Best restaurant in the world

We haven’t traveled much in the Covid years. We’ve had some spectacular meals mostly in the US, but some internationally. If you had your choice, and money, where would you go? French Laundry? Nobu? Or your local burger joint.
My best experience was in Kihei about 10 years ago in a strip mall sushi place–mom and pop (in their 60s at least), 5 tables, all fish flown in daily… I feel like I’m losing my appreciation for joy as I age, and food is something that brings me joy, but it has to have value. I’ll pay big money, but it needs to be worth it.

There was a little restaurant in Rome that had the best chicken I’ve ever had. It was a chicken breast that I think was just seasoned with salt and pepper.

There’s a place east of Seattle called The Herbfarm that’s supposed to be fantastic. It looks like they don’t have a specific menu, just various themes that change every few weeks. 9 courses, including wine, $350 per person; maybe I’ll check it out the next time I’m out that way.

That’s just it though. One of my very favorite meals was in Rome as well, and it wasn’t at a fancy or famous place, just a family run restaurant more or less near the Pantheon. Based on some map-looking, I’m thinking it was “Osteria da Mario”.

Something about the location (old Rome), the ambiance (outdoor patio table), the food (which was fantastic!) and the situation (on vacation before the birth of our first child) made it far more than the sum of its parts. And honestly, far better than the Michelin-starred restaurant I ate at a couple of years later in the Netherlands.

I tend to think the Michelin star game is a racket; it’s totally dependent on areas where they publish Michelin guides. It’s not some sort of worldwide sweep for the very best restaurants or anything, contrary to popular belief.

So you might have a restaurant that’s 3 star quality somewhere like Salt Lake City, and it won’t have a single star, because there’s no Michelin guide for Salt Lake City or Utah. In the US, there are only Michelin guides for NYC, DC, California, Chicago and Florida. That notably leaves out about half of the largest cities in the US, and a lot of places known for good food. And there’s some question of how you get a Michelin guide… apparently the State of Florida literally PAID Michelin to publish a guide about their state’s restaurants. I can’t say I blame Florida, but it seems super shady on the part of the Guide Michelin people.

El Bulli is closed now… perhaps there is a place that places similar value on pure creativity (rather than on making any money or staying in business)?

According to TripAdvisor, there’s this place (but what do I know)

Went here when they first opened–very aspirational. The menu didn’t have dishes, just flavors, and it was prix fixe. Looks like Covid has had them dumb it down quite bit. Back then it was about $150 pp, and it was exceptional.

On the other end of the spectrum…

We all had covid and cancelled a trip, I just couldn’t get a negative test twice in a row, and we cancelled more plans. Then I rebounded…

But I’m free of quarantine now, and just this morning returned to my favorite greasy spoon. It was so good: huge blueberry coffeecake, The Scrambler, which is layers of hashbrowns, eggs, veggies, meats (great corned beef and bacon), topped with cheese and gravy, and a thick chocolate/coffee malt.

(Mickie’s Dairy Bar, Madison, WI)

Free advice: Come early on weekends… and don’t ask J.J.Watt for an autograph.

The best meals that I can remember have featured not just the food, but excellent views and great company. With that in mind, my top three choices would be window-side dinner at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite, The North Rim Lodge in the Grand Canyon, and The Marine Room at La Jolla Shores.