Welcome to Architectural Digesting, Our 2008 Dining Guide

The word restaurant comes from the French verb restaurer, "to refresh or restore," but restoring the body is hardly the primary mission of restaurants these days. They're full-on entertainment venues, or rather sets for us to play out some new scene in our personal dramas. Sure, we often choose to go to a particular restaurant because we love its food, but we're also hoping to feed off—and become part of—the ambience it creates: boisterous and scenester-y. Restrained and reverent. As familiar as Grandma's den.Dining in the wrong atmosphere will sour any occasion, whether it's Thursday lunch with a co-worker or your 10th-anniversary blowout. By the same token, when your vision of the evening lines up with the mood of the place you're eating at, you'll be talking about your meal for months to come.So that's the organizing principle for this year's Favorite Restaurants issue: an even 100 of our writers' best-loved places divvied up by atmosphere, from "laboratory" to "living room." Pick a setting and make the scene. JONATHAN KAUFFMAN

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