Michelin-Starred Restaurants in California – The New 2021 Guide

Breathtaking coastlines, world-class wineries, and some of the oldest National Parks in the world should put California high on the destination list of all savvy travelers. From the glaciated Sierras to the salt-cracked pans of Death Valley, the natural diversity of the state is staggering. And that’s not the only diversity that has blessed the Golden State. The Native tribes that still call her home, Spanish colonialism, American statehood, the gold rush, waves of immigration and integration, and the recent rise of Silicon Valley have all contributed to the vast cultural wealth of California. And with the myriad cultural and natural elements to draw inspiration from have come incredible developments in the culinary arts.

Considering the turbulent past 18 months during the pandemic, it’s an understatement to say that this Michelin Guide releases during a difficult time in the food and beverage industry. Several Michelin-starred restaurants dropped off this year’s list due to permanent closures. However, others defied the odds, survived and even thrived as we see 27 exciting new restaurants in this year’s 2021 California Michelin Guide.

What started as a marketing gimmick to sell tires to the first wave of French road trippers has grown to the most respected name in fine dining criticism, yet the Michelin Guide still retains its roots as the original road trip guide. There are 27 of incredible, newly-starred restaurants on the 2021 guide, many of which All Roads North has been recommending to our clients for years. As part of our 24/7 concierge service, we’ll recommend the perfect Michelin-starred restaurant to pair with your custom-designed luxury road trip, work our magic to secure a table at the most elusive and exclusive restaurants, and handle all reservations and logistics. All you’ll need to do is arrive and dine. With so many great restaurants to choose from, here are the ones to keep on your radar as you begin to plan your luxury California road trip.

North to South, 5 California Michelin-Starred Restaurants Profiled

Harbor House (Mendocino)

Drive past sloping vineyards, apple orchards and sun-dappled redwood trees to arrive at this serene sanctuary set atop a cliff overlooking the mighty Pacific. This historic property dates back to 1916, but thanks to an extensive renovation, it is now the very picture of laid-back luxury. The redwood-clad room’s windows frame postcard-perfect views of the gardens and crashing waves, while a fireplace adds to an already luring mien. Good looks aside, it is the highly original cuisine here that is worth savoring, so revel in the easy pace.

Chef Matthew Kammerer is devout when it comes to hyper-local and foraged ingredients, so much so that the fisherman’s name may casually be dropped into conversation or the apple orchard owner is likely seated next to you. Diners are bound to be smitten from the get-go, thanks to the chef’s compelling creations—replete with purity and grace. (2 Stars)

Lazy Bear (San Francisco)

Head chef David Barzelay found his entre into the world of fine-dining by hosting elaborate dinner parties, and he’s kept that atmosphere through the first and now second of Lazy Bear’s Michelin stars. Dining at the restaurant is treated like an event, and their long, communal table and ticketing system will certainly make your meal feel like one. Sit next to new friends at one of the two American elm tables feet away from the open kitchen. Courses and dishes are kept under lock-and-key, decided on before-hand, and consist of expertly executed new American cuisine. The entire experience is designed to transport diners and their tastebuds to a world all of Barzelay’s imagining, and though the menu may change, one thing is certain; you’ll remember your experience at Lazy Bear for a long time to come. (2 Stars)

 

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Californios (San Francisco)

Californios earned it’s two stars in 2017, and as one of the only Michelin starred Mexican restaurant in North America, it deserves special attention by all travelers wishing for a full culinary experience of California. Though originally from Texas, head chef Val M Cantu takes inspiration from the Spanish and Mexican roots of the city and state he now calls home to craft unparalleled cuisine in the Mission District of San Francisco, and an unyielding attention to quality and ingredients elevates his 16-course tasting menu. Using Mexican ingredients and flavors, yet focusing on new combinations and presentations, at Californios Cantu pleasantly surprises all familiar with Mexican fare. (2 Stars)

 

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Aubergine (Carmel-by-the-Sea)

A mainstay on the central Californian coast, the small dining room at the L’Auberge Carmel takes inspiration from the nearby sea. Fresh, local seafood is presented simply and elaborately, representing the perfect marriage of the subtle and robust flavors present in their dishes, and accentuated by deeply thought-out wine pairings. Under Aubergine’s current head-chef Justin Cogley the already exquisite dining experience has been elevated to Michelin guide status, and their newly-awarded one star is well-deserved. (1 Star)

Bell’s (Los Alamos)

This invitingly rustic dining room is nestled within a historic structure—a former bank—with a blue door flanked by potted palms. Inside, the furnishings exude a vintage vibe, as evidenced by weathered tile floors, whitewashed brick walls, and metal signs. An open window offers a peek into the kitchen, buzzing with casually dressed but attentive servers.

After cutting their teeth at top NYC kitchens, Daisy and Greg Ryan set sail for the west coast—settling into the confines of the Santa Ynez Valley. Dubbed as “Franch” (French with Californian accents), their particular skill lies in blending phenomenal product with focused flavors and methods. This is cooking that tastes as good as it looks, shining a spotlight on local purveyors. (1 Star)

n/Naka (Los Angeles)

It’s no exaggeration to say Japanese cuisine is a staple of Californian fine dining, with three 2-star restaurants making this year’s list. n/Naka, the brainchild of Niki Nakayama, is one of the standouts. Staying true to the cultural heritage of kaiseki cuisine, at n/Naka Nakayama has managed to infuse a uniquely Los Angeles vibe to both the food and the experience, and for the culinary courageous this restaurant shouldn’t be missed. (2 Stars)

Michelin 3-Star Restaurants in California

While 2019 is the first year for a dedicated California guide, the critics from Michelin have been coming to the state for some time to review restaurants in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area as part of the larger United States Guide. There is a pedigree of incredible 3-star restaurants in the Bay, and any one would make an outstanding part of your trip.

Atelier Crenn

It wouldn’t be a Michelin guide without a fair showing of French restaurants, the home of fine dining as we know it, and Dominique Crenn has done her heritage proud with one of the best restaurants in the entire United States, tucked unassumingly along the San Francisco Bay. Since opening the doors in 2011, Atelier Crenn has continued to dazzle diners with it’s unique take on cuisine. In lieu of a menu, diners receive an original poem, loosely linked to the natural ingredients that make up the multi-course tasting.

Benu

Artistry is the word on the lips of Benu’s lucky diners, and an impeccable and uncluttered dining room allows full focus to fall on the masterpieces that Chef Corey Lee consistently crafts on any given night in his San Francisco restaurant. Taking from his Korean roots and refining everything from ingredients to process, Lee’s discipline has made Benu a San Francisco mainstay and a 3-star restaurant since 2014. Tasting menus are available, as is a full a la carte menu. The “shark” fin soup, a cruelty free take on the Chinese classic, is a must try. 

The French Laundry

Chef Thomas Keller’s world renowned restaurant is the king amongst kings in the Michelin star-studded Napa Valley. Every element, from the height of the counter to the individually inspected, locally sourced ingredients, has been meticulously prepared to elevate the dining experience to once-in-a-lifetime heights. American-inspired French cuisine is perfected each night in two tasting menus with unique ingredients (vegetarian friendly!), and incredible wines from the region make great pairings for a much-welcome meal after a day at the vineyards.

Manresa

Chef David Kinch fully embraces the ethos of event dining for his Californian-cuisine restaurant, and the key to Manresa’s production is suspense. The menu for the night is closely guarded, and each dish is carefully selected to complement the next. Rest assured, though, there’s a method to the madness, and the locally-sourced, fresh ingredients are put to delicious use in each act of the meal. Emphasis is placed on seasonality, and you’ll experience the themes and notes of flavor as the evening tasting progresses.

Quince

Contemporary cuisine presented in one of the Bay Area’s most upscale restaurants put Quince on the map, but it’s the quality and execution of Chef Michael Tusk’s cooking that brought the restaurant its coveted 3-stars. Flavor is the number one factor in Tusk’s Italian-French cooking, and his attention to the intricacies of his dishes and ingredients pays off-tenfold in the final presentation of the meal.

SingleThread

The newest addition to the 3-star club, SingleThread burst onto the scene in December 2016 and has been the talk of the region ever since. Trained for years in Japan, Chef Kyle Connaughton has perfected traditional and inspired Japanese dishes cooked in Japanese earthenware (donabe). Extending past sushi and going above and beyond his peers, Connaughton has created one of the finest Japanese dining experiences in the country. What elevates SingleThread to 3-star heights is their impeccable service standards. The kitchen and waitstaff have adopted neighboring Silicon Valley technologies to increase communication and efficiency without losing a personal touch, and your meal will certainly become the benchmark of service all future meals will be compared to.

Full List of California’s Michelin Starred Restaurants

 

Three Michelin Stars in California

Atelier Crenn (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Benu (Bay Area & Wine Country)

The French Laundry (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Manresa (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Quince (Bay Area & Wine Country)

SingleThread (Bay Area & Wine Country)

 

Two Michelin Stars in California

Acquerello (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Californios (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Campton Place (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Coi (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Commis (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Lazy Bear (Bay Area & Wine Country)

n/naka (Los Angeles)

Providence (Los Angeles)

Saison (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Sushi Ginza Onodera (Los Angeles)

Vespertine (Los Angeles)

New California Michelin Two Star Restaurants in 2021:

Addison (San Diego)

Birdsong (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Harbor House (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Hayato (Los Angeles)

Mélisse (Los Angeles)

 

One Michelin Star in California

Al’s Place (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Angler (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Auberge du Soleil (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Aubergine (Carmel)

Bar Crenn (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Bistro Na’s (Los Angeles)

Chez TJ (Bay Area & Wine Country)

CUT (Los Angeles)

Gary Danko (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Hana Re (Los Angeles)

jū-ni (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Kali (Los Angeles)

Kato (Los Angeles)

Kenzo (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Kin Khao (Bay Area & Wine Country)

The Kitchen (Sacramento)

La Toque (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Le Comptoir (Los Angeles)

Madcap (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Madera (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Maude (Los Angeles)

Mister Jiu’s (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Mori Sushi (Los Angeles)

Mourad (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Nozawa Bar (Los Angeles)

Omakase (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Orsa & Winston (Los Angeles) 

Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles)

Plumed Horse (Bay Area & Wine Country)

The Progress (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Protégé (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Q Sushi (Los Angeles)

Rasa (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Rustic Canyon (Los Angeles)

Shibumi (Los Angeles)

Shin Sushi (Los Angeles)

Sons & Daughters (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Sorrel (Bay Area & Wine Country)

SPQR (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Spruce (Bay Area & Wine Country)

State Bird Provisions (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Sushi Yoshizumi (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Taco María (Los Angeles)

The Village Pub (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Wako (Bay Area & Wine Country)

Wakuriya (Bay Area & Wine Country)

New California Michelin One Star Restaurants in 2021:

Adega (San Francisco)

Avery (San Francisco)

Barndiva (Sonoma)

Bell’s (Santa Barbara)

Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura (Los Angeles)

Jeune et Jolie (San Diego)

Knife Pleat (Orange County)

Marlena (San Francisco)

Morihiro (Los Angeles)

Niku Steakhouse (San Francisco)

O’ by Claude Le Tohic (San Francisco)

Pasjoli (Santa Monica)

Pasta | Bar (Los Angeles)

Phenakite (Los Angeles)

Selby’s (San Francisco)

Six Test Kitchen (Paso Robles)

Soichi (San Diego)

Sushi | Bar Montecito (Santa Barbara)

Sushi I-NABA (Los Angeles)

Sushi Shin (San Francisco)

Sushi Tadokoro (San Diego)

The Shota (San Francisco)

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