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It’s official: Northern California is the nation’s fine-dining capital. The esteemed Michelin Guide awarded stars to 57 San Francisco Bay Area restaurants—the most the region has ever seen, making 2019 a record-breaking year. With the awards canceled in 2020, the pre-pandemic results for Bay Area Michelin starred restaurants are still mostly in place.
Of these establishments, seven achieved star status for the first time or had their stars elevated. Additionally, with the advancement of San Francisco’s Atelier Crenn and Healdsburg’s SingleThread from two to three stars, the area is now home to seven three-star restaurants, maintaining its edge over New York City (which has five).
In Michelin speak, three stars means “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”. The Bay Area restaurants that kept their top-dog status include San Francisco’s Benu, and Quince; Los Gatos’ Manresa; St. Helena’s The Restaurant at Meadowood; and Yountville’s The French Laundry. One of the new additions to the coveted Bay Area Michelin star category, Atelier Crenn chef-owner Dominique Crenn became the first woman to head a three-star restaurant in the United States.
The honor bears particular significance, as it highlights historic gender disparities in both professional kitchens and trusted international culinary guides. Though Crenn garnered her first Michelin star in 2012 and then her second the following year, it took eight years for her to achieve three-star status. In the meantime, her French eatery was ranked in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and earned her a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the West.
The esteemed Michelin Guide awarded stars to 57 San Francisco Bay Area restaurants—the most the region has ever seen.
SingleThread’s journey to three Michelin stars, however, took much less time, as the Wine Country restaurant made the jump from two to three stars within two years of opening. Designed around the concept of omotenashi (the “spirit of selfless hospitality, anticipating needs without having to be asked”), the elegant Bay Area Michelin starred restaurant by Kyle and Katina Connaughton serves an 11-course kaiseki menu that often features fresh produce grown on the property.
For the following tier, two Michelin stars indicates “excellent cooking, worth a detour”. Avant-garde restaurant Coi earned this distinction in 2019, joining the ranks of other San Francisco eateries Acquerello, Californios, and Lazy Bear—plus Commis, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the East Bay region.
Finally, the Michelin Guide defines one-star restaurants as “high-quality cooking, worth a stop”. The entrants to that category are Birdsong (a San Francisco eatery showcasing Pacific Northwest cuisine), Madcap (a San Anselmo standout serving California-Japanese fare), Protégé (where French Laundry alums craft New American dishes in Palo Alto), and Bar Crenn (Crenn’s casual wine bar next door to Atelier Crenn)—all of which are fairly new to the Michelin Bay Area food scene. French restaurant Nico also earned back its star after reopening in San Francisco’s Jackson Square in 2018.
As you might have inferred, these lauded restaurants are not inexpensive, with multi-course tasting menus often costing at least $300 per person (not including wine pairings, tax, or tip). But if you are looking for a splurge-worthy dinner to celebrate a special occasion or date night, reserve a table at one of the best Michelin star restaurants in the Bay Area.
If you can’t wait to slurp Michelin-starred ramen, you’re not alone. The success of the Bay Area’s Michelin-starred restaurants during these difficult times is nothing short of inspiring. Although we’re going to miss some of the Michelin Bay Area eateries, we’re excited to see other favorites receiving deserved accolades. For example, Campton Place—a Michelin star Indian restaurant in the Bay Area—went up one star despite the tough times. While you wait for 2021 stars to roll in, support these Michelin Bay Area eateries by ordering takeout.
Michelin restaurants in the Bay Area
The Bay Area continues to have the highest concentration of three Michelin-starred restaurants in the Golden State. When it comes to having the most Michelin-approved restaurants, San Francisco takes the lead. Recently, other Bay Area cities have also been following suit.
The French Laundry, Yountville
Manresa, Los Gatos
The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena
Baumé, Palo Alto
Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford
Chez TJ, Mountain View
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville
La Toque, Napa
Madera, Menlo Park
Madcap, San Anselmo
Madrona Manor, Healdsburg
Protégé, Palo Alto
Plumed Horse, Saratoga
Terrapin Creek, Bodega Bay
The Village Pub, Woodside
Michelin starred restaurants in the East Bay
Oakland is evolving as an East Bay foodie destination worth considering. Its first Michelin-starred restaurant is a true testament to that. Located in Piedmont Avenue, Commis and its hard-working crew make dining a delight. Visit the two Michelin-starred restaurant and enjoy a sophisticated nightly menu in a cool and contemporary setting.
Michelin starred restaurants in San Mateo
Another Bay Area city making waves in the foodie scene is none other than San Mateo. While it only has two one-starred restaurants, San Mateo offers some of the most acclaimed fine dining in the area. We know we can’t say no to these top-notch Japanese restaurants.
Sushi Yoshizumi, San Mateo
Wakuriya, San Mateo
The best Michelin starred restaurants in San Francisco
Spanning numerous cuisines, the best Michelin star restaurants in San Francisco are the real deal. Whether you’re into traditional dining or experimental menus, you’ll find an exquisite dish to munch on in S.F. With an impressive list of Michelin-approved eating establishments, here are the ones you need to know about.
Atelier Crenn, San Francisco
Benu, San Francisco
Quince, San Francisco
Saison, San Francisco
Acquerello, San Francisco
Californios, San Francisco
Coi, San Francisco
Lazy Bear, San Francisco
Campton Place, San Francisco
Al’s Place, San Francisco
Bar Crenn, San Francisco
Birdsong, San Francisco
Gary Danko, San Francisco
Hashiri, San Francisco
In Situ, San Francisco
Ju-Ni, San Francisco
Keiko à Nob Hill, San Francisco
Kin Khao, San Francisco
Lord Stanley, San Francisco
Luce, San Francisco
Michael Mina, San Francisco
Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco
Mourad, San Francisco
Octavia, San Francisco
Omakase, San Francisco
The Progress, San Francisco
Rich Table, San Francisco
Sons & Daughters, San Francisco
SPQR, San Francisco
Spruce, San Francisco
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
Wako, San Francisco
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