Switzerland’s restaurants range from white-tablecloth Michelin-starred establishments in Geneva to Alpine huts atop soaring peaks serving raclette and other traditional dishes that are even tastier when paired with mountain air. In every part of the country, you’ll find local products—cheeses, cured meats, and wine among them—highlighted by chefs. It’s a dining scene that is as varied as the cultures in this nation at the heart of Europe.
Hopfenstrasse 2, 8045 Zürich, Switzerland
As with many things in Zurich, it took an Auslander (foreigner) to raise the bar on local gastro cuisine. Run by Australian chef Fabian Spiquel, arguably the city’s most creative, this splurgeworthy eatery is located in the Hasidic Jewish neighborhood of Manesseplatz. It was awarded its first Michelin star in 2014 and a second in 2016. Inside, whitewashed brick walls and hanging lighthouse lanterns lend the space a contemporary urban feel and offer a refreshing change of pace—many Swiss restaurants are overly refurbished or fastidiously “cozy” with weathered wood and stained glass. Typical dishes on the gastro menu include sliced duck with pumpkin, beef tartare with jalapeño oil, and morels with wildflowers. Given the restaurant’s emphasis on fresh produce, the seasonal vegetarian tasting menu is always a standout.
Rue du Bourg 53, 1663 Gruyères, Switzerland
If you visit in the autumn, watch out for the falling apples on the outdoor terrace of this old fondue chalet in the center of the medieval village of Gruyères. Salads are fresh heaps of greens, bouillon is served with or without egg, and platters of AOP-protected (Appellation d’Origine Protégée, or Protected Designation of Origin) dried meats arrive on cutting boards. But since Gruyères is home to Switzerland’s first luxury product, Gruyère cheese, opt for heavy stuff like croûte au fromage (an open-faced grilled-cheese sandwich), gooey raclette served with boiled potatoes, Alpine macaroni and cheese, quiche gruyèrien, and moitié-moitié fondue, made with pungent vacherin and Gruyère cheeses and best washed down with Swiss wines like chasselas. In the winter, don’t miss the fondue vacherin, served melted in its original tree-bark packaging, or the chestnut vermicelles atop a bed of meringue and Gruyère double crème.
Dorf 711, 9063 Stein, Switzerland
Ninety minutes northeast of Zurich are the dueling cantons of Appenzell—one predominantly Protestant and the other mostly Catholic. Both are known for their melancholy yodeling, beer, and creamy Appenzeller cheese. In the village of Stein, make a beeline to the working Schaukäserei (which means “show-dairy”) cooperative, cheese museum, and restaurant that plates up some of the region’s tastiest cheese dishes. Highlights include a crispy cordon bleu stuffed with ham and gooey Appenzeller Surchoix cheese, a silky Käserahmsuppe (a creamy cheese soup lighter than fondue), fork-tender Käsekuchen (cheese pie), and Chäshörnli, Alpine macaroni and cheese, which comes topped with crunchy fried onions and paired with a cool puddle of applesauce. There’s also a shop stocked with local butter, milk, shrink-wrapped meats, and cheeses.
Schlossgass 77, 7414 Fürstenau, Switzerland
There’s no shortage of world-class restaurants in Switzerland but a few stand out for their exquisite culinary experience. With three Michelin stars to its name, Schauenstein Schloss is such a place. Housed in a tiny, renovated castle in Fürstenau, the restaurant serves beautifully crafted dishes, dreamed up by award-winning chef Andreas Caminada. Look forward to a vast wine selection, impeccable service, and signature courses like succulent Graubünden lamb and ravioli with lemon peel.
Tortin, 1936 Bagnes, Switzerland
Skiers and visitors who think fondue and raclette are the best expressions of Switzerland’s melted-cheese cuisine will be surprised when they taste their first Käseschnitte (called croûte au fromage in French-speaking Switzerland). This soul-satisfying, open-faced, broiled-cheese sandwich is usually laden with bacon or ham and topped with perfectly bronzed cheese or a cheesy cream sauce before being garnished with cool pickled cukes and cocktail onions. Cabane du Mont-Fort, a self-serve kiosk located in a 1920s stone Alpine hut on the slopes of Verbier at Les 4 Vallées (Switzerland’s largest ski resort), has the best in the country, not to mention stunning views of Mont Blanc from its outdoor picnic tables. Don’t expect fawning or fast service, but you can count on a thick slice of bread anchored by a slab of melted cheese, marbled sweet and smoky bacon, and a few tomato wedges to offset the fatty richness.