Slideshow: Nick's 8 Best Bites in Chicago From 2011

Glazed Chestnut Doughnut from The Doughnut Vault
Glazed Chestnut Doughnut from The Doughnut Vault
Ah, come on. Of course I had to include the ridiculously light and and airy specimens from this hyped doughnut shop. While all the offerings from this absurdly small shop were up for the top spot, the chestnut glazed yeast-style doughnuts were simply the one that I ate the fastest. That should count for something.

Doughnut Vault‎, 400 North Franklin Street, Chicago, Illinois 60654 (map); thedoughnutvault.tumblr.com

Caneton Rouennais à la Presse Duck from Next
Caneton Rouennais à la Presse Duck from Next
This show-stopping duck course from Next's opening Paris 1906 menu is no more. Since Next changes its menu every three months, you'll now experience Childhood and a deconstructed burger. That's probably a good thing. This restaurant is all about moving forward. Still, that doesn't mean I have to stop thinking about the absurdly rich sauce, made by crushing the duck's carcass in a press, and the perfectly cooked breast meat. Hey, at least I can try to recreate it at home.

Next‎, 953 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 (map); 312-226-0858; nextrestaurant.com‎

Tripe Tacos from La Chaparrita Taqueria #1
Tripe Tacos from La Chaparrita Taqueria #1
I wasn't looking for a way to get more tripe in my life, and I'm not one of those people who gravitates towards the innards because I want to prove something. No, the reason to get the tripe here is to experience crispy little shards of meat that are still perfectly tender. Other fillings wish they could achieve both so easily.

La Chaparrita Taqueria #1, 2500 S Whipple, Chicago, IL 60623 (map); 773-254-0975

Pizzettes from Floriole Cafe & Bakery
Pizzettes from Floriole Cafe & Bakery
If Great Lake taught me anything, it's that seriously made bread can make an excellent pizza crust. So it makes sense that one of the best bakeries in town, Floriole Cafe & Bakery, would kick out a startlingly good little pizza. Featuring great hole structure, the crust is crispy without being crunchy. Floriole also showcase a baker's restraint with toppings, adding just enough cheese and sauce to make sure each bite has what it needs.

Floriole Cafe & Bakery‎, 1220 West Webster Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614 (map); 773-883-1313; floriole.com‎

Pasta Pappardelle Lamb Ragu ($21) from Nostrano
Pasta Pappardelle Lamb Ragu ($21) from Nostrano
Okay, this is kind of a cheating, but hear me out. Sure, Nostrano is located in Madison, WI, but it's owned and operated by two former Chicago chefs (Elizabeth and Tim Dahl). And to be honest, I'm having a hard time thinking of a better pasta dish I had than this one.

Nostrano‎, 111 S Hamilton St, Madison, Wisconsin 53703 (map); 608-395-3295; nostranomadison.com‎

La Colombe's Haiti Blue Forest Blend
La Colombe's Haiti Blue Forest Blend
I've been addicted to coffee since age 18, but I've never been especially loyal to a specific blend or brand. Then I tasted La Colombe's Haiti Blue Forest blend, freaked out, and refused to drink any other coffee for three months. Smooth, with little to no bitterness, it was my go-to cup for most of the year.

La Colombe Torrefaction‎, 955 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (map); 312-733-0707; lacolombe.com‎