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Eat Out Awards: Readers' Choice

TOC readers voted for their favorite restaurants, bars and chefs of 2010.


Best New Restaurant: XOCO

It’s been a banner year for Rick Bayless. The chef took top honors on Top Chef Masters, consulted on a big L.A. restaurant opening and opened XOCO, his fast-casual ode to tortas, caldos, churros and chocolate. Sure, some of the serving times are idiosyncratic, but once you figure them out, it’s easy to get your hands on that torta of salsa negra–drenched pork belly (Wednesdays only, starting at 11am), the ham-and-egg breakfast bread pudding (only until 10am daily) and those hot-from-the-fryer churros dipped in pudding-thick Barcelona-style hot chocolate (available anytime, thank God). 449 N Clark St (312-334-3688).—Heather Shouse

Best Wine Store: Lush Wine & Spirits

Owner Mitch Einhorn made biker bars safe for whiskey-lovin’ foodies back in the day with the Twisted Spoke. Now he’s taking on the big-box Binny’s chain with a string of small neighborhood wine stores staffed by friendly, passionate wine geeks slinging rare spirits such as Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon or tasty, reasonably priced wines, some with a serious back story: We once scored a shiraz made by a dude who lives off the grid in a California mobile home. • 2232 W Roscoe St (773-281-8888) • 1257 S Halsted St (312-738-1900) • 1412 W Chicago Ave (312-666-6900).—Michael Nagrant


Best New Bar: Old Town Social

Some of you who voted for this spot are probably the geeky-chic ones who snag the Victorian-era chairs in the snug little library space. Others are the rah-rahs there to catch the game on multiple TVs that slide out from cabinets and lower from the ceiling. And then there are you gourmands who dig its killer beer list and barnyard’s worth of charcuterie from chef Jared Van Camp (pictured). Whoever you are, you combined forces to ensure Old Town Social edged out the competition, and you’ve managed to coexist so peacefully you could teach Congress a thing or two. 455 W North Ave (312-266-2277).—Heather Shouse

Best New Burger Joint: Five Guys Burger & Fries

If the Obamas’ endorsement didn’t convince you (both Barack and Michelle have visited franchises in Washington, D.C.), then the magazine and newspaper quotes lauding the never-frozen, freshly griddled and smashed patties covering every square inch of the place should do the trick. Though we really think it’s the addiction to the dark brown, salty, skin-on french fries (and their 30 grams of fat and 620 calories) that keeps everyone coming back. • 2140 N Clybourn Ave (773-327-5953) • 6474 N Sheridan Rd (773-262-9810) • 2368 N Clark St (773-883-8930).—Michael Nagrnant


Best New Vegetarian: Falafill

Close inspection of the crispy falafel, featuring an almost neon-green, fluffy interior that wafts cumin and coriander perfume, reveals this Lakeview spot has serious balls. But it’s the salad bar filled with shards of pink radishes, verdant Middle Eastern salads and a tangy selection of pickles—the greatest assortment of condiments since the bountiful salad bar at Brazzaz—that really reels in the non–meat eaters. 3202 N Broadway (773-525-0052).—Michael Nagrant

Best New Late-Night Dining: Purple Pig

For such an action-packed city, night owls have surprisingly few options for defeating late-night hunger pangs. Sure, we have Chinatown, Korean barbecue, a handful of taquerias, but where’s the serious stuff? Purple Pig, that’s where. At this Mag Mile porcine palace (pictured), Jimmy Bannos Jr. feeds the need for both style and sustenance, dishing out salads of crispy kale and pig’s ear, dropping a spoonful of ricotta into a pool of pork-neck-bone gravy and giving humble parts like tongue a sweet-and-sour cure worthy of a Roman salumeria—all served until midnight on weekdays and 1am on weekends. 500 N Michigan Ave (312-464-1744).—Heather Shouse


Best New Hotel Restaurant: Cibo Matto

With its cherry-blossom fantasia-like ceiling fresco, sleek white banquettes and hand-crafted pastas—including tender, saffron-perfumed garganelli piled with sweet bay scallops, Calabrian chiles, mint and salty bottarga—Todd Stein’s modern Italian jewel box of a restaurant in the snazzy Wit hotel challenges red-sauce joint stereotypes and takes solid aim at that other upscale Italian spot, Spiaggia. 201 N State St (312-239-9500).—Michael Nagrant

Best Indie Restaurant Blog: Chicago Gluttons

These food bloggers’ caustic humor (using testicles, say, to illustrate Gilt Bar’s pork meatballs) suggests Richard Pryor, but the Gluttons are capable of spitting restaurant knowledge on par with pro critics. These humanitarians (many of them work for aid agencies and nonprofits) also aren’t afraid to skewer things like the overblown pork phenomenon and food writers who take free meals.—Michael Nagrant


Best New Mexican Restaurant: XOCO

Damn, Bayless: You’re not even Mexican and yet you still own this category like Lady Gaga owns crazy. True, we can get tortas similar to XOCO’s elsewhere, but they don’t have the same punch. And you’re not the only guy doing posole—you just have a way with hearty hominy stew. Even your churros and hot chocolate one-up the competition, because the cacao beans are ground in-house and the churros are fried to order. —Heather Shouse

Best Charcuterie Program: The Publican

From the salty Southern Benton’s to the cool, mild NYC Culatello of Babbo, this West Loop beer hall spotlights more hams than the Second City. That, and the Publican’s winey boudin blanc; garlicky kielbasa; apple-studded, fennel-kissed pork breakfast sausage; snowy lardo; and chunky, sweet spiced headcheese will fulfill your wildest dry- and wet-cured porcine dreams. —Michael Nagrant

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