My Top 5 Restaurants Of All Time

“You are what you eat.” This delectable sentence starts the book For The Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann. The act of eating is a sacramental experience. This little book helped me understand for the first time why I am innately and unapologetically a “foodie.”

Here are my top 5 restaurants of all time and I would ask you to list your favorite as well.

1.) Mogador — Aspen, Colorado — Chef Barclay Dodge created this Moroccan Restaurant. He hosts a Chef’s Table like nothing I’ve ever experienced called the Seven Wonders of the World. The personal menu is then placed in a book and you are guaranteed never to have the same course twice. It is complemented by a perfect Spanish wine flight. Barclay Dodge is a genius who plans, prepares and presents regional cuisine like a master artist. Unfortunately, Aspen’s seasonal clientele could not support this extraordinary restaurant and it is now closed.

2.) French Laundry — Napa, California — Chef Thomas Keller is world renowned and an American chefrestaurateur, and cookbook writer. He and his landmark Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry in Yountville, California, have won multiple awards from the James Beard Foundation, notably the Best California Chef in 1996, and the Best Chef in America in 1997. The restaurant is a perennial winner in the annual Restaurant Magazine list of the Top 50 Restaurants of the World. The tasting menu is other worldly for its exotic yet regional cuisine, much of which is harvested in the Napa Valley area.

3.) Sooke Harbor House, Sooke, British Columbia — A romantic boutique hotel and restaurant on the edge of the Pacific, is located approximately 45 minutes from Victoria on the west coast of Vancouver Island, on a bluff looking out at the Sooke Harbour, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountain Range.

This award winning restaurant (voted #1 restaurant in Canada) features the freshest of local seafood, meats and produce. The menu changes on a daily basis. They actively support local farmers, gardeners and fishermen. To enhance your dining experience, sample a vintage from their Wine Spectator Grand Award winning wine cellar. Their certified organic herbs and flower gardens are planned as an edible landscape, with indigenous plants, common and unusual herbs.  Many of the flavors used by their chefs come from their own edible gardens.

4.) La Tour d’Argent — Paris, France — Since 1582 this fabled restaurant has been serving food on the scenic banks of the Seine while overlooking the spires of Notre Dame. The fork was first utilized here and every duck—for which they are famous—is numbered and carved with the aforementioned fork without touching the plate. A window seat at dinner admiring the Paris sunset while taking in the delectable food and dazzling views of Notre Dame is sensory overload at its finest.

5.) 12 Chimneys — In the mountains outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan — Imagine driving on a winding one-lane road into the mist of the highest mountains of Central Asia and coming to a restaurant that looks like it came straight from the set of the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and you will understand only a minute aspect of the mystique of this restaurant.

With open burning fires scattered throughout and walls and floors covered with enormous furry animal pelts, this restaurant has to be seen to be believed. For your dining pleasure, a horse complete with head can be served to your party, complemented a mound by the finest beluga caviar I have ever witnessed. It is the most surreal dining experience of my life.

Question: What is your favorite restaurant of all time?

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45 Responses to “My Top 5 Restaurants Of All Time”

  1. Am I missing the 5th of your Top 5? Seems maybe you published a bit too soon.

    I plan on visiting the French Laundry sooner rather than later – Thanks!

  2. In Cannes I ate at the most amazing seaside restaurant – A La Maree, if I remember the spelling correctly. Steamed mussels in a broth that had so many layers of flavor . . . had no idea that a mere broth could taste like that! Kind of changed the way I thought of cooking – just amazing. Most certainly one of my top restaurants.

  3. One of our top restaurant picks us certainly the original Merriman’s on Hawaii’s Big Island. All fesh, organic ungredients and different menu items daily.

  4. Based off this list, I’m pretty sure we would be friends, next time you travel to our great state of Texas, we can give you some secret hole in walls that will be sure to make your taste buds happy:)

  5. Though it may sound ridiculous, Flip Burger Boutique in Atlanta (Richard Blais’ place) will absolutely rock you. My favorite, hands down. Now, I also enjoy eating at the Brickstore pub, but that’s not about the food: their beer selection is unparalleled!

  6. Peter Luger, New York, New York.

    Greatest steak of all time!

    Ever been?

  7. Las Brisas in Laguna Beach, CA (
    The Carnivore in Nairobi, Kenya (
    Niko’s Greek Wine Bar in Spokane, WA (
    Dinosaur BBQ in Rochester, NY (
    Scarpetta – Scott Conant’s restaurant in the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, FL (

    ugh – now I want to go to ALL of them again!

  8. …like Cooper’s Pit Barbecue in Llano?

    • @Chris, Chris, Is that Llano Texas?

      • @Randy, Yes indeed. It’s listed in the back of Steven Raichlen’s Barbecue Bible as one of his favorite barbecue places in the world. Try to make it for lunch or early dinner, since they close when they run out of meat.

        It’s a very small town Texas experience. They have 6 or 8 big pits in which they smoke their meat, which could be brisket, sausage, thick pork chops, chicken, ribs, or steak. They move all of the finished meat to one pit, where everyone lines up. You tell them which meat you want and how much of it, they cut off the proper amount, dip it into a thin, slightly vinegary sauce, and put it on a paper lined tray. You then take it inside to sit at picnic tables, and help yourself to the all you can eat beans.

        And while you’re in the area, take the 30-45 minute drive south to Enchanted Rock, if you like the outdoors.

  9. MIne are constantly changing. We have a New Mexican Restaurant around the corner, their portabello mushroom enchilada in an amaretto cream sauce is to die for.

  10. Rich Goulette March 23, 2011 at 14:07

    Patrick Gilbaud in Dublin. The lamb loin was amazing, the wine was a Drouhin Amoreuses, and 5 chocolate surprises finished it off. Magnificent!

  11. Becco in New York City. Lydia Bastianichs restaurant. And a little place in China that our adoption coordinators took us too in Guangzhou. But the name escapes me now. I have no idea what we ate, but it was fantastic.

  12. Rendevous in Memphis. Best. Ribs. Ever.

  13. Hi Randy, I am sure your list will change after you visit Peru!

  14. Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. We went to NYC for restaurant week a few summers ago. Amazing food. I would recommend taking a tip to New York for one of the their two restaurant weeks. There is also a Mesa in Vegas and at Atlantis in Nassau.

    I had the Cornmeal Crusted Chile Relleno filled with Roasted Eggplant, Manchego Cheese with Sweet Red Pepper Sauce

    There was just something about his food that was life changing.

    When were were in Napa and Sonoma we stopped by Guy Fieri place Johnny Garlics and it was a close second for a causal dining place. His Sashimi Won Tacos where one the most unexpected things I had ever eaten. It may have just been the experience that I had at Hendry that afternoon that made it that much better.

    Outside of the that we love the dining at Disney. California Grill, Jiko, Palo aboard the cruise ships.

    Pueblo Real ain’t to shabby either.

    I think dining out can be a great reminder how much the experience is effected by the environment. Make me think a lot about how I “set the table” in the experiences I create.

    • @Terry Weaver, Yes, great thoughts and recommendations. I have been to New York for one of their restaurant weeks and the standout for me there was Cafe d’Artists.

      Thanks, Terry!!!

  15. La Boheme in Fair Oaks California (Sacramento) –

    To this day the best steak diane preparations i have ever had and the filet with peppercorn sauce still haunts by dreams.

    • @Vince, Ah. I do a pretty mean Steak au Poivre myself. I need to see if I can rehaunt your dreams one day!!!

      Thanks, Vince. I’m in Sacramento a good bit. I will check La Boheme out!!

  16. Stephanie Tanner March 23, 2011 at 18:06

    So far the best food I’ve ever eaten has been at Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN. We were fortunate enough to be invited guests for a family member’s birthday weekend and I only hope that one day I can return. Everything from the amuse-bouche to the dessert was divine. I also fell in love with Cakebread Cellars chardonnay there too! It was gourmet but not fussy.

    • @Stephanie Tanner, I LOVE Cakebread chard. I have been to their tasting room in Napa and it is exquisite. If you are ever in Napa, be sure to make an appointment and go by.

      I have never been to Blackberry Farm but i have heard extraordinary things about them. Thanks, Stephanie!! It is on my list!!

      • Stephanie Tanner March 23, 2011 at 21:03

        I tell people that it isn’t on the list of “1000 places to go before you die” for nothing. I know it’s a small thing, but they had the best fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast each morning! That and we were able to see the trout that we ate for dinner being caught by fly fisherman that afternoon while we passed a field of grazing sheep who gave the milk for the cheese appetizer course…talk about fresh!
        And Napa is on my bucket list…there’s a train tour through California Wine country that Chris and I considered for a while before we had Erin…now it will have to wait until I get that hefty teacher’s pension, um, on second thought…:)

  17. Sherry Buckles March 23, 2011 at 22:08

    Irene’s Cuisine in New Orleans is an amazing place. A weird, “frenchy-Italian” theme, combined with the sultry, jazz and spice of my home town. It is off the beaten path and generally has a line to get in, but the ever changing menu and friendly service is soooo worth it.

  18. So when does the bar open?

  19. At the risk of sounding vain, I’m going to say my restaurant is my favorite (Sugo Trattoria in Petaluma, California). Probably because it has all my favorite foods on the menu and we make everything with so much passion.

    Bottega in Yountville would be a close second, that Mr. Chiarello kindof knows what he’s doing ;)

  20. i’ll have one of each, please. spread out over 5 nights, of course. or not.

    my 3 favorite drinks at the moment are…

    screewdriver – so simple.


    margarita. currently on the hunt for the perfect one tho.

  21. Petaluma is in Sonoma County (near Napa). We are about 45 minutes North of San Francisco. Let me know if you ever make it up this way!

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