Receipt of a coveted Michelin Guide star (or two or three) can turn a nameless restaurant into a culinary hotspot with if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it prices. A mere 2,635 worldwide received stars in 2013.
Don’t want to drop a paycheck on a three-star establishment? You can still sample a top chef’s culinary creativity without making your wallet weep. Dozens of Michelin-starred restaurants (or their high-profile chefs) have less expensive spin-offs. San Francisco chef Michael Mina counts 17 culinary outposts worldwide including Bourbon Steak at Turnbury Isle in Aventura. Superstar bad-boy Brit Gordon Ramsay has a staggering 28 eateries under his brand.
It was 1900 as Paris was prepping for the World’s Fair when brothers André and Édouard Michelin recognized they could help vacationers riding on Michelin tires have a more predictable trip. The duo created a small, red book called the Michelin Restaurant and Hotel Guide.
Today the guides — which cover most of Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, New York, Chicago and San Francisco — have become an international benchmark in gourmet dining. According to Michelin, the star is reserved for the most distinctive restaurants and granted only for “what’s on the plate” — the quality of the ingredients, cooking technique, distinctive and creative. In short, a place that nails it every time.
At Daniel Boulud’s swank Manhattan restaurant, DANIEL, you’ll pony up $300 for a six-course tasting menu with wine. Find similar French influences with an American flair, but a far friendlier price tag at Boulud’s Florida hotspots: DB Bistro Modern Miami and Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach.
“Do you get a taste of the starred restaurant at a spin off? Typically, no. It’s a taste of a Michelin-star chef,” says Michelin’s Head Inspector, who, as tradition dictates, must remain anonymous so as to experience restaurants as any other customer would. “Is the food good? Yes. It’s a great meal, often at a great value. Think of it as an artist working in another medium.”
So, instead of a $211 multi-course feast including Cotswold lamb and spring vegetables at the three-star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, order the $23 Traditional Shepherd’s Pie with lamb and veggies at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. Or if you want to really dine on the “cheap,” Gordon Ramsay BurGR at Planet Hollywood will sell you a Hell’s Kitchen Burger covered in Asadero cheese, roasted jalapeno peppers, avocado and oven-roasted tomato for $14.
The list goes on and on. Perhaps because, as the Michelin inspector explains, “Michelin stars bring chefs both notoriety and offers to expand their brand or create new second or third concepts altogether.”
Chicago chef Graham Elliot offers something for every pocketbook. His eponymous restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood has two Michelin stars and a $125 to $165 tasting menu. At the rock ’n’ roll-themed Graham Elliot Bistro, try charred octopus with spaghetti nero for $26.
Master chef Charlie Palmer’s Aureole restaurants in New York and Las Vegas are both Michelin star recipients with prices to match. Yet you can pay just $20.13 for a three-course lunch including Confit Lamb Shoulder with Moroccan Couscous at Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdales in Costa Mesa, Calif.