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Food Experts Pick Top Restaurant Standbys of 2011

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Lula Cafe was a favorite go-to spot in 2011
Lula Cafe was a favorite go-to spot in 2011
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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 Best Dining Neighborhood. Everything will be revealed—cut, pasted, unedited and unadulterated—by the time we check out to ring in the New Year.

Q: What were your top restaurant standbys of 2011?

Michael Nagrant, Sun-Times: Nhu Lan Bakery, Vera, Pequod’s Pizza, Next, Triple Crown

David Tamarkin, Time Out Chicago: City Provisions, but, you know, it's right next door.

Joe Campagna, Chicago Food Snob: GT Fish & Oyster, Roka Akor, Mercadito, Big Star, Purple Pig. Returned the most: GT Fish, because its so good and close to where I live.

Ellen Malloy, Restaurant Intelligence Agency: According to my bookkeeper: Big Jones, Urban Belly, Big Star, Saigon Sisters, GT Fish

Penny Pollack, Chicago: Davanti Enoteca, Original Pancake House (22 E. Bellevue), Moon Palace

Chandra Ram, Plate: I returned to Sepia over and over again—it's hands-down one of the best dining experiences in the city: superior food, service and drinks. Also, Piccolo Sogno, Province, The Bristol, The Gage and Maude's Liquor Bar were in regular rotation. Vera is on deck for regular eating and drinking in 2012.

Carly Fisher, The Feast: Bake, Belly Shack, Sticky Rice, Nhu Lan, Rootstock, Cemitas Puebla, Lula Cafe

Nick Kindelsperger, Serious Eats Chicago: La Lagartija was my go to taqueria for 2011, and considering the number of tacos I eat, that's quite a statement.

Emily Fiffer, Daily Candy: Floriole, Ruxbin, Maude's Liquor Bar, avec

Mike Gebert, Grub Street: When I wanted to get outta the house and go have something good for lunch, my short list was pretty much this short: 1) see what they made for lunch at The Butcher & Larder, or 2) go have the kale and mushroom pie at Pleasant House Bakery. Again.

Jeff Ruby, Chicago: Well, I generally go to the places that get assigned to me, but I seem to set foot in Davanti Enoteca and Jin Ju a lot. Love both.

Heather Sperling, Tasting Table Chicago: Katsu for giant nigiri and excellent agedashi tofu; Maude's Liquor Bar (the upstairs dining room, specifically) for shaved vegetable salad, steak tartare and pommes puree; Jin Thai for moo ping and sukothai noodle soup; and TAC Quick for crispy ong choy and boat noodles.

Kate Bernot, BlackboardEats Chicago: The Publican: It’s where I send all my out-of-town guests who want a “Chicago” experience, but it’s also where you’ll most likely find me for post-work beers, late-night oysters, weekend brunch... Okay, you get it. Bento Box: I waffle between the desire to tell everyone how much I love the ever-changing menu at this small, friendly BYO on Armitage, and the desire to keep Bento Box all to myself. You’re lucky you caught me feeling like the former today. Urban Belly: When I crave something in the dead of winter, it’s not burgers or doughnuts, it’s Bill Kim’s soup. Judging by the number of industry people I see there on off nights, others agree.

Mike Sula, Chicago Reader: Bar DeVille, The Whistler

Lisa Shames, CS: Three Aces, Bistronomic, Longman & Eagle, Purple Pig, Publican

Natasha Liberman, a la card Chicago: Lula Cafe—it's been a favorite for years and one of the best restaurants around, I think. There's just something special about the place. Tiny Lounge (killer cocktails, staff, Tiny burgers & fries, pizzetta margherita), Cemitas Puebla (Taco Arabes and Cemita Atomica), Rootstock (best burger!), Urban Belly.

Julia Kramer, Time Out Chicago: In an attempt to not eat more than one hamburger a day, the restaurant I've eaten at the most this year is Protein Bar.


3053 North California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618 (773) 583-0500 Visit Website

The Purple Pig

500 North Michigan Avenue, , IL 60611 (312) 464-1744 Visit Website

Lula Cafe

2537 North Kedzie Boulevard, , IL 60647 (773) 489-9554 Visit Website