Scratch biscuit at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits
2051 N. California Ave., Logan Square
I’ve easily consumed my body weight in biscuits at Bang Bang this year. (So has my two-year-old, who demands the things weekly.) Not only have the dense, perfectly soft biscuits ruined me for all other specimens, but I’m crazy about the fancy butters and seasonal jams they’re served with. — Carly Boers
Ricotta toast at Floriole
1220 W. Webster Ave., Lincoln Park
This may have been the year of the avocado toast, but I’ll instead take Floriole’s ricotta toast any day. They take some of the city’s best bread, smear generously with ricotta, and finish it with honey and sliced almonds. Add coffee and you’ve got the perfect breakfast right there. — C.B.
Cherry Jones pizza at Paulie Gee’s
2451 N. Milwaukee Ave., Logan Square
I have no idea why Paulie Gee’s still feels under the radar because the Cherry Jones pie (fresh mozzarella, Gorgonzola, prosciutto, dried cherries, and orange-scented honey) is legit. The genius topping combo, the perfectly charred crust; I’m going to go ahead and call it my favorite pizza ever. — C.B.
Grilled cucumbers from Publican Anker
1576 N. Milwaukee Ave, Wicker Park
It’s hard to pick a favorite dish at this One Off newcomer, but the grilled cucumbers with spicy zhoug and clouds of whipped ricotta speaks to the fact that the veggie offerings are just as clever and cravable as the meaty ones. — Maggie Hennessy
Waterfall beef salad from Bang Chop Thai Kitchen
605 W. Lake St., West Loop
Charred, toothy flank steak, toasted rice, mint, lime, and fish sauce make for an unlikely yet beautiful combo of ingredients, textures, and temperatures in this sweet-spicy-savory salad. — M.H.
Uni chorizo toast with pickled celery from the Izakaya at Momotaro
820 W. Lake St., West Loop
Top buttery, crisp-edged, housemade bread with salty chorizo, zingy pickled celery, and creamy, oceanic uni, and you get the indulgent toast of my (frequent) dreams. — M.H.
Cheeseburger at GreenRiver
259 E. Erie St., 18th floor, Streeterville
First I surprised myself by ordering a cheeseburger at this snazzy bar, and then I shocked myself by being smitten with it. The medium rare burger was hefty, juicy, and super tender, and the house sauce had lots of personality. I even enjoyed the pickles, and I’m not much of a pickle person. — Penny Pollack
Liver and onions at the Barn
Rear 1016 Church St., Evanston
The slightly chewy salty bacon nubs, the melting-away leeks, and the red-wine reduction (reduced almost to candy!) had the most wonderful effect on the perfectly cooked liver—which soaked it all in. Retro and decadent. — P.P.
Chocolate cream pie at Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf
218 W. Kinzie St., River North
Forgive me for only just now discovering the charms of this thing. This was the year of meat and sugar for me, which culminated in a steak-and-pie binge at Bavette’s one night. I don’t even consider myself much of a chocolate fiend and yet here I am, still fantasizing about this chocolate cream pie: the intense, pudding-y filling; the crumbly cookie crust; the whipped cream that both cut and amplified the sweetness in equal measure. — Carrie Schedler
Burger at Johnny’s Grill
2545 N. Kedzie Blvd., Logan Square
On some visits, this double-thin-patty burger is merely good. But sometimes it is transcendently seasoned, seared, and stuffed with cheese and pickles. My new burger go-to. — C.S.
Mongolian Hot Pot at Little Sheep
2342 S. Wentworth Ave., Chinatown
With the best broths I’ve tasted hereabouts, made with up to 36 herbs and spices, and almost too many possibilities of pristine meats (lamb shoulder a must), seafood, vegetables, and noodles to count, the steamy hot pot experience at this sharp Hong Kong outpost is my new fave Chinese sauna. — Dennis Ray Wheaton
Achari cauliflower kebabs at Vermillion
10 W. Hubbard St., River North
Smoky from the tandoor oven, delicious hunks of tender charred cauliflower seasoned with Punjabi pickling spices are beautifully arrayed with pickled onions and a dip of heavenly mint-cilantro chutney and chimichurri. — D.R.W.
Coniglio alla cicciatore at Piccolo Sogno
464 N. Halsted St., West Town
I didn’t need an engraved Beretta over-and-under Italian shotgun to bag this sumptuous hunter-style braised rabbit. In a subtle soffritto-flavored sauce, the tender bunny pieces are arrayed with diced peppers, cipollini onions, carrots, black olives, mushrooms, and clumps of soft semolina dumplings. — D.R.W.
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