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.
The success of Tanta was a surprise to some [Photo: Marc Much]
Q: What was the biggest dining surprise of 2013?
Mike Gebert, The Reader/Serious Eats: Smalls Smoke Shack. Turns out I love Texas BBQ-Filipino fusion, almost as much as Portuguese-Macanese. Also the Midnight Special at Leadbelly, the burger with pico de gallo and Fritos on it, is hilariously wonderful.
Amy Cavanaugh, Time Out Chicago: The closing of City Provisions was surprising and incredibly disappointing.
Penny Pollack, Chicago Magazine: Tanta.
Carly Fisher, Food Fanatics: That German and "The Alps" are becoming trendy (Dusek's, Table Donkey and Stick, The Radler, etc.). I love German food but it's not really the prettiest or struck me as super interesting.
Jeff Ruby, Chicago Magazine: Tanta. I was ready to hate the place for the usual reasons—big chef comes to Chicago without knowing much about the city, thinks he can win us over—and then the restaurant won me over. It's undeniably good.
Nick Kindelsperger, Serious Eats: I'm having a hard time finding a better dry-aged steak in Chicago than the one I've eaten twice at Owen & Engine.
Sarah Freeman, Zagat: I don't know why the words "gluten free" kept me away from Senza for so long. But when I finally sat down for a meal, the experience was very pleasantly surprising. I think it speaks a lot to the talent of a chef when he can create exceptional cuisine while working within the constraints of a dietary restriction.
Sean Cooley, Thrillist: This year we put together a list of Bad Decision Bars and was pleasantly surprised by the shamelessness of our readers. Everyone weighed in with their own personal horror stories, highlighted by the WGN news anchors discussing what 4 a.m. dives they've frequented.