As some of you know, I went to Alinea. Yes THE Alinea. the famous restaurant that has captivated all of Chicago and the world for years. Grant Achatz is easily one of my favorite creatives of all time so it was a dream come true to finally experience his brain child.
I crossed off this huge Chicago bucket list item for my 27th birthday and I’m still in awe over my experience. In fact, I couldn’t go to restaurants for a while after this because I was expecting the Alinea way. Once you experience Alinea, nothing will ever feel the same. This is one of the rare instances where you need to believe all the hype. The presentation, the food, the atmosphere. EVERYTHING!
I was conflicted over this post for a while because I didn’t want to give a step-by-step replay. I know it’s expensive and not everyone will have the opportunity to go but I really think it’s something you have to experience for yourself. There are no amount of words I can put to paper that can express how marvelous this experience is. Instead, I’m going to share some key things you should know about the Alinea experience.
I did do a preview on my IG story when I went. However, if you have any questions feel free to ask away!
So here’s the thing about Alinea. It is easily one of the hardest restaurants to get into so you need to have a game plan. Reservations open about 2 months early at 11 AM CST on the 15th of the month. In order to get tickets you and your party need to be that precise.
Both my sister and I were at the computer at the same time and while I didn’t get tickets, she did! I would suggest that everyone in your party is ready to pay. It’s like gambling because what happens if you all get tickets? Well, you can always sell them on the Alinea FB page which isn’t hard to do.
Also, you need to be flexible on the day you want to attend. Oh so you want to hit up Alinea on a Friday or Saturday? Yeah, forget about it. If you go into booking only looking into the weekend, you are competing with thousands of people who have the same thought.
My sister and I were super flexible with our dates so we went on a Wednesday at 9:30 PM. Yes, it was late and the middle of the work week but that guaranteed we would get in.
Which Experience Should I Do? The Gallery Duh!
My sister and I are alike so let’s just say there was no need to compromise. Our mantra is go big or go home and honestly that to me is the best way to approach Alinea.
We did the Gallery experience, the second highest dining option. The first is a private 6 person experience in the kitchen which is next on our list. However, if you read Yelp reviews a lot of negative press comes from people who did the Salon experience. Now the Salon is still nice. It’s about 10-12 courses but it doesn’t include some of those theatrical elements that you would get in The Gallery experience.
We went into Alinea knowing that it’s not a regular occurrence so we thoroughly enjoyed The Gallery. I would be open to doing The Salon if my friends who were on more of a budget wanted to attend. If you still want to say you went to Alinea and you aren’t quite ready to drop $500, then I think the Salon is a viable option.
When it comes to booking, The Gallery is always the first to go so that’s something to keep in mind. There are only 2 showings a night so the competition makes it harder to get in.
It’s A LOT of Food!
Of course you are going to Alinea to experience the finest cuisine and if 16-18 courses sounds like a lot of food, let me tell you that it is.
Alinea is a tasting restaurant but those little bites do accumulate fast. By about course 12 I was ready to tap out. However, you can’t tap out at Alinea so while I was both exhausted and stuffed I kept it going.
The servers are able to read the room so the pace of the dishes is reflective of everyone in attendance. They even had these magical palate cleansers that seemingly made more room in my stomach for the finale dish. Alinea knows you’ll get full and that the experience is tiring so that’s taken into account with various touch points in the experience.
The dishes themselves were tastes I had never experienced before and I was in foodie heaven. The Alinea chefs are definitely in their own world and it’s guaranteed that nothing on the Alinea menu is featured anywhere in the city.
Let’s just say this is the only place where you can have a green apple helium balloon or crystalized ice cream.
The Devil is in the Details
Alinea is truly all about the details and the customer service is second to none. I’ve never witnessed a staff so attentive and comforting in all of my hospitality experiences. One of the things that stood out to me is Alinea realized that both me and my sister were left-handed so they started serving dishes on the left-hand side. Mind you, we never told them we were left-handed.
They were also incredibly warm and friendly. We had rotating servers throughout the night but each server spoke to you as if they were your friend. It’s interesting because you would think that at such a high-end restaurant they would have this hoity-toity vibe but it was the complete opposite.
They weren’t too formal but the service and the details was definitely an indicator that you were at a 3 Michelin star restaurant.
Moment of honesty, some restaurants give off weird vibes because they are so luxurious but I think anyone will be comfortable at Alinea. They don’t make you feel other at all and they don’t have this air like they are questioning why you are there.
Nothing Is As It Seems
All I’ll say about this is when you are at Alinea pay attention to everything. I remember being captivated by the ceiling decor and towards the end of the dinner, it was revealed that those were our plates for dessert.
Even the centerpieces transformed before our eyes.
Plus, at our table was a crossword puzzle which was later revealed to be our menu.
Worth Every Penny
Is Alinea expensive? Yes. It was more than you would pay for an average meal but keep in mind, nothing about Alinea is average. When I look at my experience at Alinea I think about how much money I put towards flights and traveling and Alinea is easily less than that. When we were at Alinea we were on a culinary journey and each dish transported us to a new destination. We just didn’t have to hop on a plane or check our bags.
Alinea changed my perception on dining and experiences as a whole so I’m forever grateful that I got to experience it. It was an honor to be in the presence of such brilliant creativity and I hope you all one day have the opportunity to do the same.
I’m very fortunate that I got to attend since it was a gift but it’s definitely something I would do again in a heartbeat.
If you want to see my Alinea experience check out my IG story HERE.
Bonus Reason Why I Love Alinea
Bonus reason why I love Alinea, they played Childish Gambino Me and Your Mama like, what?!!!!!!! Mind blown! I feel like my sister and I were the only ones there really vibing but it made the moment that much greater. I felt seen and not in a gimmicky way. Alinea really knows how to make you feel like you belong.
I can’t say this enough but Alinea needs to be on everyone’s Chicago bucket list.
Who knows, maybe I can revisit Alinea when I ring in 30!