Who says fine dining has to be pricey?
If you can’t afford the hefty price tag at Per Se, fret not. There are plenty of talented chefs serving up exquisite multi-course tasting menus for less than $100 a pop. Here are our favorites across the country.
WHERE: Indianapolis, Indiana
The dining room at Cerulean might be a little dated, but Chef Alan Sternberg’s $95, 10-course tasting menu is anything but. The inventive and flavorful exploration of Midwestern cuisine here might include sweet and spicy peach kimchi with bitter greens and ricotta, followed by a cheesy creamy explosion of Comté sweet corn ravioli. Desserts are a highlight too – goat cheese strudel paired with bing cherries and black sesame is contemporary and craveable.
WHERE: Charlotte, North Carolina
Chef Clark Barlowe has a fastidious dedication to all things local at Heirloom. Every ingredient used in the restaurant is from North Carolina, and that extends to the furniture and soundtrack. Fried chicken comes with truffle mac and cheese and rooftop honey hot sauce. Both the squash and chanterelle fritters and lump crab cakes with Carolina Gold fried rice are Southern comfort food at its finest. A six-course tasting menu can be modified to accommodate any and all dietary restrictions with 24 hours notice, and at $70, or $100 with drink pairings, it’s a steal.
WHERE: New York City, New York
After nine years pushing the boundaries of what vegetarian food can be, Chef Amanda Cohen has reinvented Dirt Candy by eliminating a la carte menus in favor of two tasting options. The smaller “vegetable patch” menu is $57, including tip, for five courses of Dirt Candy classics like grilled and smoked broccoli dogs and portobello mousse. The roughly nine- to 10-course “vegetable garden” menu is $83 and more experimental. Perhaps you’ll taste eggplant foster flambéed tableside and served with lemon ice cream, or lettuce soup with coconut, peanuts and lime. Seasonal, foraged ingredients keep diners on their toes and natural wines match the wild flavors in Cohen’s cooking.
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
Chefs Anna and David Posey bring a touch of cozy Nordic hygge to Chicago with their West Loop restaurant Elske. The eight-course tasting is $85 and easily the best value for fine dining in the city. Dishes change often, but the sliver of duck liver buckwheat tart with salted ramps is a staple. Both a wine pairing ($45) and non-alcoholic beverage pairing ($25) including teas, tisanes, and juices are available.
INSIDER TIPPortions here aren’t huge, so order the dark rye bread with house cultured koji butter if you’re feeling particularly ravenous.
WHERE: Seattle, Washington
On the first Thursday of each month, Scout offers a special 10-12 course chef’s tasting menu for $90 at the kitchen counter and “the cabin” private dining room that seats 20 and looks like a deconstructed modern log cabin. Chef Derek Simcik has a reputation for being quite edgy with his cooking (he’s hosted off-site cannabis pairing dinners) and whatever he comes up with is sure to be unique. You might encounter sake-braised potatoes with Szechuan peppercorn and black garlic purée and a foraged float with sheep sorrel sherbet and pineapple weed soda.
WHERE: Aspen, Colorado
Aspen is known for being posh and expensive, but the chef’s indulgence menu at Element 47 in The Little Nell brings a passionate but casual approach to fine dining. You’ll be surprised with five seasonal dishes for $95, including American Wagyu beef from Emma Farms raised in nearby Basalt. The Little Nell Gardens, also in Basalt, supplies fresh produce. Wine pairings are an additional $75, but worth the splurge. The four sommeliers on staff will introduce you to a few delightful glasses that you’d never have selected yourself.
WHERE: Providence, Rhode Island
Gracie’s celebrates its 20th anniversary next year and this elegant restaurant has become an institution in downtown Providence. Service is graceful and gracious, with white tablecloths, but never fussy. The tasting menus here are nourishing celebrations of seasonal ingredients, with the five-course option available for $90 and wine pairings an additional $45. A simple but unexpected medley of rock crab, diced asparagus, sweet peas, and wild leeks raises the bar for what a mere salad can be. Many of the edible flowers and herbs come from the rooftop garden.
Maple & Pine
WHERE: Richmond, Virginia
The menu at Maple & Pine is closely attuned with Virginia’s micro-seasons and plates like the grilled dulcina bean salad with pickled rose and beets are almost too pretty to eat. Wednesday through Saturday, a six-course chef’s tasting menu is available for $69, with an optional wine pairing for $30. You might start with buffalo pork rinds, a crispy snack to whet your appetite for ricotta gnocchi with fava, sunflower shoots, and parmesan and duck breast with ginger polenta. Dessert is a play on the childhood classic “ants on a log” with peanut butter mousse, celery ice cream, and raisin purée.
WHERE: Portland, Oregon
It might be best known for biscuits, brunch, and killer chocolate chip cookies, but Coquine is not just a cafe and bakery. Chef Katy Millard’s beautifully composed plates at dinner allow her to show off a more complex side. Order a la carte or as part of a four-course ($60) or seven-course ($95) chef’s choice tasting menu. Yes, you can still have bread and housemade butter, but save room for celtuce with yellow cherries and apricot-almond butter or maybe roasted whole chicken with fava basil crème fraîche and smoked green farro.
WHERE: Louisville, Kentucky
In historic Old Louisville, Chefs Edward Lee and Kevin Ashworth infuse Southern classics with modern flair at 610 Magnolia. Deviled eggs are filled with steak tartare and topped with local caviar and Wagyu beef tongue is served on a caraway johnny cake, updating Reuben sandwich flavors in a luxurious fashion. Much of the produce comes from the greenhouse across the street. Six-course dinners are $95, with a wine pairing available for another $75.
INSIDER TIPIf you skip wine pairings, they also make great cocktails with Kentucky bourbon.
Spice Kitchen & Bar
WHERE: Cleveland, Ohio
Stepping inside Spice Kitchen & Bar in Cleveland’s bohemian Gordon Square Arts District neighborhood feels like entering a rustic farmhouse with elegant white tablecloths and freshly cut flowers adorning the tables. The farm-to-table ethos is legit here. Chef/Owner Ben Bebenroth and his wife Jackie manage a 13-acre farm in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. He’s committed to sourcing at least 80% of all ingredients from small, sustainable family farms within a 150-mile radius of Cleveland.
The five-course tasting menu is only offered on Fridays and Saturdays, making it the perfect elegant night out for just $60 plus another $20 for wine pairings. There’s grilled squash with local goat cheese, lettuce, and candied pecans, followed by roasted eggplant and walnut ravioli served in a rich tomato bisque. Bebenroth gets creative with the stone fruit ice cream sandwich, served with koji ice cream and lard gingersnap.
INSIDER TIPOrder anything made with their farm fresh eggs, including housemade pasta.
WHERE: Napa Valley, California
La Toque is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in downtown Napa, with an extensive selection of local wines to accompany Chef Ken Frank’s contemporary French fare. Pick any four savory courses plus dessert for $98, as a DIY five-course tasting menu with an optional $68 wine pairing. Pacific sablefish with sunchoke mousseline and dry-aged duck breast with sour cherry and porcini compote are a couple of current standouts.