Roka AkorThe Polar Vortex was a bad memory for almost everyone - everyone except for those of us who were able to get 41% off (due to how cold it got in Chicago in early January: -41F) the Decadent Omakase. Originally priced at over $130, this was a steal at 41% off, and a good value even at full price. This omakase included everything great about Roka Akor in one extreme meal. Scottish salmon nigiri. O-Toro. Real wasabi root. Amazing ama ebi (sweet shrimp). A5 Wagyu beef. Black truffle mushroom risotto. Fantastic dessert platter. We were stuffed when we were done, but we couldn't help but to want more. Easily the best meal of 2014.
Ruby's Fast FoodAlthough Uncle Mike's is closer to my place, Ruby's Fast Food is definitely worth the trip up north. Super garlic-y fried rice with flavorful longanisa (sausage) and salty-sweet tocino (pork belly/bacon), topped with a yolky egg. Breakfast of champions? No, more like breakfast, lunch, and dinner of champions.
Leghorn ChickenI say, dear reader, pay attention when I tell you about Leghorn Chicken (ok, that's enough of the bad impersonation of Foghorn Leghorn). But it is warranted. Leghorn Chicken might have my favorite fried chicken sandwich of all time. The housemade bun is soft, airy, but firm, and the Nashville Hot style adds a bit of kick to the chick. But the real reason this is my #1? The option of getting thigh meat. The dark side tastes so good. Oh and the hushpuppies are pretty solid too.
Side DoorSide Door, creatively named because it's the side door entrance to the building that houses Lawry's The Prime Rib, is a gastropub concept from the owners of Lawry's. But that doesn't matter. What matters is the Prime Rib sandwich. Just marvel at the thick cut juiciness of a perfectly roasted prime rib. It tastes better than it looks. Probably because I'm not very good at the picture-taking. Actually, no, it's really because it's DAMN GOOD.
Take fresh fish and seafood, combine it with interesting flavors and additions, and you get modern nigiri. Everything about this place is just so good. This might be my favorite place to get nigiri in the city if I'm craving something more than the traditional.
VIP Chinese Restaurant
Some of you maybe familiar with an establishment that begins with "VIP...", but did you know that it's really the best place in the city to get Korean-Chinese sweet & sour beef. Delicately sliced beef, fried in a light and crispy batter, smothered with sweet & sour sauce (the kind Asians eat, not the weird red Americanized stuff). Oh, you didn't know you could get Chinese food there? That's because your mind is in the gutter.
The Happy Crab
The Spicy Fish Fillet contains no crab, but does have a lot of happy, for me at least. I am obsessed with this dish, and the Happy Chili Chicken is a close second. The batter, happy chili sauce, and fried tofu combine to make an awesome dish that I can't seem to get enough of. It's been my go to meal when I get back late from being out of town at a client.
Summer House Santa Monica
Ok, this one is going to be a short one. Lobster? Check. Fries? Check. Succulent lobster with a side of fries is definitely a strong combo. Just get this if you go.
High Five Ramen
The High Five Ramen an High Five Ramen will blow you away. Mostly because it's spiciness is the real deal, but also because it's just that good. It's a tonkotsu-based broth with a healthy (or not healthy, based on your disposition toward spicy foods) dose of sichuan peppers. And to top it all off, Sodikoff throws in some of the BEST pork belly I have ever had the pleasure of putting into my mouth, cooked/smoked upstairs at Green St. Smoked Meats.
The potato bing bread with sour cream butter is worth the trip to Parachute alone. Although I thought the overall meal was good, it didn't live up to my sky-high expectations. But this bread...THIS BREAD. The only thing more memorable than this bread was when my friend told our cute waitress that I thought she, my friend, was fat. The glare that the waitress gave me gives me chills to this day. "Hahaha you're not fat! <GLARE>"
The Hatch Burger - housemade cheese and green chiles atop a juicy beef patty, all sittting inside a beautiful bun. I'm a big fan of burgers, and although I thought that I'd be disappointed in this place due to the hype machine, I was pleasantly surprised.
Note: I would have put ShakeShack here on this list...but I didn't have a photo to do it justice.
The new spot to go to in the West Loop is Momotaro, with beautiful decor and amazing food that has resulted in rave reviews and hard-to-find reservations. Although I just have a picture of O-Toro nigiri, Momotaro has an extensive Japanese menu with top-notch ingredients and dishes you probably won't find anywhere else in the city. I can't wait to go back to try their Omakase.
Yes, there's a lot of sushi on my list this year, but it's warranted. Agami surprised me with the quality and freshness of its fish - notables are the scallops, ama ebi, and of course, the o-toro. Fantastic.
Pulled pork? Good. Butter-poached prawn? Goood. Ruxbin? GOOOOOD. This was their take on a surf & turf, and the fine folks at Ruxbin have managed to blow me away again, even though I've been to their establishment many times before.
That's my list of awesome Chicago Eats I experienced in 2014. I'll have a supplement coming soon about some of the food I had traveling this year.