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Gourmet's Top 50 Restaurants 2006

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  1. 1 Alinea
    2. Chez Panisse
    3. French Laundry/Per Se
    4. Spago
    5. Joel Robuchon
    6. Le Reve
    7. Masa
    8. Alan Wongs
    9. Daniel
    10. Le Bernardin
    11. Mangolia Grill
    12. Michel Richard Citronelle
    13. Charlie trotter's
    14. Arrows
    15. Cyrus
    16. Striped Bass
    17. Babbo
    18. Lock-ober
    19. Canlis
    20 L'auberge Carmel
    21. Bartolotta
    22. Restaurant August
    23. Inn at Little @ Washington
    24. Ritz @ Buckhead
    25. Vetri
    26. Fore St.
    27. Jean Goerges
    28. Higgins
    29. Da Marco
    30. La Belle Vie
    31. Parker's New American Bistro
    32. Michy's
    33. Frasca
    34.Gramercy
    35. Providence
    36. Guy Savoy
    37. Zuni
    38. Urasawa
    39. Bacchanalia
    40. Sanford
    41. York St.
    42. Manressa
    43. No. 9 Park
    44. Trattoria Nostrani
    45. Cafe Juanita
    46. Paley's place
    47. Lantern Restaurant
    48. L'Etoile
    49. Herbsaint
    50. Nana

    1 Reply
    1. re: bitsubeats

      While I really, really like Herbsaint, I don't think it's a "top 50 in America" place. Am I just spoiled/jaded by the NOLA dining scene? Or is it really that good? If so, others on the list are seriously overcharging, because Herbsaint is downright affordable.

    2. Looks like two San Antonio restaraunts made the list.Le"Etoile and Le Reve.

      1 Reply
      1. re: HollyDolly

        HollyDolly,

        The L'Etoile honored is almost certainly the one in Madison, Wisconsin ( http://www.letoile-restaurant.com/ ), not the unrelated restaurant of the same name in San Antonio.

        Scott

      2. And Two Dallas restaurants. I am not sure that Nana belongs on this list though.

        4 Replies
        1. re: sl1

          What? Nana isn't better than Moto, WD-50, and Minibar (none of which made the list)?

          Scott

          1. re: Scott

            Nana's okay, yeah, but it's not that special.

            TT

            1. re: TexasToast

              Perhaps you misconstrued my sarcasm. Indeed, Nana is "not that special."

              Scott

            2. re: Scott

              The fact that WD-50 is not on here is sad, also cru and gilt, paul liebrandt is very talented, I believe he is the next to watch. Also cheers to Restaurant August in New Orleans, which should be even higher on this list. Oh yeah and we all know that the French Laundry should be number 1.

          2. This isn't a great list. A lot of them are still on there based on reputation rather than current quality.

            Chez Panisse at number 2? No, I don't think so.
            Gramercy Tavern in NYC at 34 -- a joke. Gramercy wouldn't make the top 25 in NYC alone anymore.

            This list wants to sound modern and hip by putting Alinea as number 1, but scanning the rest of the list, it's pretty conservative and outdated for the most part.

            7 Replies
            1. re: dippedberry

              Michael Anthony recently took the Exec. Chef Position at Gramercy, and the guy is a tremendous talent. Top Twenty Five in New York? Mos Def.

              1. re: ronzen

                By recently, you mean he was just hired. Hired to overhaul a restaurant that had become tired under the reins of Colicchio who has been distracted by his other restaurants and TV commitments. By hired, you mean he is about to re-vamp the menu and we, the public, have no clue if it will be a subtle change or a complete transformation. So recent that this Gourmet ranking has nothing to do with him. And since we jaded NYers have seen plenty of talented guys fizz out, let's reserve judgement until you've actually tasted what he does at Gramercy.

                He has a good reputation from Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Great. But do you notice BHSB on that Gourmet list? Yeah, I didn't either. Maybe it should've, which only makes the list more suspect, doesn't it?

                1. re: dippedberry

                  maybe he'll do as good a job as chef humm at eleven madison park

                  1. re: dippedberry

                    I had the pleasure of working for Chef Anthony at BHSB. I learned so much from this absolutely talented chef, not only cooking but how to be professional in what you do. Gramercy Tavern is LUCKY to have him. As far as BHSB not being on the list I belive that the list is suspect, can you say PR scam.

                2. re: dippedberry

                  completely agree with yer assessment of Chez Pannise...and I'll add to that Zuni Cafe in SanFran. Makes you wonder if they've gone out to eat in the last 10 years.

                  1. re: sixelagogo

                    I've been eating out in San Francisco regularly for the last 30 years and those are still two of my five favorite restaurants.

                    1. re: sixelagogo

                      Zuni Cafe is awesome.

                  2. Locke-Ober doesn't really rate that highly among the Boston crowd anymore. It is a great relic of days gone by but there are far better restaurants in Boston that would or should make this list ahead of L.O.

                    1. Chez Panisse is still great, still setting the standard in the U.S. for top-quality ingredients through close relationships with superior suppliers. I've been eating there for 30 years and a meal I had there in January was the best yet:

                      - olives; prosecco-citrus apéritif

                      - grilled Cannard Farm leeks with egg and black truffles; 2003 René Muré pinot blanc "Tradition"

                      - Bronze turkey and chanterelle mushroom ravioli in brodo; 2002 Guillemot Savigny les Beaune Serpentieres

                      - Line-caught striped bass, sea scallops, and steelhead trout in red wine sauce with pancetta and glazed onions; black flat cabbage [i.e. tatsoi] and Yellow Finn potatoes; 1999 J.L. Chave St.-Joseph (estate, not Offerus)

                      - Baba au rhum with Valencia oranges; 2003 Durban Muscat-de-Beaumes-de-Venise

                      1. Interesting list. Seems like it's based largely on Gourmet's editorial bend on things...a bit conservative, based on reputation, long standing...not that there's anything wrong with that.

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: ML8000

                          If I were compiling a list like that, I think I'd limit it to restaurants that have had the same chef and owner for at least two years.

                          Though that would eliminate Chez Panisse. Unless you considered Alice Waters as a sort of de facto executive chef, which she is.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Should Chez Panisse be on the list? Probably. Debatable, but yeah, likely. Should it be number 2 on the list? Hell, no.

                            1. re: dippedberry

                              I think it's reasonable for Chez Panisse to be #2, or even #1, since in the U.S. it's still leading the trends toward local, organic, humane, and sustainable products.

                              What they're doing is going to have a significant influence over how Americans eat over the next 20 or 100 years.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Uhhh...I guess the judges factored in nostalgia when determining the list, as you do. Isn't this the 2006 list we are talking about?

                                Wanna give a shot at why Spago is at #4?

                                1. re: dippedberry

                                  I'm not talking about nostalgia, I'm talking about today. Chez Panisse is still at the forefront of the evolution of American cuisine.

                                  Maybe Spago gets points for being the first place to knock off the concept of the Cafe at Chez Panisse.

                            2. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Some restaurants reach institutional status. I think Chez Panisse is there with the added caveat of break through concept (for the U.S.) and consistency. Not many can cut their own path and keep things moving on a steady course. Over 35 years there haven't been any real lapses or dips in quality or service.

                              The key question here is: what would food and restaurants be like in the U.S. if Chez Panisse never happened? I think that answer and it's consistency gets it ranking on any list.

                              1. re: ML8000

                                And what would our supermarket produce aisles look like w/o Alice Waters? No mesclun!

                                1. re: NYchowcook

                                  And without Alice, there would have been no Odessa Piper to start L'Etoile (that's the Madison contribution to the list) either. I think Odessa worked for Alice before trekking east. Does L'Etoile deserve to be in the Top 50 today? Debatable. It certainly did when Odessa ran it. There are probably 100 better spots in the country, but those places just have not done it as long nor as well over time.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                So Spago pays the opinion price for being an L.A. restaurant of long standing? The place turns out top-rate, innovative food consistently. I am always surprised how good it is when I go there.

                                1. re: Mr. Cookie

                                  That's pretty much what the article says: "After 20-something years of catering to movie stars ... and spawning an entire empire for owner Wolfgang Puck, this restaurant has no right to be as good as it is."

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    And I happen to agree, although I haven't read the article. But there's nothing derivative about Spago, except, perhaps, that it derived from an earlier version of Spago. Puck didn't set out to emulate anything Alice Waters was doing, he came into the business from a completely different angle, wound up in L.A. and helped pioneer a new, casual-chic style of restaurant. At least, that's what Ruth Reichl and some other fairly informed people told me when I interviewed them a few years back.

                                    The notion that his restaurant is a knockoff of Chez Panisse's cafe is balderdash. And the notion of some others on this board that Spago can't possibly be worthy of including on a "Best 50" restaurants list, because ... um, no one really says why ... is also balderdash. The place serves great food, with much of it due to Lee Hefter and Sally Yard, of course, not only Wolfie. It's in L.A. and it evolved in and because of the cultural dynamic of this city. Deal with it.

                                    1. re: Mr. Cookie

                                      The original Spago was inspired by the Cafe at Chez Panisse. Wolfgang Puck himself said something like "I can't remember if Alice or I served gourmet pizza first," but the Cafe opened two years earlier.

                                      I think the article makes a good argument for Spago's place on the list. That it started as a knockoff of Chez Panisse Cafe doesn't account for its successor still being popular almost 25 years later.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I certainly agree that 25 years later, Spago has little in common with the Chez Panisse Cafe. But I just don't buy that it started as a knockoff. Other than possibly gourmet pizza, the original Spago and the Chez Panisse Cafe had nothing in common in terms of dishes offered, cooking styles and chef's overall approaches to food, not to mention restaurant ambience, including the open kitchen. The old Spago was sort of a ghastly place, frankly, at least after it was remodeled and on its last legs. But Puck was going for something more grand than a cafe and less formal than the top notch but stuffy Bay Area and New York restaurants that served (and some still do) excellent food but make dining out an ordeal. How all that makes it a knockoff of CP Cafe, man I just don't get it. It's like assigning the broadest possible common denominator to the relationship and then overemphasizing its importance. Waters and Puck were more the yin and yang of California cuisine.

                                        1. re: Mr. Cookie

                                          Puck was doing the fanciest pizza parlor in the world, and he got that idea from Chez Panisse Cafe, which after Spago opened was the second-fanciest pizza parlor in the world.

                                          The idea of the open kitchen came from Italy by way of Tommaso's and Chez Panisse Cafe.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            David Kamp addresses the Spago/CPC issue in US of Arugula. Wolf was definitely inspired by Chez, but I think it's unfair to call it a knock off. Whereas pizza was only a part of the menu at Chez, Wolf took the idea of fancy pizza to a new level by making it the focus of his restaurant, though much of this credit belongs to his brilliant pizza chef. At the time, everone thought the idea of an upscale pizza parlor was ludicrous, but Wolf stayed the course and now we have upscale pizza all over the country. Kamp also credits Wolf with having the first kitchen with an open wood fire oven, quite something to push past the fire inspectors. Wolf was also very influential in developing Asian fusion, and his restaurants were far more Nouvelle than Chez. Inspired? Absolutely. Flagrant rip off? Not so much.

                                            Every great thinker was influenced by the great thinkers that came before them.

                            3. Lists like this are ridiculous...and of course have the east coast/west coast bias. Gourmet continues its decline...

                              1. French Laundry and Per Se should not share a spot at number 3. The French Laundry is better than Per Se IMO even though the menus are roughly the same. The only benefit that Per Se has over it's west coast sister is that it is closer to my apartment so that accounts for something. ;)

                                1. I live in Maine I have been to Fore St (#26) over a dozen times. While it is a very good restaurant, it should not be anywhere near the top 50. The fact that it is one spot in front of Jean Georges is a slap in the face to Jean Georges. Fore St. does a fine job, but the service is spotty (and rude on certain nights) and the food is just not as good as many of the other restaurants on this list and frankly has been very inconsistent in my last couple of visits. Top 150, yeah. Top 50? I don't think so.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: goat

                                    Yes, Fore St is hyped, and should not be #26! Seems like editors were stretching for geographic diversity. I think Primo in Rockland is tops in Maine.

                                  2. So, urm, who's been to all fifty? Forty nine? Anyone?

                                    TT

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: TexasToast

                                      I've been to exactly zero, and I bet I'm hardly alone even on this board.

                                      I did try to catch a late night meal at the bar at Zuni last time I was in San Francisco, but it was packed and I didn't wait...

                                      There are a bunch of places on the list I would love to visit but I'm not losing any sleep over it... it's also very possible to eat extremely well off the beaten path. I pay more attention to the opinions of friends, and to people who've pointed me in the right direction on sites like chowhound, than to a major food magazine - which are bound up in the complexities of publicists, book deals, boondoggles and the like.

                                      1. re: Pincho

                                        Well, I've been to some, but not all 50 (and no I'm not saying how many or which ones).

                                        TT

                                      2. re: TexasToast

                                        I ate at L'Etoile in Madison a few years ago when it was #14. Being in Madison, it was a LOT cheaper than most of the others (in bigger, pricier cities) probably are, and I thought it would be fun to see what the food at restaurant rated #14 would be like. It was a very good dinner, but I've had much better (P'tit Plateau in Montreal comes to mind). Maybe one meal wasn't enough to tell, but why it was 14 was unclear to me.

                                        1. re: Anne H

                                          I've been to L'Etoile a few times as well. Very good food, but not something I dream about like some of the others on the list. Maybe they went downstairs and had some of the pastries in the morning...now that might be top 50!

                                          I think Gourmet tries really hard to pick some restaurants that aren't in NY or LA. For example Bacchanalia in Atlanta. Nice enough meal, but I haven't bothered going back. Certainly not in the class with some other restaurants in NY or Chicago that didn't make the list.

                                      3. As I ask everytime one of these "important lists" gets noted, does anyone know the criteria used in determining the restaurant rankings other than the whim of some writers or editors?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                          Usually the editors spend a lot of time figuring out the abstract criteria, end up with a rough list say 25-50% longer than the target, and then tear their hair out making the tough calls to whittle it down.

                                          Often the article or editor's note gives some explanation of how they did it.

                                        2. for san francisco, we will see what the michelin guide says soon.

                                          I've eaten once at Chez Panisse and it was good.

                                          Zuni was always a "scene" and some good food, but i've never returned after one awful meal.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: himbeer

                                            Yeah, I don't get Zuni. Good but top 50???

                                            1. re: himbeer

                                              Anyone know when the SF Michelin guide comes out?

                                              Any predictions?

                                              1. re: Beans

                                                i believe it is coming out this october

                                                1. re: Beans

                                                  It comes out October 2nd at 10:00 AM. Don't ask me how I know this.

                                                  1. re: foodiegrl

                                                    why not? if you have some sort of an inside track because of a relationship to them, you should be disclosing it.

                                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                                      Why?

                                                      1. re: yayadave

                                                        Yeah, knowing a publication date and sharing it isn't like giving a glowing review of your chef's friend's restaurant. It's just factual information. (Or not--we'll know Monday.)

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          my statement was based on the thought, that if there is a relationship, posters should get in the habit of always posting it when giving information, so that they don't forget to give the information when it really matters, ie when mentioning any restaurants, whether glowing or not. Something about saying 'don't ask me how I know' seems less than forthcoming, whether that was the intent or not.

                                                          That said, I notice that the FAQ and CNET Terms of Use no longer have the old references that used to require persons to post their affiliations with businesses whenever relevant to a post, at least that I could find anywhere. In the 'old days', I believe that requirement applied even just to 'factual' information (of course, people's opinion as to what is factual and what is an opinion varies, yet one more reason why I think the old rule makes sense.)

                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                            Working at or owning a restaurant or being friends with people who do might influence both your experience at the restaurant and your opinion of it.

                                                            Knowing the date of this announcement isn't the same sort of thing at all.

                                              2. Canlis (Seattle) at #19? Canlis is nothing more than a very expensive version of Sizzler. As to Spago at #4, obviously the staff at Gourmet were drunk when they made up this list.

                                                1. I know where most are, though for easier reference, it would be nice to have the cities these restaurants are located in listed next to the name, too.

                                                  1. Why do folks care about hypothetical lists such as this one?
                                                    Is it a desire to eat at what others deem "The Best"?
                                                    Is it mainly to disagree?
                                                    Our American obsession with ranking things seems counterproductive
                                                    to the spirit of finding delicious food.

                                                    33 Replies
                                                    1. re: bbqboy

                                                      Any list like that is arbitrary and shouldn't be taken too seriously.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        It's not a question of taking it too seriously in the sense that this list is the be all and end all of restaurants. But, it's interesting to see which restaurants are ON the list, and where they RANK. Sometimes, there might be a place you've never heard of, and if you're ever in that city, you might wanna go there.

                                                        TT

                                                        1. re: TexasToast

                                                          I've never heard of most of those places, and seeing them on that list doesn't impress me one way or the other.

                                                          Reading the article where they describe the food, that might spark some cravings.

                                                      2. re: bbqboy

                                                        Well, part of the problem is that publicity and reputation is the lifeblood of the restaurant business. Gourmet is a reputable publication and they are shining a spotlight on restaurants that they feel are deserving. Many who read the publication will believe what Gourmet says, taking their patronage to places on the list vs. those not on the list. That is why it is particularly sad when Gourmet does such a haphazard job and just sticks a restaurant on the list (perhaps higher than it deserves?) based on reputation and PR rather than the current state of its quality. By calling it a 2006 list, they put an imprimatur of relevance to it, saying that at the current time, at the time of publication, these restaurants deserve particular mention and acclaim. The truth is that many don't deserve the honor and another restaurant that is less well-known or struggling might. Gourmet needs to be called on it.

                                                        1. re: dippedberry

                                                          I doubt that PR enters into the decision at Gourmet.

                                                          Of course their reviewers' favorite restaurants have a good reputation. A review in Gourmet helps make a restaurant's reputation.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            PR may not enter into the decision, but I'm sure it has a role. The restaurants with better PR get more media mentions. Other national outlets are more likely to report on restaurant that have already been covered.

                                                            When the New York editors build the list, it's hard to believe that they aren't more likely to give weight to places that they've read about and that are getting buzz.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              PR doesn't enter into the decision? What wonderful world do you live in, Robert? Making it onto lists like this is the #1 job of the many publicists employed by restaurants.

                                                              1. re: dippedberry

                                                                I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. PR doesn't count for much here.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  Don't kid yourself. Almost all media mention of a restaurant was arranged by/through a publicist, especially when you are talking about the high-end places as on the Gourmet list. This does not include the publicists hired to represent individual chefs.

                                                                  1. re: dippedberry

                                                                    I'm a restaurant reviewer and know a lot of other reviewers and magazine / newspaper types. In this area, most restaurant PR and advertising is a waste of money. Maybe it can get some customers in your door once. It won't get them back again if you don't deliver the goods.

                                                                    The most successful new restaurants around here in the last few years have been mobbed from day one due to sites like Chowhound and Yelp. No need to waste your revenues on PR when the place is full every night.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      You might be right for San Francisco and other large markets, but I think PR plays a big role in the attention national media gives to smaller markets.

                                                                      As someone in a smaller city that gets a lot of attention from the national food press, I find that the national media tends to fixate on a few restaurants. Papers and magazines across the country write about the same places over and over. Most of these places have good PR people.

                                                                      Once you get some national attention, even if it's a puff piece that results from a fam trip, other writers and editors will pay more attention. PR plays a big role in getting this initial attention.

                                                                      I also suspect that you're undervaluing the role of PR even in big cities. It's the PR agent that often gets the preview article of the big restaurant in the paper. The PR agent also makes chefs accessible for interviews, which tends to generate more press.

                                                                      I even know local food bloggers who get info from PR agents. The internet is not as pure as some might believe.

                                                                      1. re: Frolic

                                                                        I get some stuff from PR people, but I've always heard about the place first from Chowhound or other informants.

                                                                        In San Francisco, there are so many new restaurants and chef changes and so on that what gets covered in the restaurant news columns depends more on the track record of the chef or owner or the originality of the endeavor than on whether they spend a lot on PR.

                                                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        didn't ici make some best ice cream lists before the place had even opened?

                                                                        1. re: himbeer

                                                                          San Francisco Magazine wrote about Ici's ice cream sandwiches in a "Best of the Bay Area" article. The conceit was that an ice cream parlor that serves only seasonal fruit flavors was something to love about the area. The article didn't rank it relative to other ice cream parlors, the other items were a pretty random selection: personal traines, an eco-friendly house, best place to find drunk blondes at 2am, etc.

                                                                          http://www.sanfran.com/archives/view_...

                                                                          http://www.teich.net/blog/2006/07/15/...

                                                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                          I don't know about that. What about Winterland?

                                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                                            You don't know about what? I'm not sure how Winterland relates to anything I said.

                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                              you said:

                                                                              "I'm a restaurant reviewer and know a lot of other reviewers and magazine / newspaper types. In this area, most restaurant PR and advertising is a waste of money. Maybe it can get some customers in your door once. It won't get them back again if you don't deliver the goods.

                                                                              The most successful new restaurants around here in the last few years have been mobbed from day one due to sites like Chowhound and Yelp. No need to waste your revenues on PR when the place is full every night. "

                                                                              My point is that good restaurants can still fail due to lack of business, even, as is the case with Winterland, they receive very favorable reports on sites such as CH. So, perhaps PR does matter and they didn't do a good enough job with it. and then, some folks blamed unfair reviews (ie bad PR) for their demise...

                                                                              See:
                                                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                The rave reviews on CH for Winterland came like a tidal wave after they decided to close.

                                                                                Due to the rave reviews, I went to the chowdown organized by CHaddict and was seriously underwhelmed with Winterland's food.

                                                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                  I didn't say that good restaurants can't fail. That happens all the time.

                                                                                  Winterland got a lot more press than most restaurants. Among their other problems were a negative review in the Chronicle, a reputation for serving El Bulli-type mad-scientist food (not so true after the Chron review), spotty service (mentioned in most reports here, even the positive ones), and location, location, location. At least four other restaurants failed in that space in the dozen or so years it's been there.

                                                                                  I don't know why you think bad PR would result in an unfair review. The most PR can do is get a critic in the restaurant; it can't affect the food, service, or atmosphere.

                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                    Perhaps I am not clear, but I don't think bad PR would result in an unfair review, and I don't think I ever said that. What I was saying is that perhaps some good PR might have HELPED Winterland, in other words, I am not sure that PR doesn't matter in SF as you claim. If Winterland had more good PR, maybe it could have overcome some of those negatives you mention. A lot of mediocre restaurants in SF seem to do quite well, and I think PR has something to do with it. One example that comes to my mind: somehow I got on an Impala mailing list, and I get regular emails from them, even though I have never eaten there and am not inclined to eat there, and have never heard a good report. Someone eats there though, because they are packed whenever I drive by, so I think it is quite plausible that someone is listening to all that PR.

                                                                                    As for unfair reviews, an unfair review *is* bad publicity (assuming anyone reads the review and believes it, which granted could be a big if in some cases); which was my only point about the bad review that Winterland got from one source.

                                                                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                      PR is public relations, something the restaurant pays for. Publicity may result from PR (as when a press release leads to a "what's new" item ore review), or it may be free (as with Chowhound).

                                                                                      I doubt spending more money on PR would have helped Winterland overcome the bad location, spotty service, or negative Chron review.

                                                                                      I'm not sure even good service and a great review would make that location viable. No foot traffic, not a major thoroughfare, difficult parking.

                                                                                      Impala's more of a bar. The location gets a lot of tourist and bridge-and-tunnel traffic. You can see on Yelp that there's some positive word of mouth.

                                                                      3. re: dippedberry

                                                                        As a sous chef here in the states I can promise you that you can pay to be on this list, within reason, maybe not top twenty but oh yes money can buy you on.

                                                                        1. re: jjb77006

                                                                          How much did it cost you and who did you pay?

                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                            From my previous PR classes, here is what i learned. It's not about paying to be on the list, but if you advertise often and contribute to the revenue of the magazine in various ways previously, somehow, the editor will want to be in your good grace and will try to include you on the list in this example.

                                                                            1. re: Problem Child

                                                                              I don't know how Gourmet does it, but that's not true of every magazine. Advertising and food reviews tend to be completely separate.

                                                                              TT

                                                                              1. re: Problem Child

                                                                                I'd never seen a restaurant ad in Gourmet until I went looking for one today. There's a little three-page paid-listings section way in the back.

                                                                                People who are spending a lot of money on advertising like to imagine that it'll affect the reviewers or editors, but at a good publication, it won't.

                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                  I don't think that anyone is suggesting a quid pro quo, or that Gourmet is so corrupt that they could actually be bribed. BUT there is no denying that PR is a big factor in the success and hype in the restaurant business. This is not to say that every restaurant subscribes to the PR machine nor that every town in America is equally susceptible. However, most media interviews, mentions, ads, etc in the big cities are conducted through the aegis of PR reps. That's the reality whether RL wants to deny it or not.

                                                                                  As an aside, despite RL assertion that Chez Panisse deservedly belongs at #2, the Michelin people didn't agree. Only 1 star. I guess Mr. Food Writer isn't a Michelin judge.

                                                                                  1. re: Pupster

                                                                                    The reality in San Francisco is that most of the most popular restaurants grew by word of mouth and spent little or nothing on PR or advertising, and most restaurants that do spend a lot don't last long.

                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                      I'm not purporting to be an expert, but in the last decade or so, the chef with the best PR machine had to be Reed Hearon. I remember when Rose Pistola opened, a national publication said it was the best Italian restaurant in the country. Of course that led me to try it and I was unimpressed.

                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                        Oh, really?
                                                                                        http://www.buzzcamp.com/

                                                                                        I especially like this bullet within the text:
                                                                                        "Get details of how Chez Panisse in Berkeley and In-N-Out Burger built their success with buzz and how you can apply these strategies to increase your sales."

                                                                                        1. re: dippedberry

                                                                                          Chez Panisse's buzz had nothing to do with PR. It had a lot to do with who Alice Waters happened to know, various other accidents of fate, and simply being in the right place at the right time.

                                                                                          http://www.vanityfair.com/commentary/...

                                                                                          1. re: dippedberry

                                                                                            That article got into Vanity Fair because it was the most interesting excerpt from David Kamp's new book, The United States of Arugula. Kamp wrote about Waters because she is unarguably an important figure in American culinary history, though only one chapter in the lengthy book is devoted to Chez Panisse. Vanity Fair chose to print that excerpt because Waters' *ahem* "alternative lifestyle" makes for some damn funny reading.

                                                                                            1. re: dippedberry

                                                                                              That's an excerpt from a book by David Kamp, who's a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. It's anything but flattering.

                                                                                              Alice Waters has a PR person since she's an author and does a lot of fundraisers. The restaurant gets more than enough free publicity, but they do a modest amount of publicity for author dinners, fundraisers, and so on.

                                                                      4. I agree that these type of lists are arbitrary and often exactly the opposite of what they say they are--nobody believes that this is a true picture of the top restaurants. That being said, I think they serve a purpose of opening spirited debate and hopefully getting people to think about quality and what they put in thier mouths. It can get people thinking in the chowhound spirit.
                                                                        Unfortunately, many will take it as another source of bragging rights--Hey, I ate at 22 off the list and you only did 20. Also, how many people follow a list like this because they have never found a forum like chowhound for real advice and end up thinking "That wasn't so great. Why bother"

                                                                        1. The article does a pretty good job of explaining their choices. It's not online, or not yet anyway.

                                                                          1. The article is now online:
                                                                            http://www.epicurious.com/gourmet/fea...

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: foodiegrl

                                                                              The Alinea slide show is alarming: numerous freakishly unnatural flavor combinations designed to surprise and delight restaurant critics, but which sound far less appealing than those at The French Laundry to my eye/ear.

                                                                              Still, if I could expense it, I'd try it. ;-)

                                                                            2. I am sure that PR does have a bit to do with some of these selections but certainly not all of them. I work at one of the top 50 and we do not even have a publicist or PR person. I do know that Gourmet staff dined at our restaurant aproximately 2 months ago, but it was through no invitation or PR buzz of our own.

                                                                              1. Does anyone upset with the order of the list find it more palatable when sorted by city?

                                                                                CA – Berkeley – Chez Panisse
                                                                                CA – Beverly Hills – Spago
                                                                                CA – Beverly Hills – Urasawa
                                                                                CA – Carmel – L'Auberge Carmel
                                                                                CA – Healdsburg – Cyrus
                                                                                CA – Los Angeles – Providence
                                                                                CA – Los Gatos – Manresa
                                                                                CA – San Francisco – Zuni Café
                                                                                CA – Yountville – The French Laundry
                                                                                CO – Boulder – Frasca
                                                                                FL – Miami – Michy's
                                                                                GA – Atlanta – Bacchanalia
                                                                                GA – Atlanta – The Dining Room in the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead
                                                                                HI – Honolulu – Alan Wong's Restaurant
                                                                                IL – Chicago – Alinea
                                                                                IL – Chicago – Charlie Trotter's
                                                                                LA – New Orleans – Herbsaint
                                                                                LA – New Orleans – Restaurant August
                                                                                MA – Boston – Locke-Ober
                                                                                MA – Boston – No. 9 Park
                                                                                ME – Ogunquit – Arrows
                                                                                ME – Portland – Fore Street
                                                                                MN – Minneapolis – La Belle Vie
                                                                                NC – Chapel Hill – Lantern Restaurant
                                                                                NC – Durham – Magnolia Grill
                                                                                NM – Santa Fe – Trattoria Nostrani
                                                                                NV – Las Vegas – Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare
                                                                                NV – Las Vegas – Joël Robuchon at the Mansion
                                                                                NV – Las Vegas – Restaurant Guy Savoy
                                                                                NY – New York – Babbo
                                                                                NY – New York – Daniel
                                                                                NY – New York – Gramercy Tavern
                                                                                NY – New York – Jean Georges
                                                                                NY – New York – Le Bernardin
                                                                                NY – New York – Masa
                                                                                NY – New York – Per Se
                                                                                OH – Cleveland – Parker's New American Bistro
                                                                                OR – Portland – Higgins
                                                                                OR – Portland – Paley's Place
                                                                                PA – Philadelphia – Striped Bass
                                                                                PA – Philadelphia – Vetri
                                                                                TX – Dallas – Nana
                                                                                TX – Dallas – York Street
                                                                                TX – Houston – Da Marco
                                                                                TX – San Antonio – La Rêve
                                                                                VA – Washington, D.C. – Michel Richard Citronelle
                                                                                WA – Kirkland – Cafe Juanita
                                                                                WA – Seattle – Canlis
                                                                                WA – The Inn at Little Washington
                                                                                WI – Madison – L'Etoile
                                                                                WI – Milwaukee – Sanford

                                                                                1. What about whose missing from this list. You cannot tell me these restaurants do not deserve to be on the list while others are on it, thats why I feel like there are other ways to be on the lis...
                                                                                  Eleven Madison Park-Daniel Humm
                                                                                  The Modern-Gabriel Kreuther
                                                                                  Blue Hill at Stone Barns-Dan Barber-and its on a god forsaken farm that produces incredible vegies
                                                                                  WD-50-????? ask a new yorker
                                                                                  Tru-I mean how is it not on the list
                                                                                  Michael Mina-Need I say more
                                                                                  Gary Danko-ditto
                                                                                  Bradley Ogden-Heard amazing things and just won best new restaurant james beard o couple years ago
                                                                                  Chanterelle-american classic

                                                                                  I just don't get how we could leave these...and many more off the list.

                                                                                  1. oh ya and Clio in boston is doing incredible food.