If the end of December brings an epic flood of looking-back-on-the-year roundups, it’s only natural that the end of 2009 leads to even longer-reaching retrospection. We slogged through a pile of articles covering what we’ve all done in the last ten years, and are pleased to deliver unto you our summary version of what the Tribune, NewCity, and Time Out Chicago had to say.
Piece: End of the Zeroes: Chicago Restaurants, 2000-2009
Author: Michael Nagrant
What You Get: This alphabetical list of the 19 best restaurants of the past ten years is heavy on the recent opens. No surprise there, though, since untold dozens of the decade’s top restaurants probably didn’t survive the decade.
Obligatory Alinea Mention: The list is alphabetical — Alinea’s the very first one included.
Surprise Inclusion: Opera, though Nagrant himself is as surprised as we are: “I hesitate to include this spot, because it really doesn’t stand the test of time, but when Paul Wildermuth was at the helm this was my favorite jewel in the Jerry Kleiner empire.”
Piece: Meals of the Decade
Authors: Julia Kramer, Heather Shouse and David Tamarkin
Publication: Time Out Chicago
What You Get: Four meals that you can eat today, each of which typifies one of the deacde’s biggest trends: Thai, Creative-Cuisine, Decadent (read: deep-fried, not caviar-and-champers), and Seasonal.
Obligatory Alinea Mention: While Schwa was the top pick for Creative-Cuisine, the A-bomb is the first pick under “more creative-cuisine options.”
Smartest Spin: Thai is really the quintessential ‘90s ethnic food, but the TOC folks picked up on its aughties revamp by spinning it towards Thai restaurants … with secret menus.
Piece: The Decade in Chicago Dining
Author: Phil Vettel
What You Get: A terrifically comprehensive rundown of the last ten years, including notable trends (molecular gastronomy, truffle oil), notable people (what’s up, Alpana Singh!), and a year-by-year list of the best restaurants of the decade — including now-shuttered places like Pluton (2004)..
Obligatory Alinea Mention: There’s Grant Achatz, staring into our very souls, in the very first photo, with Vettel noting “It was the decade of Grant Achatz, arguably.” His liquid ravioli (from Trio) makes the number two spot.
Questionable Segue: The foie gras ban and subsequent overturning was big news, for sure, but we’re not quite on board with the leap from Chicago chefs fighting for their beloved goose liver to the next line’s vague praise about the culinary community’s rallying for 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
Piece: Roadie food goes rock star
Author: Christopher Borrelli
What You Get: Hey guys, the dominant trend of the last ten years has been comfort food! Borrelli traces its rise from post-9/11 culinary thumb-sucking through the authenticity-obsessed “foodie”/LTHer, through the current schtick of chefs using ace ingredients to punch up homey preparations.
Obligatory Alinea Mention: Yep, even in a story about comfort food: “Achatz aside, invention aside — Chicago’s arrival as a fine-dining fantasia aside — the decade in casual dining in Chicago was the story of Chicago dining this decade.”
Wildest Claim: “If any once-casual ethnic cuisine made heady strides, it was Indian, which went upscale with Vermilion and Marigold.” Go Indian food and all, but we’re still waiting for that “Indian is the new Thai” thing that everyone keeps predicting to actually, truly take hold.