On the restaurant scene: don your Michelin bibs

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Dudes name is Bibendum
  • Tire dude's name is Bibendum, and yes, he spits out stars
The woman took a seat at one of the tables in the center of the room. She wore a light-blue dress with a high neckline, little makeup, and no jewelry. There was nothing remarkable about her appearance, and her demeanor was quiet and unassuming, as if designed to deflect attention—a trait indispensable for her profession.

Who was she? A spy, a madam? Non! She was a . . . Michelin inspector.

Perhaps John Colapinto and his 2009 New Yorker profile of one of the French restaurant guide's undercover arbiters can be blamed for a certain amount of the hype surrounding Michelin's annual announcements of its awardees. Is there not something glamorous about "anonymous, professionally trained experts" with identities so secret they're advised not to tell even their parents what they do for a living?

Well, maybe, but that's not going to stop local food scribes from bitching about, to quote Mike Sula, "the tire company's simultaneously presumptuous, obvious, arbitrary, clueless, and frequently bizarre assessment of Chicago's restaurant scene."

That's why, last year, Sula took a pass on commenting about Michelin's 2012 Bib Gourmand Awards, which recognized area restaurants from Ann Sather to Skokie's Yolo.

He's higher minded than I. Ann Sather? Vous ĂȘtes sĂ©rieuse?

But just what, you ask, is a "Bib Gourmand"? It's bestowed, Michelin says, on "inspectors' favorites for good value," that is, "good cuisine at a reasonable price in a variety of comfort categories." Or perhaps, as one Grub Street commenter quipped, it's French for "this place seems fine, I guess."

And to the delight, no doubt, of Alderman Tom Tunney, Ann Sather remains ensconced on this year's list, just bumped down an alphabetical notch by a new arrival, David Morton and Michael Kornick's Ada St.

On the full monty, as given below, I've starred this and the other listed restaurants that opened in 2012. Michelin is expected to release its more coveted list—the one with stars—next week.

Ada Street*
Ann Sather
Antique Taco*
Au Cheval*
Avec
Balena*
Belly Shack
Bistronomic
The Bristol
Browntrout
Ceres' Table
Chilam Balam
City Tavern*
Cumin
Deca
De Cero
De Colores
Frontera Grill
Gemini Bistro
Gilt Bar
Girl & the Goat
Green Zebra
GT Fish & Oyster
Han 202
Jaipur
Jam
Jin Thai
Kabul House
Kai Zan
Lao Hunan
Lao Sze Chuan
La Petite Folie
Los Nopales
Maison Brasserie*
Marion Street Cheese Market
Maude’s Liquor Bar
Mixteco Grill
Nana
Nightwood
Opart Thai
Owen & Engine
Paramount Room
The Publican
The Pump Room
Purple Pig
Q BBQ
Raj Darbar
Riccardo Trattoria
The Savoy*
Sen
Slurping Turtle
Smak-Tak
Smoque BBQ
Sol de Mexico
Spacca Napoli
The Storefront Company*
Twin Anchors
Untitled*
Urban Belly
Urban Union*
West Town Tavern
Wood*
Xni-Pec de Yucatan
Yolo

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