Chicken and waffles ($9) • This dish is as common on menus right now as a twirly moustache is on a hipster. I can forgive faddiness when a dish is executed with this level of excellence, though. The version at Avenues Proper Restaurant & Publick House is a decadent delight. The small-plate dish starts with a waffle resting on thyme-infused maple syrup. A house-made chicken sausage comes next, and a sunny-side-up quail egg finishes the creation with perfect panache.
Best landlocked seafood dish
Manila clams ($12) • The Grand America's Garden Café is featuring this foreign treasure. A play on clam chowder, this appetizer delivers fresh steamed clams in a broth of white wine and a touch of cream along with potatoes, bacon lardons and crusty grilled bread for dipping.
Best soul-satisfying noodles
Shanghai fat noodles ($8.75-$9.25) • Whether you choose from chicken, beef or shrimp, I guarantee the Shanghai fat noodles from Boba World will rock your world. Hearty, chewy fat noodles, created in-house at Boba World, are soul satisfying in a way that few dishes can match in these cold winter months. The noodles are simply finished with soy sauce and crisp veggies and the moment your finish the plate, you'll be dreaming of ordering the next.
Best Mexican pizza
Spedelli's carne asada pizza (14-inch $18, 16-inch $20, 18-inch $22) • Served piping hot, this pizza has a thin, crispy crust offering up fresh pico de gallo, ample carne asada and a peppery sauce with green chile kick. Add the guacamole sauce from the salsa bar for a creamy, cool avocado finish.
Best sloppy Joe
Feldman's Deli sloppy joe ($12.50) • This sloppy joe bears little resemblance to the dish you might otherwise expect. The name is merely a warning sign for the impending gloriously messy and meaty sandwich. The half-pound behemoth is built from NYC-imported pastrami and corned beef held in place by three slices of quality Jewish rye. Slather on Thousand Island dressing and oodles of creamy slaw and I dare you to not make a mess while you devour this monster.
Best Peruvian ceviche
Del Mar al Lago's tasting sampler ($21) • This dish introduces you to a sampling of three Peruvian ceviches delivered on a flaming platter. Begin with the classic ceviche (Cebiche Clásico) with potatoes and large-kernel Peruvian corn, next the Cebiche Chifa with crisp tortilla strips and corn nuts and finally, for a spicy kick, the Cebiche aji Amarillo (a Peruvian chile pepper) that gives this ceviche a yellow/orange hue.
Best spicy steak
Indochine's chile spiced flank steak ($12.95) • My love for Bò Xào Så Ot at Indochine Vietnamese Bistro is only just eclipsed by my inability to pronounce it. With the help of the incredibly friendly team, I've tried to get to grips time and again, but you'll usually find me asking for chile spiced flank steak. Tender steak is sautéed with garlic, onion, red chile, lemongrass and curry powder. Served with rice, the result is as flavor-packed as it is aromatic.
Best punchy salad
Taqueria 27's butter lettuce salad ($3.50 small/$7 large) • Taqueria 27 serves the excellent butter lettuce salad topped with pears and pumpkin seeds and an amazing green chile Gorgonzola dressing. The pungent bleu cheese and the spicy chile deliver an incredible punch on top of simple, crisp butter lettuce. It's a fresh complement to any T27 taco.
Best carnivore plate
R&R Barbecue three-meat plate ($14.99) • Even those with small appetites will be dismissing punier portions in favor of the three-meat plate at R&R Barbecue. The simple reason is that everything that brothers Rod and Roger Livingston cook is so darned good. For sides, don't miss the spectacular fried okra or the legit hush puppies. I'm going to petition for a five-meat plate in 2014.
Best gastropub dessert
The Annex by Epic Brewing's warm porter gingerbread ($5) • This dessert from The Annex by Epic Brewing is a moist, spicy holiday cake accentuated by a rich caramel sauce made with Epic's Big Bad Baptist, then topped with cool whipped cream. Not too sweet, it's the perfect dessert to share around the table.
Top 10 Dishes of 2013
Here's where to find our most memorable meals of the past year.
The Annex by Epic Brewing • 1048 E. 2100 South, Suite 110, Salt Lake City; 801-742-5490.
Avenues Proper Restaurant and Publick House • 376 8th Ave., Salt Lake City; 385-227-8628.
Boba World • 750 S. 512 West, Woods Cross; 801-298-3626.
Del Mar al Lago • 310 Bugatti Drive, Salt Lake City; 801-467-2890.
Feldman's Deli • 2005 E. 2700 South, Salt Lake City; 801-906-0369.
The Grand America's Garden Café • 555 S. Main St., Salt Lake City; 801-258-6000
Indochine Vietnamese Bistro • 230 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City; 801-582-0896.
R&R Barbecue • 307 W. 600 South, Salt Lake City; 801-364-0443.
Spedelli's • 2352 Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City; 801-410-4842.
Taqueria 27 • 1615 S. Foothill Drive, Suite G, Salt Lake City; 385-259-0712.