If everyone seemed to be traveling this year, it’s because they were. In fact, a recent survey of OpenTable diners found that 47% of respondents planned to hit the road three to four times this season.
Whether you need inspiration for your next destination, or you simply want to daydream about future jaunts, start with a world-class restaurant—this bucket list provides 15 restaurants worth hopping on a plane to try.
See what earns a restaurant three MICHELIN stars in London, take in jaw-dropping views of Sydney’s harbor, or try the Maui restaurant that’s been voted the best of the island for 29 consecutive years.
Contramar, Mexico City
Look at any guide to Mexico City, and you’re sure to stumble upon a photo of Contramar’s pescado a la talla, the restaurant’s signature butterflied, grilled snapper half-lacquered with contrasting mild green and hot red adobo salsas. This dish is the brainchild of chef Gabriela Cámara, whose modern interpretations of Mexican seafood preparations have made Contramar a must-dine spot and propelled her to fame—she was even named one of Time’s Most Influential People in 2020 for her work to preserve and elevate Mexican culinary tradition while advising Mexico’s president on food policy.
The city of Oaxaca was named Travel + Leisure’s Best City in the World in 2022, calling it a “dream gastronomic destination.” If that wasn’t reason enough to get on a plane, the tasting menu at Criollo definitely seals the deal. The restaurant is helmed by Luis Arellano, who worked as the creative lead for world-renowned chef Enrique Olvera and helped him propel Mexico City’s Pujol to international acclaim. Now, the two teamed up to open this restaurant and culinary lab in Arellano’s native Oaxaca where Arellano applies his creativity to the traditional dishes of the region, creating exciting versions of tamales, tostadas, and mole you won’t find anywhere else.
CORE by Clare Smyth, London
In 2022, only 138 restaurants in the world earned the distinction of three MICHELIN stars, eight of which were in the UK. Clare Smyth can claim an even more rarified honor—she is the only British woman to ever be awarded MICHELIN’s highest rating. While many restaurants at this level feel very formal, CORE’s distinguishing feature is warmth. Smyth’s signature “potato and roe” exemplifies the restaurant’s ethos, taking the approachable flavors of a buttered potato and transcending them by bathing a perfect potato in beurre blanc and dotting it with trout and herring roe.
St. John, London
If you’ve eaten bone marrow anywhere in London over the last decade, you have St. John to thank. When Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver opened this cozy, white-washed dining room in 1994, they single-handedly redefined British cooking in an elevated way that would earn them every accolade under the sun. The restaurant’s formula has made it an enduring classic: Game takes center stage, supported by a rotating cast of seasonal vegetables, such as a recent dish of pigeon with turnips and pickled walnuts.
Kin Dee, Berlin
Book a flight to Berlin to dine with one of Germany’s fastest rising stars before she becomes a household name. Chef Dalad Kambhu went from doing pop-ups to running her first restaurant to earning a MICHELIN star in the span of a few years—quite a feat for a chef with no formal training. But diners immediately fell for her creative use of local German ingredients with the flavors of her native Thailand, swapping kohlrabi and apples in for papaya in som tam, or local beef and eggplant braised in a red curry sauce.
Tohru in der Schreiberei, Munich
Tohru Nakamura was a culinary star before opening his own restaurant, but his newest spot in Munich is set to catapult him to international fame. At his namesake restaurant, the chef synthesizes his Japanese and German heritage with his French culinary training in dishes such as venison with pumpkin miso and sea buckthorn, creating menus you won’t find anywhere else. And critics have taken notice: Within a year of opening, the tasting menu was awarded two MICHELIN stars and three toques from the prestigious Gault&Millau guide.
Inside Sydney’s world-famous opera house, Bennelong offers a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. One of the country’s most famous chefs, Peter Gilmore (Quay), created an ambitious three-course menu worthy of a dining room in one of the world’s most distinctive buildings. Australia’s best ingredients are highlighted in dishes such as Aussie red crayfish with white squash, heirloom peas, and yuzu broth, which would go perfectly with a glass of sparkling wine from the Adelaide Hills.
Vue de Monde, Melbourne
Since it opened in 2000, Vue de Monde has defined what Aussie fine dining looks like, and it shows no signs of slowing down. The restaurant was recently named “Best in the Business” by Good Food, the country’s leading culinary guide, and earned a prestigious 19/20 rating from the same publication. Chef Hugh Allan’s background at Noma shows in his manipulation of Australian ingredients, creating “tofu” out of macadamia nuts and topping it with smoked eel and caviar. The sweeping skyline views from the restaurant’s 55th-floor perch pile on the fabulousness.
An evening at Toqué! will help passionate diners understand both Canada’s new role in the world’s dining scene (hello, MICHELIN Guides!) and Quebec’s part in upping the country’s culinary chops. Long before local and seasonal ingredients were the norm, owners Normand Laprise and Christine Lamarche committed to featuring the bounty of Quebec when they opened in 1993. Taking this approach and combining it with the province’s French heritage, the couple created the blueprint for Quebec cuisine in dishes such as foie gras layered with red wine and maple onion purée, puffed wild rice, and Concord grapes.
Toqué! walked so Botanist could run. This restaurant in the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel burst on the scene a few years ago and instantly started racking up awards, representing the next generation of Canadian fine dining. The menu reads like a walk through the forest of British Columbia, featuring plates of sunchokes in onion jus with roasted maitake mushrooms, or olive oil-poached halibut dotted with Dungeness crab. And don’t skip the cocktails—the bar program is consistently recognized by Canada’s 50 Best Bars.
Don Alfonso 1890, Toronto
If you can’t get on a plane to Italy, you should immediately make your way to Don Alfonso 1890, the Toronto outpost of the famed Naples restaurant. The spirit of the restaurant’s homeland meets North American ingredients, such as the Ontario-raised wagyu beef for the carpaccio and the lamb filling the agnolotti. This seamless culinary marriage earned it the title of best Italian restaurant in the world outside of Italy by Top 50 Italy and one of Toronto’s first MICHELIN stars.
United States of America
The River Café, New York City
While buzzy spots have come and gone, The River Café has been a reigning presence since 1977 in New York fine dining from its perch under the Brooklyn Bridge. Few restaurants have had such an enduring impact on American dining—The New York Times once said that restaurant “spawned a dynasty” because it started as the launch pad for now-household names such as Larry Forgione, Charlie Palmer, and David Burke. Today, the restaurant still boasts a MICHELIN star, and locals and visitors alike head there for exceptional meals with unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline.
Brennan’s, New Orleans
One wouldn’t expect a restaurant that opened in 1946 to end up on The New York Times’s best restaurant list in 2022, but Brennan’s pulled it off. The restaurant is one of a handful of restaurants whose names are woven into the city’s fabric, but also a rare example of evolution among the old guard. Locals and tourists still pack the multiple brightly-colored dining rooms for boisterous Creole breakfasts and free-wheeling dinners but look closely at the menu and you’ll find modern touches such as Louisiana rabbit with piquillo pepper coulis sitting alongside classics like turtle soup.
The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil, Napa Valley
Fourteen consecutive years of MICHELIN stars, a 150,000-bottle wine cellar, and pristine views from its hillside location—it doesn’t get more quintessential Napa than The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil. The prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus veer away from the traditional luxury of caviar and blinis to fresh local offerings such as spiced lamb with squash, dates, and pistachios. Those looking for an ultra-premium experience can also opt for the six-course chef’s tasting menu with an optional wine pairing.
Lahaina Grill, Maui
Calling this restaurant a crowd favorite would be an understatement—when a restaurant is dubbed Trip Advisor’s #1 fine-dining restaurant in the U.S., and Honolulu Magazine readers named it the best restaurant in Maui for 29 years in a row, it’s definitely worth the trip. In the middle of historic Lahaina Town, there’s no better way to end a day of exploring than with Maui onion- and sesame seed-crusted ahi (yellowfin tuna) and a Bee Sting cocktail, where okolehao (Hawaiian moonshine) meets lavender honey and lemon juice.