Try Carry-Out Comfort Food From Chicago's Only Three-Star Michelin Restauant

Some people have bucket lists of things they want to accomplish before they leave this world - skydiving, learning a new language, running a marathon. I have a foodie bucket list full of restaurants of all kinds in places all over that I want to visit. In a way, this list is more urgent than a bucket list. Many restaurants don't make it longer than a couple years and I've had many on my list that have opened and closed before I could cross them off.

Some sit on the list for a long time for a number of reasons. Some are hard to get reservations for. Some don't take reservations and have huge lines to get in (and I hate to wait in lines). Some are just in awkward spots where traffic is always heavy. Some don't have parking garages nearby and no valet and I don't want the stress of worrying about where to park. Sometimes it is budget - it's something I'd have to save for a very special occasion because the cost would be so much.

A place that's been on my list for a very long time is Alinea, the three-star Michelin spot in Chicago It is THE three-star restaurant. The only one. Normally it's around $300 for a multi-course sensory experience in the dining room, but as many businesses are doing during the pandemic, they've adapted and found another way to serve customers. They're offering comfort food for carry-out. 

When I heard about their take-out menu, I was intrigued, but read that it had sold out in hours. One day while working on my new bucket list - my quarantine bucket list of places I want to make it to for carry-out during the stay-at-home order - I took a second to look up what Alinea was doing. I noticed that there were open reservation spots. I grabbed one for the braised veal shank ossobuco.

The pick-up process took longer than I thought. I know it's a popular spot, but when I pulled onto Halsted and there was a two-block long line of cars with their hazard lights on, I wondered how long we'd be sitting there. It took about 20 minutes to get up close to the restaurant. An employee asked for my name and checked me in and the meal was brought out immediately.

Rather than munch in my car like I've been doing with some of the carry-out meals that smell so good, this one went all the way home where I pulled out the carefully packaged kit and instructions and proceeded to warm it up and make a sad attempt at plating it.

At just $34.50, I was expecting a small sampling, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a three-course meal. I just needed to warm it and assemble it.

First was the Antipasto with Crostini. It came with roasted red peppers, olive tapenade, artichokes, prosciutto, fresh manchengo.

The entree was ossobuco with a delicious, rich sauce that you reheated in the oven that went with risotto alla milanese that you finished off by simmering pre-measured water and butter that was provided and then melting in parmesan cheese. There was also a side of spring peas for reheating. The portions were large, which I did not expect. It was more than enough for one person. I have a light appetite and it could easily be two meals for me. For those with heavier appetites, it's a perfect hearty portion.

I was excited to also get a dessert - some tiramisu with coffee-marsala sauce, which due to my poor choice of plates for the photos, you can't see, but it was delicious.

There are cocktail add-ons you can get and I ordered the barrel-aged old fashioned. Turned out it was a bottle from Cody Road, from a cool distillery along the Mississippi River that we'd visited on a trip to the Quad Cities - the Mississippi River Distilling Co. in Le Claire, Iowa. Put that one on your bucket list for when we can all travel again!

I still look forward to one day enjoying a meal in the dining room. If it was this good for carry-out, I can imagine how amazing the full experience would be.

Visit to see what's available for carry-out reservations. The meal I enjoyed is sold out. After I was there, I checked and saw there was only one reservation spot left for it and I texted my sis, so she grabbed that last reservation. Right now there are a few spots still open for the duck cassoulet, which sounds wonderful and is served with a salad and banana tart for dessert.

If you aren't able to get a reservation for carry-out, consider visiting their neighbor, Trattoria Gianni, for phenomenal authentic Italian cuisine. It's located just a couple doors down.