With just over a month until Michelin releases Chicago’s 2014 guide I am making my predictions. The only newly starred restaurant to garner more than one star will be Grace (which I predict will debut as a two star venue – and has strong potential for three down the road). For now Alinea will remain as Chicago’s only Three Star venue.
Regarding currently starred venues moving up there are three one star venues I feel have a shot: Moto, Sixteen and Goosefoot – these seem to be clearly above other one star venues. Moto and Sixteen in particular I feel have shown significant improvement in food quality during the past two years. Goosefoot has the best tasting food of the bunch (the main criteria for Michelin stars) but much more laid back service and ambiance and no wine program. If I had to add a fourth to this group it would be Tru, but I do not see Michelin elevating more than one or two (and possibly none) and feel Tru is not quite up there with Moto, Sixteen and Goosefoot.
There are a handful of new venues that I feel will earn one star; I am most confident about The Lobby at the Peninsula (such incredible food from Chef Lee Wolen) and Elizabeth (one of the most enjoyable, whimsical and unique dining venues I have experienced). Chicago has seen several new high quality Asian venues open fairly recently (Embeya, Yusho, Sumi Robata, Juno and Kabocha being most notable); I think there is a good chance Michelin stars the venue they deem to be the best of this crop – in my opinion Embeya edges out the competition. Senza is a bit under the radar, but I am predicting them as a dark horse for a star. Out of the venues that were snubbed in 2012 I think the only one with a good chance of earning a star this time is El Ideas. I rarely dine in the suburbs, so I am not sure if I am missing out on any potential venues that may be in line for a star from outside the city limits.
I feel that Graham Elliot is the only of the multi-starred restaurants that will be demoted. I was rather surprised with their elevation to Two Stars last year. With the departure of Chef Brochu, the departure of their GM and with Graham Elliot focused on expansion that may be enough for Michelin to bump them back down to One Star.
My prediction is that no current One Star venue loses its star, though some have a small chance. Based on past history Michelin seems to view restaurants expanding as a red flag (i.e. Vie’s losing a star last year). As such Naha has some risk and for this reason I also think that Brindille will not be starred – though I think Naha is on solid enough ground to retain its star. Acadia seems to have some consistency issues (though should prevail). Schwa has some risk; when Schwa is on the food has multi star potential – yet Schwa often can be so chaotic that I can see an inspector having a disastrous experience. Chef Carlson has also spent significant time away from the kitchen this year. Nevertheless I think Schwa will hold onto its star and is such a unique venue that can be mind blowing that I hope it does. Takashi, Mexique and Longman and Eagle I felt were the weakest of the One Stars last year; Takashi now faces several new, high caliber Asian venues as competition, Mexique had Chef Gaytan away for periods of time as a Top Chef contestant and the Longman & Eagle team has been working on other projects. I think all three will retain their star, but if Michelin was to take stars away these would be the venues I would be least surprised about.
At Least One Star, Chance for Two:
Solid One Star:
One Star, Small Risk of Demotion:
Longman & Eagle
New One Star:
Lobby at the Peninsula (Likely)
Embeya (Somewhat Likely)
El Ideas (Somewhat Likely)
Senza (Dark Horse)
Graham Elliot down to One Star
Girl & the Goat
I am curious to hear other people's predictions or thoughts.