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Big cities are often known for their enigmatic restaurant scenes that dominate the culinary landscape with forward-thinking flavors and creative menus—not to mention world-renowned chefs that are just as famous as the restaurants they helm. And Michelin stars are the true benchmark when it comes to distinguishing these gastronomic gems; signaling to diners everywhere their top-tier, elite status as restaurant retreats meant to woo diners with a discerning palate.

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However, it’s not just places like Paris and New York that dominate the Michelin-starred catalog—globally, all-star apexes of culinary creativity can be found in small towns and cities everywhere that may not be known for their size, but are, instead, famed for their palate-pleasing destinations that make the grade with big-time Michelin-starred street cred.

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Mirazur Is A French Riviera Star

Paris may be home to some of the world’s best gastronomic gems—but travelers don’t have to go to the City of Lights to experience French food at its finest. Nestled in the small town of Menton in the French Riviera, the Michelin-starred restaurant Mirazaur is not only known for its elevated culinary resume, but for its stunningly picturesque mountain views—an idyllic and elegant standout in this French town of only 30,000 people.

  • The Dining Experience: Mirazaur prides itself on its locally-sourced ingredients from the nearby sea; local mountains, and onsite gardens. Depending on the day, diners can expect to experience the elements of the “Mirazaur Universe” through a carefully curated tasting menu—more than a meal, it’s a total sensory experience.
  • Michelin Stars: Three
  • Cost/Person: About $474/person

Tiny Town, Big Flavor At The Inn Of Little Washington

While large cities are known for their Michelin-starred restaurants, it’s highly unusual to find a top-tiered culinary experience in a town with less than 100 people—but the Inn at Little Washington in the small town of Washington, Virginia manages to rise above its small-town stigma with a culinary offering that’s farm-to-table/French fusion fabulousness. With an onsite farm and other locally-sourced ingredients, this countryside gem is down-to-earth dining with an elevated twist.

  • The Dining Experience: Guests can expect a curated tasting menu celebrating the best farm-to-table flavors that are anything but simple; earthy, yet elevated, the dishes are perfectly complementary and highlight local flavors and fresh, signature ingredients. Guests also have the option to pair their tasting menu with a selection of wines for an additional cost.
  • Michelin Stars: Three
  • Cost/Person: $308/person; paired wines $208/person. Beverage, tax, and service charges are not included.

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These CA Restaurants Are Shining (Michelin) Stars

California is home to a number of Michelin-starred restaurants—but don’t expect to find them all in the state’s largest cities. Instead, look to some of the Golden State’s smaller cities and suburbs to provide uniquely eclectic dining experiences that are definitely worthy of the coveted star rating.

The French Laundry In Scenic Yountville, CA

Situated in California’s Napa Valley, Yountville is home to a number of stellar restaurants—however, it’s the legendary decades-old classic The French Laundry that’s the cream of the crop. Housed in a historic structure built in the year 1900, this iteration of the property has been under the same ownership since 1994—and has not deviated from its signature French cuisine that’s seasonally curated, unbelievably fresh, and consistently lauded as one of the best restaurants in the country.

  • The Dining Experience: Two tasting menus are offered daily: the Chef’s Tasting Menu and the Tasting of Vegetables Menu—expect creative flavor profiles that are complementary and highlight the restaurant’s penchant for super fresh, vibrant ingredients.
  • Michelin Stars: Three
  • Cost/Person: $350/person plus add-ons

SingleThread In Healdsburg, CA

There may only be 12,000 people in the unassuming town of Healdsburg, but there is a dining experience here worthy of its own special Sonoma County trip. Japanese-inspired cuisine that is both innovative and exciting, SingleThread’s attention to detail is just one part of what makes this restaurant more than a meal—it's a culinary experience all its own. From start to finish, a meal at this Healdsburg gem is nothing short of exquisite, and definitely worthy of a Michelin-starred moniker.

  • The Dining Experience: An immersive dining adventure awaits visitors to SingleThread, who can expect a seasonally-inspired 11-course tasting menu with highlighted ingredients from the property’s nearby farm. A divine dinner and an abundance of warm, welcoming hospitality round out the distinctively sumptuous experience.
  • Michelin Stars: Three
  • Cost/Person: Tasting Menu Price Currently Unavailable

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Italian Innovators And Small Town Dining Delights

It should come as no surprise that Italy has its fair share of Michelin-starred dining spots; however, the following spots are a veritable treasure trove of restaurant heavy hitters that dominate the Italian landscape with their swoon-worthy menus that are standouts even in a country famed for its cuisine.

Osterio Francescana, Modena, Italy

A medieval town that’s known for its history and picturesque setting, Modena is also home to a Michelin-starred marvel: the experimental and exciting Osterio Francescana. Traditional Italian hospitality and cuisine are elevated to perfection in this cozy space adorned with modern art and crisp, fine dining details that effortlessly capture the iconoclastic combination of classic and contemporary—making Osterio Francescana a true culinary experience for the senses.

  • The Dining Experience: Here, diners can choose between a 12-course tasting menu that encapsulates the haute cuisine perfectly, or opt for an á la carte experience. Either way, diners are in for a gastronomic trip through the Italian countryside punctuated with complementary flavors and sumptuous, distinctive twists on the classics.
  • Michelin Stars: Three
  • Cost/Person: Tasting Menu starts at approximately $338/person; optional wine pairing an additional $221/person. À la carte courses are generally priced at $84/and up (per course).

St. Hubertis, San Cassino, Italy

With an emphasis on local ingredients—most notably those found exclusively in the Dolomite Mountains—St. Hubertus is packed with regional flair and awesomely appetizing Alpine flavors. Located in the five-star Northern Italian retreat Rosa Alpina, St. Hubertus is a world-renowned haven of culinary delights that centers on classic flavors, epic techniques, and seasonal stars to create a true “Cook The Mountain” experience that’s as distinctive as the region itself.

  • The Dining Experience: Packed with color, texture, and undeniably Alpine flavors, diners can expect their Michelin-starred cuisine to come with a side of ambiance as well; as the restaurant is as intimate and cozy as the menu itself. Authentic and fresh, St. Hubertus’ mountain cuisine is a pleasure for the palate defined by a hearty mix of tradition and creativity.
  • Michelin Stars: Three
  • Cost/Person: Tasting menu is approximately $338/person (beverages not included)

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A U.K. Culinary Hero: The Fat Duck

Tucked away in the otherwise unobtrusive town of Bray in Berkshire, The Fat Duck is a real standout when it comes to Michelin-starred culinary innovation. Now celebrating its 25th year of famed foodie journeys, this hidden gem is still providing diners with unique dining experiences that hinge on groundbreaking creativity and a menu that continuously pushes the envelope in both its preparation and presentation.

  • The Dining Experience: To celebrate the restaurant’s milestone anniversary, guests can expect a new seasonal menu each quarter that celebrates the originality of its singular oeuvre—a true journey into the heart of a celebrated chef’s imagination and culinary creativity.
  • Michelin Stars: Three
  • Cost/Person: Approximately $401/person

Michelin-starred restaurants aren’t just found in big cities—tucked away in hidden corners of the world and scattered throughout small towns everywhere, these elevated culinary spots are sumptuous adventures that will make any diner believe that good things do indeed come in small packages.