8 Michelin-Starred Meals You Can Actually Afford
The name "Michelin" may bring to mind $100 wine bottles and pricey tasting menus, but deals do exist if you know where to look. Emily Saladino gives us 8 spots, where you'll eat insanely well and keep your credit card balance afloat.
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Emily Saladino is a journalist and recipe developer in New York City. She has covered food, drinks, travel, and culture for Bloomberg, BBC, Travel + Leisure, and others. A former professional cook, she graduated from the International Culinary Center. She is currently the Editor in Chief of VinePair.
Longman & Eagle, Chicago
Why go: The ampersand above the restaurant door may (falsely) imply hipster nonsense, but this gastropub in Logan Square is the real deal. A 300-bottle whiskey list and buzzy brunch offset serious, nose-to-tail cooking. Menu items include braised pork cheek with sour cabbage (a revelation at $16), Maine lobster over squid ink tagliatelle ($19) and a wild boar sloppy joe served with a housemade bun and beef fat fries ($16).
Kin Khao, San Francisco
Bangkok-born Chef Pim Techamuanvivit is on a self-described mission to “liberate Thai cuisine from the tyranny of peanut sauce” in the U.S. Her swanky spot in Union Square's Parc 55 hotel is new to the 2016 San Francisco Michelin Guide. Fortunately, she hasn't let accolades go to her head ⎯ or the restaurant's bottom line. The menu still offers two courses of market-driven Thai fare like Nam Tok Beans and Khao Soi, plus a glass of wine or dessert, for a remarkable $40 or less.
La Vara, Brooklyn
For those who argue that Brooklyn has priced out its creative class (and rightfully begrudge the $306 tasting menu at three-starred Michelin Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare), this intimate restaurant in Cobble Hill provides a delicious counterpoint. The one-starred dining room turns out Spanish fare with Jewish and Moorish influences, such as crispy eggplant with honey, or handmade Murcian pasta dusted with Sumac, at refreshingly reasonable price tags. (The aforementioned tapa and main are $9 and $17, respectively.) In a town known for $10 lattes, that is nothing to blow foam at.
With more than 70 Michelin-starred restaurants within city limits, Parisian epicures aren't hungry for options. Those with big appetites and limited funds head to l’Astrance, a sleek spot in the 16th arrondissement that is equal parts local gem and culinary pilgrimage point. Guests entrust their destinies to Chef Pascal Barbot, who combines haute technique and modernist, Asian-accented cuisine to create "mystery" menus that change daily and include two or three mind-blowing, wallet-preserving courses.
Although its concrete facade is easily overlooked among the Zara and Bershka branches in the Eixample district, the family-run Nectari is worth a second and third look. The surprisingly sleek dining room is divided into two welcoming spaces, both of which serve mod Mediterranean menus with highlights like wasabi-spiked crawfish risotto and Catalan turbot with spinach emulsion, along with seasonal fare that incorporates local black truffles and wild mushrooms.
Love sardines? You’re in luck. This smart little basement boite near Shinjuku Station serves the salubrious fishes every which way ⎯ sashimi-style, panko-crusted and fried, slow-simmered in dashi, or baked into an eggy custard (the latter will run you an additional 100 yen). Word about Nakajima's super fresh stock, Michelin-starred preparation and incredibly affordable prices is definitely out, so arrive early to nab a seat during crowded midday service.
Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong
The world’s least expensive Michelin-starred restaurant is tucked away in an exterior-facing unit of an otherwise unremarkable Kowloon shopping mall. The unassuming, 24-seat eatery serves such dim sum delicacies as barbecued pork buns (an international icon) and crispy fried turnip cakes (better than they sound) to crowds of locals and guidebook-clutching foreigners. Tim Ho Wan was awarded its first Michelin star in 2010, and now operates outposts in eight countries throughout Asia and Australia.
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Social Eating House, London
A clubby member of chef Jason Atherton’s Michelin-starred London empire, Social Eating House is kitted out with dark wood furniture, leather banquettes and a your-polo-club-or-mine eight-seat bar. It is the ideal environment to tuck into Atherton's elevated British fare. Two- and three-course, prix fixe lunches include roasted Scottish partridge with heritage carrots, and almond tarts topped with whipped clotted cream. And it all may cost you less than a trip to the movies.