For all its flaws, Michelin stars may be the highest honor in the restaurant world. In France—where cooking is practically a national sport—the annual announcement of the Michelin guide and its star recipients has been compared to the Oscars in terms of the media coverage it generates. And now that the Michelin guide has been publishing in the U.S. for more than a decade, there’s a fair amount of ink spilled Stateside over its announcements each fall.
Part of the fun of the Michelin Guides are the controversies swirling around their inspectors and methods. For one thing, some fine-dining establishments—no matter how exceptional—are ineligible for stars by dint of location. In the U.S., the Michelin inspectors only visit spots in four locales: New York City, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C. Outside of those places, restaurants aren’t even considered.
There have also been accusations over the years that Michelin favors French and Japanese cooking above all others and that they don’t reveal how many inspectors they employ and locations they visit. (Michelin’s inspectors are anonymous, and their meals are paid for by Michelin. So no one knows how many of them are out there or when they visit each restaurant.)
The highest honor Michelin hands out is a three-star rating, but they offer that distinction to around only 100 restaurants worldwide—and just 14 in the United States. Those places are all household names (assuming you live in a foodie household); we’re talking Le Bernardin and Per Se in New York, Alinea in Chicago, etc.
But even one star denotes a high level of quality, consistency, and inventiveness in a restaurant. And now that Michelin has announced the American star recipients for 2018, we can see what restaurants have earned their first ever star. In all, 14 restaurants debuted in the guide ranging from sushi to Nordic to Korean and more.