Boy, my Atkins diet has not been going well. Yes sir, I've been hitting the carbs pretty hard this past year in search of Chicago's best noodles. And looking back on 12 months' worth of Knockout Noodles columns, I feel confident when I say this is an exciting time to be a noodle lover in this town.
If any significant trend has emerged over the past year, it's that more restaurants have made the decision to bring noodle-making under their own roofs. I couldn't endorse this practice more; in most cases restaurants producing their fresh pasta, ramen noodles, or what have you in-house trumps in quality and personality anything they could get commercially. The most ambitious housemade noodle program to appear this year is certainly at Nellcôte, where chef Jared Van Camp and company are milling their own grains at the restaurant in order to supply fresh and carefully prepared flours for the breads, pastas, and pizzas.
In another welcome turn, ramen seems to be gaining a greater and greater foothold in Chicago. I'm looking forward to trying in 2013 Yusho's Sunday noodle offerings and the ramen-house newcomer Oiistar. I was very impressed by a trio of ramen dishes I had Recently at The Aviary, of all places; it's a shame they're likely to disappear come New Year's Day.
Italian food seemed to come on strong this year, as well. I slurped up lots of intensely satisfying pasta dishes at new and veteran restaurants alike (eight of our favorites are rounded up here).
So without further ado, here are 10 of my favorite noodle dishes from 2012, in the order in which they were consumed.
- Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Calabrian chiles from Nellcôte
- Udon Noodles and Asian Bolognese from Urban Belly
- Housemade Bratwurst and Orecchiette from Telegraph Wine Bar
- Spaghetti Carbonara from Riccardo Trattoria
- Hiyashi Ramen from Ai Japanese Restaurant & Lounge
- Monday Lasagna from Club Lago
- Chicken Rice Noodle Salad from Bon Bon Vietnamese Sandwiches
- Pork Belly Vermicelli from Xoco
- Housemade Tortelli at Piccolo Sogno Due
- Ramen from The Aviary