For years, Michelin inspectors have made chefs John and Karen Urie Shields wait. Their daring tasting menu restaurant — Smyth — sat on the precipice of greatness with two Michelin Stars, one star short of perfection.
The Fulton Market tasting-menu restaurant is rich with unique produce grown by some of the best farms in the Midwest and it’s one of the toughest reservations — and most expensive — in the city. It opened in 2016 and quickly earned one star. The rating doubled to two in 2017 and that’s where it’s remained. Smyth enjoyed success, along with casual basement bar sibling, The Loyalist. In recent years, observers wondered if Smyth had what it takes to be elevated to a full three-star rating.
That all changed on Tuesday night as Michelin announced its latest ratings for restaurants in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. Smyth finally broke its two-star ceiling.
“It’s crazy, I have no words at all,” a stunned John Shields said while accepting the three-star accolade in New York. “I can’t even fucking believe this, I can’t. I’m humbled to even be here, standing here. I feel like I don’t deserve it. And now I’m going to spend the rest of my life making sure that you guys believe in what we’re doing, so thank you very much.”
Smyth’s win was the finale for Michelin’s experiment in flying in chefs from Chicago, New York, and D.C for an awards show. The hype included a time-elapsed video showing an artist finishing off a portrait of Smyth’s two chefs to tease the three-star announcement.
“Their cooking is bold and often pushes boundaries, all the while impressing,” Michelin inspectors wrote in a release. “Sheer creativity is applied to seasonal produce, some of which comes from their garden.”
Michelin awarded 21 Chicago restaurants with stars at a Tuesday night event in New York hosted by Adam Richman who immediately attempted a bad Chicago accent in his opening monologue. That includes two newcomers. Atelier, which opened in February in the Lincoln Square space where Iliana Regan’s Elizabeth stood, scored a one-star rating. Chef Christian Hunter and his team impressed inspectors by “working quietly and seamlessly, the kitchen delivers a carefully calibrated tasting menu supported by nearby farms and packed with flavor and originality.”
Hunter, who moved to Chicago earlier this year after earning a James Beard nomination for his work at Community Table in Litchfield County Connecticut, becomes the only Black chef in Chicago to preside over a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Chicago also now has a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant, just in time for Diwali. Despite a local story that questioned his credibility, chef Sujan Sarkar walks home a winner. Indienne, which playfully blends contemporary plating and Indian flavors, brings home a star: “His food may look like pieces of art but taste like familiar favorites pulled from across his vibrant homeland,” inspectors writes of Sarkar and Indienne. “At times showcasing a hint of French sensibility, pani puris, chats, and curries arrive deftly spiced and elegantly presented.”
Michelin has also established an award for environmentally friendly restaurants called the Green Star. Daisies, a selection on Michelin’s value-minded Bib Gourmand list, earned that prize after moving to a larger location in Logan Square. The Midwest-Italian restaurant “has a fermentation program to preserve produce and limit waste, as well as a compost program to fertilize the farm’s soil and feed its chickens,” inspectors write.
Daisies is now one of 28 restaurants in the North America with Green Stars. Daisies chef Joe Frillman accepted the award in New York and greeted Michelin mascot Bibendum with a handshake and a salutation that could become a meme: “What’s up, brother?”
At 21 restaurants, Chicago’s star tally is down two from last year. A pair of restaurants from last year’s list, Elizabeth and Claudia, were removed due to closures. Meanwhile, Lincoln Park’s scenic farm-to-table pioneer North Pond lost its star, and so did Lincoln Square’s Goosefoot.
As for the Bib Gourmands, five new additions were announced last week (Boonie’s, Cellar Door Provisions, Pompette, Union, Yao Yao). These are restaurants where diners could order two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for about $50 without tax and gratuity, according to a Michelin spokesperson.
A total of 47 made Chicago’s list, a decrease from last year’s 55 restaurants. Six were removed after their closures (Dos Urban Cantina, Flat & Point, Funkenhausen, GT Fish & Oyster, Joe’s Imports, Pizzeria Bebu). A trio of restaurants were also removed from the list — DeColores (a Mexican restaurant in Garfield Ridge), Herb (a Thai fine dining restaurant in Edgewater), and Marisol (the restaurant from the Lula Cafe team inside the Museum of Contemporary Art).
Separately, four Chicago restaurant professionals received honors. Elske’s Monica Casillas-Rios received the Exceptional Cocktails Award; Sepia’s Alex Ring earned the Sommelier Award; Giant’s Josh Perlman won the Outstanding Service Award; Atelier’s Hunter took home the Young Chef Award.
Michelin delayed the customary spring release of their awards as the company deciphers the evolving digital news landscape, atmoizing its content with several announcements. The joint party in New York was supposed to introduce an element of drama, with chefs finding out about their rankings in real time.
Check out the two list of Chicago’s winners below.
Chicago’s 2023 Michelin Stars
*Denotes new for 2023
*Smyth (elevated from two stars)
Chicago’s 2023 Michelin Bib Gourmands
*Denotes new for 2023
*Cellar Door Provisions
Chef’s Special Cocktail bar
Table, Donkey, and Stick