After nearly a week of intensive reader voting, today we announce the winners of the eighth annual Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs and restaurants that made the largest impact on all 24 Eater cities over the past twelve months.
Here now are the establishments — from Mexican restaurants and cocktail bars to tasting menus and sushi — that have taken the Chicago food world by storm. Thank you to everyone who voted last week, and congratulations to the winners of the readers’ choice and editors’ choice awards. Read on to learn more about this year’s best of the best. Editor’s choice winners will receive an illustrious tomato can trophy via FedEx, along with a full feature on Eater in the coming year.
Chef of the Year
Mi Tocaya Antojeria, Logan Square
Confidence has never been in short supply for chef Diana Dávila, a Chicagoan who spent time in Mexico learning to cook from her grandmother. Her Logan Square restaurant is fearless. She’s not afraid to test the American palette with flavors and items that she grew up with in Mexico. Items like peanut butter and tongue flourish together, and her no-frills steak burrito is among the best in the city. While things didn’t work out for Dávila at Cantina 1910 in Andersonville, she’s found her groove in Logan Square where she’s calling the shots. Dávila envisions herself as a wonder woman — there’s a drawing on one of the restaurant walls that depicts her as a superhero. After all, the chef and comic book character are both named Diana.
Chef of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Diana Davila, Mi Tocaya Antojeria
Restaurant of the Year
Elske, West Loop
This year was the year of the wife-husband kitchen duo, and no couple accomplished more than David and Anna Posey over at Elske off Randolph Restaurant Row. The Poseys also dipped into their heritages dishes with a Scandinavian slant. The tasting menu earned rave reviews with a whimsical approach to fine dining. The duck liver tart with buckwheat and salted ramps is a crowd pleaser, earning a permanent place on the menu. For $85, the tasting menu is one of the best values in Chicago fine dining. The space is open and makes use of outdoor seating. A satisfying mocktail pairing can be added to the tasting menu for those staying away from alcohol. Chef David Posey earned his stripes at Blackbird, while pastry chef Anna Posey honed her craft at Publican. Their experiences shine at Elske.
Restaurant of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: HaiSous, Pilsen
Design of the Year
BLVD, Fulton Market
BLVD seemingly took cues from the art direction in the 2013 movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby in assembling this sleek playground the likes that Chicago has never seen. Inspired by Hollywood retro glam, several parties had hands in creating the 10,000-square-foot space. Chicago designer Karen Herold of Studio K Creative, World Headquarters, LG Construction + Development, and Space Architects + Planners all influenced the restaurant where The Rat Pack would feel welcome. It’s a much needed escape from the helter-skelter that is now the West Loop.
Design of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Beatnik, West Town
Bar of the Year
Prairie School, Fulton Market
The hype was real inside the building that also houses Google’s Chicago headquarters. Heisler Hospitality (Sportsman’s Club, Pub Royale, etc.) pulled no punches in bringing on bartender extraordinaire Jim Meehan to create drinks for their Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired playground on Fulton Market. A suburban Chicago native, Meehan blended Midwest sensibility with Japanese flavors, drawing parallels between Chicago and the Far East. Meehan, known for his N.Y. cocktail bar, PDT, bases Prairie School’s menu 24 short Japanese seasons. That means frequent visitors will have the chance to try something news upon their returns. But customers can’t go wrong with the high balls dispensed by Japanese machines.
Bar of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Beatnik, West Town
Saddest Restaurant Shutter of the Year
Katsu, Rogers Park
Sushi master Katsu Imamura hung up his knives shortly after Thanksgiving at his Rogers Park restaurant. For 29 years, Imamura redefined what to expect out of a sushi restaurant in the Midwest. His selections reflected a sublime ability to tell a story with food, using delicate pieces of fish flown in from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market. At 74, Imamura deserves a happy retirement, but Chicago is left with a sad void as his skill is hardly replaceable.
Saddest Shutter of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Ruxbin