What is the menu like at Alinea?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

You won’t find a menu more original than the one at Alinea — right down to how it’s printed. The menu gives subtle cues about each of the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant’s 22 courses, but you have to read between the lines; courses are listed by main ingredient first, followed by a circle and then accompanying ingredients. The size of the circle tells a lot — the bigger the circle, the bigger the course, and vice versa. A small circle may represent a tasty one-bite course, while larger circles represent more substantial dishes, such as the rabbit consommé or the short rib with tomato and black garlic pasta. Justification of text means something else on the menu, too: How far left or right on the page each course is listed signifies how sweet or savory the dish will be. The spectrum runs from sweetest on the left to most savory on the right.

Looking at the menu lets you map out the journey on which your taste buds are about to embark. Alinea’s insistence on variety and defying expectations helps keep your palate wanting more even after a marathon 22 courses. The Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Chicago restaurant’s food philosophy deliberately contrasts a traditional French menu, which follows an expected procession — cold appetizer, hot appetizer, foie gras, soup, fish, main course, cheese, dessert — that often results in a tired, satiated palate.

Alinea’s menu changes constantly and incorporates fresh ingredients with each season. Dinner costs between $210 and $265 per person, depending on the day of the week, and the wine pairing — masterfully developed to complement each dish — ranges from $135 to $195 per person.

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