The 40 most important US restaurants of the past 40 years

In the world of dining, there are restaurants and then there are restaurants. The former are good and sometimes wonderful eateries, while the latter take things to a higher level, redefining genres and influencing a generation (or more) of chefs. It is this type of restaurant that Food and Wine explores in its list of the 40 most influential restaurants of the past 40 years


The magazine limits the list to establishments in the United States, but the eateries are spread across the country from sea to shining sea. Some of the places have been venerated institutions for decades while others have only been around for a few years, but in both cases they have changed the landscape of dining in one way or another. While many are fine-dining restaurants, a handful can wear the vernacular label of “joints”. 

One such eatery is Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, home of the fiery Nashville hot chicken. Says Food and Wine, “We are all indebted to  André Prince Jeffries for creating one of the best home-grown American triumphs; fiery, crispy, tangy hot chicken, crowned with a pickle or two. Prince’s, the old-school (and unrivaled) spot for what is now known as Nashville hot chicken, has inspired dozens of imitators around the country.”

Daniel Boulud cookbook

On the other end of the spectrum, fine dining mainstays like Daniel Boulud’s eponymous restaurant and Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry receive accolades. Some of us remember when Daniel Boulud was named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine in 1988(!).  The French Laundry has launched the careers of dozens of chefs who have gone on to open their own well-regarded restaurants. 

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  • Rinshin  on  August 17, 2018

    Not shake shack although their shroom burgers are unique. Surprised there are no Mexican or Latin based restsurants on this list.

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