Undoubtedly, the United States boasts an abundance of exceptional restaurants, numbering in the hundreds, if not thousands. Selecting the top among them is a challenging and ever-evolving task, as the culinary landscape in the U.S. is constantly in flux. We’ve curated a list of 11+ amazing destination restaurants that you must visit during your road trip. Restaurants continually adapt, modifying their menus with the changing seasons or enhancing beloved recipes. Nonetheless, we’re delighted to present this list, encompassing dining establishments from every corner of the nation, each leaving an indelible mark in its unique way.
These are the amazing destinations restaurants that will deepen your love for food, whether it’s the exquisite pairing of a dry red wine, the artful presentation of an unforgettable dish, the time-honored recipes that have graced city tables for generations, or the innovation of a Michelin star-winning chef who’s redefining the American dining experience. Regardless of their culinary direction, the following restaurants consistently excel in delivering an exceptional gastronomic journey. Feeling hungry?
Our Top Picks of Best Destinations Restaurants in the USA
Following a series of delightful meals, I’m delighted to share my personal selection of top favorite restaurants across the United States. These establishments offer not only scrumptious fare but also a commitment to quality and affordability. Whether you’re embarking on a cross-country road trip or simply exploring these cities, make it a point to pay a visit to one of these remarkable restaurants.
River Cafe – Brooklyn, NY
The epitome of exquisite dining, the River Cafe stands out as a MICHELIN-starred gem in the realm of New American cuisine. Nestled beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, this establishment has been synonymous with sophistication and refinement since its inception in 1977. It’s a place where every detail matters, from the pristine white tablecloths graced with fresh blooms to the enchanting garden illuminated by fairy lights. Diners here are invited to adhere to a formal dress code, ensuring a truly upscale experience.
The River Cafe’s outdoor patio, with its captivating ambiance, is best reserved for those extraordinary moments. It’s the perfect setting for savoring a celebratory meal, where dishes like Mediterranean sea bass with a wild shrimp crust
Yank Sing – Rincon Center – San Francisco, CA
Yank Sing, a proud recipient of the prestigious MICHELIN Bib Gourmand, is celebrated for its delectable Shanghai soup dumplings and irresistible custard creams. However, what truly distinguishes this eatery is its rich history. For over six decades, Yank Sing, a third-generation family-owned establishment with two locations, has been serving the people of San Francisco with a delightful array of small Cantonese dishes since its inception in 1958.
At the Spear Street location, the dining experience is marked by a constant parade of rolling carts emerging from the kitchen, each laden with beloved offerings like pork and shrimp siu mai and pan-fried chicken buns. The result is a dining experience that not only showcases some of the finest dim sums in the country but also pays homage to a storied culinary tradition that has delighted generations of patrons.
Sierra Mar – Post Ranch Inn – Big Sur, CA
Sierra Mar is a culinary paradise that graces the dramatic landscapes of California’s rugged Central Coast. Here, the rich offerings of Big Sur and the adjacent coastal communities take center stage. Whether it’s the heirloom produce harvested from the on-site garden featured in the chef’s Garden Harvest lunch or the indulgent beef tenderloin accompanied by a potato galette and chanterelles during dinner, every detail is carefully curated to delight the senses.
Adding to the allure is an enclosed glass dining room that provides breathtaking vistas of the vast Pacific Ocean. This, combined with the impeccable service featuring pristine white-tablecloth settings, solidifies Sierra Mar’s status as the quintessential postcard-perfect dining destination.
The Grey – Savannah, GA
The Grey finds its unique home within the walls of a former Greyhound bus terminal in the heart of downtown Savannah. Here, diners embark on a culinary journey through the South without the need to board a silver bus; the flavors of the region are artfully presented on their plates. Chef-owner Mashama Bailey, a James Beard Award winner, has masterfully crafted a menu that pays homage to her Georgia heritage. From the tempting country captain chicken to the delectable red rice balls, every dish is a testament to the rich culinary traditions of the South.
The Grey’s commitment to excellence has been consistently recognized, earning it a well-deserved place on numerous “best-of” lists year after year. It’s a dining experience that seamlessly combines history, tradition, and innovation, making it a standout culinary destination in Savannah.
One Duval – Pier House Resort & Spa – Key West, FL
An oceanfront deck with breathtaking sunset and sailboat views? Check. An ever-evolving menu infused with eclectic local influences? Double check. The signature restaurant of The Pier House Resort & Spa, under the culinary guidance of Havana-born chef Maria Manso, has firmly established itself as a must-visit destination for those exploring Key West. The menu pays a heartfelt tribute to the vibrant flavors of the Caribbean and the Americas, featuring culinary delights such as the creamy white conch chowder and the delectable plantain-crusted ahi tuna.
But the experience wouldn’t be complete without indulging in a slice of their renowned key lime pie, which has garnered rave reviews and is heralded as one of the island’s finest. With a setting that embraces the beauty of the ocean and a menu that celebrates regional flavors, this restaurant has become a true gem on the Key West dining scene.
Higgins — Portland, Oregon
In a culinary hub like Portland, maintaining the title of the best restaurant is no small feat. Higgins, however, consistently earns a place on that coveted list. It’s not only known for its exceptional seasonal menu but also for its inviting bar and its significant role in nurturing some of the city’s finest chefs, many of whom have gone on to establish their own successful establishments. At Higgins, everything is crafted in-house, and the level of service is truly unparalleled.
For those seeking an authentic farm-to-table dining experience that showcases the abundant flavors of the Pacific Northwest, this restaurant is the ultimate destination. It’s a place where the region’s bountiful produce is thoughtfully transformed into delectable dishes, making Higgins a shining star in Portland’s culinary landscape.
VAGA — Encinitas, California
Nestled in the laid-back coastal town of Encinitas, midway between the bustling cities of San Diego and Los Angeles, VAGA offers not only stunning ocean vistas but also the pleasures of open-air dining. This charming restaurant is a culinary haven, offering a menu inspired by the vibrant flavors of Southern California. From the mouthwatering Baja sea bass accompanied by spiced ghee. Also, Marcona almond basmati to the impressive tomahawk steak served with a side of parmesan fondue.
VAGA caters to the desires of surf and turf enthusiasts seeking a level of creativity and sophistication that goes beyond the typical seafood or steakhouse experience. It’s a dining destination where the essence of coastal living harmoniously blends with culinary artistry, making it a must-visit spot for those in search of exquisite flavors and scenic ocean views.
Joule — Seattle, Washington
Joule masterfully blends the rich tapestry of American and Korean cuisine, setting the standard for true fusion gastronomy. The brainchild of chef Rachel Yang, this culinary venture presents a diverse array of dishes. It ranges from scallion pancakes adorned with smoked salmon roe to smoked tofu paired with honshimeji confit. The menu also showcases delights like miso black cod and bavette steak complemented by lemongrass pesto.
Joule’s culinary prowess not only makes waves in the Northlake area of Seattle but also secures its place as one of the premier dining establishments in the entire Pacific Northwest. It’s a destination where the boundaries of flavor and tradition are artfully pushed, providing a dining experience that captivates the palate and celebrates the vibrant crossroads of two distinct culinary worlds.
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Lucille’s — Houston, Texas
Lucille’s expertly embraces the essence of Southern cuisine, a true hallmark in Houston. Situated in the Museum District, this establishment is a heartfelt homage to the owners’ grandmother and skillfully traverses the rich landscape of this culinary genre. Their menu offers a delightful array of Southern comforts, from impeccably fried meats and fluffy grits to succulent braised oxtail and some of the most exquisite blackened fish dishes you’ll find in the area.
Lucille’s not only pays homage to the roots of Southern cooking but also delivers a culinary experience that captures the heart and soul of this beloved cuisine. It’s a must-visit destination for those seeking the genuine flavors and hospitality that the South is renowned for, right in the heart of H-Town.
Vetri Cucina — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Chef Marc Vetri’s Italian restaurant is proudly dubbed a “test kitchen.” With a cozy seating capacity for 32 guests, the menu draws inspiration from classic Italian cuisine while incorporating influences from various corners of the globe. Vetri Cucina has earned a reputation for serving some of the most exquisite pasta dishes available, complemented by inventive desserts such as the delectable molten pistachio cake paired with strawberry-black pepper gelato. While Philadelphia offers a multitude of compelling reasons to visit, this sophisticated establishment, known as Vetri Cucina, undoubtedly claims a top spot on the list.
It’s a culinary haven where the boundaries of Italian tradition are explored and reimagined, delivering an exceptional dining experience that is both a testament to the art of cuisine and a culinary journey around the world.
Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous — Memphis, TN
Widely regarded as the ultimate barbecue destination in Memphis, I was drawn to the straightforward and no-nonsense approach to ordering. The staff here doesn’t waste time with unnecessary details; they’re refreshingly direct. The food arrives swiftly, served in generous portions, and the rice and beans are truly outstanding. During my visit, a friend and I tackled two full racks of their dry rub ribs, each bite bursting with an explosion of flavor. As I savored the delightful smokiness, I briefly contemplated a daring third rack, but my friend managed to convince me otherwise. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if I should have ignored their advice and indulged in that extra rack; the temptation was real!
Gus’s Fried Chicken — Memphis, TN
Apart from its striking resemblance to the chicken joint featured in Breaking Bad, this restaurant proved to be a sanctuary for fried chicken enthusiasts. The fried chicken I encountered here was nothing short of extraordinary, a true masterpiece in poultry preparation. Each succulent, moist piece of chicken was enveloped in a perfectly seasoned, crispy batter that delivered an explosion of flavor with every bite. It was an experience beyond words, truly amazing! The culinary delights didn’t stop at the fried chicken; they also served delectable fried green tomatoes and pickles, adding a delightful twist to the meal. This establishment left an indelible mark on my taste buds, setting a new standard for fried chicken that I may never forget.
Fong’s Pizza — Des Moines, IA
A Twitter recommendation led me to this restaurant, and it turned out to be the most surprising culinary discovery of my trip. This eatery defied expectations as it blended Asian flavors with the beloved concept of pizza. I hesitated at first, doubting whether Crab Rangoon, Kung Pao Chicken, or Hunan Beef pizza could truly be enjoyable, but I was in for a delightful surprise – they were nothing short of phenomenal.
And then there was the potato skin pizza, a revelation in itself. The menu offered a plethora of options, each combining food items that one wouldn’t typically associate with, yet the result was a harmonious fusion of flavors that defied logic. This experience left me yearning for a branch in NYC, as it’s a culinary adventure I’d gladly embark on again.
As your road trip winds down, the memories of these amazing destination restaurants will remain etched in your mind. From east to west, north to south, the United States boasts a diverse and rich culinary landscape, and these restaurants are the perfect reflection of that diversity. Each eatery offers a unique experience that goes beyond just food, making it a memorable part of your journey. So, whether you’re a foodie or just someone who enjoys a good meal, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the culinary wonders that the USA has to offer during your road trip.
These restaurants were carefully selected based on their reputation, unique offerings, and their status as must-visit culinary destinations during a road trip in the USA.
It’s advisable to check the restaurant’s website or contact them directly to inquire about reservations, as policies may vary.
While some of these restaurants offer affordable options, others may be on the higher end. We’ve included a variety to suit different budgets.
Many of these destination restaurants are known for their flexibility in accommodating dietary restrictions. It’s best to inform them in advance to ensure a seamless dining experience tailored to your needs.