Castagna, Portland, OR 93.18