This week, the New York Times Magazine’s food issue brings us the tale of tiny Baiersbronn in Germany’s Black Forest. There’s a whopping total of seven Michelin stars spread between three restaurants there — it actually beats out Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco by having two three-star restaurants, Restaurant Bareiss and Restaurant Schwarzwaldstube, within its borders. But it’s no anomaly: The guide was famously founded as a travelogue for motorists, so it makes sense that stars would be awarded to spots outside major cities. Yet Michelin-starred restaurants have a way of gravitating toward each other, creating a critical mass of chichi eats in some unlikely places, thereby turning certain small villages into renowned dining destinations. Here are seven more such towns where the number of luxe prix fixes per capita is totally outsize, making them all, in the parlance of Michelin’s guides, worth special journeys.
San Sebastian, Spain
In northern Spain, the home of Arzak and Mugaritz, is the reigning destination for Spanish food tourists.*
Michelin-starred restaurants: Alameda, Arzak, Miramón Arbelaitz, Martín Berasategui, Mirador de Ulía, Kokotxa, Akelare, Mugaritz, Zuberoa
Total stars: Seventeen
Outside of Bruges, which has more than a dozen stars to its name, is this smaller coastal town with another dozen.
Michelin-starred restaurants: Oud Sluis, Danny Horseele, Pure C, La Trinite, Sel Gris, De Oosthoek, Jardin, Cuisines 33
Total stars: Twelve
In France’s Alsace region, this affluent town of 65,000 people is just 40 miles from Strasbourg, Germany, and hosts the region’s annual wine fair.
Michelin-starred restaurants: Auberge de L’Ill, Nouvelle Auberge, La Table du Gourmet, L’Atelier du Peintre, JY’s, Rendez-Vous de Chasse, Maximilien
Total stars: Ten
Montreux and Vevey, Switzerland
These two adjacent towns on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva, at the foot of the Alps, are hosts to a ton of high-end dining.
Michelin-starred restaurants: Le Pont de Brent, Denis Martin, l’Ermitage, Les Saison, Le Montagne, Auberge de la Veveyse, Auberge de l’Onde
Total stars: Nine
With a population of just 30,000, this town in the heart of the Piedmont winemaking region is home to Italy’s only current three-star restaurant, Piazza Duomo. Then again, it makes sense, as Alba is the planetary capital for white truffles.
Michelin-starred restaurants: Al Castello, Locanda del Pilone, La Ciau del Tornavento, Piazza Duomo, Savino Mongelli, Villa d’Amelia, Il Centro
Total stars: Nine
This Berkshire town’s major draw is now Heston Blumenthal’s three-star Fat Duck, but its three Michelin stars were predated by many, many years by the Waterside Inn, which opened in the early-seventies.
Michelin-starred restaurants: The Fat Duck, The Hind’s Head, Royal Oak, Waterside Inn
Total stars: Eight
The French Laundry, and the subsequent openings of Bouchon and Michael Chiarello’s Bottega, have made this little burg the beating, bougie heart of the Napa Valley.
Michelin-starred restaurants: Bouchon, The French Laundry, Redd
Total stars: Five
* This post has been corrected to show that El Bulli was not in San Sebastian.