The 100 best things we ate and drank this year

From breakfast to booze, these are the best dishes and drinks we had this year at Chicago restaurants and bars.

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  • Old 1871 oyster from Fortune Fish Co.
    Fortune Fish Co. wanted to bring back a style of oyster popular in 19th century Chicago, so it sourced big, briny specimens from Virginia. Clean and salty, these are easy to eat and available all over the city (we ate them at GT Fish & Oyster). $2.50.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Roasted summer squash with chile and mint at Ada St.
    One of our most memorable meals this year was at Ada St., where plate after plate from Zoe Schor's kitchen came out perfectly cooked and incredibly flavorful. But it was her squash, heated with chile and cooled with mint, that makes us long for summer eating. Seasonal.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Oysters with caviar at Brindille
    These caviar-adorned, cream-bathed oysters are what Carrie Nahabedian's follow-up to Naha is all about: unapologetic luxury and decadence. $18.

  • Photograph: Erica Gannett

    Black bean empanada at Cafe Tola
    Coffee-shop food has never had it so good as at this sweet little Southport Corridor spot, where Metropolis Coffee goes hand in hand with freshly made empanadas. If the black bean, plantain and goat cheese version is in the case, don't hesitate. $3.

  • Photograph: Dan De Los Monteros

    Jumbo shrimp cocktail at Chop Shop
    Here's proof that some dishes cannot be improved upon: Chop Shop's shrimp cocktail is chilled and served with a horseradish-heavy cocktail sauce. There's nothing fancy about it, and it's exactly right. $12.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Focaccia di recco at Davanti Enoteca
    Davanti Enoteca opened a River North location this year, so now it's even easier to get the cheesy bread, which you can further improve with gooey slices of local honeycomb. $16, plus $2 for honeycomb.

  • Photograph: Grace Wiley

    Five-onion fries at Edzo's Burger Shop in Evanston
    Just when we were sure that Edzo's fries couldn't get any better, we stumbled upon this special in which Eddie Lakin's signature skin-on frites are piled with caramelized-onion cream and frizzled leeks. Perhaps God is watching over us after all. $4.75.

  • Photograph: Erica Gannett

    Sunchoke at Grace
    When Curtis Duffy opened his serene West Loop restaurant, it was clear to everyone he had Michelin stars in his eyes. What few knew was that he'd snag that acclaim through visionary vegetable-focused dishes, like this typically stunning plate in which the chef celebrates the lowly sunchoke, cooking the Jerusalem artichokes (as they're also known) sous vide before frying them to a crisp and pairing them with braised mustard seeds and freekeh. No longer available.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Side dishes at Honey Butter Fried Chicken
    Yeah, chicken is in the name. But give us the meal of three sides, which includes dishes like creamy pimento mac and cheese, cold-roasted sweet potatoes with cilantro and lime, and kale and cabbage slaw with cumin yogurt dressing, and we'll be happy. $3.50 each.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Empanadas at La Sirena Clandestina
    The fillings rotate, but it doesn't matter if they're white bean or ham and cheese-we'd eat anything stuffed into the baked, flaky pastry. $4 each.

  • Photograph: Matthew Kutz

    Coconut curry cashews from Mama's Nuts
    Our favorite part of Adrienne Lo's coconut curry cashews, other than the spicy, warming flavors? The fact that you can get them in multiple places, like while waiting for a table at Fat Rice or drinking at the Whistler. 6oz bag $9, 3oz bag $5; 2oz bag $3 at the Whistler.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Olives at mk
    Michael Kornick's River North restaurant got a facelift this year, and with that came a revamped bar area and new bar menu. Try the fried chorizo-stuffed Gordal olives, which are perched on a dollop of hazelnut romesco sauce. You could put away dozens of these but, cruelly, there are only four to an order. $7.

  • Jamon iberico at the Office
    We're not sure we've ever seen a presentation as cool as the jamon iberico at the Office. The salty cured ham was draped over a candlelit contraption that softened the fat and basically looked like a Ham Lite-Brite. The perfect slices were served with four pieces of tomato and garlic-topped bread to make little open-face sandwiches. Get it with the new quince and sherry-filled porthole cocktail for a Spanish pairing. $65.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Sweet plantains at Pecking Order
    Kristine Subido may focus on chicken at her Uptown restaurant, but it's clear she also knows her way around a plantain. Here, they're fried and topped with jackfruit chutney for an almost dessert-like side dish. $3.75-$4.50.

  • Plantain chips with aji amarillo dipping sauce from Sobremesa Supper Club
    One dinner with the roving Latin supper club, helmed by chef Gabriel Moya and his childhood friends, made us wish we had grown up with them, too-especially if these salty, crispy plantain chips with spicy, creamy aji amarillo sauce were around. Part of an eight- to ten-course tasting menu, $55 suggested donation.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Tofu at Sumi Robata Bar
    We didn't expect a beautiful bowl of tofu to outshine the skewered meats and vegetables at Gene Kato's Sumi Robata Bar, but that's what happened. The savory tofu pudding is topped with caviar and crispy ginger, and so good we considered getting seconds. We didn't, but only because we ordered a similar tofu dish for dessert. $6.

  • Photograph: Erica Gannett

    Wanderteller at Table, Donkey and Stick
    Don't let the rustic, ski-lodge appearance fool you: The chef here, Scott Manley, approaches charcuterie (here dubbed "wanderteller," or hiker's plate) with a deft, delicate hand in rotating options like subtly smoky strips of venison loin and gorgeously rich duck-liver mousse. $6 per item or $17 for three.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Fried bacon mac at Upton's Breakroom
    Seitan-maker Upton's Naturals opened a tiny cafe this summer and introduced us to a dish that made us happy the bacon craze hasn't ended: fried "bacon" seitan mac and cheese. Creamy, rich and deceptively meaty. $4.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Garlic shrimp at Vera
    Mark and Liz Mendez's Spanish spot is so inviting it feels like hanging out at a friend's house-if that friend can cook. Ask Liz to pick your sherry and have Mark make you the garlicky, lemony shrimp, a dish that's both casual and elegant, just like Vera itself. $12.

  • Photograph: Martha Wiliiams

    Canele at Bad Wolf Coffee
    Jonathan Ory's new coffee shop makes the best pastries in town. While you won't go wrong with anything, the caneles are the showstoppers. The small, bell-shape pastries, which taste like burnt sugar and have a custardy center, are only available at 10am on Saturdays and Sundays, so stop on your way to brunch. $3.50.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Cherry and oatmeal scone at Baker & Nosh
    Scones are a tricky pastry to get right, and the vast majority is too dry or too soft. Baker & Nosh nails it-there's a soft interior studded with tart dried cherries and oats and a crunchy edge. $3.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Duck eggs Benedict at bellyQ
    Bill Kim's reinvention of the brunch staple in five easy steps: tempura-fried sous vide eggs + smoked duck breast + Chinese broccoli + bao buns + hollandaise doctored up with Korean chili paste, fish sauce and red Thai curry sauce = delicious. $15.

  • Photograph: Amy Cavanaugh

    Crispy semolina gnocchi at Bread & Wine
    Light, crispy semolina gnocchi is available all day at the Irving Park spot, but at brunch, it comes with a poached egg, hollandaise sauce and a fantastic spicy tomato broth. $10 at dinner, $11 at brunch.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Cinnamon sugar doughnut at City Dough
    In a city that's gone full-on doughnut crazed, we were excited to see a new doughnut that wasn't covered with frosting. Enter the cinnamon sugar doughnut at City Dough: soft, cinnamon-y and so simple. $2.

  • Photograph: Galdones Photography

    11 City French toast at Eleven City Diner
    French toast gets an upgrade with toasted coconut-encrusted challah bread. It's decadent, but the healthy serving of strawberries and bananas made us feel downright virtuous. $11.99.

  • Photograph: Becca Griffin

    Biscuits at Endgrain
    There's a very good reason the biscuit is available as part of the fried chicken dinner, as a side dish with butter and preserves, doused with sausage gravy and fried eggs at brunch, and turned into sandwiches-the crunchy-edged biscuit is the best in town. $3.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Bread pudding French toast at Flipside Cafe (closed, but reopening in a new location next year)
    Last winter's pop-up collaboration between Will Von Hartz and Alfredo Nogueira was the best incarnation of Flipside yet, with kale burgers and biscuit sandwiches joining the annual roster of grilled cheese and soup. Our favorite time to drop in to the teensy ten-seat spot was for brunch, where Flipside indulged sweet tooths with a breakfast treat that fused the custardy texture of bread pudding with the crispy-edged glory of French toast.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Toast with housemade preserves and whipped butter at Longman & Eagle
    The simplest of breakfast foods, toast is rarely transcendent-unless it's from Longman. The Logan Square restaurant used to source sourdough from Red Hen Bread (pictured), but it recently switched to making the sourdough in-house. No matter where the bread comes from, the toasted slices are served with perfect whipped butter and rotating preserves, like strawberry. $3.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Belgian waffle at Paris Club
    This waffle is topped with speculoos, a Belgian cookie butter. That's all you need to know. $6.95.

  • Photograph: Erica Gannett

    Wood-fired bagels at Reno
    Reno gave Chicagoans what we didn't know we were missing: wood-fired bagels, chewy and crispy and flat enough to serve as canvases for wacky and ambitious spreads, jams and sandwich toppings. $2.25.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Pimento cheese, sausage and onion omelette at Southport Grocery
    With a single dish, Southport Grocery upended our brunch expectations. First, it fills its omelette with red onions, housemade sausage and a dollop of Publican Quality Meat's pimento cheese, a brilliant use for the tangy spread. Then, it serves the omelette with red mashed potatoes. Remind us why we've been eating soggy homefries for years? $12.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Milk chocolate cream pie at Bang Bang Pie Shop
    Choosing a standout among this sweet little shop's biscuits, pies and candied bacon is like picking a favorite child: They're each perfect in their own way. And yet, of the way-too-many Bang Bang pies we've proudly consumed, this might be our favorite, thanks to the luscious interior and the crumbly graham-cracker crust. Seasonal.

  • Photograph: Anjali M. PInto

    Caramel pie at Beatrix
    Beatrix had perhaps the most absurd restaurant concept of the year: a menu comprised of dishes created in the Lettuce Entertain You test kitchen, but which didn't fit the menus of any other Lettuce restaurants. It's absurd because the food here is delicious and perfectly executed. And it's even more absurd, because someone has been sitting on the recipe for this thick, rich, sweet-but-not-cloying caramel pie, and hasn't shared it with us until now. $6.95.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Bella at Blackbird
    Cheese plate? Dessert? Who cares what you call it-when Blackbird's pastry chef Dana Cree combines Raspberry BellaVitano cheese, chocolate and raspberries into a dish, the result is the perfect hybrid of both. No longer available.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Bacon chocolate chip cookie at Burke's Bacon Bar
    Skip all the sandwiches and go straight for dessert at David Burke's teeny storefront. The bacon chocolate chip cookie is soft, salty and filled with chocolate chips and pieces of bacon. $2.25.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Doughnut ice cream sandwich at Firecakes
    This is the first time we've had doughnut ice cream sandwiches, made with glazed doughnuts, vanilla bean or espresso ice cream, and a chocolate drizzle, but it isn't going to be the last. $4.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Gelato at J.P. Graziano Grocery Company
    When chef Ben Roche (formerly of Baume & Brix and Moto) teamed up with Italian grocer JP Graziano to make gelato, Chicago's gelato scene changed overnight. Most of the ingredients Roche uses are from the store, which has led to flavors like tomato, pistachio, lemon-basil, a blood orange sorbetto, and the creamy, mild risotto gelato, made with arborio rice, white wine, olive oil, Parmesan and saffron. Seasonal.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Sweet corn and black raspberry ice cream at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
    Ohio-based ice cream maker Jeni's moved into Southport this year, bringing an array of creative flavors. We're partial to the buttery sweet corn ice cream, laced with tart swirls of black raspberry. Pint $11.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Choco-banana at Mott St.
    After giving the vast Asian street food menu the attention it deserves, you won't have much room for dessert. Edward Kim has you covered. He dips teeny Thai baby bananas in chocolate and coats them with peanuts, Szechuan peppercorns and salt. Sweet, salty and just the right size. $3.

  • Photograph: Christian Seel

    Maris otter at Next: the Hunt
    Toward the end of the Hunt, we were served a cast-iron pan of maris otter, a porridge made with barley, and a tray with English toffee, basil and mint, pecans, tart cherry jam, and brown sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle over the warm pudding. It was the homiest dish we've had at Next and exactly what we'd like for breakfast each morning. No longer available.

  • Photograph: Amy Cavanaugh

    Maple custard tart from Rustic Tart
    Maybe it's because we're from New England, but we drop everything whenever we hear about a maple dish. This time, we ran to Bow Truss in Lakeview, where Rustic Tart was hosting a pop-up. Stephanie Lock's tart has a sweet, custard filling and a perfect crust, and tastes just like home. $5. Seasonally available at Bow Truss Monday-Friday.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    PB&J soft serve at Urban Belly
    This dish is on the kids' menu at the newly relocated Urban Belly. But don't let that stop you from demolishing the dish of vanilla soft serve topped with huckleberry jelly and crispy peanut butter bits-it definitely didn't stop us. $6.

  • Photograph: Amy Cavanaugh

    Sweet basil gelato and white chocolate bar from Zarlengo's Italian Ice
    When Zarlengo's, a Chicago Heights family company, brought its gelato cart to Wicker Park food market the Nosh this summer, it brought a gelato bar. And this is no ordinary ice cream bar-its fresh sweet basil gelato encased in a white chocolate shell. Seasonal.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Continuous Negroni at Berkshire Room
    Ben Schiller's newest venture, which opened this summer, allows drinkers to pick their spirit, flavor profile and style of glass, and let the bartender do the rest. For those who prefer to leave everything up to the bartender, there's the Continuous Negroni, a traditional negroni finished with Pappy Van Winkle, which yields a nicely rounded cocktail. $15.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    The Victorian cocktail at Billy Sunday
    If you think gin, Fernet and a syrup made from maidenhair ferns sounds like a combination best suited for a baroque scientist with nothing to lose, you've clearly never been introduced to Alex Bachman, the Billy Sunday bartender who eagerly ventures into territories bitter, botanical and beautiful. $11.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Mexican Firing Squad at Bub City
    Further proof that Paul McGee can do anything: He makes machine-produced cocktails-such as this frigid blend of tequila, lime, pomegranate and Angostura bitters-at a barbecue restaurant taste high-class. $10.

  • Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

    The tradition at CH Distillery
    We thought we knew vodka shots, and then we went to CH Distillery, which takes its incredibly smooth spirit, chills it, and serves it with rye bread and pickles. It's a totally refined way to drink vodka. Carafe $30, single serving $11.

  • Credit: Amy Cavanaugh

    Gillian from Goose Island
    This saison, available for the first time since 2010, is fruity and effervescent with a dry finish. So what if it's $29 a bottle? That's a small price to pay for something you can only drink every three years. Seasonal.

  • Photograph: Martha Williamns

    Bloody Mary at Holiday Grill & Bar
    You can keep your hot dog-, chicken wing- and bacon-topped Bloody Marys. We'll take the simple, terrific, almost briny version here, made with V8, Frank's RedHot sauce, lime, spices and a lot of horseradish. Get it with Absolut Peppar for extra spice. $6.

  • Photograph: Huge Galdones

    The Little Goat at Little Goat Diner
    Everything at Stephanie Izard's restaurant is over the top, including this drink. Made with steamed goat's milk, goat's milk caramel, espresso and masala sugar, it's richer and spicier than your typical latte. $4.50.

  • Photograph: Martha Williamns

    No. 2 Sgrippino at Lone Wolf
    The Randolph Street newcomer aims to fill that pre-dinner drink void, and it does with this super-light and not-too-fruity lime, strawberry and tequila cocktail. $12.

  • Credit: Amy Cavanaugh

    New Glarus Serendipity
    Yeah, you can only get New Glarus in Wisconsin. But the next time you're up north, make it a priority to find a bottle of Serendipity, a sour ale made with apples, cranberries and cherries. After downing the bottle we bought at the Mars Cheese Castle, we lamented that we hadn't bought an entire case. $8.99.

  • Photograph: Clayton Hauck

    Negroni slushy at Parson's Chicken & Fish
    If there was a drink of summer 2013, it was the frozen Negroni slushy, and we eventually lost count of how many we consumed. The drink uses Luxardo Bitter in place of Campari, so it's less sweet, but no less boozy. One of these and you'd be playing ping-pong on the patio. Two and you'd be downing baskets of fried chicken. Three? You'd better be on your way home. $8.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Gin tea punch at Punch House
    We're planning to while away much of winter in a cozy booth at Punch House, sipping the gin tea punch, a warming, slightly sweet concoction made with Letherbee gin, Gilka Kummel (a German caraway liqueur), Earl Grey tea, orange, lemon and cinnamon. Glass $8, carafe $32, bowl $59.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    The Reveller at the Revel Room
    Stiegl grapefruit radler was everywhere this summer, so it only makes sense to combine it with another booze everywhere in Chicago: Jeppson's Malört. A bit of honey balances it all out, and the result is one very easy-drinking cocktail. Seasonal.

  • Rosa Hibiscus Ale from Revolution Brewery
    Did we attend a summer gathering without at least a six-pack of Revolution's floral, tart Rosa beer? Nope. Seasonal.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Spanish gin and tonics at Sable Kitchen + Bar
    Sable bartender Mike Ryan traveled to Spain and fell hard for the country's gin and tonics, which are heavy on the tonic, light on gin, and garnished with fruits and herbs. Upon his return, he added some to the drink list at Sable and we fell hard for the G&T made with Tanqueray Malacca, pineapple, lime and Fever Tree tonic. $13.

  • Swizzle No. 6 at Scofflaw
    Scofflaw may be best known as a gin bar, but Danny Shapiro and co. are just as adept with other spirits. The sixth iteration of Scofflaw's rum swizzle uses three types of rum and fruits and has an undertone of anise from Herbsaint. $8.

  • Photograph: Anjali Pinto

    Saturn at Three Dots and a Dash
    It almost seems sacrilegious not to include a rum drink from Three Dots and a Dash on this list. But on our many, many visits to the transportive underground tiki bar, we kept returning to the Saturn, a combination of navy-strength gin, passion fruit, lemon, falernum and almond, served in a coconut-shaped mug. It's sweet, but balanced, with spice and nutty notes. $13.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Barrel-aged Malört at Trenchermen
    When Trenchermen beverage director Tona Palomino tucked away Jeppson's Malört in a Hudson Baby Bourbon barrel, magic happened. Specifically, he stripped away the bitter aftertaste and made Chicago's favorite liqueur caramelly and lush-it's something we want to drink all the time, and not just on a dare. No longer available.

  • Photograph: Grace Wiley

    Fish House Punch at Ward Eight
    We love the Evanston cocktail bar's low-key vibe. We also love the Fish House Punch, a peachy, potent 19th century drink made with rum, cognac and peach brandy. $7.

  • Autumn Sweater at the Whistler
    The name pretty much sums it up: Made with the smoky new edition of Letherbee Autumnal Gin, glogg, Angostura and Peychaud's bitters, and lemon, the cocktail has smoke, spice and warming notes-perfect for cold nights. $10.

  • Jason Little

    Tagliolini nero at Balena
    While we're slowly working our way through the cocktail menu on each visit to Balena, we just can't seem to move beyond our favorite dish. The tagliolini nero's tangles of squid-ink pasta, chunks of crab meat, finely sliced chilies and bright orange sea urchin is sweet, savory and oh-so-satisfying. $19.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Grilled hanger steak bi bim bop at the Bento Box
    Why pay twice what you would in Koreatown for bibimbap? Because you can actually taste the difference. Rick Spiros uses the highest quality, freshest ingredients, turning a simple bowl of rice into a feast of brash flavors. You�re worth it. $19. Occasionally available.

  • Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

    Pulled pork at Blackwood BBQ
    Not many places do South Carolina barbecue right, but this Loop newcomer does. The tender pulled pork is topped with tangy mustard sauce, and it's a welcome reminder of time spent down South. Sandwich $6.49, platter $7.49.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Hachapuri at Chill Cafe
    The newest fried bread to earn our affection: Central Asian hachapuri, a leavened flatbread, here freshly baked and filled with a thin layer of sour cream and parsley. $3.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Nduja pizza at Coalfire
    Coalfire sources meats for its blistered pies from local butchers, and the nduja, a spreadable pork sausage, comes from Publican Quality Meats. You haven't had a sausage pizza until you've had this earthy and savory one. $18.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Hot link at County Barbeque
    Juicy, smoky, snappy, crackly-we could go on and on with adjectives praising Erick Williams's pork hot links. $4.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Paratha tacos at En Hakkore
    Korean tacos seemed played out until this Bucktown sleeper hit came around, piling bulgogi or spicy pork onto puffy, flaky parathas that have masa tortillas watching their backs. $7.50.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Arroz gordo at Fat Rice
    To think that a year ago we had never heard of Macanese food, let alone arroz gordo, the carefully arranged pile of sausage, chicken thighs, prawns and pickles that in the intervening months has become the inspired, over-the-top, celebratory centerpiece of so many meals at Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo's runaway-hit restaurant. $42.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Pizza at Floriole Cafe & Bakery
    Baker Rachel Post makes the airiest, lightest, crispiest pizza crust in town. The creative array of farmers-market toppings, like eggplant caponata or sausage and grapes, only elevate this pizza higher. Prices vary.

  • Photograph: Galdones Photography

    Lamb meatballs with pistachio chimichurri at Found Kitchen + Social House
    Nicole Pederson's menu at Amy Morton's restaurant manages to capture exactly how we want to eat. Case in point: juicy lamb meatballs set over pistachio chimichurri swirled with yogurt. $13.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Chili Fusion Crab at Go 4 Food
    There aren't many things we want to do for two full hours, but pulling apart the enormous chili crabs at Go 4 Food is definitely one of them. The Dungeness crabs are fried in a wok with a sauce made from onions, curry powder, ketchup, butter, soy sauce and other ingredients. The result is slightly spicy and oh, so messy. But while they may be huge, don't even consider sharing one-this is one dish you want all for yourself. Market price.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Saeng samgyeopsal at Gogi
    We usually like to leave the cooking to the pros when we dine out-unless that cooking involves thick-cut saeng samgyeopsal, pork belly that crisps up on the grill. It's spicy and sweet when eaten with grilled bean sprouts and kimchi. $18.

  • Photograph: Eric Kleinberg

    Kabocha squash gnocchi at GT Fish & Oyster
    Tender squash gnocchi, creamy burrata, sweet crab, chanterelle mushrooms-this is winter comfort food at its finest. $13.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Scallop and crab motoyaki at Kabocha
    File under guilty pleasures: Shin Thompson fills a shell with scallops and crab, blankets the seafood in ponzu aioli, and torches the rich mixture till it's caramelized. $10.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Seitan gyro at Kitchen 17
    Don Clements makes seitan in-house and uses it in many dishes, like the gyro, loaded with flavorful slices of seitan, cucumber, onion, tomato and a tangy tzatziki sauce. $8.

  • Eggplant Two Ways at Lula Cafe
    You need to love eggplant to love this dish, but it's one of our very favorite foods. Char-roasted chunks of eggplant sit on a bed of mashed eggplant, while lamb pancetta adds some texture and gaminess. Seasonal.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Aguacate at Masa Azul
    There are many things we love about Masa Azul-the consistently great tequila cocktails, the ceviche, the doughnuts for dessert-but we keep going back for the fried avocado tacos. Chunks of buttery avocado are tempura-fried and served with pickled watermelon radish, cilantro and Serrano peppers in housemade corn tortillas for a light, creamy taco. Three for $9.

  • Photograph: Kari Skaflen

    Gnocchi at Maude's Liquor Bar
    Maude's does many things right-steak tartare, for one-but the dish we love best is one of the simplest. The ricotta gnocchi is so airy and light you could easily put away two orders. $14.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Pheasant at Next: Bocuse d'Or
    While it can be hard to narrow down a dinner at Next to a single best bite, at Bocuse d'Or it was easily the hay-smoked pheasant breast, served with grilled leeks and a creamy sauce. The ingredients tumbled out of an edible flower pot, and the tender, smoky pheasant made us wonder why we don't eat this bird more frequently. Part of a $195 tasting menu.

  • Photograph: Amy Cavanaugh

    Cheddar bratwurst with fried clams at OSB at Longman & Eagle
    Longman & Eagle converted its back space into OSB earlier this year, and now sous chef Matt "Skittles" Sliwinski handles a Saturday sausage shop, while sous chef Vincent Knittel hosts a doughnut shop on Sundays. We liked the cheddar brat, a well-made sausage that oozes and is topped with fried clams. It's a combination of ingredients seen in Portuguese cuisine and so smart when translated to a sausage. $12.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Arctic char tartine at Publican Quality Meats
    Like its across-the-street sibling, PQM flaunts its meat credentials, but these guys take fish just as seriously. Paul Kahan and co.'s take on the Swedish smørrebrød open-face sandwich is spot on, from the rustic slice of country bread to the delicately smoked fish to the crunchy slices of radishes and fennel to the pop of the cured roe sprinkled on top. No longer available.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Naem khao tod at Rainbow Cuisine
    Greasy, crunchy and funky, this giant pile of crisped rice interlaced with fermented pork sausage is the fried rice stoners dream about. $7.95.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Hot borscht at Red Square
    Sure, you may have had borscht as good as this one, in which cubes of sweet roasted beets are suspended in a flavorful beef broth. But have you had it while wearing a bathrobe? Didn't think so. Bowl $8, cup $5.

  • Jason Little

    Lasagna bolognese at Riccardo Enoteca
    Seemingly infinite layers of pasta, bechamel and ragu bind together into the black hole of cheese, meat and carbs this Riccardo Trattoria spin-off innocently calls lasagna. $18.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Hanger steak at Rootstock
    It's a given you're going to have great wine here. But the food menu, too, consistently surpasses expectations, with reasonably priced, thoughtfully sourced dishes created by a steady stream of Lula alums (previously Duncan Biddulph; now Mike Simmons). We love it all but could never say no to the always perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned hanger steak. No longer available.

  • Photograph: Crystal Garcia

    Tofu Baco at Saucy Porka
    When food-truck vets Amy Le (Duck 'n Roll) and Rafael Lopez (Wagyu Wagon), teamed up to create a restaurant, they merged their childhood cuisines to create dishes like "bacos," pillowy, steamed Chinese buns that are stuffed and served like tacos. Our favorite is the fried tofu, slathered with sweet soy ginger sauce and topped with pickled slaw. $2.75.

  • Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

    Brisket and garlic rice at Smalls Smoke Shack & More
    A handful of new barbecue joints opened in Chicago this year, but none delighted us more than Smalls, a mostly take-out spot serving barbecue classics with Asian spins. The fried chicken is nearly perfect, but our favorite dish is the beef brisket, served with a spicy fish sauce-based dip. The meat fell apart into tender shards as soon as we touched it, and the garlicky rice it's served atop complements it perfectly. $12.50.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Carne asada sope at Takito Kitchen
    To call Takito merely a taqueria vastly understates chef David Dworshak's talents, which are evident in everything from the exemplary salsas to the sopes (available on the brunch menu): fried masa cakes piled with meats (such as flavorful carne asada) complemented by unusual seasonal toppings like green-onion kimchi. Seasonal.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Criollo tiradito at Tanta
    Tanta has three categories of ceviche, so we'll make it easy: You want the criollo tiradito, in which mahi marinates in a tangy broth of aji amarillo, ginger and lime. It's colorful, bright and soul-lifting. $14.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Duck confit pasta at Two
    Here's one way to make duck confit even better: Toss it with duck egg fettuccine and duck skin cracklins, then shower it all with scallions and Parmesan. It's incredibly rich, but we had no trouble finishing a giant portion ourselves. $14.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    Pimiento cheeseburger at Big Jones
    Over the years, Paul Fehribach's burger (which appeared on this list in 2010) has changed, morphing from a single patty with Gruyere to a double patty with pimiento cheese (and earning the title of Top 5 Burgers in Chicago in the process). What hasn't changed is our unabiding love for it. $14.

  • Credit: Amy Cavanaugh

    Brisket cemita by Cemitas Puebla and Smoque BBQ
    Two places that are great on their own are even better when they join forces. About once a year, Cemitas Puebla and Smoque team up to create the brisket cemita and lines extend far, far out Smoque's doors. They take Smoque's brisket and layer it inside Cemitas Puebla's roll, along with cheese, avocado, and barbecue and chipotle sauces. It's smoky, messy and so unfortunate we can't eat this sandwich all the time. Occasionally available.

  • Photograph: Kari Skaflen

    Corned beef sandwich at Dillman's
    At Brendan Sodikoff's latest restaurant, the corned beef is cured in-house, then sliced very thinly and stacked into a tower with lacy, fatty edges atop soft rye. It's so big you may not think you can finish it, but rest assured you will. $10.95.

  • Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

    Burger at DryHop Brewers
    If there's one dish we haven't shut up about this year, it's DryHop's burger. The meat is a blend of brisket and sirloin and it's topped with ancho chile-tomato jam, arugula, pickled sweet onions and a dollop of creamy aged raw milk cheddar. Don't even bother adding a slice of bacon or a fried egg-this burger is meaty, juicy and perfect the way it is. $13.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    The New York Special at Kaufman's Delicatessen
    This beloved Skokie deli survived a devastating fire in 2011. But can you survive this combination of corned beef and chopped liver, sandwiched between Kaufman's famous rye bread? Ask for mustard to cut through the insanely delicious richness. $11.25.

  • Photograph: Jason Little

    The Big Baby burger at Little Market Brasserie
    Ryan Poli brought a taste of the South Side to this tony Gold Coast restaurant via this deceptively named burger. Baby? This thing's a beast-grilled onions and spicy mayo oozing out from between two griddled patties. To paraphrase the great Kelly Clarkson: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. $15.50.

  • Photograph: Martha Wiliiams

    Kale sandwich at Range
    Yeah, this sandwich sounds healthy, but it's really a super-gooey, rich grilled cheese that's lightened up with kale and sunflower-cranberry bread. $10.50.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Sticky bun at Gather
    Gather solved our sweet-or-savory brunch dilemma by offering small sweets on the side. Skip the doughnuts in favor of the sticky bun, a gooey, buttery pastry topped with toasted walnuts. $3.

Old 1871 oyster from Fortune Fish Co.
Fortune Fish Co. wanted to bring back a style of oyster popular in 19th century Chicago, so it sourced big, briny specimens from Virginia. Clean and salty, these are easy to eat and available all over the city (we ate them at GT Fish & Oyster). $2.50.

We've spent the past year eating and drinking all over town to help you decide which Chicago restaurants and bars are worth trying. We hit restaurants old and new, from the Northern Suburbs to the South Side, drank at dive bars and cocktail bars, and ate 15-course tasting menus and $2 snacks. The result: this list of our 100 favorite dishes and drinks. Use the checklist to keep track of the dishes you've tried—share with your friends to show off your foodie prowess!—and the restaurants and bars you still need to hit.


RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best of 2013




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