It is now time — drumroll, please — to announce the winners of the 2015 Eater Awards in Chicago. These winners comprise a diverse group of the finest and most interesting chefs, restaurants, and bartenders in the city. They've defined this year in dining, and we applaud them.
First, a quick recap: Eater's local editors in 24 cities nominated candidates for five major categories: Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year, Bartender of the Year, So Hot Right Now Restaurant, and Stone Cold Stunner. These awards are geared toward places that have opened in about the past year, or people who have become involved in new ventures or otherwise changed the game in that time, which is why many renowned veterans don't appear). Eater readers then voted to narrow the field to a final three in each category. From that final three, the Eater editorial team chose one to move forward. The national winners can be viewed here, but now, without further ado, here's who came out on top in Chicago.
Eater Awards 2015
Restaurant of the Year
Nominees: The Angry Crab, Dove's Luncheonette, The Duck Inn, Intro, Momotaro
Finalists: The Duck Inn, Intro, Momotaro
Winner: The Duck Inn
It's not easy being the restaurant poster-child for one of Chicago's classic working-class neighborhoods, but creative everyman chef Kevin Hickey and an unlikely partnership with the Rockit Ranch group leaped over the bar by both reigniting south-side Bridgeport and creating one delicious restaurant with The Duck Inn.
Chef of the Year
Nominees: Ashlee Aubin, Dennis Bernard, Kevin Hickey, Jimmy Papadopoulos, Jason Paskewitz
Finalists: Jimmy Papadopoulos, Jason Paskewitz, Kevin Hickey
Winner: Jimmy Papadopoulos
One of Chicago's best new chefs rose from relative obscurity to put his creative stamp on a cuisine that many Chicagoans were born and raised on. The unique spins and gorgeous presentations Papadopoulos puts on Eastern European cuisine at Bohemian House make him a chef to watch for years to come.
Bartender of the Year
Nominees: Paul McGee, Julia Momose, Liz Pearce, Freddie Sarkis, Brian Sturgulewski
Finalists: Julia Momose, Paul McGee, Liz Pearce
Winner: Paul McGee
Five bars. That's how many openings - and cocktail programs - celebrated cocktailer Paul McGee oversaw in 2015, including his hit tiki follow-up to Three Dots and a Dash (Lost Lake) and four bars within the gorgeously restored Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.
So Hot Right Now
Nominees: The Blanchard, Boeufhaus, Bom Bolla, Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, GreenRiver
Finalists: The Blanchard, Boeufhaus, Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
A few of Chicago's top restaurant groups and chefs opened steakhouses in 2015. But perhaps the city's best new meat-driven restaurant came from a pair of relative unknowns in a neighborhood not known for pricey cuisine - and some of its best, most creative dishes aren't even the steaks.
Stone Cold Stunner
Nominees: The Betty, Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, The Drifter, The Franklin Room, Swift & Sons
Finalists: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, The Franklin Room, Swift & Sons
Winner: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
The longtime private club and nineteenth century time capsule on Michigan Avenue underwent one of the most painstaking and gorgeous restorations in recent memory and the food and beverage concepts - mostly overseen by Land and Sea Dept (Longman & Eagle) - are now some of the most fascinating and special places to eat, drink and play in Chicago.