For a while, I had stopped trying to work in a visit to Alinea, partly because it is hard to secure a reservation, but also because they don’t have reservations for solo diners. They also employ a ticket system, where you purchase your seat in advance, thereby financially committing yourself to that specific date and time. In planning for a one-night stop in Chicago for early November, I had pretty much determined that I would go ahead and book a seat at 42 grams when the reservation slots became available. It so happened that while waiting to reserve, I received a tweet that Alinea tickets for the next month had just been released. I debated with myself for a couple of hours before deciding that I should just go ahead and book a two-top for the night I was going to be in Chicago because I really did want to go an experience the restaurant. Luckily for me, after purchasing the tickets, I found a friend who lives in the Chicago area who was willing to go on the night I had reserved.
Alinea is rated as one of the top restaurants in the U.S., with Chef Grant Achatz currently one of the most well-known chefs in the world. They also do the type of food I am most interested in, which is why I had to go. The restaurant is located just north of central Chicago, about a two-block walk from the nearest subway stop and very near to the famed Steppenwolf Theatre. There is no big sign — just some metal double doors — but I knew the address and found the location easily.
The restaurant decorate is modern and subdued, at least in the dining areas. The kitchen area is visible to the right when you enter the main dining room, bright and full of activity. There is no menu presented, as there is just the night’s tasting menu as the fare. However they will try to accommodate allergies and other food restrictions (they were able to do a pescatarian menu (no meat), which they confirmed when we were seated. They have wine pairings for the menu, as well as a list of bottles that you can peruse. As for wines-by-the-glass, they prefer to let you tell them what you might be looking for, and they will present options based on what bottles they have available. In my case, I asked for a Riesling. They didn’t have any, but based on what I was looking for, they came back with a Chablis, which surprisingly (to me), worked out very well.
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