Alinea @ 9:15 or 9:30 p.m. -- will it be the full experience?
Have an unexpected trip coming up; so went looking to see what reservations were available on a few weeks notice -- only 9:15 or 9:30 for 2 (Thurs or Sat night).
I know the staff is professional. I also know how I feel at the end of a long shift. We try never to be the folks closing down a place. I just can't help but wonder that the experience won't feel "all out".
Would it be best to wait for another trip and an earlier hour? There are so many places we need to try in Chicago so we certainly won't be cheated of good food.
It will be the normal, full experience. Most of Alinea's seating times tend to be either really early or really late with minimal "prime" seating times available. The reason for this is the meal is lengthy (3 to 4 hours on average, occasionally a bit longer) and they like to be able to do two seatings per/table for most of the tables. The staff there is outstanding and I would be very surprised if your experience was compromised in any way by having a late seating.
The last time we were there my wife asked to tour the kitchen (they didn't let us walk around, we stood in an out-of-the-way location in the kitchen while the hostess explained all the stations and a never-ending succession of servers walked in empty-handed and left with courses for diners). This was about 9-9:30pm on a Saturday night. The entire room was operating with fairly meticulous focus (these aren't dishes that you can just plop on a plate). I can't imagine the late seating had any lesser an experience than we did.