As 2010 comes to a close, Eater surveyed a number of industry types, writers, eaters and more. We asked the group eight questions, everything from Restaurant Standbys and Top Newcomers to Single Best Meal and Headline for 2011. Everything will be revealed—cut, pasted, unedited and unadulterated—by the time we check out on Thursday to ring in the New Year.
Q: What was Chicago's Best Dining Neighborhood in 2010?
Rodrick Markus, Rare Tea Cellar: River North
Mike Sula, Chicago Reader: It's not exactly fashionable, but it's my own neighborhood, Albany Park
David Hammond, LTHForum, Sun Times: River North is not known for many “neighborhood” places, but it is a higher-end ‘hood, rich in adventurous dining at Bin 36, Cibo Matto, EPIC, Frontera/Topolobampo/Xoco, Graham Elliot, Naha, Purple Pig, Quartino, Sixteen, Spiaggia, Sushi Samba, and soon GT Fish & Oyster, the relocated Sola and perhaps the Trencherman. This area may not have the soulfulness of Pilsen’s Hispanic chow or Argyle Street’s Asian offerings, but in this part of town, there are a lot of huge spaces housing spectacular grub stops.
Michael Gebert, Sky Full of Bacon: I think Chinatown-- the Archer-Wentworth one, but also the mental one that exists anywhere that Asians open something totally new, like a Korean taco place-- continues to be a fascinating place, where younger Asian-Americans with pop sensibilities are breaking out of the red walls and zodiac placemats stereotype and opening cool, sometimes cartoonishly space-age dining concepts at every level from fast food to high end (though the high end rarely seems to be very good). A goofy, Austin Powers-y place like Sweet Station is the most fun you can have in the Year 2050 on the Planet Zoog, and for a fraction of what it costs to eat on other planets at Japonais or Sixteen or Mastro's.
Chandra Ram, Plate: West Loop/Fulton Market
Michael Nagrant, New City: If you’re talking high-end food, River North/near Gold Coast got a serious upgrade this year with Ria, Gilt Bar, Mercadito, Epic, etc. If you’re talking low-key ethnic eats, it’s still hard to beat Uptown with Tank, Hai Yen, Pho 888, Sun Wah, Silver Seafood etc.
Emily Fiffer, Daily Candy: Wicker Park/West Town
Carly Fisher, The Feast: Albany Park is the best neighborhood for restaurants because it's so diverse. It's not the trendiest as far as big names go, but it has everything there packed into such a small area.
Liz Grossman, Plate: West Town
David Tamarkin, Time Out Chicago: Andersonville, a.k.a. "Benderskyville" [Ed. note: Bendersky doesn't live there]
Nick Kindelsperger, Grub Street: Obviously I’m biased towards Logan Square, as I live there. But I’d say this was the year of Little Italy. The number of impressive new openings is kind of astonishing. That said, looks like West Town is going to have its way with us next year.
Julia Kramer, Time Out Chicago: This was a great year for Logan Square.
Penny Pollack, Chicago: West Town
Chris LaMorte, Urban Daddy: West Loop
Natasha Liberman, a la card: Gosh, this is a tough one. Not sure one stands out. Hmmm... Do Avec, Blackbird, Girl & the Goat, and Publican fall under the same neighborhood? Hard to dispute that cluster. Fulton Market/Near West? Lula Cafe has always been reason enough to head to Logan Square and now Longman & Eagle has definitely spiced things up in LS. What a year L & E is having: Esquire "Best New Bars" and "Best New Restaurants", a Michelin star, and GQ "Top Ten New Restaurants"!