Stars and Bibs; Bibs and Stars

Stars and Bibs; Bibs and Stars

Michelin invaded our lake shore 3 years ago and their third list will be coming out in about a fortnight, Nov 14th. There have been a cornucopia of restaurants opened in the last year and some are hoping to get on the much heralded list.

The process is a well-guarded secret that makes about as much sense as baseball’s lack of instant replay and drives people crazy like an announcement for Next available tickets. I’ve had my issues with the list and I hope they get a little more consistent in their third year.

If you follow the twitter feed, you have moments where you think it’s more than one person and other times you think that if it is one person they have many personalities! Hello, Sybil. But despite all of that, I think I’ve cracked the DaVinci code of who is this master reviewer behind Michelin Chicago. Here are some highlights from the past year in Michelin tweets up until recently…

  • He is a married man with a sarcastic son and another child.
  • The Michelin MAN likes to talk about bread, a lot. You’d think he was obsessed and obviously isn’t concerned with gluten or any no carb diets with the amount of bread chatter.
  • It’s hard to pin down his age because one minute he’s thankful for a server showing him the way with a flashlight app and the next he shows his appreciation for Scandinavian death metal. He also knows the scent Old Spice so he’s definitely over 40 close to 50 since he knows Brandy was “a fine girl.”
  • He is a gourmand who likes dessert with lunch and appreciates gelato, sausage, white bean cassoulet and hopefully Lipitor.
  • Cleanliness is paramount with a tweet on Health Dept visits mattering. He also likes clean forks with each course and was repulsed when he saw a cook double dip a tasting spoon.
  • Enjoys dining alone and early, restaurant open at 5pm NOW early, is typical. He also likes when the staff says good bye to him.
  • Wrote on Aug 7th 2012 - @thebradplaza Absolutely! Stars are only based upon the food… not wine, service, décor or anything else -- Really??? That philosophy is counter intuitive to nearly every chef I know. They focus on the experience from the time you make a reservation to the second you get in your car and leave. Anyway…
  • He thinks unseasonable ingredients are weird. Yet, he finds the irony in molten chocolate cake being lame while thinking you could pair anything with Champagne and truffles. There are also times he feels plus sized – his words not mine.
  • Redeems himself by getting in to Schwa, the final Trotter dinner on 8/22 and having a sarcastic sense of humor in thinking the chef at L2O may change around November, again.

In the end, HE does get out often and comments on a variety of places, as HE should.

Bib Gourmand
Dissecting the Bib Gourmand list you’ll notice it’s lengthy with 56 restaurants on the list. That is a lot of locations and a HUGE variety. The rationale for the Bib Gourmand is to have a dining experience with two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for under $40 (not including tax and tip.) That has to become harder now that $9 is the norm for a dessert and most entrees start about $25 per plate.

I wonder…

Do we lose Arami and Avec because of their chef change? Can GT Fish, Girl and the Goat, Ricardo Trattoria or Purple Pig get elevated? Hard to say considering Chicago magazine couldn’t find a way to put GT on their Best New Restaurant list for 2012. I still think Browntrout is the worst named restaurant on the planet and my dining experience wasn’t very Bib worthy. Mind you Michelin seems to think these restaurants are all of the same caliber as Ann Sather. If you can figure that out, please shoot me a note!

The Bib list does get it right with Jaipur, Bistronomic, Mexique, Nightwood and the Bristol. But do we see Lillie’s Q making the grade or perhaps newcomer Balena? In the end, I think you’ll see this list grow to 70 strong and have an interesting mix of attrition and addition.

The Stars
A wise man predicted, back in December of 2011, that Starred Restaurants would be closing with an the over/under for 2012 of 3 AND it would be a push! After the first Michelin list in 2010, I guessed, sorry predicted, we would lose two restaurants and I took the over. The number was actually four. I’m two for two. Note: Seasons technically re-concepted but didn’t close.

Back to 2013’s list, I think Alinea is still the only three star restaurant in town unless the Michelin super, secret spy’s could actually crack the Next code! I can’t see anyone going from one to three.

The two star strata is hauntingly vacant with the closing of Ria and Charlie Trotter’s. Many have predicted Goosefoot joining the list out of the gate at two but I think one is a bit more likely. Sixteen under new chef Thomas Lents is worthy of two and at night perhaps even three. He’d bring the glory back to a restaurant that was removed in 2012. Other’s hoping to make a move up are L2O, Blackbird, Spiaggia and Tru.

I’ve been very vocal about my shock at Spiaggia being one star. The service and wine list are worthy of two. But perhaps it is only about the food? I would argue the same exact points for Tru. I’ve not been to L2O since their chef change and not to Blackbird in the last year so it’s hard to say if they deserve the promotion.

Did the book go to print before the change at Graham Elliot? Does Vie have the staying power with chef Paul Virant seeming to focus on Perennial Virant and the added hotel duties? Can Moto shock the world and move up? Could they get in to El Ideas and was it a theme night?

With eighteen one starred restaurants in 2012, I think that list grows to 22. The two star universe should see four total restaurants and Alinea stays alone on top of the mountain. I’ll scratch my head again that Longman and Eagle is still a Michelin starred restaurant and Next will be undervalued – I think they get one. Somehow, I think the food won’t be the reason they are short changed!

What do you think? Who gets promoted? Relegated? Or completely forgotten?

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at Joe also contributes to Chicago.

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