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RB staff’s favorite dishes of the year

The staff of Restaurant Business spends an inordinate amount of time in restaurants, not only in pursuit of stories but as what the industry calls super-heavy users—consumers who use restaurants as their kitchen and entertainment space. In our case, it’s with the zeal and obsession that sports fanatics show for their favored game. Some might say we’re every bit as critical and opinionated.

Here are the dishes, selected across all segments, cuisines and price points, that were chosen by RB’s in-house foodservice professionals as the best they’ve eaten all year. While many are concentrated in the Midwest (where the magazine is based), we culled our picks from the dishes we sampled while on assignment, while visiting conference cities, on restaurant tours and on our own personal travels.

Editor Kelly Killian’s picks

Crab-and-shrimp-topped grilled salmon over corn with bacon at Pappadeaux (multiple locations)
“It’s the best of everything on a plate—in lots of butter. It’s decadent but that’s part of its appeal.”

Lobster deviled eggs at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse (Dallas)
“Another Pappas concept. Half of the fun of this interactive dish is scooping the egg filling (served in a jar piled high with honey-pepper bacon) into the egg-white halves heaping with hunks of steamed lobster.”

Fish tacos at Coconuts Fish Café (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
“These tacos were a great bargain at $11.95 for a pair of tacos so huge they had to be delivered on two separate plates. The fresh mango salsa and coleslaw were standouts among the dish’s 17 ingredients. I brought my coworkers back with me the next day to give them a try.”

Thai-chicken Curry Bowl at Wow Bao (multiple locations in the Chicago area)
“I love the texture. It’s chain food I feel good about eating.”

Senior editor Patricia Cobe’s picks

Fried chicken at Honey Butter Fried Chicken (Chicago)
“The fried chicken is perfectly cooked, crispy and juicy. It’s served family-style with a giant scoop of sweet whipped butter that serves as a dip. The butter gilds the lily, but it’s worth every bite.”

Farmstead Pear Cake at CBD Provisions (Dallas)
The crisp meringue, billowy cream and tender Anjou pears provided a pleasing textural contrast. And butterscotch in any desert makes it a must-have for me.”

Harvest Pumpkin Soup at Au Bon Pain (multiple locations)
“The perfect balance of decadence and healthfulness with its creamy texture and vitamin-rich pumpkin. It’s winter comfort food at its best.”

Senior Associate Editor Sara Rush’s picks

Brown Butter Vinaigrette Lobster Roll at Eventide Oyster Co. (Portland, Maine)
“It’s a two-bite, Asian-bun format, and the brown butter is toasty and so delicate, which balances perfectly with the rich lobster without being heavy like a traditional mayo-based lobster salad. It’s a little sweet, a little savory, a little rich and a lot delicious.”

Ahi-tuna tacos at Cooper’s Hawk (multiple locations)
It’s a cool, refreshing bite. The tuna is always well seared, and it’s perfectly paired with avocado, a sauce with a little heat and a slaw for the right amount of creamy and crunch.

Benedict Flight on Chicago Q’s brunch menu (Chicago)
For those who can never decide what to order, it’s the perfect option. You get three different bases, three different barbecued meats and three different sauces, all of which bring some Southern deliciousness to the Midwest.

Digital content director Peter Romeo

Pulled chicken at Piggyback Tavern (Forest Park, Ill.)
A full pound of barbecued chicken meat—albeit for $12.95. It’s juicy, flavorful and plentiful enough to make me consider rolling around in it for awhile before finishing the meal.”

Chicago-style hot dog with everything at Gene & Jude’s (River Grove, Ill.)
“A perfect dog served with Chicago’s peculiar standard lineup (are sports peppers used for anything else?) in precisely the right amounts and combinations, all topped with french fries. I’m weeping.”

Advice Guy’s picks

Hot Chicken, The Fat Ham (Philadelphia)
[A Southern speciality the local press calls the best fried chicken in Philly; it’s served on white bread with ranch dressing and dill pickles.]

Art director Sara Stewart

Mana Slider at Mana Food Bar (Chicago)
“I’m a sucker for vegetarian fare that’s both adorable and packs a punch.”

Publisher Nick Hayman

Pave de Saumon Grille at Et Voila (Washington, D.C.)
“A simple dish (grilled salmon, lentils du Puy and Dijon-mustard sauce) with great flavors.”

Sales director (Midwest) Mark Cullum

Friday Fish Fry at Dale & Candi’s Cedar Lodge Restaurant (Malone, Wis.)

CEO of CSP Business Media Mike Wood’s picks

Braised beef rib at Blue Duck Tavern (Washington, D.C.)
[Standout hotel fare at the Park Hyatt Washington; it’s served with potato puree and Brussels sprouts and housemade steak sauce]

Bacon cheeseburger and fries with a chocolate shake at Ray’s Hell-Burger (Arlington, Va.)
[A local favorite, even with President Obama, the restaurant has changed locations recently but the area’s faithful appear to followed in lockstep]

Creative Director Bruce Ramsay’s picks

Branzino at Il Pesce in Eataly Chicago

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