Chicago's Next: The Toughest Restaurant Reservation in America

We can't predict the future, but we can take an educated guess: Tickets (not reservations) to Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas's El Bulli-themed menu at Next in Chicago are going to be one of the hottest commodities in the food world this year. The short run of two of the country's most famous chefs replicating a menu from one of the most legendary chefs in the world promises absolute madness when it comes to doling out tables. The rules for buying tickets just went live on Next's Facebook page, and the process is so overly orchestrated that it feels like it would have been easier to get tickets to the actual El Bulli, which closed last year.

Where El Bulli had you send in an email requesting a table and then "cross your fingers and hope for the best," Next has set up a delicate process apparently meant to head off the crashing website and bruised "refresh" fingers that drove people crazy when David Chang started Momofuku Ko with it's online-only reservations.

Unlike its inspiration, Next's reservation system is structured and complicated. That's for a reason. El Bulli's annual six-month season booked up almost immediately, so they only had to deal with making reservations for one day. Next's El Bulli cover menu goes from Feb. 8 through May 27, and thousands are expected to try for tickets. while most tickets will be part of a season tickets package, some will be same-day. Next serves five nights a week, and will do one El Bulli serving each night. Season tickets will account for about 50 seats, but you can try for one of the 10 same-night tickets that will go on sale each day on the Facebook page. One table each night will be auctioned off to benefit the University of Chicago Cancer Center, where Achatz received treatment for tongue cancer.

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