We are nearing the end of 2016 and I cannot help but reminisce about all the delicious food I consumed this year. I reside in Chicago and the majority of my culinary escapades took place right here in my own backyard. However, I enjoyed some truly memorable meals in my hometown of New York City, as well as in Barcelona. Below is my Ultimate Guide to the Best Restaurants of 2016, in no particular order:
New York City – Best Restaurants of 2016
New York City is my hometown and I try to
get back at least twice a year. During February, I flew in to spend some quality time with friends, family and my city that I miss so much. I am always thrilled when I discover a new restaurant or just one that I have yet to discover. My friend, Denyse, introduced me to two amazing restaurants which just happened to be French bistros.
Jubilee is a lovely, romantic restaurant on Manhattan’s east side which will impress, your family, colleagues and your secret lover. The menu is incredible but I strongly recommend that you check out the rather large selection of mussels. I have never seen anything like it at one restaurant.
Jubilee is located at 948 E. 1st Ave. Take the E or M train to the Lexington/53rd subway stop.
If you’re looking for a great bistro in New York’s Theater District, near Times Square, head to Saju Bistro. Somehow, my friends and I all chose seafood dishes and they were all super fresh, pretty and memorable. The sea bass, the salmon and the grilled platter were all winners. This place is lovely.
Saju Bistro is located at 120 W. 44th Street in the Hotel Mela. Take the 1, 2, 3, N, Q, R, W, A, C and E trains to Times Square subway stop.
Barcelona – Best Restaurants of 2016
I was fortunate enough to celebrate my 50th birthday in Barcelona. I was there for a week and I ate my way through just about every neighborhood, including the seaside town of Sitges which is thirty minutes outside of Barcelona.
You should read all of the juicy details from my trip when you have a moment but here is peek at a couple of the highlights to tide you over.
Gresca is a highly acclaimed restaurant in Barcelona’s L’Eixample neighborhood. Local chefs and foodies love this place and I do, too. I was impressed by the local turbot with pickled onions, dill and a dash of cinnamon,.
Gresca’s signature egg souffle with potato and cream was as light as air yet layered with wonderful flavor.
Gresca is located at Calle Provenςa 230. Several transit lines stop at the Provenςa station.
Fragata is one of the best restaurants in the quaint, seaside town of Sitges and it is set right on the beach. It was such a delight to ring in my 50th birthday there. I arrived in time for lunch and the staff took great care of me with a steady flow of cava 😉
The freshly hooked hake was accompanied by grilled octopus, crispy leeks and a special cava sauce. This was the freshest fish I had on my trip, hands down and the fact that Fragata is located directly on the beach with a stunning view only made this dish taste better 🙂
In order to wish myself a sweet, new year, I chose Fragata’s Crepes Catalana which was dressed in a perfectly balance lemon-raspberry coulis. Brava!!!
Fragata is located in Sitges. Take the Renfre train directly to Sitges station and walk towards the beach.
Chicago – Best Restaurants of 2016
Parachute – One time Top Chef contestant, Beverly Kim, and her husband opened this stellar restaurant in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood. All of the dishes here are layered with incredible flavor and color, including this pork belly pancake with kimchi, black garlic puree and runny egg which should never be taken off of the menu. Fingers crossed!
This salmon with an array of seasonal greens is the most interesting dish I have eaten all year. One would think that so many herbaceous flavors would compete with each other on the plate but Chef Kim picked greens which all had a lemony profile, so it worked great.
Parachute is located at 3500 N. Elston. Take the Blue Line to the Belmont ‘L’ stop.
Mexique was one of the most exciting food finds for me in 2016. It is a friendly spot which is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch and you do not want to miss out on the creative food here. There are such wonderful layers of flavor in each dish from the must-do mussels to the mahi mahi in mole sauce!
Mexique is located in the West Town neighborhood at 1529 W. Chicago Ave. Take the Blue Line to the Chicago ‘L’ stop or take the #66 Chicago bus.
Giant opened this year to rave reviews and I agree wholeheartedly with those accolades. This Logan Square spot is helmed by Chef Jason Vincent, formerly of Nightwood, and he has crafted a really tight and tasty menu of truly memorable plates.
The smoky and zesty zucchini featured that perfectly cooked vegetable which was seasoned with a pumpkin seed, cilantro marinade and some cheese. I love it when a restaurant nails a vegetable dish that is not only tasty but hearty, too.
I love swordfish and Giant created a spicy swordfish dish with lemongrass and coconut broth which was so flavor that I wish it came with a slide or a diving board! Wow! You really should try this masterful plate of food before it disappears from Giant’s menu.
Please put Giant on your list of Chicago restaurants to visit. Giant is located at 3209 W. Armitage. Take the Blue Line to the Western ‘L’ stop and connect to the #72 Armitage bus.
Fat Rice is serving up Southeast Asian cuisine, inspired by the nation of Macau, in Chicago’s Logan Square. The space has individual and communal tables, as well as an open kitchen. Trust me, you do not want to miss this place! It’s a fun and inviting spot, so grab some friends to bring with you. You will want to share numerous plates.
I love a good curry and Fat Rice does a really great vegetarian curry.
Every year, the food scene chooses a darling of the vegetable world and in 2016 that was the shishito pepper. It’s funny how this stuff happens, right? Anyway, Giant created a zesty and smoky shishito pepper dish which I devoured all on my own. It was accompanied by fresh corn and sweet tomatoes of the summer season.
Fat Rice is located at 2957 W. Diversey. Take the Blue Line to the Logan Square ‘L’ stop.
Charlatan is another fabulous Chicago restaurant located in West Town, along Chicago Avenue. If you are in the mood for some traditional and atypical, Italian fare served in a sexy and rustic environment, Charlatan is for you! Do not miss their pesto pasta because it is the best pesto I have eaten outside of Venice or Brooklyn.
The zesty seafood dishes at Charlatan are also on point.
Charlatan is located at 1329 W. Chicago Ave. Take the Blue Line to the Chicago ‘L’ stop or take the #66 Chicago bus.
Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio hit the Chicago food scene at the end of 2015 and it has been going strong ever since it opened. Former Top Chef contestant, Chef Sarah Grueneberg, is creating excellent Italian dishes that are traditional, as well as some that are inspired by her heritage and global travels. You do not want to miss the raviolo, if it is available.
Also, the crostini options at Monteverde are very hearty.
Monteverde is a great spot to impress family, friends or colleagues.
Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio is located at 1020 W. Madison St. in the West Loop Take the Green or Pink Lines to the Morgan ‘L’ stop.
Found is a cozy, little restaurant in Evanston where I stopped in for lunch with my friend, Anca, recently. Their menu is comprised of an array of plates intended for sharing but there is nothing to stop you from ordering any of them as a main dish.
The mozzarella and beet salad was lovely.
The flatbread with arugula, prosciutto and fennel was crunchy and earthy.
The smoked salmon salad is as colorful as it is healthy.
Don’t forget to eat dessert because this sticky, toffee bread pudding was outrageous!
Found is located at 1631 Chicago Ave. Take the Purple Line to the Davis ‘L’ stop.
Snaggletooth is more a cute deli than a restaurant which is serving cured fish, bagels and salads in a space the size of a postage stamp.
I was blown away by this trout-pastrami and kimchi-cream cheese bagel with fennel slaw. I’ve been dreaming about this place a little bit every day.
Snaggletooth is located at 2819 N. Southport Ave. in the Lakeview neighborhood. Take the Brown Line to the Diversey ‘L’ stop.
Corridor Brewery & Provisions is brought to us by the team behind DryHop Brewers which is also located in Lakeview. The menu offers comforting burgers, pizzas, salads, brunch and entrees. However, I drooled over the wasabi tuna burger.
Corridor Brewery & Provisions is located at 3446 N. Southport Ave. Take the Brown Line to the Southport ‘L’ stop.
Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club is a warm and welcoming place with a lovely staff. They are open every day for breakfast and lunch/brunch. The food is well-prepared and you should come with a full appetite because the portions are large.
I highly recommend the scallion pancake with over-medium eggs and garlicky Brussels sprouts. It comes with potatoes and your choice of toast. You won’t find another dish quite like this one.
Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club is located in the North Park neighborhood at 3401 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Take the Brown Line to the Kimball ‘L’ stop and connect for the #82 bus.
Sze Chuan Cuisine in Chicago’s Chinatown is a must-do, if you love your Chinese food so hot that it will make you sweat and beg for mercy. You cannot go wrong with their traditional ma po tofu.
Sze Chuan Cuisine is located at 2414 S. Wentworth Ave. Take the Red or Green Lines to their respective Cermak ‘L’ stops.
De Quay is focused on Indonesian-Dutch cuisine which is a rare find in any city. It’s set up like a local pub but do not be fooled by the environment. The menu is gorgeous. I really loved the house made gravlax with sweet tomatoes, fresh herbs and a side of egg salad.
The lemongrass pork skate skewers with watermelon and papaya seed vinaigrette was a real standout, too.
De Quay is located in the Lakeview neighborhood at 2470 N. Lincoln Ave. Take the Red, Brown or Purple Lines to the Fullerton ‘L’ stop.
Momotaro is a stunningly beautiful, tri-level space in Chicago’s West Loop. It’s a place to see and be seen, if that’s your scene 😉 They are serving elegant Japanese fare and the menu is phenomenal. This is another spot to bring those you are looking to impress and, yet, it stays Chicago-comfortable in its vibe.
I loved this waygu beef and quail egg hot pot.
Momotaro is located at 820 W. Lake St. Take the Green and Pink Lines to the Morgan ‘L’ stop.
Avec is not only one of my picks for best restaurants of 2016, it remains one of the most consistently great restaurants in Chicago.
I started off 2016 with this perfect charred sweet potatoes with pomegranate seeds, tahini, cipollini onions and fresh mint leaves.
Avec is located in the West Loop at 615 W. Randolph Street. Take the Green Line to the Clinton ‘L’ stop.
Kimski is the fun, new spin-off from the people behind Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. Stop by and enjoy the cool fusion of Korean-Polish fare. There are some great choices but the Kimski Dog with kimchi is an absolute must-do!
Kimski is located at 960 W. 31st St. Take the #8 Halsted bus to 31st Street (connect at the Halsted ‘L’ stop, along the Orange Line).
Bohemian House (BOHO) is a funky space which specializes in Central European fare. The pork schnitzel is a thing of beauty!
Bohemian House is located in River North at 11 W. Illinois St. Take the Red Line to the Grand ‘L’ stop.
Wow, folks! I’m stuffed all over again just thinking about these great dishes. I hope I made you good and excited to hop the rails (and buses) and check out my picks for the best restaurants of 2016 in New York, Barcelona and Chicago. Mangia!
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the local trains and buses my picks for the best restaurants of 2016. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, parking and road rage. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!