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Food Experts Pick Restaurant Standbys of 2012

Au Cheval was a winner.
Au Cheval was a winner.
Photo: Kari Skaflen

As the curtain falls on 2012 (and the world has not ended) Eater surveyed a group of critics, writers, eaters, and more. We asked the group eight questions: everything from Top Standbys to Top Newcomers, from Best Meals to Restaurants Broken Up With. Everything will be revealed—cut, pasted, unedited and unadulterated—by the time the curtain raises for 2013.

Q: What were your top restaurant standbys of 2012?

Julia Kramer, Time Out Chicago: It's easier for me to have standby bars than restaurants (I know, woe is me), and Scofflaw is without a doubt the bar I've spent the most time at this year. I love the classics: negronis and martinis. As for restaurants, my love for Flipside Café (which takes over the Miko's Italian Ice space in Bucktown during winter) has grown even deeper this season since it reopened for the season: great roasted tomato soup, weirdly good specials like a biscuit breakfast sandwich, overall just an extremely chill vibe. I'd be remiss not to mention Protein Bar for lunch (try the kale-white bean soup at the State/Lake location if you don't believe me), Floriole for pastries and Lula day or night.

Steve Dolinsky (The Hungry Hound), ABC 7: Au Cheval, Lula, Triple Crown, Aroy.

Jeff Ruby, Chicago Magazine: I'm a dining solider. I go where I'm told to go. So I never get to return to any restaurant, unless you count the cafeteria in the Trib Tower. (The sandwich guy there, by the way, is some kind of savant.) But if I lived in Evanston, I would go back to Found over and over. Nicole Pederson's food is smart and satisfying; the thrift-chic space is one-of-a-kind in an era when all restaurants look alike. If you don't like this restaurant, you don't like fun.

Chris LaMorte, Urban Daddy: Chez Moi, Taco Joint, RL, Athenian Room.

Carly Boers, Chicago Magazine: Au Cheval, Antique Taco, Pleasant House Bakery.

Joe Campagna, Chicago Food Snob: GT Fish and Oyster and Yusho.

David Tamarkin, Time Out Chicago: Purple Pig, Lula, Nightwood, Great Lake, avec, Cafe Selmarie, Cafecito, Balena, Do-Rite Doughnuts. Note that for me, "returned to most" means I went there twice all year.

Catherine De Orio, Culinary Curator: Au Cheval, La Sirena Clandestina.

Penny Pollack, Chicago Magazine: Nothing has changed: Moon Palace.

Mike Gebert, Grub Street: Vera quickly and easily became my dinner recommendation-- terrific, unpretentious, ungussied-up food, and you can probably walk in most nights. Publican Quality Meats is my first thought of where to meet someone for lunch.

Daniel Gerzina, Eater Chicago: Au Cheval, Cafecito, Glazed and Infused, Scofflaw.


1631 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201 (847) 868-8945 Visit Website


2853 N Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618 773 904 8558 Visit Website

Great Lake

1477 W Balmoral Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640 773 334 9270

Pleasant House Bakery

964 W 31st Street, Chicago, IL 60608 773 523 7437 Visit Website


3201 West Armitage Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 252-9700 Visit Website

RL Restaurant

115 East Chicago Avenue, , IL 60611 (312) 475-1100 Visit Website

Antique Taco

1000 West 35th Street, , IL 60609 (773) 823-9410 Visit Website

Au Cheval

800 West Randolph Street, , IL 60607 (312) 929-4580 Visit Website


1023 W Lake Street, Chicago, IL Visit Website

La Sirena Clandestina

954 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 226-5300 Visit Website

The Purple Pig

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


1633 North Halsted Street, , IL 60614 (312) 867-3888 Visit Website


615 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60661 (312) 377-2002 Visit Website

Protein Bar

235 South Franklin, Chicago, IL 312-346-7300

Publican Quality Meats

825 West Fulton Market, , IL 60607 (312) 445-8977 Visit Website