We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“a dining experience beyond cool”
Review of Alinea

Alinea
Ranked #2 of 10,110 Restaurants in Chicago
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $150 - $1,000
Cuisines: International
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Special occasions
Dining options: Late Night, Dinner, Reservations
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
Reviewed November 8, 2012

went with my wife and another couple for a special night out and was not disappointed in any way.
The food was inspired ,artistic, and interesting in every way. combinations of palate teasers and unexpected surprises all awesome.
we delighted in tryng to indentify what each flavor nuance was and how it became these finished culinary champions. Every detail of the meal and the evening was cared for as a total experience and worth every penny of the upper priced evening. will go again and again

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
2  Thank dennis n
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a ReviewReviews (1,293)
Traveler rating
Traveler type
Time of year
Language
  • More languages

927 - 931 of 1,293 reviews

Reviewed November 8, 2012

The menu was nice, the courses are very decoratives. The chef is likelly one of the most creative mind of America. The portions are not for hungry sailors, they are very attractive. Imthink it also was a misstake to ask for pairing the wines as they fill your glass very very economical. And the last surprise was at home. Checking the invoice it turned out that they ripped us off with 18% tip without warning us. We gave about 20% and they accepted it without any warning of the obligatory tip. This way we gave them about 38% grtuty. We love to give tips but not for this service. Profit making place with very special food experience.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
6  Thank Peter L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 5, 2012

We went to Alinea to celebrate a special occasion (engagement) and we don't regret it! I loved every single detail, The food is delicious! The atmosphere was fun and the service was very good ! We will be back again and again !

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
1  Thank MarylLopez
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 5, 2012

Finally had the opportunity to dine at Alinea. I personally like the new ticketing system which is how I was able to secure a reservation for a Saturday evening. I had been concerned that dining at Alinea was going to be similar to securing tickets to Oprah's show - numerous calls but no luck. Other than the oddity of the Alinea website not supporting Internet Explorer, the new ticketing system worked well for me.

Anticipation was high - so high that the night before I had dreams about the dining experience. The dream was not good - snobby waiters, odd food that was difficult to eat, etc. Thankfully, the actual experience the next night was absolutely the opposite. The entire evening was a flawless experience.

We arrived about 10 minutes early but were immediately invited inside. Cider was offered inside the door and the entry was strewn with leaves, hay, etc. The sights, sounds and smells were completely Autumn. When we entered, our coats were taken and we were invited to finish our cider while looking into the kitchen. Not only was it spotless, I was surprised at the number of employees in the kitchen. As the evening progressed, the need for so many employees became evident.

We were escorted upstairs to our table. The décor is subtle and I admired the paintings that hung in the restaurant. We were seated in the front room upstairs. This room had 5 tables along one wall. The tables could seat 2-4-2-4-2 but at this time there were only two people seated at each table for four. Also in the room was a standalone table for six and another for four. In another room towards the back, I saw another table for six, for four, and for two. Since the kitchen is on the first floor, there is only a front room for seating on the first floor. I did not get a good look but I suspect it also held about 24 diners since the size appeared similar to the front room upstairs. There was plenty of room between tables so we were not crowded.

Our waiter approached and immediately set a friendly but efficient tone for the evening. The service was flawless. No matter which waiter approached our table (if there were female members of the waitstaff I did not see them during the evening), they set a tone that was anything but stuffy. They worked as a seamless team bringing the various courses, explaining each course, instructing how to eat each course, clearing the table and setting the table for the next course.

After discussing the various beverage options with our waiter, we selected the standard wine pairing for the evening. Each time a new wine was served, the wine was described both in terms of taste and of origin. We were informed that 10 wines would be served and the evening's consumption would equate to about 3.5 glasses of wine. The pairings were well selected and enhanced the food.

The food was (almost) flawless - delicious and beautifully served. Other reviewers have commented that they did not feel full when finishing a dinner at Alinea. This was not true for my dining partner or me. I can put away a lot of food but I was quite full by the time the final course was served.

And then there is the food itself. Amazing. Each bite was a flavor experience. I do not want to ruin the surprises but each and every course was exceptional. The first course was sucked through a straw and the waiter mentioned that loud slurping was pretty much expected. This helped set a most un-stuffy tone for the evening.

Mentioning the helium-filled apple taffy balloons should not spoil a surprise because that course has been discussed many times. All of the tables focused on their own conversations and their own experiences until the first balloons arrived. At that moment, everyone had to look. The diners kissed the balloons, sucked the helium inside, laughed and exclaimed "Oh, my!" in a high-pitched, helium-inspired voice. Everyone laughed. The experience was repeated when each table received their balloons. I was not expecting such levity at dinner but appreciated the experience. Of course, by then enough wine had been consumed at the various tables that the tone of the room was festive and happy.

The final course was the painting-on-the-table dessert. I was so happy to see Grant Achatz himself preparing the course by decorating our table and dropping the chocolate ball. He did not handle this course for every table and I do not know how he selects which ones to serve. I am just happy we were selected for the honor.

When finished, we were escorted to the door an informed that a taxi was waiting. They had asked when they initially took our coats if we'd need a taxi. I'm glad we didn't drive - I probably had just a bit too much wine to be driving.

The next morning, my dining partner and I both commented that the evening before seemed almost surreal. Every course was wonderful. Service was exceptional. We were made to feel like special guests. This did become the best meal we've ever had and we hope someday to return for another.

A few miscellaneous comments:
- Diners often took photos of their food. This was not at all discouraged.
- The only flaw in the food was in the final dessert. There were a few nuts in the chocolate ball and they were frozen. That made them quite difficult to chew. I know that dry ice is used in that course which may be why this happened. Once we discovered this, we simply focused on all of the other components of the dessert. This was just a minor flaw in an otherwise perfect evening of food.
- We were presented with copies of the menu and the wine parings for the evening. That was much appreciated.
- The experience was just under 3 hours from beginning to end.
- An automatic 20% gratuity was added to the beverages along with tax. I would have given that level of tip but was a bit surprised to see the tip already included. Of course, the tax and tip had already been included in the dinner tickets we had purchased for the evening. The wine pairing was $150 per person. My dining companion had coffee ($8). With tax and tip, the beverage bill for the evening was about $410. Since this was a Saturday evening, the tickets for two were approximately $700. This was an expensive evening but absolutely worth it.
- They might be reading their online comments. I had read a few about the wine service where a suggestion was implemented. As the wine was served, we were informed about how many courses that wine would accompany. That had been suggested in other reviews I read and was pleased to see that information was shared during the meal.
- If we are lucky enough to do this again, I would probably order two bottles of wine rather than selecting the pairing. Our dinner progression encouraged a nice white for the early courses that focused on seafood and vegetable. The later courses were enhanced with a red wine. I did not look at the wine list but must believe that we could select two nice wines for a price similar to the price for the parings.
- Using the restroom was also a pleasant experience. A waiter escorts you to the room. When you return, a new (not re-folded) napkin is waiting for you.
- Seating is comfortable which is appreciated during a lengthy dining experience.
- In my opinion, no seating area is better than another.
- Since I do not live in Chicago I needed a weekend reservation. For those who can dine during the week, you can save a few dollars. Tickets vary from $210 to $265 depending on evening and time. Add the Chicago sales tax and a 20% gratuity and there is a noticeable difference in the ticket prices.

I want to thank Mr. Achatz, everyone in the kitchen, and all of the waitstaff for an exceptional evening. They strived to exceed expectations and for us they did.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
7  Thank Bippie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 30, 2012

I am lucky enough to live in a city with this incredible restaurant. It is hard to put Alinea into words because it is more than just a dinner. The entire night is an experience with beautiful plating, innovative cuisine and fabulous food. Yes the food is that good it isn't just hype. The creativity is mind blowing and gives you a show with dinner. And I cannot forget the best service in any restaurant I have ever been to. I have been to "regular" Alinea and recently got to go to their 11 Madison Park kitchen takeover. Both were spectacular and I can't wait to get back again. Do yourself a favor and get the wine pairing!

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
2  Thank stephs_treks
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Been to Alinea? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing