My husband and I have been married for four years! To celebrate our anniversary, we took a short overnight trip to Chicago. We had traveled to the Windy City for one reason—to eat a fabulous, multi-course meal at Alinea. We’ve been dreaming of eating at this restaurant since we met, and we’d finally convinced ourselves to spend money on a reservation.
Not only are reservation at Alinea expensive, but they are pre-paid. The confirmation specifically says that you may not be seated if you arrive more then 30 minutes after your reservation time. So, while we were sitting in gridlock traffic in the cab on Friday night, watching the minutes tick by, we got a little nervous. We had 5:30 reservations, and the cab dropped us off at about 5:38.
We didn’t see the restaurant when he dropped us off, but I didn’t worry about that. I’d read (admittedly, years ago), that the restaurant was extremely understated and a bit hard to find. But quickly, we realized something was wrong. There were no restaurants here. There really wasn’t anything around us. I was so confused. I called the restaurant, but could only get their answering service.
We asked a guy at a bus stop where the restaurant was, and he pointed us to the south. We started walking, and I got more and more nervous. We were in a dark, fairly unlit area. I was wearing a black cocktail dress and bright read HIGH heels. Aaron was in a full suit. It was 5:45. We paid a guy in a pedi cab to take us a few blocks. We still saw nothing. Aaron pulled out his phone and realized I had made a gigantic mistake. When putting the address into my phone (I had organized everything with TripIt), I’d dropped a 1. We were at 723 N. Halsted. Alinea was at 1723 N. Halsted. It was now 5:50. Fuck (pardon my language, but that was my state of mind).
The slightly crazy guy driving our pedi cab couldn’t get anywhere because cars were in the bike lanes. We decided that we would run towards the restaurant, 1.2 miles away, until we found a cab. I put my shoes in one hand and my phone in the other (in case the restaurant called), and took off, barefoot, towards the restaurant. Did I mention it was about 25 degrees outside?
I ran, keeping my eyes on the ground because I was acutely aware that glass or some other unsafe objects could be in the street. Aaron wanted to run ahead (he’s a much faster runner than me), but I informed him that no reservation was worth enough to leave his wife on a strange Chicago street, barefoot. We ran some more, passed by several cabs that were unavailable. I tried to get a stranger to open his car window so I could offer him $20 to drive us half a mile. He wouldn’t even roll down the window. More running.
The neighborhood transitioned, and I told Aaron I was comfortable with him running ahead. He took off, and I kept running at my penguin pace. Now, in the street with traffic, because the sidewalk was under construction. After a few more blocks, I had to stop because I could feel a rock digging into my foot. I looked at the bottom of my foot and realized that I had torn multiple holes in my nylons, and if I kept going they’d be ripped/running up to my knees. I looked up, and saw Aaron coming my way. I put my shoes on and took a deep breath, not wanting to hear the bad news.
Aaron had made it to the restaurant around 6:06. It would have been perfectly appropriate for the staff, knowing their rules, to turn them away. After they got over the shock of a man in a suit sprinting into the restaurant, they assured him that they would honor the reservation. I had about two blocks of walking to catch my breath, and we walked into the restaurant and were promptly seated. We of course told our host that we’d literally run to the restaurant because of a cab mistake. He seemed pretty impressed 🙂
Then, we settled into a 15-course meal. Literally, the best meal of my life. And infinitely more memorable because of what it took to get us there. I most definitely earned this dessert, which was presented to us by Grant Achatz, the chef and founder of Alinea.
And, in case you’re curious what running a mile down the street in nylons will do to your feet…