Once More, With Feeling

A recap of 2011's finest developments and debuts

2011 was a year of ambition.

Classic restaurants reinvented themselves (see Lula Café, Kamehachi). Food trucks hit the streets en masse, still crippled but determined to peddle banh mi, barbecue and more. Lesser-known chefs stepped daringly into the spotlight (see Yusho, Goosefoot and the soon-to-open Trenchermen–which you'll read more about in the new year).

Before we close the book on 2011, a look at some of its finest accomplishments:

Japan Rising: What a year for Japanophiles! Sushi was far from our mind as a staggering list of restaurants–Yusho, Slurping Turtle, Roka Akor, Lure and Union Sushi & BBQ, to name a few–opened with menus celebrating the vast territories of Japanese cuisine beyond raw fish.

Consider the Oyster: In 2011, this briny bivalve got its due. We celebrated the slew of new oyster lists with rounds of half-shells at GT Fish & Oyster, Frontier, Maude's and Fish Bar. We greedily devoured them grilled, too.

Down to Chinatown: After a quiet 2010, Chinatown boomed in the form of dim sum, Hunan cuisine, candy-like pork belly and Lure, an unexpected source of Japanese izakaya-style eats.

Pantry Boost: Our pantry and refrigerator shelves are overflowing with the year's bounty. Chef-made nut brittles, Turkish spices, fresh pasta, local beef, heirloom beans, haute granola and bar cherries are among our new staples.

Drink Up and Up: Chicago's tipplers have more to toast to than ever. The Aviary and Barrelhouse Flat shook sophisticated new cocktails, as familiar names continued to innovate and excite. A new distillery, Few Spirits, also set up in Evanston.

Coming in 2012: More pie (Bang Bang's storefront is imminent), more BOKA (Little Goat, Balena), more Randolph/Fulton Market corridor (Grace, GEB, Nellcôte, RM, Paul Kahan's butcher shop), new breweries (Pipeworks, New Chicago Brewing) and 12 more months of eating, drinking, shopping and cooking.