Taking equal inspiration from Wrigley Field scalpers and the city’s grittiest pawn shops, food- and cash-obsessed Chicagoans have started a vibrant trade in tickets to a new restaurant, with bidding in one case hitting $3,000 for a group of seats overlooking the kitchen.
The cause of this amateur online auctioneering is Next, the newest offering from a local celebrity chef, Grant Achatz, whose acclaimed restaurant Alinea usually has a line. But that’s nothing compared to the frenzy currently engulfing Next, which opened Wednesday with a policy that eschews reservations by phone. Instead, diners purchase one-time-only, all-inclusive tickets — dinner, drinks, tip, gawking — for one set price that begins roughly in the $45 to $75 range.
It is that set price — and, presumably, the food — that has led to bidding wars by diners desperate to order from a menu that requires at least a year of high school French and a gastronomic dictionary (Caneton Rouennais à la Presse, par example).
As first reported by Eater.com, dozens of tickets have been offered for resale, ranging from $500 (a table for two, on a Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.) to six times that for a table for six at the chef’s elbow. (That seller later decided to keep the seats.)