The Michelin Guide Comes to Chicago

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I know the food is good here. You know the food is good here. Finally, the world knows. The Michelin Guide has come to Chicago. The prestigious guidebook showcasing the best dining locales in major cities released the first Chicago edition in mid-November of 2010. Of course, the announcement came to the delight of restaurant owners and Chicago residents tired of seeing New York and San Francisco hog the limelight. We demand some limelight too. I am happy to note that as Chicago has been picked up, Las Vegas and Los Angeles have been suspended. Now if we could only make the Lakers and that movie 21 with Kevin Spacey follow suit.

The Michelin Guide has been a database for top notch restaurants since 1900. The guide is made by the same people putting tires on cars, so it may seem like an odd side venture. The guide started as a car companion for travelers on their journeys through Europe. Since then the guide has grown to include Asia and North America. The guidebook uses a three star system, and there are currently only 81 restaurants worldwide who can claim the coveted three stars. Two of those are in our beloved Chicago, but we also fared well in the one and two star categories. All told, twenty-three restaurants were honored, earning a total of 30 stars for the city. That’s more than you can see in the Los Angeles sky on the clearest of nights!

The restaurants are concentrated in the Loop and its outlying areas, although several of the one-star restaurants are slightly further, in the Bucktown and Logan Squ-areas, and both three-star locations are Lincoln Park restaurants. It might sound bad to the unrefined ear to speak about one-star restaurants. Remember, however, only several hundred restaurants in the world get even a single star. These one-star restaurants wouldn’t let you garnish their plates for fear you would botch the whole dish. But many of them are accessible to the commoner. You can reserve a table and leave the fancy Rolls Royce at home. The two-star restaurants become slightly more intimidating. Avenue’s offers an eight-course dinner. No, there is no price listed on the website. I assume you need heavy botox injections just to keep a straight face when the bill arrives. But if they wanted stiff, lifeless expressions they would have set up shop in Los Angeles.

Then… there are the three-star restaurants. Alinea is the public favorite, but L2O showed impressively and added a second feather to Chicago’s very first cap. A meal at Alinea will cost you, both time and money. The reservation wait is months long, and the online menu is gentle enough to give you the damage that your night will do. For $195 you can get a meal with so many courses that more than one of them are called Apple. I sometimes go a week without having an apple course, but at Alinea you get two. Go figure. L2O reservations can be made on OpenTable and seem slightly more attainable. Their four-course prix-fixe runs a scant $110. Next to Alinea, that feels like mugging a yuppie in the dark. Yes, like I would in Los Angeles.

I knew I moved here for a reason. That reason keeps smacking me right in the gob, and it has happened again with the beginning of Chicago’s run with Michelin. The suburbs are great for many things, but variety and culture are not on that list. I revel in making use of the opportunities provided to me by living in the city. Sure, the cost of living might be higher, but I view it as a quality of life tax. I will gladly pay more for rent and utilities if I get to keep living around the best restaurants in the world. I hate Los Angeles.

Check out Michelin’s full list of Chicago star-worthy restaurants.

Phil Kranyak

About Phil Kranyak

Phil grew up in small town in southeastern Pennsylvania. His family still lives across the street from a cornfield. Phil tried working at the farm when he was too young to get a real job and he left after one day because the farmhand was total creep city. He showed up to Phil's front door the next day wondering why he wasn't at work. Now Phil lives in Chicago and he thinks it was a pretty good choice.

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