Grant Achatz restaurants
Achatz’s multi-award winning flagship restaurant, and Chicago’s only three-Michelin-star establishment, is housed in a modest gray brick building in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighbourhood, with no external markings apart from its street number. Inside, guests are treated to an immersive, multisensory piece of culinary theatre in the form of a small-course tasting menu, comprising around eighteen courses.
Alinea aims to push the boundaries of fine dining. "The leading chefs in the world know they can make delicious food," says Achatz. "We have to take it a step further. At Alinea we are actually trying to curate an experience." With his menu of interactive, often surprising dishes, Achatz hopes to install a sense of wonderment and discovery that makes diners feel "like being a kid and opening a present at Christmas".
In 2008 Achatz and Kokonas published a coffee table book, also named Alinea, featuring 100 recipes from the restaurant. The recipes themselves are highly complex and often require expensive specialist equipment to complete, but the real fascination lies in Achatz’s descriptions of the inspiration and development of each dish, providing an intriguing glimpse into his unique creative process.
Opened in 2011 and located in Chicago's historic Fulton Market, Next is the ultimate themed restaurant, but with a twist. The theme - menu, decor, everything - changes completely every few months. These seasonal menus are treated as events, like a concert or a show, with prospective diners buying tickets for their seats through Nick Kokonas’s purpose-built ticketing site, Tock.
Themes vary from historical moments to places or even homages to other restaurants. The inaugural theme was ‘Paris: 1906,’ and others have included ‘Childhood,’ ‘Ancient Rome,’ and ‘World’s 50 Best,’ the last of which featured Achatz’s take on the dishes that put other top chefs on the culinary map. Like Alinea, Next is offering gourmet takeaway during the Coronavirus pandemic, with the kitchen staff recreating some of their greatest hits from previous themes.
Perhaps due to the restaurant’s constantly-changing nature, the Michelin inspectors have seemed wary of bestowing any stars on Next in previous years. After all, by the time the award was published in the new guide, Next would be an entirely different restaurant to the one evaluated by the inspectors. On the other hand, the public had no such qualms, with tickets reportedly selling on Craigslist for anywhere up to $500 a head. In 2019, the inspectors were finally won over, and Next was awarded one star in the following year’s guide.
Adjoining Next in Chicago’s Fulton Market, The Aviary describes itself as ‘a cocktail bar, redefined.’ Like Alinea and Next, the focus is on innovation and spectacle, with fantastical cocktail creations served in bubbling tubes and beakers. Each drink’s preparation is performed at the table, like a magic trick, and guests are encouraged to take part in the process. A popular choice is The Rocks, which is served inside a golden ball of ice that diners must smash using a slingshot mounted around the rim of their glass. There is also a food menu, serving Achatz classics like Black Truffle Explosion and Octopus Croquette, with the option of ordering cocktails with food pairings.
In 2018, Achatz and Kokonas released The Aviary Cocktail Book, featuring over 100 unique recipes from the bar, plus insights and tips from Achatz, Kokonas and their Beverage Director, Micah Melton. The book is also filled with gorgeously-shot art photographs, courtesy of Allen and Sarah Hemberger.
A small, secret room hidden directly below The Aviary, classical, traditional speakeasy The Office is the counterbalance to the futuristic pizzazz of its showier twin. Intimately-lit and furnished with club chairs and antiques, The Office features reinvented classics made with the best ingredients.
Known for its ‘dusty bottle cocktails’, The Office also offers connoisseurs the chance to have their cocktail mixed using specially-sourced vintage spirits, many of them decades old. However, you may need deep pockets for this as some of the rarer vintages can get quite pricey.
The Aviary NYC
The Aviary NYC was opened in 2017 and is situated inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The premise is similar to the original Chicago bar, but some new creations have been added in honour of the location, including Wake and Bake, a mix of rye, coffee liqueur, and vermouth infused with coffee and orange, all served in a transparent pillow filled with ‘everything bagel aroma’.
As with the first Aviary, the name of each drink is preceded by a small bird symbol to indicate how ‘out there’ your chosen cocktail is likely to be. The further your feathered friend has flown from the description, the more surprises you can expect. If you want to take a peek at The Aviary NYC menu, you can check it out here.
The Office NYC
You can’t have yin without yang, and you can’t have The Aviary without The Office. Just like the Chicago bars, The Office NYC is the secret speakeasy hidden beneath The Aviary. The Office NYC also features the same vintage styling, with antiques, parquet flooring and chairs upholstered in cowhide. There are dusty bottle cocktails here too, including an extremely rare 1835 bottle of Hector Romain cognac that costs over a thousand dollars an ounce.