Fine-dining customers today are hungry for more than just food—they want an experience, and they want it at a good value. While many fine-dining restaurants perfect the secret sauce, it is not without its obstacles.
Valerie James has spent 25 years serving everything from soups and pizza to classic New England lobster at her restaurant in Holden, Massachusetts. Val’s Restaurant has become a community landmark, and James’ story recently inspired a documentary, Celebrity Female Chefs Transforming the Food Industry.
They may earn tips, but servers, bartenders, and valets can easily be overlooked in a customer’s dine-out experience. As a way to give back to hardworking people in the service industry, a company called IndiCard has created an exclusive service-industry membership program, which provides service-industry professionals special offers at bars, restaurants, and other establishments.
As the economic recovery continues, restaurant operators are increasingly making capital expenditures. Data compiled by the National Restaurant Association found 59 percent of the nation’s restaurant operators spent money on equipment, expansion, or remodeling during the three months ending in February, and 62 percent expect to do so before autumn.
Spoon and StableMinneapolisThe cuisine is American in thought and French in technique, with a foundation of classical sauces, bases, and cooking preparations.Opened ∕ November 2014Average Check ∕ $55Chef/Owner ∕ Gavin Kaysen112 EateryMinneapolisRenowned for its tasty late-night dining (the restaurant is open until 1 a.
Virtù Honest CraftScottsdale, ArizonaMediterranean cuisine in a posh Bed and Breakfast setting, where delicacies such as ox tail and the grilled Spanish octopus are standouts, and this James Beard semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in 2014 elegantly blends wines and cocktails with Chef Osso's approachable menu.
LangbaanPortland, OregonThai comfort food crafted with no open-flame cooking; only ovens and induction burners.Opened ∕ March 2014Annual Sales ∕ $1–$3 millionAverage Check ∕ $65 (without alcohol)Chef/Owner∕ Akkapong Earl NinsomThe Squeaky BeanDenverA pop culture–driven atmosphere grounded by a garden-inspired menu (produce is grown in the neighborhood) and creative cocktails defines The Squeaky Bean, where weekend bingo is a popular draw.
The 404 KitchenNashville, TennesseeHoused in a shipping container with an herb garden on its rooftop, The 404 Kitchen and Chef Matt Bolus give a modern interpretation to European cuisine.Opened ∕ October 2013Annual Sales ∕ $1.
RhubarbAsheville, North CarolinaThe restaurant upholds old-school traditions such as Sunday Supper with specials like Fried Green Tomato and Pickled Shrimp, Fried Hominy, and Lobster Corn Dogs.Opened ∕ October 2013Annual Sales ∕ $1–$3 millionAverage Check ∕ $45Chef/Owner∕ John FleerHeirloomCharlotte, North CarolinaWith a sustainable, farm-to-fork focus, Chef Barlowe uses the entire animal and also sources everything—from all the beer, wine, and spirits to the Outer Banks sea salt—from within North Carolina.
GraffiatoRichmond, VirginiaChef de Cuisine Matthew Robinett delivers Italian-inspired small plates with a Southern flair, in this upscale take on casual, hip dining, housed in a historic building with massive windows lining the dining room—a legacy item from the early 20th- century furniture showroom that was the original tenant.
Abe FisherPhiladelphiaThe restaurant is known for its contemporary Jewish cuisine like the Montreal-spiced, smoked short rib with house-made rye and mustards.Opened ∕ August 2014Projected Annual Sales ∕ Over $2 millionAverage Check ∕ $55Owners ∕ Mike Solomonov and Steve CookTownsendPhiladelphiaLocated in a historic row house, this French fine-dining restaurant is known for its updated classics like Rabbit Pot au Feu, as well as its modern selections—Escargot with Fiddlehead Ferns, Bacon, Sherry and Crème Fraiche.
More often than not Top-100 lists are based on sales volumes, the same restaurants appear time and again, and the geographic representation is concentrated on the major metropolitan areas where—unsurprisingly—outstanding restaurants are scoring the highest sales in the industry.