Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chicago: Arriving at Alinea

Last Thursday night, I had the opportunity to dine at one of the world's best restaurants. In 2009, Alinea ranked 10th in the world according to a listing by S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants. This annual listing is a worldwide poll of 806 chefs, critics and other experts. A restaurant's ranking is decided purely by the votes of a large panel and well respected international judges called the Nespresso World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy. Basically this list is equivalent to winning an Academy award in Food & Wine.

Anyways, I've been trying to get a reservation to this place since last year. Once I knew I would be traveling to Chicago for work, I called Alinea right away (about a month in advance). I didn't even book my travel arrangements until I attempted to get a reservation at this place. When I called, it was about 3pm PST (5pm CST). My call went through right away. At that moment, I knew I had to land the reservation. I requested to have a reservation on any day & time during the week of June 15th. Apparently, the restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday and my options were reduced to Wednesday to Friday. Since I knew I would be in Kansas City on Wednesday, I opted for Thursday night. Keep in mind, I haven't even booked my flight or other travel arrangements! I landed the first time I could get which was 5:30pm. Once I hung up the phone, I wanted to scream. Unfortunately, I was still at work but deep down inside, I wanted to run up and down the cube aisles screaming, "I'm going to Alinea!".

Fast forward to this week, I finally arrived at Alinea. As you can see below, there is no signage for this place. Just the numbers "1723" posted on the dark gray brick building. I actually arrived in the area at 4:50pm, but the valet person wasn't available until 5:15pm. I circled around the block several times until the cars in front of the building were cleared away for valet parking. As I got out of the car, I couldn't wait to walk inside. Unfortunately, the doors were still locked.

The valet guy said the doors wouldn't open until 5:30pm. So I stood in front of the building taking some pictures of the surrounding area. I was in the heart of Lincoln Park. I have arrived and will embark on a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. If you have the opportunity to travel to the Chicago area, I would highly recommend landing a reservation at Alinea. This is definitely a place that should be on every Foodie's dining wish list.

Things to know:
  • To make reservations, call 312-867-0110 between 10am CST to 6pm CST from Tuesday to Sunday (office hours). Save the number on your phone, because if you don't get through the first time, you will need to put the number on auto redial.
  • Alinea is only open for dinner from Wednesday through Sunday. The earliest reservation you can make is at 5:30pm.
  • Reservation difficulty: Moderate. Not French Laundry insane. They open the book on the first of the month for the next two months. Call in early for weekend reservations.
  • Before hand, you should decide on possible reservation times. They will not provide you a listing of available times. If the first available time is 5:30pm, take it. I think it's easier to book a reservation for a party of 1 than 2.
  • Decide on a tasting menu: 12 course tasting or 24 course tour. You will be asked if you have any specific dietary needs and if you can walk up a flight of stairs.
  • If possible, take a cab. There is no street parking or a parking structure available on Halsted. Valet parking is $10 and the attendant does not arrive until 5:15pm.
  • There is no signage for the restaurant. Look for a dark gray brick building with the numbers "1723". It is a few buildings before the stop light at Willow St.
  • Attire: Dressy. Jackets are required for men.
  • Price Range: $$$$. 12 course Tasting is $149 and the 24 course Tour is $225. The wine pairing is 1/3 of the menu price. The menu changes periodically.
1723 North Halsted
Chicago, Illinois 60614


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