Lincoln Park became the Food Nexus of Chicago earlier this year, when Michelin declared not one, but two neighborhood restaurants worthy of its coveted three-star rating, putting our fair city on par with food havens like San Francisco. In fact, Lincoln Park’s Alinea and L2O are the only Chicago restaurants to achieve this distinction. Restaurant Magazine even named Alinea the best restaurant in North America, and the sixth-best in the world.
And then last month, disaster struck.
Alinea failed a routine health inspection by the city. It has since passed a reinspection, but still. How could this possibly happen, one might ask? Especially when a table for two can cost between $500-$1,000? Three things, apparently:
1. Black mold inside the ice machine.
2. Improperly stored cabbage and potato soup.
3. Employees failing to properly wash their hands.
Of the infractions, I find number 3 the most egregious, though “black mold” is a scary pair of words. Turns out, exposure to black mold mycotoxins can cause chronic headaches, fever, and irritation to the eyes, mouth, nose and throat. And if food isn’t stored at the right temperature (apparently the soup was a bit cold), all kinds of bacteria can pop up.
But there is good news. One, there were no mutant rats. And two, it is evidently quite common for Michelin-rated restaurants to occasionally fail a health inspection. In fact, more than 1 out of 3 have failed an inspection in the past two years. The problem, according to food safety experts, is if a restaurant fails them repeatedly.
One bad day shouldn’t scare you away from the greatest restaurant in North America. But come on, guys. Learn how to wash your hands.
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