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The Bay Area Michelin-Starred Restaurants Everyone Should Try

The Bay Area Michelin-Starred Restaurants Everyone Should Try

By Rebecca T.
April 08, 2021

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe. 

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.

Michelin-starred restaurants often prepare tasting menus complete with several courses, exquisite plating, and perfectly executed technique.

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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.

Whether you want to order takeout or miss looking at luxurious tasting menus, here are Michelin-starred restaurants in the Bay Area.

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. 

Three Stars

The French Laundry, Yountville

Manresa, Los Gatos

The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena

SingleThread, Healdsburg

Two Stars

Baumé, Palo Alto

One Star

Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford

Bouchon, Yountville

Chez TJ, Mountain View

Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville

Kenzo, Napa

La Toque, Napa

Madera, Menlo Park

Madcap, San Anselmo

Madrona Manor, Healdsburg

Protégé, Palo Alto

Plumed Horse, Saratoga

Rasa, Burlingame

Terrapin Creek, Bodega Bay

The Village Pub, Woodside

The East Bay's only Michelin-starred spot experiments with unique ingredients to craft unusually delicious dinners.

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.

Two Stars

Commis, Oakland

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.

One Star

Sushi Yoshizumi, San Mateo

Wakuriya, San Mateo

When it comes to Michelin-starred restaurants, San Francisco shines the brightest in the Bay Area.

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.

Three Stars

Atelier Crenn, San Francisco 

Benu, San Francisco

Quince, San Francisco

Two Stars

Saison, San Francisco

Acquerello, San Francisco

Californios, San Francisco

Coi, San Francisco

Lazy Bear, San Francisco

Campton Place, San Francisco

One Star

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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