A List That Will Blow Your Mind: R&I's Top 100 Independent Restaurants of 2010"/>
In the world of serious, high-power restaurateurs, there is only one list every year that really matters. They don't care about local favorites, don't pay much attention to run-downs of best burgers or waffles or fish fries. And while the big fish might get a giggle out of things like the James Beard Awards, Playboy's picks for best pizza and the Esquire top restaurants issue, the only list they truly want to be on is the one that was released on April 1: the Restaurants & Institutions magazine Top 100 Independent Restaurants.
In its simplest form, this list ranks, from 1 to 100, the top-earning independent restaurants in the United States--the addresses that make more money for their owners than any others. There is no judgment on cuisine, no discussion of chefs or talent or cuisine. The only things that matter here are sales, check average, meals served, seats/square footage and the pesos. And at the top of the list (hell, even at the bottom of the list), we're talking some serious green.
And while most normal people couldn't care less about R&I's annual top 100 roundup, here's why you should: This year, Seattle has not one, but two restaurants on the big list. Can you guess which two made the cut?
This year's top earner was Tao Las Vegas Restaurant and Nightclub, which clocked in at over 59 million in '09 sales (yeah, that was 59 million), with almost 600,000 meals served to roughly 500 seats with a check average of $70.
I'm going to say that again. Tao took in 59 million. In one of the shittiest years the restaurant industry has seen in forever (it was actually down 13% from last year, when it also led the list). And its reported sales more than doubled those of the #2 position holder: New York City's Tavern on the Green (27 million on 425,000 meals served).
The rest of the list falls from there, with Joe's Stone Crab (Miami), Smith & Wollensky (NYC) and the Old Ebbitt Grill (Washington D.C.) rounding out the top five. Unsurprisingly, New York City and Las Vegas eat up the bulk of the top 100, but Seattle cracks the list first at #33 with SkyCity at the Space Needle (bringing home just over 14 million with 257,000 meals served).
And okay, so maybe the single most visible, most touristy restaurant in the entire city isn't a shocker to be the one that makes the list, but to have SkyCity beating out places like the Four Seasons, Blue Fin, Spice Market and Daniel (all landmark NYC establishments)? That is a bit flabbergasting. The fact that Seattle comes in ahead of anything in Los Angeles, anything in Dallas, and only one slot behind Atlanta's first entry? Equally so.
Daniel actually hits the list at #68. At #69? Portland City Grill in Portland (that city's only entrance into the top 100). And then there's a whole lot of big names before position #94 which is taken up by Salty's on Alki, which checks in with just over 10 million in sales and just under 200,000 meals served--a spot that puts our own Salty's six slots above Manhattan's Morimoto (9.6 million in sales), capping this year's list at #100.