Achatz’s ultramodern cooking style at Alinea has come to define the molecular gastronomy movement

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chef Grant Achatz’s celebrated Alinea Restaurant stood alone among Chicago restaurants in the Michelin Guide, winning three stars and being deemed “worth a special journey.”

The Michelin Guide announced this week that Alinea, 1723 N. Halsted St., was the only Chicago restaurant to win three stars this year. The distinction deems a restaurant to have “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”

Achatz’s ultramodern cooking style at Alinea has come to define the molecular gastronomy movement. The James Beard Foundation honored Achatz with its award as the nation’s top chef in 2008.

Last year, Alinea shared the three-star distinction in the Michelin Guide with L2O, Laurent Gras’ seafood-centered restaurant in the Belden-Stratford Building, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West. But this year, L2O dropped to one star, which still deems it “a very good restaurant.”

Two restaurants won two stars, which denotes “excellent cuisine, worth a detour.” They were Charlie Trotter’s, which has been a worldwide favorite since it opened in 1987 at 816 W. Armitage Ave., and Ria, the dining room at the Elysian Hotel at 111 E. Walton St., now operated by celebrity Chef Danny Grant.

Eighteen local restaurants earned a single star. In addition to L2O, Chef Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo, 445 N. Clark St.; Paul Kahan’s Blackbird, 619 W. Randolph St.; chef Michael Carlson’s Schwa, 1466 N. Ashland Ave.; and the Logan Square restaurant-bar Longman & Eagle, 2657 N. Kedzie Ave., were among the highlights.

Fifty-six more Chicago restaurants earned the “Bib Gourmand” designation for “good food at moderate prices.” Among the many venues to make that list were Ann Sather, the famed local Swedish restaurant chain owned by Ald. Tom Tunney (44th); Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill, adjacent to Topolobampo at 445 N. Clark St.; the Pilsen Mexican venue DeColores Galeria y Sabores, 1626 S. Halsted St., the Hopleaf Gastropub at 5148 N. Clark St. in Andersonville, and Lula Café, a destination restaurant at 2357 N. Kedzie Blvd. in Logan Square.

The Chicago Michelin Guide debuted last year. Chicago is just the third U.S. city apart from New York and San Francisco to have an annual Michelin Guide.

The guide rates restaurants on comfort, food, prices and other factors.

The guide was first published in France in 1900 and editions now cover 23 countries and more than 45,000 establishments.

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