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Mexique, Schwa, Takashi Hold Steady with Repeat Michelin Star Rankings

By Alisa Hauser | November 12, 2013 5:22pm
 Two West Town/Wicker Park restaurants and Bucktown's Takashi were included in the 2014 Michelin Star ratings.
West Town and Bucktown Michelin 2014 Honorees
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WEST TOWN — In a thriving area that saw nine eateries making Bib Gourmand's list of "tasty and affordable" dishes last week, three local restaurants were included in the Michelin 2014 star rankings, and all were repeat honorees.

Released Tuesday, the Michelin guide awarded stars to 25 restaurants around the city, the most ever in the influential travel company's four-year history of evaluating Chicago's cuisine.

Among the returning local recipients of a single star were Takashi at 1952 N. Damen Ave. in Bucktown, Schwa at 1466 N. Ashland Ave. in Wicker Park and Mexique at 1529 W. Chicago Ave. in West Town.

The Guide defines a single star eateries to be "a very good restaurant in its category" while those earning two stars have "excellent cuisine, worth a detour" and three star restaurants are "worth a special journey."

 Mexique's Chef Carlos Gaytan (right) poses with Angel Vazquez.  Gaytan's Chicago Avenue restaurant received a Michelin star for the second consecutive year.
Mexique's Chef Carlos Gaytan (right) poses with Angel Vazquez.  Gaytan's Chicago Avenue restaurant received a Michelin star for the second consecutive year.
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But sometimes, as current "Top Chef" contestant and Mexique's Carlos Gaytan learned, people will travel across the world on a special journey even for a one star Michelin restaurant, as was the case when he recently hosted six guests from Japan.

"They called on a Thursday and said they were flying in from Japan just to come see the restaurant," Gaytan said Tuesday.

Though booked on weekends, Gaytan said he was able to squeeze the international group into the 64-seat restaurant, where they dined on a six-course, $65 tasting menu.

Gaytan said the group told him they'd heard about Mexique in last year's Michelin Guide, which was the first year his restaurant received a star ranking.

In its 2013 description, Michelin editors called Mexique "at times overlooked and often underrated" and said Gaytan's innovative take on Mexican fare is "finally getting the credit it deserves."

Gaytan, who got his start washing dishes and opened his own restaurant almost six years ago, called the inclusion in the guide for a second consecutive year "amazing and a blast."

"I'm really grateful, it's hard to describe the feeling. They make me feel like it's the Olympics and I got the gold medal," Gaytan said.

Mexique, which employs 16 people including Gaytan, is the only Mexican restaurant on the list of 25 honorees save for Rick Bayless' Topolobampo, which is not run by a Mexico native.

"Being the only Michelin star chef from Mexico, it's a great thing, it motivates others to do better," Gaytan said.

Retaining a one star rating for a fourth consecutive year, Takashi restaurant posted an update to its Facebook page thanking its hard working staff Tuesday.

Last year, guide editors wrote that Chef Takashi Yagihashi is "curating a small empire of Asian inspired masterpieces" that most recently included West Loop's Slurping Turtle.

Lastly, Wicker Park's Schwa snagged a star for its third year. In 2013, the Michelin editors heaped praise on the Ashland Avenue restaurant for being "totally unique, unlike any other restaurant in the world."

According to the 2013 Michelin guide, "If you have preconceived ideas about fine dining as a stuffy, vapid way to spend $250, then haven't had a meal prepared by Chef Michael Carlson."