My Five Favorite Restaurant Dishes of 2012

Even though it’s almost the end of January, I still think that it’s the right time to post about the 5 best restaurant dishes I enjoyed in 2012. The competition last year was stiff – I had some excellent travels, a lot of fun right in good ole NYC, and enough delicious dishes to…well…devote a blog to them!

However, after a serious, bracket–style head to head competition, the best 5 dishes of 2012 are here for you to contemplate, to remember, and to hopefully try for yourself in 2013.

Original DB Burger – Sirloin Burger Filled with Braised Short Ribs, Foie Gras, and Black Truffle, served on a Parmesan Bun with  Pommes Soufflées

The best burger of my life, no question. To quote myself: “The first thing I said when I tasted this was “I felt like I have never eaten beef before.” This was SO beefy, with its double hit of medium rare ground sirloin, rosy and robust in taste with the tender short ribs. The short ribs were not stringy or gamy, but cooked until the flavor was mellow and deep against the vibrant ground beef. The bun was soft and squishy, but did not deteriorate from the copious meaty juices. The taste of truffle was delicate but ever-present, savory and heady next to the sweet Madeira in the short ribs. The piece de resistance was, of course, the sizable disc of foie gras, melting and rich. It swam in my mouth, almost dancing, the sweet, buttery component of the dish.” The whole dining experience was top notch, but the burger was undeniably the star of the meal and my burger-riffic year.

Dixie with Homemade Meat Chili and Homemade Cole Slaw

Absolutely the best hot dog I have tried in New England, and one of the best hot dogs I have ever had in my life. It’s so good that it’s worth a trip to Connecticut from NYC just for this relaxed lunch. Quoting myself again: “This is the hot dog to end all hot dogs. The pork and beef frank is succulent as ever, but it is crowned by the chili of my dreams. The chili sauce is thin with a bit of heat, the sweetness of caramelized onions, and enough salt to make the chili taste truly beefy, like a char-grilled hamburger. The cabbage coleslaw is dressed in a thick mayonnaise sauce… I could have eaten a thousand of these.”

Banana Royale

Bananas, coffee chip ice cream, maple walnut ice cream, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, walnuts, sprinkles

I could quote myself again here, but I won’t. I will just say that a trip to Eddie’s is a tasty trip back in time to an era when ice cream parlors were the equivalent of modern day cocktail bars, with homemade whipped cream, rich ice cream, and a plethora of delicious toppings. The sweet treats here are simple, nostalgic, and every bit as tasty as you remember them to be from the days when you ran after the ice cream man waving your allowance money. The price is right, the service is congenial, and the experience is one that will send your inner diabetic self into a deliriously happy sugar shock.

Squash Carmelle with Mostarda 

Though this meal was 11 months ago, I still remember ever minute of it. The incredibly attentive, friendly service. The complimentary glass of prosecco and the perfectly brewed demitasse of cappuccino. The food that was so varied, so perfectly crafted, so tasty that I still think about it. But there was one dish in the multi-course meal that stood out from all the others. Now, as you could guess, I will quote myself again: “This pasta is the one that still has me waking up in the night, reaching for it. Tender morsels of pasta surround pureed squash so sweet that it’s almost like pie filling. The mostarda sauce is piquant and tart, playing against the sugary aspects of the filling. A touch of fried sage on top adds some crunch, and the whole dish is so playful, so interesting, and so wildly delicious that it is – literally – the stuff of my dreams.” It was then and it still is.

Hand Ground Beef Tartare with Pommes Frites, Three Minute Egg, Salted Fresno Peppers, and Condiments

Wow, Cleveland, did you surprise me. I came expecting a Midwestern town full of diners and chain restaurants and I was really smacked upside the head and put in my place. Cleveland has some truly wonderful restaurants and food experiences, none better than Greenhouse Tavern. This was one of my best meals of the year, and the steak tartare was…well, I’ll let myself speak for myself:  “The best steak tartare I have had in America. The reason was the beef – hand cut, so there was still some texture and pleasant chew…The three minute egg, spicy peppers, chopped onion, and tangy mustard completed the dish. I can only say that if you like steak tartare, you must get this dish. If you don’t like it, get this dish. Just get this freakin dish.”

In fact, get all of these freakin dishes, and get them soon. Because, before you know it, I will be naming off my five favorite restaurant dishes of 2013 and then you are going to have a whole new slew of dishes that you want to try.