Friday, December 16, 2011

2011: Favorite Restaurants

What were some of my favorite restaurants of the past year?

I have already posted several of my Favorites' lists and and now I want to concentrate on my Favorite Restaurants of the past year.  This is certainly not a complete list but it is more a sampling of memorable matters I have experienced and/or posted about over the past year. Some of the winners are the same as last year, and if so, I will provide a link to last year's list where you can read the details of that restaurant. Restaurants which are consistently good certainly deserve recognition, and I have tried to place their returning winners at the bottom of this post.

This year, I have also added a special new category, Overall Favorite Restaurant. This will highlight one place which has most impressed me over the past year, a consistent performer which has maintained a superior quality in all aspects. This restaurant receives my highest recommendation though all of the favorites in this post are also very worthy, deserving of my strong recommendation. In addition, you will find more Favorites from outside Massachusetts as I traveled a good deal this past year. I hope you enjoy all of these recommendations.

Overall Favorite Restaurant: Congratulations and kudos to Bergamot, an innovative and impressive restaurant in Somerville. Their food is superb, and the chef often combines what may seem to be disparate ingredients and creates delectable and harmonious dishes. From a phenomenal Pork Belly Ravioli, to an incredible Roast Chicken, the ever changing menu always has plenty of compelling dishes. They also have a killer wine list, with plenty of interesting choices, as well as an excellent cocktail program. Service is always professional and attentive, and the entire staff works well as a single unit. I have written a few times about Bergamot, including here, here and here. Every time I have dined here has been an excellent and delectable experience. It receives my highest recommendation and I urge all my readers to dine here.

Favorite Suburban Restaurant: The winner is AKA Bistrowhich won last year for Favorite New Suburban Restaurant. This is another restaurant which is very consistent, offering excellent French and Japanese cuisine, very good service, and an interesting wine and sake list. From the savory, home made Miso Soup to the addictive Mussels, both cuisines please the palate. Though they are located only a few minutes off Rt.128, they still seem a hidden treasure and you should make the effort to dine there. The Runner-Up in this category is 51 Lincoln in Newton, which has an eclectic menu of cuisines, including Italian, Latin, French, Thai, Cambodian and more. The food is usually local, artisanal and quite delicious. I need to eat there again very soon.

Favorite Suburban Italian Restaurant: Italian restaurants are ubiquitous in the suburbs, but too many of them are simply average. But you can find an excellent Italian spot in Woburn, Tre Monte. They offer reasonably priced and hearty portions of tasty Italian staples and their own specialties. In addition, their Bolognese is killer, and I am very picky as to my Bolognese sauce. They also deserve kudos for their Arancini, a great blend of a crisp and crunchy exterior concealing lots of gooey cheese.

Favorite North Shore Restaurant: This winner also has a killer Bolognese and Arancini, making it a worthy choice for dinner. 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar in Salem is gaining lots of recognition for its cuisine and the kudos are well deserved. Plus, they are bold enough to have an all Italian wine list, including plenty of interesting choices.This is another restaurant I need to dine at again very soon.

Favorite Unique Ethnic Restaurant: Sometimes delicious food can be found in the most unlikely places. Moby Dick, located on Huntington Avenue, looks very unassuming, the kind of place you might walk by and never give a chance. But their food will surprise and impress you, from their moist and tender kabobs to their intriguing rice dishes. Very reasonably priced, portions are good and there are plenty of options, including organic and vegetarian. Don't pass this place by!

Favorite Pizza Chain: Many pizza chains offer, at best, only an average pizza and it is often better to find an independent pizza shop. But, Naked Pizza is one of the exceptions, offering a tasty pizza, which is also healthier for you. The pizzas are generally reasonably priced, though I have a small issue with how they price their additional ingredients. They are mainly a delivery and take-out shop and make a great option rather than places like Dominoes. They only have two locations currently, Brookline and Brighton, but are looking to expand and hopefully they will venture out to the suburbs at some point.

Favorite New Hampshire Restaurant: I don't dine enough in New Hampshire and that should change as there are a number of worthy spots throughout the state. This year, I was most impressed with Lobster Q, located in Hampstead, which offers seafood and barbecue. Their clam chowder was superb, the fried clams quite a delight and the ribs were compelling. Much of their food is made from scratch, including their barbecue sauces, and the quality elevates this place above many similar places. So if you are in southern New Hampshire, why not make a stop here for lunch or dinner.

Favorite Newport Restaurant: You probably would not expect to find creative Mexican cuisine in Newport, Rhode Island but it exists and it is excellent. Perro Salado, Spanish for "salty dog," does not offer traditional Mexican cuisine but rather Mexican-inspired dishes, and they are making some amazing food from their Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad to the mouth watering Sticky Pork Ribs. They have plenty of different tequilas, including an extensive list of cocktails such as margaritas.

Favorite Syracuse Restaurant: When seeking restaurant recommendations for Syracuse, New York, nearly everyone mentioned Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. They were largely correct and I will add my recommendation as well. Forget the wine list, this is a place for beer, hard cider and cocktails. For food, go for items like the Catfish Strips, Cornbread and BBQ Pork Ribs. A casual place, service is very good and the prices are reasonable.

Favorite New York City Bakery: NYC has so many excellent bakeries and restaurants, but I do have to give kudos to some of my newest finds. Momofuku Milk Bar, part of David Changs's culinary empire, is innovative and creative, with plenty of absolutely tasty baked goods, both sweet and savory. From Cornflake cookies to Cornbread with cortija cheese & jalapenos, their products really impressed. Please check them out!

Favorite New York City Lunch: David Chang deserves much praise, and the Momofuku Ssäm Bar, located across the street from the Milk Bar, is the place to go for lunch. You must have their Rotisserie Duck, which offers simply one of the best pieces of duck I have ever had, tender, moist and flavorful. This duck has remained locked in my memory and on my next trip to NYC, I will definitely return here. Their Steamed Pork Buns impressed as well, and I don't think any of the dishes will disappoint. Rush to eat here!  

Favorite Charlottesville Restaurants: While at the Wine Blogger's Conference, I found time to explore a number of restaurants in Charlottesville, Virginia, and I lucked out, finding several worthy places. I compiled a single post, describing the good places that I found, from excellent country fried steak at The Nook to delicious sushi at Ten.

Favorite Portland, Oregon Restaurant: This is a tie between two restaurants, Pok Pok and Ping, owned by the same chef, Andy Ricker. From the addictive Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings to the mighty Kha Muu Thawt, Chef Ricker is creating some superb Asian cuisine. The restaurants are casual spots, a great place to hang out with friends, drink and enjoy tasty food. I will be sure to return there when I go back to Portland next summer.

Favorite Underappreciated Restaurant: For the second year, the winner is T.W. Food in Cambridge. Though its location is off the beaten path, it is well worth the effort to dine here. It is an intimate spot with superb food and wine, killer special events and very reasonably priced for the quality you will find. Make a resolution to dine here in 2012.

Favorite Brunch, Traditional Fare: For a second year, the winner is AKA Bistro in Lincoln.

Brunch, Traditional Fare-Honorable Mention: For a second year, my choice is Tupelo in Inman Square.

Favorite Brunch, Non-Traditional Fare: For the third year in a row, the winner is Myers & Chang in the South End.

Favorite Donuts: For a second year, the winner is Donut City in Lynn.

Favorite Japanese Restaurant: For a second year, the winner is Oishii in the South End.

Favorite Chinatown Restaurant: For a second year, the winner is Gourmet Dumpling House.

Favorite Asian Buffet: For a third year, the winner is Taipei Tokyo Cafe in Woburn.

Favorite North End Restaurant, High End: For a second year, the winnner is Prezzadue to dinners like  this one, with Rabbit Parmigiano.

Favorite North End Restaurant, Moderate: For a second year, the winner is Nebo.

Favorite North End Restaurant, Fusion: For a second year, the winner is Taranta.

Favorite Italian Restaurant Outside the North End: For a second year, the winner is Coppa.

Favorite Italian Restaurant, Somerville: For a second year, the winner is Pizzeria Posto.

Favorite Suburban Steak House: For a second year, the winner is Beacon Grille in Woburn. 

Favorite Fried Seafood: For the second year, the winner is the Clam Box in Ipswich.

What were some of your favorite restaurants this year?


Jason Phelps said...

Glad the Nook made a showing. We had some laughs over good breakfast at that place!

I don't eat out enough to even consider this a list I could conquer in several upcoming years of my life.


Daisy said...

great list. Bergamot and Prezza are definitely high on mine!!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Don't you feel guilty concentrating so much on food. After all it's only food. Some people don't get enough and some people actually die of starvation. You're making too much of something that is unimportant.

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Danny Riddell said...

You clearly have a passion for food! You’ve obviously gone to a lot of restaurants by having this long list of them. And restaurants that have been included in this list should be more than happy about it. It indicates that they have served well and made their customers glad especially with their food, which is a goal of many restaurants.

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