2018 was a downright delicious year for all of us at Oak Park Eats and I enjoyed a massive number of delicious things in our little foodie alcove! Its no secret I do A LOT of cooking and I really love taking a break to enjoy a good meal made by someone else. As hard as it was, I picked a dozen of my very favorite local sips and nibbles from 2018. Some of my favorites were available at one-time-only events while others are featured on our local restaurant’s everyday menus. Either way, it should be noted none of these morsels are organized in order of preference. Oh and because all the most passionate food lovers are indecisive, I’ve included a few honorable mentions at the end of this list. Enjoy this delicious look back at some of 2018’s best bites!
Honorable Mention: The strawberry paczki at Oak Park Bakery. These little, berry-filled morsels are not diet friendly fare; luxurious paczki dough is made with a with a tried-and-true bakery ingredient trifecta: eggs, butter, and sugar. Bakers then toss in some milk for added richness and fry the donuts to a golden brown.
The Rosemary Old Fashioned served at the Rock the House fundraiser benefiting the School of Rock scholarship fund and The Oak Park Regional Housing Center. Served in the speakeasy at the fifth Rock the House event, this specialty cocktail was a collaborative effort between Amy Hynous Tillotson of Square One Design in Oak Park, bar-tender Dave Vazzano, and me! It was among my favorite sips of 2018 and featured rosemary simple syrup and house-made bourbon cherries.
The roasted cauliflower and farro at Amerikas. Chef Armando Gonzalez whipped up a deceptively complex roasted cauliflower and farro dish studded with carrots, almonds, and a smattering of hibiscus-arbol reduction sauce. As a cauliflower snob of sorts, I am happy to report this was one of the best bites I had locally in 2018.
The Original Double Decker at Hamburger Heaven. Okay so this retro Elmhurst spot may be a little bit out of the way, but there is so much nostalgia in every bite at Hamburger Heaven it deserve a place on this list. The walk up service spot opened in 1948 and they’ve been serving up double-decker burgers, crinkle cut fries, and shakes ever since.
The Bees Knees cocktail at Quincy Street Distillery. I savored this tart and satisfying combination of Old #176 Railroad gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup more than once in 2018 and feel pretty passionately about savoring a few more in 2019!
The Timpano at Autre Monde’s Big Night inspired pop-up. I love eating at this Berwyn hot spot any day, but their Big Night event was a 2018 highlight! Not only did Chefs Dan Pancake and Beth Partridge deliver a movie-worthy timpano at this pop-up event, their deft hands produced a near-flawless risotto trio, a memorable grilled whole fish, and a whole suckling pig.
The build your own poke bowl at Poke Burrito on Lake Street. Filled with fresh fish, citrus, tobiko and brown rice, this meal was healthy, fast and filling.
Honorable Mention: The shrimp taco at Taco Bout It in Brookfield. This camaron taco features beer-battered, extra large shrimp topped with a fresh-made mango salsa, and lime aioli. I enjoyed it with Oak Park Eats’ event maven, Carmen Rivera, and she loved it, too!
Peach pie from The Happy Apple Pie Shop in Oak Park. I am personally biased toward peaches in any form and this pie was peachy in every way! Peach pies are seasonally available at the Harrison Street pie shop, but the shop is open year-round and USA Today named the shop the best for pie in Illinois!
A well-crafted sandwich from Firecakes. This hearty meal is served up on a seeded brioche bun filled with crispy, all-natural chicken breast and topped with house-made pickles, tomato aioli, and lettuce. Offered during lunch hours, this fried chicken sandwich is pretty darn dreamy and offered exclusively (at least for now) Oak Park location.
The Shrimp Po’Boy at Surf’s Up. The bread on this sandwich was lovingly toasted, the piping hot cornmeal crusted shrimp was perfectly cooked, and the homemade remoulade sauce complemented the traditional tomato, lettuce, and pickle garnishes perfectly. The sandwich was so generous that I had to take half home to enjoy later!
Honorable Mention:The grilled cheese and tomato soup from Little Gem. Little Gem’s version of a grilled cheese is a solid nod to tradition. The sandwich, toasted to golden brown, features perfectly-melty mild cheddar cheese on white bread and comes with a cup of creamy tomato-basil soup suitable for dunking. I enjoyed this sandwich alone in the restaurant and felt like a kid all over again while I ate it.
Daly Bagels, duh! Amanda Daly, the mastermind behind these East Coast bagels, is a total delight and discovering her passion for baking was a 2018 highlight for me me as both a food writer and food lover. Follow The Daly Bagel on Facebook to get your hands on a dozen! I predict big things for her in 2019.
Prohibition Pilsner at Kinslahger. Kinslahger beers, like Prohibition Pilsner, balance tradition and creativity by relying on a slower fermentation process. The resulting beers have a less yeast-forward flavor profile. Lagers are prized for their fresh flavor and appreciated for bringing malt and hops to the forefront on the palate. I love this refreshing sip in their well appointed tasting room this year!
Mouth-watering cheese and crackers at Gaetano’s in Forest Park. Made fresh with House-made Boursin, Goat Cheese Yogurt, and Stracchino Mousse with Salami Felino Crisps, this dish was a standout of my 2018.