2 Local Restaurants Named Among Top 100 in the US by OpenTable

OpenTable has released its 2023 Top 100 Restaurants in America list. See which local restaurants made the cut.

Sonoma’s Animo restaurant and Rutherford’s Auberge du Soleil are among the best in the country, according to OpenTable’s recently released “Top 100 restaurants in America for 2023” ranking. The online restaurant reservation and review site scoured more than 12 million reviews and ratings to make this year’s selection.

OpenTable described Animo as “American Korean cuisine with focus on open hearth cooking” in an “intimate and cozy setting in Sonoma.”

“The setting and first impression is modest, but Animo over-achieves big-time … Perfect execution; not one off note or misstep. Already looking forward to our next visit,” wrote Tim E. in an OpenTable review of the restaurant.

At Animo restaurant in Sonoma. (Kim Caroll/for Sonoma Magazine)
At Animo restaurant in Sonoma. (Kim Caroll/for Sonoma Magazine)

Animo will temporarily close in mid-December, as owners Josh Smookler and Heidy He turn their attention to the late-December opening of their new restaurant, Golden Bear Station, in Kenwood. The forthcoming restaurant will focus on Italian-American-style cuisine and is located in the former Tips Roadside. The menu will include pizza, pasta, burgers and steak.

The couple plans to reopen Animo next summer in a new Sonoma Valley location with a four-course tasting menu. Smookler described the new Animo concept as “fire omakase.”

Smookler and He opened Animo in 2022 after moving to Kenwood from New York City, where they operated Mu Ramen, named the best ramen shop in the city by The New York Times.

Leaving ramen behind, the couple opted for a more eclectic menu at their Sonoma restaurant, with dishes like lobster with XO sauce, lamb roasted over a live fire with shiso, nori and housemade ssamjang, and pastrami kimchi fried rice. Less than a year after opening, Animo was named one of the best new restaurants in America by Esquire magazine.

The Michelin-starred Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil was featured on the OpenTable list of top 100 restaurants in 2022, reprising the honor this year. The restaurant at the luxury hotel in Rutherford has been awarded a Michelin star for the last 16 years, a rare feat.

In San Francisco, The House of Prime Rib and Kokkari Estiatorio were included on the list. California topped the list with 14 restaurants.

The annual OpenTable list also includes a number of dining insights for the year, based on what diners mentioned in their reviews. For 2023, OpenTable found that:

— Dining out held steady, but going out on special occasions grew by 15% in 2023.

— Solo dining is on the rise, with Thursday and Friday being the most popular nights to eat out alone.

— Top-trending cuisines were West African, African and Lebanese cuisines.

— Dishes with East Asian ingredients were a hot topic. Mentions of crispy rice, omakase, yuzu, lychee, miso, ramen and kimchi were popular.

— Mentions of mocktails increased by a whopping 48%, while cocktails including espresso martini, Aperol spritz and negroni were highly popular.

— If you’re planning to go out with a group during the holidays, make a reservation early. The most popular dates for groups are Dec. 10, 16 and 17.