Star quality: Award-winning restaurants in America

By: Ben Winstanley

November 10, 2015

America’s flourishing food scene continues to produce some of the world’s best restaurants. From Michelin stars to The 50 Best list, America is an increasingly dominant nation at the forefront of innovative global gastronomy. Take a look at our favourite award-winning restaurants in America and start planning your next culinary escape.


Eleven Madison Park, New York

Three Michelin stars, No.5 World’s Best Restaurants 2015

Award-winning restaurants in America
Innovative presentation and beautiful plating at Eleven Madison Park © Francesco Tonelli

Widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in America, Daniel Humm’s idiosyncratic cuisine has catapulted Eleven Madison Park into the stratosphere. Humorous takes on American classics come as part of a multi-course tasting menu, often grounded by references to New York‘s deli food, steakhouses and diners. The setting is particularly grand, located in a high-ceilinged former bank, but the friendly service creates an intimacy the space lacks. Creating a more convivial approach to fine dining, this New York favourite has won over diners and critics alike.


Alinea, Chicago, Illinois

Three Michelin stars, No.26 World’s Best Restaurants 2015

Award-winning restaurants in America
The playful hearts of palm at Alinea © Alinea

Grant Achatz spearheads the American culinary avant-garde through a playful approach to modern cookery at his Chicago restaurant. Trailblazing is the only word to describe this menu, where imaginative flavour combinations, tongue-in-cheek presentation and dessert plated directly onto the table come together to make one of the most talked-about restaurants in America.


And Alinea has successfully shaken up the conventions of a good restaurant in more ways than one. Even the mundane reservations procedure has been replaced by a revolutionary ticketing software, albeit not loved by all, that allows diners to pay up-front for a meal in the same way they would a concert.


The French Laundry, Yountville, California

Three Michelin stars, No.50 World’s Best Restaurants

Award-winning restaurants in America
Ricotta Basil Anolini with sugar snap peas and gremolata sauce at The French Laundry © Deborah Jones

The little blue door at this famous farmhouse signals a small town in Napa Valley that’s home to the restaurant that redefined American fine dining. At The French Laundry, Thomas Keller creates dishes firmly rooted in the French classics but with elegant, witty twists that elevate them to their pinnacle. The result is such extravagance as “Oysters and Pearls” – pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar.


Saison, San Francisco, California

Three Michelin stars, No.56 World’s Best Restaurants 2015

Award-winning restaurants in America
Saison ducks on the hearth © Bonjwing Lee

Skyrocketing from weekend pop-up to three-Michelin star restaurant is no mean feat – to do it in five years is legendary. That is, however, exactly what Joshua Skenes achieved at Saison in San Francisco. A master of fire and smoke, Skenes transposed a Japanese kaiseki-inspired menu into Saison’s wood-burning hearth: the focal point of the stunning interior and its anchor to American cuisine. But this is no barbecue joint. Much of the experience is spent tasting top quality seafood, followed by a variety of technical game dishes, delivered with great finesse.


Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Westchester, New York

No.49 World’s Best Restaurants 2015, James Beard Awards’ 2015 Outstanding Restaurant

Award-winning restaurants in America
The elegant dining room at Blue Hill at Stone Barns © Jonathan Young

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is perhaps the most relevant restaurant to American cuisine right now. Head chef, Dan Barber, is on a mission to deliver exceptional cooking while staying true to growing concerns over sustainability and farming in the modern food industry.


Thanks to its location at the Stone Barns Centre for Food and Agriculture (a working four-season farm), Barber is able to take the notion of farm-to-table cuisine to its furthest reaches. Revolving almost entirely around the day’s harvest, his menus reflect the spontaneity of utilising an ingredient at its freshest in beautiful, dramatically presented dishes.


Husk, Charleston, South Carolina

Award-winning restaurants in America
Glazed pig’s ear lettuce wraps with sweet vinegar marinated cucumbers and red onions at Husk © Andrew Cebulka

Sean Brock is the undisputed king of Southern cuisine. Driven to research the region’s culinary history and provenance, his menu celebrates heirloom, indigenous products that are slowly disappearing from local farms. By only using ingredients sourced in the South, Brock has created a catalyst for the restaurant’s creativity and sense of place.


Slow-smoked sweet and sour Tennessee pork ribs; Southern-fried chicken skins with hot sauce, honey, and scallions; and kentuckyaki pig’s ear lettuce wraps speak of the soul at Husk‘s core. Brock recently opened his second restaurant in Nashville, though it’s the Charleston original that’s currently picking up the plaudits.


Willow’s Inn, Lummi Island, Washington

James Beard Awards’ Best Chef Northwest

Award-winning restaurants in America
Nettles on the menu at The Willows Inn © Charity Burggraaf

A five-minute ferry ride from the Washington coastline (two and half hour’s drive from both Seattle and Vancouver) brings you to Lummi Island and chef Blaine Wetzel’s sought-after restaurant, Willow’s Inn.


The former chef de partie at Noma crafts a stunning, highly seasonal menu from the island’s bounty. Salmon, Albacore tuna and other fruits of the surrounding waters are prepared with the skill you’d expect of a chef with experience in acclaimed Nordic kitchens. Simplicity, smoke and foraging are the foundation of this cuisine, which, combined with the location, make for a truly memorable dining experience.


Oxheart, Houston, Texas

The fastest growing food scene in the United States is currently found in Texas. Once a state known only for its beef and BBQ, a talented crop of young chefs are changing perceptions through a modern, unconventional outlook.

Leading the revolution is Houston native Justin Yu, who places emphasis on ingredient-orientated dishes that challenge the stalwarts of a traditional menu. At Oxheart, the likes of lamb and truffle are replaced with more exotic, inventive preparations of vegetables and underappreciated fish species. In a dining room that features spray-painted walls, stacks of vinyl records and two large communal tables, this countercultural attitude to fine dining is a refreshing reminder of the exciting landscape of American cuisine.

Your next foodie adventure is just a few clicks away. Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to New York, San Francisco and Chicago. And with connections to and from over 70 destinations across the United States and Canada, our partnership with Delta means flights to Charleston, Houston and Seattle are just as easy.


Have you visited any of these award-winning restaurants in America? What did you think? Let us know in the comments section below.


Written by Ben Winstanley


Ben Winstanley

Ben Winstanley is a journalist with an unquenchable thirst for all things travel and gustatory. Invariably found at the table of London’s upcoming restaurants, his work has appeared in the likes of The Telegraph and Foodism. Beginning with long weekends travelling through Southern France and Spain, his curiosity to sample the world’s most vibrant cultures means it’s never too long before he’s ready for a new adventure. Though he’d never call it work, if there’s a better job out there, he doesn’t know about it. Follow him @ben_winstanley