Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune
At a time when seemingly every top-name chef in town (Achatz, Cantu, Duffy, Kahan, Elliot, Izard, etc.) was setting up shop in the West Loop, Ryan McCaskey literally went the Road Less Traveled route, opening his sleek, luxury-dining restaurant on a quieter-than-most stretch of South Wabash Avenue. People thought he was nuts. His parents thought he was nuts. But one year, tons of glowing reviews and a Michelin star later, nobody's questioning the chef's vision. Amid a neutral dining room with eye-popping decorative grace notes — a metal-bead curtain serving as a semi-transparent room divider, a kitchen doorway paneled to resemble an artist's frame — are picture-perfect plates that express McCaskey's love for New England flavors. The chef's lobster pot pie, which arranged butter-poached lobster with Tokyo turnips, tarragon-scented potato-dauphine balls and a drizzle of lobster bisque, was one of the best dishes I had all year.
Acadia, 1639 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago; 312-360-9500
— Phil Vettel