Score one for Madrid diners.

By Amy McKeever
Updated: January 20, 2017

Grant Achatz’s outside-the-box imagination earned this place three Michelin stars and a permanent spot near the top of every best restaurants list. And he still keeps things exciting at Alinea—a garden salad sprayed with salt-and-pepper water and presented in soil, green apple balloons, edible gelatinous cocktails—after a decade-long run in Lincoln Park.

Tip: Achatz is one of the godfathers of controversial restaurant ticketing systems. He releases them lottery-style two to three months in advance, but if you’re looking last minute, be sure to check Alinea’s Facebook page where they occasionally post same-day reservations.

Photography by Lara Kastner / Courtesy of

One of the top-rated restaurants in the world, Chicago’s innovative Alinea revealed today its plans to continue pushing boundaries even while it’s closed. During the restaurant’s previously announced January remodeling, Chef Grant Achatz and his entire team will bring Alinea to Madrid for a multi-week pop-up experience with two distinctive parts at the NH Hotel Eurobuilding.

Alinea’s first task in Madrid will be a series of collaboration dinners at the three-Michelin-starred Spanish restaurant DiverXO from January 12-16 — a collaboration with its own intriguing back story. Last year, Achatz and DiverXO chef David Munoz exchanged barbs on Twitter over whether Munoz had copied some of Achatz’s culinary inventions. “There was a feeling in the public that there might be bad feelings there,” writes Alinea co-owner Nick Kokonas in an email. “It was exaggerated but with a basis in the truth.”

But with Alinea: Madrid slated to crop up in the same building as DiverXO, Kokonas notes that “everyone realized it would be a great opportunity to create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for guests to dine in two Michelin 3-star restaurants in one evening...and so the idea was born and took a life of its own.” And whatever bad feelings there might have been between the chefs, they seem eager to bury, offering friendlier sentiments on social media this time around.

Though the chefs are still hashing out the exact details of what that collaboration is going to look like, it’s going to be what they’re calling an “Up/Down” tasting menu. That menu will begin with one restaurant and move across to the other halfway through, and will be designed with “contrasting and complimenting styles.” There will be two seatings each night, and the tasting menu will cost €500 (US$569).

After those collaboration dinners, Alinea: Madrid will move on to become an entity of its own with a tasting menu priced at €275 (US$313). From January 19 through February 6, Achatz and Alinea executive chef Mike Bagale “will faithfully represent the Michelin 3-star cuisine of Alinea, while paying homage and honoring the culinary heritage of Spain.” Kokonas says the details on what that actually means are still being worked out, though Eater notes that it could mean an emphasis on Spanish ingredients or the modernist techniques that originated in Spain.

As that seat of modernist innovation, Spain is a fitting locale for Alinea’s brief foray into Europe. But Kokonas says that “Spain was the top of our list” anyway given the Alinea team’s relationships with chefs there. Indeed, he explains, Spanish chef Dani Garcia and his business partner Javier Gutierrez — with whom Achatz worked last year on tribute dinners for Spanish culinary genius Ferran Adria — essentially made Alinea: Madrid happen by finding restaurant space, sponsorships, and even getting work visas approved.

Tickets for both Alinea: Madrid experiences are available now on Kokonas’s own ticketing site Tock, with options to add wine pairings for either €125 ($142) or €250 ($285) for reserve wines. All of the bookings are being released on a staggered schedule, meaning only 40 percent of the bookings are available now, with another 40 percent becoming available in December and then the final 20 percent going online in January. So don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time to look into airfare to Madrid.

More on the best restaurants in Chicago on T+L: Restaurant Guide: Chicago.