After being named “Restaurant City of the Year” this summer by Bon Appetit, Chicago’s culinary scene continues to dazzle on the world stage.
Further proof of our city’s culinary excellence arrived today via the announcement of the 25 restaurants earning and/or retaining coveted stars in the 2018 Michelin Guide Chicago.
Retaining three-star honors (the highest awarded by Michelin standards) this year are Grant Achatz’s Alinea on North Halsted and Curtis Duffy’s Grace on West Randolph. The highly elusive triple stars denote “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey,” according to Michelin guidelines. (Only 116 restaurants in the world currently hold three Michelin stars).
“Grace is in its fourth year now [of retaining its three stars] and Alinea has had it since it opened some 12 years ago,” said Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guide. “Grace is fantastic and beautifully conceived and it’s as close to perfection as you can get. But [the menu] doesn’t tell a story. It’s gustatory theater at Alinea. You go in and you have to put your seat belt on because they are going to take you on a journey. This is certainly not something you want to do every day. But I still distinctly remember my first meal at Grace and my first meal at Alinea. That’s what three-star restaurants should be — something you remember the rest of your life.”
Under the new leadership of executive chef Nick Dostal, his reconceived Sixteen (named for its riverfront floor location in the Trump International Hotel & Tower on North Wabash Avenue) retained its two-star rating for 2018, adding its name to the list of four Chicago restaurants, along with Acadia and Oriole, to earn dual stars. Added this year to the two-star roster is one newcomer: John Shields’ and Karen Urie Shields’ trendy West Loop eatery Smyth. The husband-and-wife team opened the restaurant, part of the Smyth/Loyalist tour-de-force on North Ada Street, in 2016. Two stars denote “excellent cuisine; worth a detour.” Only 25 restaurants in the country have been awarded two Michelin stars.
Seventeen restaurants retain their one star ratings, joined by two newcomers: Elske, helmed by the husband-and-wife team of David and Anna Posey (the tony Scandinavian restaurant also made the No. 2 spot on Bon Appetit’s 2017 list of “America’s Best New Restaurants”); and Entente (on North Lincoln Avenue), helmed by chef Brian Fisher. One star denotes “high quality cooking; worth a stop.”
“What you have in Chicago’s dining scene is just very dynamic,” Ellis said. “It has a unique signature. If you look at Elske, for example, David and Anna Posey were locally trained chefs. He was at Blackbird, she at The Publican… To have a dynamic food scene you need that ecosystem where chefs can come through and learn different techniques and then incorporate that into their own vision and come up with their unique signature. Topolobampo has been there for some 30 years. Spiaggia has been there forever. These are great pillars of the cooking community. Many local chefs have come through those kitchens.”
Here is the complete list of Chicago’s 2018 Michelin-starred restaurants:
Each year the Michelin Guide issues star “ratings” to restaurants in 28 countries around the world. This year’s Chicago guide will be available for purchase beginning Oct. 26 at guide.michelin.com and Amazon and Barnes & Noble.