Food & Wine recently came out with their 2023 Global Tastemakers Awards—the top U.S. restaurants and bars as voted by their readers. Some of the categories include the best international and national restaurants, restaurants in the U.S. with the best ambiance, the best bars, and the bars that ranked as the most creative.
Of course, with over 630,000 restaurants in the U.S., narrowing down the best is an impossible feat. What these selections do tell us is consumer preference and what our potential guests consider the best of the best.
Let’s explore a few of the top contenders.
Great restaurant ambiance is much more than décor. In addition to the visuals, how a restaurant feels—the mood, character, and atmosphere—call us back for more. It touches nearly every aspect of an establishment, from the colors to the theme, music, menu, style, lighting, and furniture. When you walk into the following restaurants, you know you’re someplace special, a space that’s been well cared for and loved.
Mamey: Coral Gables, FL
This restaurant received the Food & Wine editor’s pick for best ambiance. A stunning tropical oasis aligns with the exotic spices and flavors of the islands. Mamey, after all, is the name of a fruit found in Latin America, and much of the menu is inspired by the chef’s travels in Asia, the Caribbean, and Polynesia. Many of the ingredients also come from Chef Niven Patel’s two-acre farm.
Nobu: Malibu, CA
This beachfront property looks out over the Pacific Ocean in a land known for its multi-million-dollar homes and top celebrity enclaves. The famous Japanese-Peruvian restaurant extends the beautiful aesthetics indoors with natural elements. The Nobu brand spans five continents and was started by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro, and Meir Teper.
Most Creative Bars
Bernard DeVoto’s book, The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto, eloquently describes the time of day when cocktail hour may begin, and twilight delivers a glimpse into otherworldly realms. “This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affections glow and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn.”
The following bars take this hour seriously, delivering mystical concoctions out of this world.
The Violet Hour: Chicago, IL
This iconic bar has the unique honor of receiving both the most creative and one of the best bars in the U.S. status. Here, you experience pre-prohibition style libations in a speakeasy atmosphere. To get to The Violet Hour, you enter through an unmarked door that glows from a single yellow lamp. The seasonal cocktail menu offers shaken, stirred, and house classics. Luxury offerings include a Vesper Modern consisting of Maplewood Brewer’s Gin, Haku Vodka, Amaro Nonino, Mattei Cap Corse Blanc, and lemon peel.
The Aviary: Chicago, IL
The Windy City nabbed the top two spots in the most creative bar category. The Aviary has earned several awards and accolades and is also home to The Office, an intimate speakeasy below the well-known bar. Opened by the three-star Michelin Chef Grant Achatz, you’ll find molecular mixology drinks, including classic cocktails injected into the center of a spherical ice shell.
How does one reach “Best Restaurant” fame? One common theme among the restaurants to make Food & Wine’s list is unique, fresh, expertly prepared offerings. One example is Yolan, an Italian eatery with a cheese cave containing 80-pound wheels of Parmigiana Reggiano, demonstrating their solid commitment to fresh Italian food.
Atelier Crenn: San Francisco, CA
Of the 10 restaurants to make the “best” list, Atelier Crenn stands out as the first restaurant in the U.S. to earn certified plastic-free status. It also stopped serving meat due to its effects on the Earth. In addition, chef and owner Dominique Crenn made history as the first female chef in the U.S. to receive two Michelin stars. In 2018, she received her third Michelin star.
Daru: Washington, DC
Editor’s pick, Daru, offers unique items highlighting regional Indian flavors. You’ll find entrees like Lasooni Lamb Chops, Wild Mushroom Biriyani, and Striped Bass Paturi. You can also experience unique cocktails, such as Bard of Bengal, incorporating Indian whiskey, bananas, sweet vermouth, allspice, Benedictine, and black walnut.
Are you ready to pack your bags and explore? Hopefully, these unique restaurants have provided some inspiration.
How do I get my restaurant on the news?
One way to get your restaurant on the news is to offer a VIP invite-only tasting event. These are particularly successful when changing your menu or offering a unique dish. Consider inviting top local reporters, food bloggers, and influencers.
How does a restaurant get a Michelin star?
Michelin inspectors award Michelin stars. These inspectors undergo elaborate tests and show up at restaurants as anonymous customers. Some of the criteria that come into play include the quality of the food and beverages, the mastery of the flavors and cooking, consistency, and a high standard of service.