The slow drip of Michelin news continues. In a year when Chicago restaurants continue to wait for 2023’s Michelin Star and Bib Gourmand announcements — news that typically drops during the spring — earlier this week the tire company added eight Chicago restaurants to its guide.
What does that mean? These eight restaurants are apparently eligible for the star and Bib lists. The official lists will be released before a November 7 party in New York where winners from Chicago, D.C., and New York will be invited. In recent years, Michelin has hosted parties in each market to celebrate the winners, but this year they’ve opted for an end-of-year event in the Big Apple.
Seemingly taking a page out of a TV reality show, a group of chefs will be flown to New York to see if their Michelin dreams will come true: “Chefs will be invited to Spring Studios in Tribeca, New York, the evening of November 7 to discover whether their restaurant teams have received a Michelin Star,” a release reads.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Michelin has made tweaks since the pandemic. Many awards, including the Emmys, have had to make changes since 2020.
Local tourism boards pay Michelin a significant amount (LA reportedly paid $600,000) for the tire guide’s ratings in their cities. Releasing all the news at once could be controversial for markets who want their own spotlight. But there’s an element of cruelty. While anxious chefs are known to be waiting for that Michelin phone call that could change their lives, the choice to share any disappointment is theirs. Walking around the James Beard Awards, held in June in Chicago, seeing disappointment when chefs don’t win isn’t a pretty thing. Bib Gourmands are supposed to recognize value but have also been used as consolation prizes for restaurants that don’t win star status. Will disappointed chefs leave New York with a Bib instead of a star?
This Lincoln Square tasting menu restaurant made a splash after opening earlier this year and luring James Beard Award nominee Christian Hunter from Connecticut. However, after the opening, few in the local press have elected to review the restaurant inside the space formerly occupied by Iliana Regan’s Michelin-starred Elizabeth. Hunter earns tons of praise from Michelin: “Hope that the warm clam chowder with lamb bacon and chive oil is still available. It’s a total showstopper.”
Joe Fontelera has quietly made a name for himself cooking at various Chicago restaurants, including lauded sushi spot Arami. But he’s yearned for a more personal connection in sharing Filipino flavors with his customers. What started out at Revival Food Hall as a stool has grown to a full-service restaurant allowing the chef to make his dreams a reality. Michelin notes: “The intoxicating, unmistakable aroma of garlic fills the narrow room every time someone opens the rice cooker.”
Cellar Door slumbered during the pandemic and reinvented itself in Logan Square with a remarkable dinner experience that added a deep wine list. Michelin writes: “No tweezers, no fancy wine glasses, no military-grade kitchen brigade— just good eats, found in a plate of tender runner beans with garlic confit or a smooth scoop of duck liver mousse paired with just-warmed country bread.”
GG’s Chicken Shop
The inclusion of this restaurant, a project of Boka chef Lee Wolen, may surprise some. It’s a fast-casual restaurant in Southport, along a stretch known for its suburban feel where pedestrians need to avoid an army of leashed dogs and strollers. Nonetheless, GG’s serves quality rotisserie chicken, salads, sandwiches, and a ground chicken burger. Per Michelin: “Despite the downhome digs, the kind and caring staff are incredibly professional, elevating an already enjoyable experience.”
Sharing the same address as GG’s in Boka Restaurant Group’s Lakeview complex (along with Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner), Itoko is a two-floor sushi spot that caters to the family-friendly neighborhood with high-quality fish and a menu from Gene Kato, who oversees Boka’s roomy West Loop Japanese restaurant, Momotaro. Beyond the sushi, which is leaps and bounds better than what locals would buy in grocery stores, there’s a fun brunch with Japanese pancakes and more. For Michelin: “From hot and cold appetizers to handrolls, sushi, and robata, the items display creative combinations with skilled execution.”
Since 2018, chef Otto Phan has operated a fancy and pricey sushi restaurant in Logan Square called Kyoten. He had Michelin Star dreams after moving from Texas that never materialized. While Phan says his focus was on the fish, with his sequel, he’s spent more resources devoted to other comforts for the customer. The Trib’s Nick Kindelsperger took notice. Kyoten Next Door also doesn’t charge as much as Phan’s original. Michelin describes: “The chic space and kindly-priced beverage list add to the swagger of a counter that cares about quality but never takes itself too seriously.”
Every so often, Michelin will surprise with a restaurant that locals have ignored. Yao Yao, in Chinatown, earned a write-up by John Kessler in Chicago, but failed to register on other’s radars. Sichuan-style pickled fish is the specialty of the house. Michelin concludes: “Fiery and potent, this plate delivers a one-two punch with a funky seafood quality and the sharp tang of sour greens.”
Eater Chicago’s reigning Restaurant of the Year bizarrely didn’t make the guide in 2022 even with national recognition from the James Beard Foundation and more. Regardless, this French-American restaurant, from the Poilevey family — the operators of Chicago French institutions like Le Sardine and Le Bouchon — has soared to new heights with fun food like the popular foie gras taco. Michelin writes: “The boisterous, sun-soaked dining room is a sign of equally happy guests, all of whom happily rise to the occasion as seafood platters and bottles of wine grace tables with unusual regularity.”