CS Editor-in-Chief J.P. Anderson reveals his 10 favorite plates from the past 12 months.
Insta-worthy presentation plus delectable flavor make Porto’s fire-roasted oysters a star.
1. FIRE-ROASTED OYSTERS XO AT PORTO
After many months of takeout and delivery, bellying up at an actual restaurant for my first dine-in experience since the beginning of the pandemic felt surreal. But any discomfort disappeared as soon as I tasted these oysters—meaty with jamón ibérico, spicy with housemade XO sauce, and soul-satisfying in every way. 1600 W. Chicago Ave., portochicago.com
2. FRIED GNOCCHI AT ADALINA
Among the small plates at this slick Gold Coast newcomer, we couldn’t wait to try the cacio e pepe arancini and the charred octopus, and both were quite good. Little did we expect, though, that it would be the fried gnocchi—ordered as an afterthought based on our server’s recommendation—that would be the showstopper. Served alongside luscious 24-month prosciutto and a mound of whipped ricotta with honey, the pillowy, warm gnocchi served as the foundation for ultimately decadent DIY ham and cheese sandwiches. 912 N. State St., adalinachicago.com
3. MINI TUNA TACOS AT THE ROOFTOP AT NOBU HOTEL
The black cod with miso gets all the raves at master chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s haute Japanese spot, but my nibble of choice here is the gorgeously simple tuna tacos, made with the highest-quality fresh chopped tuna sashimi piled into the most delicate of shells. 155 N. Peoria St., noburestaurants.com/chicago
4. LOBSTER & SPAGHETTI “JOE BEEF” STYLE AT ADORN
There are a handful of dishes on Four Seasons chef Jonathon Sawyer’s menu that could have made this list—I’m looking at you, crispy confit of chicken wings— but it’s his delicious take on iconic Montreal resto Joe Beef’s decadent lobster and spaghetti that gets the call. Moan-inducingly delicious, it captures the essence of lobster in every bite. 120 E. Delaware Place, adornrestaurant.com
5. WAGYU SKEWER AT MONTEVERDE
Have you ever eaten something so delicious you immediately ordered a second round? That’s what happened when we tasted this award-winning West Loop fave’s meltingly tender, crazy-flavorful wagyu skewer. Accompanied by rhubarb mostarda, spring onion and whipped Mangalitsa lardo, it’s meaty perfection in a single bite. 1020 W. Madison St., monteverdechicago.com
6. GAZPACHO SHRIMP SALAD AT MFK.
I have no idea why I slept so long on this subterranean Lakeview gem, but my days in the dark are over—it’s now on my regular rotation thanks to the date-perfect vibe, engaging staff and smart, seafood-forward menu. Fave recent dish? Hands down the gazpacho shrimp salad, chunky with shrimp, cucumber, avocado and tomato, and bursting with refreshing, bright flavor. (Honorable mention to the long-gone special of goat cheesestuffed tempura squash blossoms, which I pray returns next year.) Wash it down with one of the easy-drinking tiki-forward cocktails. 432 W. Diversey Parkway, mfkrestaurant.com
7. PATATAS BRAVAS AT JALEO
There may be no simpler dish in the world of tapas than patatas bravas, but among the many hits at chef José Andrés’ debut Chicago restaurant—from chicken croquetas and garlic shrimp to a multiplicity of sausages—these simple, perfectly crispy fried potatoes with zippy tomato sauce and creamy aioli is one that you will absolutely not want to share. 500 N. Clark St., jaleo.com
8. STUFFED DATES AT BAR AVEC
Talk about an oldie but a goodie: The chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with bacon and piquillo pepper sauce have been an avec staple and a Chicago foodie favorite since the original avec opened way back in ’03. The opening of the One Off Hospitality concept’s new River North location gave me the excuse to try them again, and this hearty dish—served with a warm, crusty hunk of Publican Quality Bread, perfect for soaking up that slurpable sauce—still lives up to the hype. 640 N. LaSalle Drive, baravec.com
9. BEEF BIRRIA TACOS AT TINY TAQUERIA
Birria tacos—luscious and rich with unctuous stew meat—have taken the foodie social media scene by storm this year, and this River North newcomer is serving up some of the best I’ve tasted, complete with bone marrow consomme for truly decadent dipping. 11 W. Illinois St., mexicanfood.delivery
10. EGGS 5 WAYS AT VENTEUX
This creation from chef Donald Young—a vibrant yellow omelet filled with scrambled eggs and Délice de Bourgogne cheese, topped with yeasted hollandaise and trout roe and finished with a grated salt-cured egg yolk—was one of the most deliciously surprising dishes I’ve encountered in recent memory. Creamy, fluffy, savory, tangy and rich at the same time, it will make you rethink the delectable possibilities of the humble egg. 224 N. Michigan Ave., venteuxchicago.com
Photography by: COURTESY OF PORTO; BY GALDONES PHOTOGRAPHY; BY HENRY HARGREAVES/COURTESY OF NOBU HOTELS; BY HAAS AND HAAS PHOTOGRAPHY; BY RICHARD BELTZER; BY SCOTT WORSHAM; COURTESY OF THINKFOODGROUP; BY DEREK RICHMOND; BY ANTHONY FARINAS; BY NEIL BURGER