Mind-bending molecular gastronomy in Chicago
Alinea, the Latin word for that funny little symbol (¶) indicating the need for a new paragraph — or a new train of thought — is at the forefront of the molecular gastronomy movement, which re-imagines familiar foods in stunningly innovative ways.

Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Alinea’s chef Grant Achatz is widely regarded as one of the most creative chefs in the world, and his kitchen is at the center of some of the food world’s most innovative dishes.

Enter the Chicago restaurant’s purposefully hidden entrance and ascend its floating glass-and-metal staircase and you’ll be treated to breathtaking creations such as the black truffle explosion, featuring truffle-topped ravioli filled with truffle broth which “explodes” in your mouth. Another dish is duck served with mango and yogurt on a pillow of juniper air.

The complex meals often require equally complicated instructions from the patient waitstaff, but trust us — you won’t complain.
Our Inspector's Highlights
  • The Five-Star restaurant offers two dining rooms, split among three levels, with space for about 65 guests at roughly 20 tables. The dining experience is intimate, but conducive to conversation.
  • Alinea is an exclusive restaurant in the heart of Chicago’s upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood, just steps from the esteemed Steppenwolf Theatre.
  • With indulgent, French-inspired cuisine and carefully selected wine pairings, Alinea is about as original and romantic a date as we could imagine — especially if your paramour is a foodie. At $210 (some days $265) per person for dinner plus an additional $135 to $195 for the wine pairing, it’s definitely a splurge, but Alinea makes a great spot for special occasions, birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Like its minimalist table settings and interior design, Alinea forgoes playing music in the dining room to keep your attention focused completely on its masterful food preparation. With no music and only about 20 tables in the whole Five-Star restaurant, Alinea’s overall noise level tends to be hushed.
Things to Know
  • The dress code at Alinea requires a jacket for gentlemen, with ties optional. Ladies should wear comparable attire; a dress, skirt or dress pants will do. Be sure you look the part for this once-in-a-lifetime meal.
  • Due to its limited seating, Alinea is not an ideal place for large groups, though it can accommodate smaller parties of up to about six people. Because it is very difficult to get a reservation at Alinea, groups should snag tickets well in advance.
  • Reservations are required at Alinea, the exclusive Five-Star restaurant from molecular gastronomy wiz Grant Achatz. The avant-garde Chicago restaurant doesn’t allow walk-ins during its elaborate three- to four-hour dinner service.
  • Your best bet is to follow Alinea on Facebook and Twitter to get the most up-to-date ticket schedules (both when they're going on sale and any last-minute availability). The Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant brings a whole new meaning to "hot ticket."
  • The full tasting menu, which can last a lengthy three to four hours, is not kid-friendly. For this reason, babies and squirmy young ones are especially discouraged from attending dinner at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant.
The Food
  • Expect to find a dish at Alinea that looks like one food, but tastes like another. Recently, Achatz used an oyster leaf, a single green leaf that surprisingly tasted exactly like an oyster shooter, with nuanced flavors of white wine vinegar, shallot and black pepper.
  • You’re sure to find classic French-inspired courses with rich ingredients, such as black truffle, rabbit, venison or roe. For example, the black truffle explosion consists of a single bite of pasta served on a spoon that rests in a bowl with no base.
  • A number of savory courses incorporate hints of sweetness — such as blackberry with short rib and sweet potato with bourbon, pecan and cayenne cotton candy — but the signature dessert is certainly the chocolate-laden finale. For this course, which doesn’t change much during the year, the chef makes a special table-side visit to drizzle a combination of caramel, chocolate and cream sauces on a rubber mat, which also has broken bits of freeze-dried milk chocolate, marinated blueberries and peanut butter crumbles.
  • The chef created a short rib course that uses “pasta flags,” which are two house-made flat squares of tomato and black garlic pasta suspended from a wood and metal flagpole. Later, the pasta flags were draped on a cradle and stuffed with short rib, olives, red wine and blackberries to make ravioli.
The Look
  • At Alinea, the interior design acts as a canvas for the painstakingly constructed plates of avant-garde food and innovative flavor pairings. Walk inside the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Chicago restaurant and you’ll find a sleek and minimalist space with bare wooden tables and contemporary artwork.
  • It’s obvious the décor is not meant to overwhelm the senses — Alinea leaves that job up to the complex, artfully presented cuisine. You’ll notice a lack of fresh flowers, with wood branches instead filling the void.
  • Alinea’s table settings are minimalist and purposely bare to keep your attention focused on each of the 22 intricately prepared and plated dinner courses. When you sit down for dinner, your oversized wooden table comes starkly prepared, preset with only a white napkin adorned with a tiny black Alinea logo.
Jacket/tie required
Reservations required
Valet parking
Getting There
1723 North Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60614
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