When we plan a vacation, we fill up our itineraries with a full schedule of sightseeing. All cities and towns have plenty of iconic locations, whether they’re historical landmarks, nature parks, or cultural attractions.
Certain attractions can combine history, culture, and nature in one memorable experience. One such experience is dining. A delicious meal sourced from the natural bounty of the land in a historical culinary institution that displays local culinary traditions checks all the boxes.
Restaurants earn acclaim for a combination of atmosphere, service, and food, but there are other factors at play for the most famous restaurants in America.
Many of these restaurants have a historic significance that ties them to a city. Some of them are older than the town itself, while others have created the very dishes we associate with the surrounding city or region.
Most Famous Restaurants in America
Below, I’ve compiled a list of the most famous restaurants in America for you to explore and discover the source of each longstanding establishment’s fame.
1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130
Located in a gorgeous Creole-style building in the heart of New Orlean’s Garden District, Commander’s Palace is a seven-time James Beard Award-winning Creole and Cajun fine-dining restaurant.
It opened in 1893 and has been the gold standard of elegant dining ever since. The food, service, and interior design at Commander’s Palace are the height of opulence.
Many celebrity chefs have headed the kitchen, like Emeril Lagasse, and continue to raise the bar of creativity for the multi-course menu.
The current Chef is Meg Bickford, and she sources all ingredients for the menu from the surrounding Louisiana bounty.
The meal was almost a religious experience for me. I’ll be dreaming of the creole tomato crawfish curry for the rest of my days.
The French Laundry
6640 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
The French Laundry is the longtime culinary and architectural dream of Executive Chef Thomas Keller.
Chef Keller’s dream to open an authentic French restaurant in the heart of Napa Valley came true with the purchase of a turn-of-the-century stone saloon that has served as a home, restaurant, and steam laundry locale before becoming The French Laundry in 1994.
The French Laundry has received the highest Michelin-star rating along with James Beard Awards for the best restaurant and chef multiple years throughout its nearly 30 year-tenure.
The menu changes daily and has been recognized by French national culinary organizations for its authenticity.
When I went, I enjoyed a Napa Valley cabernet with the most decadent version of Mac and Cheese I’ve ever seen, made with orzo pasta, parmesan, truffle mousse, and shaved black truffles.
205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
Katz’s Delicatessen is the most famous deli in America and a Lower East Side institution since 1888.
Originally called Iceland Brothers, Katz’s earned its name when Willy Katz entered the partnership, eventually taking over the business in 1910.
Katz’s Deli has been family owned and operated ever since and is the standard for Jewish food in New York City and the world.
Tourists and locals flock to Katz’s to taste their incredible sandwiches, piled high with the most succulent deli meats, in a historic, bustling New York atmosphere.
The line’s always out the door, and you’ll most likely be rushed out of there the second you finish your meal. It’s all part of the experience, though!
I recommend the slow-brined and hand-carved corned beef sandwich. If you’re feeling ambitious, start with an order of potato pancakes.
The Bluebird Cafe
4104 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215
Opened in 1982, The Bluebird Café has been one of Nashville’s most famous music venues ever since.
It receives over 70,000 visits per year and is a sought-after venue for even the most famous performers and customers.
The Bluebird Café is a dinner and music club with an intimate, casual setting. Around 40 tables surround a small stage with outstanding live music from the house band and special guests.
Featured in The New York Times and as the setting for multiple famous TV shows, The Bluebird Café is a must-visit. I recommend reserving a seat months in advance.
516 Main St, Lexington, TX 78947
Texas is known for its barbecue, and Snow’s BBQ received Texas Monthly’s vote for the best barbecue in Texas.
Located in the small Texas town of Lexington, Snow’s BBQ is the quintessential Texas dining experience where you can enjoy the best smoked meats and sides in the state in a rustic, family-friendly atmosphere.
Owner Kerry Bexley and pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz serve barbecue every day, starting at 8 am until they sell out.
They sell their simple menu of meats and sides by the pound to long lines of hungry customers. I’ve never had more succulent and flavorful brisket and jalapeno cheddar sausage in my life.
Mama’s Fish House
799 Poho Pl, Paia, HI 96779
Located on the paradisiacal island of Maui, Mama’s Fish House was one of the first seafood restaurants on the island, opened in 1973.
Founders Floyd and Doris Christenson had visited Maui just as Hawaii was entering statehood.
Its unfettered beauty inspired them to leave their life on the mainland and sail around the world for four years before returning to the island that started it all.
They opened Mama’s Fish House to honor local catches and fishermen in Hawaii. What was once a local hangout is now Maui’s most treasured sea-to-table bistro.
All fish is caught by local fishermen, using local flavors and traditions to create a multi-course seafood smorgasbord.
I loved their macadamia nut crab cakes.
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
Receiving the highest Michelin Star rating and votes for the best restaurant in the world from Business Insider, Elite Traveler, and The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Alinea is Chicago’s premier modernist dining experience. You could mistake the setting and the food for a museum.
Its main dining room is called the gallery, serving a menu that plays to all the senses, using the most state-of-the-art techniques and innovations to create a culinary show unlike any other.
They even call their meals “showings,” owing to a theatrical, multi-sensory dining experience.
There are three dining experiences, all priced differently and all pre-fixe multi-course menus.
The Union Oyster House
41 Union St, Boston, MA 02108
The Union Oyster House is both Boston’s and America’s oldest continuously operating restaurant.
Located a few blocks from the iconic Faneuil Hall, The Union Oyster House opened in 1826 and is now a national historic landmark on the famous Freedom Trail.
It has only changed hands to three owners over nearly a century of business.
The Union Oyster House has preserved the interior finishes of its 19th-century origins beautifully, and the walls and booths have plenty of historical artifacts and pictures to peruse while you wait for a fresh New England seafood meal.
In honor of Boston’s most famous culinary contribution, I ordered their famous clam chowder.
Café Du Monde
848 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Another New Orleans staple, Café Du Monde is a world-famous French café that opened in the French Market of the French Quarter in 1862.
The French Market was a trading post between the Native Americans and a long line of European colonizers that originated in the 18th century.
Café du Monde still serves the same menu of café au lait and beignets, or French donuts, that they served since its opening as a humble food stand.
Now, Café du Monde is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s a popular haunt for a lavish breakfast or a decadent midnight snack after the bars and music halls have closed.
The beignets at Café Du Monde are the perfect light and crunchy fried dough treat with a fluffy interior and a powdered sugar finish. I’ll have at least one a day during a stay in New Orleans.
St. Elmo Steak House
127 S Illinois St, Indianapolis, IN 46225
Featured as one of Forbes’ 10 Great Classic Restaurants, St. Elmo Steakhouse is Indianapolis’ oldest steakhouse, opening in 1902.
Originally a men’s only establishment home to many political alliances, business deals, and sports team dinners.
Today, St. Elmo Steakhouse is a historical and romantic destination for men and women.
The turn-of-the-century building with its wood finishing and carved ceilings is a stunning setting to enjoy a traditional American steak.
I went with a date and ordered the luxurious bone-in prime rib with horseradish and gorgonzola butter.
56 W Main St, Mystic, CT 06355
You may think that the namesake movie, starring Julia Roberts, predated this famed Connecticut pizzeria, but in fact, the pizzeria inspired the movie!
Opened in 1973 by the Zelepos family, Mystic Pizza’s tantalizing family recipes are as legendary as ever.
The pizza and setting remain the same as the 1988 movie responsible for its nationwide fame.
I’d liken the pizza to the New Haven-style, which is a thin-crust pizza with a crunchy yet chewy outer crust.
The Zelepos family uses their Greek heritage to create many specialty pie combos. I loved the Moussaka Pizza with eggplant, meatballs, and extra sauce.
1 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023
Named for its founder and head chef Jean George Vongerichten, Jean Georges is a fine-dining French, American, and Asian fusion restaurant in a stunning dining space in the heart of Manhattan’s Central Park.
Jean Georges has received two Michelin stars and centers its menu around the fresh produce, meat, and fish sold daily at New York’s surrounding farmers’ markets.
I almost forgot that I was in the city while dining in this stunning two-story ceilinged dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Central Park’s perfectly manicured grounds.
The 10-course pre-fixe dinner was as beautiful as my surroundings.
Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks
1237 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Originating in 1930, Pat’s King of Steaks is where the Philadelphia Cheesesteak was born, with fierce competitor Geno’s Steaks opening up right across the street in 1966.
Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks are an invaluable part of Philadelphia’s culinary history and fame.
Both are no-frills 24-hour diner and food stands that’s the pride and joy of South Philadelphia, although most Philadelphians prefer their cheesesteaks from shops with fewer tourists.
Of course, the main thing on the menu is cheesesteak sandwiches, which you can customize with your choice of toppings, sauces, and condiments.
They have a fish cake sandwich, hot dogs, and French fries, but leaving without sampling a cheesesteak is a sin. I loaded my cheesesteak sandwich with onions, mushrooms, peppers, and cheese-wiz.
So, are you a Pat’s person or a Geno’s person?
The River Cafe
1 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
There’s nothing more iconic than the New York skyline, and The River Café gives you front-row seats to the most incredible views of Manhattan from across the Hudson.
Located in Brooklyn, underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, The River Café has been New York’s most picturesque fine-dining restaurant since 1977.
The menu is as spectacular as the views, earning executive Chef Brad Steelman a Michelin star.
The River Café is not only one of the most famous restaurants in America but has also been deemed one of the most beautiful restaurants in the world.
The menu is a New American multi-course meal using the finest ingredients from around the world.
I recommend the lavender-spice crusted duck with sherry wine gastrique and confit risotto cake.
813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112
Located right off Bourbon Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter, Arnaud’s is an ode to everything New Orleans is famous for, such as food, jazz, and festivity.
Opened in 1918, Arnaud’s is a classic Creole fine-dining restaurant and cocktail lounge with live jazz music.
The iconic old-school French creole architecture and décor just add to the authenticity of your dining experience.
They offer dinner and Sunday brunch. There are various rooms, each with its own charm and theme, from the jazz bistro to the famous French 75 Bar lounge.
I went for the pre-fixe Jazz Brunch in the main dining room and had their famous eggs Sardou with poached eggs over artichoke bottoms smothered in hollandaise sauce.
Peter Luger Steak House
178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Located in Williamsburg, Peter Luger Steakhouse opened in 1887 as a pool hall and bowling alley where owner Peter Luger’s nephew ran the kitchen that served the neighborhood’s favorite steaks.
It was also the business meeting place of successful silverware tycoon Sol Forman who bought the business at auction, so he could still get his three steaks a day.
Today, Peter Luger is an iconic New York staple for fine steaks in a historic atmosphere that has received New York’s vote for best steakhouse since 1984.
The Michelin-starred menu uses hand-picked USDA Prime beef that’s dry-aged on site.
The menu is simple, with USDA Prime beef offered for one, two, three, or four people. I got a steak for one with a side of creamed spinach and Luger’s German fried potatoes.
Most Famous Restaurants in America
- Commander’s Palace
- The French Laundry
- Katz’s Deli
- The Bluebird Cafe
- Snow’s BBQ
- Mama’s Fish House
- The Union Oyster House
- Café Du Monde
- St. Elmo Steak House
- Mystic Pizza
- Jean Georges
- Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks
- The River Cafe
- Peter Luger Steak House
The most famous restaurants in America give customers a taste of heaven and history.
Whether you’re in New York, New Orleans, or a tiny Texas town, you’ll find an iconic slice of history along with a memorable meal to check off your bucket list.
If you’re looking for more interesting restaurants, check out the most expensive restaurants in the world and see if you can afford to splurge!