Food critics are a lot like record collectors: obsessive, picky and absolutely convinced our taste is better than yours (it is). So in honor of the best record-adjacent movie of all time, I’m going to pull a High Fidelity and turn this last column of 2018 into a top five list of the foods I ate this year. If you wish to debate, I’ll be organizing my horde of stolen menus in biographical order.
Everything at Canard
Okay, picking “everything” is cheating, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Canard has already been named restaurant of the year by every food outlet in town, and I’m not disputing it. I’ve eaten lots at Canard since it opened next to chef/owner Gabe Rucker’s flagship Le Pigeon, and everything I’ve tasted has been a real delight. The amount of hyperbole I can heap on Canard makes me feel a little like a Cathy cartoon: Little succulent steam burgers for $3 at happy hour! A toast dolloped in uni! French toast soaked in melted soft serve! Truffled wings! Ack!
French Onion Soup at Bistro Agnes
When I reviewed Bistro Agnes, the classic French restaurant from Ox chef/owners Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton and Greg Denton, I described their amazing French onion soup as being made from “the beefiest of beef stock.” I was SUPER WRONG. It’s made with roasted chicken stock. Doesn’t change my love for this perfect bowl of soup, with thyme croutons luxuriating in the broth underneath a metric ton of melted cave-aged gruyère. Paired with the city’s best Salade Lyonnaise, with escarole and frisée lettuces topped with bacon fat brioche croutons and a warm bacon vinaigrette, it’s a power lunch to die for.
Big Ass Soup at Stretch the Noodle
My only gripe about the beefy Sichuan soup at downtown cart Stretch the Noodle is that it’s so big, I can’t finish it without going into a serious carb coma, and I can’t save it because those handmade noodles get soggy. So I forge on, like a true winter soldier, and consume the entire heaping serving of five-spice broth filled with toothsome wheat noodles that co-owner Xuemei Simard stretches by hand every day. The secret is out on this amazing cart, so go outside peak lunch hours to avoid the wait.
Burgers and Wine at OK Omens
In late summer, I sat on the patio of the new sister restaurant to Castagna, and as the light faded and bees buzzed in the kitchen garden’s lavender, I sipped a delightful natural wine and absolutely fucking hosed this burger. It’s a 4.5-ounce beef patty topped with zucchini pickles, caramelized AND raw white onions, crisp iceberg lettuce, white Tillamook cheese AND American cheese, and a burger sauce made with smoked beef fat, all on a Grand Central potato bun. Beef tallow fries come on the side. Order it with anything from the staff picks section of the wine list and thank me later.
All the Squash at Oui! Wine Bar + Restaurant
I don’t think any chef has had a better year than Althea Grey Potter. With the revamping of her (still tiny) kitchen inside the Southeast Wine Collective and the creation of a five-course, $39-per-person, family-style dinner, her cooking has exploded into one of my top five favorite meals this year. There’s no kitchen hood to allow for grilling and no massive stoves for cooking, but her wine-friendly food doesn’t suffer for it. Globe-trotting influences like a cacio e pepe risotto and roasted delicata squash with harissa and roasted chickpeas, and a half-baked chocolate chip cookie served warm in cast iron with cocoa nib honeycomb keep me coming back for more.