Huffpost Food

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

The Daily Meal Headshot

The Best Restaurants in America for 2014

Posted: Updated:

It becomes more difficult every year to rank America's best restaurants. We say that having done it for nearly a half-decade. As interest in dining out increases, and more great chefs train younger good ones, fantastic food continues to spread out across the country. Exceptional culinary landscapes in big cities get even better, and new and different dining scenes are born and in turn attract and inspire even more greatness from a growing number of talented cooks. This makes trying to rank the country's best restaurants in 2014 all the more challenging, but also all the more interesting, worthwhile, and intriguing.

Click Here to see the Slideshow for 101 Best Restaurants in America 2014

We have always believed that good food is good food, and so our previous 101s have compared iconic pizza parlors and joints serving transcendent cheeseburgers with the lapidary perfection of a French Laundry or the genre-bending inventiveness of a Next. That said, as we continue to watch the nation's culinary scene improve, we've come to the conclusion that in fairness to both categories of restaurants we should now rank them in their own lists. In 2014, then, for the first time, The Daily Meal's ranking of 101 Best Restaurants in America will be followed by a list of America's 50 Best Casual Restaurants -- the most amazing spots in the United States serving the ribs, red hots, pizzas, burgers, tacos, and other less expensive (but no less important or mouthwatering) dishes. Watch for it next month.

We formed our first 101 list in 2011 by asking: Where did we, The Daily Meal's editors, like to eat? Accounting for our mood, budget, and where we happen to be when we get hungry, how would we vote -- not only with our critical faculties, but with our mouths and our wallets? Where would we send friends? We devised a list of 150 places and argued, advocated, and cajoled each other on behalf of restaurants ranging from old-fashioned to avant-garde, ultra-casual to super-fancy. Then we invited an illustrious panel of judges (restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, and bloggers) from across America to help order restaurants via an anonymous survey and tallied results to assemble a ranked list. We did that again in 2012, considering 2011's winners and nominees, and suggestions from judges and readers, resulting in 202 nominations, and again in 2013, considering readers' suggestions and those of panels with a wider geographic reach than ever.

Click Here to see the Complete list of 101 Best Restaurants in America 2014

In 2014, we took the added step of asking restaurant experts and critics across the country to submit nominations of their own, both locally and nationally. We ended up with more restaurants to consider than ever, some 430 from Maine to California, Washington to Florida, and everywhere you can imagine in between.

The results were thought-provoking and contentious. Evenly distributed across the nation? Absolutely not. While we try hard to represent a wide geographical spread, and as good as our overall food scene has become, there are "food towns" around the country -- Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, both Portlands, San Francisco, and a few others, including (grumble away) New York City -- where many of the best restaurants are congregated, often because talented chefs and restaurateurs from other regions gravitate to them. We realize that there are some 71 urban areas in the U.S. with populations of 500,000 and above, and though they're full of restaurants, does every one of them have one or two places that can really be compared with America's best? Maybe. But even today, probably not.

As always, the question we'd encourage panelists (and readers) in areas that seem underrepresented to ask themselves is: Is the restaurant I love here, something I'd recommend people make a special trip to experience? The answer would be yes for most of the top-ranking restaurants that made 2014's 101 best list, one that includes every kind of restaurant you could imagine.

You may question the results, you may think you know better than we do how to order this list, you may think it obvious that we should replace a number of winners with restaurants you think are more deserving. With a ranking like this, it would be surprising if there weren't disagreements. Indeed, there were places we were pulling for ourselves that didn't make the cut, and places we thought should have been higher or lower.

Click Here to see The 101 Best Restaurants in Europe

Please let us know what you think we missed or misranked -- we do read your comments even if we don't always agree with them. As we have every year, we'll publish a follow-up with your opinions -- and hey, if you turn us on to places we missed, so much the better.

We're excited about our 2014 list of America's best restaurants. Their quality and sheer diversity of menus and cuisines and the hundreds that almost, but didn't quite make it demonstrate that we live in an exciting time in America for food. There are some truly exciting chefs in America, chefs raising the bar to a level this country has never seen. We salute the hard-working people who make dining out in America a rewarding adventure. We'd also like to thank our panelists for helping. You can be certain we will continue to sign up more trusted panelists and refine the process by which we make our choices. What will the next 101 installment bring? You'll find out on The Daily Meal.

  • 1
    #5) Chez Panisse, Berkeley
    Celebrating more than 42 years in business, Chez Panisse is still going strong even after a devastating fire shut it down for three months last year. Sometimes it's hard to remember just how instrumental this place was in changing the American food scene; before Chez Panisse, practically nobody in America served only fresh, local foods and wrote menus daily, according to the season. Alice Waters, an organic-living pioneer, is also the founder of The Edible Schoolyard Project, a foundation that is bringing healthy breakfasts and lunches to schools across the nation. It has become fashionable to criticize this culinary icon as irrelevant, but the truth is that her restaurant's food is still superb, both in the one-menu-a-night downstairs restaurant (dishes tilt toward Italy and Provence — think white sea bass carpaccio with blood orange vinaigrette and shaved fennel, followed by spit-roasted pork shoulder with salmoriglio sauce and cannelini beans) and the lively, diversified upstairs Café. Click Here to see More of the 101 Best Restaurants in America Photo Credit: Aya Brackett
  • 2
    #4) Per Se, New York
    In an elegant dining room overlooking Central Park in the Time Warner Center, Per Se upholds the standards set by Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, receiving an annual three-star rating from Michelin since 2006. As at the French Laundry, there are two $295 tasting menus, one vegetarian; the Keller classic "oysters and pearls" is most definitely included in the non-vegetarian version. Here there is also a salon menu, with à la carte offerings including mascarpone enriched Yukon gold potago agnolotti with cipollini onion shoots and pea tendrils and butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster with brussels sprouts, ruby red grapefruit, and smoked butternut squash purée. Chef Eli Kaimeh does Keller proud with his skillful interpretations of this most refined style of cooking. Photo Credit: Deborah Jones
  • 3
    #3) The French Laundry, Yountville
    Thomas Keller is a perfectionist, approaching contemporary American food with classical technique. His French Laundry, with its now-famous blue door, has established new standards for fine dining in this country. Two $295 nine-course tasting menus are devised each day (one traditional and one vegetarian), and no single ingredient is ever repeated throughout the meal. The classic "Oysters and Pearls," pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar, is a perennial favorite. While items like sautéed cod with tamarind-glazed eggplant and tomato chutney or Elysian Fields lamb with creamed corn, bacon, chanterelles, and padrón peppers might sound simple, the refinement with which they are presented are anything but. In 2012 The French Laundry received a coveted AAA Five Diamond Award, and it is perennially named one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World by San Pellegrino and Aqua Panna. Click Here to see More of the 101 Best Restaurants in America Photo Credit: Deborah Jones
  • 4
    #2) Eleven Madison Park, New York
    Like many of the finer things in life, Eleven Madison Park seems to get better with age. Although it opened to much fanfare and subsequent acclaim in 1998, it was Danny Meyer’s hiring of Swiss-born Daniel Humm to helm the kitchen in 2006 that elevated the place to the level of the finest restaurants in the country. Humm — who has won such plaudits for the restaurant as four stars from The New York Times and three from Michelin — bought Eleven Madison from Meyer in 2011, in partnership with his front-of-house counterpart, Will Guidara, and didn’t miss a beat. The chef is firmly in control here: While Humm will tailor his single $225 multi-course tasting menu to accommodate allergies, dietary restrictions, and ingredient preferences, there is no à la carte selection or smaller menu available. The particulars of the dishes change frequently, but the technique is contemporary French and modernist, the ingredients are heavily New York-based, and the culinary traditions on which the food is based are often those of Gotham street or deli food. The results are unique. Photo Credit: Tonelli
  • 5
    #1) Le Bernardin, New York
    This elegant seafood restaurant, headed by chef Eric Ripert, has topped many “best of” lists and has several accolades under its belt, including repeat four-star reviews from The New York Times (the first of them written only a few months of its opening), perfect food ratings in the Zagat guide from 2011 to 2013, and more James Beard Awards than any other restaurant in New York City. The prix-fixe dinner here features a long list of delicacies from the sea, ranging from “almost raw” first courses to “lightly cooked” mains. Eat in the newly revamped modern dining room against a backdrop of painted waves, and enjoy dishes like layers of thinly-pounded yellowfin tuna, foie gras, and toasted baguette with chives and olive oil; king fish sashimi with caviar in a light mariniére broth; baked snapper with charred green tomatoes and Baja-style shrimp sauce, or pan-roasted lobster with truffle salsify and red-wine sauce Américaine. Ripert is an artist working with impeccable raw materials. Click Here to see More of the 101 Best Restaurants in America Photo Credit: Daniel Krieger

-Arthur Bovino, The Daily Meal

More Content from The Daily Meal:

101 Best Pizzas in America

101 Best Food Trucks in America

35 Best Airport Restaurants Around the World

101 Best Hotel Restaurants Around the World

From Our Partners