21 restaurants score Michelin stars

The famous French guide releases its second lineup of top Chicago restaurants

November 15, 2011|By Lisa Arnett, RedEye

The Michelin Guide’s second annual Chicago edition was released today, and chefs around town are seeing stars—but fewer than last year, it turns out.

The famous French guide is notoriously tightfisted when it comes to awarding its star designations (three means exceptional, two is excellent and one is very good). In this year’s guide, 21 Chicago-area restaurants received stars, down from 23 last year.

Of the two restaurants—Alinea and L20—that received three-star ratings in Michelin’s first Chicago guide last year, only one, Grant Achatz’s renowned Alinea in Lincoln Park, maintained its status. The other, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ high-end seafood restaurant L2O, was downgraded to one star, which some predicted after some chef shuffling over the past year. Founding executive chef Laurent Gras left just before the restaurant received its Michelin stars last year; he was replaced by Francis Brennan. Last week, L2O announced that Brennan would be replaced by Matthew Kirkley.

In the two-star category, Charlie Trotter’s and Ria maintained their status. The Peninsula Hotel’s Avenues received two stars last year, but closed earlier this year after the departure of chef Curtis Duffy.

Besides L2O, seventeen other restaurants received one-star ratings. Homaru Cantu’s whimsical West Loop restaurant Moto is a new addition, and French bistro Crofton on Wells, the Trump Tower’s restaurant, Sixteen, and Nomi (which reconcepted into Nomi Kitchen this year) were the only restaurants not re-awarded their one-star rating this year.

One-star repeats from last year include Blackbird and Sepia in the West Loop,  Boka in Lincoln Park, Longman & Eagle in Logan Square (pictured), Takashi in Bucktown and a slew of downtown restaurants, including Everest, Graham Elliot, Naha, Spiaggia, Topolobampo and Tru. Funky BYOB restaurants Bonsoiree and Schwa also made the one-star cut. The Four Seasons’ restaurant, Seasons, did as well, but recently announced that it will close on Dec. 31 to reconcept. In the suburbs, Paul Virant’s Vie in Western Springs maintained its one-star rating and was joined by Courtright’s in Willow Springs.

Theories are flying as to why Grant Achatz’s new restaurant Next, the hottest ticket (literally, you have to get tickets) in town this year, didn’t receive any stars. Maybe the inspectors couldn’t get in. Or maybe the menu, which reboots quarterly and has already cycled through themes such as Paris 1906, Thailand and, currently, childhood, is too fluid to give a fair review. They gave Next’s neighbor Moto one star, so clearly they know their way to the 900 W. block of Fulton Market.  

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