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Michelin-starred dining that won’t break your travel budget

michelin-starred-dining-that-won8217t-break-your-travel-budget

Michelin-starred dining that won’t break your travel budget

Top-rated restaurants don’t have to cost an arm and a leg

Chris McGinnis

Updated

  • Al's Place is one of several Michelin-starred restaurants where dinner for two can cost less than $100. Photo: Al's Place

    Al’s Place is one of several Michelin-starred restaurants where dinner for two can cost less than $100.

    Al’s Place is one of several Michelin-starred restaurants where dinner for two can cost less than $100.

    Photo: Al’s Place

Al’s Place is one of several Michelin-starred restaurants where dinner for two can cost less than $100.

Al’s Place is one of several Michelin-starred restaurants where dinner for two can cost less than $100.

Photo: Al’s Place

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When setting a budget for your next vacation or business trip, it’s always nice to reserve some funding for fine dining.

But when you tell your travel companion you want to go to a Michelin-starred restaurant for dinner, the usual knee-jerk reaction is likely to be “that’s way too expensive.” But that’s not always the case. As a matter of fact, we found you can enjoy a three-course meal a several of them for less than $100– even in the exasperatingly expensive Bay Area.

We looked at the online menus for a number of local Michelin-starred restaurants and found it is quite possible for two people to have a three-course dinner for a total food cost of under $100. And remember, if you can do it in San Francisco, you can probably do it at any other city in the world.

As for availability, Michelin just came out with its first-ever guide to the state of California (it has had a San Francisco-only guide for a while), and it lists a total of 90 restaurants with one or more Michelin stars – and most of them are in the Bay Area.  Ninety Michelin-starred restaurants in the state sounds pretty good, but compare that to France, which has 632.

Anyway, here’s a list of all 90  California locations. In the U.S., Michelin also rates  and assigns star ratings to restaurants in New York and Chicago. For other parts of the world, use Michelin’s interactive map here. 

So for our San Francisco sample, we focused on one-star establishments. To keep things affordable, limit the number of courses you select, and approach the wine list with trepidation. At some of these restaurants, the usual breakdown of appetizers, entrees and sides can transform into less standard categories, and the pricing schemes can range from tasting menus to fixed per-course prices to a la carte. We did not figure in the tip, taxes, alcohol or the San Francisco Employee Mandate surcharge. (Also, those with a hearty appetite might find the actual amount of food per course to be less than filling.)

At Al’s Place (1499 Valencia Street in the Mission), “warm/hot” dishes include things like “green pea curry, black lime-cod and pickled strawberry” for $20; and a pasta offering of campanelle, smoked chicken stock, grilled asparagus pesto and goat’s gouda for $19. Throw in a couple of appetizers (“snackles” on the menu) for $8 each and dessert for $12 per person and your total food bill comes to a reasonable $79.

At Lord Stanley (2065 Polk Street, San Francisco), a three-course a la carte selection of appetizer, entrée and dessert will normally run $112 to $140 total for two persons. But the restaurant offers a fixed-price, three-course dinner menu before 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays for just $45 per person. Its online sample prix-fixe menu lists an appetizer of salt cod beignets with kimchi, an entrée of veal short rib with summer squash, and dessert of coconut sabayon with black cocoa sorbet.

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In Situ at SFMOMA (151 3rd Street, San Francisco) divides its one-Michelin-star menu offerings into “small, medium and large” options as well as desserts. “Small” appetizers of red onion and coconut soup and raw lobster with yuzu cream and hibiscus will run $21 together. Add “large” offerings of In Situ Canned Soup (shiitake and pea leaf dumplings in vegetable broth) and spicy pork sausage and rice cakes for another $44 together, and you can have a pair of ice cream desserts at $20 for a total of $85.

Another affordable one-Michelin-star restaurant is State Bird Provisions (1529 Fillmore Street, San Francisco). This week’s menu (they change frequently) shows a long list of appetizers, none more than $12. Follow those up with entrees of halibut ($18) and red trout ($23), tack on a pair of desserts (all $12), and your three-course tab comes to just $89 for two. Lines form early here.

Outside the city near SFO is Rasa, a contemporary Indian restaurant in Burlingame that holds one Michelin star. Starters could include rasam, a spicy tomato broth, and Bombay sliders – potato patty fritters – for a total of $23. Entrees include things like Malai paneer ($29) and Andhra chicken curry ($29), bringing the tab to $81. That leaves room to add desserts of kaffi affogato (a vanilla ice cream dish, $7) and two-spice ganache ($10) and still keep the total tab under $100 at $98.

So remember, stars do not always denote high prices– but they almost always mean you’ll get an award winning meal just about anywhere in the world where Michelin rates restaurants.

Have you dined at a Michelin-starred restaurant on a trip that you’d like to recommend? Best meal you’ve ever had for the least amount of money? Where? Tell us about it in THE COMMENTS.

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Chris McGinnis is the founder of TravelSkills.com. The author is solely responsible for the content above, and it is used here by permission. You can reach Chris at [email protected] or on Twitter @cjmcginnis.

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