This post has very little to do with technology and venture capital. Every once in a while I like to share things with all of you that simply blow me away. This post is about a restaurant in Chicago that I went to thursday evening with my friends Dick and Eric. Dick has been telling me for quite a while that I had to go there. And so we did. And we had a meal that I don't think I'll ever forget.

Alinea is the creation of an amazing chef named Grant Achatz. He is a food artist and his food challenges every convention and then some. I've been to restaurants, like WD50 in NYC, that attempt to do the same. I've always felt the adventure in these restaurants compromises the taste they deliver. But Grant has figured out how to combine absolutely amazing tastes with adventursome presentations and that is why Alinea is one of the top restaurants in the world.

You don't order at Alinea. You simply choose between the 12 and 24 course tasting menus and decide if you want them paired with wine. We did the 12 course paired with wine. Here is our menu. Every diner is presented with one on their way out.

Alinea menu

While every dish was amazing, my favorites were the pork belly, the foie gras, the crab, the wagyu beef, the bubble gum, and the chocolate.

The chocolate is prepared directly on the table. They clear the table, lay down a special table cloth, and Grant and one of his chefs come out and literally "paint" the table with chocolate, berry sauce, and malted cold chunks. Here's a photo I took of the presentation.

They serve the desert on the table at Alinea in Chicago

Alinea is expensive and it is also hard to get a reservation. Be prepared to spend in excess of $200 per head and possibly as much as $300. It's not something I would do often, maybe only once (I've got to go back with the Gotham Gal), but it is an incredible dining experience and easily in my top ten all time.

If you love food and memorable dining experiences and don't mind spending the money, make sure to visit Alinea next time you are in Chicago. I promise you that you won't be disappointed.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. karen_e

    Fun, magical, and a great gift/anniversary trip & treat idea! By the way, does this relate to the all-nighter tweet?

    1. fredwilson

      No, that has to do with a lollapalooza after show that went very late and an early flight back to nyc this morning

    2. .

      replying to random quote, don’t take it personallythis is ridiculous. spend money on things you need. the children! won’t somebody *please* think of the children.

  2. Julien

    Very interesting. I knew someone who said there is no good man who hates eating 😉 I thought Foie Gras was illegal in Chicago (or was it called with a non-explicit name)?

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah, my wife said the same thing about foie gras. That’s what it says on the menu

      1. John Zeratsky

        They repealed the foie gras ban last year. Most of the great restaurants ignored it anyway 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          Ah makes sense

  3. bfeld

    Insanely jealous. We’ve tried to go but just couldn’t get in.

    1. fredwilson

      Well you and amy and joanne and I need to plan a rendezvous weekend in chicago

      1. bfeld


  4. Brenden

    Completely agree. I was fortunate enough to do the full 24 course tour a few months back. Was an unbelievable way to spend 3-4 hours. I’ll certainly never forget it, and immediately bought the coffee table book with all the recipes. Not that I’ll ever make one.Glad you got to experience it. Delicious.

  5. daryn

    That menu sounds fantastic.What’s the price of the 12-course w/ pairing nowadays? When we went in 2006, the final bill was around $650 for 2. It’s wonderful that even in a not so booming economy they’re still filling the house every night.If you’re into food, Alinea is definitely worth it. If the cost is too high, skip a couple nights out and save up, you won’t be disappointed! There are alot of places that try and push culinary boundaries, like wd-50, or moto in chicago, but Alinea is one of the few that actually delivers flavor along with innovation.Next stop: El Bulli.

    1. fredwilson

      We spent in the same range. Maybe slightly less

  6. Name

    at some point you check this one out…

    1. fredwilson

      That’s two recommendations in this thread. That’s enough for me. I’m going

  7. Dave Pinsen

    I remember reading an article a few years back (in the WSJ?) about Achatz’s battle with mouth cancer, and was pleasantly surprised to see him looking well when he appeared as a guest judge on Top Chef. It’s great that he is not only still alive but still has his tongue and his sense of taste. We’re fortunate to have some excellent hospitals for cancer care in this country.

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah. That’s yet another amazing part of this story

  8. growandmake

    New Yorker had an article about the owner a few months back. Great article.

    1. Dan Goldin

      I thought of that article as I read this post as well.URL of the New Yorker article:

    2. fredwilson

      I have a note to self to find it and read it

  9. ShanaC

    I hope you loved Chicago: As described to me, despite having a plebian undertone as fitting a middle-class oreinted, midwestern city, it can be described as truly Elegant as you look around.Alinea has a reputation for fitting into that sort of Chicago-esque, refining of All-American Taste. Glad you liked it, my friend’s say try Tru .Also I would bet 1 penny that Alinea’s Coffee comes from Intelligentsia Coffee, which you can get in NY. I can’t confirm though, but..if it were true, you could bring home the memory.

    1. fredwilson

      We didn’t try the coffee. But I love chicago. Awesome city

      1. ShanaC

        Try it next time you are looking for something. There are a few places in NY that stock. They are trying to nurture local high end, hip, roasting scenes to get people to stop drinking Starbucks. Intellegentsia in a Chemex brewed strong is amazing, so flavorful that sometimes you don’t need sugar, cream, or anything. Pure flavor goodness. Beware of coffee addictions.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Shana,The Ridgewood Coffee Company in Ridgewood, NJ sells Intelligentsia. They also have a Clover machine, and when I asked about it, they got so excited by my interest that they invited me behind the counter to watch them use it. Interesting ritual that involves.More generally, Starbucks has been a tailwind, not a headwind, for higher-end coffee places, as a history professor named Robert Thurston noted in a letter to the FT last December. I alluded to his letter in a recent post in which I mentioned my visit to a high-end indie coffee place in Manhattan, “Your Ideas as an Asset Class”.

          1. ShanaC

            Correct, that’s how Intelligentsia got started, and why it is choosing to expand, from the word of my Coffee Guy. Funny, your high end coffee place in Manhattan is not the one I was thinking about, but instead Cafe Grumpy. It serves Intelligensia, Ritual, Now, just a general Roaster’s heaven, but it has such an over the top that vibe that it is nearly unbearable to sit down in it if you just want to drink really good coffee without feeling like a snob. I mean, they have an anti-laptop rule….That actual Millenium Park Local, and a lot of the Baby locals that sell in say, Chicago, great coffee, that I have experienced, never have that vibe. I wish I could find a coffee shop with that level of coffee and tone down the snob-vibe. It ain’t worth it. Maybe to impress a date, but for a day to day coffee place…

          2. Dave Pinsen

            Interesting, I had never heard of Cafe Grumpy. I first heard of the other place, Joe, in the context of entrepreneurship (though judging from Joe’s numerous press links, the owner has a great PR guy or some impressive media connections). Joe doesn’t have an explicit anti-laptop policy, but they don’t offer WiFi, which, along with its hours (closing at 8pm in Manhattan?) leads me to believe they’d prefer if you didn’t stick around too long.Re the attitude that can accompany the high-end coffee places: there’s a little of that at that place in NJ I mentioned before, Ridgewood Coffee (which today featured two Intelligentsia roasts and one Novo roast for its Clover machine; I got the Black Cat espresso over ice though).

          3. ShanaC

            Wonderful, but I live on the other side of the Hudson, Alas.I just want a place to do BA work in Manhattan, learn to code a bit, so I can apply for jobs during this weird non-graduate but finished with class period coming up in December.I’ve had Clover brewed coffee before, I prefer the intensity of Home brewed via the Chemex where I control water contact and temperature in conjunction to the amount of bean per cup. This makes me sound so coffee dork…

          4. Dave Pinsen

            That does make you sound like a coffee dork, but that would make you right at home at a place like Joe or Ridgewood Coffee. In the summer I just go iced — espresso over ice, with a splenda and a splash of cream. Whole Foods actually offers a serviceable espresso, but the best I’ve had so far has been Illy tied with an indie place that started in Korea, Kudo Beans. There were a couple of Kudos in Manhattan, but I went to one in Fort Lee, NJ which recently closed. I don’t know what the story there was, but their espresso was phenomenal.When it’s colder out, I’ll brew hot coffee at home in a french press. I like the Vienna Roast from Zabar’s, but I won’t make a special trip into the city for it.

          5. fredwilson

            I love how the comment threads often veer off into unexpected places

  10. William Mougayar

    Thanks for the “food porn” pic. Molecular gastronomy is definitely a mind-bending experience of culinary fireworks.Since you have enjoyed molecular gastronomy, yes next stops would be Ferrán Adrià at El Bulli in Spain (~1 year advance booking) or Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck in the UK.

  11. howardlindzon

    did dick pay?

    1. fredwilson

      No. I did

  12. csertoglu

    Which are the other 9 Fred?

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t have a list. I should make one

  13. ben

    Thats what I love about America. Its got to be the most creative place in the world.

    1. ChuckEats

      Alinea gets most of its tricks, and inspiration, from Spain – restaurants like El Bulli, Fat Duck (UK), Mugaritz, and many others. Alinea is good, much better than Moto and WD-50, but its focus on theatrics, while exciting to some, distracts from the seriousness of the food.

  14. chefboyrdee

    You described one course. the chocolate, leaving readers with no specific idea why it’s so good.The chocolate is the kind of gimmick I can pass up very easily.

  15. Prokofy

    I’m trying to understand what this is.You ate lilacs? The flowers, lilacs? And how was bubblegum served, or was that the flavouring?Ethiopians also serve the food right on to this big flat bread on the tablecloth, not with dishes, and they also paint sauce and sprinkle stuff right on like that. The Ethiopian restaurants in Washington, DC are good.

    1. fredwilson

      The bubblegum was a flavor in a jello like thing

  16. Dave Pinsen

    Fred,I just saw this yesterday and thought you might find it of interest if you weren’t aware of it yet: Grant Achatz has been writing a series of posts for the Atlantic’s Food Channel titled Back of the House.

    1. fredwilson

      a few commenters mentioned thati checked it outvery cool

      1. Dave Pinsen

        I did a nice job of being three weeks behind the curve there, I see.Did Disqus give you a heads up about my new comment on this thread? If so, that’s a neat feature. You do a much better job in general of interacting with your commenters than the hosts of other high-traffic blogs do. I don’t know how much of that is due to your use of technology or to your being more conscientious about it. I suspect it’s a combination of both.

        1. fredwilson

          Both. But I could not do it without the tech

  17. fredwilson

    There were a lot of couples dining there. Three guys dining together kind of stuck out like a sore thumb