Fine dining lovers know that food isn’t just about sustenance for your body, it’s about sustenance for your soul. Food can be a medium by which to enhance your senses and explore arts and culture by way of your palate.

Every major city in the USA is home to incredibly talented chefs who can create a sense of amazement while tantalizing your taste buds. Here are five must-have fine dining experiences during 2019.

Sel et Terre with Chef Terry John Zila

Chef Terry John Zila is an acclaimed Minneapolis chef who comes from humble beginnings. With 20 years experience in the restaurant industry, Chef Zila has left the traditional kitchen life to teach classes and hold pop-up fine dining events through partnerships with various restaurants.

During a recent interview with Artful Living, Chef Zila referred to his cooking style as “comfort food with a twist.” His recent holiday menu included delectable morsels such as lamb-stuffed calamari with pho broth and ginger, as well as an apple pear almond tartlet with brown sugar rosemary creme anglaise. The rarity of his public appearances is a part of what makes Chef Zila’s offering so special and exclusive.

Alinea with Chef Grant Achatz

“Willy Wonka meets fine dining” is the best way to describe the whimsical, mesmerizing approach to food at Alinea. Since 2005, Chef Grant Achatz has been pushing the boundaries of what we can imagine as food, creating a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. Unless, of course, you go back for more.

One of the most notable of Chef Achatz’s creations is a fully functional and fully edible helium balloon crafted from sugar. Everything on Achatz’s plates looks like a work of art, including crystals, smoke, and paint-like plating arrangements that leave patrons both unwilling to destroy the masterpiece in front of them yet unable to resist.

Cafe Monarch with Chef Gustavo Lewkowicz

Cafe Monarch was voted third in the US in TripAdvisor’s 2018 Traveler’s Choice Awards. Located in Scottsdale Arizona, Cafe Monarch is family owned and operated. This is a contrast to many of the fine dining experiences included on the list, which are often run by the head chef. At Cafe Monarch, Chef Gustavo Lewkowicz – the patriarch of the family – runs the kitchen, while his wife and sons manage the restaurant itself.

Cafe Monarch offers the intimacy and simplicity of a family-owned restaurant, balanced with the finery and quality one would expect in one of America’s favored high-end establishments. Notable dishes include their exquisite beef wellington, complete with Wagyu beef, oyster mushroom cream, cremini provencal, and foie gras mousse.

Per Se with Chef Thomas Keller

Per Se is located in the heart of New York City and boasts an impressive three Michelin star rating. This restaurant boasts the epitome of classic French cooking and has an impressive wine collection to match. This is Chef Keller’s second restaurant to achieve the status of holding three Michelin stars, The French Laundry, a world-renowned restaurant.

The restaurant offers two set nine-course menus per day, the Chef’s tasting menu and a vegetable tasting menu. Chef Keller brags that throughout the tasting, no single ingredient is ever repeated. Everything at Per Se is plated with care and precision, offering an experience that ignites all the senses.

Otium with Chef Tim Hollingsworth

Otium is the brainchild of self-trained Chef Tim Hollingsworth, who circumvented culinary school and went on to train under Chef Keller at the previously listed Per Se and The French Laundry. He opened Otium in Los Angeles in 2012, applying his traditional French training to American favorites to celebrate his Southern upbringing.

While the dinner menu is diverse and filled with incredible culinary offerings, Otium offers an exceptional brunch menu. Classic comfort food meets elegance with the truffle grilled cheese. Otium also offers a delightful take on fried chicken, served with a hoecake and maple butter. What better way to start your lazy Sunday?

Each of the fine dining experiences listed here offers something a little different, whether you prefer the spontaneity of a pop-up, a whimsical journey or something more traditional. Add these fine dining experiences to your 2019 bucket list for an unforgettable year of culinary delight.