Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Favorite/Not-So-Favorite Restaurants in 2012

As I mentioned in my "Cooking Corner" introduction, food (cooking it, eating it, going out to eat) is one of my biggest passions.  Trying new restaurants is my favorite way to spend a night out, and it's made so easy in a food-lover's city like Chicago.  I thought it would be fun to recap my favorite and not-so-favorite restaurant experiences of 2012.  By the way, I'm a foodie, but not a food-snob.  Looking at this list, 2012 seems to have been a bit of a fancy year, but rest assured we were also frequenting Franks 'n Dawgs and Flub a Dub Chubs...they just weren't "new" to me in 2012 and thus didn't make the list :)

BEST (in no particular order)

- Goosefoot:  It's teeny, situated in a bit of ghetto stretch of Lincoln Square, and we had to make reservations 3 months ahead of time (and even then could only get a 9pm on a Tuesday).  But the food was spectacular.  9 courses of straightforward, modern food with a French twist.  This place is no frills, it's a small space with little flair, and the food is served with zero pretension.  Most memorable to me were the soups and the beef dish, though the menu changes all the time.  The chef is Chris Nugent and we spoke to him for a while after the meal.  He was so modest and so thankful people were coming to his restaurant (we had to remind him that people weren't only coming, they were waiting 3 months to come).  Best part about this place?  BYOB. 

- Elizabeth:  24 courses.  Yes, that is correct, 24.  Most of any restaurant in Chicago.  (There was another menu choice w/ fewer courses, but, come on, 24!).  This place is another no-frills, "all about the food" type of place and the food is, simply put, flawless.  The food is clean, very much inspired by nature, and the chef Iliana Regan cooks right in front of you as if you were in her home (which, interestingly enough, is what she used to do!).  She came over several times to ask about the food and we were able to tell her what we enjoyed most - I love that.  It's communal seating, and our party of 4 soon felt like a party of 8.  The seafood courses were stand-out.  My only complaints?  Like Next, you have to buy tickets for this place, I'm still a traditionalist in this respect.  Also, it became a 5 hour meal....and with 24 courses with wine pairings, this meant I was black-out drunk by the end of the meal.  Fun, sure.  But don't come here if you have somewhere to be after (or the next day, as it were).  My guess is that's a new-restaurant kink that will get better with time.

- GT Fish & Oyster:  I had heard so much about this place and was excited to try it.  It did not disappoint.  Seafood, small plate style.  Stand-outs were the oysters (but not the shooters, eh), the shrimp bruschetta, oyster slider and fish tacos.  We splurged for the caviar service as well which was really good, but probably won't do it again.  We also tried a white wine that I had never had before, but was spectacular.  Nora Albarino (Albarino is the style).  The vibe is fun, loud, and sceney (it's River North), but not annoyingly River North-y.

- Other two notables of the year were Acadia (South Loop) and Wood (East Lakeview).  Both very solid overall.


- Charlie Trotter's - It's a moot point because Trotter's is gone now, but I was so surprised that I was let down, that I had to note it.  Trotter's has been regarded as one of the best restaurants in Chicago (and the country) for many years and we were able to go right before it closed down.  The food was good, but not memorable.  The ambience was pretty old-fashioned (and not in an endearingly traditional kind of way, just sort of outdated) and I expected nicer service for the level of restaurant that it was.  We did tour the kitchen after, and that was pretty neat, but I wasn't blown away by my meal. 

- Tavernita:  Go for the drinks and the scene, but not necessarily for the food.  The main entrees were better than the small plates.  We went here on our first real post-baby date night and a loud, River North spot may have been a bit much.  But fun place for a group.

- Nellcote:  Beautiful restaurant, disappointing food.  This place is pretty scene-y, as well, and I think is better for pre-dinner cocktails (they had a really interesting drink menu and the space is just visually stunning).  The flatbreads were probably the best thing on the menu. 

- Anteprima:  Everyone always talks about how much they love this place, but I didn't really get it.  Loved the space and the vibe in Andersonville, but thought the meal was just ok.  Also, we had reservations but still had to wait 30+ minutes.  No likey. 

TO TRY IN 2013

I'm excited to try BellyQ, Au Cheval, Acre, RPM Italian, Nightwood, and a host of others in the upcoming year.  We also haven't been to Next, yet (I know, I know, but it's that ticket thing and the inability to decide in 2.3 seconds that we're going out with a baby at home to plan for).  If you have any spots I have to try (or should steer clear from), would love to hear it!!


  1. We liked Balena (same folks as Girl and the Goat and GT Fish & Oyster).

    Aaaand we're going to Anteprima tomorrow for my birthday...I've always enjoyed it, but it has been a couple years since we went. The place next door, Ombra, is pretty amazing for wine and a little bite.

    1. Oh I want to try Balena.

      Happy birthday!! Yeah I've always heard great things about Anteprima, maybe it was just what we ordered or that particular night. The waiting didn't help :) Ombra looks really cute, will have to try it. I love Andersonville!

    2. Next time you wander over to A'ville, let me know - we live not too far from the main strip!