Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2014

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.

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Eat Curry in a Velvet-Lined Subway Car at Ghandi Cafe in the West Village

DSC_4398_editHave you ever wanted to eat Indian food in a velvet-walled subway car? No? The thought has never crossed your mind either? Well, I didn't even know that was an possibility before I ate dinner at West Village's Ghandi Cafe.This narrow hole-in-the-wall is a really strange place. It's situated right off the corner of Bleeker and 6th Avenue and it would be all to easy to walk right past its dingy facade. I wasn't kidding about the velvet walls either. It really does look like a dressed-up subway car with a zany mish-mash of decor accents like tulip-shared sconces, English Premiere League flags, chandeliers, mirror-paneled walls, and Christmas lights.

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Drink Your Face Off with Bottomless Cocktails & Latin Brunch at Yerba Buena in Greenwich Village

DSC_3869_editNew Yorkers fucking love brunch. Not only do New Yorkers love brunch, but they love to drink cocktails aggressively while they're at it. It's a quintessential part of NY culture, to go out partying 'til 4 AM, wake up disturbingly hungover the next morning afternoon and rely on the old hair of the dog trick to get through the torturous pain that comes with a brutal hangover. And that's why All You Can Drink brunch was born, to solve this distinctly New York-y problem, but not all AYCD brunch spots are alike.Some brunches are super expensive, others have mediocre-to-poor food, others have crappy generic cocktails, and others are just too damn crowded to tolerate. When I'm in the mood for an awesomely excessive AYCD brunch, my go-to is Yerba Buena on Perry Street in Greenwich Village.

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Flavorful Filipino Fast Food at Lumpia Shack Snackbar in the West Village

DSC_4347_editI've been pumped for the West Village arrival of Lumpia Shack from the moment I heard about the impending expansion. I've loved Filipino food for quite some time as you may have seen previously on Winston Wanders, but my passion has grown substantially while dating my quarter-Filipina girlfriend and eating with her Filipino family. More Filipino food in my life is definitely a good thing.

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Ethnic Brunch with Asian Influenced Barbecue & Cocktails at Fatty ‘Cue

DSC_2635_edit*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.

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A New Ramen Contender in the West Village at Ramen Ya

For some reason, the East Village has like 30 ramen joints and the West Village has almost none. With that being said, when a new place opens up in the neighborhood, I get excited. One day, while walking up West 4th Street I noticed the spot that had once housed a nice sushi restaurant had closed and reopened as a ramen shop called Ramen Ya. I knew I'd have to check it out to see how it ranked within the competitive NYC ramen landscape.

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Huge, Cheap Burgers & Fries at Joy Burger Bar in NYC

20130918_191343_edit2So here's the scenario: A weeknight on my own, no responsibilities, and no idea what I feel like doing with the night. I'm not really in the mood for anything in particular and not quite hungry yet so I head home from work to sort out my gameplan. I have an interesting idea about how to choose my evening's activity. I flip on the TV, tune it to The Food Network and let whatever is on guide my dinner decision. Guy Fieri's Dinner, Drive-ins, and Dives happens to be on and they are in Narragansett, Rhode Island at Crazy Burger Cafe & Juice Bar. The owner Michael Maxon is a real character making insane burgers while also making insane gibberishy sounds effects. Burger. Done. I pull up Foursquare Explore and type in "burger" and let it guide the rest of my decision. Up comes Joy Burger Bar, a place I've never been to that I saved to my todo list that's only a few blocks away. Joy Burger it is.

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