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Chefs and Critics Recall Their Best Meals of 2015

Near and far, 2015 was tasty.

Last call
Last call
La Belle Vie

In keeping with Eater tradition, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types and bloggers. In Minneapolis and St. Paul, Eater asked the group eight questions, ranging from the restaurants they frequent most to the biggest surprises of the year. Responses are in no particular order.

From coast to coast to Spain, this year was great for dining. Here's where the chefs, restaurateurs and critics of the Twin Cities experienced the pinnacle of dining.

Gavin Kaysen (Chef and owner of Spoon and Stable):

I'm not sure if I can pick just one, I had so many memorable meals this past year. If hard pressed, I would say one of my most memorable was Manresa. I know David well and it was my wife and my ten year anniversary. The day was magical: great setting, beautiful food and deserving of all the accolades that it has. But, it taught me something. It taught me that the meal is not only about food, it is about the setting, the service, the people, the details - and at the end of the day, it is about the guest and making them feel that way every time they walk into your restaurant.

Sameh Wadi (Chef and owner of Saffron, World Street Kitchen and the forthcoming Milkjam):

Rabbit pasta at Monello. Fucking perfect. Whole steamed fish with lime and chili at On's Kitchen. The dish I ate the most this year was the duck tartare at St. Dinette - still dreaming of it. Potato pave at St. Genevieve: brilliant and super craveable. This one is cheating, but the MF Doom Rice Bowl at World Street Kitchen. The rapper designed rice bowl with beef cheek, "brown down" coconut rice and habanero chow. Oh - and all the things that Diane Yang [Spoon & Stable] put in my mouth.

Lina Goh and John Ng (Owners Zen Box Izakaya):

Our best meals of 2015 is hands down the Monday beef brisket & pimento cheese Juicy Lucy from Revival!

Eric Dayton (Co-Owner The Bachelor Farmer, Askov Finlyason, Marvel Bar and the forthcoming Bachelor Farmer Cafe):

I was in New York recently and met up with some friends for dinner at Takashi, which specializes in kind of a Japanese take on Korean BBQ called "yakiniku." They keep the obscure cuts of beef - including plenty of offal - coming and you grill everything at your table. We feasted for hours, including dessert, until we were all pretty stuffed, at which point it was getting late. And then one of my friends mentioned that the place was famous for a secret ramen service at midnight. We all looked at each other, glanced at our watches, and decided to power through. We asked our server if we could just keep our table, even though by now there was a line forming at the door for the ramen. I think he was impressed by our intestinal fortitude, so he agreed and we ordered another round of sake to pass the time and help settle our stomachs. The dining room filled back up around us and then when midnight came we each polished off a full bowl of incredible ramen. It's not the kind of meal I'd recommend on a regular basis, but it's fun to overdo it every now and then.

Two plates with towers of Tennessee hot and Southern fried chicken. Joy Summers

Some like it hot at Revival. Photo by Joy Summers

Doug Flicker (Chef and owner of Piccolo and Sandcastle):

I'd go with Revival. Hands down.

Craig Johnson (Chef, co-owner Prairie Dog's Hot Dogs & Handcrafted Sausages):

I'd have to say it was at Borough.....since I usually just order a bunch of small plates, that was my favorite place this year. Octopus, pork belly and pate.

I also really liked Landon's chopped liver at Nighthawks.

Nick Rancone (Co-owner Revival and Corner Table):

This is a tough one, because I traveled well and ate even better this year, and there are so many good things happening around here that I feel like I'm picking my favorite kid. But if I have to pick one, the whole grilled baby squid at Asador Extebarri takes it home. The setting is idyllic. It's at the top of a mountain in a tiny village. The ingredients are sourced within a stone's throw, and everything is cooked over an open flame, meticulously edited, and cleanly executed. The squid was presented whole on a small bed of onion jam, and the ink was served next to it on the plate. Three ingredients, insanely perfect dish, nothing that didn't need to be there. That takes balls, no? Three things on a plate? Stunning results. Who's coming with me?

Chef Landon Schoenfeld at Nighthawks. Photo by Stephanie A. Meyer

Chef Landon Schoenfeld at Nighthawks. Photo by Stephanie A. Meyer

Jess Fleming (Dining critic for the Pioneer Press):

My last meal at La Belle Vie. (Insert moment of silence.)

Nancy Ngo (Food reporter for the Pioneer Press):

Four Bells. Inventive, tasty and consistent throughout. Heyday's four course tasting menu. Inventive, flavorful and consistent throughout. Service and timing of the dishes is spot on here too.

Mecca Bos (Food Blogger and Dining Critic for City Pages):

Omakase at Sushi Fix. Acquiesce to the whims of chef Billy Tserenbat and his crew and prepare to be utterly seduced.

Jason DeRusha (Co-Anchor WCCO This Morning, MidMorning, resident food reporter with DeRusha Eats and newly named critic for Minnesota Monthly):

My wife and I ate at Bachelor Farmer in March, and it was truly outstanding. I've always liked, not loved, the food at TBF, but the team there has taken the food to a new level. If you haven't been there in years - go back. We also had the honor of going to the party at La Belle Vie after it closed (Bruce Taher's company donated huge money to fight childhood hunger to get the party). The food from all those alums at LBV was incredible.

The front door of The Bachelor Farmer, the multicolored name with a signature heart Lucy Hawthorne

Photo by Lucy Hawthorne

Stephanie March (Senior Food Editor at Mpls./St. Paul Magazine)

The Cochon meal put up by Thomas Boemer.

Joy Summers (Eater Minneapolis Editor):

The entirity of the Cochon experience. The caliber and creativity of each flight created by the area chefs - there was this dumpling that YC did that blew my mind - Gavin had a whole pig - the whole crew. Every Minneapolis restaurant there delivered hugely and then to finish with Boemer's ode to pork. I misted up a bit - I did! It reminded me of the very first time I tasted his take on pork belly way back when that restaurant was the work of another hugely talented chef. From that moment, I knew this guy could change the game. Then he went on and won the whole thing at the national competition, essentially proving me right. I love being right.

Close seconds are my first meals at Saint Dinette and Revival. Both were so good - execution, service and flavor. Both were (and are) so exciting because of the passion of the teams behind them.