Food & Drink Awards 2014: Readers’ Choice winners

We nominated dozens of the city’s best restaurants, bars and chefs. You picked 10 victors. Here are your Readers' Choice winners for 2014.
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsFood & Drink Awards 2014 Best New Restaurant: Cicchetti
 (Photograph: Derek Richmond)
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Photograph: Derek RichmondFood & Drink Awards 2014 Breakout Chef of the Year: Mike Sheerin, Cicchetti
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsFood & Drink Awards 2014 Best New Cheap Eatery: Honey Butter Fried Chicken
 (Photograph: Marzena Abrahamik)
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Photograph: Marzena AbrahamikFood & Drink Awards 2014 Best New Brunch: Avec
 (Photograph: Eugene (Huge) Galdones)
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Photograph: Eugene (Huge) GaldonesFood & Drink Awards 2014 Best New Alfresco Spot: Little Goat Diner
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsFood & Drink Awards 2014 Best New Barbecue: Q BBQ
 (Photograph: Anjali M. Pinto)
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Photograph: Anjali M. PintoFood & Drink Awards 2014 Best New Bar: Three Dots and a Dash
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsFood & Drink Awards 2014 Best New Brewery: DryHop Brewers
 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
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Photograph: Martha WilliamsThe Dawson's menu includes the Verdita Mixta, made with tequila, mezcal, pineapple, lime, jalapeno and cucumber.
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Food & Drink Awards 2014 Best New Restaurant Design: Three Dots and a Dash
By Amy Cavanaugh |
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Over the past year, we’ve seen a vast number of new Italian restaurants, casual fried chicken spots and glorious new patios. Here are your choices for the top restaurants and bars of the year.

RECOMMENDED: 2014 Food & Drink Awards

Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Italian

Best New Restaurant

icon-location-pin Streeterville

Cicchetti

Other nominees: 42 Grams, Dusek's Board & Beer, Nico Osteria, Tanta

In a year filled with Italian openings, one stood out: Cicchetti, a thoughtful, comfortable restaurant helmed by Mike Sheerin (Trenchermen), sous chef Phil Rubino (Acadia, Moderno) and sous and pastry chef Sarah Jordan (the Boka Group). The trio turns out dishes like a gorgeous seafood stew, ethereal pork cracklins and terrific pastas. With a brand new brunch and a huge forthcoming patio, there are now even more reasons to dine at Cicchetti.

Photograph: Derek Richmond
Restaurants, Italian

Breakout Chef of the Year

icon-location-pin Streeterville

Mike Sheerin, Cicchetti

Other nominees: Erling Wu-Bower (Nico Osteria), Jake Bickelhaupt (42 Grams), Jeff Mahin (Summer House Santa Monica), John Vermiglio (A10)

In 2013, Mike Sheerin left Trenchermen, which he was running with his brother Pat, to consult at Parson’s Chicken & Fish and to open Cicchetti. A Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2010, Sheerin has hit his stride at Cicchetti, where he devises innovative flavor combinations while keeping plates accessible and delicious.

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Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, American

Best New Cheap Eatery

icon-location-pin Avondale

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

Other nominees: Cellar Door Provisions, Leghorn, Spritzburger, Takito Kitchen

When Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp opened Honey Butter Fried Chicken last fall, Chicago went nuts for their salty-sweet pieces of fried chicken, which are available with a side of corn muffins, tucked into a buttery bun as a sandwich and served with grits at brunch. Add a great patio and must-order side dishes and desserts, and there’s a reason we head here when we want dinner for less than $15.

Restaurants, Mediterranean

Best New Brunch

icon-location-pin West Loop

Avec

Other nominees: Ada St., DryHop Brewery, Dusek's Board and Beer, Endgrain

Avec turned 10 last year, and the restaurant keeps evolving. Last summer, a new chef, Perry Hendrix, took over and added a killer Sunday brunch. The constantly evolving line-up of dishes has included breakfast pizza, topped with potato, pancetta and eggs; poached eggs with Nduja; and breakfast paella. They’re all proof that Avec is still killing it.

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Photograph: Eugene (Huge) Galdones
Restaurants, Bakeries

Best New Alfresco Spot

icon-location-pin West Loop

Little Goat Diner

Other nominees: Embeya, Gather, Parson's Chicken & Fish, Sumi Robata Bar

With a bar and cozy couches, the rooftop patio at Little Goat is worlds away from the bustling diner downstairs. While you can’t order the full menu, you can order a beer or cocktail plus a round of snacks, like ceviche and olives, from the special rooftop menu and take in a view of Willis Tower.

Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Barbecue

Best New Barbecue

icon-location-pin Lake View

Q BBQ

Other nominees: Blackwood BBQ, County Barbeque, Green Street Smoked Meats, Smalls Smoke Shack & More

The barbecue joint, which has locations in Naperville and LaGrange, opened a Lakeview outpost this winter. The menu is huge, but standouts include the spicy sausage, meaty chicken wings and pulled pork, all of which are available as platters with hush puppies or as a taste for just $1.99.

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Bars, Cocktail bars

Best New Bar

icon-location-pin River North

Three Dots and a Dash

Other nominees: Analogue, Berkshire Room, Punch House, Sportsman's Club

It wasn’t until Three Dots and a Dash opened last summer that we realized how much we needed a tiki bar in Chicago. The drinks, by bartender Paul McGee, are transportive—boozy and beautiful, they’re served in tiki mugs (many custom-made for Three Dots) with flower garnishes—and delicious. The island snacks, like spicy nuggets of Thai fried chicken, and the lush décor, all add up to the best new addition to Chicago’s drinking scene.

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Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, American

Best New Restaurant Cocktail Program

icon-location-pin River West/West Town

The Dawson

Other nominees: Bottlefork, Mott St., Nico Osteria, Parson's Chicken & Fish

Although bartender Annemarie Sagoi recently departed the Dawson, taking her elevated Jell-O shots with her, the bar at the Dawson still rocks. General manager Clint Rogers runs the beverage program, which includes a daily shot of infused Old Forester, plus cocktails like the Traveling Mercies, a rum and rye drink that’s sweetened with sherry-brown sugar syrup, and a monthly Zodiac cobbler, an icy sherry concoction inspired by the current Zodiac sign that’ll be perfect to sip this summer on the huge new patio.

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Photograph: Martha Williams
Bars, Gastropubs

Best New Brewery

icon-location-pin Lake View

DryHop Brewers

Other nominees: Off Color Brewing, Only Child Brewing, Temperance Beer Company, Une Annee Brewery

The Lakeview brewery, which opened last summer, is always bustling, and for good reason. The available beers, brewed by Brant Dubovick, are constantly changing but usually include a collaboration with another local brewery or restaurant, like BuckleDown and Intelligentsia. Shark Meets Hipster, a wheat ale with tones of passionfruit, is always available, as is Batch 001, DryHop’s flagship beer, which it calls “Chicago Common.” DryHop can call its beers what it wants, but there’s nothing common about DryHop.

Bars, Cocktail bars

Best New Restaurant Design

icon-location-pin River North

Three Dots and a Dash

Other nominees: Celeste, Endgrain, Nico Osteria, Summer House Santa Monica

This winter, we all wanted to leave Chicago (temporarily), and Three Dots provided that escape. First, head down a River North alley until you find the blue light. Then, walk down a staircase lined with skulls before entering the main room, which has a raffia-lined bar, glowing colored lights, round booths and wooden tiki heads, which were sourced from the late Trader Vic’s, an erstwhile Loop tiki bar. The ambiance couldn’t be better for sipping Paul McGee’s terrific drinks, and it’s where we’ll go when we need relief from Chicago winter’s brutal cousin, stifling humidity.

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