The Michelin guide has been advising foodies on the best upscale eateries for over a century - that's just about as long as Chicago has been a fixture of the American landscape. The Windy City has provided the United States with some of its greatest cultural advancements, and today it's one of most exciting metropolises in the world. Of the city's many achievements, among the skyscrapers, parks and the diverse population, are some exclusive and mouth-watering Michelin starred restaurants. Many of us may fondly associate Chicago with the homey comfort foods of Italian beef sandwiches and deep-dish pizzas, but as of 2014 a total of 25 Chicagoan restaurants have proven swanky enough for those coveted French stars. That's an unprecedented number of stars for the city, and offers up plenty of choice for the discerning diner, but of those 25 we've selected the crème de la crème. These are the five best Michelin starred restaurants in Chicago.
Alinea, which is a self-proclaimed combination of food with "art and science", is the only Michelin 3 starred restaurant in Chicago. It goes without saying, then, that the quality is unprecedented in the city and the waiting list is equally unparalleled. Reservations are required weeks in advance to secure a coveted table at Alinea, but you'll be rewarded with a carefully selected, seasonal tasting menu of up to 22 courses and wine pairings presented by a professional sommelier. Recognized as one of America's best restaurants - for the quality of its cuisine, its highly trained staff of food and wine experts, and its intimate atmosphere - dining at Alinea is truly the experience of a lifetime for any food lover.
At L20, the modern, minimalistic and all-round serene ambience is the backdrop for a finely tuned Prix Fixe menu or the significantly pricier tasting menu. The choice for either menu is more or less taken out of your hands, as your dining options are left in the capable hands of L20's Michelin starred chefs. The Prix Fixe menu will offer 2 options for each course, while the tasting menu takes you on a journey through subtle flavours and surprising combinations, usually heavily featuring seafood dishes. Although L20 has lost a star since 2010, it's still a stellar spot for incredible shellfish dishes.
More accessible than some of the elite Michelin restaurants in Chicago, Sixteen offers a long and varied tasting menu that reads like poetry. The seasonal menu features perfectly constructed dishes of around 9 courses, each course creatively named with titles like "Crescent Moon", "The Fairy Ring" and "Melting Snow". A relatively low cost lunch menu is available if you're eager to sample Michelin stars without leaving your plastic burning, and the restaurant's location, high up in the Trump tower, adds a stunning view to the already agreeable ambience day or night.
Grace's nine part menu is constructed to create perfectly complementary flavors in sequence with subtle wine pairings, making the dining experience feel like a journey through flavors rather than a simple dinner. For just over $200 as of 2014, diners have a choice of a vegetarian ("Flora") menu or a "Fauna" menu that features seafood and meats. Surprising flavor combinations - such as scallops with liquorice or crab with lemon mint - demonstrate the flair and ingenuity of the restaurant's chef. Beautifully presented food and a relaxing atmosphere combined with a stunning menu mean Grace has earned its culinary stripes - or stars! - and justifies the high bill.
A cozy, familiar atmosphere dominates Black Bird. It's a Chicago favorite that allows casual diners an informal taste of Michelin starred quality. A reasonably priced and varied lunch menu boasts haute cuisine interpretations of comfort food classics like bouillabaisse and chicken roulade. Typically uncontroversial choices on the dinner menu are given that Michelin flair with complex seasonings and spices - like the duck breast with dandelion seeds and yogurt, or the strip loin served with walnut gnocchi and wasabi.