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2. Next

 
Dave Beran at Next

Dave Beran at Next

2. Next

They pulled it off. Somehow, Next delivered on a lofty promise that at this time last year seemed pretty far-fetched: a time-traveling, shape-shifting menu that changes direction completely every few months. An homage to bygone Franco-decadence was followed by a raucous Thai-style street party that gave way to a wonder-filled re-creation of childhood (without the accompanying angst) and then to a crazy-ambitious reconstruction of the greatest restaurant of the past half century, El Bulli. Few restaurateurs could ace even one of the above; Grant Achatz, Nick Kokonas, and Dave Beran’s crew were supple enough to string all four together during Next’s unforgettable rookie year. And they did so while reestablishing the rules about how a restaurant’s tables get filled, devising a complicated online ticket system that infuriated some, delighted others, and became the year’s top Foodie Time Suck.

But the same thing that makes Next thrilling keeps it from our number one slot: Its constant flux produces a restaurant in perpetual transition–more exciting than satisfying–and the staff’s encyclopedic recitations of each concept and each course ultimately wear down diners over a long meal. If anything, we’re still struggling to make sense of the whole enterprise and what it means for the future of restaurants rather than simply enjoying it.

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Price symbols indicate the typical cost of a meal (without tax, tip, or alcohol) per person.
¢ … under $20 | $ … $20 to $29 | $$ … $30 to $39 | $$$ … $40 to $49 | $$$$ … $50-plus

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