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‘Worth the wait:’ Star chef Grant Achatz’s new restaurant opens

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Sixty diners made it in the doors of Grant Achatz’s much-anticipated restaurant, Next, on Wednesday, its opening night. All it took was a year of breathlessly awaiting an e-mail from the restaurant and a few agonizing hours of clicking the computer mouse, waiting, then clicking some more.

“It was worth the wait,” said Brian Snyder, 31, of Lincoln Park, who snagged a table of four — for him, his wife and their newly married friends — at the prime time of 7 p.m.

The opening of the Alinea chef’s restaurant at 953 W. Fulton was unlike any Snyder and other Chicago diners have seen before.

Instead of making a reservation, you had to buy a ticket. In order to buy a ticket, you had to have signed up on a waiting list stretching back to last May and numbering 19,000. And then, at 10 a.m. Wednesday, an e-mail was to be sent to the first 1,000 people on that waiting list, alerting them that ticket sales were open.

But 10 a.m. came and went, then 11 a.m., then noon. No e-mails. People took to the restaurant’s Facebook page, sounding panicked, wondering what was happening.

In simple terms, said co-owner Nick Kokonas (who posted updates on Facebook throughout the day): The e-mail server got bogged down.

Finally, at 2 p.m., the glitch was fixed. Two minutes later, the first ticket buyer, 30-year-old Brian McCarthy, triumphantly posted on Facebook, “In!”

McCarthy, an executive recruiter, had arranged alternating lunchtimes with his girlfriend so as not to miss his window of ticket-buying opportunity.

He booked two tables — dinner with his girlfriend on April 21, and dinner for four in May as a gift to a friend.

At Next, the food will draw from different eras and places for three months at a time. The opening menu evokes Paris in 1906; in three months, diners should expect Thai street food.

Achatz and Kokonas also are opening a bar next to Next called Aviary. It’ll be a bit more old-fashioned — first come, first served.

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