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Remembering the Biggest Dining Surprises of 2011

As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, bloggers, and readers. We've already covered Top Standbys, Top Newcomers, Top Dining Neighborhoods and 2011 in one word. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the week. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut and pasted herein.

[Photo: Stopsky's Delicatessen/Facebook]

Jessica Voelker, online dining editor, The Washingtonian (former lifestyle editor at Seattle Met): I was really surprised by the hit that Stopsky's Deli took from the local food critics (okay, maybe just Hanna Raskin). I guess I expected a good deli with nice ingredients--not necessarily a showstopper, but
certainly not the kind of place that would be critically annihilated. Then there was the drama surrounding Robin Leventhal, who brought so much early attention to the place. As far as my own experiences there, I was disappointed when one server didn't know the menu at all, and I remember being bummed out about some details. But overall, Stopsky's was what I expected it to be: Just fine. And the onion bagels kick ass.

Allecia Vermillion, food and drink editor, Seattle Met: Murray-gate. Also that I'm still actively reminiscing about the vegetarian biscuits and gravy I had recently at St. Dames.

Brad Foster, Seattle editor, Thrillist: How much I miss Dope Burger, and just how dope Katsu Burger is.

Allison Scheff, food and dining editor, Seattle Magazine: How good Cuoco is, and how much people are loving Brave Horse Tavern. How clever Maggie Savarino's drink list is at Madison Park Conservatory. How north Broadway has changed with Altura, Poppy, Confectional and Olivar. How everyone's a drink snob and pronounces Fernet Branca correctly all of the sudden.

Surly Gourmand: Canon's awesomeness totally shocked me. I was expecting one of those haughty barrooms where a mustachioed asshole in an arm garter sneers at your Rum & Coke request, but Murray Stenson's easygoing attitude and total mastery of all things alcoholic melted my disdain. I asked him to make me a drink with the grossest alcohol in the world. Know
what he made me? A Cynar Flip! Bitter and sweet, frothy yet sharp, and with a velveteen finish, it was actually quite tasty considering the main ingredient was a liquor made of artichokes.

Lisa Kennelly, There's a hipster in my latte: How Rainier Ave in Columbia City has suddenly become pub crawl worthy. Between Rookies, Lottie’s Lounge, the Ale House, the Bourbon Bar and Orcas Landing, you can do some serious damage.

Naomi Bishop, The GastroGnome: The closing of Nettletown. What a beloved place! It was one of the most perfect little restaurants, and yet, even that can’t make it these days.

Amy Pennington, author of Urban Pantry and Apartment Gardening: Delancey. Pizza is really not my thing, but I went to Delancey only because that's where my friends chose - and I have to say, it was delicious. From beginning to end, delicious. The salad was perfectly dressed - like, each-leaf-perfectly-dressed, and the pizzas were fabulous. Cooked to the perfect doneness and delicious. Service is a weak point, so it's not necessarily a home run for me, but I went back within the month is was that good.

· All Year in Eater 2011 Coverage on Eater Seattle [-ESEA-]