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The Best Restaurant Meals of 2023, According to Eater Editors

After 12 months of eating around the country and the world, these are the dishes we can’t stop thinking about

As one would expect, a team of literal professional Eaters puts away countless restaurant meals over the course of a year, whether as part of official reporting and research or just because, you know, it’s Tuesday. For some, the year’s most memorable meal closed with a peach sorbet swirled with corn frozen yogurt, or was represented by chile crab served beachside in Malaysia, or was simply punctuated by a perfectly fried house-made potato chip. No matter what, the year contained many, many restaurant meals we keep revisiting in memory. Here they are:

What was your best restaurant meal of the year?

It gives me immense pleasure to say that my favorite restaurant meal of the year happened in my very own neighborhood of Old Town, Pasadena. My second meal at Bar Chelou, which landed on our Best New Restaurants list, knocked my socks off. After a couple of years of openings that, to me, felt good but unremarkable, Bar Chelou was proof that Pasadena could have a genuinely exciting restaurant on par with the cooking happening in hipper LA neighborhoods. Oddball flavor combos, technical expertise, fantastic wines, on-trend cocktails, and expert service all make that revelatory meal one of my highlights of the year. For the best restaurant meal I had this year that wasn’t eligible for Best New Restaurants, I’m gonna shout out Baroo. After an epic run in an LA strip mall, Kwang Uh and Mina Park re-opened in an elegant Arts District space with a whole new format. Where the original Baroo was a casual walk-in counter-service spot, Baroo 2.0 is among the best tasting menus I’ve had in Los Angeles. There are familiar through-lines though, in the unexpected fermentations and in the embrace of bitter and earthy flavors that feels utterly Baroo to me. But this more composed version feels like a worthy stage for the return of one of LA’s most essential culinary voices. — Hillary Dixler Canavan, restaurant editor

Sailor, April Bloomfield’s return, has been described as embodying “complete self-assurance.” Indeed, what struck me about the meal was its confidence. Everything sounded good, if a bit simple, on the menu. Then, I’d have a swipe of the red wine sauce surrounding the charred, soft, stuffed radicchio, or a tangle of the somehow sunchoke-laced greens in vermouth cream, or find that the toast beneath the herby green sauce was the exact right amount of squishy, and I’d realize that the food was so much more than what I expected, with a finesse I could never nail at home. The service was charming; the space was cozy. I don’t usually order dessert, but we did (the profiteroles: good ones, with salted caramel), even if for no other reason than to hang out a little longer. — Bettina Makalintal, senior reporter

Basically everywhere I ate in Philadelphia this year blew my mind — Honeysuckle Provisions, Pietramala, Doro Bet — but My Loup probably took the cake. I keep thinking about the fennel compound butter they served with their corn, and a little cup of swirled peach sorbet and corn frozen yogurt that was an amuse bouche to the rest of dessert. Just an incredibly thoughtful and fun meal in a city full of great meals. — Jaya Saxena, correspondent

This is a three-way tie between the egg salad sandwich at Breadbelly, the yuba verde roll and charred broccoli salad at Superiority Burger, and a prix fixe extravaganza at Eels. Three meals at three restaurants in three cities, ostensibly with nothing in common. For some reason it’s a lot easier to describe what makes a meal bad than what makes a meal perfect — all of those superlatives congeal into something that has little meaning to anyone but the person who ate the food in question. So the easiest way for me to explain why these were my favorite meals of the year is to say that each one provoked a deep, enduring joy that still shines bright in my otherwise sludgy memory of 2023. And that’s about as good as it gets. — Rebecca Flint Marx, Home editor

Two hands delicately spoon caviar atop a deep-fried ball on a plate.
Plating roe atop a black eyed pea fritter at Dakar NOLA.
Josh Brasted/Eater

The meal I had at Dakar NOLA is one of the best I’ve had in years. I was a solo diner, so I was seated at the community table with a bunch of strangers, all of whom were really great dinner companions. The service begins with communal hand washing, which was such a lovely experience. I was a little verklempt at the tender care that was woven into this service. And then the food started coming — a perfect soupou kandja with tender crab and puffed rice, a crispy black eyed pea fritter topped with salmon roe, all perfect and memorable dishes. — Amy McCarthy, staff writer

In the early fall, I went with some friends to see the best food movie ever made, Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. After the 3.5 hour screening at Metrograph, we walked a few blocks to Ernesto’s, a small slice of Basque Country on NYC’s Lower East Side. The croquetas de jamon, perfectly fried and salty with a wisp of sweetness from the creamy bechamel, were transportive and, paired with a crisp martini, an ideal curtain-raiser for the meal. Next came the paleta Iberico con patatas chips, a heaping mound of house-made potato chips laced with paper-thin slices of Iberico ham. The crunch of the chips was muted by the soft, chewy ham, creating a third texture that was somehow both crisp and gummy at once. The bacalao en salsa verde, one of a few mains shared by the table, was served with clams and artichokes and doused liberally in a garlic and parsley white wine sauce. The sauce seemed almost like it was coursing through the cod, each bite a briny Gusher kept in check by the occasional artichoke. — Jonathan Smith, interim senior editor

I was blown away by so many of the meals I ate in Istanbul while visiting a friend this fall, but the crown goes to the lunch I had at Yeni Lokanta. And, okay, of course a meal I had while on a vacation in a foreign city would be the one that stands out, but it was note perfect, starting with gloriously fluffy acma served with a smoky butter through dessert, a fancified kadayif (with Turkish coffee, naturally). It certainly helped, too, that all of it was enjoyed on pretty turquoise-tiled tables in a lovely, quiet room on a leisurely weekday afternoon. — Monica Burton, deputy editor

I ate well at every opportunity during my honeymoon, which took me and my wife to Singapore, Malaysia, Italy, and England, but the meal that will stick with me took place at Restoran Jeti Paya on the Malaysian island of Tioman. The dining room consists of a concrete slab set into the beach, a metal roof overhead but no walls, and some patio tables, yet the kitchen turns out an incredible array of seafood, noodles, and steamboat (hot pot). We dug into a hulking chile crab with noodles and rolls that almost tasted like Martin’s, sipped some cans of Tiger, fed bites to the stray cats that prowl the island, listened to ’90s pop on the radio, finished with some Milo ice cream bars, and watched a series of colorful storms brewing on the horizon that looked like something straight out of Close Encounters. — Nicholas Mancall-Bitel, senior editor

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