The Michelin star is the gold standard of the restaurant industry. It tells you that the restaurant breathes rarified air, reserved for the most top-tear eateries in the world. It’s not unreasonable to assume that most Michelin-starred restaurants are located in major cities. After all, that’s where chefs experiment with creative cuisines, thriving in places that tend to pride themselves on an eclectic and diverse the restaurant scenes. Big cities are the prime time stage, where travelers expect elegant and well thought out dishes that typically break with tradition when it comes to ingredients and preparation. This is how world-class chefs go to showcase their talents. But you don’t always have to navigate the big city streets, or endure a complex subway system, to reach a Michelin-starred restaurant. Perhaps contrary to popular belief, towns with a population as small as 100 are home to Michelin-starred restaurants, and the food is just as good as anything you’d find on Fifth Avenue. These are the best Michelin-starred restaurants in small towns.

The Inn at Little Washington, Washington VA

It’s one thing to find a Michelin-starred restaurant outside the bustle of a major metropolis, but how about a town of just 100 people? The Inn at Little Washington is a three-star Michelin restaurant in Washington, Virginia – a small town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The inn’s restaurant is the creation of self-taught chef Patrick O’Connell, who specializes in American farm-to-table cooking fused with French technique. Much of the produce used in the restaurant is grown on a small onsite farm or sourced from local farmers, and the restaurant itself evokes the feeling of a romantic, countryside dinner party.

Tasting menu prices unavailable

Manresa, Los Gatos CA

 

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Focusing on veggie-based cuisine, Manresa embraces the local flavor of California. The restaurant is known for its unconventional pairings and fusion of modern and traditional cooking, incorporating produce sourced from the region. Manresa partners with local Love Apple Farms to source nearly all its produce, and aims to evoke the spirit of the Bay Area in its cuisine. The Tidal Pool – a rich broth with mussels, oyster, shiitake mushrooms, and toasted nori – is particularly popular.

Tasting menu: $325 per guest

SingleThread, Healdsburg CA

 

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SingleThread is more than just a typical restaurant. There’s an inn upstairs, a farm, and an impressive 11-course tasting menu that, taken together, evoke an immersive experience. The restaurant’s Japanese-inspired cuisine is the innovative result of chef Kyle Connaughton experience working in famed restaurants around the world. Located right in downtown Healdsburg, a town of just under 12,000, the restaurant also partners with local nonprofit Sonoma Family Meal to provide for those in need.

Tasting menu prices unavailable

Osteria Francescana, Modena Italy

 

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It shouldn’t take much convincing to visit Modena, Italy. Even without its Michelin-starred laurels, the medieval town is a picturesque and historic day-trip just an hour from Bologna, and worth visiting even if you don’t have your sights set on a culinary experience. But it’d be a shame to visit and not check out Osteria Francescana, located right in the medieval town center. When he opened the restaurant in 1995, chef Massimo Bottura strove to blend culinary innovation with contemporary design. True to his vision, the restaurant is now known for its experimental dishes inspired by traditional Italian cuisine, and the space is decorated with modern art.

12-course tasting menu: $326 per person

St Hubertus, San Cassiano Italy

Italy is known for serving up good food nearly everywhere, not just at restaurants with accolades. But South Tyrol is doing most of the legwork. The region of northern Italy has a total of 23 Michelin stars across 20 different restaurants, which is the most of any region in the country. The St. Hubertus restaurant in Hotel Rosa Alpina is known for its mix of classic Italian flavors and “precise, technical know-how” (according to the Michelin guide). Only local ingredients found in the Dolomite mountains are used in the dishes here, so St. Huburtus is literally the best way to capture the region’s flavor.

Tasting menu: $362 per person

Bastide de Capelongue, Bonnieux France

Located among the lavender fields near the village of Bonnieux in southern France, Bastide de Capelongue is housed in a stone farmhouse, along with a hotel. The restaurant offers six different tasting menus with dishes infused with the flavors of Provence, featuring ingredients grown in Chef Loubet’s own vegetable and herb garden. Stunning views are also on the menu here, as you’ll be able to see the Upper Provence Alps from the restaurant’s terrace.

Average tasting menu price: $120 per person

Restaurant Bareiss, Baiersbronn Germany

 

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The small town of Baiersbronn might not look like a hub of Michelin-starred restaurants, but the community of 15,000 people on the edge of the Black Forest is actually home to three Michelin starred restaurants – the highest density of Michelin stars in Germany. Restaurant Bareiss is one of the town’s three-star restaurants, helmed by Chef Claus-Peter Lumpp. Located on the property of the Hotel Bareiss, the restaurant has its own vegetable garden and breeds its own trout and deer. The luncheon menu is particularly popular, with six inventive courses consisting of Japanese-inspired tuna, a quiche, full fish and chicken courses, and small desserts.

Tasting menu prices unavailable

The Fat Duck, Bray UK

One of the UK’s most celebrated Michelin-starred restaurants, The Fat Duck is located in the unassuming town of Bray and housed in a 16th-century building. It’s known for being at the forefront of culinary innovations like food pairing and multi-sensory cooking, as well as its 14-course tasting menu with classics like nitro-scrambled egg, mock turtle soup, snail porridge, and crab ice cream. The restaurant is run by chef Heston Blumenthal, who has appeared on TV shows and is considered a culinary pioneer.

Tasting menu prices unavailable

Mirazur, Menton France

You don’t have to go to Paris to experience France’s finest culinary creations. The town of Menton in the French Riviera might have under 30,000 people, but it also has one of the country’s most lauded restaurants. With views of the Mediterranean, Mirazur is set against a picturesque mountain backdrop and has its own terraced garden. Indeed, Chef Mauro Colagreco’s dishes are inspired by the restaurant’s scenic surroundings, with most ingredients grown in Mirazur’s private garden or sourced from the area.

Tasting menu: $430 per person