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Food Experts Pick Their Single Best Meal of 2012

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There were a lot of memorable meals at Sixteen this year.
There were a lot of memorable meals at Sixteen this year.
Photo: Trump Hotel

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 and where was your single best meal of 2012?

Chris LaMorte, Urban Daddy: May 14. Eating oysters and drinking rose with my partner on the patio of Henri before going to Cook County Clerk's for a civil union certificate.

But, the most memorable meal was Next Sicily. The intrigue of buying a reservation off someone by meeting them at the Green City Market with an envelope full of cash. The 10:30pm reservation. The challenge of eating braised pork shoulder at midnight. The food was outstanding, but, oh, the drama of it all. Look, I understand it, I really do. But it seems to undermine the fine dining experience when you have to push and shove and click and Tweet and watch status updates and compromise to eat there. Give me an old-fashioned three-month wait.

Jeff Ruby, Chicago Magazine: I had a magical evening at Sixteen. The food, the wine, the service, the company, and the atmosphere all came together in the kind of way you always hope it will. While we were eating, the sun set and its reflection off the skyscrapers had some kind of magic in it. Afterward I stood on the terrace, just sort of overlooking the city and feeling proud of Chicago -- and feeling lucky that I am here.

Julia Kramer, Time Out Chicago: In Chicago: julbord at Tre Kronor. Outside Chicago: Sammy's Roumanian.

Lisa Shames, CS: Goosefoot. Sure, there is passion on the plates at this Lincoln Square BYOB, but the husband-and-wife owners bring so much more to this intimate restaurant than just amazing food.

Robyn Nisi, Gapers Block: It's not a new place, but after a long day of touring Graceland Cemetery with a bunch of bored college students, I made my way up to Ba Le for a BBQ pork bahn mi and a Passionfruit smoothie. The crunch of the daikon, the soapy goodness of the cilantro and the killer bread well made up for watching a bunch of teenagers pose for pictures in front of a mausoleum earlier that day.

Ellen Malloy, Restaurant Intelligence Agency: I'd have to say last New Year's Eve at Butcher & Larder, which I count since I was still eating it in 2013. It was a psychedelic meatopia festival served at a table set up in the front of the shop. The baby was hanging out on the meat scale, Allie whipped up her so very sorely missed desserts. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event and absolutely nothing topped it all year.

Mike Gebert, Grub Street: Vera, the boquerones and the grilled beef tongue, among other things.

Penny Pollack, Chicago Magazine: The whole meal rocked at Found rocked, especially the lamb meatballs.

Catherine De Orio, Culinary Curator: EL Ideas spring menu.

Steve Dolinsky (The Hungry Hound), ABC 7: Buffalo sweetbreads; agnolotti; lobster parfait, et al, at Longman & Eagle on June 21.

Joe Campagna, Chicago Food Snob: Sixteen.

Sarah Freeman, Zagat: EL Ideas during the Chicago Food Film Fest. Chef Phillip Foss's food walks the delicate line between innovative and approachable. The star of the evening, memorialized in a short film, was his take on French fries and ice cream. The elevated version featured a leek soup with a fried potato tube filled with vanilla ice cream. The hot soup and the cold ice cream mix for an unforgettable eating experience. Egg aged in vinegar until the yolk resembled jelly, waygu tri tip and dessert inspired by an Old Fashioned were other standouts from the menu.

David Tamarkin, Time Out Chicago: Roast chicken, carrot salad, and some other stuff at The Lobby.

Carly Boers, Chicago Magazine: My mom and I had a divine brunch at City Provisions this past fall: pumpkin polenta with pork, a fried egg, and Dijon maple syrup--along with those ridiculous duck fat fries.

Longman & Eagle

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