With all the hype this week surrounding 2015’s shiny new Michelin star recipients in Chicago, it’ll be nearly impossible to get a reservation at the hot shots at the top of the list for the next month or so. While you’re waiting on the phone listening to the hold music, you’ll need to bone up on what to expect–just in case you’ve never been. Peruse this quick primer and you’ll be an expert before you walk in the door.
Grace is on Fire
With a documentary set to be released based on his tumultulous childhood and the building of Grace–plus two James Beard nominations and matinee idol looks–Curtis Duffy is destined for greatness. And because the menu reflects his skills, Grace was awarded three stars (upgraded from two in the 2014 Michelin guide). Guests choose from two prix-fixe, nine-course, seasonal menus: flora (vegetarian) and fauna (meat and seafood). Arrive early to relax in the luxe, front-room lounge over cocktails and wine, and then get ready to settle into the deep, plush chairs in the dining room. Almost every table in the room is strategically placed so you can watch the action in the kitchen. 652 W. Randolph St., (312) 234-9494
Hottest Ticket in Town
Grant Achatz’s Alinea is the only Chicago restaurant to score three stars every year since Michelin came to Chicago in 2010. You’ll have to book tickets–yes, it operates on a ticket system–at least three to six months in advance, so this could be a great gift for that special person who loves food–and has a lot of patience. The seasonal tasting menus range between 18 and 22 courses, so prepare to stick around longer than the average opera. Just remember that you must book tickets online, not by phone. 1723 N. Halsted St., 312-867-0110
Uptown Saturday Night
Also using the ticket booking system is the newly minted two-star 42 Grams, the sensational Uptown eatery boasting a private dinner party atmosphere. It’s BYO, so this is the perfect opportunity to break out the good wine and whisky to pair with what’s certain to be a memorable multi-course tasting menu. Guests are encouraged to interact with executive chef Jake Bickelhaupt and his staff in the kitchen, which is every food-obsessed person’s fantasy. You’ll get a choice of two seatings: The chef counter seats eight, and there is also a 10-seat communal table. Get ready to make new friends. 4662 N. Broadway
A Final Toast To L2o
It’s the last hurrah for the two star L2o, so we should send it out with a bang as its final night is New Year’s Eve. The seafood-focused destination is set to reconcept (yes that’s a word) for an entirely new restaurant, so those who dine here during the next several weeks should expect the staff to go all out. Yet another great, multi-course tasting menu is offered as Executive Chef Matthew Kirkley pairs fish and shellfish with unconventional ingredients. L2o’s front-room cocktail lounge serves as a great beginning, with the bar featuring champagne cocktails and premium wine. 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, (773) 868-0002
Out of all the two- and three-starred restos, Sixteen has the most incredible view. The two-starred treat is helmed by Thomas Lents, and is located on the 16th floor of the Trump Hotel with views of the Chicago River and downtown. Lents’ tasting menu is a bit more flexible as guests get to choose between two options for each course. And there’s always a theme, such as his fall menu paying tribute to his staff’s mentors and colleagues with a collection of beautifully plated dishes. 401 N. Wabash Ave., (312) 588-8030
We’ll leave you with a list of one-star restaurants, since you’ll have a better chance getting a table on weekend nights there–and the experience will still be sublime.
EL Ideas (BYO)