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The Best Things We Ate And Drank In 2012

By Staff in Food on Dec 23, 2012 7:00PM

Biscuits from Bang Bang Pie Shop.
2012 was a delicious year, with many restaurant openings and lots of beautiful, creative dishes and drinks. We polled the food staff about their highlights from the year—they loved biscuits, gyros, sushi, cider, and many other dishes. Here are their favorites.


Bang Bang Pie Shop's biscuits: I'm a fan of anything this place does, but especially the biscuits. The inside is perfectly fluffy, while the exterior has a golden crunch. Slice open your biscuit, then head to the butter and jam bar, where you can slather it with salted butter, strawberry jam, and other toppings. — Amy Cavanaugh

The trio of skins at Yusho (special on the omakase menu): the trio of skins (chicken, salmon, and pork rinds) made me giddy with how tasty the dish was and made my vegetarian wife fall slightly out of love with me over how much I enjoyed it. — Paul Leddy

Middle Illinois beef and black bean chili from Nightwood: "Middle Illinois beef and black bean chili, cornbread croutons, sour cream, green onion, runny egg." 'Nuff said. — Chuck Sudo

"Queen pie" from Pleasant House Bakery.

Pleasant House Bakery's "queen's pie:" A slightly more savory take on a margherita pizza courtesy of Art Jackson and a mobile wood-fired brick pizza oven owned by Patrick Barclay. The pizzas proved so successful they're now a semi-regular feature on PHB's menu. — Chuck Sudo

Next Sicily and el Bulli: I was fortunate to be included in a group that bought season tickets to Next and there were a few dishes from the two menus offered this year that were amazing. On the Sicily menu, it was the spalla di maiale brasato (braised pork shoulder with chickpeas) that I was remembering for quite some time. The meat just melted in your mouth. The other Next dish that I still think about was the "mint pond" from the el Bulli menu. The breaking of the ice and the bracingly cool flavor of the mint was the ultimate palate cleanser. — Paul Leddy

The Scotch egg at The Gage: The dish isn't new, but this year was the first time I had it. Cut through the crispy exterior to reveal spicy sausage and a hard-boiled egg. Dip it in mustard, pair it with Scotch, and you have my ideal snack. — Amy Cavanaugh

Bacon maple doughnut from Bridgeport Bakery: Jackalope Coffee & Tea's January Overton asked Bridgeport Bakery if they could bake these specifically for them and they proved so popular the bakery decided to make them for their own store. People from around the city are traveling to get them, proof that the best fad of 2008 still works today. — Chuck Sudo

Gyros at Publican Quality Meats.

Publican Quality Meats' pork belly gyros is actually a simple twist on a simple local food staple. Instead of a tzatziki sauce, PQM makes a yogurt based raita, a standard dip in Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisines. The tomatoes and onions standard in the Chicago gyros iteration is replaced by escalavida, a Catalan mélange of grilled vegetables including eggplant, tomato, red peppers and sweet onions. — Chuck Sudo

Au Cheval's chopped salad: I love Au Cheval for many reasons (mainly the burger and bologna sandwich), but the time I deviated from my usual order (forcing my dining companion to split the burger and bologna sandwich) and added on the chopped salad, I was delighted. The herbed salad dressing is a fresh accompaniment to the greens and other toppings, which include bacon (you wouldn't expect anything here to be that healthy, would you?) — Amy Cavanaugh

Westminster Hot Dog's venison bacon sausage: A venison bacon sausage with brandy peppercorn sauce and Abergele cheese. The two proteins were prominent throughout in this chunky sausage, with the sweetness of the deer complementing the smoky crunch of the bacon. The peppercorn sauce provided the requisite spice. — Chuck Sudo

Slurping Noodles at Slurping Turtle.

Slurping Turtle's slurping noodles: It's an imperfect dish but, add enough miso and spice to it, it can be easily corrected. - Chuck Sudo And I'm seconding Slurping Turtle, but for the tan tan men, a spicy bowl of pork meatballs, noodles, and bok choy. — Amy Cavanaugh

Corn risotto from Browntrout: Made with corn puree, house-cured coppa, local celery, cherry tomatoes, mascarpone, and delectable rooftop herbs ($10), this small plate bespeaks the bounty of America’s bread basket. With one bite, you can taste the fruits of our neighbors’ agrarian labor and Chef Sean Sanders’ culinary expertise in simple, symphonic cohesion. — Melissa Wiley

The margherita pizza at Pizzeria da Nella Cucina Napoletana: Nella Grassano has singlehandedly changed the landscape for what should be considered a great pizza in Chicago. Her margherita pizza's still the best in town—light, chewy marvels that fly in the face of the casseroles we call deep dish. — Chuck Sudo

S'mores at Sable.

Sable Kitchen and Bar's S'mores: This dish will single-handedly contribute to Chicago's expanding waistline. It combines fudge brownies, toasted marshmallow and graham cracker ice cream for a plated take on the classic dessert. The plate also has chocolate sauce, cocoa nibs and buttered graham cracker crumbs, so you can tailor each bite to your taste. — Anthony Todd

Sushi at Ginza: If you want to find amazing, pretension-free sushi in Chicago using the freshest seafood available, get your ass in gear and head to Ginza Sushi, located in the Hotel Tokyo in River North. The chefs here keep it simple and small; you won't find gargantuan rolls that are more art than food. The rolls at Ginza are art in a minimalist sense, but it's their nigiri that is a true revelation. — Chuck Sudo


The "Power of Love" cocktail from Mike Ryan at Sable and the Blood and Whiskey cocktail from Vie Restaurant: Ryan's cocktail was my first cocktail on my blog and one that I have made several times at home to rave reviews. The flavors of ginger with the bourbon played very well together. The Blood and Whiskey cocktail is made with with rye, muddled blood orange, apple cider, yellow chartreuse, and allspice dram. It's a wonderful, harmonious cocktail that tastes of fall/winter in a glass. — Paul Leddy

Virtue Redstreak cider: Greg Hall is working to change how we approach cider in Chicago and, if the initial response to Redstreak was an indication, he's got a long road ahead. This English style cider, released in the spring, only got better as the warm months became brutal and was my go-to beverage of choice. Enjoy it on ice. — Chuck Sudo

Pomegranate Old-Fashioned at Sepia: I didn't think I was a pomegranate girl, but Josh Pearson made me reconsider this stance. His pomegranate old-fashioned uses pomegranate-infused Old Overholt Rye, ras el hanout bitters he made himself, blood orange, and brandied cherries. It's deep, delicious, and I could drink them all winter.— Amy Cavanaugh