As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of food writers, industry types, bloggers, and seasoned diners. Before we flip the switch on 2013, a select group will chime in on a handful of Eater questions ranging from Meal of the Year to Best New Restaurant. First up, a crucial question: Biggest Dining Surprises of 2013.
Readers, please feel free to add your thoughts to the comments.
Allecia Vermillion, food & drink editor at Seattle Met:
Gastropod. I always liked Epic Ales but I had no idea its gastropub expansion would come with such ambitious food. If Travis Kukull is pulling off okonomiyaki and handmade pasta in that makeshift kitchen, I'd love to see what he can do with an actual range and hood.
I guess the cronut mania wasn't a surprise, but it's still such an odd phenomenon.
Also, Ethan Stowell billed Bar Cotto as a place for salumi, but it's the pizza that's destination worthy.
Allison Scheff, food & dining editor at Seattle Magazine:
The quality you can find at all levels now, even in the most unexpected places. Il Corvo and Gastropod are obvious examples of restaurants taking extra care with the smallest details, but it's happening in so many restaurants at even the lower levels. The sandwiches at Martino's are awesome, and it's just a tiny place in Phinney Ridge. You can get excellent pizza — not just decent, but great — in Madison Park (Independent), Beacon Hill (Bar del Corso), West Seattle (Pizzeria 22), all these places where it used to be pretty mediocre. Wine lists are getting more and more interesting and personal, too.
Rachel Belle, radio personality at KIRO 97.3 AM and Open Wide columnist at Eater:
Since accidentally stumbling into Grub about six months ago, I have officially made every third weekend of the month a "Brunch at Grub" weekend. Because the owners are selfish and mean, that is the only time they serve a fried rice dish called The Imperial Mix Up as a chalkboard special. It's a very simple dish in theory: umami kissed rice, a swirl of scrambled egg, nuggets of Portuguese sausage (that I substitute with portabella chunks because I like it that way) but it is absolutely addictive and I think longingly of it while eating dumb old inferior other brunch foods the other three weekends of the month.
Nicole Sprinkle, food editor at Seattle Weekly:
The savory desserts on every menu. I don't like overly sweet, but it's dessert and it's meant to be sweeter than your entree. Chocolate olive oil cakes, corn ice cream...they sounded interesting and good, but ultimately just needed some sugar.
Jen Chiu, Roll With Jen:
Bone marrow becoming a mainstream menu offering. I used to have to seek out this dish, but I've seen it at some of my regular dining spots: Le Petit Cochon, Dot's, The Whale Wins.
Bryce Lathrop, founder of White Moustache Urban Adventure Co.:
Candles. While waiting for a table, a customer leaned back into a candle and caught her hair on fire. I put the fire out with my hat and hands. After the restaurant panic subsided, a man a few tables away rips off his ball cap to show his bald head and exclaims, "That same shit just happened to me!"
Kristin Ackerman, publisher at SIP Northwest Magazine:
Roux. I was nervous with the exotic creole menu at first but I threw caution to the wind and tried the pig ear, turtle Bolognese and rabbit in one sitting and the flavors of the dishes blew my mind. I am a huge fan of what Matt Lewis is doing with this new restaurant.
Naomi Bishop, freelance food writer, The Gastrognome:
The huge influx of ramen and ramen-ya to the area: Yoroshiku, Kukai, Ramen Man, Mighty Ramen pop-ups, Tanakasan, and the announcements of Shibumi coming to Capitol Hill and Bellevue locations of Jinya and Santouka (two excellent ramen chains that I've sampled in Vancouver, BC).
Julia Wayne, freelance writer, Eater Seattle contributor:
Joule has only gotten better since it moved to its new digs in late 2012. How is that even possible?
The Surly Gourmand, curmudgeon:
I was surprised to discover that people aren't tired of hearing about bacon yet.
Julien Perry, editor at Eater Seattle:
The number of impressive first-time restaurant owners. Matt Lewis of Roux, Eric Donnelly of RockCreek, Derek Ronspies of Le Petit Cochon, Manu Alfau of La Bodega and Kari Brunson and Brandin Myett of Juicebox are good examples of newcomers who are really delivering solid products. You can feel the collective "fresh blood" energy they've brought to Seattle.