"The Michelin Man Visits Chicago" by Chef Kyleigh Beach
Forty-six Chicago eateries received a very welcome sort of graffiti overnight last past Tuesday – a red chalk outline of the world-famous Michelin Man. This sidewalk tattoo tells all passers-by that this establishment has received the Bib Gourmand distinction given to restaurants offering “good cuisine at a reasonable price”. The benchmark for pricing is an appetizer, entrée, and a glass of wine for $40 or less.
As exciting as it is to be recognized by the Michelin Guide with the Bib Gourmand award, it is still not the star (or two or three) so many chefs in Chicago and around the world strive for their whole careers. Frontera Grill, the longtime Mexican restaurant of superstar chef Rick Bayless, was bestowed with the Bib Gourmand, but Chef Bayless still has two more restaurants, Topolobampo and Xoco, that could receive stars. Even though Xoco is basically a sandwich shop (a fantastic sandwich shop, at that), the Michelin Guide does have a section for restaurants charging $15 and under and could very well receive a star next week when the very first Chicago Michelin Guide comes out.
I was really excited to see some of my neighborhood favorites on the Bib Gourmand list, including Gilt Bar, West Town Tavern, and Paramount Room. Traditionally in Europe, Michelin starred restaurants are very fancy, very stuffy, and very expensive. I think the Bib Gourmand distinction is perfect for our current economy. Diners know they can get great food for a reasonable price and chefs and restaurant owners know that they are being recommended as one of those places.
I’ll definitely be looking forward to seeing the list of Michelin star recipients on November 17, but I have a feeling I’ll still be frequenting the Bib Gourmand winners more often, and won’t be the only Chicagoan doing so.