2014 was an anxious year for foodies — but a good kind of anxious. The kind of anxious that comes from maintaining a feverish, nearly athletic dining schedule to try to keep up with all the new restaurants that opened this year.
The post-bubble economy may have inspired a new embrace of comfort food and casual fare but, thankfully, some chefs realized that not all of us need a celebrity-branded gourmet burger to heal our souls. Come on: Thrill us! They did.
Surprise of the Year Yonaka. Brilliant new Japanese cuisine is popping up all over the dining scene, but no one expected a former French café at Flamingo and Decatur to emerge as a palace of future-sushi, a thoughtfully experimental kitchen where any fresh, bright ingredient you can think of — and many you can’t — find their perfect place on a plate with raw fish.
Downtown upstarts with fresh moves and fine-dining citadels on the Strip upending their own traditions — 2012 was a year of surprises, mashups and fertile chaos. The gastropub dished up a remix of the artisanal and casual; desserts refused their status as sweet epilogues and rushed the stage; and Vegas culinary institutions strove anew not to just meet a standard, but to forge a new one.
We bet you’ve got quite an appetite right about now. After all, 2011 was a year of hard work, hunkering down, and holding on beneath thundercloud headlines about halting recovery and slow economic comeback.
Friendliest Mom & Pop Joint of the Year: Frank & Fina’s Cocina. It’s a testament to the warmth of Frank & Fina’s Cocina that when it closed its original, more central location on West Charleston Boulevard about three years ago to focus on its larger restaurant near the Beltway on Flamingo Road, regulars followed their favorite Mexican cuisine into the tony ’burbs.