The best meal of my life was at Alinea, one of two restaurants in Chicago with three Michelin stars. It was a bucket list item that I’d planned for years. What happened next was perhaps inevitable: When Grace, a fast-rising star, earned its three Michelin stars in two short years, I set my sights on a new goal.
Since a visit to Grace costs nearly $500, I started saving months in advance. To most, $500 for a meal is excessive and ludicrous, but to me, it’s a fair price for a meal showcasing the talent and creativity of one of the world’s best chefs. Grace chef-owner Curtis Duffy worked at Chicago’s famed Trio and then opened Alinea with Grant Achatz. In between there and Grace he cooked at Avenues, where he earned two Michelin stars. It was only a matter of time before he took Grace to the summit of the culinary world.
I snagged reservations two months ahead of my trip. Finally, on an unusually cool summer evening, I found myself at the entrance to Grace.
My three dining companions and I came with empty stomachs and big expectations. We were asked to choose between flora and fauna tasting menus. I opted for the meatier fauna menu, which featured ingredients like Osetra caviar, Alaskan king crab and Miyazaki beef.
The service was impeccable. Plates were delivered in unison, and with the wine pours, became a symphony. Each movement by the staff was a well-orchestrated dance.
The experience at Grace was world-class. From the flawless service to the elegant serving pieces to the precise flavorings of the dishes, Grace did not disappoint. It is easy to see why food critics regard it as one of the leading restaurants in the country. The wine pairings were sensible and generous, the cuisine quirky and memorable.
Now that I’ve eaten the best that Chicago has to offer, I’m setting my sights on two pillars of the American dining scene: the French Laundry and Eleven Madison Park. I’ll get to them one day, but probably not very soon. They will take a bit of planning and a lot of saving.