My parents, who are not the most adventurous diners, recently decided to have dinner at Alinea, the Chicago restaurant renowned for its three Michelin stars and the culinary wizardry of Chef Grant Achatz.
The meal my parents experienced was quite a show of impressive food — a dozen courses ranging from Wagyu beef cooked at the table to an apple taffy balloon filled with helium. My mom and dad loved the food, but in the end, what impressed them most was the service.
And the service wasn’t what they expected. Given the high price of the meal and the dress code for the restaurant, they anticipated a very formal affair, maybe even stuffy and pretentious. Instead, as my dad wrote to me in an email, “Everyone was interested in talking, making jokes and creating a really, really relaxed atmosphere. It was completely opposite from what I thought. The food was fascinating and the staff was warm, friendly and funny as you’d find in a corner diner.”
The final line of my dad’s email especially impressed me: “I found Alinea to be an amazing, really fun experience in all respects. Like, wow.”
Hoteliers are always looking to leave guests with that “wow” impression — in F&B and all areas. What struck me about my parents’ experience at Alinea, however, was that the “wow” came not from culinary tricks or even delicious food, but from service that was as simple as it gets.