Tacos at Carnicerias Guanajuato
Wow. After my first roundup for Serious Eats, I thought I'd never want to eat a taco ever again. But damn, were these tacos from Carnicerias Guanajuato good. I've been back many times now, and I still can't pick my favorite between the carne asada, the carnitas, or the lomo encebollado (grilled ribeye and onions).
Fried Chicken at Mini Hut
When I first entered Mini Hut, I honestly thought I'd come to the wrong place. But once I bit into this fried chicken, I was pretty sure I had found heaven. Many poor chickens gave up their lives for my fried chicken roundup, but this salty, savory, juicy, oily, and perfectly crusted chicken was my absolute favorite among all 14 places. It really does feel like Chicago's best kept secret.
Cubano at Cafecito
A confession: This might have been my first standard Cuban sandwich ever (I know, I know), but Cafecito set the bar insanely high with this one. It's just roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and yellow mustard, pressed and toasted till crisp. But in this case, simplicity is perfection. I want another one. Right now. No, seriously. Not joking. Can anybody make this happen?
Taylor St. French Fries at Edzo's
While French fries might be ubiquitous, good French fries can be pretty hard to come by. At Edzo's in Evanston, I discovered these Taylor Street French fries—fries covered in Italian beef jus, sweet peppers, and hot giardiniera. These were delicious, addictive, and unforgettable. Yes, they break the cardinal rule that fries must be crispy, but there's always room for a curvebreaker.
Peking Duck at Sun Wah BBQ
For my last favorite bite of this year, I've picked the Peking Duck at Sun Wah BBQ. But more specifically, the steamed buns—packed with stuff-it-yourself crispy duck skin, pickled and fresh vegetables, and hoisin sauce. The duck is salty, sweet, crispy, Chinese five-spicy, and, well, ducky, and countered with the soft steamed bun, crisp vegetables, and hoisin sauce. Game over, man. Game over. If you've never had Peking duck and you live in Chicago, you better make this happen, or else I'm coming for you while you sleep. Unless you're a vegetarian, in which case you get a pass. Sort of.