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Michelin Starred Restaurants in the United States

All About Michelin Stars

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The expression "Michelin-starred chef" is thrown around a lot in food snobbish circles, and if you've ever nodded sagely while not knowing exactly what the snob in question was referring to, here are all the answers that you seek.

From the definition of Michelin stars, to how they're awarded, to how they stack up against other food ratings, to where to find Michelin-starred restaurants in the United States (Hint: don't look outside of New York, Chicago or San Francisco) you'll be able to nod like you mean it after you've taken a whirl through these resources.

What Are Michelin Stars?

If you think "tires" when you hear the word "Michelin", rest assured -- your mind is working properly.

Just like many automobile related companies in the United States published guidebooks to encourage people to take driving excursions, Michelin launched its dining review book series in 1900. But since Michelin stars have such an air of chi-chi exclusivity about them, and tires...well, don't, many people who talk about Michelin stars take care to use French pronunciation when referring to the restaurant ratings as opposed to the tire company. So it's Mish-lahn stars, and the Mitch-el-in man. Luckily no one has come up with a way to fancy up the pronunciation of Mobil or AAA, two other restaurant rating systems that also are car-related companies.

  • Click here to learn about Michelin's three-star system and what they mean, how they're awarded, and why the system is often criticized in the United States.
  • How are Michelin stars different from Mobil Stars, AAA Diamons, or from Zagat or Yelp reviews, for that matter? All is revealed here.

New York City's Michelin Starred Restaurants

Michelin covers three cities in the United States, and as the largest city in the country, it's no surprise that New York is the place with the most starred restaurants and the largest pack of three-starred establishments.

Although the top of the heap is by no means an exhaustive list of the best restaurants in the city, they're certainly on anyone's shortlist for a very special (and very spendy) meal. The process of getting a reservation at these places can make buying a house seem easy.

For details on reservations at New York's three-star restaurants and some less expensive alternatives, here's what you need to know:

For people who follow the celeb chef scene, there are some notable personalities that are not on this most elite list. If you're wondering how chefs like Joël Robuchon, Mario Batali, and Tom Colicchio fared with the Michelin inspectors, get the scoop in this story No 3 Stars for You!

Chicago's Michelin Starred Restaurants

Moving west from New York City, the next town evaluated by Michelin inspectors is Chicago.

The scene in Chicago is quite different than in New York, with a much smaller group of restaurants over all and a very small club of three-star restaurants -- in 2013 there was only one, Alinea. This was also the case in 2012, and a decline of one from the first year Michelin evaluated the city, which prompted the Chicago Tribune to ask whether this was a sign that the city's dining was getting worse. "When Michelin recognizes 52 one-star restaurants in New York City and 34 one-stars in San Francisco (the only other American cities that Michelin rates), it’s hard to view Chicago’s 16 one-star restaurants — down from 18 in 2011 and 2012 — as anything else but a slap in the face," wrote restaurant critic Phil Vettel. He went on to point out that the guide removed single-stars from the only rated restaurants in the Chicago suburbs, which means that the current crop of starred restaurants are all within the city center.

San Francisco's Michelin Starred Restaurants

Since Michelin decided to discontinue its Los Angeles and Las Vegas guides with its 2009 editions, San Francisco is the sole city west of the Rockies evaluated by Michelin's inspectors. But while there is plenty of fine dining to be had in the city, top honors have perennially gone to two restaurants in wine country: The French Laundry, widely considered to be the best restaurant in the United States, and the Restaurant at Meadowood. There's ongoing discussion about whether the European sensibilities of Michelin mesh well with the culinary scene in the City by the Bay.
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