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Chicago Restaurant Experts Recall Their Single Best Meals of 2016

As 2016 fades into 2017, 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 Saddest Closures. All answers will be revealed—cut, pasted, unedited and unadulterated—by the time we pop the cork on 2017.

There were some great meals at Roister in 2016
There were some great meals at Roister in 2016
Matthew Gilson

What was your best restaurant meal of 2016?

Penny Pollack, Chicago magazine: Moon Palace, again. For my ideal meal see here.

Michael Nagrant, RedEye: I ate both menus, flora and fauna with my wife on my birthday at Grace.  If Michelin gave 4 stars, Grace deserves it.

Chris LaMorte, UrbanDaddy: My dinners of fried chicken and wagyu at Roister and caviar spooned over soft, creamy scrambled eggs at The Blanchard were tough to top, but celebrating my father's 80th birthday at Traverso's in Orland Park with good South Side pizza and heaping trays of sausage and peppers will never be forgotten.

Michael Gebert, Fooditor: I really liked how Hanbun's tasting menu (which I hear is booked through April now) did Korean-Alinea fusion with real delicacy and yet, at the same time, didn't wuss out on real Korean flavors. At the same time, though, it's pretty tough to argue with Giant's batting average at the table—maybe my favorite experience was taking first-timers, telling them they had to have the eggplant, seeing them go Eggplant, really? and then, ROWR OMFG THAT'S GOOD.

Chandra Ram, Plate: I had a pretty epic night that started with rounds of plin at Osteria Langhe, followed by about half the menu at Dos Urban Cantina, and then ended with Dos' incredible chocolate cake. No regrets.

Anthony Todd, Chicagoist: In March, when I gave my soon-to-be-husband his engagement ring (he'd already proposed previously), we had an enchanted meal at Cherry Circle Room, which continues to be one of my standbys. Every single dish was perfect (order the beef tartare) and the thoughtful blend of caring service and giving us just enough time alone shows how much energy that place spends on the guest experience. The visit to Milk Room and crashing in a room upstairs probably didn't hurt either.

Lisa Shames, CS: As evidenced from my lengthy list of top restaurant newcomers this is going to be tough. On the fine dining end, I'd say Oriole and Smyth. On the more casual side, it would be El Che Bar, Monteverde and Giant.

Morgan Olsen, RedEye: Roister. My fiancé and I celebrated our anniversary there earlier this year, and I distinctly remember wanting to freeze-frame that moment in time just to savor it a little longer. Every dish was better than the last, and the service was impeccable. Though we were totally stuffed, we ordered dessert and coffee just to prolong our visit.

Matt Kirouac, Zagat: I really really loved Ēma. It's exactly the type of food I want to eat, and eat a lot of. The dish that resonates as probably the best thing I ate all year was the stracciatella on baked manouche of mushroom and za'atar.

Elizabeth Atkinson, Time Out ChicagoOriole.

Milk Room

12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603 (844) 312-2221 Visit Website

Moon Palace Restaurant

216 West Cermak Road, , IL 60616 (312) 225-4081 Visit Website

The Blanchard

1935 North Lincoln Park West, , IL 60614 (872) 829-3971 Visit Website


665 Pasquinelli Drive, , IL 60559 (630) 948-3383 Visit Website


661 West Walnut Street, , IL 60661 (312) 877-5899 Visit Website


652 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60661 (817) 877-3388


1020 West Madison Street, Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 888-3041


951 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 789-4896

Osteria Langhe

2824 West Armitage Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 661-1582 Visit Website


177 North Ada Street, , IL 60607 (773) 913-3773 Visit Website


74 West Illinois Street, , IL 60654 (312) 527-5586 Visit Website

El Che Bar

845 West Washington Boulevard, , IL 60607 (312) 265-1130 Visit Website


3209 West Armitage Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 252-0997 Visit Website


1723 North Halsted Street, , IL 60614 Visit Website

Cherry Circle Room

12 South Michigan Avenue, , IL 60603 (312) 792-3515 Visit Website

Dos Urban Cantina

2829 West Armitage Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 661-6452 Visit Website