Tag Archives: Grant Achatz

The Michelin Guide Chicago 2012 and Michelin Star Restaurants

15 Nov

Grant Achatz remains king as Alinea is awarded the sole dignity of having three Michelin stars in Chicago, while last year’s co-champion, L20, fell down to one star with the transition of their executive chef. There were a few other fluxes in this year’s Michelin star ranking from last year; a total of 21 Chicago restaurants were awarded the honors versus 23 in 2011. Next was not included and it’s unclear if that was a result of not being able to experience the restaurant or due to when it opened.

I am thrilled to see some of the standouts from my year  in dining were included, among them Schwa and Tru. With last year’s arrival of Chicago Michelin Guide, it showcased what we in our fair city have known for a long time, we have tasty food and restaurants. I appreciate that the Michelin Guide continues to push and excel our Chefs, but with the Chicago charm I wouldn’t trade for the world. Sappy? Sure. But I’m not wrong.

And now, I present the 2012 Michele star restaurants in Chicago:

Three stars:

  • Alinea

Two stars:

  • Charlie Trotter’s
  • RIA

One star:

  • Blackbird
  • Boka
  • Bonsoiree
  • Courtright’s (new in 2012)
  • Everest
  • Graham Elliot
  • L2O
  • Longman & Eagle
  • Moto (new in 2012)
  • NAHA
  • Schwa
  • Seasons
  • Sepia
  • Spiaggia
  • Takashi
  • Topolobampo
  • Tru
  • Vie

This Foodie Went To Schwa

11 Jun
Catherine Merritt at Schwa

Catherine Merritt at Schwa

About six months ago, my friend from Portland, Amy, said she and her boyfriend were coming in town in June to celebrate her birthday, and she wondered if we could do dinner with them. But of course! Then we had to decide where this dinner would take place. One restaurant immediately came to mind: Schwa. With about six months out, it was enough time to begin working on securing that highly coveted reservation. I was on it.

For those that don’t know, Schwa’s Chef Michael Carlson has been acclaimed one of the greatest chefs of our generation and certainly of Chicago. On par, hands down, with Charlie Trotter and Grant Aschatz, what separates Chef Carlson from the pack is that he’s continued to do this his way. From the way that he runs the restaurant, the frustratingly maddening reservation system, and the loud music in the dining room to the sublime food- it’s all a reflection of the genius of Michael Carlson.


Photo credit: Schwa

Chef Michael Carlson of Schwa, Photo credit: Schwa

Back to about three months ago, after calling Schwa daily (I knew and still know the number by heart), I finally got an answer on Thursday. I felt like my sixth grade self who just called B96 to find out I won tickets to see C&C Music Factory. I kindly asked for the date of June 9 for four and he said he’d add us to the wait list. He also told me that they’d call in advance to get my credit card number to hold the spot. Amazing.

As June 9 got closer and closer I was simultaneously excited and anxious. I was dying for our meal but still hadn’t gotten the reservation confirmed and from what I’ve read on other boards is that Schwa is notorious for dropping resos without much warning. Luckily, the night before our dinner, they finally called back and we were set.

Schwa is BYOB and a little inside tip: when you’re buying bottles for your table, also pick up a six pack of something good for the kitchen. More on that later.

We bought four bottles, a sparkling, Pinot Gris, a brut Riesling and a Pinot Noir from Willamette in Oregon. In retrospect, we could have used another bottle and they’re generous with the pour, but everything we picked was spot on.

NOTE: when I went into this meal, I made the decision to leave my pad of paper in my bad and just enjoy it. I didn’t write down one note. So we’re going off of memory.

In all the 11 courses at Schwa (it was a nine course menu but the extra six pack for the kitchen got us to complimentary ones) there were some standouts. The quail egg ravioli was the most superb thing mine lips doth tasted. It was amazing. We were told the accompanying forks were simply meant to fend off others and we were left to shoot the ravioli. It was in a brown butter truffle sauce and I can’t emphasize enough how incredibly it was. Same can be said for the deconstructed baked potato soup with stretched ‘barely buzzed’ cheddar cheese. The cheese is fermented in lilac and coffee grounds and if you ever thought Cheddar was an under sophisticated fromage, please enjoy this one first. It was incredible.

Schwa Cuisine, Photo Credit: Schwa

Schwa Cuisine, Photo Credit: Schwa

Another off-the-menu offering from the kitchen was the tuna sashimi, which was the most delicious, delicate, melt-in-your-mouth piece of fish I’ve ever had. The highlight of the meal was the Schaw version of smores. It was braised short rib in a cocoa sauce with graham crackers and marshmallows over a glass of campfire smoke. It evoked every single sense and I am still dreaming about each and every course.

Food was part of the experience at Schwa, but another thing that contributed to this meal was the exposed kitchen and watching Chef Carlson and his amazing team of six (yes, that’s six total people. Running both the front and back of the house). Our server was incredibly attentive without coddling. He was even so kind as to extend some beer from the kitchen after our wine had run out. The music played is loud and that is a testament to Chef doing this his way. And I loved that.

With all the hoopla about Next and Alinea, I would chose to eat at Schwa again any day over those. It was an authentically beautiful experience that I am already making calls to secure our next reservation. Likely a year from now.

Aviary is open

25 Apr

Aviary, the cocktail brainchild of Grant Achatz, opened this past Saturday. As with everything chef Achatz does, he is reinventing the cocktail as we know it.

The menu for Aviary is as follows:


Cranberry, passion fruit, orange, rums – $17
Popcorn, butter, crème fraiche, rum – $15
Coffee, ristretto, milk, rum – $15
Pineapple, mint, sanbitter, chartreuse – $16
Hot Chocolate, Ecuadorian chocolate, fernet, tequila – $15
Ginger, peychaud’s, shiso, fingerlime, – vodka $17
Daiquiri, sugar cane, lime, rum – $12
Banana, lemon, mint, new make – $16
Tiki, macadamia, cinnamon, batavia – $17
Blueberry, verjus, sweet vermouth, rye – $19
Martinez maraschino, sweet vermouth, gin, – $14
Lemon, carbonated, gin – $16
Sazerac, demerara, peychaud’s, rye – $14
El Diablo, creme de cassis, ginger beer, tequila – $15
In the Rocks, demerara, angostura, bourbon – $18
Sassafras, vanilla, anise, kirsch – $18
Rooibos, verbena, almond, vanilla, gin – $18
Sidecar, cointreau, lemon, brandy – $14
Scots Pine, yuzu, elderflower, tequila – $17
Truffle, campari, sweet vermouth, gin – $28
Martini, aged, vermouth, gin – $18


Cantaloupe, prosciutto, basil, champagne – $3
Lobster, cracker, comte, grape – $5
Chowder, croquette, clam, spicy corn pudding – $3
Crab, tempura, tomato, pickle – $4
Pork Belly, coconut, curry, iceberg – $4
Potato, custard, malt vinegar chips, chive – $3
Wagyu, smoked paprika, pumpkin seed, yogurt – $6
Foie Gras, rhubarb, pumpernickel, lavender – $5
Cheesecake, strawberry, balsamic, graham cracker – $3
Brioche, chocolate, smoked salt, vanilla – $4

How was Grant Achatz’s Next?

7 Apr

Well, from its Facebook page, despite major email/tech snafus, Next had a great first seating.  With 60 diners on its opening night on Wednesday, and rave reviews, looks like they’re off to a great start. Chef Grant Achatz is truly Chicago’s glory epicurean god, but he’s earned those laurels and we’re thrilled to see the success he’s achieved.

Tonight a friend of The Chicago Foodie, the lovely, Ellen Malloy, is heading to Next. Eager to hear her report of it.

As for everyone still waiting for their tickets/reservations, hang in there. I’ll probably make it to the 900 block of West Fulton Market in about 2014 at this rate. Or, if you’ve got money to spare, tickets are already being sold on Craigslist. A bit tacky, but whatever gets you in the door I guess.

We’d love to hear from people as they experience Next. Is it worth the hype? Better than Alinea? Thoughts, improvements, gripes? Let us know!