The Michelin Guide is an illuminati of dining. It's a review controlled by an unseen panel of anonymous editors who make or break a restaurant's worth one star at a time. New York, Chicago and San Francisco are the only three cities in the United States that have their culinary chops probed and rated by the prestigious publication. A single Michelin star can turn a fringe restaurant into a booming commercial success and a three star rating is the restaurant equivalent to a Pulitzer. Here's a look at the galaxy that is Chicago dining, with 23 shooting stars.
Three StarsAlinea (1723 North Halsted Street): This restaurant's been an absolute game changer for Chicago as a dining destination. Since opening in 2005, it's become one of the world's most saught after restaurants and for good reason. Grant Achatz is a visionary. His food looks like fine art and tastes important. Rag ticketing reservation stystems, insufferable pictures of meals on Instagram and the pretentions inherent with a world-class dining scene all you want, but without Alinea this town wouldn't be nearly as delicious.
Graham Elliot (217 West Huron Street): Graham Elliot (the chef) has unabashedly imposed himself on Chicago dining and we should thank him. Elliot's trio of eponymous restaurants have racked up accolades as long and exalted as his online bio, with the flagship becoming one of the best restaurants in the country.
L2O (2300 North Lincoln Park West): Considering that Chicago is a three hour flight to the nearest ocean, L2O's seafood command is absolutely astounding. Last year, the restaurant's head chef Laurent Gras bolted for the Big Apple and, subsequently, the Lincoln Park mainstay lost a Michelin star. Behind new chef Matthew Kirkley, L2O is part of the most exciting resurgence in Chicago's dining scene.
Acadia (1639 South Wabash Avenue): Where taste, form, eras and design seamlessly weave like a drizzle of corn custard over Stonington Lobster. Fine dining without ego and an admirable effort directed towards the cocktails
Blackbird (619 West Randolph Street): Blackbird's dining space has been standing room only for, like, 15 years. When a restaurant is that popular for that long, it's because the people in charge know what they're doing. Oh, and it doesn't hurt to have world famous meat magician/Executive Chef Paul Kahan in the kitchen.
Boka (1729 North Halsted Street): Boka's right next door to Alinea. So if your Google Maps smart phone app is a bit off, you'll still end up in front of a decent meal. Thanks, Siri! Contemporary American for people who like their food poached and seared to perfection, which should be just about everyone.
Everest (440 South La Salle Street #4000): A fine diner's fine dining restaurant with an aristocratic air of self-assuredness and world renowned wine list to boot. It's located on the 40th floor of the Stock Exchange, so a diner's willful disconnect from reality is rather poetically incorporated into their view.
Goosefoot (2656 West Lawrence Avenue): A beacon of joy shining from the heart of Lincoln Square. This place is BYOB so if your credit limit isn't as sophisticated as your pallet, at least you save a few bucks on the wine pairing. Goosefoot features classic French technique with a forward thinking menu, and a refreshingly humble atmosphere.
Longman & Eagle (2657 North Kedzie Avenue): Many a lazy outlet has dubbed this place Chicago's quintesential hipster restaurant, mostly because it's in Logan Square and serves obscure whiskey. Played generalizations aside, for hearty fine dining at a fair price, there's not a better alternative in Chicago's diversity-rich "foodie" scene.
Mexique (1529 West Chicago Avenue): Mexique was last year's darling of the Bib Gourmand's and it's nice to see hard work pay off. At times overlooked and often underrated, it's refreshing to see Carlos Gaytan get the shine that he deserves. It makes us feel better about the world.
Moto (945 West Fulton Market): As a prevailing leader of the molecular gastronomy movement, Moto is what fine dining will look like in the future: gracefully minimalist, imaginatively deconstructed, and served in a smoking test tube. The Fulton Market district is a hinge point of sorts for Chicago's recent cultural renaissance and this place keeps the area's sustenance moving forward.
NAHA (500 North Clark Street): Never open a restaurant with your cousin, unless your Carrie Nahabedian, then go bananas. Consistent and driven, Nahabedian is one of only ten female chefs in the country with a Michelin starred restaurant.
Schwa (1466 North Ashland): This place is BYOB and the restaurant bumps Notorious B.I.G. tracks while you dine. The experience at Schwa is absolutely unique, unlike any other on this list. If you have preconceived notions about fine dining as a stuffy, fruitless way to blow $250, then you've never tried a meal prepared by Michael Carlson.
Sepia (123 N. Jefferson Street): Classic Chicago from its cast iron and brick accents to the rustic cuisine. Executive chef Andrew Zimmerman (not to be confused with the eponymous Bizarre Foods host) is fresh off of winning Food Network's Iron Chef, the third Chicago-based contestant to wear the reality TV show's crown.
Sixteen (401 North Wabash Avenue): Sixteen, located on the 16th floor of the Trump International Hotel and Tower, is charmingly positioned in line with the Wrigley Building Clock Tower. Unless Executive Chef Thomas Lents lives in the building's penthouse and regularly prepares his own meals, there's not a better food and view combination in the country.
Spiaggia (980 North Michigan Avenue): Since the mid '80s, Spiaggia has been Chicago's gold standard for Italian cuisine. The restaurant's Chef/Partner, Tony Mantuano, piles up accolades like a mound of artisinaly prepared spaghetti noodles over Spanish red prawns, including a James Beard Award (2005) and Food & Wine's nod for "Best New Chef" in 1986.
Takashi (1952 North Damen): Takashi Yagihashi's flagship restaurant is celebrating its third consecutive year with a Michelin star. The recent Top Chef: Masters contestant is famous for his creative take on contemporary fine dining, which often includes French and Asian influences.
Topolobampo (445 North Clark Street): Rick Bayless' enthusiastic rebuttal to those who think Mexican food is just tacos and quesadillas. It's artfully plated, boldly flavored refinement from south of the border. Topolo (as those in the know call it) has been a renowned Chicago establishment for decades, touted by Esquire as one of "America's Top New Restaurants" in '91 and recognized for its outstanding service in '01 by the James Beard Foundation.
Tru (676 North St. Clair Street): Partner/Chef Anthony Martin's contribution to a new wave in progressive fine dining, where the cuisine and experience are equal parts innovation and novelty. Each course is a culinary performance, complete with a caviar dish that levitates in the air before landing gracefully on a serving pedestal.