The Michelin Guide is back in California this year, and the stars are about to fall. After debuting statewide in 2019, the Big Red Book took a hiatus across the state in 2020, citing both the pandemic and wildfires (neither of which have gone away this year, sadly) as reasons for leaning into an un-starred ‘Discoveries’ acknowledgment for some restaurants instead. But now, Michelin season is upon Southern California once again, with today’s announcement of bib gourmand restaurants from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles to Orange County and beyond; the official Michelin stars announcement is still to come on September 28.
For those unfamiliar: Michelin (yes, the tire company) releases an annual list of restaurant awards across regions worldwide. Sometimes it’s just cities like New York or London; in California’s case, it’s statewide. The biggest awards fall on a three-starred scale, indicating exceptional levels of service and food (and, usually, price and whiteness), while other restaurants are acknowledged as slightly less worthy, and less expensive, dining options under the bib gourmand category. Per Michelin itself:
Bib Gourmand restaurants offer a full menu of a starter, main course and dessert, making it possible to order two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for around $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included).
While receiving a bib gourmand is considered to be an honor for many, it also means that these restaurants will not be earning a more highly coveted Michelin star for 2021. This year’s list of new bib gourmand awards for Eater LA’s coverage area (from the Central Coast south through Orange County, and out to Coachella Valley) spans 19 restaurants in total and is presented alphabetically below.
It’s also worth noting that, once again, the Michelin team has not acknowledged the vast, important, and historic street food scene in Southern California, thus leaving out a huge swath of worthy dining options that millions of people depend on. This year’s new bib gourmand list also does not have any Korean restaurants, Armenian restaurants, and few restaurants in South LA or the greater South Bay region.
Here’s who did make the cut for 2021 (the existing bib gourmands, dating back to 2019, can be found here):
Jiang Nan Spring
Orange County, Santa Barbara
Bettina (Santa Barbara)
CHAAK Kitchen (Orange County)
Corazon Cocina (Santa Barbara)
Fable & Spirit (Orange County)
Heritage Barbecue (Orange County)
Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen (Orange County)
Loquita (Santa Barbara)
Oliver’s Osteria Mare e Monti (Orange County)
Pho 79 (Orange County)