Tribune food critic Phil Vettel says it up front, so we don’t have to: “If there’s one constant to these books, it’s that Michelin never awards as many stars as I think the Chicago area deserves.” Vettel has in the past predicted new enthusiasms for Michelin which proved to be completely unsupported by reality (steakhouses!), but this year he seems to have accepted the glacial pace and parsimonious bounty of Michelin and his predictions seem largely in line with most (including our own). He is likely right in thinking that Alinea will remain the only three-star, but that Sixteen and L2O could get to two (we think Next might as well given its chefly pedigree, though it’s awfully casual for two stars by traditional Michelin measures).
As we’ve said before, the action is in the one stars, that’s where our scene is liveliest and most varied, and Vettel’s predictions seem safe enough— Acadia and Goosefoot seem right up Michelin’s alley, excellent but in an old school-feeling way. He goes out on a limb that EL Ideas might also get one; we think it just as likely that the unconventional concept will continue to keep it off Michelin’s list, and we don’t think it’s EL Ideas whose reputation takes a hit from that choice. He makes a mistake in mentioning Balena as a contender (it got a Bib Gourmand, so it can’t be), and he quixotically mentions that North Pond, MK and Les Nomades are deserving (but Michelin has snubbed them twice, so forget about it).
Some other names get tossed around (we’d bet they had time to pull Graham Elliot for reconsideration if it was in there). But by the end, frankly, we’re remembering that we don’t really look to Michelin for food guidance anyway, since they consistently discount some of the best places in the city for being informal. While for all they claim to be about food and only food, they seem easy dates for anything white tablecloth that’s okay enough. Vettel does a perfectly good job getting inside their mindset, William Petersen in Manhunter style, but we’ll look to a rival critic for the most apt comment so far. Seeing the Bib Gourmands yesterday, Michael Nagrant tweeted:
I hope Vera is getting a star, because any list that has City Tavern, but not Vera is written by the tongueless.