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No Bib Gourmands In Lincoln Park Or Old Town? Say It Ain't So, Michelin

By Ted Cox | October 17, 2017 5:30am
 Balena Restaurant has been closed since an August fire and dropped off the Michelin Bib Gourmand list this year.
Balena Restaurant has been closed since an August fire and dropped off the Michelin Bib Gourmand list this year.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

LINCOLN PARK — Say it ain't so, Michelin.

Last week's release of Chicago's list of Michelin-endorsed Bib Gourmand restaurants — just ahead of this Friday's 2018 Michelin guide with its coveted star-winning tonier joints — found not one in Lincoln Park or Old Town.

According to a map of this year's 54 Bib Gourmand honorees, there was nothing east of the North Branch of the Chicago River between mfk on the north side of Diversey Parkway and True Food Kitchen on Erie Street.

The Bib Gourmands recognize more budget-conscious restaurants, typically offering a two-course meal and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. When the 2018 Michelin guide to Chicago is released Friday, the area's heavy hitters like Bruce Sherman's one-star North Pond, 2610 N. Cannon Drive, and, of course, Grant Achatz's three-star Alinea, 1723 N. Halsted St., hope to retain their elevated positions from the 2017 guide.

Of the two area restaurants that dropped off the Bib Gourmand list this year, Balena, 1633 N. Halsted St., has been closed since suffering a fire in August and is still undergoing repairs. And the other, Riccardo Trattoria, 2119 N. Clark St., holds out hope that there might yet be a silver lining behind the apparent slight.

Owner Riccardo Michi said Monday that industry scuttlebutt was: "Wait until next Friday, because you never know, that may be a good sign, that they're going to give us one star." He quickly added, "I would be more than happy" to get the more prestigious recognition that comes with being granted a Michelin star.

Yet he was also philosophical, stating that Michelin stars typically go to "white-cloth restaurants," while with its regional Italian approach Riccardo Trattoria occupies an area in between those more ambitious restaurants and the standard Bib Gourmand honoree.

"We have people come who say, 'Oh, it's just like in Italy,'" Michi said. "But my cuisine is simple. It's simple, but has a historic background." Saying that consistency is one of its hallmarks, he added, "It comes from a solid tradition."

In any case, Michi added, "We've been happy to be honored for six years."