The Michelin Guide released its prestigious list of starred restaurants Tuesday afternoon, which included four newcomers from Chicago, awarded one star each: Kasama in West Town, Claudia in Bucktown, and Esme and Galit, both in Lincoln Park. A grand total of 23 Chicago restaurants earned stars — one fewer than last year.
The tire company usually bestows its coveted stars on fine dining spots and upscale restaurants with expansive (and often expensive) tasting menus. In late March, Michelin announced seven new local additions to its Bib Gourmand list, which emphasizes casual venues with “good value.” The full list of Chicago Bib Gourmands, which contains 55 restaurants, has yet to be revealed.
The list also doubled as a weighing in on the state of American restaurants as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third year. Michelin, which has assigned star rankings to Chicago restaurants for 11 years, did not release a list in 2020 as a consequence of the pandemic and its outsized impact on the hospitality industry. In the meantime, four of 2021’s chosen restaurants have permanently closed and thus dropped off the list: Yugen (one star), Entente (one star), Spiaggia (one star), and Acadia (two stars).
Parachute, the elegant Korean-American restaurant that is closed for remodeling in Avondale, remains among the company’s picks but goes without a star due to the temporary shutdown. It’s expected to reopen this year, giving Michelin inspectors — anonymous agents who visit and rank restaurants — a chance to return and reevaluate.
This year’s first-time winners are also some of Chicago’s most buzzed-about and critically adored establishments. Kasama, the bakery and Filipino fine dining juggernaut from chefs and spouses Genie Kwon and Tim Flores, has rocketed to national restaurant stardom (including a spot among Eater’s best new restaurants of 2021) since its early pandemic debut. Esme, the luxurious tasting menu restaurant predicated on collaborations with visual artists from ex-Next chef Jenner Tomaska and wife Katrina Bravo, has also enjoyed rave reviews in the nine months since it opened. For chef Trevor Teich of Claudia, the whimsy-laden tasting menu restaurant’s first star could be an especially sweet reward: he’s spent nearly a decade cultivating the project, which began as a pop-up in 2013.
Chef Zach Engel of three-year-old modern Middle Eastern hotspot Galit was caught off-guard when on Tuesday he learned of the restaurant’s first star. In his view, the forced changes of the pandemic may have done Galit a favor, as his team introduced a tasting menu and integrated unusual ingredients.
Fine-dining staple Alinea remains Chicago’s only three-starred restaurant, which Michelin defines as “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” The world famous destination has held onto its trio of stars since the first edition of Michelin’s Chicago guide in 2011.
In a departure from stars and Bib Gourmands, which are awarded to restaurants, Michelin has also selected individuals for beverage-related recognition. Colin Hofer, wine director of Bonhomme Group (Beatnik, Porto, Goodfunk), was named Sommelier of the Year, and Julia Momose, creative director and bartender of Japanese dining bar Kumiko in the West Loop, won the Exceptional Cocktails Award. Momose’s inclusion could be seen as an attempt to split the difference after the guide in 2021 removed Kikko, the basement omakase counter beneath Kumiko, after the departure of chef Mariya Russell.
Check out this year’s full list of Chicago’s Michelin-starred restaurants below.
Chicago 2022 Michelin Stars
*Denotes new for 2022