You can’t go to Chipotle all the time. Sure, fancy dining seems like a thing of the past. But still, you owe it to yourself to visit a multi-Michelin-starred restaurant or enjoy a meal by a James Beard Award-winning chef after donning your best dry cleaning and double-checking your bank account.
There are still special occasions that only feel appropriately marked by an expensive meal—big birthdays, anniversaries and life achievements that call for more recognition than a toast with a few rounds of beers and a burger. And for those times, you owe it to yourself to go all out and blow a whole paycheck. But when you do, you need to choose wisely, lest you feel like you’ve ripped yourself off. Here’s our guide to getting the biggest bang for your many, many bucks at the most expensive restaurants in America.
Alinea, Chicago, Illinois: AlineaKT Tasting Menu
Prepare to be amazed in this three Michelin-starred restaurant by award-winning chef Grant Achantz, one of the most prominent influencers in molecular gastronomy. For dinner at Alinea, parties of two, four or six can choose the ten- to twelve-course Salon tasting menu for $175 to $225 per person; parties of two or four can opt-in for the Gallery menu, described as “a multi-sensory, multi-course tasting menu that combines fine dining with experimental moments” for $285 to $345 per person or parties of six can go all-out, dine at the Alinea Kitchen Table and enjoy the AlineaKT menu for $385 per seat. This doesn’t include beverage pairings, service or tax, so even if you don’t drink, expect to drop at least $500 for the privilege—but hey, you might get to taste a dish with 86 ingredients.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Gilson
Bourbon Steak, Scottsdale, Arizona: Wagyu Steak with Seafood Accompaniments
Decorated chef and restaurant empire founder Michael Mina’s mastery of the grill is on full display at Bourbon Steak in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. You can ask for the USA vs Japan: a 4-ounce American Wagyu rib-eye and 3-ounce Japanese A5 strip loin for a cool $150 (that’s about $21.43 per ounce, for those keeping track at home), but the truly baller move here is to put together your own surf and turf combo of Japanese A5 strip loin that’s $40 per ounce, half a Maine lobster ($42) and some garlic-charred prawns ($32). If you get just a 5-ounce steak you’ve got a $274 plate of food, and you know Mom would be disappointed if you forgot your veggies…
The Inn at Little Washington: Four-Course Tasting Menu, Washington, Virginia
The restaurant housed in the Inn at Little Washington is a perennial critics’ favorite, and once you’ve tasted chef and author Patrick O’Connell’s food, it’s easy to see why. You can choose from one of three four-course tasting menus (Our Enduring Classics, Here and Now and The Good Earth) but can also pick and choose dishes to craft your own bespoke experience, so you can have your brie tortellini with Madeira roasted figs and toasted almonds and eat your caramelized Catalan custard with foie gras and port-soaked raisins, too. You’ll pay $218 for the four plates, and another $125 for wine pairings, making it $85.75 per course before tax and tip.
Killen’s Steakhouse, Pearland, Texas: 4-Ounce Wagyu Filet Mignon
Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? Not always—at least not in the case of the Wagyu filet mignon at Killen’s Steakhouse. Houston-area favorite and esteemed chef Ronnie Killen serves a sensible 4-ounce portion of the famed beef for $100 a pop. Add on broccoli and cheese risotto and sautéed forest mushrooms ($12 each), and a glass of 1990 Chateau D’Yquem Sauternes for dessert ($100) and you’ll be charged $224 for the single-plate experience, before tax and gratuity.
Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – MGM Grand Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada: Degustation Menu
Vegas has no shortage of excellent fine dining, but L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is the only three-Michelin starred restaurant in Sin City. “Chef of the Century” Joël Robuchon’s gorgeous restaurant and eighteen-course menu match the opulence of the Strip—and so does the price tag for the experience. For $445 per person before wine, service and tax, you can relax in the Art Deco-appointed townhouse-like space and enjoy wave after wave of dishes like deep fried and pureed artichokes served with a turmeric chickpea cappuccino, truffled langoustine ravioli in a foie gras sauce with simmered green cabbage.
Masa, New York, New York: Tasting Menu
Legendary chef Masayoshi Takayama’s flagship eatery in Manhattan’s sleek Time Warner Center is a cathedral to impeccable Japanese fare; it’s also known as the most expensive meal in a town where $214 sandwiches made with Dom Perignon Champagne and $1,000 bagels with gold flake and truffles are par for the course. Masa’s tasting menu—think toro-stuffed maki rolls and little toasts of tuna-belly tartare with Osetra caviar and chive—runs $595 per person before tax, and wine (thankfully, gratuity is included), which means the bill for a romantic dinner for two can easily reach $1,500.
Minibar, Washington, D.C.: José’s Table
Superb chef and big-hearted humanitarian José Andrés can bend your mind before pleasing your palate with his amazing gastronomic presentations. You’ll be held in a state of blissful disbelief as you’re served dishes like a Peruvian-inspired ceviche of spot prawns, leche de tigre, plankton and nasturtium flowers and “hoshi-kiwi:” New Zealand golden kiwi dehydrated in the style of Japanese persimmons (hoshigaki). This experience for a group of four to six people is $275 a head, with beverage pairings that cost $115, $195 or an eye-popping $500. Go with the most expensive choice and this breath-taking meal will cost you $775, and that’s before you add (say it all together now) tax and tip. If it helps, just think of it of dinner and a show.