Top Trends at the 2015 100 Best Restaurants in America

Blog Best word cloud copyEarlier today, we unveiled the 2015 100 Best Restaurants in America, and as diverse as the list is, there is an abundance of common features at the winners, from the food to the setting and beyond.

In contrast to our 2015 100 Best Restaurants for Foodies, which showcased newer eateries serving smaller plates in more casual settings, these honorees are less chef-driven and more about the overall experience (although you will absolutely find top-flight chefs behind the burners (like Daniel Humm). Everything is on point, every moment and bite carefully orchestrated. These are the restaurants where we go to celebrate special occasions as well as to make any day seem extraordinary. Read on to discover the top trends at the 2015 100 Best Restaurants in America.

LUXE INGREDIENTS LIKE LOBSTER + FOIE GRAS
This may be the year of the wood sheep, but if the menus at this year’s winners are any indication, it was more like the year of the lobster. Maine lobster trappers have taken in another epic haul and demand is on the rise at top restaurants. And with the ban on foie gras repealed in California, it seems more fashionable than ever, despite the controversy surrounding it.
Seen at: Bouchard Restaurant and Inn,  Joseph TambelliniLaurel, Norman’s at the Ritz-Carltono yaSonoma, and Yono’s Restaurant, among others.

FORMAL WEAR
Do you like to dress for dinner? Then you’re in luck. Don your jackets and ties. Bust out that LBD. And head to one of the many honorees that indicate a jacket is required or preferred (apologies to Phil Collins).
Seen at: Addison RestaurantChez FrancoisDel PostoThe French RoomL’Auberge Chez François, and Quince Restaurant, among others.

TASTING MENUS
Nearly three years ago, writer Corby Kummer started a rhubarb of epic proportion when he came out against the so-called tyranny of the tasting menu in an article in Vanity Fair. And, yet the tasting menu is alive and well at the winning restaurants, with many offering it alongside an a la carte or prix-fixe choice. In fact, it is the only option several restaurants provide, reflecting diners’ desire for a more curated experience that tasting menus allow.
Seen at: AteraCastagna RestaurantThe CellarsFearrington House Restaurantn/naka, and Vetri, among others.

PHILADELPHIA
Look over your shoulder, New York. The PHL is gaining on you. Seven (!) of the 2015 100 Best Restaurants are located in the City of Brotherly Love (which we should maybe call the City of Culinary Love). From Kate Jacoby and Rich Landau’s plant-forward Vedge, which has made a national splash and ignited our appetites for vegetables, to longtime local fine dining fave Vetri, this town stands on its own merits and is no longer New York City’s sixth borough.
Seen at: LaurelVernick Food & DrinkVolverTalula’s Garden, and Zahav, also.

GAME MEATS
Moo-ve over, beef. Game meats are pushing you to the margins of the menu. Diners are finally catching on to what chefs have known all along – game’s got game. With selections such as venison, quail, rabbit, and elk staking claim to entrée offerings, steak knives just may need a new moniker.
Seen at: AmbienceArtisanal RestaurantForageMarché ModerneRestaurant Lorena’s, and Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern, among others.

MICHELIN STARS
Those stealthy Michelin inspectors clearly know their stuff – as do OpenTable diners. There’s many a Michelin-starred restaurant on this list, from Benu’s three twinklers to The Modern-Dining Room’s new two.
Seen at: AcquerelloAuberge du SoleilBokaFarmhouse Inn & RestaurantLa Folie, and Trattoria L’incontro, among others.

GUINEA HENS
Don’t chicken out when you see the delicious-yet-perhaps-unfamiliar guinea hen on menus. According to an article in Modern Farmer, the bird was prized by Egyptians as a luxury protein. And following the trend that everything old is new again, so it goes in contemporary U.S. restaurant kitchens. Don’t miss this big on flavor and low in cholesterol delight.
Seen at: Farmhouse Inn & RestaurantThe Goodstone Inn & Estate RestaurantVetri, and Volver, among others.

FIREPLACES
The hearth has long been the heart of many a house, and that source of cozy comfort helps create seriously elegant ambience at more than a few of this year’s standouts.
Seen at: Café JuanitaCafé MonarchGeronimoMcNinch HousePer Se, and Thomas Henkelmann-Homestead Inn, among others.

OCTOPUS
At OpenTable, we’re always on a see-food diet particularly when it comes to octopus. It’s versatile, toothy, and tasty, much to the chagrin of Master of None’s pescatarian Rachel, who eschews it because of the octopus’s intelligence and abilities. (Rando reference, I know, but you must watch this show.). A fictional character’s sentiments aside, please do dive in.
Seen at: Café JuanitaNicholasSetteTrattoria L’incontro, and Vernick Food & Drink, among others.

CHEESE? PLEASE!
Oh, burrata. Cheese of our dreams. You are all over these menus, and we couldn’t be more excited. But beyond the creamy lovechild of mozzarella and ricotta lies an endless array of cheeses being served in a variety of fashions, from cheese plates and full cheese courses to the cheese trolley at Charleston. All aboard!
Seen at: AcquerelloDanielKai – Sheraton Wild Horse Pass ResortLe BernardinMontalcino Ristorante Italiano, and Thomas Henkelmann-Homestead Inn, among others.

GARDEN- AND FARM-TO-TABLE
While it’s really no longer necessary for restaurants of this caliber to indicate that they serve farm-to-table fare, many have their own gardens and farms, from The French Laundry’s famed kitchen garden (which has its own Facebook page full of produce porn) to Arethusa al Tavolo , which was born out of the success of Arethusa Farm. Whether they’re harvesting handfuls of herbs or stocking their entire walk-in with just-picked product, we seriously dig it.
Seen at: Arroyo VinoBacchanaliaBlue Hill at Stone BarnsChez Nous French Restaurant,  and n/naka, among others.

MUSHROOMS
Carrots may be the new cauliflower, but the most prescient chefs are tripping out over mushrooms. Long regarded as a super food, umami-rich mushrooms are moving from supporting actors to stars. For diners, this is feel-good/taste-good food at its finest.
Seen at: Castagna RestaurantChimney ParkGeronimoJoan’s in the ParkUmami, and Zahav, among others.

CHEF’S TABLES
Any meal at a restaurant on this list will be special, but for diners looking to get up close and personal with the chef and kitchen staff, a chef’s table is an extraordinary way to do so. Observe the action, pick up a tip or two, and try to sneak in a chef-selfie at one of these most intimate hospitality experiences.
Seen at: BouleyCafé JuanitaGeronimoMcNinch HouseTalula’s Garden, and Zahav, among others.

ESTABLISHED RESTAURANTS
William Faulkner wrote, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” This list illustrates that to a fault with well-established restaurants, many of which have storied histories (Bonjour, La Grenouille!), taking up dozens of spots. Fourteen alone are more than 30 years old, such as Mama’s Fish House, and the aforementioned La Grenouille opened its doors way back in 1962.
Seen at: Eleven Madison ParkGramercy TavernLa FolieL’Auberge Chez FrançoisLes Nomades, and Michael’s-South Point Casino, among others.

Which trends are you most excited about? The continued popularity of the tasting menu? Cheese courses? Dressing up for dinner? Comment here or over on Facebook, G+Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter using the hashtag #OpenTable100.