Friday, November 19, 2010

Michelin Stars Revealed!

(Warning: this is a long one. It is geared towards people who live or eat in Chicago. If that's not you, you may not be
interested. However, if you are a Chicagoan looking for a special occasion eatery, read on.)

The results are in. Earlier last week, Michelin revealed the 23 Chicago restaurants they feel deserve the highest international culinary honor: Michelin stars:

One star "A ve
ry good restaurant in its category" restaurants are:

Crofton on Wells
graham elliot
Longhorn & Eagle


Two stars "Excellent cooking and worth a detour" restaurants:

Charlie T

Three stars "Exceptional cuisine and worth the journey" restaurants:


See the list w/ links to the reservations pages on opentable here.

I noted in my Bib Gourmand post that I had been to 9 out of 46 (20%) of those places. Well, I'm happy to report that I have been to 5 out of 23 (22%) of the 'starred' restaurants. I owe this to wonderful, "sugar daddy" husband who not only has excellent taste but is generous enough to take me to these places for birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions. Believe me, he's paying- my salary as a resident is teeny-tiny!

So here are my thoughts on the places I've been:


For our 5th wedding anniversary in 2008, my husband planned not just 1 dinner, but a 3 dinner extravaganza. The first night we went to Pops for Champagne. Then we went to Blackbird. Blackbird is one of Paul Kahan's restaurants (The Publican, Avec), and certainly the best. The ambiance is very modern but still comfortable, which is a perfect combination. The wait staff was absolutely excellent, even providing me with a scarf/shawl that matched my outfit to ensure I wouldn't get cold in the a/c. Love it! Our dinner there was a few years ago, so I honestly can't remember the specifics, but I do remember getting multiple free dishes (because of Adam's job at Goose- I love it when chefs acknowledge their colleagues!) and EVERYTHING was prepared and presented tastily and artfully. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

For our 4th wedding anniversary (2007) we went to NoMI at the Park Hyatt on Michigan Ave. We were lucky enough to get one of the 5 coveted window seats that overlook the water tower, Michigan Ave, and the lake. I love when restaurants take extra special care to celebrate your special occasion and NoMI definitely did that. From the hostess to every single member of the wait staff (some weren't even our servers!), they all said 'Happy Anniversary'. I'm also a sucker for personalized menus so was super excited when one page of my menu said "Happy 4th Anniversary":

And I found it hilarious that the other page said:

We looked around for Katrina, but couldn't find her:) Again, this was a while back, so I don't remember the food, but I remember it was tasty, I enjoyed the experience and I would recommend it to others. To the right, you can see me with my post-dinner glow, holding up the menu:) (Side note: I just realized- I wonder if NoMI stands for "North Michigan"?)

Sepia was the last stop on our 3 dinner 5th wedding anniversary extravaganza. I've actually been here twice- once for brunch and once for dinner. Sepia has a particularly cool ambiance. The space is an old 1890's print shop and contains a lot of old-time Chicago memorabilia. To me, it feels like the 1920s- "Al Capony" if you will. At that same time, however, it doesn't feel old. It's actually really stylish and modern at the same time. The best way for you to experience this interesting combo is to go to visit there yourself, but you can also get a feel on the website, particularly the music. It starts with "God Bless the Child" but then moves into a more modern groove, them combines the two. Very well done website. The food was great too. An overall fun dining experience. I'd recommend dinner over brunch. Oh yeah- and Sepia was named one of the US's best new restaurants in 2008.


I had the chance to go to Charlie Trotter's under unique circumstances. At the time I was working at a youth/young adult homeless shelter called Teen Living Programs. Charlie Trotter donated a full 7 course meal for 10 of the shelter residents. These kids had NEVER been to a place like that. Most of them told me they had never sat down to a meal with more than 2 different utensils. (Honestly, at that point in my life, I had never had a 7 course meal either!) We spent some time teaching them basic etiquette leading up to the dinner. I remember very little about that night (this was back in 2003), but I remember feeling very proud of the kids I worked with. They ate every bite even when they were nervous, or dubious, about the exotic things on their plates. And I remember that Mr. Trotter focuses on not using butter, simple sugars or fatty foods, so I was even more impressed when every course was delicious. Tasty food that is also healthy. Good stuff.


There are only 93 restaurants in the world that have 3 Michelin stars. Many consider this the highest restaurant honor in the world.

I am very happy to report that I have been to 1 of the Chicago places Michelin gave 3 stars: L20. Adam and I went there for our 7th wedding anniversary this past August. It was an absolutely incredible dining experience. Pricey, though. Plan to drop at least $400 for 2 people (I think our bill w/ tax and tip was $700 for the luxury tasting menu plus drinks), but if you have that kind of money to spend, IT IS WORTH EVERY DOLLAR. Skip Christmas gifts, anniversary gifts, birthday gifts, or all of the above and spend it on this once in a lifetime experience. I wrote a post about our multi-hour dining extravaganza, so I'll refer you there to read the details. (I should say, there is some controversy, because the head chef, Laurent Gras, suddenly left the restaurant just weeks before the stars announcement citing "disagreements with the owners". It remains to be seen if he will return.)

I haven't been to Alinea, the other 3 star place, but you better believe I will be going soon! It's been on my short list for a while. Now, need to drum up a special occasion......

Finally, my critique of the list: I agree that all of the restaurants that got stars that I've been to, deserve them. But there are 2 very notable restaurants that did not get either Bib Gourmand status or stars that really should have. One is Piccolo Sogno, a wonderful Italian place near Grand and Milwaukee. The food, service and ambiance are all great and the owners are so, so nice. And it is consistently voted the best outdoor patio in the city.

Even more surprising, my very favorite restaurant of all time was not included on either list. I think it should have gotten stars- 2 stars to be precise. The restaurant I'm referring to is Moto. Adam and I went here for my birthday a few years back. Rather than discussing it here, I believe this place deserves it's own post, which I'm working on and will post shortly.

Happy eating, ya'll!

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