Dine with a ‘Top Chef’: Restaurants from Winners and Favorites Across the West
Book your reservations now at these eateries from 'Top Chef' winners, runners-up, and fan favorites.
The West is a big place—we say this all the time—but so is the Top Chef contestant network. Finalists and veterans of the show have planted roots all along the coast, with brick and mortars where patrons and fans can step in and taste their culinary creations off-screen. Now with 18 seasons of the show behind us, we can put together a pretty extensive list of spots to visit.
Top Chef has always been about highlighting the best chefs and challenging them in new ways while offering advice and critique from some of the top food and wine experts in the world. Each chef leaves the show with new experiences and an expanded knowledge of the culinary world they adore. So many of these chefs take the inspiration from their time on the show and mix it with influences from their hometowns and personal backgrounds in their existing restaurants—or channel it into opening new spots.
In San Diego, Top Chef season three finalist and All-Stars veteran Brian Malarkey owns Animae, a stunning restaurant on the waterfront. While attending a dinner at Animae prepared by four chefs from season 18, I wondered what other Top Chef alum restaurants I might be missing out on. I have been a longtime fan of Ramen Hood in Grand Central Market, owned by season two winner Ilan Hall, and I was excited to hear season four winner Stephanie Izard brought Girl and the Goat to Los Angeles. So after some more digging, tasting, and talking with some big Top Chef fans on our team, we came up with a list of all of the restaurants in the West owned and operated by previous winners, runners-up, and fan favorites of the show.
From a Szechuan-style hot chicken spot in L.A. by season 12 winner chef Mei Lin to a quick karaage stop in Seattle opened by season 18 fan favorite chef Shota Nakajima, we’ve got all of the spots to add to your must-try list. Keep scrolling for our list of restaurants in the West run by Top Chef alumni.
Restaurants by Top Chef Winners
1. Ramen Hood in Los Angeles, California
Ramen Hood is a gem located inside of Grand Central Market in DTLA that serves all vegan ramens in a rich sunflower seed-based broth. Chef and owner Ilan Hall won season two of Top Chef and still makes appearances on the show from time to time as a guest judge.
2. Warrior in Los Angeles, California
Chef Hung Huynh took the winning spot on season three and then went on to help restaurant group EMM create notable dishes at Catch, a popular upscale seafood spot with locations across the globe, as executive chef. Warrior has a traditional Asian-inspired menu. Located in L.A., it also has a sister cocktail bar attached called Choo Choo.
3. Girl and the Goat in Los Angeles, California
Chef Stephanie Izard was the first female chef to win the title of Top Chef on season four. She went on to open Girl and the Goat, Little Goat, and Duck Duck Goat in the West Loop area of Chicago. Earlier this summer, she brought Girl and the Goat to L.A. where it sits nestled among some of the best eateries in the Arts District.
4. Blackbelly in Boulder, Colorado
Chef Hosea Rosenberg took first place on season five of Top Chef before going on to open Blackbelly as a catering business. Now the space serves as one of the top restaurants in Boulder, Colorado and has expanded to include Blackbelly Butcher Shop. The butcher shop processes whole animals from local ranches, and the team cures and ferments its own meat in-house.
5. Daybird in Los Angeles, California
Daybird is the second restaurant from season 12 winner chef Mei Lin. After her victory, she went on to work as a private chef for Oprah Winfrey before opening Nightshade in Los Angeles. Daybird opened early in 2021 and immediately had a line of hungry patrons waiting to try Lin’s Szechuan hot chicken.
6. Playa Provisions in Playa Del Rey, California
Playa Provisions houses four restaurant concepts in one 7,000-square-foot space by the beach in Playa Del Rey. Opened by season 14 winner Brooke Williamson, the space includes a casual breakfast and brunch spot, a California coastal-inspired intimate dinner experience, and an ice cream stand and whiskey bar where you can end the night.
Restaurants by Top Chef Runners-Up
1. Folktable in Sonoma, California
Chef Casey Thompson was runner-up on season three and also received the fan-favorite title. Folktable opened in 2021 and offers Thompson’s take on farm-to-table cuisine, using locally grown goods from Sonoma and nearby farms to curate a seasonal menu. It is not her first restaurant venture; she also opened The European Bar & Lounge, a cocktail bar in San Francisco’s Nob Hill neighborhood.
2. Voltaggio’s Strfsh in Santa Monica, California
The Voltaggio brothers both competed on Top Chef season six. Michael took the title and his brother, Bryan, came close as runner-up. They’ve embarked on several missions to open popular restaurants across the coast and have most recently collabed on Strfsh, a customizable seafood sandwich spot near the water in Santa Monica.
3. Broadway in Laguna Beach, California
This upscale New York-inspired spot nestled in Laguna Beach comes from season 13 runner-up Amar Santana. His inspiration comes from the restaurants he staged at in the early days of his career in New York City, as well as global flavors that have stuck with him through the years. Since 2012, Broadway has been a star of the Orange County food scene.
4. Ms Chi Cafe in Culver City, California
Shirley Chung came close to the crown in season 14 as runner-up after finishing top three in season 11. After moving to America from Beijing at age 17, she attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and went on to work under some of the biggest names in cooking like José Andrés. She and her husband now run the fast-casual dining spot Ms Chi Cafe in Culver City as an homage to her heritage.
5. Animae in San Diego, California
Brian Malarkey was a finalist on season three of Top Chef and came back as an All-Star in season 17. While Malarkey owns six restaurants in the San Diego area, Animae stands out from the pack. With Asian flavors brought onto the menu from Executive Chef Tara Monsod and some of the finest Japanese A5 wagyu on the market, there’s no turning down a plate of wagyu wontons or caviar shrimp toast.
Restaurants by Top Chef Fan Favorites
1. Kokohead Cafe in Honolulu, Hawaii
After being declared the fan-favorite of season one of Top Chef, chef Lee Ann Wong worked as a culinary producer for the show for four more seasons. She then relocated to Honolulu in 2013, where she opened the super-popular brunch spot Kokohead Cafe.
2. Tin Roof, Kahului, Hawaii
Chef Sheldon Simeon quickly became the fan favorite of Top Chef season 10. He always felt at home in Hawaii and ended up setting down there and opening Tin Roof in Kahului. The casual dining spot often has a line around the corner full of patrons waiting to try Simeon’s take on Hawaiian fare.
3. 1 Kitchen in Los Angeles, California
Chris Crary, fan-favorite of season nine, carefully planned the no-waste menu at 1 Kitchen to focus on farm-to-table practices and sustainability. The restaurant sources a majority of its ingredients from an onsite organic garden located within the 1 Hotel West Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. At the attached bar, cocktails are created from freshly pressed juices and the wine list is full of biodynamic and organic options to match the food menu.
4. Taku in Seattle, Washington
Season 18 fan-favorite chef Shota opened Taku last March and had to close its doors rather quickly due to the pandemic. As of May, it was reimagined as a karaage spot featuring five-flavor combinations, bowls, sandwiches, and sides for fast-casual dining in Seattle.