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Alinea for bday dinner- tasting or tour menu?

Hi all,

I've always wanted to go to Alinea, and am trying to get reservations for my birthday. Since food is pretty much my passion, my parents are willing to spring for the tour, although they themselves would probably do the tasting if it were them. Is the tour that much more worth it? What would you all do? Also, does this include wine pairing, or is there a separate wine pairing fee (if this is offered at all)?

Must rely on my fellow CH for some advice ; )

Thanks in advance,
Talia

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  1. If you don't think you'll be going back to Alinea for quite some time, you should definitely do the Tour. It will (obviously) give you the greatest exposure to what the restaurant is all about. Wine pairings are separate, and are priced at anywhere from 2/3 to equal to the price of your menu (depending on whether or not you would like to "upgrade" the pairings). One thing to consider, if you do the Tour, is you can request half glasses for all of your pairings. Whenever I've done this I've been able to enjoy my meal a lot more since I wasn't filling up on a lot of wine. The price of the pairings will be reduced accordingly.

    1. We did the tour and were impressed, and while many dishes fell flat we thought overall it was excellent. We also were eating a lot of things that the tables next to us were quite envious of.

      1. This reminded me of a question I've wondered for a while: As with traditional tasting menus, does the entire table select the tasting or tour? Or can one person at the table hold out for one menu, while the others select the other?

        1 Reply
        1. re: smcgill

          The whole table has to do the same menu.

        2. If you decide to do the tour and full wine tasting, be prepared to spend at least $500 per person. Went to Alinea in February, had the 23 course tour with wine and my total (including tax and tip) was $540.

          An excellent evening. But not for the thin of pocket.

          10 Replies
          1. re: onocoffee

            Thanks, all. Still keep going back and forth, but I'll let you know what I decide ; )

            And the whole table has to do the same menu, unfortunately.

            1. re: ShikaSfrn

              Alright- now I'm getting mixed reviews about Alinea being overrated... I made a 9:30 reservation for Friday night, but am now considering changing that. So now the question is: Charlie Trotter's, Moto, Avenues, or Alinea (or anything else that deserves to be on that list)?

              1. re: ShikaSfrn

                If you are willing to take a step out of the norm and experience it for yourself, it's not overrated. Trotter's has gone way downhill lately, I adore Moto as I love the sciency-ness of it, though I haven't been to Avenues. I really think that if you're a food lover you can't afford to miss Alinea at least once.

                1. re: jpschust

                  Is it acceptable to go to Alinea's, order the tasting menu (less expensive), and a bottle of wine (as opposed to ordering the wine pairings?). I'd rather not spend $540 per person as the previous poster did, especially as my fiancee and I are planning many expensive meals during the week we're in Chicago.

                  1. re: anewton

                    Honestly- with the varying flavor combinations of the dishes, I didn't think any single bottle or even two would work well- I don't think anything's THAT versitie.

                    1. re: jpschust

                      Agreed. I think I've decided on Alinea, thanks guys! I'm really excited. I'm going with the 12-course though, seeing as we are 3, not 2 people. I still debate, but I'm sure I'll have an incredible experience either way. Perhaps next time I will do the tour. Would you still suggest halfing the wine pairings? If it's actually 12 glasses of wine, that is kind of a lot... but I've never had more than a 9 course tasting menu, so I'm not sure how it works with larger menus.

                      1. re: ShikaSfrn

                        I would have the wine pairings- we are all wine lovers and we walked away thinking "wow, these aren't wines we would ever drink by themselves, but man do these work with the food". They are not full glasses, as with traditional pairings these should be about 2 oz pours, making for about 24 oz- the equivalent of 4 full glasses of wine, just shy of a bottle.

                        1. re: ShikaSfrn

                          I was underwhelmed by the wine pairings at Alinea, partly because some of the wines were just not that great. Not that it wasn't interesting, just not very high on the value scale. If I went again, I would order a couple of bottles of wine.

                          1. re: abhalsey

                            I just can't imagine finding bottles that would go that well with a number of the courses other than what they selected- the lavender air dish comes to mind.

                          2. re: ShikaSfrn

                            I haven't been in two summers, so things might have changed. But when I was last there, we did the 12 and had the wine pairing...and it was a huge amount of wine...but our server did express that he was flexible about how much of a pairing we wanted. It seemed like we could have done a half- or two-thirds pairing if we'd preferred. That might be a way to cut some cost if you aren't interested in drinking obscene quantities of wine.

              2. I thought the wine pairings from my Tour were pretty decent. The entire experience, in terms of flavors, was sudbued and refined. The night before Alinea, I dined at Charlie Trotter's and found the wine pairings there to be bolder and more definitive than at Alinea. Meaning the pairings at Trotter's actually made sense. The pairings were some of the best I've ever consumed and really demonstrated the power of the right pairing.

                Alinea's pairing, like I said, were more subdued. However, for the 23 course Tour, there were something like 19 flights with wine. That was more than two bottles. I'm glad I didn't drive.