100 best things we ate and drank in 2008 (in no particular order)
The trends started popping up as soon as we began compiling the list: pork, classic cocktails, runny yolks, more pork. If there’s one thing this year’s 100 Best Things We Ate (and Drank) proves, it’s that great food is made by a community of chefs and producers who can’t help but be inspired by each other. So for the first time since we started creating this list in 2005, we divided the year’s greatest dishes into their respective trends. Think of it as a yearbook of what you ate and drank in 2008—or, if you don’t recognize a lot of this food, a handbook for what you should have.
1 Beef salad at Pho 777
The only reason people wait in line to get into Tank Noodle is they haven’t tasted the equally amazing food (like this tart and spicy salad) and experienced the joy of instant seating here. —DT
WINGING IT, KOREAN-STYLE
You may not know what dak kang jung is, but chances are, you’ve eaten it in the last year. The sweet-and-spicy, sticky, messy, infinitely delicious chicken wings swept the city in 2008, popping up to much buzz under the name “Seoul Sassy” at 2 Crisp, a tiny spot two young Korean-Americans opened in Lakeview to re-create a grandmother’s signature wings. Also keeping it in the family, Karen Lim, armed with her Chinese-immigrant father’s recipe, opened 3 Take Me Out, bringing the same sesame soy–glazed bits of bird to Pilsen that have kept her dad’s Great Sea restaurant on Lawrence Avenue afloat for 20 years. Equally tasty wings are Henry Chang’s secret to luring Lakeview happy hour–goers to his dark and mysterious tchotchke-packed bar 4 Wang’s. It might be the adjacent sibling of the Japanese Wakamono, but Wang’s “wangs” are most definitely Korean-style, bathed in a glaze that’s equal parts sweet and savory with just a bit of chile kick. And finally, the Korea-based chain 5 Toreore hit the Chicago area this year, opening its counter-service kiosk in Niles’s Super H Mart, where hungry shoppers take down dozens of “sweet-spicy” wings. —HS
A CLASS ALL ITS OWN
Looking back on our meals at 6 L2O, there wasn’t a single dish that stood out—there were 20. And though we tried to suss out the best of these dishes, it soon became clear this was a pointless project. What made the dishes so good was what came before and after them, and the downright awe we experienced when we realized each one was as good or better than the one before it. So when we tell you what we really loved were the breads, from the soft pain au lait to the anchovy-stuffed croissants; the shimaaji, a rich cut of smoked fish paired with soy salt and salty miso; and the perfectly ethereal macaroons, are we telling the truth? Not really. There’s a lot more. But this, at least, is a start. —DT