Surprisingly, the California institution hadn’t made the list since 2016.

By Mike Pomranz
July 29, 2020
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Few restaurants in the world have received the kind of praise lavished upon The French Laundry since chef Thomas Keller opened the eatery in 1994: twice topping the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, receiving a James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Restaurant Award, and holding three Michelin stars every year since 2006.

Though dining out looks very different this year, Tripadvisor still released its annual Travelers’ Choice Awards this week, and landing the title as “The Best Fine-Dining Restaurant in the U.S. for 2020” was none other than Keller’s legendary Yountville, California, fine-dining establishment. As the future of fine-dining (and restaurants in general) remains in question, the accolade was based on user-generated reviews and ratings from 2019.

Interestingly, The French Laundry hasn’t even appeared on Tripadvisor’s yearly top ten list since 2016 when it landed the ninth spot. But this year, Keller and company appeared out of nowhere to knock last year’s champ—the also perennially-praised Daniel in New York City—down to number two and take the top position for the first time.

“With over 1,100 ‘excellent’ Tripadvisor reviews, [The French Laundry] is called ‘bucket list’ or ‘life changing’ by diners who visit,” the travel site stated. Tripadvisor's best restaurant selections are 100-percent user driven; “winners are calculated based on the millions of reviews and opinions collected in 2019 from travelers and diners around the world on Tripadvisor,” taking into account both quality and quantity of feedback.

Rounding out the top ten fine-dining award winners are Halls Chophouse in Charleston, South Carolina; Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar in Memphis, Tennessee; GW Fins in New Orleans, Louisiana; Geronimo in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Collage Restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida; Cafe Monarch in Scottsdale, Arizona; Charleston Grill in Charleston, South Carolina; and Peninsula Grill, also in Charleston, South Carolina.

Though the awards are based on 2019 reviews, being named a "best restaurant" in 2020—a year where many restaurants have struggled to even open their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and countless have permanently shuttered—is bittersweet.

“This has been a tough year for our industry, but the global desire to go and explore, whether the destination is an hour away or across the world, remains strong,” Lindsay Nelson, chief experience and brand officer at Tripadvisor, said in announcing the results. “We’re passionate about guiding travelers to the good out there, especially the good found within these recognized hotels, restaurants and airlines that rise to the occasion in offering the best of the best.”