Proving once more that the apparatus of restaurant ranking is almost entirely inscrutable, World’s 50 Best Restaurants — the organization that touts itself as the “Oscars of the food world” — has released its list of runners up, ranking from 51 to an unprecedented 120th place this year. Only two Bay Area restaurants, Saison and Single Thread, are present on this list of “runners up.”
World’s 50 Best is the most nebulous of all awards rankings: Despite this handy new infographic, it’s still unclear who really inspects the restaurants, or under what criteria. It’s extremely difficult to parse why one restaurant may move up or down the list, or drop off completely; many three-Michelin-starred restaurants don’t make the cut. (However it should be noted that is the ranking of the 50 best restaurants in the entire world, while Michelin covers specific geographic regions like California and New York City, to determine its rankings.)
Here’s how the Bay Area’s restaurant rankings shook out this year versus last year:
Saison, which dropped from three to two Michelin stars this year, continued its free fall on the list, dropping 24 spots to #70 for 2019; in 2018 it ranked #46 and was SF’s only representation on the 1-50 list; it debuted on the list at #27 in 2016, and moved to #37 in 2017.
Three-Michelin-starred Single Thread moved from #91 in its first year on the list in 2018 to #71 in 2019.
Three-Michelin-starred Benu, which ranked at #53 in 2018, did not appear on the long list at all, which could indicate that it will make it onto the 1-50 ranking (or not at all! who knows!). Quince, Manresa and Restaurant at Meadowood, all three-Michelin-starred, did not make the list at all in 2018; their absence from the long list this year probably indicates they won’t be on the top 50 this year, either.
The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s three-Michelin-starred Yountville restaurant, was ranked at no. 86 in 2018; this year, it is completely absent from the extended list. Per Se, the chef’s other three-Michelin-starred restaurant in NYC, dropped 34 spots from on. 81 to no. 115. (Since it was ranked no. 1 in 2003 and 2004, it can never hold that spot again.)
Atelier Crenn, which recently received its third Michelin star, was not present on this year’s 51-120 list; in 2018, the restaurant dropped off the list completely, despite its previous position at no. 83, and chef Dominique Crenn’s accolade as the World’s Best Female Chef in 2016. Meanwhile, Nahm, the Bangkok restaurant helmed by Kin Khao’s Pim Techamuanvivit, moved from no. 49 to no. 69. She’s one of six women included in the list of 70 restaurants.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list has been a magnet for criticism in past years, given its tendency to award spots to primarily male-led, Eurocentric restaurants. Ahead of this year’s announcement, however, came news that the organization was working to diversity its picks (50/50 male and female), and that winners of the top, no. 1 spot would not be eligible for the top 50 in following years.
The full, actual list of winners 1-50 will be announced on Tuesday, June 25. See below for this year’s placements of 51-120: