2014 was a busy, albeit delicious, year for Chicago.
We've pulled together our favorite new restaurants of the year—but we didn't stop there. Check out a classic we fell in love with all over again and our very best bite.
And here's to more great things to eat in 2015.
Best Seafood Stop: mfk.
Lakeview's new favorite garden-level seafood spot is a must-try for Spanish-inspired coastal fare. Our favorite? Briny boquerones ($10) topped with piquillo peppers and fragrant shaved fennel, served atop grilled baguettes. The soft, velvety anchovies complement the crustiness of the baguette, and the flavors blend together impossibly well, hitting several different taste receptors simultaneously.
Best Michelin Star Recipient: 42 grams
Just 10 months in, this BYOB chef-driven establishment earned two coveted Michelin stars for the remarkable fine dining experience it delivers. The tasting menu changes with the seasons and showcases chef Jake Bickelhaupt's penchant for playing with textures, flavors and forms, so arrive with an open mind and prepare to have it blown.
Best Mash-Up: Parachute
Cozy and unassuming, petite Parachute is a standout in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood. Dishes such as coffee-cured cobia ($12) with grapefruit purée, heirloom radish and sansho speak to husband-wife chef duo John Clark and Beverly Kim's ability to seamlessly blend Korean and American cuisines, creating a style that is uniquely their own.
Sukiyaki at Momotaro and salad from BOKA | Photos: Courtesy of Momotaro and BOKA
Best Authentic Japanese Experience: Momotaro
The Boka Restaurant Group's maiden voyage into Japanese restaurant ownership proves to be a great success, due in part to the delicious, meatless wonder that is the Momotaro Tartare ($9). The delicate starter is made with Japanese sweet tomato, Maui onion and shiso. We can't imagine a better way to kick off a meal.
Best Bar Snacks: Bottlefork
The well-balanced craft cocktails at this Billy Dec resto consistently wow us, but it's chef Kevin Hickey's highly addictive "popcorn" sweetbreads ($7) with tangy, pickled pepper aioli dipping sauce that keep us coming back for more. Here's to hoping that deep-fried organ meats start trending in 2015.
Best Italian Fix: Osteria Langhe
The Piemonte region of Northern Italy has its day at this Logan Square hideaway. Though the preparation changes daily, chef Cameron Grant's perfectly al dente risotto (market price) always bursts with flavor and authenticity. Pair it with a Barbaresco or Barolo plucked from the impressive wine list.
Best Double Entendre: Bohemian House
With a colorful, boho-chic vibe and Czech-inspired fare, trendy BoHo lives up to its name in more ways than one. Though far from the most authentic dish on the menu, the bacon buns ($7)—soft, pillowy morsels packed with chopped bacon, brushed with bacon grease and sprinkled with sea salt—are satisfying, shareable and delightfully unexpected.
Best Meat Market: RPM Steak
On the heels of RPM Italian's success, the Rancics' and Melmans' 350-seat restaurant brings carnivorism to glamorous new heights, thanks to 19 types of steaks ($29 to $155) sourced globally, a swank aesthetic and a wine selection some 350 bottles deep. For big flavor and relative bang for your buck, try the signature "The Duke" rib eye filet ($52) with a truffle-infused Millionaire's Potato ($18) on the side.
Best Date Destination: Salero
No tapas? No problem. Modern, Basque-influenced starters and entrées are the name of the game at Salero. Grab your significant other and settle in for a fun, romantic night brimming over with Spanish wine, confit potatoes a la plancha ($23; see below) and chorizo-stuffed quail ($14).
Rediscovered Classic: BOKA
This Halsted fixture has been around for more than a decade, and thanks to a fresh redesign earlier this year, what's old is new again. Along with the sexy new look comes chef Lee Wolen (formerly of The Lobby). Wolen's menu has evolved over the year, but there's one standout item we can always count on: roasted chicken ($27) with a layer of brioche stuffed in between the skin and the meat.
Favorite Dish of 2014: Confit potatoes a la plancha (at Salero)
We tried this vegetarian-friendly dish the very first time we dined at Salero, and it far surpassed our expectations. In order for a meatless entrée to adequately satisfy us—and not leave us wishing there was meat hidden somewhere in there—it needed to strike a balance between something starchy, like the potatoes, and vegetables and protein. The early fall iteration included earthy summer truffles, a rich fried egg and airy canarejal cheese, yielding a perfect storm of flavors and textures.
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