While diners lucky enough to get on the e-mail list for Grant Achatz's new restaurant obsessively checked their emails and refreshed their Internet browers Wednesday, the first person on that list of 20,000-some people didn't bother.
"I'm not so good at emails, or having to open attachments," said Dr. Elizabeth Blair, a head and neck surgeon at the U. of C. and Achatz's doctor.
There's also that pesky issue of her iPhone's hit-or-miss reception in the hospital. And the fact that she is in the operating room for a good portion of the day.
Indeed, Blair had to be reminded that today was opening day for Next, the much-anticipated restaurant from the Alinea chef, who has survived a bout with tongue cancer.
"Is it supposed to be today?" she asked.
The concept of Next is hardly conventional. Every three months, it will transform into a new restaurant, serving a new, strikingly different menu than what came before (from 1906 Paris to Thai street food, initially). And instead of making reservations, diners are to buy tickets, paying in advance for everything -- food, wine pairings, tax and tip. So a conventional restaurant opening, this was not.
It started last year, with the announcement of an online waiting list. Plug in your email on the restaurant's website, and when the restaurant was ready to sell tickets -- that day is today -- you'd get an email.
The day before Achatz sent out the announcement of the waiting list, he e-mailed Blair and others close to him to give them first crack. So, she opened the link and signed up.
"I guess I was lucky," she said, adding, "I almost can't remember what e-mail address I put in there."
But technical glitches have so far held up the e-mails Blair and others were supposed to receive starting at 10 a.m. letting them know they could buy tickets. [Update: At 2 p.m., the glitch was fixed, and in a matter of two minutes, the first customer had bought his tickets.]
On Saturday, Blair and her husband were at guests at one of several practice run dinners Achatz and co-owner Nick Kokonas have held at Next.
"Spectacular," she said of the food and the nearly three-hour meal and, in particular, the duck course that was brought out family-style with potatoes.
Blair, a mother of two who dines out a few times a month, hopes to go back to Next to compare it to that preview meal. "They're incredibly talented, so it'd be really fun to see how it turns out when they're done with all their rehearsals," she said.
Being first on the list, of course, doesn't guarantee that will happen.
"I didn't get any tickets for the Sox when they were in the playoffs, so I'm not very good at refreshing my e-mail," she said.