One of the most frequent questions that we get asked about our jobs here at Foodbeast is, "So what's the best thing you've eaten so far?" While that question is almost impossible to answer within the context of best food EVER, it becomes easier once we pare it down to our favorite things we've eaten throughout the course of this year.
2016's filled our plates and seduced our palates with some of the most amazing, delectable, and flat out unforgettable food. But some of us here at Foodbeast managed to rack our Hot Cheetos-dusted brains (yes, the trend even reached our cranium's this year) and singled out our favorite meals and best new food items in 2016.
BEST MEAL OF 2016: The Surf & Turf Burger at Three Buoys Seafood Shanty & Grille in Portland, Maine
During my time in Portland, ME, I did multiple visits to a beautifully crumbly shanty called Three Buoys Seafood Shanty & Grille. It takes a lot of ambiance to crawl up my ass and make a dining experience be the best meal of an entire year, but everything about the Shanty is memorable. It's on the corner of a quaint street, four walls of blues and reds that would only work in a beach town. It was rainy the day we visited, our first stop for lobster upon landing in the quaint other Portland. We ordered up everything we could on the menu: lobster fries, lobster rolls, lobster, and the best thing I would eat that entire trip — the Surf & Turf Burger. The burger came packed with caramelized onions dripping all over the place, flaky beef patties, an offensive amount of cheese, a sauce that acts like a merry glue between all the layers, and an irresponsible amount of responsibly fished lobster. It made not only the perfect Instagram photo, but the best cumulative bite I would have in 2016.
BEST NEW FOOD ITEM OF 2016: Everything Bagel Lavash Crisp at Citizen Kitchen in Fullerton, California
Chef Zach Geerson is a monster, and when he brought out this literal bagel crisp the size of a serving tray, covered with everything bagel seasoning, fried capers, truffle cream cheese, and confit salmon — I knew this was the hottest new thing I'd seen all year. I ate it for dinner and felt not an ounce of remorse.
BEST MEAL OF 2016: Tonkotsu Ramen at Ichiran Dotonbori in Osaka, Japan
Tonkotsu is my favorite ramen, and even though this place is a small chain in Japan, the nonchalant vibe and the classic/stupidly delicious taste made this the best meal of 2016 for me.
BEST NEW FOOD ITEM OF 2016: Hottie Fried Chicken at Seoulmate in Fullerton, California
The fried chicken has just the right amount of tang and buffalo-y taste. The fry job is so pillowy and thick, it's surely what fried chicken dreams are made of.
BEST MEAL OF 2016: Margherita Pizza at Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples, Italy
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This pizza is hands down the best I’ve ever had. We were exploring the streets of Napoli trying to find this small hole in the wall, just to get a slice. When we finally found it, we were met with a huge crowd waiting outside. But this crowd wasn't a bunch of tourists — they were locals, waiting for a fresh margherita pie. That’s how I knew this place was the real deal. Worth the wait. After all, it’s a Michelin-star pizza joint. The pizza stood out to me for its simple ingredients. The dough itself was nice and crunchy at the bottom but still soft and fluffy on the inside. The sauce was light on the heart but strong with flavor. You can’t go wrong with a simple cheese pizza with some basil leaves and a healthy drizzle of olive oil.
BEST NEW FOOD ITEM OF 2016: Corn Flake French Toast w/ Bacon at Koko Head Cafe in Oahu, Hawaii
I ate really well when I was in Oahu — from loco mocos to Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. But for some reason, this dish took me back to when I was a kid, shoveling corn flakes into my mouth while watching Rugrats on Saturday mornings. This dish was soft and warm on the inside, with that sweet French toast flavor and coating of crunchy, buttered corn flakes topped with bacon. If you’re ever in Oahu Hawaii, stop in for breakfast at Koko Head Cafe.
BEST MEAL OF 2016: Pork Belly Mac 'N Cheese at Grassa in Portland, Oregon
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So I was up spending the week in Portland with my friend, when one day we decide to go explore the forest nearby. What started as a fun little walk through the nature park turned into a six or so hour hike through the rain as we explored as much as we could. By the time we got back to the city we were both starving, so we looked around for something good. We eventually spotted this little Italian place called Grassa. We craved some pasta, so this felt like it was a good choice. Now, I don’t know if it was because we hadn’t eaten in nine hours or the long walk, but man that Pork Belly Mac 'N Cheese was honestly the best thing I’d ever tasted. I almost felt like crying. That’s going to be the first place I go next time I go back.
BEST NEW FOOD ITEM OF 2016: Chocolate Dome at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen in Anaheim, California
The best new item I’ve had was the Chocolate Dome from Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen. Melting chocolate over dulce de leche ice cream with oozing caramel? AND smothered over fresh berries and beignets? Just try and tell me that doesn’t sound like heaven.
BEST MEAL AND BEST NEW FOOD ITEM OF 2016: Cheese Plate at Bottlecraft in San Diego, CA
This cheese plate changed my life.
BEST MEAL OF 2016: Filipino Breakfast at Filipino Bagnet Restaurant & Bakery
My first introduction to Tapsilog — a combination of garlic rice, a savory meat, and fried eggs — was an illuminating experience. This was the first time I tried an authentic Filipino breakfast. The flavors, textures, and aesthetics, paired with the exhilaration of a brand new cultural taste further reinforced my love for the beloved first meal of the day.
BEST NEW FOOD ITEM OF 2016: Garlic Nuoc Mam Butter Wings at Sit Low Pho in Santa Ana, CA
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It was a shame it took me 27 years to discover the beauty of Garlic Nuoc Mam Butter wings. This was served at Downtown Santa Ana's Sit Low Pho and they were truly a religious experience, boasting a sweet and saltiness you can only get from fish sauce. The balancing act is trying to squeeze in a trip to the market every week to surrender to my cravings, internally telling myself 'enough's enough' just so I can squeeze into my jeans. Still, I find myself drawn to the neighborhood food hall, savoring every bite of these life-changing pieces of chicken. Since discovering those wings more than five months ago, I've been trying to chase that high at every Vietnamese joint I visit. Still, I find myself right back at Sit Low, as nothing's taken the title from them so far.
BEST MEAL AND BEST NEW FOOD ITEM OF 2016: Faith & Flower in Los Angeles, CA
One of the best meals I've had this year absolutely had to be from Faith & Flower during DineLA week. I had a chance to try a few things and I have to say that I was absolutely blown away with all I had that evening. It's like somehow my tastebuds went to the Cave of Wonders, found the genie’s magic lamp, and my three wishes ended up being: NY Steak Tartare, Shellfish Risotto, and Hazelnut Chocolate Feuilletine.
RICHARD "REACH" GUINTO
BEST MEAL OF 2016: Kamayan-style Filipino Feast by MFK By Aysee in Anaheim, California
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Narrowing down the best meal I've had in 2016 was tough. I had that OG Italian food realness in Verona, Italy, snacked on perfectly spiced ribs and pork chops from a brown paper bag sold out of a hole in the wall in Aruba, and did I mention I live in Los Angeles AKA the most exciting food city this year? Despite such unforgettable culinary experiences, what managed to stand out was the boodle fight, kamayan-style Filipino feast prepared by Chef Henry Pineda from MFK By Aysee Filipino Kitchen. Not only was the food memorable in satisfying my palate, but it also made for my very first kamayan-style experience. Moreover, it brought practically the whole Foodbeast team together on some true squad steez, with even some of them experiencing and thoroughly enjoying Filipino food for the first time during that meal.
BEST NEW FOOD ITEM OF 2016: Sweetbreads Over Ramen at Little Sister in Los Angeles, California
With Asian-fusion restaurants, the cuisine toes a razor thin line between squares being pushed into round holes and brilliant elevation. The food at Little Sister in Downtown Los Angeles is triumphantly the latter. Their crispy sweetbreads over ramen noodles, with chili oil, mushroom froth, and shaved tendon was the champion of the world when it came to exciting my palate. Besides the outstanding food, they had a soundtrack of Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, and Redman bumping in the restaurant. I mean, how could I not fall in love with this whole dining experience?