2019 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 2019. Some of my favorites were available at one-time-only events, others are featured on our local restaurants’ everyday menus and a few are artisan-made products available via subscription or found at pop-up markets. 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 2019’s best bites!
Pig and Fire’s Filipino cochon. Chef Roel Estanilla and his wife Jennifer of Pig & Fire threw a Kamayan feast at The Lantern Haus in Forest Park this year. Lechon, a crispy roasted pork belly, is central to Pig and Fire’s Kamayan dinner featuring 15 menu items and no cutlery. The meat, eaten by hand, is stuffed with aromatics like lemongrass and roasted until it is at once both crispy and tender. Pig and Fire is hosting another Kamayan Feast in February of 2020. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out!
Ribs from Small Batch Barbecue. Small Batch Barbecue serves up premium St. Louis spareribs. Dry rubbed and smoked over all-natural hardwood, the resulting ribs have an extreme bark — the crunchy and complex exterior crust that protects the meat and ensures it will be tender and juicy. Enjoying Small Batch Barbecue ribs is a full-on carnivore experience, and thanks to that thick bark they eat like the fried chicken of ribs.
This PB & J cupcake from Courageous Bakery and Cafe in Oak Park. In April of 2019 I popped into the Lake Street bakery for a sweet treat and a cup of coffee. I was thrilled to discover this cupcake on their rotating menu. It smacked of the old school lunchroom favorite and made me feel like a kid all over again! Pop in to the philanthropic bakery to find a treat to suit your mood.
Honorable mention: The Steak Torta from Taco Bros in Oak Park. Taco Bros’ Mexican sandwich ia served on a fluffy bolillo roll and topped with everything from refried beans to avocado. The messy-to-eat, but oh-so-delicious sammy set me back just shy of six bucks.
Chocolate marshmallow pudding and Goodnight Cow from One Lake Brewing in Oak Park. As expected, customers flocked to One Lake Brewery as soon as the doors opened in 2019 and I was quick to dine in the well-appointed restaurant. Head chef, Nick Stewart, offered me creative and surprising dessert during my first visit. Sure I loved One Lake’s burger and pickled things, but I enjoyed this chocolate marshmallow pudding paired with a snifter of roasty stout so much it made my top 12 of 2019!
Toast and jam made with 25% Emmer Lyman Ave. Bread. Tim Giuffi is the mastermind behid this small batch bakery in Oak Park. His naturally leavened sourdough breads are made with a six-year-old starter and hand milled flour; in true artisan fashion it takes 24-36 hours to craft a loaf of Lyman Ave. Bread. Loaves are available through weekly Community Supported Bread (CSB) subscriptions; email firstname.lastname@example.org to snag your slot for 4 or 12 weeks. Space is limited.
Malawian Samosas by Alice. When Alice Frances of Berwyn was 15 her mom volunteered her to make 500 Malawian samosas for a wedding reception and the rest is history. Today Alice makes these golden morsels by the dozen and folks in the know follow her Facebook page to get their hands on the freezable snacks. Since meeting Alice earlier this year I keep her samosas –both vegetarian and beef–on hand at all times!
Snow Hills and Textures of the City at The Day Nursery’s pop up dinner inspired by The Snowy Day. Served at the 6th annual pop-up dinner in The Day Nursery dining room, this entree was inspired by The Snowy Day written by Ezra Jack Keats’. The dish featured cod poached in coconut milk garnished with rice paper ruffles and broccoli flowers and served with a tray of DIY textural garnishes. It was almost as much to make as it was to eat!
The honey shrimp from Mora Asian Kitchen in Oak Park. This unexpected dish is a quirky combination of tempura shrimp, honey aioli and candied walnuts served over slaw. One bite of the indulgent combo evoked childhood memories of scarfing down a sweet funnel cake at a county fair. My table mates and I split the dish and enjoyed it so much that we forgot to snap a picture. Thanks to Mora for sharing this pic of their sweet shrimp dish.
The Tied House Burger from Wild Onion Tied House. Wild Onion took home top honors in the Excellent Eats category of the OPRF Chamber’s Spotlight Business Awards and their burger lives up to the hype! Topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, bacon, mayo, fried onion, cheddar cheese, the Tied House burger comes with your choice of patty- Angus beef, turkey, chicken (fried or grilled), Beyond Burger or salmon. Hands down, one of the best burgers in town.
Honorable mention: Karipap from Khoatha Cafe-Puffs Parade. Vicki Resnick enthusiastically sold her Thai curry puffs, known as karipap to customers shopping at the Thanksgiving market at Sugar Beet Schoolhouse and I adored both the sweet and savory versions. Karipap are a stuffed pastry enjoyed throughout southeast Asia. The pastry packages are known for their traditional spiral edge and are crafted using a duo of doughs. The resulting exceptionally flaky curry puffs feature fillings like chicken curry and sweet coconut.
Honorable mention: Jimmy’s Creation at Poke Burrito in Oak Park. Jimmy’s creation features salmon, tuna, avocado, cucumber, edamame, seaweed salad, green onion, sweet onion, crunch onion, tobiko, pineapple, sesame seed, mandarin orange and ginger with special sauce. That’s a whole bunch of stuff and yep, its totally delish, but this mention is more about the new biodegradable bowls at Poke Burrito. Jimmy’s creation tastes even better in an eco-friendly container.
A Daly Bagel and Feast of Serendib brunch mash-up. Oak Park resident and cookbook author, Mary Anne Mohanraj teamed up with Amanda Daly of the highly anticipated Daly Bagel to create a Sri Lankan bagel brunch. Lucky guests were supporters of The Daly Bagel Kickstarter. Think chai bagels with pumpkin and palm treacle schmear or sesame bagels with a chili, lime, shrimp and mango spread–totally delicious combinations. Mohanraj’s cookbook, A Feast of Serendib, debutes in March of 2020 and The Daly Bagel’s Chicago Ave. storefront should open shortly after the new year.
New Relic Coffee from Counter Coffee in Forest Park. I have become a huge fan of Counter Coffee’s Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans and their seven-minute air roasting process.The smooth drinking coffee has none of the bitter hallmarks associated with an average cup of joe and reduces the need for consumers to load up on cream and sugar. Enjoy at home or in the shop!