Here we are folks, the most anticipated, and longest, post of the year. That's right, this is the annual wrap-up of my yearly culinary adventures. I know, it's only October and here I am talking about the best of 2014 as if the year were over. I do have several places I want to squeeze in a visit to before the year ends, but most of my serious traveling ends when school starts. Besides, Hudson Valley Magazine has already done their Best of 2014, so why can't I?
You may note the presence of a quite few seafood dishes, and shrimp seems to be in many of them. All of the restaurants listed are independents, no chains here with the exemption of one or two that have more than one location. I may add a few more entries before the end of the year. The links on the names will lead you to my original reviews.
Best Burger- This was a tough one to decide on as there were so many to choose from. As a result I decided to do the best burger in each of the four regions I travel through, and write the most about.
|East Coast Burger Company|
North Jersey- East Coast Burger Company in Ridgewood, NJ gets the nod here, edging out places like Smashburger, Vinburger, Bobby's Burger Palace and a few more. What the folks here have done is to take the concepts of the up and coming chains and improve on them in a local restaurant. They also have some amazing lobster rolls.
|Wyebrook Farm Market and Cafe|
Philadelphia- In the Lancaster area is a small town called Honey Brook. In the countryside you can find Wyebrook Farm Market and Cafe, a place that has taken farm-to-table to the max. They raise the beef, and the veggies right there and the cow you saw yesterday may be in your burger today.
Fairfield CT- O'Brien's Sports Pub and Restaurant in Danbury makes a proper burger cooked exactly as ordered, and at a reasonable price.
Wilmington, NC- Whisky Creek Sports Pub is our new find in the Wilmington area. My favorite is the Jamie's Way burger which has a nice thick slab of capicola and a fried egg on a seriously good burger. Family friendly place too.
|Cape Fear Seafood Company|
Best Overall Seafood Dish- Grouper Saltimbocca at Cafe Fear Seafood Company, Wilmington, NC gets the nod for the most creative seafood dish I've ever had. Taking grouper and making it a saltimbocca is taking a risk, and creating an amazing dish.
|Royal Fish and Chips|
Best Breakfast- One of the more interesting breakfasts I've come across is the shrimp and grits with an egg from The Dixie Grill, Wilmington, NC. Shrimp and grits is good anytime, and I could eat it everyday. Add the egg and there is a whole new dimension.
Best Seafood and Pasta- Shrimp Ravioli at Joe Willy's Seafood, Fishkill, NY is a delightful dish, especially when served over spinach drenched in garlic.
Best Deli- Cold cuts are nice, but it takes some talent to create combinations which elevate simple cold cuts into a culinary creation. Chops, Wilmington, NC does that.
Best Italian North- I couldn't make a final desision on the best Italian restaurant so I went with my favorite in the north, and my favorite in the south. Close to home the Nu-Cavu has been one of our favorites for years and my go to dish is the stuffed veal shown above.
Best Italian South- South of the Mason/Dixon Line my favorite Italian place is Terrazzo Trattoria in Wilmington, NC. My favorite dish here is the Veal Margherita shown above. My second is the seafood Positano. Everything else there is great too.
Best Fish Tacos- K-38 Baja Grill on Oleander in Wilmington is owned by the same people as Las Olas, Tower, and K-38 in Porter's Neck. The menus are similar and my favorite is the seafood tacos.
Best Irish- Molly Maguire's in Downingtown sits in the old firehouse and has the feel of a classy pub in the old country. I liked the Guinness and beef pie shown above.
Best Buffet- Casey's Buffet and BBQ, Wilmington, NC. Southern home-style cooking and plenty of it. Everything on the buffet was very good and the staff made us feel like we were long time regulars.
Best Fresh Food Concept- Epic Foods, Wilmington, NC. Fresh food and fresh concepts. My favorites are the burgers and the salmon.
Best Whisky- Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Deep smokey taste.
Well, this was one darn fine culinary year for me.