Best Restaurants to Check out in the USA

Best Restaurants to Check out in the USA

Explore America’s Culinary Wonders: The Best Restaurants to Visit

WRITTEN BYLorraine Giron
PUBLISHED ONApril 3, 2024

Let’s raise a toast to the United States, the birthplace of classic comfort foods like juicy burgers and creamy milkshakes. Yet, these beloved fast foods barely skim the surface of America’s rich and diverse culinary landscape..

The USA is a melting pot of global flavors. Italian pizzerias, Chinese dim sum spots, and Mexican taquerias line city streets—the list goes on!

Here, you’re offered a passport to taste authentic dishes from every continent without crossing the nation’s borders.

Let’s dive into some of the best dining experiences the USA offers.

Culinary Destinations Overview

Foodie Cities

Food is a sustenance and art form in America’s culinary landscape and New York City leads the charge. The Big Apple offers street food as well as Michelin-starred dining experiences. Here, the melting pot of cultures serves a dizzying array of cuisines. Katz’s Delicatessen and Momofuku Noodle Bar are must-visits for their iconic dishes.

San Francisco takes pride in its farm-to-table approach, influenced by California’s rich agricultural resources. The city’s culinary scene shines at places like The French Laundry near Yountville, where local ingredients take center stage.

New Orleans’ vibrant food scene reflects its deep-rooted cultural heritage. Creole and Cajun cuisines are leading the way. Commander’s Palace stands out for its authentic Southern dining experience.

Coastal Eats

The coastline of the United States offers some of the freshest seafood. For example, in Maine, Eventide Oyster Co. provides a modern twist on New England classics.

California’s coast boasts restaurants like The Fish Market in San Diego, where diners can enjoy ocean-to-table fare with a view of the Pacific Ocean. These establishments highlight the simplicity and freshness of coastal cuisine.

Regions such as the Pacific Northwest are renowned for their salmon dishes.

Southern Flavors

In the South, comfort food is well-known for its rich traditions and stories. Dishes like fried chicken, barbecue ribs, and shrimp have made cities like Nashville and Memphis culinary hotspots. One must-try for visitors is Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville which is famous for its spicy fried chicken.

In Charleston, restaurants like Husk emphasize regional ingredients and add depth and authenticity to Southern flavors redefining Southern cuisine by focusing on heirloom ingredients and traditional methods.

Urban Delights

Cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago are melting pots of culinary innovation. For example, LA’s vibrant food truck scene offers Korean-Mexican fusion to gourmet ice cream sandwiches, and restaurants like Bestia push the boundaries with creative Italian dishes.

Chicago’s deep-dish pizza is legendary, but the city excels in high-end dining experiences. Other restaurants like Alinea are known for their molecular gastronomy approach.

Culinary Bucket List

101 Best Restaurants

The top 101 restaurants list is a culinary roadmap for food lovers nationwide. Experts and food critics work together to select these dining spots. They consider factors such as uniqueness, customer reviews, and the chef’s creativity. A noticeable trend among these chosen places is their commitment to sustainability and local sourcing. Many are also pioneers in fusion cuisine which blends different culinary traditions into something entirely new.

Coast to Coast Flavors

The USA’s vast geography brings a rich variety of flavors. From New England’s seafood to Southern barbecue, each region adds its unique twist. Geography and local culture shape these specialties.

For instance, the Gulf Coast is famous for its Cajun and Creole dishes, while the Pacific Northwest offers fresh seafood and farm-to-table experiences. Standout dishes include Texas brisket, Maine lobster rolls, and California’s farm-fresh salads.

Hidden Gems

Beyond the well-trodden path lie restaurants that deserve more attention. These hidden gems shine due to their innovative menus or historic significance. To earn this title, a restaurant must offer an exceptional dining experience that remains under the radar of mainstream media. One such place might be a family-run diner with recipes passed down through generations or a modern eatery experimenting with local ingredients.

Celebrity Chefs

Restaurants led by celebrity chefs often become attractions in their own right. These establishments benefit from their namesakes’ fame but also from their culinary expertise. Gordon Ramsay Steak in Las Vegas and Girl & The Goat in Chicago by Chef Stephanie Izard are prime examples. Signature dishes like Beef Wellington at Ramsay’s and wood-fired pork shanks at Izard’s showcase their unique styles and flavors.

Top Restaurants Nationwide

East Coast Gems

Seafood Specialties

Luke’s Lobster in Maine stands out for its sustainable seafood practices. They serve fresh, traceable seafood dishes, and their lobster rolls have won numerous awards. Sustainability is key here, and they work closely with The Marine Stewardship Council.

In Boston, Neptune Oyster is a must-visit because they emphasize quality and freshness in their seafood offerings. In fact, their oysters and clam chowder have received high praise.

Fine Dining

New York City’s Eleven Madison Park offers an unforgettable fine dining experience and has earned three Michelin stars. Its chef, Daniel Humm, is known worldwide for his innovative dishes.

Washington D.C.’s Pineapple and Pearls provides exquisite meals and has also been awarded two Michelin stars. The chefs here are celebrated for their culinary creativity.

West Coast Wonders

Farm to Table

San Francisco’s The Farmhouse Kitchen excels in using locally sourced ingredients. This commitment supports local farmers and ensures fresh dishes. They partner with several local farms, including Green Valley Farm.

Portland’s Ava Gene’s emphasizes Oregon’s agricultural bounty in Italian-inspired cuisine. They showcase the benefits of farm-to-table dining not just in taste but also in supporting the local economy.

International Cuisine

Los Angeles is home to Guelaguetza, renowned for authentic Oaxacan cuisine. Traditional cooking methods bring out rich flavors in their dishes. LA’s diversity makes it a hotspot for international food lovers.

Seattle’s Joule offers innovative Korean fusion cuisine and is celebrated for its wide range of international dining options.

Midwest Must-Visits

BBQ Joints

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que is famous for its smoked meats and unique sauces which embody the region’s rich BBQ culture and has won numerous competitions.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Smoque BBQ stands out for its dedication to smoking meats using various woods and techniques. Their brisket has garnered widespread acclaim.

Craft Breweries

Minneapolis’s Surly Brewing Co. uses local ingredients to brew its award-winning and unique beers that complement its varied menu items perfectly.

St. Louis’s Urban Chestnut Brewing Company focuses on traditional European styles and modern American crafts and uses locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.

Southern Hospitality

Creole Cuisine

New Orleans’ Commander’s Palace’s menu dives deep into the history of Creole cuisine which is known for its authentic dishes. It showcases the fusion of French, Spanish, African, and American cultures.

Smoked Meats

Austin’s Franklin Barbecue specializes in slow-smoked Texas brisket, considered among the best in the country because their innovative smoking techniques set them apart from others.

City-Specific Highlights

New York Classics

New York City is a melting pot of cultures, and its food scene reflects this diversity. Iconic dishes like New York-style pizza, bagels, and cheesecake stand out.

  • Katz’s Delicatessen is famous for its pastrami sandwiches and has been serving since 1888, offering a taste of old New York with every bite.
  • Lombardi claims the title of America’s first pizzeria.
  • Junior’s in Brooklyn is renowned for its creamy cheesecake.

LA Innovations

Los Angeles is at the forefront of culinary innovation. Restaurants here are quick to adopt health trends, with plant-based menus becoming increasingly popular. Sqirl started with unique jams and evolved into a breakfast haven that epitomizes LA’s food scene.

Chefs like Roy Choi have revolutionized street food with gourmet Korean-Mexican tacos from his Kogi BBQ trucks. This blend of flavors and focus on fresh ingredients showcases LA’s inventive culinary spirit.

Chicago Deep Dish

Chicago takes pride in its deep-dish pizza, a hearty variant that turns the traditional pizza on its head. Pizzeria Uno is credited with inventing it in 1943. Other notable spots include Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s, each claiming a legion of loyal fans.

There’s an ongoing debate between supporters of Chicago-style pizza and those who prefer thinner crusts. Yet, many agree that there’s something uniquely satisfying about the deep-dish experience.

New Orleans Traditions

New Orleans’ cuisine is a reflection of its diverse history, combining French, African, Spanish, and Native American influences. When you eat dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and beignets, you’re tasting parts of the city’s cultural past. Commander’s Palace and Antoine’s offer authentic Creole dining experiences.

Mardi Gras greatly influences the city’s food scene, introducing festive foods like king cake that become seasonal favorites.

Iconic Cities

New York City

In New York City, you’ll find world-class fine dining alongside iconic street foods. The city’s energy fuels a diverse food scene. Don’t miss out on famous New York-style pizza and bagels.

The city’s various neighborhoods offer authentic international cuisines. From Chinatown to Little Italy, it’s like traveling the world without leaving the city.

  • Eleven Madison Park

Signature Dish: Honey Lavender Roasted Duck – known for its perfect blend of sweetness and aroma.

  • Di Fara Pizza

Di Fara Pizza is a Brooklyn institution renowned for its classic New York-style pizza. Pizza legend Domenico DeMarco carefully crafts every pie.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles caters to health-conscious eaters and innovation seekers. Here, you can indulge in vegan options that amaze even the most loyal meat lovers.

Savor the taste of fresh seafood and dishes made from farm-fresh ingredients that showcase what California has to offer. Every meal is not only tasty but also made with a focus on being eco-friendly and sustainable.

The best part? There’s always something new rolling down LA streets such as a food truck offering quick eats from all corners of the globe.

  • Sqirl

Sqirl is known for its innovative breakfast and lunch dishes which focus on vibrant, locally sourced ingredients.

Chicago

Chicago is home to hearty classics like deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs which embody the spirit of Chicago – bold, straightforward, and flavorful.

Don’t miss out on historic diners and steakhouses with decades of history behind them. Visit these establishments for their food, stories, and tales about this great city’s past.

  • Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria

A staple in the Chicago pizza scene, Lou Malnati’s is famous for its deep-dish pizza. It features a buttery crust, layers of cheese, and chunky tomato sauce.

San Francisco

San Francisco invites you to enjoy fresh sourdough bread and world-famous clam chowder by its scenic bay views. The city prides itself on using local ingredients that speak volumes about quality.

Explore gourmet offerings in the Ferry Building Marketplace where artisans showcase their finest creations.

Southern Delights

New Orleans

Indulge in Creole and Cajun flavors unique to the area

In New Orleans, Creole and Cajun cuisines are the stars. You’ll find gumbo, jambalaya, and etouffee on many menus.

While exploring, don’t miss out on sipping chicory coffee. Pair it with beignets at a local café for a sweet start to your day.

The French Quarter is home to lively jazz brunches.

  • Commander’s Palace

Signature Dish: Turtle Soup au Sherry, a rich and flavorful soup that represents the Creole traditions of New Orleans.

Nashville

Savor spicy hot chicken, a local specialty

Nashville is famous for its music scene. However, its culinary offerings are equally noteworthy. One must-try here is the crispy, fiery, and utterly addictive Hot chicken.

The city also combines great tunes with tasty meals. Many venues across Nashville offer live music with your meal. For traditional Southern comfort food, try biscuits and gravy or barbecue ribs.

  • Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack

Signature Dish: Hot Chicken, the spicy, crispy chicken that has become synonymous with Nashville’s culinary scene.

Charleston

Relish in Lowcountry cuisine such as shrimp and grits or she-crab soup

Charleston is highlighted by Lowcountry cuisine. Shrimp and grits or she-crab soup reflect the region’s flavors.

This charming city is about great food, history, and culture. You can visit historic markets filled with artisanal foods and crafts here.

Many restaurants also operate within beautifully restored buildings offering true southern hospitality.

Austin

Dive into the thriving food truck scene serving everything from tacos to gourmet donuts

Austin stands out for its vibrant food truck scene.

Tex-Mex cuisine gets a modern twist in Austin, too. Think innovative dishes that still pay homage to traditional flavors but surprise you with every bite!

And just like Nashville & New Orleans, Austin loves combining good eats with entertainment. Expect plenty of eateries in the city hosting live music performances.

Coastal Flavors

Miami

Miami invites you to taste Cuban sandwiches, ceviche, and other Latin American delights. The city’s warm climate means you can dine al fresco all year.

Little Havana offers an authentic Cuban experience. Here, the cuisine and culture are as rich as they come.

  • Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami

Signature Dish: Stone Crab Claws – served with Joe’s famous mustard sauce.

Seattle

Seattle is known for its fresh Pacific Northwest seafood. Think oysters and salmon that taste like they jumped straight from the ocean onto your plate.

Pike Place Market should be on your list, too. It has artisanal cheeses, chocolates, and more. Don’t forget to try coffee from world-renowned roasters here. Pair it with gourmet pastries for a perfect snack.

San Diego

Fish tacos by the beach are a San Diego specialty you shouldn’t miss. They embody the local flavor in every bite. The city also boasts craft breweries with unique pairings for local dishes.

Virginia Beach

If Southern Delights intrigues your palate, these coastal flavors will captivate it further.

Virginia Beach offers freshly caught seafood along its oceanfront boardwalk. Dining by the beach gives stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Local farmers’ markets have Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables worth exploring, too.

Midwest Gems

Milwaukee

Milwaukee is deeply rooted in its brewing heritage. Beer-infused dishes are a must-try here.

The local cuisine also boasts authentic German flavors. You can taste traditional sausages and pretzels alongside locally crafted beers.

The city is home to trendy riverfront eateries, too. It’s perfect for a night out or a brunch by the water.

  • Sanford

Signature Dish: The “Sanford Sturgeon” showcases the best Midwest ingredients, featuring locally sourced sturgeon as the star.

Kansas City

Kansas City is renowned for its slow-smoked barbecue and blues scene. Imagine enjoying melt-in-your-mouth brisket with live music in the background – an experience that combines great food and culture beautifully.

Steak lovers will also find paradise here, thanks to numerous steakhouses throughout the city. For those who enjoy craft beer, some breweries offer bold flavors paired with classic Midwestern dishes.

Detroit

Detroit-style square pizza is something you cannot miss when visiting this city. Its crispy crust and cheesy goodness make it stand out from other pizzas.

Eastern Market has everything from fruits to handmade goods and should be on your list for fresh produce and artisanal foods.

Detroit also offers excellent Middle Eastern cuisine due to its diverse immigrant communities.

Iowa City

Iowa City showcases farm-to-table dining at its finest. These meals bring the freshest ingredients directly from the farm to your plate.

Homemade pies featuring locally sourced fruits are another delight of this area. They can be found in quaint cafés around town.

Lastly, don’t forget about checking out craft beer pubs. Iowa’s brewery scene is growing rapidly. These pubs celebrate this growth by offering unique brews.

Mountain Escapes

Denver

Venturing into the national parks is one of the best things to do in the USA. Denver positions you near these natural wonders.

Denver offers a unique culinary adventure, starting with Rocky Mountain oysters. It’s not what it sounds like, but rather deep-fried bull testicles. If you’re feeling adventurous, this delicacy is a must-try because many locals love them.

Next, Denver is famous for its craft beers. The city has high-altitude breweries with stunning mountain views. You can enjoy a cold beer while looking at the Rockies.

For those who prefer plant-based diets, Denver won’t disappoint. The city boasts innovative vegetarian and vegan dining options.

  • Fruition Restaurant

Signature Dish: Pasta Carbonara, reimagined with handmade cavatelli, pork belly, and a six-minute egg. This highlights Chef Alex Seidel’s commitment to comfort food with a twist.

Montana

Montana is one of the best places to visit in the USA. This is largely due to the Glacier National Park. However, the experience is further enriched when you try the local wildlife cuisine.

Montana is known for its wildlife cuisine. Here, you can feast on bison burgers or elk steaks. These meats are leaner than beef and offer a unique taste of local wildlife.

If you want an authentic experience, visit ranches offering chuckwagon meals under the Big Sky country stars. These outdoor meals provide a glimpse into cowboy life.

Montana also offers Huckleberry products that are unique to the region. You can find everything from jams to desserts made with these berries.

  • The Ranch at Rock Creek

Signature Dish: Bison Ribeye, offering a taste of the local, wild, and rugged flavors of Montana with a refined touch.

Napa Valley

Napa Valley is synonymous with gourmet meals and world-class wines. Vineyard restaurants here pair exquisite dishes with fine wines.

Wine-tasting tours in Napa often include exclusive cellar dinners and allow you to explore rare vintages in intimate settings.

Lastly, Napa emphasizes farm-to-table cuisine and ensures fresh and flavorful dishes every time.

Northeast Highlights

Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, Cheesesteaks are a must-try. Pat’s and Geno’s are two famous spots facing each other.

Reading Terminal Market is another treasure in Philadelphia that brings together Amish specialties and local foods under one roof.

For dessert, Philadelphia doesn’t disappoint with its ice cream parlors. They serve inventive flavors that change with the seasons.

Boston

Boston takes pride in its seafood, especially New England clam chowder. Try eating it from a sourdough bread bowl to enhance the experience.

The city’s historic taverns serve traditional Bostonian seafood dishes, too.

In Boston’s North End neighborhood, Italian pastries and cannoli are legendary. Mike’s Pastry is a popular spot you might want to visit.

Baltimore

Baltimore is known for its blue crabs seasoned with Old Bay seasoning. Enjoying them by the waterfront adds to the charm of this dining experience.

Pit beef sandwiches are unique to Baltimore’s culinary scene. They’re worth trying if you’re looking for something different.

Natty Boh beer pairs well with many of Baltimore’s dishes, making it a favorite among locals and visitors.

Southwest Savors

Houston

Houston welcomes you with its Tex-Mex cuisine. You can savor fajitas that sizzle on your plate. Don’t forget to try the queso dip – creamy and perfect with crispy tortilla chips.

The city also boasts a booming Asian culinary scene. Dim sum is a fun way to share various dishes with friends or family. For something heartier, go for a bowl of pho.

Lastly, Houston takes pride in its barbecue. Its brisket is slow-cooked until tender, making every bite melt in your mouth.

  • Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

Signature Dish: Dry-aged beef, a testament to the steakhouse’s dedication to quality and flavor, makes it a must-visit for meat lovers.

Arizona

Arizona offers unique tastes from the Southwest region.

Start with Sonoran-style Mexican food like tamales or carne asada. Tamales are steamed to perfection while carne asada will satisfy any meat lover.

Then refresh yourself with a prickly pear margarita, made from locally harvested cacti. They’re sweet and tangy at the same time.

Arkansas

Arkansas is all about Southern comfort food.

Fried catfish is crispy outside but tender inside. Hushpuppies make for an irresistible side dish. Together, they create a meal full of comforting flavors.

Artisanal cheeses await at local dairy farms open for tours. You can learn how cheese gets made while tasting different types.

In the Arkansas breakfast tradition, chocolate gravy over biscuits stands out. It’s sweet yet familiar, perfect for starting your day on an indulgent note.

Unique Destinations

Alaska

Alaska offers a culinary adventure like no other. Here, you can feast on wild Alaskan salmon, fresh from local waters.

Try reindeer sausage for breakfast, a unique Alaskan twist to start your day. Pair it with eggs or pancakes for a hearty meal.

Don’t miss out on birch syrup products. They are the northern alternative to maple syrup. Birch syrup has a distinct taste that sweetens any dish uniquely.

Portland

Portland takes its coffee seriously. You’ll find artisanal brews everywhere in the city.

The city is also famous for its creative doughnut varieties.

Experience farm-to-cone ice cream here, too. It features ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. This ice cream tastes fresh and vibrant, showcasing local flavors at their best.

Asheville

Asheville is celebrated as one of America’s top beer cities.

Dine at farm-to-table restaurants nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains. These spots offer delicious and sustainable meals.

Taste Appalachian staples reimagined by innovative chefs. They take traditional recipes and give them a modern twist.

Seasonal Culinary Tours

Fall Harvests

Fall brings a bounty of fresh produce. Restaurants like The Orchard in New York City take full advantage of this. Think pumpkin risotto and apple-glazed pork chops. Seasonal menus thrive during this period, thanks to abundant ingredients like squash, apples, and root vegetables.

Chefs become more creative with their offerings. Diners can expect meals that are delicious and visually appealing. A standout dish is the butternut squash soup at The Harvest Table in California. It’s a true reflection of fall’s warm colors and comforting flavors.

Winter Warmers

During the chilly months, people crave warmth from their meals. Restaurants such as Hearthstone in Colorado specialize in hearty winter dishes. Their menu features items like beef stew and creamy potato soup.

Winter cuisine often uses seasonal ingredients like root vegetables and grain. One notable mention is The Cozy Cabin in Vermont. Their signature dish, the winter vegetable pot pie, uses locally sourced ingredients to bring warmth during the frosty season.

Spring Greens

As winter fades, spring ushers in a wave of fresh produce. Greenhouse Café in Oregon celebrates this transition with dishes packed with spring vegetables and herbs. Menus get lighter, featuring items like pea tendrils salad and herb-roasted chicken.

This season is about rejuvenation, both for nature and restaurant menus. Ingredients such as asparagus, radishes, and young greens are stars on the plate. For instance, Buds & Blooms in Washington offers a refreshing spring vegetable risotto that embodies the season’s freshness.

Summer Seafood

Summer is synonymous with seafood festivals and beachfront dining experiences. Ocean’s Bounty in Florida showcases an impressive array of summer seafood specials. Each dish highlights the freshness of the ocean’s offerings, from grilled scallops to lobster rolls.

This season benefits greatly from an abundance of fresh seafood. Culinary events celebrating this bounty are common across coastal regions. The Annual Seafood Splash at Dockside Delights in Maine is an event where locals and tourists gather to enjoy freshly caught delicacies.

Dietary Diversities

Vegan Ventures

Across the USA, restaurants like Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles and Vedge in Philadelphia set the bar high for vegan cuisine. They offer dishes that challenge traditional perceptions of vegan food. Innovation shines through their use of unique ingredients like jackfruit and aquafaba.

It’s a testament to how far plant-based cooking has come.

Gluten-Free Eateries

Dining out can be a minefield for those with gluten sensitivities. However, eateries like The Little Beet Table in New York and Senza Gluten in Greenwich Village excel in crafting gluten-free menus. Moreover, they understand the importance of strict kitchen practices to avoid cross-contamination.

These establishments ensure diners enjoy a safe and satisfying menu.

Keto-Friendly Kitchens

Restaurants catering to keto diets focus on low-carb, high-fat options. Places like Café Gratitude in California offer dishes that fit within keto guidelines without sacrificing flavor. They transform traditional dishes into keto-friendly delights.

These prove that adhering to dietary restrictions doesn’t mean missing out on gourmet experiences.

Paleo Picks

Paleo-friendly restaurants prioritize dishes made from whole, unprocessed foods. Establishments like Hu Kitchen in New York City stand out for their commitment to Paleo principles while offering delicious meals.

Driving in the United States

A road trip across the United States opens up possibilities for adventures. Driving in the USA offers an unparalleled opportunity for a culinary road trip. With a rental car, you can explore these dining options at your own pace.

International Driving Permit

Looking through car rental options? But first, secure an International Driving Permit (IDP) in the United States. An IDP serves as a translation of your native driving license.

Having an IDP alongside your valid driver’s license from your home country is a key step in preparing for a journey across the USA.

Best Time to Visit the USA

The USA is a year-round destination for foodies and adventure seekers. However, the best time to visit the USA is late spring through early fall (May to October).

This period offers the most pleasant weather for travel. It also coincides with the harvest season for many regions. This means you’ll get the freshest and most flavorful produce.

Embark on a Culinary Feast Across the USA

This adventure is about experiencing the heart and soul of America’s diverse food scene.

We invite you to explore every flavor and every dish that tells the story of America’s rich culture, history, and culinary innovation.

As you set out on this flavorful quest, remember the freedom that comes with driving across the states. Secure a rental car and an International Driving Permit to avoid missing out on hidden gems. Your next extraordinary meal is waiting to be discovered in the USA!

Safe travels and bon appétit!

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