As we put a cap on 2013, Eater surveyed a group of critics, writers, and all around experts for their take on the past year. We asked them eight questions: from Top Standbys to Top Newcomers, from Best Meals to Restaurants Broken Up With. All answers will be revealed—cut, pasted, unedited and unadulterated—by the time we pop the cork on 2014.
Open less than a month, Nico Osteria is a top newcomer. [Photo: Marc Much]
Q: What was your top newcomer of 2013?
Michael Nagrant, RedEye: If I have to pick one, I'm going with Nico Osteria. But, I was also incredibly impressed with Sumi Robata Bar which finally got Japanese right, and Tanta which brought something new and exciting to the marketplace.
Mike Gebert, The Reader/Serious Eats: This is the year of Fat Rice—an exciting, completely-new-to-us cuisine, a restaurant that's entirely a product of personal vision and labor of love, and it's packed every night. Sometimes the good guys win.
Sean Cooley, Thrillist: I think we're all worshiping at the temple of Eataly right now. Quick, amazing pizza, a full Nutella bar and an in-house brewery. New York got the taller building, but we got the better Eataly.
Steve Dolinsky, ABC7: Dusek's in Pilsen. With Nightwood on the eastern edge of the 'hood and this beautifully renovated beer hall/concert space more centrally-located, the neighborhood is poised for some major attention from the food press beyond Chicago's borders. I love the Mad Men vibe in the basement Punch Bar, and Jared Wentworth's beer-inspired food is downright exciting, on a block known more for tacos than tenderloin.
Audarshia Townsend, 312 Dining Diva: Everyone's going to say Grace, but I cannot because we couldn't get a reservation until January 2014. I've been there for parties, but not for dinner yet. So I am going to have to say Nico Osteria. As with what they've done with Blackbird, the guys behind One Off Hospitality have flawlessly executed Nico. I am looking forward to spending time here when it warms up.
Sarah Freeman, Zagat: When a chef of Gaston Acurio's caliber comes into town the food better be good. Tanta lived up to his reputation with a solid mix of traditional Peruvian dishes and more finessed plates.
Chris LaMorte, Urban Daddy: OK, this is a bit of a cheat, but Fat Rice. It opened late in 2012. Could have been another hipster-blip on the radar, instead, turned out to be approachable, fun, and delicious.
Penny Pollack, Chicago Magazine: Hey, 2013 isn't over. I have yet to try Nico Osteria or Cicchetti.
Chandra Ram, Plate: Honey Butter Fried Chicken defied Chicagoans' concerns about location, waiting in line, and their waistlines — it's that good.
Nick Kindelsperger, Serious Eats: I'm infatuated with Sumi Robata Bar.
Lisa Shames, CS: Fat Rice. It might have opened in late 2012 but since it's so tough to get into, I'm including it in 2013.
Carly Fisher, Food Fanatics: Dusek's, Three Dots and a Dash, Eataly.