The 14 Best Meals of 2014
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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
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,