Ah, Michelin Day in Chicago. It goes something like this:
1. Chefs and some media folks start posting about their excitement, anxiety, and predictions
2. The rest of us either join in or start complaining that Michelin is stupid (note: the latter group is no fun and should be shunned)
3. Some of the list leaks. Nothing leaked is remotely surprising
4. The stars are officially announced. Some choices are good, some are not so good. Glaring omissions are made
5. Everyone goes back to what they were originally doing, since honestly who cares what Michelin has to say about Chicago
This year pretty much followed the usual pattern. Because nobody asked, here are my takes on this year’s list
Three stars: Alinea reigns as Chicago’s only three-star. No shock there.
Two stars: Newly opened Grace takes two (wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them get three in the next guide). Soon to close Graham Elliot keeps two (no one actually knows if this makes sense since no one eats at Graham Elliot anymore). L2O probably rightly keeps two. Sixteen gets promoted to two, which I have no opinion of since I haven’t eaten there since the place first opened.
One star: The news here is all about the new one-stars: Elizabeth, Senza, North Pond, EL Ideas, and The Lobby. I’d say these are all good choice, though personally I’m not a huge North Pond fan.
I made the comment earlier on Twitter that this year’s list represented a major step forward for Michelin, really due to the inclusions of Elizabeth, Senza, and EL Ideas. Should there be more places like those on the list? Absolutely. Places like The Bristol, Yusho, Vera, and (I would even argue) Telegraph are just as deserving of recognition. Chicago’s dining scene is far richer now that we have all of these great, casual restaurants putting out well-executed ambitious food. But I think we need to face reality here. For whatever reason Michelin has decided to be stingy with Chicago stars. Since the guide’s public comments seem to be issued most of the time from a non-Earthling, we’re only left to speculate about the reasons why. But given a small list to begin with, and also given the fact that we’re unlikely to see any significant change in any single guide, a few good additions really do help the overall list (and hopefully act as a predictor for what other places might be included in future guides).
Finally, I think it’s important to take a step back and look at the list of starred restaurants as a whole. It’s not perfect. The omission of Next alone is a significant flaw (which would be funny at this point if it wasn’t horribly unfair to Dave Beran). On an overall basis though, I don’t think it’s any better or worse than any other “best of” list. It’s fun to pick apart for a day, but then we move on until next time.
The complete list of starred restaurants, along with the usual bizarre comments from Michelin, can be found here.