Three of the country’s best restaurants reside in Chicago, as Eater National roving critic Bill Addison today released his yearly list of America’s 38 Essential Restaurants. Addison’s third-annual list once again recognized chef Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas’s avant-garde fixture Alinea as it paved the way for newer restaurants such as headline-grabbing Vespertine in LA. Unlike Michelin inspectors, who failed to award Sarah Grueneberg’s restaurant a star, Addison lauded Monteverde and wrote that the “pastas itself are impeccable in taste and texture, and the sauces balance tradition and imagination seamlessly.” Finally, in a country devoid of great beer halls, The Publican proudly pours great beer and serves creative dishes including tender beef tongue off Fulton Market.
Alinea and The Publican are among a select group of 11 restaurants who have made Addison’s list all three years. Chicago also has three restaurants on last year’s list, which also included Parachute, the Avondale Korean-American restaurant. The trio of restaurants ties San Francisco. New York City also scored three restaurants, with an additional spot about an hour north from the city. LA restaurants appeared the most with four making the list.
When asked about his Chicago selections, Addison described Alinea’s Achatz and Kokonas as “the main forces that keep modernist cuisine germane in America.” Besides the aforementioned LA example, Addison mentioned two local restaurants with tasting menus that Alinea inspired — Smyth and Oriole. The latter two could be candidates for future versions of the list.
Italian restaurants rarely grab the attentions of Michelin inspectors. But they carry more significance for Addison who described noodles as “our nation’s emotional support food.” That’s why Monteverde matters.
“The snacks and small plates are fun, and not at all heavy-handed,” Addison writes. “It’s busy as hell, but when you’re dining here, it doesn’t feel frenetic or rushed. Everyone I take here, whether they’re food obsessives or not, leave happy. It’s the Italian-American dining experience we all want.”
For more of Addison’s thoughts on Chicago and the rest of the Midwest, take a look at his list of Best Midwest Restaurants.