By Richard Leong
(Reuters) - Chicago cemented its reputation as a top dining destination on Tuesday with Michelin's award of its highest three-star ranking to Grace restaurant, making it the city's second eatery to earn the distinction.
Grace joins the Windy City's Alinea in ranking among the just over 100 Michelin three-star establishments around the world.
"It confirms Chicago is truly one of the most exciting U.S. culinary destination today," Michael Ellis, the international director of Michelin Guides, said in an interview
Michelin rates restaurants in 24 countries, and its stars are an internationally recognized sign of quality dining.
Diners still flock to Alinea for chef Grant Achatz's cutting-edge dishes and imaginative plating. Grace's head chef and co-owner, Curtis Duffy, once worked for Achatz.
In praising Duffy, Michelin said that he "creates contemporary seasonal tasting menus that are both intricate and elaborately constructed."
Multi-course tasting menus at both Grace and Alinea start at more than $200 per person.
Grace's ascent occurred as Michelin handed out stars to 24 Chicago restaurants in its 2015 guide, down from 25 the previous year. The fifth edition of the Chicago guide will be released on Wednesday.
"There were a couple of closings. There was a certain ebb and flow in Chicago in the past year," Ellis said.
One of the notable closings was the two-star restaurant Graham Elliot, which shut its doors in late 2013.
Chef and owner Jake Bickelhaupt's 42 Grams restaurant, which opened this year, debuted in the two-star category in Michelin's latest Chicago guide. 42 Grams has 18 seats and earned acclaim for its modernist dishes.
L20 and Sixteen retained their two-star status from last year.
Nineteen Chicago restaurants earned one star for being very good in the category. The 30-year-old Italian restaurant Spiaggia kept its one-star ranking after a five-month renovation earlier this year with a new head chef, Chris Marchino, 30.
"We are going to see more young chefs with unique food in Chicago and other places in the U.S.," Ellis said.
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Leslie Adler)