The Guide to Michelin Restaurants Beyond San Francisco
The Michelin star is the highest distinction a restaurant can earn in the culinary world. Restaurants can receive one, two or three Michelin stars, and these stars can also be taken away at any time. In the past 10 years, more and more restaurants in and around the San Francisco Bay Area have received at least one Michelin star, with a total of seven restaurants having three stars.
Stars are granted based on a wide range of criteria, including quality of ingredients, impressive technical skill, and a balanced menu with a wide range of flavors. Drinks offered must complement the meals accordingly. The distinction between the stars is as follows:
- One Star: A very good restaurant in its own category.
- Two Stars: Excellent cooking, worth a detour.
- Three Stars: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.
While San Francisco itself has some amazing Michelin-starred restaurants, quite a few eateries beyond the bridge offer an amazing dining experience and are very much worth the trip.
The French Laundry - 3 Michelin Stars (Napa Valley)
This is one of the most famous restaurants in America, having held three Michelin stars for more than a decade. The French Laundry is truly a must-visit for any die-hard foodie. Thomas Keller, now the proud owner of a restaurant empire, started this ambitious restaurant in 2004 in the heart of Napa Valley. Here, you will dine on a nine-course tasting menu of French cuisine with modern American flair and ingredients sourced from the restaurant's gardens. Another unique feature is that not a single ingredient is duplicated between courses. It is also one of the most expensive restaurants on this list, at $310 per person, not including drinks or gratuity.
Manresa - 3 Michelin Stars (San Jose)
Manresa in Los Gatos offers a nightly tasting menu of seasonal ingredients. The menu is unknown before it is presented at the start of the meal. Manresa offers incredibly innovative flavors designed by chef David Kinch, all in a surprisingly laid-back environment despite the Silicon Valley location. The tasting menu is $255 per person and beverage pairings are $198.
The Restaurant at Meadowood - 3 Michelin Stars (Napa Valley)
The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena is focused on local, sustainable California cuisine, with an avant-garde flair. Meadowood dabbles in the molecular gastronomy trend popular with high-end restaurants, using emulsifiers, gelling agents and stabilizers. Meadowood is a truly elegant affair that offers a unique dining experience.
Baume - 2 Michelin Stars (Palo Alto)
Baume, a two star Michelin restaurant, is in the heart of Palo Alto and serves up French cuisine with a modern flair. The dining room is uncluttered. Since they only do one seating a night, their service is delightfully paced. Baume offers a seasonal tasting menu with six courses at lunch and eight courses in the evening. Prices are subject to change depending on the makeup of the menus provided each night.
Commis - 2 Michelin Stars (East Bay)
Just over the Bay Bridge in Oakland, sits Commis, owner of two Michelin Stars and the beacon of fine dining in the East Bay. Although the nightly tasting menu is ambitious and bold, the space is small and minimally decorated, offering few distractions from the food. The 31 seats include a counter overlooking the open kitchen in the front. The food is as delicious as it is intimate.
Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant - 1 Michelin Star (Sonoma County)
The Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant is the quaint brainchild of brother-and-sister team Joe and Catherine Bartolomei and chef Steve Litke. They are natives of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, and their restaurant reflects both that and their Italian heritage. With delicious locally sourced and simply prepared food, this delightful restaurant is worth the trip.
La Toque Restaurant - 1 Michelin Star (Napa Valley)
La Toque Restaurant in St. Helena in Napa Valley offers the ultimate experience in food and wine pairings. At La Toque, make selections from the core menu or choose a four or five-course tasting menu, where the chef selects the best experience for you. They are also dedicated to the quality of their ingredients, which are sourced from local farms and purveyors.
Madera - 1 Michelin Star (Palo Alto)
Madera is the main restaurant in the swanky Rosewood Sand Hill hotel in Menlo Park. It offers up delightful food and a stunning view of the Santa Cruz mountains. The food at Madera pays homage to the history of food in the Bay Area. Madera means "wood" in Spanish and is meant to recall the wood-burning kitchens of the early Spanish Missions and California Ranch houses. The kitchen offers up consistently good food and has earned one Michelin star for the effort.
Wakuriya - 1 Michelin Star (San Francisco Airport Area)
Wakuriya is a Japanese restaurant in the kaiseki tradition, but with a contemporary twist, located in San Mateo. The restaurant is small but very serious, and it serves up some delicious cuisine. There is just one chef preparing meals for every guest, all of whom sit at a long open kitchen counter so you can watch him at work. Wakuriya offers a nine-course tasting menu that changes every month. The place books up a month in advance, so make sure to set a reminder!