Restaurant critics share their standouts from 2013
If the average Joe eats out 4.7 times a week (according to the gospel of Zagat), then you have to figure restaurant critics eat out even more than that.
From grabbing a chicken wrap from the drive-through (yes, we sometimes do that), to settling into a booth at a neighborhood pub, to putting on our finest for a romantic evening out, those of us who write the weekly dining reviews for Time out! have visited hundreds of restaurants over the past 52 weeks.
Here are those places that stand out most in our minds.
107 Main St., Roselle, (630) 283-0053, 8000milesrestaurant.com
This Chinese and Japanese gem features contemporary interpretations of Asian food and drink, served with an urban accent. Designed to encourage mixing and matching, dishes range from a big-eye tuna and avocado roll maki to Thai basil shrimp featuring flavorful wild-caught fresh shrimp in a tangy citrus and chili sauce to a variety of Chinese stir-fry entrees. The restaurant satisfies both cocktail lovers with libations such as a lemon ginger martini and children willing to try house-made kid noodle soup or kid teriyaki. -- Carolyn Walkup
e+o Food and Drink
125 Randhurst Village Drive, Mount Prospect, (847) 398-3636, eofoodanddrink.com
Ingredients from the earth and ocean get star treatment on the globally infused, seasonally driven menu of small-plates, pizzas, sushi and entrees. Cauliflower and kale transform into star-worthy sides and salads in chef Rodelio Aglibot's competent hands. And oh, what he can do with sea bass! e+o boasts the best patio in the 'burbs. I have nothing against snow, but I'm already longing for warm nights and the chance to lounge again with a Strawberry Sling in my hand. -- Deborah Pankey
77 N. York Road (at Gateway Square), Hinsdale, (630) 789-0505, huatingrestaurant.com
Sporting a River North vibe without the River North attitude or prices, Hua Ting provides some of the freshest and mouth-satisfying Chinese food in the suburbs. The highlight of this "hidden gem" has to be the pork entrees, especially the Mandarin Pork and the Twice-Cooked Pork -- both full of fresh flavors. Don't skip the soups -- the won ton was the freshest I've ever had (and I've been to Beijing). Hua Ting is a great spot for a date night, a family get-together or just a solo treat. -- Martin Cusack
Indulge Show Kitchen
Grand Victoria Casino, 250 S. Grove Ave., Elgin, (847) 468-7000, www.grandvictoriacasino.com
Finding foods you like is a sure bet at the Grand Victoria Casino's latest incarnation of its buffet. The lineup features a generous payout of choices, all made from scratch, including meats from an onboard butcher shop and fish delivered five days a week and fileted on site. Display cooking at various stations further emphasizes the food's freshness. Personal favorites included Brazilian fish stew made with mussels, scallops and shrimp and, from the carving station, house-made chicken sausages. -- C.W.
Jackson Avenue Pub
7W. Jackson Ave., Naperville, (630) 904-9400, jacksonavepub.com
It's a tight fit in this small downtown Naperville pub, yet the squeeze is worth it. Fresh local and regional craft beers are highlighted by selections from Solemn Oath, Two Brothers, Founder's, Wells, Firestone and New Belgium. Yet the ales are only part of the reason to visit Jackson Avenue Pub. Try one of 20 different burgers, including the Prime Burger, the Caesar or the Smokey. Don't pass on the innovative appetizers like Snake Bites, blue cheese-smothered fries or mac and cheese with bacon. On Friday and Saturday nights, get there early to grab one of the limited seats -- the place fills up fast with the bar-loving Napervillians. -- M.C.
1S130 Summit Ave., Oakbrook Terrace, (630) 620-7700, oparestaurant.com
Months since dining at Opa! Estiatorio I can still taste -- at least in my mind's eye -- the delicious Greek meal I consumed there. The phyllo-stuffed mini spinach pies with feta cheese, the unbelievably tender flame-grilled bite-size chunks of octopus and the smartly brandy-flambeed saganaki couldn't have been better. -- Thomas Witom
Parkers' Restaurant & Bar
1000 31st St., Downers Grove, (630) 960-5700, parkersamerican.com
Clubby, wood-paneled and just upscale enough to feel special, Parkers' Restaurant & Bar hosts a mean, half-price happy hour. In the dining room, though, you'll groove on the garlic- and parmesan-dusted calamari topped with lemon gremolata; the chewy, blistered crust pizzas turned from a wood-burning oven and the Stevens Point lager-battered New England cod sandwich. Finished with slaw and green goddess dressing on a pillowy roll, the sandwich arrives with a side of sweet-tangy house-pickled vegetables. It's one of the best things I've eaten all year. -- Jennifer Olvera
584 S. Busse Road, Mount Prospect, (847) 437-4590, misoya.net
Unpretentious Ramen Misoya bowled me over with its Nagoya-style mame miso ramen noodle dish. Served with slices of pork loin, breaded fried shrimp and a soft-boiled egg, this dish put a welcome new spin on Japanese comfort food. -- T.W.
1746 W. Golf Road, Mount Prospect, (847) 439-2424, retrobistro.com
It may have had something to do with the company (it was my anniversary after all), but the dinner prepared by chef Chris Barth at the restaurant he's run for 20-plus years with his wife, Lorraine, has lingered in my memory for months. Classic and contemporary French fare, like homemade pate and sausages and Alsatian tarts, comes perfectly executed at this vibrant, casual bistro. I've yet to be in for brunch ... that's on the 2014 to-do list. -- D.P.
Spice Restaurant and Lounge
6161 W. Grand Ave., Gurnee, (847) 336-6300, spiceloungegurnee.com
I have a huge sweet tooth, so my most memorable meal was at Spice, an American-Indian fusion spot in Gurnee's new Holiday Inn. Not only because of the taste-enhancing Buzz Button (a little flower bud is typically known as a Szechuan button that tastes citrusy and sour after you bite it) and the hilarious "oops" of putting Asian sauce on my Pop Rocks Fried Donuts, but also because of the fabulous customer service employed to fix the problem (and to get the delightful cinnamon caramel sauce). -- Jennifer Billock