Best Of Chicago 2010: Top Bars, Restaurants Of 2010 (And What's Coming In 2011)

As 2010 draws to a close, we asked some of Chicago's experts in food, style and music to share their favorite places, people and things of 2010. This week, look for the best shopping and style of 2010 by fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson and Sparrow salon owner Bathsheba Nemerovski, local music picks from CHIRP DJ and Steve Dahl Show producer Pete Zimmerman and top news stories of the year from the HuffPost Chicago staff. But this is Chicago--and we think food is the best place to start. HuffPost blogger and 312 Dining Diva Audarshia Townsend knows her stuff--check out her picks for the best restaurants and bars of 2010, and what she is looking forward to in 2011. Head Bartender Mike Ryan of Kimpton's Sable Kitchen & Bar. (Photo: Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants)

This year was one of Michelin firsts, an overdrive in chef celebrity-dom and the cocktail craze, but more important was the fact that folks were dining out again. While still in a recession, diners shelled out enough dollars to keep the eating and drinking economy alive.

There were many bright spots, some up-and-coming stars discovered and plenty to look forward to in 2011 . . .

Best New Cocktail Bars

Curio/Gilt Bar: It looks like the curse has finally been broken at this venue located at the corner of Franklin and Kinzie. Brendan Sodikoff's low-key yet glamorous gastropub feels like it's been here forever with its classic cocktail program and vintage fixtures, but the crowd is as cool and contemporary as it gets. Downstairs speakeasy Curio is even better.

Epic: After work and after dinnertime, this joint is jumpin' with young and monied revelers looking to blow off steam. The cocktail menu is small, but impressive with their take on the Sazerac and Old Fashioned. Even better: No bottle service policy to sit down. It's first come, first served.

Sable Kitchen & Bar: Sous chef-turned bartender Mike Ryan (formerly of Moto, Violet Hour) demonstrates his love of libations with a cocktail menu that's literally as thick as a book. That automatically takes this upscale hotel bar to another level as it offers storied sippers ranging from classic cocktails rarely seen on menus to creations whipped up by Ryan and staff.

The interior of Girl & The Goat (Photo: Girl & The Goat)

Best New Restaurants

The Florentine: One of the chefs had his own show on the Travel channel. Another was the runner-up on this season's "Hell's Kitchen." And yet a third has headed some of the best kitchens in the country. Rodelio Aglibot, Russell Kook and Todd Stein respectively hold down the fort at the new JW Marriott property. It's all about classic American fare and Stein's twist on Italian dining FTW.

Girl & The Goat: With an open kitchen where you can literally tap star chef Stephanie Izard on the back (no one ever does, thank God), the snazzy West Loop resto has been cranking along nicely since opening in July. And even though it's a very meat-heavy haven, many vegetarians have found it catering to their needs as well.

Kith & Kin: Andrew Brochu took over the helm when former partner/exec chef David Carrier left earlier this fall, and he's tweaked the menu awesomely to his style. Hearty portions of handmade pastas, steaks and seafood are perfectly seasoned and the cocktail menu is right on point. This was desperately needed in Lincoln Park.

Maude's Liquor Bar is set to open the first week of January. (Photo: Maude's Liquor Bar)

Looking Ahead to 2011

Restaurants We're Excited About

GT Fish & Oyster: Guiseppe Tentori of Boka fame is also the chef at this seafood-focused sibling of Girl & The Goat, Landmark and Perennial. In December, he gave foodies a sneak preview tasting of the lobster roll and clam chowder. Opening is set for February.

Maude's Liquor Bar: Gilt Bar's Brendan Sodikoff is set to open this French-inspired "dive" bar and restaurant in the West Loop the first week of January. They've already done a few friends-and-family preview tastings and the word is that the pomme frites with garlic aioli, seafood tower and "sausage of the day" are certain to be hits.

Next: This was 2010's most highly anticipated opening, but it's been moved to winter 2011. That's because it's Grant Achatz's second project since opening his three-starred Michelin Alinea. Diners must purchase tickets Ticketmaster-style for prix-fixe feasts that will change seasonally.

Paris Club: We're also eagerly awaiting the arrival of the French-themed tavern and restaurant from the Melman brothers (HUB 51). They've teamed up with legendary Alsatian chef Jean Joho, so we're certain it will be a gem. Expected to open in January.

The Drawing Room's Cristiana DeLucca (Photo: Audarshia Townsend)

Chefs to Watch

Dave Beran (Next): Beran's been Grant Achatz's right hand man in the kitchen for years, so it's no surprise that he'd take over the second project.

Curtis Duffy (Avenues): Though the chef de cuisine at the Peninsula's two-starred Michelin restaurant had a stellar 2010, we expect 2011 to be his best ever. We're crossing our fingers that this is the year he finally grows a "Beard."

Jeff Pikus (Maude's Liquor Bar): He was quietly working the line at Gilt Bar before being plucked to head the team at the French eatery. He's definitely one new name you'll hear a lot in 2011.

Bartenders to Watch

Logan Lavachek (Sepia/Double A): A stealth force behind two of Chicago's most buzzed-about cocktail lounges, Lavachek is known to have one hell of a palate when it comes to shaking up tasty drinks.

Cristiana DeLucca (The Drawing Room): It's pretty hard to get shine when you work with America's Best Bartender Charles Joly, but DeLucca has built her own reputation during her two years at the Gold Coast spot. In 2010, Tales of the Cocktail named her one of 10 "rising stars" in the country.