In Europe much of the Michelin Guide's power comes from the fact that so little changes from year to year— so when it does, it has seismic impact on a chef and his career. Chicago got a taste of that this afternoon with the second list of Michelin ratings; after all the tweets predicting great news for this or that newcomer, the total amount of news could pretty much fit in a single tweet. L2O was humiliatingly demoted from three stars to one, clearly the reason for chef Francis Brennan's lateral departure last week. A supposed effort to extend further into the suburbs added exactly one restaurant, Courtright's in Willow Springs (the chef is French). NoMI was removed from the list for having gone more casual, Sixteen for losing its chef, and Avenues for having closed; while we have no idea what changed that led to Crofton on Wells getting booted off, and Moto getting onto the list this year. And that's it. The complete list follows below.
Les Nomades remains ignored for reasons no one knows, and the only interesting question— what would Michelin think of Next— was whiffed entirely, tabled for next year. Phil Vettel's prediction of the list growing by leaps and bounds and that there would be love for steakhouses proved completely off, as the list is actually two shorter than last year, and the three and two star rankings combined dropped from a list of five to just three.
In the end, if you have 2011's red guide, it's hard to see why you need to race out and pick up 2012's. A list that declares that almost nothing changed in Chicago in 2011 (except for two nearly decade-old restaurants) seems willfully oblivious to our endlessly interesting and creative scene. And to the degree that it had an effect (driving a chef out of L2O who, frankly, many locals thought had made a better restaurant out of it than the chilly place his French predecessor had opened), its influence seems far from obviously benevolent.
Here are the 2012 restaurants by star rating. New restaurants to the list are bolded; other changes are indicated in the list.
L2O (down from ***)
Longman & Eagle
removed: Crofton on Wells, NoMI, Sixteen