Chicago’s media dish on their favorite spots in 2023 as part of Eater’s ongoing tradition of polling the city’s experts for their year-end takes. Here, the panel answers what was their best restaurant meal of the year?
Monica Eng, Axios Chicago: Chengdu Impression — water-boiled fish and crispy eggplant.
Jeffy Mai, editor Time Out Chicago: Omakase by Phillip Frankland Lee at Sushi by Scratch.
David Manilow, host of Crain’s Chicago’s the Dining Table Podcast, creator of Check, Please!: The crab cakes at Holu. Simple and delicious. I went back for a second visit and they were just as fantastic!
Michael Nagrant, author of the Hunger, a Substack newsletter; former Sun-Times and RedEye dining critic: A single dish — Jenner Tomaska’s dover sole at Bar Esme. This was a comp by the chef as part of a meal I paid for, however, I’m grateful I got to taste it because I’ve been thinking about it for months.
Top-to-bottom meal — Bistro Monadnock. Chef Johnny Besch is one of the Chicago greats, a perfect technician of the bisto arts, and should be glazed as much as possible like his frites fried in beef tallow.
Janice Scurio, South Side Sox and CHGO Sports: Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant takes the crown here yet again. The bright “kain tayo!” sign upon entrance commanded us to eat and we were left with no choice but to comply. My three friends and I ordered nearly everything on the menu, sharing an ulam assortment along with the coveted small-batch garlic rice. The pièce de résistance of the meal, however, was the kare kare specially designed for the cold ‘ber months — substituting tongue for the common oxtail and accompanied by chef Joe Fontelera’s house-made bagoong paste. Finished with a touch of ice cream from milky milky, we left with full hearts and full bellies.
Sarah Spain, ESPN writer, TV and radio host: Indienne. I’ll take a vat of the black dairy daal, a giant jar of the smoked date & black garlic chutney, and 20 or so of the passion fruit pani puri, please. Oh, and a couple dozen pitchers of the Mumbai cocktail poured directly down my gullet.
Amy Cavanaugh, Chicago magazine dining editor: I had many wonderful meals this year. El Che Steakhouse & Bar never misses, and I was happy to make it in a few times. Other standouts included Sepia, Parachute, Monteverde, Dear Margaret, and Perilla.