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The 14 Best Meals of 2014

Best Meals of 2014 | Where Erin Goes

During my 2014 travels, I dined on tapas and sushi, pizza and fish tacos, burgers and breakfast sandwiches, cheesecake and crab cakes. I patronized trattorias and steakhouses, brewpubs and wine bars, burger joints and brunch spots, farm-to-table eateries and vegetarian restaurants. It was a very tasty year indeed, so read on to find out which of these delicious experiences topped my list of the 14 best meals I ate in 2014.

14. The Grille Midtown – Detroit

Crab cake slider at The Midtown Grille. (Photo by Erin Klema)

Crab cake slider at The Grille Midtown
(Photo by Erin Klema)

In March, I checked out this new Detroit restaurant. I love the sleek, modern design and the classic car grilles adorning the walls — fitting for a Motor City eatery. While the crab cake sliders pictured above were tasty, the highlight of this meal was the chef’s cheesecake.

13. Le Tub – Hollywood, Fla.

Thirteen-ounce sirloin cheeseburger at Le Tub in Hollywood, Fla. (Instagram via @erinklema)

Thirteen-ounce sirloin cheeseburger at Le Tub in Hollywood, Fla. (Instagram via @erinklema)

The 13-ounce sirloin burgers at Le Tub have received the GQ and Gayle King stamps of approval, and this May, they earned another from yours truly. It was a messy, juicy burger served on a disposable plate in a kitschy waterfront shack decorated with washed-up toilet seats, and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting the Fort Lauderdale area.

12. Raglan Road – Downtown Disney / Orlando, Fla.

Raglan Road is an Irish pub with an outdoor patio and bar, where you can listen to live music and enjoy a cold beer or hard cider. (Instagram via @erinklema)

Raglan Road is an Irish pub with an outdoor patio and bar, where you can listen to live music and enjoy a cold beer or hard cider.
(Instagram via @erinklema)

While visiting the Orlando theme parks in May, I dined on fish and chips and sipped a pear cider on the patio of this Irish pub at Downtown Disney. Sitting on the patio, I really enjoyed the live music and Irish dancers. Yet, the running theme of this blog post seems to be that dessert was the meal’s highlight. That bread pudding was AMAZING.

11. Shooters Waterfront – Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Veggie burger and Caesar salad at Shooters Waterfront in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Photo by Erin Klema)

Veggie burger and Caesar salad at Shooters Waterfront in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Photo by Erin Klema)

With an ideal location along the Intracoastal Waterway and chic, club-like outdoor seating, Shooters seemed like a place to see and be seen. Though the atmosphere is the real highlight, I was quite pleased with my dinner — from the flavorful appetizers to the delicious veggie burger — on the waterfront patio of this happenin’ Fort Lauderdale restaurant.

10. San Chez, A Tapas Bistro – Grand Rapids, Mich.

Tapas and sangria at San Chez, A Tapas Bistro, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Instagram via @erinklema)

Tapas and sangria at San Chez, A Tapas Bistro, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Instagram via @erinklema)

While I didn’t blog about this particular birthday lunch of Spanish tapas and red sangria mixed with Cava, I have blogged about San Chez in the past. The blue cheese fritters were on point. The spicy shrimp were nicely offset by the sweetness of the rice, and the salmon was both flavorful and well-cooked. I can’t wait for my birthday discount email to arrive this coming March. Who wants to join me for tapas and sangria in 2015?

9. The Farm House – Nashville

Salad topped with Champagne foam, mac & cheese and a local Nashville hefeweizen at the Farm House in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Erin Klema)

Salad topped with Champagne foam, mac & cheese and a local Nashville hefeweizen at the Farm House in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Erin Klema)

This salad is topped with a CHAMPAGNE FOAM, guys. Seriously. It was so fresh, flavorful and creative, and that’s what I’ve come to expect from farm-to-table restaurants like the Farm House, a fairly new addition to the budding culinary scene in Music City. Also, mac & cheese. I was in the South, so, of course, I indulged without regret. Great selection of drinks, too, and I opted for a local award-winning brew, Yazoo Brewing Company’s Hefeweizen.

8. Jaleo – Washington, D.C.

Red sangria at Jaleo in Washington, D.C.

Red sangria at Jaleo in Washington, D.C.

My first trip of the year took me back to Washington, D.C. And, I finally dined on Spanish tapas and sipped fruity sangria at chef José Andrés’ Jaleo. The creamy mushroom risotto was to-die-for appetizing.

7. The Kitchen Next Door – Boulder, Colo.

The beet burger at The Kitchen Next Door in Boulder, Colo. (Photo by Erin Klema)

The beet burger at The Kitchen Next Door in Boulder, Colo. (Photo by Erin Klema)

The community pub of The Kitchen chain that all started on Pearl Street — and has expanded to cities throughout Colorado and most recently to Chicago this fall — dishes up delicious food made from local ingredients. I’ve eaten my fair share of veggie burgers this year, but this was my first beet burger — such a moist (I know it’s an awful word, just deal) patty.

6. Grove – Grand Rapids, Mich.

Corn Bisque at Grove in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Photo by Erin Klema)

Corn Bisque at Grove in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Photo by Erin Klema)

Farm-to-table eateries are a pretty big deal in Grand Rapids, and Grove really lives up to all the things I hope to find at such an establishment. There were fabulous drink selections — like the robustly flavored sangria — and tasty vegetarian dishes made with fresh, local ingredients. The corn bisque was sweet and delectable — I felt like I was eating dessert for dinner!

5. North Peak Brewing Company – Traverse City, Mich.

The white cheddar ale topped with mustard pretzel croutons at North Peak Brewing Co. in Traverse City, Mich. (Photo by Erin Klema)

The white cheddar ale soup topped with mustard pretzel croutons at North Peak Brewing Co. in Traverse City, Mich. (Photo by Erin Klema)

Earlier this year I penned a post about 20 things to love about Michigan summers, and I really should have mentioned that breweries like North Peak are part of what makes a trip Up North so appetizing. The white cheddar ale soup here is topped with mustard pretzel croutons! It was delicious. I also ate a yummy black bean and portobello mushroom burger topped with provolone and avocado. In addition to brewing their own beer, North Peak also makes its own root beer, which was as smooth as a classic A&W.

4. Empire Burger – Breckenridge, Colo.

The Western Burger and hand-cut fries with mango chutney at Empire Burger in Breckenridge, Colo. (Photo by Erin Klema)

The Western Burger and hand-cut fries with mango chutney at Empire Burger in Breckenridge, Colo. (Photo by Erin Klema)

This Breckenridge burger joint really hit the spot. The Western Burger — topped with bacon, BBQ sauce, pickles and caramelized onions — was juicy and packed a lot of flavor. The a la carte fries come with your choice of dip, and from the 20 choices available, I selected a tangy mango chutney.

3. The Drunken Horse – New York City

Cheese cigars small plate at the Drunken Horse in New York City (Photo by Erin Klema)

Cheese cigars small plate at the Drunken Horse in New York City (Photo by Erin Klema)

Cheese cigars, hummus, zucchini pancakes, a cheese plate and wine had me falling in love with this little Turkish/Mediterranean wine bar in Chelsea while visiting my sister in July. Sitting by the fireplace was so cozy and romantic — perfect for keeping up my love affair with Manhattan.

2. Campiello Ristorante & Bar – Naples, Fla.

My dinner entree at Campiello Ristorante & Bar was the Maine Lobster Gnocchi in a truffle butter sauce. (Photo by Erin Klema.)

My dinner entree at Campiello Ristorante & Bar was the Maine Lobster Gnocchi in a truffle butter sauce.
(Photo by Erin Klema.)

Not only is this one of the best meals I’ve eaten in 2014, this Maine lobster gnocchi in truffle butter sauce is one of the best pasta dishes I’ve eaten in my 28 years. I’d consider vacationing in Naples again simply to dine at Campiello.

And, the best meal of 2014 was …

1. Trattoria Stella – Traverse City, Mich.

The heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella appetizer at Trattoria Stella in Traverse City, Mich. (Photo by Erin Klema)

The heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella appetizer at Trattoria Stella in Traverse City, Mich. (Photo by Erin Klema)

I don’t think I could rave enough about Trattoria Stella, but let me give it a go.

First of all, the restaurant is located in the cellar of an old insane asylum revamped as an indoor marketplace that houses eateries, galleries and boutique shops. The idea of where you are dining is delightfully creepy, yet it’s not really creepy at all because the food is so beyond delicious there hasn’t been a word invented for it yet.

The wine list is extensive, and our waiter was very professional about recommending vino to match our meals and preferences. My dad and I both love fresh tomatoes, so the starter of fresh heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella in a light pesto sauce really suited our taste buds. A special that August day was filet mignon topped with crispy shiitake mushrooms. So, so, so wonderful. Then we ended our fabulous meal on a sweet note with a lemon-basil cake with blueberries just poured on top. Just writing about this meal has me salivating.

Honorable Mention: Watercourse Foods – Denver

Tasty street tacos at all-vegetarian eatery Watercourse Foods in Denver (Photo by Erin Klema)

Tasty street tacos at all-vegetarian eatery Watercourse Foods in Denver (Photo by Erin Klema)

There you have it. So many delicious dishes consumed in 2014. I can’t wait to eat my way through 2015!

What was your favorite restaurant meal of 2014? Tell me about it in a comment below!

Happy New Year,

Erin

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Favorite fast and casual meal – frita batidos, Ann Arbor

    Favorite fine dining – tie between Work & Class and Acorn, denver

    Restaurant most looking to visit in 2015 – Gun show, Atlanta

    December 31, 2014
    • Your favorite fine dining selections are making me think Denver Part II should be in the cards. Perhaps for my 2015 travels. Let me know what you think of Gunshow!

      December 31, 2014

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