Hidden in the West Loop, a warehouse holds the history of Alinea, Next and Aviary

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Chicago Tribune's Phil Vettel visits the dish warehouse behind Alinea

Chef Grant Achatz contemplates what some of this glassware was used for.

It's like the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” storage facility, if Julia Child were in charge.

That, at least, is the impression one gets touring the suite of rooms one floor above Next restaurant, home to the various plates, props, machines and glassware that have graced the tabletops of Next, Alinea and their sibling restaurants over the years.

Considering that Alinea will celebrate its 12th birthday in May, that Next, open since 2011, is serving its 19th themed menu and that the theatrics of the bar service at Aviary call for vessels of infinite shapes and sizes, that's a lot of stuff — boxed, wrapped, crated and stacked.

“We've talked about (selling some things),” Achatz says, referencing items like the plastic, 1980s-themed lunchboxes (“Hulk Hogan,” “Star Wars,” “Wonder Woman,” “Scooby Doo,” “Knight Rider”) that held the dessert course in the childhood-themed menu at Next . “We have all these lunchboxes, got them on eBay, why not sell them and turn the stuff over. And, at some point, we just said it's really fun to have kind of a museum of serviceware.”

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