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Interesting and unique but worth $250...not sure.

I visted Alinea this past Friday night. My husband and I had hours of conversation about our opinions of the restaurant, which is always a great thing. I am torn about what to write for this review. Overall I enjoyed the experience, and I thought some of the dishes were absolutely hands down the most innovative food I have ever seen or tasted but I didn't leave there feeling completely blown away. Now, the only experience I have to compare is our visit to Per Se. While the techniques and presentation of these chefs could not be more different, I do think it's fair to compare and contrast ingredients used, atmosphere and service. I did the vegetarian menu and my husband did the standard tour. It was fascinating to see the Alinea’s chef be able to play with each dish and make them aesthetically identical. His presentation was incredibly whimsical. However, for the price, which is $195 plus tax and gratuity, (which ends up being almost the same price at Per Se,) I didn't feel as if I got the same satisfaction out of the vegetarian menu as I did at Per Se. I feel that they should lower their price point for that menu. The standard tour, I unfortunately felt the same. No frois gras, lobster, caviar, sweet breads, or similarly rare and or pricier fishes or meats. With that said, the dishes were executed to perfection and everything tasted delicious with the exception of a consommé and custards that were simply over salted. The other thing that struck me, at Per Se there were SO many extra little courses and touches that weren’t on the menu. An amuse, amazingly delicious bread course, pallet cleansers, cheeses, extra dessert courses, and a goodie bag of treats for each guest when you received your check. There were NO extra’s here…not even a single piece of bread. Now, the atmosphere I found to be strange. I believe it's attempt was to be minimalistic, but it came off as very cold, and certainly, if I just ended up there without knowing anything about the place, I would never in a million years guess this was one of the world's top eating establishments. Now on to the staff....where to begin....I always try and remind myself that when I leave NYC, I can't expect the same type of white glove service at high end restaurants. But, when you are paying over $200/person, all bets are off. Your staff, from the top down, should be professional, knowledgeable, and they should be an intricate part of the diner’s experience. A place like Alinea and Per Se, isn't just about eating dinner, it's about having a food experience. We sat at 5:45 and you could hear a pin drop in our part of the dining room, that is, with the exception of the four staff members that stood in the corner watching us eat, and seemingly talking to each other about their guests. So for the first hour of our dinner, it was quite uncomfortable to only hear the chatter of the restaurant staff as well as having them stare at you while you eat. I don't think I have ever quite experienced that. The sommelier was horrific. We wanted to stay within the lower price range of their bottle list $50-$100 - he offered us no help once he realized he wasn't going to be able to sell us what he viewed as expensive bottles of wine. It was truly offensive. Because we love wine so much, I recall our experience with the sommelier at Per Se to be amusing and so enjoyable. He had a wonderful sense of humor; he brought us tastings and without even having to ask, pointed us to many different price rangers of bottles based on our flavor pallet. We never had to say what we wanted to spend after we ordered the first bottle, because he got it, he understood what price point we were going to be in and or around for that evening. The sommelier at Alinea's response to us when we asked him what he thought we should get after giving him a brief description of what we liked was "Well...I don't really know, it just depends on what you like." What kind of response is that from a sommelier?? We were so taken aback and quite frankly that could have ruined our experience except for the fact that we know our wines and in all honesty didn't need his help. The food runners were all fantastic and one of the "captains" on the floor who was a short red headed young woman was fantastic as well. But again, not one staff member had the polish or the expertise that I feel is essential to working at an establishment that has received the kind of notoriety Alinea has. All in all, I don't regret going, it was such a unique and memorable food experience. Def go if you have the money to spend, but if you are looking for a meal that will leave you wanting to come back for more, my money is best spent at places run by Chef's like Thomas Keller, Daniel Bolud, Eric Ripert. After eating at Alinea, I confess, like my wine, I much prefer the old world rather than the new. But I wish this place all the luck and if he can bring his service up to par with the quality of his cooking, it will be around for a long long time!

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Alinea
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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  1. I've eaten at many of the top restaurants in the country, on both coasts as well as in Chicago and other cities in between. When I think of the service appropriate to a top restaurant, I think of a staff that is knowledgeable, friendly, and approachable. I also think of a staff that achieves a perfect balance between invisibility and availability - that you never get distracted by, as though water glasses are refilled and empty dishes disappear almost by magic, yet that appears the moment you look up as though there is something you need. This is exactly the kind of service I have received at Alinea, always there when you need them, yet never a distraction. I've been there with minimal wine needs - ordering their least expensive wines by the glass at one dinner in particular - and the sommelier provided great advice to us with absolute professionalism. The service I've received at Alinea has been flawless, among the best I've seen anywhere; I'm sorry your experience at Alinea wasn't consistent with mine.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Yes, I agree with you on all fronts regarding service and I would say 50% was great but there were some serious flaws and it was unfortunate. The food runners and the one women who I assume was a captain saved the day for us though as it was going down hill fast after our interaction with the sommelier in our room. As with any restaurant, people have off nights, and I didn't mean what so ever to imply that all their sommeliers were as poor as the one who waited on us and maybe we should have gone a little later, but I have never been to restaurant where people stood around watching you eat in such close proximity. I would totally go again on a corporate card but it just didn't feel up to par with other places I have been to for $1,000 tab.

    2. Lucky enough to have dined at 13 excellent restaurants the past year (Michelin 3* or Forbes 5*) and I personally would rate Alinea and Per Se as the top two dining experiences.

      Regarding the service, the Per Se pair that did most of the heavy lifting for us were warm and friendly (much more outgoing than say the French Laundry servers), even though we had the dreaded 10 PM 'last call' reservation. Even comp'ed us a glass of port with dessert and gave us a walk-thru of the kitchen. The Alinea guy seemed to be trying to be hip and edgy, like the atmosphere, but was fine overall. He made a couple of jokes which fell flat but overall was efficient. We had the wine pairings at Alinea, other than hemming and hawing about the precise price ('roughly 2/3's the cost of the menu' ?) no problems. Different ways to do it, Alinea was fine but PS was exceptional.

      Regarding your comment "No frois gras, lobster, caviar, sweet breads, or similarly rare and or pricier fishes or meats" ... I think this was just luck of the draw. At Alinea we had a fantastic lobster dish (knuckle of lobster coated with yuzu and served embedded on a fragrant vanilla bean 'stick' so you got a whiff of vanilla when you ate the lobster) ... this was one of the best dishes of the night. At Per Se we had 'butter poached Nova Scotia Lobster' and it was OK but honestly 2 weeks later I had to look at the menu to see if lobster was on it, while I still remember the Alinea lobster dish in detail 10 months after the fact.

      At Per Se the foie gras was optionally available as a terrine for an extra $40, worth it I thought but still not part of the $295 menu.

      By chance both places offered wagyu beef the nights we dined -- at Alinea it was part of the tasting menu and was the best steak I've ever tasted, cooked sous vide with (I think) a bit of brown sugar. At Per Se the wagyu was a larger piece of beef but it was an option at an add-on of $100 -- excellent cut of beef but not as good as the Alinea serving.

      So in general you might get these luxury ingredients at Alinea too as part of the meal, depending on when you were there (for other people reading this). And at Per Se it was an extra $140 for the foie gras and wagyu options when we were there a couple weeks ago. Just sayin' ...

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      Alinea
      1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

      3 Replies
      1. re: willyum

        Totally good point re: luck of the draw for the menu's. While there are definite price add ons at Per Se, three of the dishes I ordered off my menu when I was there were dishes I had heard about, but weren't on the menu that particular day, I asked the waiter if the kitchen could make them, and he said as long as they had the ingredients they could cater to my wishes, and they made me all three! Lobster Mac and Cheese (which sounds gross, but was unreal) and I asked for the truffled poached egg dish, and lastly their signature peanut butter dessert dish. Additionally, my husband, who didn't want pay for the frois gras price, asked if he could have a tasting of it and they catered to that as well with no extra costs. I do think Alinea was an incredible meal, but I never really felt as if the experience went above and beyond. I know when you compare apples to oranges it's hard to break the two down and justifiably compare. But I just didn't get the feel of a professional staff. The waiters at Per Se that I spoke too literally go to a training school of Keller's for six to eight months before they can even serve water in his restaurants. Danny Meyer's new book, while dry at times, really hits the nail on the head with regards to the importance of service at his restaurants. And how in some ways, it is lost art. Being a "professional" waiter is rare thing in this day and age. I hate to harp so much on service when ultimately the food is what should make or break a place, but not once you start spending $250 + per person.

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        Alinea
        1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

        1. re: willyum

          Agreed it's the luck of the draw -- my meal there last summer had lobster, Elysian fields lamb, and two dishes with a bit of truffle (hot potato cold potato and black truffle explosion).

          1. re: willyum

            On a totally different note...overall we had the best food in Chicago. Frontera was yummy, Gibson's, The original pancake house, Purple Pig, and a really really yummy Bison Chicago dog at Wriggley Field! Can't wait to get back and check out some more spots. Only thing we were sad about missing out on was Italian Roast Beef! : (

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            Purple Pig
            500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

          2. You lost me at this point..." when I leave NYC, I can't expect the same type of white glove service at high end restaurants". This kind of comment(insult) invalidates everthing else you wrote. Were the vendors at Wrigley wearing white gloves? .Please go back to New York and stay there.

            23 Replies
            1. re: hoppy2468

              wow...defensive are we? I was simply commenting that for $500/person which what the bill ended up being for my husband and I, the service was not nearly as professional as restaurants that have run the same amount at the places I listed in my first thread. Off night for Alinea, maybe, maybe not...And my comment about service was merely a recognition about how massive the restaurant industry is in NYC versus many other cities.Doesn't mean the quality is any less in other cities, it just simply means it's a more prevelant part of our commerce here, which is makes it incredibly competitive. TriBeca has the most amount of restaurants per ca pita then any other place in the country. That's just one neighborhood....It wasn't a knock on Chicago. I had some wonderful meals both high and low end with great service. But my expectation of Alinea was high, and the food held up but the service did not. It's unfortunate that voicing your opinion honestly and I think with a lot of balance as I did have many great things to say about the food not only at Alinea but in Chicago results in some jerk like you posting something that has no substance and is just plain rude.

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              Alinea
              1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

              1. re: tleecouch

                I assure you that I am a very nice person.

                "....I always try and remind myself that when I leave NYC, I can't expect the same type of white glove service at high end restaurants."

                This is a backhanded insult that in no way furthers the discussion. In fact it was the second time this morning that I had read a food related post that included the same sentiment. Other posters on this board and other food related boards can attest that this is far from an isolated incident. It seems to be a prevailing attitude from many New Yorkers. I honestly can't think of a poster from any other city that claims that outside of their Podunk City things just aren't as good. The above quote implies that you wouldn't expect quality service at El Bulli, noma or any other restaurant outside of New York. In your last post you claim otherwise. Which is it?
                BTW, do you know Steve Plotnicki?

                1. re: hoppy2468

                  This response gave me the opportunity to reflect on my statement. I can appreciate what you wrote here because I am sure the perceived arrogance of “New Yorkers" gets annoying. I did not mean that there are not plenty of great restaurants throughout the world, with first class service. Ultimately what I meant to get across is that as a New Yorker my perspective of dining has totally become skewed. We have high expectations, we are incredibly opinionated, and give little room for error because the truth of the matter is, that there is a huge pool of sophisticated professional waiters working at the hundreds of first class restaurants around. This is a fact just based on the size of the city. Believe me we have more then our fair share of crappy places with crummy food and worse service. However, generally speaking, when I go to restaurants outside of New York, it isn't a matter of me assuming they aren’t going to be as good as places in NYC, I just simply don't expect the same type of service because most cities are hiring from a much smaller pool of folks with sometimes less experience or training. This is a simple fact based on size of the pool alone. Michigan's football team will always be viewed differently then let's say Trinity College simply because they are drawing from a much larger pool of candidates. In a global world a high end restaurant doesn't only compete against other restaurant's located nearby, but they compete globally with other peers restaurants. I can appreciate the local burger joint just as much as a fine dining experience, but my expectations when I enter each are different.

                  To just demonstrate the competiveness of the NY market: we went to the soft opening of Ma Peche and saw two people get fired in a matter of 20 minutes. By the end of Chang's soft opening there, they had hired and fired almost 100 people in a matter of one week. Del Posto, Morimoto, Eataly…restaurants that are well over 10,000 sq. feet that have more than 200 employees at any given time are just a different beast, are they not? Now, to my point about Alinea...Grant Achatz is incredibly talented and innovative, however, with the accolades Alinea is receiving and with the price tag of the meal, I was underwhelmed by his staff. I think he has to raise the bar and as I said earlier, perhaps we went on an off night, but I don't think off nights to the degree we experienced should exist at a place with such high standards. Anyway….I am not familiar with Steve Plotnicki but googled him and it appears his last update on his website is from 2009….but I will take a look at his blog. Would be good to know some great spots in Chicago that are must visits. Right now my short list of places to try next go around is: Publican, Girl and a Goat, Blackbird, Lula, Nightwood, Urban belly and Belly shack. At the end of the day, Chicago is a great place to eat and can't wait to return. Just in case you are venturing to NYC anytime in the next few months and are looking to check out an interesting spot (with great food) http://www.whathappenswhennyc.com/

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                  Alinea
                  1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                  1. re: tleecouch

                    Never been to Per Se, so can't comment on its service. But I have been to many of New York's Michelin restaurants. Here's my impression of some of them:

                    Excellent service: Jean George's, Adour,
                    Good service: Del Posto, Le Bernadin, Cafe Boulud
                    Passable service: Bouley, Daniel, A Voce
                    Below par to bad service: Picholine, EMP, Peter Luger's, Le Cirque

                    The type of great service engendered from fierce competition that you were referring to was hardly the impression I got. Now in terms of absolute number, of course New York is going to have more "white gloves" experience than any other US cities. It's just math. In the same vain, Tokyo will kick New York's ass in every category by absolute number as well. To wit, it's a rather vapid comparison because the sample size is grossly different. But if we are talking about percentage, comparing the same types of restaurants, I really don't think New York stands above Chicago, at all.

                    But bottom line is, given the same set of circumstances, two different people can come to completely different conclusions. Some people think TRU in Chicago has amazing service, but to me they are too sterile and aloof (which was Del Posto's problem as well). People value different things. We really should just learn to agree to disagree. The New Yorker snobbish attitude is puzzling to me. Statements such as "a city that never sleeps," "food capital of the world," or even "good service" (I have to admit that's a first for me) are completely laughable if you ever travel to parts of Asia and western Europe. Seems to be the kind of sense of self-worth fueled by lack of exposure to the outside world, or if exposed refusal to actually see. But to be fair, I know plenty of New Yorkers who don't think or talk that way. It takes all sorts I guess.

                    1. re: mountsac

                      Again for the final time I will say my comments were not a New York versus Chicago post. Perhaps I should have left out the statements: white glove service, which I merely meant to use as a reference to a high end meal ( because in my book 200+ quantifies) not as a term to be snooty, and the fact that I live in NYC because ultimately when I re read my post, I stick to the fact that I had many great things to say about the food experience there and was simply curious to hear about what others thought about their experiences. but all the posts ultimately lead to for the most part was a "you are insulting Chicago" because I live in New York. That is by no means what I said. But it's so interesting to me that insults have been thrown around constantly throughout some of these posts about New York(ers) and our food scene, meanwhile my posts were never an attack on Chicago's culinary scene nor the people who live there, on the contrary I simply offered critique at one of your restaurants while additionally having so many possitive experiences. Yet not one single comment on my positive experiences. So as you said, agree to disagee.....

                      1. re: tleecouch

                        I respect differences in opinions. That's why I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt and overlooked the tone of a couple of your statements in your initial post. But you kept on going and articulated several reasons why you think New York's service is superior to other cities. I didn't think you were insulting Chicago. I was merely responding to your arguments.

                        You were attributing your less than perfect experience to demographics. I.e. since other cities have fewer people, fewer people will be adequately trained for serving in fine dining restaurants, leading to your justifiably low expectations. That's a pretty big statement. And you can't expect that you are entitled to the last word and we don't respond to the logical fallacy of your explanation.

                        I think it is interesting that when you express your opinion on other cities' food scene and why their service is naturally and inherently inferior, you were "offering critique." But when others express their opinions on New York food scene and pointing out how the feeling of superiority is misplaced, they are "insulting" New York. If you can't handle the taste of your own medicine, then I'd say stop digging.

                        1. re: mountsac

                          Words/phrases never used in any of my posts "justifiably low expectations", "superior/superiority" and "naturally or inherently inferior"....I feel like I am at a Yanks vs. Red Sox game where meaningless phrases are just being thrown out like "Clemens Sucks" or "Padro, whose your daddy?" meanwhile neither of those players are around any more. Do I think NYC has a larger and more competitive professional service industry? Yes, without a doubt. When the real estate costs can be over $1,000 per sq foot, I think the industries in our two respective cities becomes a different beast. Not better, worse, or any of the other adjectives you used, but very very different. I don't look down on food scenes in other cities because they aren't as big, but demographics has a huge impact on what kind of staff you get, what kind of food you have access too, how fresh your ingredients will be...so for example when I went to an awesome little spot, Hen of the Woods that prides themselves on innovative cooking while using all local ingredients, in Waterbury, VT that is considered one of "the spots" to check out not just in VT but in New England, I wasn't expecting Blue Hill, because I think that would be an absurd comparison. But it's one of my all time favorite restaurants both for service and for their food. Different expectations can just be different without it being a loaded statement.

                          1. re: tleecouch

                            What's with the quotations and the whole "no better, no worse, but very very different" discussion? Am I impeaching Bill Clinton? I don't think your words are loaded. Your expectations and the logic behind them were exactly what I was addressing. Based on your logic, I bet places like The French Laundry and Noma must far exceed your expectations.

                            Regarding food critics, the Chicago newspapers IMO seem to play the role of helping local businesses. I see more bluntness out of publications such as Time Out Chicago. Unlike New York Times or Gourmet, both of which have a national reputation to uphold, Chicago publications don't really have a readership outside of Chicagoland.

                      2. re: mountsac

                        "Statements such as "a city that never sleeps," "food capital of the world," or even "good service" (I have to admit that's a first for me) are completely laughable if you ever travel to parts of Asia and western Europe."

                        While I could go on at lengths about the myopic snobbishness of New Yorkers, your comment about Asia and Western Europe is right on the money (particularly when it comes to service).

                        1. re: mountsac

                          "Excellent service: Jean George's, Adour,
                          Good service: Del Posto, Le Bernadin, Cafe Boulud
                          Passable service: Bouley, Daniel, A Voce
                          Below par to bad service: Picholine, EMP, Peter Luger's, Le Cirque"

                          Now, that's funny!

                          1. re: ellenost

                            >> Now, that's funny!

                            I thought the same thing; I haven't been to all of those, but I've been to three of the four in the "below par to bad service" category and thought the service was just fine at all of them!

                        2. re: tleecouch

                          I didn't really want to jump into the mix here, but I figured what the heck. In this year's upcoming James Beard awards, Alinea and Grant weren't nominated for any. But, that's most likely because they've won all the awards already, including last years Outstanding Service award. Not too shabby for such a small pool.

                          My experience at Aliena was top notch. All my needs were always met and someone was always available with answers (granted I did take the wine pairings). I do think that everyone there is given a few more freedoms with personality (hair, jewlery, etc), but not to the point of being distracting. They are all in uniforms still. For me it is a modern restaurant and the waiters, captains, food runners all had a modern edge to them. They weren't walking around with white gloves acting all snooty. I am in my late 20s so maybe I'm more forgiving of a modern take on high end service, but I certainly didn't feel like anything was lacking. Compared to other higher end dining experiences I've had, the service level at Alinea was well above the rest.

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                          Alinea
                          1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                          1. re: tleecouch

                            Agreed. Liked the football comparison even though I went to a superior Big Ten school. I think part of our visceral reaction to your discontent with service at Alinea is based on, at least on my part, disbelief. Not for a moment do I think your making stuff up but perhaps more of a mountain out of a molehill type of thing. I base this on having read probably more than a hundred reviews and posts of Alinea and while there have been minor quibbles about service, I can't think of anyone with the service issues you posted about. Upon your return I hope you enjoy TGATG as much as we have. Blackbird also. At BB a while back we went for a pre-theatre dinner...the kitchen got swamped(some sort of huge private party thing), we waited forever for our mains, had to skip dessert and barely made the show. Gluttons for punishment we returned to BB after the show for dessert and they were wonderful. We explained what had happened and after we were done with desserts, coffee, dessert wine, etc. and after they asked if we wanted anything else, they comped us. Sure it was a huge kitchen/service issue but we left feeling a lot better about things and would return. Ignore Steve Plotnicki. Basically an inside joke to readers of another food board here in Chicago. He is(from New York I believe) generally reviled and I apologize for the comment.

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                            Alinea
                            1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                            1. re: hoppy2468

                              Listen, I totally get where you are coming from. I think the whole meal just started off on the wrong foot with the sommelier. He just wasn't nice nor helpful and it totally threw me off because I had been looking forward to this meal for months! Within just a few minutes of us sitting down, I felt like a second class citizen because we didn't choose the wine pairing and that really upset me. Just out of curiousity, when you have gone, do you do the early or the late seating? By the time we left, it was much more lively and it seemed to have a totally different vibe. That's really awesome about BB. I think it says a lot about a restaurant (especially a popular one) when they offer gestures like that. On another note, what food critics in Chicago do you think are spot on? I am hoping to get back this summer so I hope I can bug you for a few other recs as I get closer to my trip. re: Steve Plotnicki....nice one. haha : )

                              1. re: tleecouch

                                The mods may kill this post but check out LTHforum.com. Your average and beyond foodies posting on practically every restaurant in town

                                1. re: tleecouch

                                  Never later than 7p or earlier than 6. Our first time there really was magical and it didn't hurt that Bono and Adam Clayton were in the next room. Everyone used the bathroom that required going by their table. People were coming from downstairs!

                                  1. re: hoppy2468

                                    Funny, ten years of living here, two of which have been down in Tribeca, I don't think I have ever even had one major celeb sighting like that at any restaurant. What an added bonus to your evening!

                                  2. re: tleecouch

                                    >> Just out of curiousity, when you have gone, do you do the early or the late seating?

                                    Like Hoppy, I have only eaten there early (around 6:00). The last time - the one in which we only ordered their least expensive wine by the glass - I don't remember whether we were seated before or after the other tables in our room, but the way they have it divided into just a few tables in each room (four IIRC), it seemed quite intimate and enjoyable. I would not have said "you could hear a pin drop" unless I were bending over backwards to put the most negative spin possible on the experience. However, we go to restaurants to enjoy ourselves, not to look for faults. We only remember service problems that are truly egregious - waiting interminably for courses, inability to get the attention of waitstaff, attempts to clear dishes while we are still eating, staff that is downright rude, etc. None of which were problems at Alinea, where the service was impeccable.

                                    >> what food critics in Chicago do you think are spot on?

                                    None - and that's a fairly common opinion here. People don't really follow Vettel (Tribune), Bruno (Sun-Times), Dolinsky (ABC7), or the others all that closely or hang on their every word, at least not in the "foodie" community. It's different from New York, I know.

                                    1. re: nsxtasy

                                      We sat upstairs to the right at the far end of the room against the wall with the booths, and I think there was only one other couple there initially. I def liked the atmosphere better when it filled up a little. It was just a bit too quiet for the first half hour. If I do a second round there I would def try and go between 6 and 7 p.m. Interesting about the Chicago critics. The restaurant critic scene here is nuts and the good ones are great, but a lot have their own personal agendas. I read them as a point of reference, but I like to rely more upon word of mouth whether it be friends/family or other diners experiences for sure.

                                    2. re: tleecouch

                                      I think Time Out Chicago's critics are good, but it's not like TOC has quite the same subscription numbers of the Sun-Times, Trib, etc. The Chicago Reader does a nice job, though some critics are better writers than others - I also think that their food-related features tend to be stronger pieces than specific reviews. Michael Nagrant is a great writer but he seems to have shifted more to news/features rather than reviews.
                                      http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/...
                                      http://resto.newcity.com/

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                                      Time Out Chicago
                                      247 S State St, Chicago, IL 60604

                            2. re: hoppy2468

                              I got lost at "pallet" instead of palate. Twice.

                              1. re: dulcie54

                                Our warehouse has pallet cleansers. :)

                            3. I am also surprised that the sommalier at Alinea was apparently so insensitive to your cues. It certainly was not our experience there -- with any of the staff. We found them to be attentive, pleasant, good-humored and unobtrusive when they needed to be.

                              Of course it's possible for someone to have an off-night, but I do wonder a bit like the previous poster if your attitude about service in NYC might have had an impact on how the service at Alinea occurred for you.

                              On the other hand, not everyone likes the same things. Thank you for sharing your opinion.

                              1. I've been to Alinea a few times and did not have the same service issues. But service is a very personal thing so I get the review. The comment about "reminding yourself about not being in NYC" is absurd. I've been to EMP, Le Bernadine, Jean-Georges, Daniel, Bappo, Bouley, etc... in NYC and while their service is good (maybe a bit stuffy here and there) it isn't better than I have had at a number of other restaurants across the country.

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                                Alinea
                                1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                  I'm a NYer, and I agree with you 100%. To be honest, I've always found the service in Chicago restaurants to be among the finest anywhere.

                                2. "However, for the price, which is $195 plus tax and gratuity, (which ends up being almost the same price at Per Se,) I didn't feel as if I got the same satisfaction out of the vegetarian menu as I did at Per Se."

                                  I'm not sure how you did your math but Per Se is considerably more expensive than Alinea. Per Se costs $295 which includes service but does include tax or any supplements like $40 dollars for foie gras or $75 dollars for caviar. Even if you didn’t get any supplements Per Se would cost about $321 out the door while at Alinea, $195 dollars plus tax and gratuity would cost about $260 out the door.

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                                  Alinea
                                  1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: PorkyBelly

                                    When I went to Per Se the menu was priced at $250.

                                    1. re: tleecouch

                                      The menu currently on the website ( www.tkrg.org/upload/ps_menu.pdf ) shows the tasting menu and the vegetarian menu both at $295, with supplements of $75 for caviar and $40 for foie gras.

                                      I'm going next week for lunch but I'm assuming (?) I'll be able to order off the salon menu (a la carte).

                                      1. re: nsxtasy

                                        Yeah price has increased. Wish I had gone back when it was $150. Yes, in the Salon area you can order a la carte.

                                  2. I dined at Alinea in June 2009 and have to agee with tleecouch regarding the sommelier. I'm not sure if he is just so used to having diners choose the wine pairing that he can't think outside that box or what. When we explained that we are not big wine enthusiasts but would like to have a couple glasses over the course of the tasting that would pair well with several dishes, he seemed completely thrown. We got almost the exact same "Well...I don't really know, it just depends on what you like" line and presented with the wine list. Again, we aren't wine enthusiasts and we DID need help. After stumbling for a while with minimal input from the sommelier, we finally settled on some wine. It made us uncomfortable and was a disappointing start to the evening.

                                    Interestingly, we asked for a couple of glasses to pair with a few of the dishes because when we explained that we aren't big wine drinkers and did not want a pairing but wanted some wine to the sommelier at The French Laundry, he immediately suggested that as a good way to go and quickly offered and described a few choices that would pair well with the first part and then the second part of the meal. It made us feel comfortable and set a lovely tone for the evening.

                                    All that said, the sommelier was the only blip of failure in an otherwise outstanding evening. The rest of the service was impeccable and the food was exquisite. I wouldn't hesitate to return to Alinea.

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                                    Alinea
                                    1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614