No matter who you are or what you like, dining out is always a fun experience. And, let’s be honest, eating at a restaurant with friends, family, or even just by yourself is something that we’re all missing a bit right now. So, whether you’re a foodie or will simply eat whatever’s placed in front of you, here are the Top 10 Most Famous Restaurants in America!
10. The Pink Door
The Pink Door opened up in 1981, and though it’s hidden away in an alley, it wasn’t originally intended to be a secret. The founder, Jackie Roberts, actually intended for there to be a bright pink neon sign, but unfortunately, that idea was shot down because it was said to be a potential disturbance to residents facing the alley. So, she decided not to have a sign at all, which only made it even more exclusive. The original idea for the restaurant came when Jackie was prepping a catering event inside the building, which was once a music shop, then a woodworking shop, and then a bingo hall. While working, Jackie spotted a small door leading to the alley. She opened it and immediately knew that she wanted her restaurant to be located right there. Forty years later, and the restaurant is still up and running. But, the thing that makes this restaurant so special isn’t the food – although the food is pretty darn tasty – it’s that fact that a table here comes with dinner and a show. The dining room is full of sequined aerialists, wowing customers with their moves on hammocks, hoops, and swings. For those of you who like to dine in the morning, there’s a tarot card reader on-site to answer any questions you might have. Then, in the evening, the bar and lounge become a cabaret where bands and burlesque performers take the stage. The Pink Door is widely known as a Seattle classic, and if you’re ever in the area, you should definitely swing by.
9. Oceana Grill
Dubbed one of the best restaurants in New Orleans, the Oceana Grill is a must-visit for any foodie. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, this all-day breakfast establishment’s claim to fame is its world-famous crabcakes – that are apparently to die for. Oceana Grill also features some of the finest Creole and Cajun dishes in New Orleans, such as a decadent seafood omelet, loaded fried shrimp po-boy, award-winning gumbo, and fresh gulf oysters! A quick and hospitable staff awaits your arrival at Oceana Grill for an entertaining evening out. But, perhaps one of the most interesting things about this restaurant is the fact that it was once featured on Kitchen Nightmares hosted by Gordon Ramsay. You know, the show in which he goes to restaurants and works with the owners to fix the place up? Of course, because this is reality television, and because it’s hosted by Gordon Ramsay, there was plenty of drama, swearing, and yelling. However, the drama shown on-screen wasn’t always justified, according to the restaurant. Oceana Grill ended up suing Ramsay and the show’s producers – not once, but twice! Once to stop the episode from airing and the other for defamation after the infamous “Ramsay vomiting because of shrimp” clip started circling the Internet. Ramsay claimed that the renowned Gumbo was disgusting, which greatly affected the restaurant’s reputation. But, today, it’s considered one of America’s best restaurants, so we can say that Oceana Grill ended up getting the justice it deserved.
8. Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
The Santa Barbara Shellfish Company was established in 1980 as a buying station for local lobster and abalone. Over the years, it has developed an expertise when it comes to local crustaceans, shrimp, and other seafood specialties. Located (unsurprisingly) in Santa Barbara, this restaurant sits on Stearns Wharf Pier, so not only does it offer a great view, but it also offers nothing but fresh seafood. In pre-pandemic times, this restaurant was so popular that you’d have to wait almost half an hour to get a table. The restaurant has shifted to accommodate for pandemic measures and now offers outdoor seating – with heaters included! For those of you who prefer the grab-and-go method, there’s also a to-go side window to order from. If you want to eat outside, there’s bar seating, which gives you a great view of the ocean. The menu basically encompasses the entirety of the ocean, from crab cakes to shrimp tacos to lobster pasta. If you don’t trust us, all you have to do is read some of the restaurant’s reviews. One customer said that their onion rings were the best they’d ever had! Flakey and deep-fried to perfection, and not overly breaded. Another said that the oyster shooter was a must-order – this is an oyster with cocktail sauce, lemon, and grated Parmesan cheese on top. Whatever it is, you can rest assured that your order will be fresh and delicious.
7. Blue Heaven
Described as having fresh food and a tropical atmosphere, Blue Haven not only serves quality meals, but it also has a great story worth telling. Blue Heaven was opened by two self-proclaimed free spirits: Suanne and Richard, an artist and a writer. On September 19, 1992, they cooked up and served black beans, rice, and fish to their very first customers, who were seated on the painted picnic tables under the tropical almond tree that sits in the dining area of the restaurant. The restaurant is housed in a building that’s now over a hundred years old. Blue Haven got off to a shaky start. Day after day Suanne and Richard were seeing only little sales. But, after Richard’s brother, Dan, a chef, came to help out, things swiftly started to look up. Today, the restaurant is one of the spots that make Key West so special. It features a whimsical atmosphere, complete with canopies of tropical foliage and improvised art. It’s also one of Key West’s best brunch spots with a vegan-friendly menu and straight-from-the-dock seafood. Local favorites include anything that is made with lobster, like lobster grilled cheese and lobster benedict. And the best part: chickens and cats are constantly roaming around the place, making your dining experience a little lighter. But, no matter how playful it is, the food at Blue Heaven is always seriously good!
6. Voodoo Doughnut
Voodoo Doughnut specializes in weird, unconventional doughnuts – something that not every pastry shop does, which is probably why it has such a cult following. Founded in Portland in the 2000s, the two brains responsible for Voodoo Doughnut are Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon. The two realized that there were no doughnut shops in downtown Portland, so, in 2003, they rented a hole-in-the-wall storefront and told friends and family that they were bent on world doughnut domination. They started with a mix of classic and unconventional flavors, and people were so charmed that within a month of opening, the store received its first mention in the national press. To date, Voodoo Doughnut has been featured on MTV, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Tonight Show, Wheel of Fortune, Portlandia, and Grimm, among other shows. As of 2020, Voodoo Doughnut has expanded to include 9 locations in five states. So, why do people love Voodoo Doughnut so much? The simplest answer is that it stands out from the crowd. Why have a classic chocolate donut when you can have one that’s covered in Froot Loops? But, while it does have creative donuts, this company has been criticized for being insensitive and marketing itself based on a minority religion. So, if you want to grab a bite from here, that’s something to keep in mind.
5. The Bluebird Cafe
The Bluebird Cafe is a music club in Nashville, Tennessee. It opened in 1982, and people have been pouring in through the doors ever since. The location itself is unsuspecting; it sits in a little strip mall just outside of downtown Nashville. But, once you get inside, you enter a world of mood lighting, dark woods, and beautiful acoustics. Before it was made into one of the music spots in Nashville, the Bluebird Cafe was home to a game room, a bar, a pizza parlor, a sewing machine store, and a pharmacy. Talk about versatility! When the founder, Amy Kurland, bought it, she originally intended to turn it into a gourmet restaurant where patrons would occasionally listen to live music. So, as an afterthought, she added a stage, not knowing the impact it would have on her future. By March of 1983, one of the Bluebird’s regular musicians, Kathy Mattea, had landed a record deal. After that, it became known as one of the best places for up and coming musicians to play, and the rest is history. In its time, the Bluebird Cafe has hosted a good number of stars, including Garth Brooks, LeAnn Rimes, Keith Urban, and Taylor Swift. But while it’s more famous for its music, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have good food – the Nashville Dip and Fried Chicken Mozzarella Sandwiches are definitely the stuff of legend.
4. Louis’ Lunch
This place is so good it basically invented hamburgers! No, seriously: Louis’ Lunch claims to be the birthplace of the hamburger. While there are plenty of other establishments that have made the same claim, this is the only one whose claim is supported by the Library of Congress; let that sink in for a moment. Louis’ Lunch was established in 1895 by Louis Lassen, a blacksmith by trade and preacher by vocation. In 1886, he immigrated from Denmark to New Haven, where he became a food peddler. Eventually, instead of selling ingredients like eggs and butter, he started selling lunch items like sandwiches. According to Louis’ Lunch, the first hamburger was created in 1900, a whopping 15 years after Lassen had started his business. A hurried customer had asked for lunch to go, allegedly proclaiming, “Louie! I’m in a rush; slap a meat puck between two planks and step on it!” And so, like the kind-hearted soul he was, Lassen obliged, and the hot sandwich was born. 17 years later, Louis moved from peddling lunch on the street to a brick building that had once been a tannery. But, Louis’ Lunch doesn’t only sell burgers, no, no, it also serves some delicious potato salad and pie. The fact that it might be the hamburger’s birthplace means that this is one of the most famous restaurants in the United States and definitely the most famous place in New Haven, Connecticut.
3. Joe’s Stone Crab
Located in Miami Beach, Florida, Joe’s Stone Crab was opened by Joe Weiss in 1913. Weiss had moved from New York hoping to relieve his asthma, and while we can’t say that the Florida air helped his lungs, it definitely helped to jumpstart his business. What started out as nothing more than a lunch stand on a dirt road by the beach grew to become one of the best restaurants in America. While the restaurant today is called Joe’s Stone Crab, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, the place didn’t even start considering selling stone crab until 1921, when an ichthyologist (that’s someone who studies fish, by the way) brought some stone crabs to Joe to find out if they were edible. Today, Joe’s is the biggest buyer of Florida stone crab claws, and it plays a huge role in the industry! Not only is this place famous for having great crab, but it’s also been mentioned in the media quite a few times. It was featured in the 1985 film The Mean Season, as well as in the novel Goldfinger, where James Bond eats the best meal he’s ever had in his life. It was also regularly referenced by the Golden Girls. Not to mention, a wide range of famous people have stopped by for some crab, including Amelia Earhart and Jennifer Lopez. As of 2019, Joe’s Stone Crab was the highest-grossing independent restaurant in the US, with $38.4 million. Now that’s a lot of crab!
2. Mon Ami Gabi
With close to 17,000 TripAdvisor reviews, this warm and welcoming French bistro-style eatery is definitely one of the most popular stops on the Las Vegas Strip. Customers gush over the fantastic views, the wonderful food, and the amazing service. The concept for this restaurant was the result of founder, Rich Melman, having lunch at a fine dining restaurant by the name of Ambria. He enjoyed the feel of a casual French bistro, and he thought it was something that other people should be able to enjoy, too. So, Mon Ami Gabi was created, with the first location opening in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. Mon Ami Gabi translates to “my friend Gabi,” the Gabi in question being Gabino Sotelino, a chef that worked with the founder. In 2017, Mon Ami Gabi was listed as one of the top one hundred restaurants in the country. The restaurant has grossed $17.2 million in sales and has served an estimate of 300,000 meals! Gabi works as the head chef of the restaurant, along with his son Mark Sotelino. As of 2021, Mon Ami Gabi has five locations across the United States, including in Oak Brook, Illinois, Reston, Virginia, and Bethesda, Maryland
1. Pane & Vino
Last but definitely not least is Pane & Vino, an Italian joint with a nearly perfect 5-star review on TripAdvisor and ranked as the #1 restaurant in Miami Beach. Located in Florida, Pane & Vino is one of the most talked-about restaurants, and for good reason. It’s mostly known for its fresh, homemade pasta, but also for its nice and welcoming staff. Customers rave about the restaurant’s attentive service and its iconic tiramisu, the dessert you absolutely need to get if you ever go there. The atmosphere is dark and cozy, with artistic lamps hanging from the ceiling. One reviewer even went as far as to call the place romantic due to the warm people and ambiance. Plus, the owners are always there in case you need anything. Another customer claims that you can watch the chefs preparing the handmade pasta in the front window of the restaurant, adding to the feel of authentic Italian cuisine. The service is friendly, and the food isn’t even overpriced! Plus, for anyone with dietary restrictions, boy have we got some good news for you: this restaurant has plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options, which means that there is something for everyone!