Bloggers' Choice Part 3 | Eat Out Awards 2012
A final welcome to our bloggy friends—Mike Gebert of Grub Street Chicago, Nick Kindelsperger of Serious Eats Chicago, Audarshia Townsend of 312 Dining Diva, Ari Bendersky of Eater Chicago and Anthony Todd of Chicagoist—who were kind enough to share with us (and you!) their picks for the 2012 Eat Out Awards. (For more, check out Monday's and Wednesday's posts.) Check out their picks for the five heaviest-hitting categories below, and don't forget, if you vote today before 4pm, you're entered into a drawing to win tickets to a preview of Nellcôte.
BEST NEW RESTAURANT
The nominees are: Goosefoot, GT Fish & Oyster, Next, Slurping Turtle, Yusho
Gebert: Best New Restaurant would not have been Next after Childhood, as entertaining as that was. After what I've tried of El Bulli, it is.
Kindelsperger: This is kind of ridiculous, because Next changes so often that it's basically always a new restaurant. Plus, it's easy to get very excited about certain menus and then shrug your shoulders at others. I suppose that is kind of the point. Anyway, all of the options in this category are worthy of the top spot, but the one that I'm most excited to have in Chicago is Next.
Townsend: GT Fish & Oyster
Bendersky: The obvious answer would be Next, and it may be my first choice simply based on the fact the restaurant changes concepts every quarter and every menu is so well executed and precise. But GT Fish & Oyster could get the vote simply for the reason that anyone and everyone can go there, and getting a reservation isn't impossible. The food at GT is superb and the staff couldn't be more on top of their game.
The consensus: Some rousing endorsement of GT Fish, but the majority votes for Next.
BEST NEW BAR
The nominees are: The Aviary, The Barrelhouse Flat, DiSotto Enoteca, Elixir, Telegraph
Gebert: Hmm, maybe I only go to old bars. No, I ate at the bar at Telegraph. So I guess that's it.
Kindelsperger: Since I live just around the corner, Telegraph literally is my favorite new bar.
Townsend: Barrelhouse Flat
Bendersky: I'm going with Barrelhouse Flat on this one: Stephen Cole had the balls and foresight to take "downtown" cocktails and bring them up to a neighborhood known for sports bars and keg parties. The space is elegant but approachable, the cocktails refined and well priced. And the food, while not a huge offering, complements the drinks perfectly. And have you seen that pool table upstairs?
Todd: All the press may be focused on the flashy, crowded and science-experiment-laden Aviary, which is exactly why I pick Telegraph. For me, a great bar is a place to relax, have a romantic conversation and get a feel for a new wine or two, and Telegraph has quickly become one Chicago's best places for all of those things.
The consensus: Some very strong contenders in this category, but the most love is for Telegraph.
BREAKOUT CHEF OF THE YEAR
The nominees are: Amanda Rockman (pastry chef, the Bristol), Bryce Caron (pastry chef, Blackbird), Dan Pancake & Beth Partridge (Autre Monde), Dave Beran (Next), Johnny Anderes (Telegraph)
Gebert: I've been sitting here meaning to get back to Telegraph, so...
Kindelsperger: Dave Beran. Talk about flexibility. Plus, he's not afraid to try radically different concepts, or laugh at himself during the process.
Townsend: Amanda Rockman
Bendersky: Johnny Anderes. After working at avec for five years, Anderes proved he's a force on his own.
Todd: Rockman is one of the few pastry chefs who understands the importance of the savory, as well as the sweet. That's why I order dessert at the Bristol but almost nowhere else—her desserts are complicated, interesting and won't give you a diabetic attack.
The consensus: All across the board, but I'm calling it an Anderes/Rockman tie.
CHEAP EATERY OF THE YEAR
The nominees are: Bodega N. 5, bopNgrill, Cai, Lao Hunan, Pleasant House Bakery
Gebert: OMG, a category where I have a real choice! Lao Hunan or Pleasant House? Yes and yes.
Kindelsperger: Lao Hunan came out of nowhere. As great as many of Tony Hu's new restaurants have been, none had quite felt as special as his first, Lao Sze Chuan. But this one came out of the gates swinging. Plus, the service is always incredibly friendly.
Todd: Pleasant House Bakery
The consensus: That's 1.5 votes each for Pleasant House Bakery and Lao Hunan...
BEST NEW BYOB
The nominees are: Al Dente, EL, Goosefoot, Lao Hunan, Prix Fixe
Gebert: Okay, now I can give Lao Hunan a prize and so I can go back and change the other to Pleasant House.
Kindelsperger: EL. Sure, you can save a lot of money on the dinner by bringing in your own bottles, but the service of the wine is also taken seriously.
Bendersky: If EL was closer (like in my 'hood) I could see myself going there all the time.
Todd: EL is truly the standout of 2011 for me—I'd vote for it for Best New Restaurant if it were on the list. It's not just a new menu; it's an entirely new kind of dining experience (for Chicago at least). Even better, EL handles its BYOB status with aplomb—the staff pairs whatever you bring with courses, suggests when to change from sparkling to white to red, and charges no extra fees for the service.
The consensus: The bloggers love EL! (Sorry, Mike G.)