Alinea underwent a complete overhaul in 2016. The Publican spawned two spinoffs in 2016. Parachute showed its staying power in 2016. And all three are again among America’s best restaurants for 2016, according to Eater National’s restaurant critic Bill Addison.
Eater released its third annual National 38 this morning, curated by Addison, and those three restaurants again represent Chicago — a major honor for them all. Alinea reached "hall of fame" status, as it’s been an essential all three years of the list’s history, while The Publican and Parachute are nearly on that level as well after being honored for the second year in a row.
For Addison, a renowned eater at restaurants large and small in nearly every corner of the United States, the inclusion of the same local restaurants as 2015 — the only major city that has the same restaurants on this year’s list — was warranted despite the booming Chicago restaurant scene and a bevy of acclaimed newcomers in 2016. "I did plenty of eating and thinking to shake things up, but these three seemed exactly right again this year to represent the city," Addison says. "It was a memorable year for openings in Chicago this year, so there’s no question the mix for the city will look different on next year’s list."
The inclusion of Alinea and its ascent to "hall of fame" status was not a foregone conclusion after its top-to-bottom overhaul, but Addison visited Grant Achatz’s world-renowned fine-dining legend after its re-opening and was just as impressed with version 2.0 as he was with the original. "Alinea won me over once more with its recent physical and conceptual overhaul," he says. "I loved the blatant luxury of the opening course — an ice sculpture presentation of goodies like king crab and caviar, consumed while you sip Champagne — and the migration into the kitchen for a course. The food keeps moving evermore toward a sweet spot between theatrical and plainly delicious."
As far as The Publican goes, Addison believes the Fulton Market superstar that spawned the spinoffs Publican Tavern and Publican Anker is still "the best of Paul Kahan’s restaurant brand" that "so thoroughly exemplifies Chicago’s incredible beer scene." He had perhaps his most effusive praise for Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark’s Korean-American restaurant Parachute, which he termed "one of the most relentlessly creative neighborhood restaurants in the country," and that he "feels like it gets better and better."
Asked which local restaurant he would include if he could add one more from Chicago, Addison named Boeufhaus, the new-breed steak-driven restaurant on the Humboldt Park/Ukrainian Village border. He gave the restaurant praise in his June story titled "The Future of the Steakhouse Has Arrived, and It's in Chicago."
If you’re wondering about the protocol Addison uses to compile such an exhaustive and weighty list, he says that "I’m thinking about restaurants that are essential to their communities and that also, when considered together, define dining in America right now. And like the local lists, the national counterpart is meant to evolve slowly; it wouldn’t hold water as a list of essentials if I chose an entire new roll call of restaurants every year." Restaurants need to be open for at least 18 months to be eligible for the National 38. Check out the full list from around the country right here.