UPDATE MAY 2018
I recently learned that Grace (one of the three Michelin restaurants from this post) has closed due to a disagreement between the partners. While it is sad news Chicago does have plenty of other amazing places to eat. Most comparable is, Alinea. While we weren’t able to get seats there, we hear it’s great. If you’re looking for an amazing non-Michelin meal try, Girl and the Goat.
One of our days from our 4 Day Chicago Itinerary was penciled in as “Michelin day.” Using the Michelin guide, we stacked the day with some of Chicago’s top restaurants. Getting reservations to Blackbird, Roister, and Grace. Obviously, trying three Chicago Michelin Star restaurants in one day was ambitious but we were excited to try.
Blackbird (one Michelin star)
The food adventure started early with Blackbird. A one Michelin star restaurant by executive chef Paul Kahan. Kahan was the winner of the James Beard award for outstanding chef in 2013 and a handful of other prestigious awards. In addition to the dinner service they are known for, Blackbird also has an inexpensive fixed course lunch for people to try.
Awards and honors
- Michelin Guide, 1 Star Rating
- James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef 2013
- James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes
- Jean Banchet 2017 Restaurant of the Year
By booking the first reservation we hoped to be as unobtrusive as possible since Kairi was with us.
Blackbird isn’t kid friendly. While our waiter went through the motions of helping us, we received no further attention than being handed the menu and told to pick what we want. I am not one to complain about hands off service, but when a warm reception turns to stone the second he noticed my daughter, it’s disheartening. Especially when the adjacent tables are so close, we can see the outstanding service he was giving. The kicker was that Kairi was the perfect child throughout the meal. Not making a sound, she happily ate her bread while we enjoyed our meals.
As for the food, we sampled all eight items from their lunch prix fixe menu. The appetizers were inventive, and the entrees embraced unique flavor pairing. From texture to temperature every dish on Blackbird’s lunch menu was a real showcase of skill.
I thoroughly enjoyed my chilled cucumber gazpacho appetizer. Think of it as a rich man’s blended pickle soup. Trang and Geoff also claimed to have had best appetizer, so it’s fair to say that you would be happy choosing any of the three.
The entrees combined ingredients like hanger steak & strawberry, duck confit & plum, and whitefish & cherry. All unique with bold flavor combinations that worked well together. The plates left us happily confused and wishing we could have tried their dinner.
For the desserts, you could choose between a raspberry cheesecake or chocolate dish. Of the two, the raspberry cheesecake was better. Maybe if we hadn’t eaten the chocolaty chocolate cake at the Girl & the Goat (highly recommend) the night before, we would have enjoyed the dessert more.
Overall blackbird was fantastic. For the quality of the food, the $25 Lunch Prix Fixe was a steal. Please be warned that most casual eaters may still complain about the size of the meals. We weren’t full after the meal, but still, we think it’s worth it. Anyone with a palette would be crazy not to get reservations to Blackbird. Useless you have a kid, but who knows. Maybe they’ll be friendly if you choose to sit outside.
Roisters (one Michelin star)
Two hours later we strolled into Chef Andrew Brochu’s restaurant. Roister is also a one Michelin star restaurant. Their lunch menu isn’t fixed or as formal as blackbird which was a welcoming sight. Our daughter was much more welcomed at Roister. The waitress spoke to us with warmth and came by often to check up on us. We felt very comfortable. With the meal two hours after blackbird, we only ordered a few items.
Awards and honors
- Michelin Guide, 1 Star Rating
- Jean Banchet 2017 Chef of the Year
- Restaurant of the Year 2017 by Food & Wine magazine
We started with the foie gras toast. It was tasty. The creamy foie gras was covered with cinnamon and sugar. Everything went well together on the crunchy toast.
The $53 Japanese A-5 wagyu quarter pounder was the real splurge of the meal. Our host even mentioned how out of the ordinary it is to have such a premium cut of beef inside of a sandwich. It was equal parts sacrilege and amazing. When she set it down the sandwich looked like a steak covered in melted cheese. We split it up, and It was gone before we knew it. As the meat disintegrated in my mouth, I couldn’t help but smile. It was well prepared. Worth $53? Not in my opinion, but that’s up to you.
For the entrees, we ordered their fried chicken sandwich and Japanese A-5 quarter pounder. Both of them were delicious. Our only knock on the chicken sandwich was that the meat was so tender that it got lost in the cole slaw and crust. I wouldn’t have believed there was any chicken in the sandwich if I hadn’t seen it myself. It’s a strange backhanded compliment I know, but I think it’s an accurate description of the sandwich.
Roister was good and one that we can recommend to all. Its relaxing atmosphere doesn’t match what we’re used to in a Michelin starred restaurant, and we think that’s great. Besides the crazy expensive quarter pounder sandwich, the rest of the lunch menu is reasonably priced. Roister is a great food destination for casual diners.
Grace (three Michelin stars)
Later that night my buddy Geoff and I walked into Grace for an 8:30 dinner reservation. Grace is one of two, three star Michelin restaurants in Chicago. Headed by chef Curtis Duffy, Grace has been a top culinary restaurant since it opened in 2012.
If you have Netflix, you can learn all about Chef Duffy and his restaurant in the 2016 documentary “For Grace.”
Awards and honors
- Michelin Guide, 3 Star Rating
- Five Diamond Award, AAA
- Forbes Travel Guide, 5 Star Rating
- Best Chef: Great Lakes 2016 (Curtis Duffy) James Beard Foundation
Geoff and I were immediately greeted and taken to our seats. Being seated right in front of the kitchen, it was exciting to see Chef Duffy run his restaurant with military precision. The staff would flow in and out taking dishes to their tables after they got Chef Duffy’s approval.
I didn’t know what to expect because Grace was my first three Michelin star restaurant in the states. Right off the bat, I could tell I was in for the most orchestrated meal of my life. The entire wait staff moved with grace (no pun intended). Giving us detailed descriptions of each dish and how to eat it. All while moving and replacing plates in perfect synchronization.
As expected the meal was a clinic to how a master chef can use unique ingredients and textures to create flavor combinations I’ve never experienced before. The ten-course fauna meal centered around seafood and protein. Which was accompanied by a starter plate and a handful of different pieces of bread throughout the meal.
Memorable dishes included the guinea hen, raw miyazaki beef and huckleberry sorbet.
The miyazaki beef dish was the hardiest of the meal. With beef served both raw and seared over a scoop of grains and surrounded with hon shimeji mushrooms. Overall the plate tasted familiar. That’s when Geoff commented that it reminded him of pho. As soon as he said that, my mind zeroed in and I had to agree.
The Huckleberry sorbet was a refreshing treat. Smooth with a mix of crunchies. The huckleberry was also surrounded by dabs of honey, fenugreek and basil purees. Everything blended so well together. I wanted seconds.
- Four bite starter
- Guinea Hen
- Alaskan King Crab
- Bay Scallops
- Red Kuri Squash
- Miyazaki Beef
- Blood Orange Ice
The comical highlight of the meal was the way the staff described the dishes. Every description was delivered in a soothing, fairy tail voice. It was hard not to smile at their attempts of over the top fluffiness.
Grace’s ten-course dining experience came out to $235 a person. The entire meal was a real journey. If you are into high-end dining, Grace may just be your Mount Everest. I have it forth on my list of memorable meals. Behind places like Sukiyabashi Jiro, Wakkoqu and Astrid y Gaston. Though I thought the meal was amazing, it’s not something the average person would enjoy.
Chicago Michelin Star Restaurant success
The end of our meal at Grace brought an end to an extraordinary day of eating. A day of food highlights that I don’t think we’ll be able to replicate anytime soon. We love being able to try what food critics consider the best in the region and are excited to continue that tradition in Denmark later this year.
Michelin meals have become a staple in our travels. Every region has its unique take on food, and we want to try the best of them all. If you want to read about another one of our Michelin meals check out a post we wrote for our first three-star restaurant visit to Sukiyabashi Jiro. Our experience eating sashimi created by Jiro Ono was life-changing. Not in a dramatic sense, but it unlocked our desire to experience each country’s best food.