At TravelAwaits, we believe that dining experiences can be just as important as the destinations themselves. That’s why we turned to our readers to nominate and vote for their favorite splurge-worthy restaurants in our annual Best Of Travel Awards.
After sifting through numerous exceptional recommendations, we’ve compiled a list of the 12 all-time favorite restaurants that have left our readers mesmerized, satisfied, and craving more. From picturesque locations to culinary masterpieces, these restaurants offer unforgettable dining experiences that are worth every penny.
1. Wilder At Windy Hill Farm & Preserve (Winner)
This year’s Best Of Travel Award winner for the best splurge-worthy restaurant is Wilder at Windy Hill Farm & Preserve, a boutique resort and hunting lodge nestled in the charming East Tennessee town of Loudon. Wilder at Windy Hill captures the essence of garden-to-table dining. With its serene countryside setting and an unwavering commitment to locally sourced ingredients, this exceptional restaurant takes you on a journey of flavors that celebrates the bounties of nature. Meals are included with your stay, or you can just make reservations for dinner. If you really want to splurge, opt for the chef’s seven-course tasting menu.
2. Commander’s Palace
New Orleans, Louisiana
Last year’s winner is this year’s runner-up. An iconic fine-dining establishment in New Orleans’s Garden District since 1893, Commander’s Palace exudes timeless elegance and southern charm. This culinary institution is known for its James Beard award-winning cuisine, impeccable service, and launching the careers of chefs Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme. A symphony of flavors inspired by Cajun and Creole cooking traditions is created using locally sourced ingredients. Locals and visitors alike adore the crawfish bread, gumbo, and turtle soup at Commander’s Palace. Splurge here on the weekend during jazz brunch!
Amelia Island, Florida
Perched along the picturesque shores of Amelia Island, Salt at the Ritz-Carlton boasts a breathtaking oceanfront location and an equally impressive menu. Exciting new-world cuisine is juxtaposed with the elegantly appointed old-world dining room. A creative blend of seasonal ingredients and imaginative techniques results in exquisite dishes that perfectly complement the coastal surroundings.
Splurge on Salt’s “Kitchen Table” experience, where you and up to three guests can sit in a salt-block-walled section by the kitchen. Give the chef your personal tastes and preferences then watch or even participate in the preparation of your mouthwatering multi-course meal.
4. The French Laundry
Tucked away in the heart of California’s wine country, The French Laundry has become synonymous with culinary excellence. Helmed by chef Thomas Keller, this three-Michelin-starred restaurant takes guests on a gastronomic journey through meticulously crafted nine-course tasting menus, showcasing the finest ingredients and culinary craftsmanship.
Charleston, South Carolina
Nestled in the historic district of Charleston, FIG (Food Is Good) offers a warm and inviting atmosphere paired with exceptional cuisine. Chef Mike Lata’s commitment to using locally sourced ingredients shines through in each meticulously crafted dish, allowing guests to savor the true essence of Lowcountry flavors. With dishes such as salad Lyonnaise and grilled grey triggerfish, FIG’s ever-changing menu is a cornucopia of finely crafted cuisine.
Alinea has revolutionized the fine-dining scene in Chicago and beyond with its avant-garde approach to cuisine. Chef Grant Achatz’s imaginative and visually stunning creations push the boundaries of culinary artistry, making each visit an immersive and unforgettable experience. This Lincoln Park locale has won a few James Beard awards and boasts three Michelin stars. Treat yourself to a truly divine dining experience with Alinea’s high-quality creative dishes, which are only rivaled by its perfectly timed presentation and service.
7. Gramercy Tavern
New York, New York
Located in New York City’s Gramercy Park, the Gramercy Tavern offers a respite from the “City That Never Sleeps” with its rustic yet refined ambiance. With a strong focus on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, this beloved restaurant invites diners to indulge in contemporary American cuisine and warm hospitality.
8. Signature Bangkok
Located on the 11th floor of VIE Hotel Bangkok, a cosmopolitan five-star luxury hotel in the heart of the city, Signature Bangkok serves artfully crafted dishes in elegant surroundings. Enjoy classic French flavors in an art-deco dining room that features floor-to-ceiling windows with velvet curtains, offering panoramic views of the city skyline.
Inspired by nature and the art of cooking, veteran Chef Thierry Drapeau has a “cuisine of the soil” philosophy and expresses the story of each ingredient in his modern French cuisine. This Michelin-starred restaurant’s rotating seasonal menu features light, beautifully presented dishes topped with edible flowers and herbs.
9. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant
Conrad Rangali Island, Maldives
Immerse yourself in a truly extraordinary dining experience at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant. Schools of fish swirl around diners at this five-star restaurant nestled in a coral reef beneath the turquoise waters of the Maldives. As the world’s first all-glass, undersea restaurant, Ithaa offers breathtaking views of the surrounding marine life while serving a delectable fusion of Maldivian and western cuisine.
Pro Tip: The surrounding water is only illuminated by the Sun, so go for lunch or an early dinner to see the underwater sights!
10. La Grande Cascade
Pricey fine dining in a gorgeous setting? Say less. Nestled within the lush greenery of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, La Grande Cascade offers enchanting surroundings for an indulgent dining experience. With its charming Belle Époque décor and a menu showcasing classic French gastronomy, this Michelin-starred restaurant creates an atmosphere of timeless elegance, transporting guests to a bygone era. The historic Art Nouveau building once served as a hunting lodge for Napoleon III and much of the original décor has been preserved. Go all-out gourmet with the six-course tasting menu.
11. Restaurant Guy Savoy
The culinary capital of the world is also home to Restaurant Guy Savoy, a temple of gourmet cuisine. Led by who else but renowned Chef Guy Savoy, this acclaimed establishment offers a symphony of flavors and textures. Each dish is meticulously crafted to showcase the finest ingredients and Savoy’s culinary mastery. Can’t make it to Paris? Lucky for les Americans, there’s another location at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
12. Level 5
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Perched atop Albuquerque’s luxurious Hotel Chaco, Level 5 offers breathtaking panoramic views of the cityscape, complemented by a menu that celebrates the vibrant flavors of New Mexico. With a fusion of southwestern and international influences, this rooftop restaurant delivers an unforgettable dining experience that combines culinary excellence with stunning vistas. Marvel at the majestic Sandia Mountains from the top of this historic building in Old Town while you enjoy an impressive seasonal menu.
Pro Tip: Reservations are for in-house guests only, except for holidays when special menus are served. Other dining guests are accommodated based on availability.
Make reservations well in advance, bring an empty stomach and a full wallet, mind the dress code, and spoil yourself with a gastronomical adventure at one of these exceptional establishments.
Read more from our 2023 Best Of Travel Awards.