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Avenues More Expensive than Alinea-Worth the cost?

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I am looking for a special occasion restaurant for my 30th bithday. I was at Alinea last year and had the most amazing meal of my life. This year I am considering Avenues. Given that the 12 course menu is $145 (as opposed to Alinea at $125), do you think it's worth it? Also, the wine pairings for that menu are $135. That seems a bit high.
Other suggestions?

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  1. I have not been to Alinea so I can't compare, but Avenues is far and away the most outstanding meal I have had in Chicago. Three of us went, did 1/2 wine pairings (the sommelier, I think his name is Aaron something, is fantastic), and came out at about $900 when all was said and done (We didn't do 12 courses, though). Not cheap, but less than the same group spent at French Laundry, and it was very close to as perfect a meal.

    Honestly, I think you should stick with Avenues.

    1. Well, that's interesting - I hadn't stopped to think that in terms of 12 course degustations, Avenues is the more expensive. I've been to both restaurants, and at each one I had the larger degustation (the 23 course at Alinea - I think the 12 course must be the biggest one at Avenues).

      However, I will say that my memory is that each course at Avenues is larger than at Alinea (where the first course was a white cube approximately 5/8" square). This is not to knock Alinea - the meal was the best of my life - a true tour de force of culinary skill and exciting flavors. A recent thread made the point that at $175, each course averaged out to $7.60 - an amazing bargain considering the level and quality of the food.

      Avenues is a different style of cooking - very creative, but with a different emphasis (I'd call it more traditional, although still quite innovative). I love the place. After our meal at Alinea, I was of the opinion that Alinea gave you less a meal, than a fantastic, incredible, amazing series of taste experiences. I would call Avenues more of a meal in the traditional sense - a very, very good, satisfying meal by a very creative, talented chef.

      Hope this makes sense to you - it's hard to put these subjective feelings about food into words. The bottom line is: go to Avenues - don't worry about relative differences in price - don't try to compare it to Alinea (which is, after all, in a class of it's own). Just enjoy Chef Graham Elliot Bowles' wonderful food.