Everybody has one, but most aren't in writing. In no particular order and from all over the world, this list only requires that I've eaten there once.
Raku (Las Vegas)-- If this list were ranked, this restaurant just might hold the same position in the list. Japanese like no other I've seen. Adventurous menu well executed in a sedate space.
Settebello (Henderson)--Pizza at its best. Neapolitan style in nice surroundings. Nice beer selection too.
Hunan (Fresno)-- Chinese cuisine that is pitch perfect and unpretentious. World class chef in a small neighborhood restaurant, can't beat it.
Joel Robuchon at the Mansions (Las Vegas)-- Fine dining at its finest. There's a reason Chef Robuchon was proclaimed Chef of the Century.
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Las Vegas)-- An even cooler experience than the big restaurant next door if you sit at the bar. From there you can see your dishes meticulously plated.
Restaurant Charlie (Las Vegas)-- Fish, shellfish, and mollusks are all put to good use in this beautiful space.
Bradley Ogden (Las Vegas)-- Eclectic California cuisine on the floor of a Las Vegas casino that rivals anything in the Bay Area.
Gary Danko (San Francisco)-- One of the best dollar for dollar.
Coquinarius Enoteca (Florence)-- Any enoteca whose Latin name means "of the kitchen" is okay by me.
Parma (Fresno)-- Best Italian in Fresno. Would contend with the big boys in any other city too.
Valentino (Las Vegas)-- Best Italian in Las Vegas. Yummy doesn't get close to doing the job of describing the food here.
Alex (Las Vegas)-- Chef Stratta has a beautiful space in which to showcase his exquisite food.
Cracked Pepper (Fresno)-- Only been one time but I still can't get the Eggplant Napoleon out of my head.
Moto (Chicago)-- The Gran Tour Moto is a 3 hour, 20 course adventure through the senses. Molecular gastronomy on display in a hip little space.
Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare (Las Vegas)-- Chef Paul Bartolotta flies in his fish fresh daily. Not himself of course, but he is in the kitchen most nights (and afterward he can often be found at Raku).
Spice Market (New York)-- An Asian outpost by celebrated Jean-Georges Vongeritchen. Good food and cool surroundings.
Nobu (New York)-- The name really says it all. If you haven't heard of Nobu then you probably aren't reading my blog.
Del Posto (New York)-- Chef Mario Batali hits all the right notes in this massive restaurant.
B&B (Las Vegas)-- This place is apparently a duplicate of New York's Babo right down to the classic rock.
Enoteca San Marco (Las Vegas)-- My favorite lunch on the strip, cured meats and cheeses and a quartino of vino.
Crazy Pita (Henderson)-- Even if I didn't have the connection to it, this place would still be on the list.
Lotus of Siam (Las Vegas)-- Thai food in Thailand may or may not be as good as this place. Often regarded as the best Thai in this country, it is definitely the best I've had.
Shake Shack (New York)-- Yes, this is a little counter service burger joint. But, if you get the burger with the crazy stuffed, deep-fried mushroom in it, you won't argue with its inclusion here.
Bouchon (Las Vegas)-- This is the only Thomas Keller outpost on my list, not because the others don't belong here, just because I haven't been to any others.
Patina (Los Angeles)-- Yes, this is the only Southern California restaurant on the list. I just haven't been to that many there that fit despite copious time spent there. That just leaves a lot to eat in the future.
There ya go. And don't give me any "What about...?" or "But ... was so good." This is my list. You want your own, write your own.
Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.