As 2011 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 Friday to ring in the New Year.
Q: What are the top restaurant newcomers of 2011?
Julia Kramer, Time Out Chicago: Autre Monde, Next, Doughnut Vault, Pleasant House Bakery, Maude's Liquor Bar & Telegraph
Natasha Liberman, a la card Chicago: Vera, The Butcher & Larder, Libertad, Telegraph, Pleasant House Bakery, Roka Akor, Next/Aviary, Perennial Virant, GT Fish & Oyster, Maude's Liquor Bar.
Lisa Shames, CS: Vera, Three Aces, Next, GT Fish, Bistronomic, Perennial Virant
Mike Sula, Chicago Reader: El Ideas, GT Fish & Oyster, Lao Hunan, Maude's, Next, Perennial Virant, Pleasant House Bakery, Vera
Kate Bernot, BlackboardEats Chicago:
· Next: Yes, Next was undoubtedly the biggest opening of the year, but if I have to write one more word about it, I’m going to stick my head in a 1906 duck press.
· GT Fish & Oyster: This is really one of those “whole being greater than the sum of the parts” stories. Though we expected another splash (har har) from Tentori and BOKA group, GT consistently surpasses expectation without being too flashy. I would include them on this list for the squid ink gnocchi alone.
· Real Kitchen: This humble, lamely-named carry-out spot in a strip mall on Montrose fills such a void in my life. The gourmet to-go entrees saved me from many a frozen Whole Foods pizza, and were the culinary soundtrack to most of my summer picnics.
Jeff Ruby, Chicago: If I say anything other than Next, I am horribly out of touch, but?aw, hell. I won’t even venture a blatant attempt to be contrary. It’s Next. But Goosefoot is pretty damn good.
Mike Gebert, Grub Street: Pleasant House Bakery for sheer comfort food. Lao Hunan for the best, most eye-opening Chinese meal in years. On the fine-ish dining side, I liked most of the new places I tried, can't really think of a dud, but the two I think left me with the most curiosity and urge to race back and see what else there was to be had there were Telegraph and Vera.
Emily Fiffer, Daily Candy: Maude's, Next, can I count La Colombe? It's my favorite.
Nick Kindelsperger, Serious Eats Chicago: Next was worth the hype. But I'm almost more excited that I'll be able to eat Takashi Yagihashi's ramen at Slurping Turtle at basically any hour I want.
Carly Fisher, The Feast: Next, Doughnut Vault, GT Fish & Oyster, Telegraph, Vera, Bar Toma, Slurping Turtle
Chandra Ram, Plate: Next, Vera, GT Fish & Oyster, Perennial Virant, Slurping Turtle, Bar Toma. It was a really fantastic year for Chicago's food scene – industry people all over the country are buzzing about Chicago these days. Even New Yorkers are jealous!
Penny Pollack, Chicago: Vera, Pump Room (the sequel)
David Tamarkin, Time Out Chicago">Time Out Chicago: Kingsbury Street Cafe, Doughnut Vault, GT Fish
Ellen Malloy, Restaurant Intelligence Agency: GT Fish & Oyster (fresh concept and not the same old farm-to-table blah, blah blah), FOODease (from the man who invented salad bars— the ultimate salad bar store), Michael Jordan's Steak House (tourist trap a native can enjoy), Perennial Virant (PAUL VIRANT IN THE CITY!)
Joe Campagna, Chicago Food Snob: GT Fish, Yusho, Bar Toma, Roka Akor
Michael Nagrant, Sun-Times: Next, Vera