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Chicago’s $195 Alinea, L20 Win Michelin Guide Three-Star Prize

Michelin Guides Director Jean-Luc Naret. Photographer: Graham Barclay/Bloomberg
Michelin Guides Director Jean-Luc Naret. Photographer: Graham Barclay/Bloomberg

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Alinea, the avant-garde restaurant whose young chef once lost his sense of taste in a battle with tongue cancer, was one of two Chicago restaurants to receive the highest rating in Michelin’s debut red guide for the city.

Chef Grant Achatz, 36, won three stars at Alinea for dishes such as “hot potato cold potato soup.” Diners pull a pin holding the truffle-topped hot potato into cold soup before downing it like a whiskey shot. The restaurant charges $195 for a 21-course tasting menu.

Restaurant L20 also received Michelin’s top honor amid reports that its chef, Laurent Gras, has left the pricey eatery; the restaurant’s website lists set menus ranging from $110 to $245.

Charlie Trotter, one of Chicago’s most famous fine-dining chefs, won two stars for his eponymous spot, where tasting menus cost $135-$225. Ria and Avenues were also awarded two stars.

Rick Bayless, a favorite chef of President Barack Obama, was awarded a single star for Topolobampo, the sister venue to his Frontera Grill.

Restaurants that win the three-star ranking may get a 25 percent bump to business, said guide director Jean-Luc Naret in an interview before the results were released. Chefs and executives say that will ripple into an economic boost for the city, where unemployment still sits at more than 10 percent.

Chicago joins New York and San Francisco as the only cities in North America to have a 2011 restaurant guide from Paris-based Michelin & Cie., the world’s second-biggest tire maker. It produced the first Red Guide at the turn of the 20th century to encourage travel by car.

Three stars means “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”; two, “excellent cooking, worth a detour”; one, “very good cooking in its category.”

The Chicago restaurants awarded stars are:

Three Michelin stars:

Two Michelin stars:
Charlie Trotter’s

One Michelin star:
Crofton on Wells
Graham Elliot
Longman & Eagle

To contact the reporters on this story: Ryan Sutton in New York at or qualityrye on; Angie Lau in Chicago at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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