Best Ice Cream
Yeah, it's a sushi place, but they make a green tea ice cream that's smoother, creamier and denser than anything you've ever licked off a spoon. And the spoons they use are precious.
Blue Dragon Coffehouse
Free trade tastes better.
Best Chips and Salsa
No stale old chips here. Both the chips and salsa taste incredibly fresh. Great texture, bursting with flavor.
Best Huevos Rancheros
Always and forever.
Best Biscuits and Gravy
Murphy's Mule Barn
Cream gravy is a dish best enjoyed with an ashy, lip-danglin' cigarette.
Tamales are always a Christmas treat at home, so I never think to order them when I'm out. It'd be like eating wedding cake just for the hell of it.
Best Green Chile
Damn, damn, damn! Why is this such a hard question? It really depends on what I'm in the mood for. Fine ... Frontier.
Best Red Chile
Mary and Tito's for a fine vegetarian red (to my knowledge, the only vegetarian red, really).
Barelas Coffee House
If you'd have asked me any other year, I'd have said Frontier without any hesitation. But is it possible to outgrow a baked good? Those suckers are floury as all hell, to the point of tasting raw. I go with a thicker tortilla now. The tortillas at Barelas have a nice buttery note and enough coverage for a heavy-duty chile mop.
Best Indian Taco
The State Fair, Indian Village.
You've got to wait for it.
Best Bar Food
I'm always pleasantly surprised by the bar food at Gecko's. Real-tasting tomatoes are a small miracle for any restaurant, let alone a bar.
Last I checked, he made the desserts at Monte Vista Fire Station and Ambrozia. Nicely does some amazing stuff with booze, ice cream and chocolate (not necessarily all at the same time, but it's been known to happen).
It all comes down to the crust: crisp but tender with good flop, good snap and good chew. There's no comparison in town. None.
Mamma Kai uses stuff from her own family's garden. You can actually taste the love!
Mykonos for fancy, Olympia for diner Greek. My entire family is from Detroit, where this distinction makes sense.
Best Middle Eastern
It's my neighborhood Middle Eastern place. I was there right when they opened up (I took pictures of them for the paper), and I used to ride my bike past it on my way to school. It's like I'm watching it grow up.
But the new Thai Basil on north Fourth Street has been luring me away recently.
Best New Restaurant
There have been so many wonderful new additions this year! The biggest defining characteristic I think I'm seeing in this bunch is the quality—really fresh, cared-for ingredients. The integrity is there in the food already, which makes the chefs' jobs that much easier.
Best New Chain Restaurant
Ben and Jerry's
Loyola's Cactus Flower
They're always friendly and prompt, even when every last seat in the house is occupied.
Best Romantic Dinner Spot
Mary and Tito's
Best Sunday Brunch
Blue Dragon Coffehouse
It's delicious, creative, affordable and good for my body, too.
Sam Etheridge and his crew
A great chef without a good team ain't shit, but these guys probably get together on their night off and braid each other's hair. You really sense the relationship between them and the food and you. And they're having fun, which is critical.
Best Wine List
I like the wine list over at Graze. It's small enough so that even someone who doesn't know a lot about wine (me) can make a decision without feeling overwhelmed. It's short but delicious. Also, the servers are really knowledgeable about the wines, but not in a showy, alienating way. It's more like "I've sat down and drunk this and liked the hell out of it."
Best Restaurant You Wish You Could Afford More Often
I swear, I'd eat there every night if I could.
Best Restaurant Bathrooms
Burt's Tiki Lounge
Because I spend so much time in them. And I've drunk my dinner there more times than I care to remember, so I think it counts.