Sometime commenter Adam asks, re my 2008 cities list: what was the best meal I had in each place? My memory’s not good enough (or maybe the food wasn’t good enough) for me to answer this question completely, but here are a few standouts. We liked Rosendale’s in Columbus, half for the food and half for the enjoyable mismatch between the severe Manhattan decor and the chirpy Ohio waitstaff. Greg’s Ice Cream in Toronto was as good as any in Madison, which is to say really good. Patou Thai in Belmont, MA — the applause for the short ribs in the Yelp comments is merited. Ghar-E-Kabab is an Indian/Nepali place in an unmallified patch of downtown Silver Spring,MD that serves a surprisingly interesting organic lunch buffet, including some Indian-Chinese dishes. Santorini in Greektown, Chicago, delivered the flaming goods. Banh mi from one of the Vietnamese sandwich shops in one of the giant Vietnamese shopping centers somewhere in Northern Virginia — Falls Church? I don’t remember where, but if you’re in Northern Virginia, you’re close to some pretty good banh mi, you lucky jerk. Jalapeno Loco, across the street from the Milwaukee airport, which isn’t technically out of town, but we only eat there when we’re going out of town, or coming home.
But most of my travel this year was to places I’ve been before, so many of my meals were at old favorites. The grand old taxidermy barn that is Southside Market in Elgin, TX, source of Elgin Hot Sausage. Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal, home of poutine au foie gras, and my favorite place to eat in all Canada (since people tell me Tojo’s has gone downhill) though I can’t recommend it if you’re vegetarian or want to talk about math; too meaty, too loud. Ruen Pair in Albany, CA, maybe the best Thai restaurant in America. (I dream of their simple, perfect Bangkok omelet.) A somewhat disappointing trip back to China Village, also in Albany, and a really disappointing trip back to the Center Restaurant in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. (But my friend in Hastings tells me that this place was bad even ten years ago, when gauzy memory tells me it was good.)
And of course, Mr. Bartley’s, lodestar of my palate, which never changes, and never will, if the world is just. I got to go four times last year. So it was a good year.