As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, bloggers, and readers. So far we've heard their takes on standbys, newcomers, neighborhoods, surprises, and one word to describe the year. Now to the nitty-gritty: what was their single best meal of 2012? The responses, unedited and in no particular order, below:
Q: What and where was your single best meal in 2012?
Josh Sens, San Francisco Magazine: There are very few things in life that measure up to high-volume hype: the Grand Canyon is one. Sex is another. The Restaurant at Meadowood is a third. Finally ate there this year. It really is all that.
Anna Roth, SF Weekly: It was a rainy Friday, the end of a tough week. I didn't have any particular plans so I took myself to dinner at the Rich Table bar. It's the mark of a great restaurant, I think, if you can eat alone without feeling lonely – the atmosphere of the place and the warmth of the service kind of carry you away. A few great cocktails and a plate of chicken cannelloni, with béchamel, toasted walnuts, and pickled carrots, certainly helped. I left feeling completely restored.
Jonathan Kauffman, Tasting Table: A meal at Coi in May celebrating the end of my years as a restaurant critic. I've eaten Daniel Patterson's food a number of times over the past decade, and it just keeps getting better. It's always been smart and intricate and playful, but there's a soulfulness to it now that I didn't always sense before.
Marcia Gagliardi, Tablehopper: Baumé in Palo Alto. I needed to check it out when I was writing the restaurant section for the Louis Vuitton SF City Guide 2013, and man, was it worth the schlep. Go! But I do have to mention the guest chef appearance of Christian Puglisi of Restaurant RELÆ (Denmark) at Bar Tartine—what a meal, and one of the best guest chef collaborations I have experienced.
Amy Sherman, Bay Area Bites: Benu just continues to amaze. Even the a la carte menu is stunning. But Atelier Crenn really stepped it up this year too, a close second.
Grant Marek, Thrillist: Stag's Lunchette. BLT with house-cured bacon, potato salad with bacon bits. Maybe the best meal I've had in a couple years. Their fresh bread from Semifreddi's combined with the thick, maple-y cuts of pork is worth (gasp!) going all the way to Uptown Oakland for.
Paolo Lucchesi, Inside Scoop SF: There's something magical about the year's first cracked Dungeness crab, isn't there? In terms of restaurants, my most memorable meals of the year always seem to be special dinners -- Liholiho Yacht Club pop-ups come to mind, as do Oenotri's Nuovo Olio dinner and Bar Tartine's Linden Street beer dinner and Bo Bech dinner. In terms of humblebrag fancy dinners, I thought Osteria Francescana was a singular experience.
Brock Keeling, SFist: I said something similar in 2010, but it merits repeating: the fancy beef jerky and rye Frankie Frankeny served me at her studio when we watched the Giants won the World Series (again!).
Virginia Miller, SF Bay Guardian: The night Sweden's Magnus Nilsson cooked with Daniel Patterson at Coi. They personally sourced and prepared each course, like a pine cone and woodland-laden oyster platter, even rooting for turnips under decomposing leaves. Since it was so memorable, I'd love to give a best cocktail "meal" nod (a coursed tasting) to The Aviary in Chicago just after Charles Joly took over as bar manager. How I wish we had a place like it here.
Jane Goldman, CHOW.com: Sorry, SF. It was in New York. NoMad's roast chicken. I know everybody raves about it, but that doesn't make it less magnificent. That thin lawyer of truffle/brioche/foie gras stuffing under the skin of a bird as bronze as a bodybuilder and as crispy as a potato chip, with the dark meat cooked separately in a little butter mushroom hollandaise thing...I can't even remember anything else. It was brilliant.
Jesse Hirsch, The Examiner: I was predictably wowed by State Bird Provisions, but my favorite meal was Polish Easter brunch at my house. My girlfriend makes some mean pierogies and kielbasa, but it was also about the sparkling conversation and the butter lamb and the sunshine. Meals are always bigger than the food.