If you’re an adventurous traveler and eater, this list is for you. We’ve rounded up a list of restaurants that are among the remotest, have the best views, are among the most unusual and have some of the best food the world over, and put them into one tidy list.
Some are expensive and offer world-class standards while others are just a good example of local cuisine. Still others have food fit only for those looking for an extreme dining adventure. All, however, are going to require some travel. So plan your travel budget, grab your passport and your travel rewards credit card (go ahead and check your credit scores while you’re at it), and get ready for some culinary adventures that will last you a lifetime.
Here are 11 of our favorite destination restaurants that you really should try now.
1. Faviken Magasinet, Järpen, Sweden
It takes more than a long drive or boat ride to get to this two-Michelin-starred restaurant tucked deep within Sweden’s ski country near Järpen. Open from July 1 through Dec. 21, the restaurant is an hour’s drive from the nearest airport, a seven-hour drive from Stockholm and an eight-hour drive from Oslo. Plus, with just 16 seats for dinner, you’ll need reservations months in advance (at the time of this writing, the restaurant is fully booked until November 2017), and you’re going to want to find a place to sleep after reveling in your multi-course $350-per-person meal (without wine pairing), which changes daily. So why do you want to go? Chef Magnus Nilsson’s farm-to-table concept is about as real as it gets.
“During the summer and autumn, we harvest what grows on our land as it reaches the peak of ripeness, and prepare it using methods we have rediscovered from rich traditions, or that we have created through our own research to maintain the highest quality of the end product,” the restaurant’s website says. “We build up our stores ahead of the dark winter months. We dry, salt, jelly, pickle and bottle. The hunting season starts after the harvest and is an important time, when we take advantage of the exceptional bounty with which the mountains provide us. By the time spring and summer return to Jämtland, the cupboard is bare and the cycle begins again.”
Budget option: The restaurant’s new pop-up concept in Åre, Hoon’s Chinese, is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday and offers a family-style menu of Singaporean-style Chinese food, run by Faviken’s sous chef, Ethel Hoon.
2. The Willows Inn, Lummi Island, Washington
Situated on a small island in Puget Sound about a two-and-a-half hour drive north of Seattle, The Willows Inn is celebrated for its natural setting, use of vegetables from nearby farms, foraged herbs and wild game. Chef Blaine Wetzel won the James Beard Award for best chef in the Northwest in 2015. The inn also provides rooms for those dining at the restaurant. If you plan to stay, expect to make reservations at least a couple of months in advance for both dinner and lodging. And be sure to budget about $195 per person for the dinner menu ($90 per person for wine pairing; $40 per person for juice pairing), which changes regularly. Rooms can run around $400 per night.
Budget option: Make it a day trip. Explore the island, and then have a light lunch of salad, soup, charcuterie, cheeses and freshly baked bread on the restaurant’s front deck, available until 4 p.m.
3. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives
More than 600 miles off the coast of Sri Lanka, Maldives is a destination that takes more than a little effort to get to. So once you’ve traveled all that way, the last thing you need is a huge trek to get to dinner, right? Good thing Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is simple once you’ve arrived. It’s just a quick stroll from the Conrad Hotel.
Ithaa (meaning ‘mother of pearl’ in the Maldivian language of Dhivehi) is the world’s first all-glass undersea restaurant. Dining 16 feet below sea level, you’ll be surrounded by aquatic life swimming all around you. It costs $325 per person (all prices USD) for the opportunity to have dinner in this elegant bubble; $195 for lunch and both meals come with a complimentary glass of champagne.
Budget option: If you stay at the Conrad Hotel, you can receive a $50 voucher per person for dinner when you book your restaurant reservation upon in advance or upon arrival.
4. Beano’s Cabin, Beaver Creek, Colorado
Open seasonally (June 14 through Sept. 23 for 2017), Beano’s Cabin is an outdoor adventurer’s dream restaurant. That’s because, as the Beano’s website says, “Getting to Beano’s Cabin is half the fun!”
Diners have the option of getting to the restaurant by taking a 10-minute shuttle van ride, a one-hour horseback ride ($40), or a 20-minute wagon ride pulled by a John Deer diesel tractor ($27.50). In winter, the restaurant is accessible by open-air sleigh pulled by a snowcat.
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll be greeted by a wide variety of menu choices that make up Executive Chef Kevin Erving’s five-course dinner menu. It runs $107 per person (not including beverages). There’s also a three-course menu available for children 12 or younger that costs $59.
Budget option: Take the free shuttle.
5. Sounds of Silence at Ayers Rock, Australia
If you’ve made it all the way to Australia, you might as well go to Ayers Rock. And if you’ve made it all the way to Ayers Rock, why not dine in the desert with the outback stars sparkling above you?
For roughly $150 US per person, you’ll start your four-hour dining experience with canapés and chilled sparkling wine served on a viewing platform overlooking the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. “As the sun sets and darkness falls, listen to the sound of a didgeridoo” as you enjoy a “bush tucker” inspired buffet and guided tour of the night sky.
6. At.mosphere, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
If achieving new heights is your thing, At.mosphere is the restaurant for you. Sitting on the 122nd floor of the world’s tallest building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, At.mosphere is officially the world’s highest restaurant. As you might expect, it also has some seriously high prices, but its seafood-heavy menu features some of the best products available from around the world. There are three prix-fixe dinner options: seven courses for $240, $417 with wine pairing or $539 with signature wine pairing.
Budget option: Make a reservation for lunch or an early dinner and dine on some of the restaurant’s luxurious ala carte options.
7. Grub Kitchen, Pembrokeshire, Wales
If the idea of eating bugs nauseates you, stop reading now. There are plenty of other options available for you. If not, you’re in for a treat!
Grub Kitchen, situated on an award-winning Pembrokeshire farm, promotes sustainable local produce and entomophagy, or the eating of bugs. The farm itself has been operating for more than 300 years and has a number of different areas, including an invertebrate “zoo” a gallery and shop, wildlife walks and guided bug safaris. It’s also a first-class academic research center. In other words, this is more than just a dining destination. Ultimately, though, you’re going to want to try the food.
Chef Andy Holcroft offers tasty options like sweetcorn chowder with basil oil and a grasshopper crumb; zesty black ant and olive crusted goat cheese with a chicory, fennel and fig salad and warm honey mustard dressing; and caramelized apple crumble with a toasted bug and shortbread topping and vanilla ice cream.
If you’re all alone in your dreams of eating bugs, never fear. The restaurant also serves plenty of non-entomophagic options like lamb shoulder, filet of hake and chocolate mousse. And unlike most of the other restaurants on this list, prices are comparable to a typical high-end restaurant, with dinner mains running around $20 to $25.
8. 229 Parks Restaurant & Tavern, Denali National Park, Alaska
Located in the shadow of North America’s highest peak, 229 Parks is the place to go if you’ve just finished your outdoor adventure and are hankering for some finer dining.
Chef Laura Cole has been nominated twice for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest, and she and her team have a strong commitment to locally grown, freshly harvested ingredients and sustainable cuisine. Here you’ll find menu items like pappardelle pasta with reindeer sausage and leeks, or pan seared Alaskan king salmon with sweet mustard glaze with warm German-style potato salad, crisped prosciutto and haricots vert. The restaurant doesn’t list prices on its website, but dinner mains run in the $25 range. Call ahead for reservations and pricing as the menu changes regularly.
9. The Rock, Zanzibar
Perched on a rock outcropping in the shallow waters of the Indian Ocean just a few meters off Zanzibar’s Michanwi Pingwe beach is a restaurant that seems to have leapt from the pages of an Ernest Hemingway novel.
Originally a fishing cottage, The Rock is an open-air dining destination that can be reached by foot at low tide or by boat service offered by the restaurant. There’s a large outdoor patio to enjoy a cocktail or even have dinner, but there are amazing ocean views even from inside. The Rock specializes in seafood, and while the fare is simple and fresh, it’s the experience and the view that you’re really coming for. Also note that while The Rock is very informal, don’t expect an inexpensive meal. Mains can run you up to $25. That said, the dress code is super casual, so it’s a great way to end the day after relaxing on the beach.
Budget option: Have a drink or two and a snack instead of a full meal. There’s a great wine list.
10. The Three Chimneys, Island of Skye, Scotland
This world-renowned Scottish restaurant is located on the sea shore on the Isle of Skye, just off the coast of Scotland. Opened in 1985, it has made many best-of lists over the years. Chef Scott Davies keeps the kitchen humming with a focus on seasonal dishes using local ingredients such as seaweed cured salmon, Soay lamb and ewe and local oysters. Prix-fixe dinner runs about $90 per person without beverages. And if you’re feeling like you might be drowsy after dinner, you may want to consider booking one of the inn’s charming bedrooms with en suites.
11. Icehotel Restaurant, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
One of the nicest things about staying at the Ice Hotel in Sweden’s Arctic Circle is that the dining room and cocktail bar are warm spots to escape the sub-zero temperatures. With a nod to some of the local cuisines of the Lapland region, you’ll find menu items like reindeer carpaccio served on blocks of ice; elk with almond potato puree, chanterelles and lingonberries; Arctic char and other delicacies expertly prepared by chef Alexander Meier and his team. There’s an ala carte menu, or you can pre-book a special dining experience such as the chef’s table, ice dining or the wilderness dinner. Pricing is, of course, not cheap. A simple burger runs about $20, while the four-course ice menu runs about $105 per person.
Image: Constance Brinkley-Badgett