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Remembering the Biggest Dining Surprises of 2014

As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of local food writers, industry types, and friends. We asked the group eight questions ranging from Best Dining Neighborhood to Restaurant Standbys. Up now: The year's biggest dining surprises.

Xurxo Martínez/Flicker

Q: What was 2014's biggest dining surprise?

Julien Perry, co-founder, One Night Only Project

The onslaught of pop-ups. I think people are starting to shun Kickstarter in lieu of pop-ups as the best way to introduce people to their talent and attract potential investors.

Nicole Sprinkle, food editor, Seattle Weekly

Paseo closing.

Jonathan Zwickel, senior editor, City Arts

Mezcal. A sublime spirit made with rustic techniques.

Allison Scheff, food & dining editor, Seattle Magazine

The dining surprise continues to be the rebirth happening in Pioneer Square. Outside of the lunch crowd and the relatively small "foodie" crowd in Seattle, I think it's still a secret what's happening there food-wise. What's surprising is how good things have gotten in such a short amount of time. Can we even remember what it was like three, four years ago, before Bar Sajor and London Plane, before Il Corvo and Little Uncle and Delicatus? It's night and day.

Leslie Kelly, editor, Zagat Seattle; project manager, Tastemade Seattle

Willows Inn absolutely blew me away, exceeding expectations when I came in slightly skeptical that it could. If I had a bowl of ramen for every time I've been disappointed by a much-hyped restaurant, I'd be swimming in soup, but chef Blaine Wetzel and his team do a spectacular job of making truly memorable dishes without being precious. Also, I probably shouldn't be shocked that our obsession with burgers just keeps growing, but it's a still little surprising. I tackled my first Godzilla at the newly reopened Katsu Burger, and could only get through half of that over-the-top, deep-fried patty.

Jameson Fink, wine blogger, Wine Without Worry podcast host

That more and more (and more) places can open on Capitol Hill.

Surly Gourmand, "world's greatest food writer"

I have found the best donuts in the land: Aurora Donuts is my messiah now.

Allecia Vermillion, food & drink editor, Seattle Met

This new sort of sophisticated restaurant-cocktail bar hybrid that emerged in the wake of last year's smoked meat and whiskey bonanza. Good Bar, Single Shot, Damn the Weather—they have this polished, almost literary look about them that would be equally at ease in New York as Seattle. And real strength on both the bar and kitchen sides.

Bethany Jean Clement, food writer, The Seattle Times

The sudden shutdown/bankruptcy/imminent reopening saga of Paseo is the obvious answer. But for me personally, it was the great idea and even greater reality of the Caesar salad sandwich at Damn the Weather in Pioneer Square. Genius.

Nancy Leson, food writer, KPLU food commentator

The abrupt closure—and bankruptcy sale—of Paseo.