Finding Michelin Stars In Unexpected Places

Stray off the beaten path and try out some of these unique dining experiences.

Fine dining is often associated with a Michelin-starred restaurant but it is not a pre-requisite to earn a Michelin star. These are some unexpected restaurants who have deservedly earned their Michelin star.

READ ALSO: Taste Sensations: New Star Restaurants In The Michelin Guide For Great Britain And Ireland

Taquería El Califa de León

Just a few days ago, Taquería El Califa de León became the first Mexican taco stand to receive a Michelin star. With queues snaking around the block, customers are hungry for the thinly sliced steak wrapped in corn tortillas.

Gaoneras (steak taco)
Gaoneras (steak taco) | Image via Instagram @califadeleon

According to the manager José Luis Rodríguez Ávila, this honor proves that good food doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be the simplest dish made extraordinary, from quality ingredients cooked with love. 

El Califa has been serving tacos from the same stand since 1968. Though there’s only enough space for diners to eat at the counter elbow-to-elbow, it hasn’t stopped them from coming back for more.

Jeju Noodle Bar

Jeju Noodle Bar in New York City is one of the few Michelin-starred Korean restaurants. It’s also the first and only noodle restaurant in the US to have a coveted star. Opened in 2017, the restaurant aims to introduce Korean flavors and culture through its dishes.

Amidst the Big Apple’s hustle and bustle, the noodle bar is a simple but stylish retreat. They offer a five-dish, family style culinary tour for $45. With fresh noodles, quality meat, and flavorful ingredients, you can’t go wrong with their Korean comfort food.

Hawker Chan

First known as Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, located in Outram, Singapore, this stall is owned and run by Chan Hon Meng (also known as Hawker Chan). In 2016, it became the first street food stall to receive a Michelin star.

Hawker Chan
Hawker Chan’s famous soy sauce chicken | Image via Wikimedia Commons

From rural Malaysia, the chef commits to cooking everything fresh and to perfection. Famous for its $2 soy sauce chicken and rice dish, customers sometimes have to wait in line for three hours during the stall’s busiest times. Though the stall lost its star in 2021, it has also become an international franchise under the name Hawker Chan.

Jay Fai

Located in Bangkok, Thailand, Jay Fai has become a street food icon. Jay Fai is also the name of the street restaurant’s chef and owner. She was born into a family of cooks but did not immediately join the business. After working as a seamstress, she returned to cooking when she was in her thirties.

Jay Fai is known for wok-fired dishes such as their crispy, golden-brown crab omelets and seafood stir-fried noodles. The restaurant earned its Michelin star in December 2017, as the only street food vendor in Bangkok with a star. Celebrities such as Ed Sheeran, Russell Crowe, and Lisa of Blackpink have also stopped by to enjoy the food.

Banner images via Instagram @califadeleon and @jejunoodlebar.

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