Forty-six Chicago restaurants, from Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill to Ann Sather, the 65-year-old diner best known for its cinnamon rolls, have been named Bib Gourmands by the esteemed Michelin restaurant guide, the first ever for Chicago. (Read the full list here and after the jump.)
The Bib Gourmand designation is for restaurants considered to be a good value -- those offering two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. Restaurants included ones that are all the rage right now -- Girl and the Goat, Publican, Gilt Bar -- and more unassuming eateries such as Lincoln Park diner Frances' Deli, the Hopleaf bar in Andersonville and Polish restaurant Smak-Tak on the Northwest Side.
Bib Gourmand picks are separate from those restaurants earning the highly sought after Michelin stars -- that announcement will be made next week. Chalk drawings of the Michelin man's noggin were etched outside each of the restaurants early Wednesday.
Bill Kim's restaurants, Urban Belly and Belly Shack, both made the Bib Gourmand list -- which means they aren't in the running for a Michelin star. Fine by Kim. "Stars, reviews, those are fine, but this is more for our restaurant family who finally get to see all their hard work pay off," says Kim, who saw the good news this morning on the Facebook page of his friend, sommelier Elizabeth Mendez.
"People get so crazy over ratings," Kim says. "I don't work to get rated or reviews. As long as the restaurants are busy, that's what matters."
Keepng restaurants busy is part of the significance of the Bib Gourmand award, something people often overlook, says Michelin worldwide director Jean-Luc Naret, who will leave his post after the end of the year.
"It really is an award," Naret said, speaking by phone from Paris. "We have almost as many Bib Gourmands around the world as we do Michelin stars."
Anonymous Michelin inspectors, who had been dining in Chicago for the past two years, visited all the restaurants in the guide at least twice, Naret says.
Next Wednesday, Naret will be up early to call each chef who has earned a Michelin star. Last week, Alinea chef Grant Achatz (who is expected to snag a star or three) told me he is convinced there are two restaurants in Chicago with three stars. "No way they're going to give Chicago more than New York," which has three three-star restaurants -- a theory Naret shot down.
"No, no, no -- we give the stars where we find them," Naret said, pointing out that there are currently more three-star restaurants in Japan than in France. "There's no quota as to how many we give."
One more tidbit to whet the appetite for next Wednesday: Naret said some chefs who have multiple restaurants and who have earned a Bib Gourmand today -- we can think of one or two -- might be just as happy this time next week.
The full list of Chicago's Bib Gourmand picks after the jump.
Girl & The Goat
Kith & Kin
La Petite Folie
Opart Thai House
Otom Paramount Room
Taste of Peru
West Town Tavern