Curtis Duffy's elegant and uber-expensive Grace is one of the world's best places to eat. That's what the Michelin Guide declared today in its 2015 guide for Chicago, awarding the West Loop restaurant its highest honor of three stars, a club that only two other American restaurants -- San Francisco's Saison and Benu -- were elevated to this year.
Michelin's only other major move was awarding two stars to 42 grams, a BYO restaurant that opened in a former fried chicken joint in January, and where tickets for dinner, inclusive of service, run $204 per person. The impressive debut of that Uptown spot notwithstanding, no other new restaurants were awarded a star. So all in all, today was a good day for the patrons (and proprietors) of Chicago's priciest culinary establishments, less so for everyone else.
In the rarefied world of Michelin, estimable culinary establishments are awarded one star ("a very good restaurant in its category"), two stars ("excellent cuisine, worth a detour"), or in the case of just over hundred other restaurants around the world, three stars ("exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey"). Michelin, Europe's largest tiremaker, has been publishing its Chicago guide since 2010, half as long as the New York guide, which debuted in 2005.
Scroll down for the full list of starred venues. But first, here are 13 things you need to know about this year's Chicago Michelin guide.
1. Grace now joins Grant Achatz's avant-garde Alinea, where Curtis Duffy was once chef de cuisine, as Chicago's only other three-starred restaurant.
2. The prix fixe menus at Grace are $205 apiece. Add on wine pairings, tax and tip, and dinner for two can easily approach $900. That's a lot of money, but keep in mind that Grace is a posh outlier in today's stripped-down world of fine dining. The fancypants spot boasts more linens, plusher carpeting, comfier seating and more space between tables than other, admittedly spendier bastions of haute cuisine.
3. Next Restaurant by Dave Beran and Grant Achatz, one of Chicago's most popular and best-reviewed tasting menu venues, was denied a star for a fourth straight year. Next completely revamps its menu three times a year; in 2014 its offerings were Chicago Steak, Modern Chinese And Trio, an ode to Achatz's pre-Alinea days.
4. Chicago has the fewest top rated restaurants of the three U.S. metropolitan areas that Michelin inspects. New York has six venues at three stars (down from seven last year) while The San Francisco Bay Area and Wine Country has four restaurants holding the top honor (up from two in 2014). There were no new entrants to the three-star club in NYC this year, though Blanca and Atera stand as good candidates to do so in 2016.
5. Eater's Bill Addison had a very good meal at Grace earlier this year. "Along with Corey Lee at Benu and Joshua Skenes at Saison, Duffy is on the front lines, defining the country's next generation of high-ticket dining," Addison writes.
6. Not everyone was a big fan of Grace. Eater's Ryan Sutton (that's me) recounted a less than stellar experience as part of a Bloomberg News review in February, taking issue with the (relatively) short course count and the high proportion of desserts to savory dishes. But Sutton liked the $21 tea. Go figure.
7. 42 grams, a BYO restaurant that opened in January, has immediately jumped to two-star status, which is uncommon but not entirely rare for a debut restaurant. The venue serves a tasting menu at $204, a price that's reflective of tax and service. Diners pay for their meals in advance via an online ticketing system on the restaurant's website, though 42 grams does not employ the same in vogue system that Alinea uses.
8. Here are some other debut restaurants that, once upon a time, immediately jumped to two-star status: Corton. Atera. Benu. Grace. Gordon Ramsay at The London.
9. Chicago has just three restaurants with two Michelin stars: Sixteen, 42 grams and L2O, though the latter will close later this year. By comparison, New York has nine restaurants with two Michelin stars, while San Francisco has six.
10. Not a single new Chicago restaurant was admitted into the one star category this year, but Michelin Guide director Michael Ellis said he was hopeful about more single-starred spots in the coming years. "There were lots of restaurants below the water line," Ellis told Eater this morning. When asked about the critically-acclaimed Fat Rice in Logan Square, Ellis said that Asian fusion spot is "on the right track."
11. Mexique by Carlos Gayton has lost its star. "It was inconsistent. We went back a number of times," Ellis told Eater, while adding that "Mexique is still a good restaurant." It was one of America's three of Mexican restaurants to boast of that honor. Topolobampo by Rick Bayless also has a star, as does Casa Enrique in New York.
12. Tony Mantuano's 30-year-old Spiaggia has retained its star following a closure for renovations and the promotion of Chris Marchino to the position of executive chef. The Lobby retained its star as well under new chef Seth Moliterno, and that restaurant's departing chef, Lee Wolen, ensured that Boka, his new home, kept its star too.
13. For those who can't get enough of Curtis Duffy, Chicago Tribune writer Kevin Pang and filmmaker Mark Helenowski have put together a documentary on the now three-Michelin-starred restaurant and the chef's tumultuous childhood.
What follows is the Michelin Guide's full list of 2015 starred selections for Chicago. Agree or disagree with the selections? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
- Grace (upgraded)
- 42 grams (new)
- L2O (closing later in 2014)
- EL Ideas
- The Lobby
- Longman & Eagle
- North Pond