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Food Experts Pick the Best Dining Neighborhood in Chicago in 2012

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Nellcote, one of the West Loop's finest.
Nellcote, one of the West Loop's finest.
Photo: Nellcôte

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 was the best dining neighborhood in Chicago in 2012?

Robyn Nisi, Gapers Block: Logan Square, of course. A decade ago, Lula Cafe was the only sheriff in town, but with the vegan takeover of the former Logan Square Kitchen space by The Chicago Diner and the openings of Gaslight Coffee, Bang Bang Pie, Reno, Fat Rice and the inexplicably named Table. Donkey and Stick, I can save my bus fare.

Jeff Ruby, Chicago Magazine: West Loop, now and forever. Though it's not really a neighborhood anymore so much as a Disneyworld For Chefs. But interesting places keep opening over there, and like the Magic Kingdom, people keep showing up.

Ellen Malloy, Restaurant Intelligence Agency: West Loop (including Fulton Market). You basically could live your entire life in the space between Jefferson and Ogden/Randolph and Fulton and, I would imagine, be quite happy. In fact, I wish I could just move there.

Lisa Shames, CS: Fulton Market.

Joe Campagna, Chicago Food Snob: Logan Square.

Chris LaMorte, Urban Daddy: West Loop/Randolph Street.

Julia Kramer, Time Out Chicago: West Loop is the obvious answer, but between Reno, Scofflaw, Lula's remodel, Yusho (opened Dec 2011, but still) and Fat Rice, Logan Square is a near tie.

Carly Boers, Chicago Magazine: Logan Square.

Steve Dolinsky (The Hungry Hound), ABC 7: West Loop.

Catherine De Orio, Culinary Curator: No question, West Loop.

Penny Pollack, Chicago Magazine: Randolph Street is still the champ.

Mike Gebert, Grub Street: Logan Square, because you can not only get a Montreal bagel or Macanese food there, but it's full of great little Mexican joints like one I just found the other day, La Catrina, Great pollo tinga gordita. Eventually those will be squeezed out of existence, but for now it's a beautiful melting pot.

Sarah Freeman, Zagat: Fulton Market exploded this year, starting with Nellcote and ending with Little Goat. Not only is this neighborhood trendy, but also is becoming an all-inclusive destination – like a Mexican resort with crummier weather and better food. One can drink beer at Haymarket and then karaoke at BellyQ, or have an once-in-a-lifetime meal at Next and cocktails by Charles Joly at Aviary.

David Tamarkin, Time Out Chicago: Where rhubarb pizza was served.

Daniel Gerzina, Eater Chicago: West Loop/Randolph Street. Logan Square is a close second, obviously.