I had a smashing good time eating at all different types of dining establishments this year. I found many cool places over the past twelve months, but I also revisited some old favorites of mine. For me, the best meals aren’t always just about the food–they’re about the company, the atmosphere, and sometimes other things like witty remarks from the staff at a restaurant. Let’s cut to the chase: here are my top meals of this year, in no particular order, and what made them so damn fantastic.
The Dbl Dbl at The Acre
I have to start my list with my favorite item from The Acre because I have eaten their Dbl Dbl Mushroom Sammy probably a dozen times this year. Honestly, that’s probably a modest estimate given that you can catch me at this restaurant almost once a week. It’s really a shame that I don’t have more photos of the Dbl Dbl, but it’s one of those things that I never want to wait to eat.
I could go on and on about why I love The Acre so much (and I’ll probably write more about it later), and one of the reasons is that the Dbl Dbl is hands down the best vegetarian sandwich/burger/handheld meal that I’ve ever had. The sandwich comes with two mushroom sausage patties, poblano jam, slaw, and a bonus smoked mushroom or two between the layers of ingredients as well. The texture is great, the flavors are balanced, the crunchy potatoes on the side are winners. It’s so good that I dream about it sometimes, not to mention it blows In-n-Out’s double double out of the water.
Prix Fixe at Rooster & Owl
Interestingly enough, there was no chicken or owl on the menu during my visit to Rooster and Owl, but both birds can be seen in various parts of the restaurant’s decor. The cuisine here is described as “Modern American” and so the flavors of the dishes are creative and pull from a lot of different influences. Two things made the dinner I had awesome: the $75 prix fixe and the fantastic service.
$75 can feel like a lot to pay for four plates per person, however you get a great bang for your buck at R&O. You’ll leave pretty full, and everything is made perfectly and I do really mean it–I’ve never had such tender octopus before. My partner and I both loved the server who was helping us throughout our meal; he offered a lovely wine suggestion and it almost felt as if we were dining with him because he explained each plate and told us his personal favorite parts of each dish.
Roast Pork Bun at Mei Lai Wah
If you live in New York (or even if you’ve visited before) you’ve probably seen Mei Lai Wah’s hottest item: their roast pork bun. Literally—it comes out piping hot, with the roast pork almost melting and the bread incredibly soft and slightly sweet. I’ve had many and they’re always delicious. I ate not one, but two on a chilly day while sitting on a park bench as pigeons swarmed around me waiting for crumbs to drop. What else can I say? It was perfect. (For the record, I had one roast pork bun and one pineapple roast pork bun, and I personally prefer the former.)
Dong Chi Mi Gook Soo at Corner Place Restaurant
You know how when you walk into an old restaurant, especially one that hasn’t been renovated, you can feel all of the years that have passed by in that place? That was my experience at Corner Place Restaurant. The restaurant has been around since 1982 and supposedly the menu has changed very little, but in my opinion the food isn’t dated at all. The KBBQ here is quite good, however I found the Dong Chi Mi Gook Soo, a cold noodle soup, exceptional and likely the reason Corner Place is still bustling on a weeknight after nearly 40 years in the business. My dinner here was not only delicious, it was also an exciting experience to see a bit of local history through food.
Dinner at Dill
Dill offers a constantly changing tasting menu, so when I went for dinner I didn’t know what to expect. There were so many pieces to this meal that made it really memorable, such as a wine from the beverage pairing being from the winery from a former employee and getting to try goose for the first time. Each course was interesting and much of the food was new and exciting to me. What I really loved about Dill was their use of local Icelandic ingredients. This may have been my favorite meal of the year, and I’ll include more details in a future post!
Lunch Set at Her Name is Han
Her Name is Han is my favorite Korean restaurant in New York and in my personal opinion, their lunch set is one of the best things they offer. I get to eat lunch here maybe once a year. In college it was usually after a morning of final exams, though in recent years, it’s usually been on a random day off. I loved the last time I went too—the cooking here reminds me just enough of home, and I get to eat half a dozen types of banchan that I would never bother to make myself. But to be completely honest, I think the fact that the lunch set comes on a tray using cute dishware is a highlight for me and genuinely makes me feel a little special.
BBQ from Bad For Business
What’s not to love about Bad For Business? While I haven’t had a full meal from Bad For Business, I’ve had the BBQ here and there during pop-ups. Francis Maling is a damn good chef, and beyond the food being straight up delicious, being able to chat and watch the food cooking makes it a great experience.
Checking out BFB’s pop-ups were also some of the high points of my summer. What makes those times even more memorable for me is that there was pandemic-developed BBQing combined with an inkling of “normalcy” (whatever that means in this day and age) during the summer of vaccines and going out. I’m really glad to have found Francis and Bad For Business through the power of social media and would encourage everyone in NYC to follow them on Instagram to see when you can catch the next pop-up.
Dinner at Jeong
Jeong is a restaurant that I’ve wanted to go to since it opened in 2019. I wanted to see what a Korean-inspired tasting menu would be like, so while visiting Chicago for the holidays, I booked a dinner for my partner and I. When you walk into the restaurant, you can see that it is small and intimate, and the design elements are borrowed from Hanok.
The dinner was amazing; every dish was well-balanced and the proteins were especially delicious. Some standout dishes were the salmon—which I really loved despite typically not enjoying raw fish—and the duck course, which my partner described as “the best duck ever.” Overall, I loved seeing Korean flavors and ingredients in a fine dining setting, and the dinner left me wondering more about other establishments serving Korean-inspired tasting menus.
I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to have eaten at these wonderful places this year. Here’s to more in 2022!