What happens when you ask 50 Chicago-area food pros to name the best thing they ate this year? You end up with a list of must-try places to keep you busy tasting all through next year. We checked in with some of Chicago's top chefs to get the scoop and we promise you'll be checking this list twice — and likely a few more times after that.
Executive Chef, Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile and Café des Architectes in Chicago
The skinny: "Cleaned my plate. Flavors were delicious. Complementing the dish were the fantastic cocktails and staff."
Executive Chef, Siena Tavern in Chicago
Best meal: Lobster Ravioli
Restaurant: Sapori Trattoria, 2701 N. Halsted St., Chicago; www.SaporiTrattoria.net
The skinny: "For me, it's hard to beat a great skirt steak and that's what this is. Nicely charred, intensely beefy and juicy, and served with a spicy arbol sauce, cilantro potatoes and sautéed mushrooms.
Owner/Chef, Chef Art Smith Company
Restaurant: Le Bouchon, 1958 N. Damen Ave., Chicago; www.LeBouchonOfChicago.com
The skinny: "First, I have been going to Bouchon for 20 plus years, and when I'm in that space there's nowhere I would rather be. Secondly, although I know it's a pain, Oliver and the kitchen staff have never once flinched at cooking it au poivre for me (steak au poivre, in my opinion, is one on the finest dishes ever known to mankind). Thirdly, the frites are, and this is no hyperbole, perfect. Last but not least, we lost a friend, mentor, and giant in the culinary world this year when [chef/restaurateur] Jean Claude [Poilevey] passed. Although he is missed every day, sitting in that tiny, warm dining room enjoying wine, food, good friends and life itself is exactly what he would have wanted."
Restaurant: Owen & Engine, 2700 N. Western Ave., Chicago; www.OwenAndEngine.com
The skinny: "Made me feel like I was back in Lyon! Beautiful textures in the forcemeats and delicious house-made accompaniments including pickled onions and perfect crusty bread. Exceptional technique and flavor."Niles Evanston Skokie Northbrook Hinsdale Highwood Western Springs