2013 was a fun year for dining for me. My wife and I had the opportunity to try some of the best Chicago restaurants. Oh, so much wonderful food! The following is a list of my favorite places I dined at for the first time in 2013:
Big Star, 1531 N. Damen Ave.
Two words: Walking taco. A simple dish consisting of a bag filled with corn chips, ground pastor, pinto bean dip, queso Chihuahua, chili sauce and green onion, it was also one of my favorite things I had all year. Add in some awesome tacos and a limeade and I had a meal fit for a king. Still on my to-try list: the Sonoran hot dog.
Slurping Turtle, 116 W. Hubbard St.
I wrote about Slurping Turtle earlier this year and how it helped complete my ramen evolution. That ramen. So, so good. But the best surprise were the fried brussel sprouts. I didn't even know I liked brussel sprouts before then. I did know I liked fried things, though, so perhaps that should have been a clue. Probably my favorite new restaurant I tried in 2013.
Taxim, 1558 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The duck gyro with duck fries is worth the price of admission alone. Add in the fact that I had more than a few bites of my wife's wonderful pork dish and you had all ingredients for a wonderful dining experience. I really must get back there in 2014.
Bad Apple, 4300 N. Lincoln Ave.
I had my favorite sandwich of the year here – The Dirty Drunk. Thinly sliced steak. Red Leicester cheese. Ale mushrooms and onions. With arugula on a hoagie bun. And there's at least five other sandwiches I want to try on the menu. At least.
Girl & the Goat, 809 W. Randolph St.
Small plate of my year definitely goes to Girl & the Goat and its wood grilled broccoli with rogue smokey bleu and spiced crispies. I wrote about this dish in August because I loved it so much and even found the recipe. The goat empanadas also were a standout for me, and I'm looking forward to going back and trying more of the menu. I don't think anything can beat wood grilled broccoli, but you never know until you try.
Frontera Grill, 445 N. Clark St.
Rick Bayless' restaurant was as good as expected. I couldn't bear just to get one of the larger options so instead I went for as many of the smaller options I thought I could fit in my stomach. It was a good decision. Fresh corn tamales. Mole poblano enchiladas. Mashed potatoes with Otter Creek cheddar cheese and grilled knob onions. And whatever bites I could steal off of my companions' plates. I left very full. And very happy.
Simple German food at its finest. Having a bratwurst with cooked sauerkraut on its beautiful rooftop was one of the highlights of my summer. Next summer: the schnitzel platter and potato salad.
• Write to Joe Grace at email@example.com. Learn when new blogs are posted by liking the Facebook page.
IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: The Food List Challenge: 100 foods to eat before you die … and where to find them in Chicago