Kevin Pang's favorite dishes (so far) of 2014

Tribune reporter

If you eat out a lot, as I do, eventually there’ll be enough dishes in your taste memory to divide good from bad, and great from good. Since we’re halfway through 2014 (seriously?!), here was an opportune time to revisit my year in dining to date. The great has been great so far.

Nashville Hot on buttermilk biscuit
The Roost

Let us declare 2014 to be the year of the Southern chicken sandwich, and this food truck-turned-Lakeview storefront leads the charge. A legit-spicy crag of fried chicken, the hue of the sun from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, between the most butter-flaky biscuit I’ve tasted in a while. 1467 W. Irving Park Rd., 312-261-5564, 

Bing bread

A thick, crunchy discus of potato bread, studded with bacon and scallions, served with a smear of sour cream butter. If the bread course was this good everywhere, there would be no need for entrees. 3500 N. Elston Ave., 773-654-1460,

Double cheeseburger
Red Hot Ranch (Lakeview location)

Finally, burger constructionists are wising up to the idea that griddle-smashed beef patties are the way to go. Red Hot Ranch’s Lakeview restaurant serves up a double cheeseburger worth your patronage, especially given the $5 asking price which comes with great fries. 3055 N. Ashland Ave., 773-661-9377

Crispy tripe tacos
La Chaparrita

Whenever an out-of-town friend with an adventurous palate visits, I’ll take them to Little Village to sample La Chaparrita’s crispy tripe tacos. Whatever you think tripe tastes like, this isn’t it. You taste crispy beefiness, and then you want to taste it again. 2500 S. Whipple St., 773-254-0975

Chilled tofu
Sumi Robata Bar

An exercise in balance, elegance and minimalism. Sumi Robata Grill’s chilled tofu is incomparably creamy, like a savory panna cotta with briny pops of salmon roe and crispy intertwines of ginger. 702 N. Wells St., 312-988-7864,

Skate wing

To be honest, I don’t remember every component on this dish, not that it would matter since it has probably morphed into something else by now. But this dish sticks with me for the way achiote and guajillo peppers lends a smoky complexity to the butter rich, tine-tender skate wings. 1529 W. Chicago Ave., 312-850-0288,
Twitter @pang 

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