Some people who look at the food first and foremost when picking a vacation destination. They search for the best restaurants in a certain city, research the local cuisine, and, for a certain set of food-loving travelers, open the famed Michelin Guide. If you’re one of those people, California is one of the best places you can visit. And don’t think only the wealthy can afford to eat at these prestigious establishments. The cheapest Michelin star restaurants in California are surprisingly affordable, and all are worth taking a detour to visit.
California is actually the state with the most Michelin star restaurants in the United States. Most of them are, admittedly, out of the average person’s price range. However, the cheapest Michelin star restaurants in California are only a small splurge or might take just a little pre-planning to afford. For people who love to eat, what’s a little extra cash if it means sampling some of the best food in the world? The restaurants cover a wide range of cuisines, from traditional Japanese omakase, to fine French food, to all-vegetable menus that highlight California’s spectacular local farmers. And even the cheapest Michelin star restaurants in California don’t skimp on flavor or ingredients, creating menus that highlight sustainable, organic, artistically presented cuisine in chic and stylish spaces.
These are the 30 cheapest Michelin star restaurants in California where restaurant connoisseurs of all backgrounds have the chance to experience the legendary cuisine the Sunshine State has to offer. To make the cut, the restaurant had to have a tasting menu under $200 – although reader beware that doesn’t factor in the cost of a wine pairing, which will typically drive your check up. These are also only the restaurants that have a tasting or prix-fixe menu, so no Michelin-star restaurants that offer a la carte menus only will appear here.
With those stipulations in mind, here are the cheapest Michelin star restaurants in California, what each one serves, and where to find it.
Helmed by Chef Soichi Kadoya, this San Diego restaurant focuses on traditional Japanese omakase. Expect bluefin tuna, mackerel, sea bass, and fish soup. Soichi is also known to chat up guests during dinner service.
How much it costs: $135 omakase, $48 petit omakase
Where it is: 2121 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
2. Jeune et Jolie
Southern California style meets traditional French food at this chic restaurant that’s outfitted with plush pink seats. Chef Eric Bost includes delicacies like veal sweetbreads and a chanterelle tart on the tasting menu, while the a la carte menu served at the bar offers a more casual dinner option.
How much it costs: $105 four-course tasting menu
Where it is: 2659 State St. Carlsbad, CA 92008
3. Knife Pleat
Chef Tony Esnault offers elegant French fare in the South Coast Plaza. A favorite among Costa Mesa locals, the space is special, too: Knife Pleat features a nearly all-steel open kitchen and a secluded patio dining area.
How much it costs: $135 three-course prix-fixe menu
Where it is: 2659 State St. Carlsbad, CA 92008
4. Orsa & Winston
Located in downtown Los Angeles, Orsa & Winston combines Japanese and Italian influences. The minimalist white walled dining room is outfitted with simple black chairs and wooden tables, pointing to the restaurant’s chic reputation.
How much it costs: $125 five-course tasting menu
Where it is: 122 4th St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
5. Q Sushi
The sushi at this Los Angeles restaurant is prepared by chef Hiroyuki Naruke. Dishes arrive at the tables quickly, and are known for simple, yet refined, flavors.
How much it costs: $150 lunch omakase, $300 dinner omakase
Where it is: 521 W. 7th St., Los Angeles, 90014
This intimate Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles focuses on kappo-style cuisine, which is a more casual way of eating that focuses on the relationship between the chef and the diners. Known for its wooden bar that’s crafted from a cypress tree, the tasting menu at Shibumi highlights textures and artistic presentation.
How much it costs: The menu features four tiers of tasting menus: 1 – $95, 2 – $125, 3 – $155, 4 – $195
Where it is: 815 S. Hill St., Los Angeles, 90014, USA
7. Le Comptoir
Chef Gary Menes highlights vegetables on the tasting menu at Le Comptoir. Ingredients come from nearby farms, or directly from the restaurant’s organic kitchen garden. Menes dispenses with the formalities. You won’t find white tablecloths here, and the cozy 10-seat counter allows for one-on-one time with the chef.
How much it costs: $175 prix-fixe menu
Where it is: 3606 West Sixth Street Los Angeles, CA 90020
The mission at Kali is to serve only organic and sustainably grown and sourced food. Fresh seafood and meat dishes dominate the menu here, and the stylish space has a more energetic feel than more stuffy upscale restaurants.
How much it costs: $190 eight-course tasting menu
Where it is: 5722 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Celebrity chef Curtis Stone owns Maude, and he named it for his grandmother. Stone’s philosophy for Maude is that he serves food here that he would prepare for friends at home – think hearty comfort foods like Dungeness crab and black truffle pasta.
How much it costs: $125 nine-course tasting menu
Where it is: 212 S Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
10. Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura
Housed inside the Gucci boutique, you can expect this restaurant to revolve around fashionable decor and dishes. Just like Rodeo Drive, this restaurant is full of decadent delights – which fits coming from the famed Massimo Bottura.
How much it costs: $170 for five courses
Where it is: 347 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills, 90210
11. Pasta | Bar
The best way to describe a meal at Pasta | Bar in Encino is playful. The decor is industrial, the waiters are engaging and cheerful, and the menu highlights California produce at its finest – sunchokes, fennel, and tomatoes all shine here.
How much it costs: $195 tasting menu
Where it is: 16101 Ventura Blvd., Ste.250, Encino, 91436
12. Shin Sushi
Although chef Taketoshi Azumi has a traditional sushi background (his father ran a sushi restaurant in Tokyo) the atmosphere at Shin Sushi is comfortably casual. Exceptional sushi rice (called shari), trout, and nigiri are all praised by the Michelin guide.
How much it costs: Around $200 for the tasting menu
Where it is: 16573 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91436
13. Mori Sushi
Dining at Mori Sushi is a well-rounded experience. The ceramics are handmade, the wine and sake list is carefully selected to pair with the menu, and minimalist decor puts the focus on the food – which the Michelin guide calls “exquisite,” from the buckwheat ice cream to the tofu made in-house.
How much it costs: $160 omakase
Where it is: 11500 W Pico Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90064
Chef Dave Beran helms this French bistro. Inspired by Parisian markets, the restaurant serves classic dishes like onion soup and beef tartare. The pressed deck at Pasjoli is also legendary, and for an even more elevated experience, diners can pair Champagne with caviar served on a potato chips.
How much it costs: $175 tasting menu (minimum of 4 guests)
Where it is: 2732 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405
15. The Kitchen
Dinner at The Kitchen in Sacramento is the opposite of stuffy. The Michelin guide advises that diners are encouraged to chat with the chef, and even ask for seconds. The menu changes every month, focusing on local and seasonal ingredients, but you can expect refined and elegant elements like an edible orchid.
How much it costs: $165 tasting menu
Where it is: 2225 Hurley Way, Sacramento, CA 95825
16. Sushi by Scratch Restaurants
Located inside the Montecito Inn, this omakase restaurant serves up 17 courses. Offering only 10 seats, eating here is an intimate, and exclusive, experience.
How much it costs: $145 omakase
Where it is: 1295 Coast Village Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108
A rustic interior and open kitchen give Bell’s a modern look that rejects the typical prim Michelin star restaurant atmosphere. The guide calls the menu “unpretentious,” but the food is still creative and exciting – one must-try dish is the crepe cake, layered with crème fraîche and caviar.
How much it costs: $90 prix-fixe menu
Where it is: 406 Bell Street, Los Alamos, CA 93440
18. La Toque
Located in Napa, the focus of La Toque is pairing wine with food. The tasting menu might be short, but the focus here is really on the wine list, anyway.
How much it costs: $195 chef’s tasting menu; $98 vegetable tasting menu
Where it is: 1314 McKinstry St, Napa, CA 94559
At this Portuguese restaurant, seafood is the focus. Try the bacalhau (dried and salted cod). There are also 200 wines – mostly of them rare finds in the United States – on the wine list.
How much it costs: $199 seven-course menu
Where it is: 1614 Alum Rock Ave. San José, CA 95116
20. Auberge du Soleil
Inside the Auberge du Soleil resort, this restaurant is one of the first fine dining restaurants in the Napa Valley. The tableside Champagne cart is one of many charming elements at Auberge du Soleil, plus the views of the Napa Valley from the dining room are unrivaled.
How much it costs: $165 for four courses, $145 for three courses, $190 tasting menu
Where it is: 180 Rutherford Hill Rd, Rutherford, CA 94573
21. Plumed Horse
The Plumed Horse won Wine Spectator‘s Grand Award for its wine cellar six years in a row, so wine enthusiasts will want to book a reservation here. The elegant menu focuses on all things sustainably sourced, seasonal, and fresh.
How much it costs: $195 tasting menu
Where it is: 14555 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, CA 95070
Selby’s specializes in classic American cuisine, but the Silicon Valley restaurant is also located in America’s most expensive zip code, so think filet mignon not ground chuck. There may very well be a burger on the menu, but expect it to be topped with black truffles.
How much it costs: $80 three-course prix-fixe dinner menu per person (your choice of specific dishes) plus supplements and optional caviar service
Where it is: 3001 El Camino Real, Redwood City, CA 94061
23. Gary Danko
In the culinary world, the name Gary Danko brings to mind one of America’s most esteemed chefs. In San Francisco, it spells fine dining in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, just as it has for decades. The food is American with French, Mediterranean, and luxury influences — and the wine list is as classic as the ambiance.
How much it costs: $167 five-course tasting menu, wine pairing $125 per person
Where it is: 800 North Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109
24. The Village Pub
When The Village Pub says that its ingredients are locally sourced, it means that some 80 percent of the produce on its menus come from its own partner ranch, SMIP. Don’t let the pub menu fool you — the San Mateo County restaurant also serves a three-course prix-fixe dinner and has more than 3,500 labels on its wine list.
How much it costs: $89 per person three-course prix-fixe dinner menu (course options) plus supplements, $75 three-course prix-fixe brunch menu (course options) plus supplements, $49 two-course prix-fixe lunch menu (course options)
Where it is: 2967 Woodside Rd, Woodside, CA 94062
Chef Matthew Accarino breaks down the Italian menu at San Francisco’s SPQR into seven categories, starting with antipasti and ending with asporto, a takeaway course that’s meant to be enjoyed privately after dessert, or dolci. Unsurprisingly, Accarino’s handmade pasta dishes get the most praise.
How much it costs: $92 five-course menu (seven with supplement and takeaway, or asporto) with choice of antipasti, primi, secondi, and dolce courses plus set salad course, set asporto, and tartufi supplement
Where it is: 1911 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115
Sorrel’s cuisine is what some call Cal-Ital — that is, somewhere between Californian and Italian. For being located in one of San Francisco’s more upmarket neighborhoods, the restaurant’s decor is deceptively casual. Because as comforting as good food may be, Sorrel’s pricey ingredients are anything but homestyle.
How much it costs: $165 summer 2022 tasting menu, $95 for optional seasonal wine pairing
Where it is: 3228 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94115
Spruce offers San Francisco eaters a classic white-tablecloth experience without the stuffiness. The cuisine is seasonal Californian — picture proteins like butter-poached salmon and perfectly pink duck breast paired with sides like carrot top pesto, grilled watermelon, and avocado mousse — but the pages-long wine list alone draws many diners.
How much it costs: $89 three-course dinner menu (but not a set menu) with optional caviar service for $110 (kaluga), $160 (golden osetra), or $180 (reserve). $49 three-course lunch menu and $75 three-course brunch menu (also your choice of dish for every course) with the same optional caviar service
Where it is: 3640 Sacramento Street San Francisco, CA
San Mateo’s Wakuriya is a masterclass in kaiseki — a traditional Japanese tasting experience that some consider to be the finest dining of all. But Chef Katsuhiro Yamasaki also prizes inventiveness, as evidenced by his simple yet creative plating that’s as artful as the dishes it presents.
How much it costs: $158 nine-course chef Katsuhiro Yamasaki menu
Where it is: 115 De Anza Blvd, San Mateo, CA 94402
Only 20 diners can patronize this unassuming omakase joint in San Francisco’s Richmond District at any given time — a little less than half of whom can snag prime seating at the sushi counter. Chef Tomoharu Nakamura slices some of the freshest fish you’ll find this side of the Pacific, but you can also supplement your meal with cold and hot dishes such as house-made sesame tofu with sea urchin, tuna katsu, and steamed egg custard.
How much it costs: $95 10-piece chef’s choice sushi tasting with “small bite dish”
Where it is: 211 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118
Chef Ron Siegel is bringing San Francisco-grade eats to a sleek small-town dining room about 20 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Seasonal and organic, the menu at Madcap celebrates California cuisine through a Japanese lens, with minimalist decor to match.
How much it costs: $125 11-course chef’s tasting menu with a supplemental $30 course
Where it is: 198 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, San Anselmo, CA 94960