What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too. Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin! And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.
It's getting to be that time when we look back on the year in review and 2014 was a very big year of travel for me. Between working remotely in Silicon Valley while still officially living in NYC, moving from NYC to SF, and other miscellaneous leisure travel, I spent a lot of time in airports. I know that airports get a bad rap when it comes to dining options and you know what, most of the time the food really does suck. But, every now and then I've been able to come across some truly excellent dishes. Beyond that, I've even managed to find a number of dishes served in airports that blew me away – the overacheivers – the kinds of things I would get even if I wasn't stuck eating in an airport. Without further ado, read on below to see the best of the best to eat before you fly in the sky.
I absolutely love Puerto Rican food. To be fair, Dominican and Cuban food hit the same spot for me, but whichever nationality cuisine it is, as long as there's heaping portions of roasted meat over rice and beans, I'm gonna be a happy camper. One day, on a drive about a half hour north of San Francisco to the quaint and sunny town of San Rafael, Amy stumbled upon some serious Puerto Rican food at a place called Sol Food. Amy was so blown away by the food that only two weeks later she felt compelled to drive me up there to see for myself.
Listen up. I have found my new favorite restaurant IN THE WORLD. This place served me, without a doubt, the best food I've ever eaten. Twice. Both visits were, in my humble opinion — flawless. Where and what is this incredible restaurant, you ask? It's The Cavalier at Hotel Zetta near Union Square in San Francisco and you absolutely must go.
After a full rush-hour traffic-filled hour and fifteen minute drive from Sunnyvale to San Francisco, I learned that the apartment I was driving into the city to see had fallen through. I was in a part of San Francisco that I knew nothing about and had no reason to suffer through more traffic to go deeper into San Francisco proper. So, I pulled off the highway and pulled up my trusty mobile resource, Foursquare to what else — find a solid meal nearby. I soon learned that I was in the quaint SF outskirts in a neighborhood known as West Portal and was presented with a really highly-rated Greek restaurant called Orexi topping my personalized recommendations. Perfect, Greek it'll be. Despite the crappy drive/apartment-hunt situation, I was determined to turn these lemons into lemonade, or shall we say grapes into fine Greek wine.
With my Texan girlfriend leading the way and teaching me everything there is to know about true Texas 'cue, I've become a bit of a barbecue aficionado, as regrettably also a bit of a snob. I've had enough experience consuming the real stuff to know what makes good and bad BBQ and NYC has plenty of each. I've travelled around NYC, throughout the boroughs, to Cochon 555, and The Big Apple Barbecue Festival a number of times. Hell, I've even been to a barbecue head-to-head event where many of NYC's top BBQ producers go to show off their chops. I think I've got a pretty good handle on what's what in the New York BBQ world. There's been much written lately about the booming NYC barbecue scene, but I've often found myself disappointed with many of the most highly-regarded, hyped, big-name places. But there also really is some incredible barbecue to be had around NYC. I've written previously about my love for Mighty Quinn's and I think that Danny Meyer's Blue Smoke is pretty phenomenal, but I think the best of the best might be at the old Brooklyn mainstay Fette Sau in South Williamsburg. Fette Sau's name means “Fat Pig” in German and that's exactly how you'll feel after indulging in a meat-tastic gorge-fest there.
Last December, on a two-day trip to New Orleans, I had one of the most incredible meals of my life at Cochon Restaurant. We indulged in a variety of amazing specialties like Fried Alligator, Fried Boudin, Rabbit & Dumplings, Sweet Potato & Hog Jowl Casserole, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. After spending two days in rural Opelousas, Amy and I drove to New Orleans for a 24-hour stopover and made sure to have a reservation to return to Cochon for another insane meal. Located in the Warehouse District of New Orleans, only about a 15 minute walk south of the chaos of the French Quarter, Cochon, helmed by executive chef Donald Link, serves up mighty fine, upscale takes on hearty, Southern and Cajun cuisine. Whether you're in town for Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, or for no particular reason at all, I urge you to make Cochon one of your dining destinations.
*Editor's Note: I'm sad to report that this restaurant is not longer open. On this hungover Sunday morning, we were deciding where to meet up with my parents for brunch. I'm pretty particular about brunch since I don't like waiting in lines and don't want ordinary breakfast food I could make myself at home for a quarter of the price. After some quick thinking, Amy and I remembered the excellent dinner we previously had at Fatty 'Cue and figured their Asian inflected menu would probably serve as a excellent and interesting brunch spot.
From the moment I first heard the term "hot guts" I knew I had to have it. There's a small barbecue town called Elgin (pronounced with a hard-G like "guy") located only 45 minutes outside of Austin, Texas and not far from my beloved brisket mecca Lockhart. We were already in town for Austin City Limits, so it seemed like a completely necessary quick day-trip. Elgin is world famous for their hot guts. What are hot guts you ask? Sausage! Ahh, that makes sense now, doesn't it?