These fine dining experiences will blow your mind — especially after you get your check.

The difference between a three-star rated Michelin restaurant and your everyday Denny’s is like comparing a Gucci vintage bag to that $12 tote on the Target rack — you just can’t.

The Michelin Guide has been around for more than 100 years, pointing visitors to some of the best restaurants in the world. And while acquiring one Michelin star should definitely be celebrated, receiving three stars is a seriously distinguishing accomplishment.

There are only 12 three-star rated Michelin restaurants in America currently, each in Chicago, California, and New York and they serve thousands of affluent visitors each year. Guests can usually expect to spend upwards of $1,000 for a table of two or more at these highly acclaimed restaurants, but most say they are paying for the once-in-a-lifetime dining experience, not just something to fill their bellies.

While I can’t imagine dishing out more than my monthly rent on one meal, let’s take a look at these top Michelin Guide rated restaurants in the U.S., and then you can decide for yourself if you think a visit is worth the price tag.

Photo 1Alinea

Photo courtesy of Edsel Little / CC BY 2.0

1. Alinea

1723 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL
$210-$265 per person for Chef’s Tasting Menu

This restaurant has been named Best Restaurant in America three times and here’s why: Alinea is more than just a restaurant. It’s a theatrical experience. The company prides itself in serving a tasting menu of seasonal, modern cuisine, but also in the overall experience. Unique cooking methods are described as each course is artistically plated with beautifully arranged ingredients. A trip to Alinea is a high-class dining experience encompassing art, culture, and immaculate service.

Photo 2BenuDryAgedBeef

Photo courtesy of jennifer yin / CC BY-NC 2.0

2. Benu

22 Hawthorne St., San Francisco, CA
$228 per person for Chef’s Tasting Menu

If you head to the SOMA District (South of Market) of San Francisco, you’ll discover Benu tucked away in a historic building. The distinguished facade gives way to a modern and simple interior that invites guests to focus primarily on the quality of food and service they receive. The tasting menu features delicious, Asian-influenced cuisine and an experienced team of chefs promises divine creations each and every visit.

Photo 3BrooklynFare

Photo courtesy of Legatto Lifestyle Magazine

3. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare

200 Schermerhorn St., Brooklyn, NY
$225 per person + 20 percent service fee for Chef’s Tasting Menu

Chef’s Table Brooklyn Fare is Brooklyn’s only three-star Michelin restaurant and leaving unsatisfied is just not even an option. Guests are seated in an intimate dining room where experienced culinary staff concoct gourmet divine dishes. The set menu includes 20 or more courses, each boasting distinct flavors and fresh ingredients, and the open kitchen design allows guests an open window into the creation and design of each course.

Photo 4ElevenMadisonPark

Photo courtesy of Krista / CC 2.0

3. Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Ave., New York, NY
$225 per person for Chef’s Tasting Menu

Elegant and creative are just two of the many ways one could describe Eleven Madison Park. This superb restaurant serves a wide array of dishes on a multi-course fixed menu and the gourmet chefs demonstrate some of the cooking methods along the way for an exciting, showy experience. The cooking methods and ingredients are centered around traditional New York flavors and guests can be sure to expect a variety of textures, whole ingredients, exotic vegetables, and nutritious recipes.

Photo 5grace

Photo courtesy of Edsel Little / CC BY-SA 2.0

5. Grace

652 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL
$205 per person for Chef’s Tasting Menu

With two different tasting menus, guests can either choose the Flora menu, which accentuates vegetables or the Fauna menu, a blend of fresh vegetables and protein. This dignified restaurant provides an elegant atmosphere for guests to indulge in a healthy selection of gourmet dishes packed with flavor and made with ingredients like apple mint, citrus herbs, huacatay and fennel, among others.

Photo 6Jean-Georges

Photo courtesy of City Foodsters / CC 2.0

6. Jean-Georges

1 Central Park West, New York, NY
$208 per person for Chef’s Tasting Menu

With innovative cuisine and an elite atmosphere overlooking Central Park and Columbus Circle, Jean-Georges is as close to European dining as you’ll get in America. This French eatery provides a memorable fine dining experience with fresh, seasonal ingredients from the local farmer’s market. Guests are treated with dishes that display an eclectic mix of French, American, and Asian influences, and with a three-course fixed price menu and two different tasting menus, dinner at Jean-Georges is always a brand new experience.

Photo 7LeBernardin2

Photo courtesy of Arnold Gatilao / CC 2.0

7. Le Bernardin

155 W. 51st. St., New York, NY
$205 per person for Chef’s Tasting Menu

Le Bernardin has been receiving rave reviews for the last 20 plus years, ever since its opening in New York. The company was first created in Paris in 1972 and still serves elegant fare created with French cooking techniques and delicious inspirations from around the world. Le Bernardin’s specialty is fish and dishes like the Nantucket Bay scallops with marinated granny smith meyer lemon vinaigrette are both creative and enticing.

Photo 8Masa

Photo courtesy of Sarah_Ackerman / CC 2.0

8. Masa

10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY
$450 per person for Chef’s Tasting Menu

An unobtrusive dining room with common decor compliments the simple and distinctive cuisine at Masa. The head chef, Masayoshi Takayama, studied under a sushi master in Tokyo and believes food should be an “all-inclusive experience,” blending a variety of flavors and creativity to create a distinguished dining venture like none other. There is no set menu, but each course is crafted with the freshest, seasonal ingredients and displayed in a simple, yet aesthetically pleasing, fashion.

Photo 9PerSe

Photo courtesy of kowarski / CC 2.0

9. Per Se

10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY
$310 per person for Chef’s Tasting Menu

The daily nine-course tasting menu features sophisticated French classics and a well-awarded wine list. The restaurant’s internationally acclaimed dishes highlight ingredients like Nova Scotia lobster, San Marzano tomato marmalade and charcoal grilled Maine sea scallop, drawing guests from all parts of the world. Per Se boasts such a diverse selection that the team of chefs proclaim to never use the same ingredient twice in one menu.

Photo 10Saison

Photo courtesy of City Foodsters / CC 2.0

10. Saison

178 Townsend St., San Francisco, CA
$248 per person for Chef’s Tasting Menu

The staff at Saison are intent on using the finest of seasonal ingredients to handcraft their meals. But with no dress code, the casual atmosphere invites guests to enjoy a fine dining experience at their own level of comfort. This restaurant has been deemed a luxury dining destination and is constantly changing and growing to incorporate new dishes and ingredients.

Photo 11FrenchLaundryLobster

Photo courtesy of N-Q / CC 2.0

11. The French Laundry

6640 Washington St., Yountville, CA
$295 per person for Chef’s Tasting Menu

For a pure and authentic, international dining experience, The French Laundry is your best bet. The menu changes daily but consistently delights guests with classic French fare and exquisite service at each table. The restaurant is located in a historic, two-story cottage and remains one of the most coveted culinary achievements in California’s Napa Valley. Currently it is closed for renovation, but information about the temporary kitchen is expected on its website in the near future.

Photo 12Meadowwood

Photo courtesy of City Foodsters / CC 2.0

12. The Restaurant at Meadowood

900 Meadowood Ln., St. Helena, CA
$225 per person for Chef’s Tasting Menu

The Restaurant at Meadowood truly gives each guest an individualized experience with handcrafted menus based on their personal preferences. The restaurant’s goal is to encompass the natural beauty of the Napa Valley with distinguishing flavors, fresh ingredients, and carefully selected cuisine that represent the local culture.

Next time you’re in New York City, Chicago, or the Napa Valley in California, will you stop in one of these fine establishments for a bite to eat? How much are you willing to spend for a luxury dining experience? We want to hear from you!

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