Christmas came early for some of Chicago’s top restaurants, as today the Michelin Man doled out gifts like a steel-belted Santa Claus.
Two three-star designations, five two-star awards and 19 one-star nods gave Chicago its best-ever harvest of Michelin stars since Michelin published its first Chicago Guide in 2011.
There were no surprises at the three-star level, where Alinea (for the seventh year) and Grace (for the third) took home Michelin’s top rating.
Things were considerably more exciting at the two-star level. Acadia, 42 Grams and Sixteen were repeat winners, but they were joined by newcomer Oriole (which is less than a year old) and the surprise promotion of Tru, which had received a single Michelin star in each of the past six years.
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“That’s not something you see very often anywhere,” Michelin director Michael Ellis said of Tru’s promotion, “and it’s a testament to how we work. We watch our one-stars very closely; we went back a number of times, using different inspectors from different countries, and we noticed that (chef Anthony Martin) had upped his game. The food was fresh and exciting, combining great flavor combinations with technical mastery; we were thrilled to give it to them.”
The rest of Chicago’s one-star restaurants held onto their ratings, except Moto, which closed. They were joined by four first-time winners: Band of Bohemia, the beer-focused Ravenswood restaurant; GreenRiver, the cocktail-centric restaurant in Streeterville; Roister, the Alinea sibling featuring Andrew Brochu’s open-fire cooking; and Smyth, the fine-dining restaurant by John B. Shields and Karen Urie Shields.
The inclusion of Smyth was a mild surprise, only in that the restaurant opened in late August, and it was uncertain whether the Michelin inspectors would have time to visit.
“We have known the Shieldses for some time,” Ellis said, “and we’ve been waiting for the fruition of this project for some time. Townhouse, their Virginia restaurant, was very much terroir-based cooking, and they’ve brought that approach here. Dishes, such as the foie and Dungeness crab, the squab with squid reduction — that is ambitious, envelope-pushing cooking, but they just get it right.”
The star recipients, along with scores of other Chicago restaurants and hotels, will be published in the Michelin Guide Chicago 2017, which will be in bookstores Dec. 7.
Band of Bohemia
Dusek’s Board & Beer
Longman & Eagle
Phil Vettel is a Tribune critic.