Hugh Garvey

This year’s Michelin stars have been awarded, but the food authority’s new handy map feature is the unexpected highlight of 2019

Hugh Garvey  – June 4, 2019 | Updated June 25, 2019

Last night the 2019 Michelin Guide officially launched in California at a ceremony in Huntington Beach. In addition to awarding its usual roster of stars, the estimable food guide announced its first-ever statewide awards, handing out stars to spots from Sacramento to Orange County. Yes, it’s cool that the Michelin Guide is covering all of California (after only awarding stars to restaurants in Los Angeles and San Francisco in years past). Yes, it’s cool that it’s beginning to recognize the achievements of restaurants outside of the French and Japanese traditions of fine dining with Indian and Mexican restaurants joining the list. But what’s coolest for diners who are just down to eat is the interactive map on the Michelin website.

The map allows users to customize their dream food road trip depending on their location, desired cuisine, number of stars, and a very Michelinesque filter with classifications such as “quite comfortable” and “luxury in the traditional style.” For our money, the sweet spot is really the Bib Gourmand category, which honors restaurants that deliver top-quality food at an affordable price (two dishes plus a drink or dessert for $40 or under). The map also pins restaurants within the Plate Michelin category, which includes over 400 establishments that don’t quite meet the standards of the other categories, but where Michelin inspectors have discovered quality food.

Say what you will about the guide’s omissions (the lack of any Thai or Korean among the starred categories is striking), but I’m psyched that there’s been progress toward a diversity of deliciousness. Modern Mexican Taco María in Orange County received one star. Sunset staffer fave and Cambodian gem Nyum Bai in Oakland received its second Bib Gourmand. The casual, party-ready, open-air Sonoran taco joint Salazar in Los Angeles also got a Bib Gourmand. Inclusions like these make the guide more reflective of how I and many other Californian food-obsessives have been eating for quite some time. As a result the Michelin map will now be a go-to destination in my dining toolkit.