Whether you travel specifically in search of the world's most iconic dishes, or dining is something that simply adds to your holistic experience of a destination, there's no doubt that a splurge on a 12-course tasting menu — or even an afternoon standing in line for that famous smoked salmon — can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here are TripSavvy's favorite iconic and fine dining experiences for 2018.
Keens Steakhouse: New York, N.Y. — featured in Great NYC Steakhouses
Just off Herald Square, Keens is absolutely everything one could want in a classic steakhouse — in ways far beyond the meat itself. There are few places in the city more atmospheric than the dark, clubby Keens, first established in 1885. Once home to a “Pipe Club” which counted members including Theodore Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, and Liza Minnelli, the ceiling of Keens boasts the largest collection of clay “churchwarden pipes” in the world — an estimated 90,000. Back to the food: while it is, of course, an excellent idea to order a steak at the acclaimed steakhouse, the true highlight of the menu is the mutton chop, actually a succulent 26-ounce lamb chop.
Add some potatoes, maybe an iceberg wedge, maybe an appetizer consisting solely of slabs of bacon. Drink something timeless: a martini, or a single-malt Scotch. –Carey Jones
- Gus's Fried Chicken: Memphis, Tenn. — featured in The Top Southern Food in Memphis
Philippe the Original: Los Angeles, Calif. — featured in The Most Iconic Restaurants in LA
The French Dip: a distinctive sandwich whose bread is dunked straight into au jus before being stuffed with meat, cheese, and the occasional hot pepper. Legend has it, Philippe the Original in downtown Los Angeles is the restaurant that invented and popularized the now famous delicacy. Run like an old-school deli, patrons order their sandwiches and sides from the counter, then cross the traditional sawdust covered floor to grab a table. Philippe’s sells their classic french dipped sandwiches in a selection of house-roasted meats, but give the original beef a taste before sampling the others.
Get there early to avoid the crowds — the lunch rush here is no joke, and the place is always packed before Dodger’s home games too. –Megan Graney
Russ & Daughters: New York, N.Y. — featured in New York's Best Shops for Food Lovers
"Appetizing shops," as they used to be called, were a dime a dozen when Russ & Daughters first opened its doors in 1914 on the Lower East Side. Now, it's one of the last remaining and is the place to go forJewish delicacies like high-quality smoked fish — salmon, trout, sable, sturgeon — bagels and schmears, and other specialty items (try the chopped liver or matzo ball soup). Remember to grab a number and wait for it to be called as you decide between the Super Heebster or the Fancy Delancey sandwiches — and exacty how many pounds of gaspe nova you want to bring home.
- Pappy's Smokehouse: St. Louis, Mo. — featured in Famous Restaurants in St. Louis
Twin Anchors: Chicago, Ill. — featured in Chicago's Best Barbecue Joints
Located in an historic Old Town building that dates back to 1881, Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern is one of the oldest restaurants in the city of Chicago. Since its founding in 1932, Twin Anchors has always been known for great, tender, barbecued baby-back ribs that can be enjoyed in a quaint neighborhood tavern. The restaurant is a favorite of locals, in addition to some heavyweight celebrity legends such as Frank Sinatra who would regularly visit the restaurant while in Chicago. Twin Anchors has also been featured in various Hollywood films in addition to television series… but seriously, it’s all about the ribs. –David Duran
Bavette's Bar & Boeuf: Chicago, Ill. — featured in Chicago's Best Steakhouses
Bavette’s, just north of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart on W. Kinzie, often ranks atop lists of the city’s best restaurants. Consider this: Chicagoans sometimes spend months trying to land reservations. The New American menu, service and atmosphere are superb. Portions are large, so couples often consider splitting the generous appetizers before their entrees arrive. Some of the most popular main courses in this steakhouse are Honey-Glazed Salmon and Spiced Fried Chicken. Among the USDA prime beef selections, the Classic Ribeye Chicago Cut is among the best steaks in town.
An unusual side item is roasted bone marrow with red onion jam -- don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! –Mark Kahler
- Helena's Hawaiian Food: Honolulu, Hawaii — featured in The Top Honolulu Restaurants
Defonte's Sandwich Shop: Brooklyn, N.Y. — featured in Brooklyn's Best Sandwich Shops
In a city where restaurants shutter daily, this Red Hook sandwich institution has been serving sandwiches since the 1920s. Located in Red Hook, the shop is tucked out of the way on a side street blocks from the main drag, Van Brunt Street, but it's seriously worth the trek. Fans of old school hero sandwiches should order one of their classics. Once you take a take a bite out of their roast beef, mozzarella and eggplant hero, you'll understand why this is such a special place. If you don't eat meat, try the popular Valentino's Special with eggplant, provolone and peppers.
- Coquette: New Orleans, La. — featured in Magazine Street Restaurants
- Belcanto: Lisbon, Portugal — featured in Portugal's Michelin-Starred Restaurants
- Bibou: Philadelphia, Pa. — featured in Philadelphia's Most Romantic Restaurants
- Canlis: Seattle, Wash. — featured in Seattle's Most Scenic Restaurants
- Il Terrazzo Carmine: Seattle, Wash. — featured in Seattle's Top Italian Restaurants
- Bouley at Home: New York, N.Y. — featured in The Best Restaurants in NYC
Lazy Bear: San Francisco, Calif. — featured in the Best Bay Area Michelin-Starred Restaurants
What began as an underground pop-up in 2009 has morphed into San Francisco's most illustrious supper club: a one-of-a-kind social dining experience in the heart of the city's Mission District. Two groups of 40 ticketed guests each flock to this lofty, industrial space Tuesday through Saturday evenings to enjoy Chef David Barzelay's ever-changing tasting menu, first mingling over hors d'oeuvres and punch in the restaurant's living room-style mezzanine, then sitting down to a 14+ course meal at two communal long tables as the kitchen works its magic feverishly in full view.
An optional pairing of wines and other libations perfectly compliments Lazy Bear's exquisite Modern American offerings. –Laura Kiniry
- Quintonil Restaurant: Mexico City, Mexico — featured in Fine Dining in Mexico City
- Le Bernardin: New York, N.Y. — featured in NYC's Most Expensive Restaurants
- Charlie Gitto's: St. Louis, Mo. — featured in Where to Eat on the Hill in St. Louis
- Daniel: New York, N.Y. — featured in The Best Restaurants in NYC
- Legume: Pittsburgh, Pa. — featured in Pittsburgh Farm-to-Table Restaurants
- Erling Jensen: Memphis, Tenn. — featured in The Most Romantic Restaurants in Memphis
The Diplomat: Milwaukee, Wis. — featured in Milwaukee's Best New Restaurants
Brady Street’s eclectic dining scene has been a constant in Milwaukee for the past decade, and a true anchor to the East Side’s entertainment. A newer arrival — it opened in 2017 — is The Diplomat, with chef-owner Dane Baldwin at the helm in this cozy spot with banquettes and a vertical wall of fresh greens. Each night’s dinner menu is based on what’s in season and available, but might include Southern- and retro-inspired starters like chicken in a biscuit, yellow corn grits and deviled eggs, followed by comfort-food driven entrees (such as trout with dill pickled beans or pork shoulder roast in black-cherry sauce).
Classic cocktails rule, including The Old-Fashioned, invented in Wisconsin. –Kristine Hansen
Cafe des Artistes: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico — featured in The Best Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
This haute cuisine restaurant has maintained its place as one of Puerto Vallarta’s iconic dining spots for over a quarter of a century by offering exceptional food and warm and attentive service in a magical atmosphere. Guests can choose to sit on one of the garden terraces surrounded by fairy lights, or in the elegant comfort of the inside dining room. The cuisine has shifted over the years from being mainly French to gradually acquiring more and more Mexican flavor, while always maintaining excellent quality.
The restaurant lives up to its name by displaying interesting art in every corner, and serving the food in a manner that is consummately artistic. –Suzanne Barbezat
Cafe Juanita: Seattle, Wash. — featured in Seattle's Top Italian Restaurants
In a region with many fine dining restaurants, Café Juanita stands out for its stellar service (the restaurant was recently nominated for Outstanding Service and Outstanding Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation), its amazing menu and its commitment to sustainability. Chef Holly Smith opened Café Juanita in 2000 and has trained her focus on the food and wine of Northern Italy. Each dish, from the antipasti to the entrees to dessert, is infused with creatively combined ingredients such as veal sweetbreads with capers olive oil and parsley, or rabbit with porcini, pancetta, gnocchi and herbs.
Even the décor is something different — modern, clean and slightly Scandinavian. –Kristin Kendle
Osteria Langhe: Chicago, Ill. — featured in Chicago's Best Italian Restaurants
Italian fine eatery, Osteria Langhe, has a great hook: “The Fast Fusion of Slow Food and Fine Wine.” They’re not wrong. Co-Founder Cameron Grant, an Italian-trained Scottish chef, hand pinches ravioli with thyme and butter for his Plin, and you haven’t lived unless you’ve tried his gnocchi with a slight citrus flavor—both dishes are ideally proportioned to save room for the secondi: rabbit loin, seabass, New York strip, or house-made savory crepes. Co-Founder, Aldo Zaninotto pairs dishes with his favorite northern Italian reds and whites.
Save room for an Italian donut and an Osteria Langhe moniker espresso from Sparrow Coffee. –Wendy Altschuler
- Rust en Vrede: Cape Town, South Africa — featured in The Top Restaurants in Cape Town
- The Fitz: Milwaukee, Wis. — featured in The Best New Restaurants in Milwaukee
- Wakuriya: San Mateo, Calif. — featured in Traditional Japanese Cuisine in the Silicon Valley
- Alinea: Chicago, Ill. — featured in Fine Dining in Chicago
Blue Hill: New York, N.Y. — featured in Romantic Restaurants in NYC
An hour north of Manhattan, Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns is one of the country’s preeminent destinations for true farm-to-table fare — with many of the animals, and virtually all of the produce, raised onsite. But in the city proper, his equally outstanding Blue Hill delivers the same caliber of locally-inspired cuisine right in the West Village. Tucked away in a picturesque basement-level space, the restaurant offers both four- and six-course tastings, a “Daily Menu” and “Farmer’s Feast,” respectively.
Expect the height of seasonal produce, whatever the season may be; and plates that manage to be equally sophisticated and beautifully simple. –Carey Jones
- South City Kitchen: Atlanta, Ga. — featured in Southern Food in Atlanta
- Boka: Chicago, Ill. — featured in Fine Dining in Chicago
- Commis: Oakland, Calif. — featured in The Best Bay Area Michelin-Starred Restaurants
- Giovanni's: Cleveland, Ohio — featured in Special Occasion Restaurants in Cleveland
- Brigtsen's: New Orleans, La. — featured in The Best Restaurants in Uptown NOLA
Fenchurch Restaurant: London, England — featured in London's Best Restaurants With Views
Up on the 37th floor of London’s Sky Garden, Fenchurch Restaurant is one of the hottest and highest tables in town. Located in the financial district, right across the river from the Shard, this rooftop spot offers heart-thumping views of the city through its giant glass walls. While perusing the menu you can scan the skyline for blockbuster buildings including St Paul’s cathedral, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament before tucking into contemporary British dishes like fillet of beef with horseradish and cod served with razor clams.
After dinner head down for a cocktail at the Pod Bar, a late-night drinking den set in tropical gardens. –Rachel Erdos
- Corner Table: Minneapolis, Minn. — featured in Best Restaurants on Eat Street
- Andina: Portland, Ore. — featured in Thanksgiving Dinner in Portland
- Umi: Atlanta, Ga. — featured in Award-Winning Restaurants in Atlanta
- The Capital Grille: Phoenix, Ariz.— featured in Easter Meals in Phoenix
- Roka Akor: Chicago, Ill. — featured in Chicago's Best Steakhouses
- Morimoto: Philadelphia, Penn. — featured in Penn's Landing Restaurants
- Marjellchen: Berlin, Germany — featured in East German Restaurants in Berlin
Fore Street: Portland, Maine — featured in Restaurants & Bars in Portland
Award-winning Fore Street, located a block from the waterfront on — you guessed it — Fore Street in Portland, comes highly recommended by locals and tourists alike. Known for locally sourced produce cooked over a wood fire, their hand-crafted menu rotates daily seafood, meat and vegetarian entrée options. Select menu items are available regularly, including the wood oven roasted Maine mussels, a must-try appetizer. Make your reservation as soon as possible, as it tends to book up months in advance.
They do reserve a section for walk-ins, so you can also arrive right when they open at 5:30 p.m. to put your name on the waitlist. Expect to wait a while, but trust us — it’s worth it. –Katy Cirrone
- The NoMad Restaurant: New York, N.Y. — featured in The Best Breakfasts in NYC
- The Capital Grille: Milwaukee, Wis. — featured in Milwaukee Restaurants for Thanksgiving
- Acre: Los Cabos, Mexico — featured in The Best Restaurants in Los Cabos
- Eleven Madison Park: New York, N.Y. — featured in NYC's Most Romantic Restaurants
- L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon: Las Vegas, Nev. — featured in The Most Luxurious Restaurants in Vegas
Commander's Palace: New Orleans, La. — featured in The Best Restaurants in Uptown NOLA
In a city that celebrates tradition, with no shortage of venerable restaurants, Commander's Palace is still in a class of its own. Dating to 1893, the beloved restaurant, with its unmistakable teal-and-white awnings, has been a New Orleans landmark for generations. Many of the city’s all-time greatest culinary talents, including Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, have passed through its kitchens. Expect impeccable Creole fare — turtle soup, finished with sherry tableside; rabbit and andouille gumbo; all manner of local seafood.
Don your finest dinner jacket, book a reservation well in advance, and prepare to be pampered. (And stuffed.) –Carey Jones
- Gabriel Kreuther: New York, N.Y. — featured in The Best Restaurants in NYC
- Osteria del Teatro: Miami, Fla. — featured in The Best Italian Restaurants in Miami
- Biga on the Banks: — featured in San Antonio Restaurants for Thanksgiving
- Girl and the Goat: Chicago, Ill. — featured in Fine Dining in Chicago
- Tetsuya's: Sydney, Australia — featured in Fine Dining in Sydney
The Flagstaff House: Boulder, Colo. — featured in The Best Restaurants in Boulder
The Flagstaff House is the place to go in Boulder for fine dining. First, the restaurant is perched 6,000 feet on the mountainside and boasts sweeping views of Boulder and the Colorado Front Range. The French-American, pre fixe menu changes daily (with the likes of beef Wellington with black truffle sauce) and is equally as impressive. Celebrity chef Chris Royster won a season of Food Network’s show “Chopped.” Then there’s the wine list, so long that it’s presented on a tablet. The wine cellars here hold about 20,000 bottles, making up the biggest wine collection in the state.
- Per Se: New York, N.Y. — featured in NYC's Most Expensive Restaurants
- The French Laundry: Yountville, Calif. — featured in the Best Bay Area Michelin-Starred Restaurants
- Trio: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico — featured in The Best Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
- Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée: Paris, France — featured in Top Michelin-Starred Restaurants in Paris