Ever promised the world and delivers first-time guests a pretty fine experience. And you think most visitors will leave the restaurant feeling satisfied by the novel food, polished service, and refined atmosphere. They’ll feel satisfied because the heightened expectations were just about met, but you’ve never felt those expectations were truly surpassed.

Hype is anathema to a cynic such as you. Yet some places fulfill–dare you say, surpass–expectations from the very start. Some places not only please, but they promise. They stand as a bastion of dynamic cookery and gracious service that is sure to elevate the expression of those arts across the entire city. They beg you not merely to check them once off of your bucket list, but affirm the splendor of those rare restaurants that embody a living organism.

While it is too early in the restaurant’s lifespan to write a full review, you thought–just for fun–you would put Rose Mary’s seven different pasta dishes through the ringer. Given that Joe Flamm is something of a wizard with the form–anyone who has tried Spiaggia’s truffle gnocchi can attest to that–and that his pastas form the most distinct core of the menu at present, you think this ranking can prove instructive in the interim.

The dark days of the pandemic–a reality managed, throughout the meal, unerringly by Alinea’s team–have led the restaurant back towards the fountainhead of its inspiration. No “smoke and mirrors,” just creative cooking–just the drama of the table. Alinea “3.0” is the return to the source from which Achatz–during the decade he helmed Alinea 1.0–made his name.

Kyōten is one of few restaurants you have ever visited that feels unmistakably “alive.” Phan and friends invite you to become a part of their story, to write your own chapter with them. You can trust that they will do everything possible to please you in your time together, and they succeed at doing so in a manner that Chicago has never quite seen before.

Ciccio Mio is the red sauce joint of your dreams, the greatest common divisor of every good thing that every Italian-American restaurant has done in the century (or so) since the diaspora wove the trodden souls of Naples, Palermo, and Genoa into the fabric of domestic life. Does that mean Ciccio Mio is the best Italian restaurant in Chicago? Why, yes, it does. Tied for “best,” at least, depending on just what one considers “Italian” and whether diaspora culture the whole country over is destined for preservation or renovation. “Authenticity,” you guess, is the name of the game, and Hogsalt’s newest restaurant brings one of modern dining’s most contentious questions to the fore.