Chef Grant Achatz’s three-Michelin-starred institution (the only one of its kind in Chicago) is a total sensory experience. In 2016, the Lincoln Park stalwart underwent a massive renovation, swapping its dark, sexy interior for an airy, timeless space. Though Alinea’s tasting menus will set you back $205 to $395 a person, every course is a theatrical masterpiece delivered with flawless service: Prepare for lots of dry ice, exotic fruits and playful servingware. End the evening with one of Achatz’s signature helium taffy balloons, which fill the dining room with smiles and high-pitched laughter.
Serving New American dishes inspired by coastal Maine, Acadia is the brainchild of chef Ryan McCaskey, who opened this consistently great fine-dining establishment in the South Loop in 2011. Over the last handful of years, Acadia has garnered praise from the Michelin Guide (rising from one to two stars in 2015) as well as the Jean Banchet Awards and area critics. Guests can dine a la carte at the bar or opt for the 10-course tasting menu. The latter goes for $185 and includes a lineup of rotating dishes inspired by McCaskey's upbringing in Maine. The current menu features dishes like A5 Miyazaki with charred pineapple yuzu kosho and uni mayonnaise as well as a strawberry mousse with duck yolk crema.
Chicago is home to oodles of fine dining experiences—from big names like Alinea to newcomers Smyth and Elske. But no foodie's checklist is complete without Oriole, a West Loop restaurant from Noah Sandoval. The $215 14-course menu (with a few additional treats tossed in) is filled with clever, beautiful, indulgent bites that allow guests to be swept up in the experience. If we may offer just one piece of advice, it's this: Don't peek at the menu before visiting; allow each plate to be a surprise, as the kitchen intended.
John Shields and Karen Urie Shields’s two-for-one special in the West Loop offers elevated tasting menus upstairs and the city’s best burger (yeah, we said it) in the dark, sultry basement. But we're here to talk about what's happening on the ground floor, at Smyth, where diners can book three different experiences, including the reasonably priced $95 tasting menu. The offerings change daily based on the couples' trips to a 20-acre farm located south of the city. The stunning and delicate dishes on offer incorporate fresh, seasonal produce, making every experience feel very, very special.