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“I've spent untold amounts of time & money in my life searching out good food. This is the best restaurant I've...”
Review of Alinea

Ranked #2 of 10,032 Restaurants in Chicago
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $150 - $1,000
Cuisines: International
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Restaurant details
Good for: Special occasions
Dining options: Dinner, Late Night, Reservations
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
A TripAdvisor reviewer on Facebook
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Reviewed November 8, 2008

I've spent untold amounts of time & money in my life searching out good food. This is the best restaurant I've been too. Simply splendid!

2  Thank A TripAdvisor reviewer on Facebook
This review is the subjective opinion of an individual contributor and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1,107 - 1,111 of 1,275 reviews

Reviewed October 22, 2008

I almost titled this review "Traveled over 2000 miles to EAT here," but to call the Alinea experience “eating” just doesn't do it justice.

Many words come to mind in attempting to describe my 12-course experience: surreal, magical, invigorating, mind-blowing, whimsical, decadent, immaculate, avant-garde, entertaining… but there really are no words that come close to describing the actual feast that was presented before me.

This adventure began with a question: What would be the most memorable way to celebrate my 30th birthday? Fly from San Diego to Chicago to dine at Alinea, of course! It’s a restaurant that I’ve been dreaming of visiting since I read a glowing review in 2007. Knowing that there is nothing like it on the West Coast and after reading the buzz around Achatz from his days with Keller, to highly acclaimed Trio, and finally the phenomenal Alinea - I knew with certainty that I would one day pull the trigger and book the flight.

To travel to a different time zone for a vacation around a chef sounds mucho loco, I know, but tasting the spiritually uplifting flavors manipulated into a dining experience on the 4th dimension would make you a little crazy too. Even though this is supposed to be a review, I won’t elaborate too much on the food, ambiance, or the service - many of the GOOD reviews you’ll read are accurate with regard to those areas.

What I will say is that Alinea provided for me a venue to explore the culinary arts on a whole new level. I felt like a kid in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, exploring the different aspects of taste, aroma, sight, sound, and sensation. Who knew that a caprese salad could look like a piece of polystyrene plastic while tasting like the best mozzarella, tomato and basil ever to touch my palette? Yes, it was that good.

So let’s talk about cost. Yes, this is expensive by most standards. You should be prepared to spend over $275 per person for the 12-course Tasting menu with a few glasses of wine and over $400 for the Touring option with wine pairing, but so what? It’s like trying to put a price on a roundtrip ticket to the moon. You’ve never experienced anything like this before and have probably paid more for a ticket to a crowded theater or a loud stadium to entertain 2 of your 5 senses. Take it from someone who understands the state of our down economy, the cost you pay for the culinary thrill of your life is justifiable here.

To give you a point of comparison, I ate at Charlie Trotters 2 nights prior to Alinea and was sorely disappointed. The hype around Trotters was met with pretentious ambiance, contrived service, and a hair found in my final course. Seriously. Sorry, Charlie. It appears that Grant’s team has better attention to detail. Achatz is a genius deserving of his many awards and recognition. The overall the experience is unmatched. Turning 30 never tasted so good!

4  Thank Foodista
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 16, 2008

My husband and I were very excited to dine at Alinea having read so many amazing reviews. We decided to do the 24 course and I have to say that I wish we had sticked with the 12 course. It seems as if the 12 course option was a "best of" while the 24 course contained items that were still being experimented with. The first two courses were pretty, but really very bad and we actually questioned our decision to dine there. Overall the courses got better, and the service was amazing. The price was also insane. We had the wine pairing, which was really great, but the total bill came to $1,200. Ouch.

Thank nina2727
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor reviewer on Facebook
New York City, New York
Reviewed September 24, 2008

by far the most amazing dining experience i've ever had... and it cost my bf's and i my prettiest penny too. i was in love with the wagyu beef and the tomato/basil/mozzarella courses! i was pleasantly surprised to have left the restaurant with a full stomach!

Thank A TripAdvisor reviewer on Facebook
This review is the subjective opinion of an individual contributor and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 23, 2008

First of all, let me start with a few sentences that contain the word 'creative'. 1. Alinea has provided me with the most creative dining experience I have ever had. 2. Now and only now do I truly appreciate what 'creative cuisine' is supposed to mean. 3. Having said that, previously visited 'creative cusine' places did not serve 'creative cuisine', at all, ever. 4. Points 1 through 3 do not count for coffee, because Alinea served the most non-creative uninspiringly bland and boring coffee I have probably ever had - Starbucks (sic!) provides a better coffee experience than Alinea.

Some facts: 2 guests, 12 course tasting menu with wine pairings, a few additional glasses of Roderer champagne, 4 hours and a 700 dollar check.

The food was, guess what, incredibly creative. We ate such 'delights' as steelhead roe on a vanilla bean; dry frozen tomato in cube shape with basil sorbet and mozarella foam ('Caprese'); lobster with popcorn sauce; wagyu beef that thawed right before your eyes; plain caramel powder that RE-integrated in your mouth. All the dishes were so meticulously crafted and every aspect from bread to butter to wine was so expertly matched that it blew me away. Somebody must have put a LOT of thought into the menu.

The most outstanding aspect of the whole experience for me, both as surprise and revelation at the same time, was how well the wines were paired with the food. Never have I experienced such perfect harmony. Period.

Service was excellent, not stiff at all, but always corteous and efficient. Every dish was explained in detail upon serving it (there is no menu but they constantly are trying to surprise you, and, catch you off guard), as was every wine, with an enjoyable ironic undertone that went extremely well with - hm - the rather sparse decor, yet somehow rounding off the entire experience, and making it into a truly outstanding one.

A few minor comments: Alinea is difficult to find, no sign outside, and you enter through a long sterile doorway until, all of a sudden, a Star-Wars like door opens and you are in the middle of the restaurant, rather disoriented. Some of the dishes - if you will, rather culinary explorations in creativity (ah, I said it again) - tasted as if they were almost lost in themselves, if that makes sense, were missing their purpose, somehow, packed with all that flavor and ingenuity. Also, the coffee was quite an incision at the end, as it frankly tasted boring and uninspiring. With all that creativity mojo flowing so liberally, can't they serve some frozen coffee? Or coffee flavoured salt, or some coffee foam? Please get a Nespresso machine, at the very least.

Nevertheless, I cannot get rid of the feeling that this experience represents what the future of dining looks like. A paradigm shift, if you will. Is it worth it? Absolutely, there simply is nothing that is comparable. Difficult to describe.

3  Thank Gogothehermit
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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