2016 is just about complete. As far as the real world goes it was filled with ups and downs. But as far as my own little food world goes it was waaaaaay up. Probably the tastiest year to date over here. I also got married and watched the Cubs win a World Series beforehand so for me 2016 was pretty great. As always I have my year end round-up featuring my best bites of the calendar year. Those listed are only things that I posted about on this site. As far as the Beyond Chicagoland rankings go I only choose one bite from each trip taken. So while there's plenty of worthy options I try to choose the one item I've craved the most since having it. New this year is the taco category which only makes sense considering that's the single food I eat more of than anything else. Without further ado.
The Best of 2016
Homemade Pork Gyros at Charcoal Flame (Click HERE)
- I keep finding myself here every few months. Always for the same thing. The homemade pork gyros is some of the best spit roasted meat in the Chicagoland area.
Roti Paratha at Serai (Click HERE)
- The heavily scented Malaysian style yellow curry is supposed to be a side component to the housemade roti on the appetizer menu. But it's the sauce that makes this dish one of my favorites.
Tortellini in Broth at Monteverde (Click HERE)
- One of the years best new restaurants produced my favorite bowl of soup. Pasta is this star of the show and the little tortellini in this dish were fantastic but the potent broth was the key component.
Yucatecan style Wood Grilled Sea Bass at Lena Brava (Click HERE)
- Rick Bayless' ode to Baja is a popular one. Duh. In my opinion it's his best offering yet. I base this almost entirely off of the wood grilled fish that gets it's own section on the menu. Mine was divine.
Shrimp Tempura Bowl from Hannosuke (Click HERE)
- Tempura is one of my favorite snacks and while this place might not be perfection like that found in Japan, it's a damn good lunch. Perfectly fried everything with a tangy sauce that sticks to it.
Jianbing at Tong's (Click HERE)
- This food stall in the basement of Chinatown's Richland Center is minimal. But what they do they do really well. The star of the show is a traditional Chinese street food similar to crepes.
Mole Empanadas at Golden Tuzo (Click HERE)
- Regional Mexican at it's finest. You wont find any tacos or quesadillas on the menu here. The family behind it makes wonderful empanadas from a recipe going back to their home state of Hidalgo.
Chunky Puppies at Animale (Click HERE)
- Fries? Really? I know but these are currently my favorite fried potatoes in the city. I liked lots of stuff on Animale's menu but it's the fries I find myself craving. They're crispy, they're creamy, they're delicious.
Chicken Shawarma at Al Sufara Grills (Click HERE)
- Cooking with fire is all the rage in trendy restaurants these days. It seems like it's the only way the owners of this popular Middle Eastern restaurant have ever known. I love everything here as it's all grilled over live fire including the perfectly kissed chicken shawarma. Strip mall dining at it's finest.
Brisket at Kerlin BBQ (Austin, TX) - Click HERE
- In my yearly trips to Austin it's still the BBQ that I most look forward to. There's lots of spots to enjoy perfectly smoked brisket and this years favorite was this small trailer with big flavors.
Daily Pastas at Il Corvo (Seattle, WA) - Click HERE
- Said by many to be the finest pasta restaurant in the country I can now join in on the chorus. This lunch only establishment draws lines of people everyday for a selection of two ever changing pastas. So good we went back despite having lots of other spots to try.
Smoked Salmon Smørbrød at Bachelor Farmer Cafe (Minneapolis, MN) - Click HERE
- The Nordic dining scene in Minneapolis is becoming a trendsetter. The Bachelor Farmer is one of those trendsetters. We didn't get to the main restaurant but did visit the cafe for Scandinavian style open faced sandwiches. The salmon was perfect.
Onion Burger at Lemon Drop Drive In (Anderson, IN) - Click HERE
- It had been probably 10+ years that I'd wanted to go to this Roadfood type spot an hour out of Indy. Known for their Onion Burgers they make them a bit different here. The onion is sliced whole and stuffed inside the meat which makes for a real treat. One of the best burgers of all time on my list.
Fried Chicken at Martha Lou's Kitchen (Charleston, SC) - Click HERE
- There were about ten different things I could've chose from our trip to Charleston. But there's only one spot we ate the food from and then went back in for more and it was none other than Martha Lou's golden fried chicken. Some of the best I've ever had and well worth the hype.
House Chashu Rice at Brush Izakaya (Atlanta, GA) - Click HERE
- There's still times when I think about that delicate pork belly that melted upon arrival in my mouth. Quite simply some of the best cooked pork I have ever ate. This was an extremely tasty bowl of food.
Seafood Tostadas at La Guerrerense (Ensenada, BC) - Click HERE
- As the Queen of Mexican Street Food Sabina Banderas is a beloved figure. She can add me to her list of admirers that would do just about anything to eat her tostadas. One could easily argue this is the best street food stand in the world. Yes it's that good. The salsas being to die for.
Sweet Potato Crusted Tilefish at Leftovers Cafe (Jupiter, FL) - Click HERE
- We ate lots of good fish during our month long stay in South Florida. In what was my first visit to Little Moir's I got to try the popular sweet potato crusted fresh catch and absolutely loved it. I'll be back here the first chance I get.
Langoustines at Baia Seafood (Cape Town, ZA) - Click HERE- So much fantastic shellfish in Cape Town. And so many good things to eat at that. I think I chose these because it was our first lunch in the city and it set the tone for the rest of the trip which was filled with prawns.
Steak Tacos at La Iguanita (Chicago, IL) - Click HERE
- Simply put these are the best steak tacos in Chicagoland. Add that to the fact their creamy green salsa is some of the best salsa in the city and you got yourself a winner. A must stop for me when I'm near there.
Shrimp Taquitos at Dos Urban Cantina (Chicago, IL) - Click HERE
- I enjoyed quite a few meals at this Logan Square 2016 newcomer. After trying the little shrimp taquitos on my first visit I've had them ever since. The flavors in this take me straight to the beach somewhere in Mexico.
Tijuana Style Tacos at Tacos Mariachi (Dallas, TX) - Click HERE
- This family run joint is an ode to back home in Baja. I cant pick just one of the tacos that I tried so order whatever and it's bound to be delicious. Don't sleep on Dallas' taco scene.
Green Chorizo Taco at Minero (Charleston, SC) - Click HERE
- Mexican mixed with a bit of Southern Flair by famous chef Sean Brock. I loved everything about this place. Some of the better chef driven tacos I've ever tried.
Smoked Marlin Taquitos at Mariscos Ruben (Tijuana, BC) - Click HERE
- I could've chose pretty much any taco that I tried in Baja as it's one of the best places in the world to eat tacos. But these are a must and worth a ride from pretty much anywhere in California.
Omakase at Wataru (Seattle, WA) - Click HERE
- The best sushi I've ever had. Not sure I'll get better until the day I head to Japan. That said the fact we were in the Northwest made for a great local bounty of fish mixed with the best of the best flown in from Japan. So it's a unique experience driven by a extra friendly and super knowledgeable chef.
Prixe Fix Menu at La Colombe (Cape Town, ZA) - Click HERE
- This well known South African destination restaurant produced what's sure to be a memory that lasts a lifetime. The food was fantastic the views were beautiful and the fact we were on our Honeymoon made it a bit more romantic. A top notch overall experience.
Fresh Catch Lunch at Mariscos La Estrella (Popotla, BC) - Click HERE
- This was one for the ages. Fresh as can be seafood that we just bought off the beach from the guys who fished it. Enjoyed with good friends and ice cold brews. This is what life is all about.
Daily Lunch at Jordan Restaurant (Stellenbosch, ZA) - Click HERE
- Another fantastic gourmet meal in South Africa that also happened to be an extra picturesque setting. On top of this the food was some of the best we ate all year. Cheers to 2017.