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Article updated: 12/28/2012 6:49 AM

Small plates, big flavors land restaurants on best of 2012 list

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Small plates of Mexican-inspired cuisine make a big impression at A Toda Madre in Geneva.

Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

Shrimp tempura and avocado topped with eel sauce from @Bangkok Thai and Sushi is in owner Sam Phounsavant's words "simple but good!"

Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

The Haru Rolls at Bistro Dragon in Elk Grove Village feature tuna, salmon, yellowtail and king crab, with avocado, asparagus and mango, wrapped with cucumber.

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Three-finger cavatelli with pulled Amish chicken in a savory pesto broth and pine nuts is just one reason why Saranello's in Wheeling landed on the Best of 2012 list.

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

The gauchos at Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse in Downers Grove show off their signature skewered meats.

SCOTT SANDERS | Staff Photographer

You don't have to wait for Mardi Gras to enjoy the gumbo from the French Quarter restaurant in Lombard.

Mark Black | Staff Photographer

The fresh-caught scallops at Middleton's On Main prove this new Wauconda eatery serves up more than your average bar food.

Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

The Mexibano sandwich features spicy pulled pork with bacon and Chihuahua cheese and is one of the many well-crafted dishes available at Park Tavern in Rosemont.

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

The Bank Restaurant in downtown Wheaton offers modern American cuisine and hearty portions, like this 20-ounce bone-in rib-eye steak.

Daniel White | Staff Photographer

Italian-inspired small plates, like this burratta cheese with giardiniera, jalapeños and ciabatta, please diners at Near Restaurant in Barrington.

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

About this Article

Small is the new big, as in small plates and small spaces. Bigger is also the new big, as in bigger steaks and bigger selections. During 2012, Daily Herald restaurant critics fanned out across the suburbs exploring neighborhood tapas bars and family-run falafel houses, hip gastro pubs and swank steak houses. Here are the 10 spots we found served up the best meals and the best experiences over the past year.
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    • Small plates of Mexican-inspired cuisine make a big impression at A Toda Madre in Geneva.
    • Shrimp tempura and avocado topped with eel sauce from @Bangkok Thai and Sushi is in owner Sam Phounsavant’s words “simple but good!”
    • The Haru Rolls at Bistro Dragon in Elk Grove Village feature tuna, salmon, yellowtail and king crab, with avocado, asparagus and mango, wrapped with cucumber.
    • Three-finger cavatelli with pulled Amish chicken in a savory pesto broth and pine nuts is just one reason why Saranello’s in Wheeling landed on the Best of 2012 list.
    • The gauchos at Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse in Downers Grove show off their signature skewered meats.
    • You don’t have to wait for Mardi Gras to enjoy the gumbo from the French Quarter restaurant in Lombard.
    • The fresh-caught scallops at Middleton’s On Main prove this new Wauconda eatery serves up more than your average bar food.
    • The Mexibano sandwich features spicy pulled pork with bacon and Chihuahua cheese and is one of the many well-crafted dishes available at Park Tavern in Rosemont.
    • The Bank Restaurant in downtown Wheaton offers modern American cuisine and hearty portions, like this 20-ounce bone-in rib-eye steak.
    • Italian-inspired small plates, like this burratta cheese with giardiniera, jalapeños and ciabatta, please diners at Near Restaurant in Barrington.
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