Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune
Our first Dining Awards included a nod to Les Nomades, and the "contemporary verve" brought to the menu by its young cuisinier. That chef, Chris Nugent, and his contemporary verve can be found these days on Lawrence Avenue, where he and his wife, Nina, opened Goosefoot a little more than a year ago. A strongly personal restaurant, Goosefoot was designed by the Nugents, decorated with art the couple acquired on their European honeymoon, and even opened on a date honoring Nugent's departed older brother. To keep the experience relatively affordable (the set menu is nine courses, priced at $115), they went the BYO route. It apparently works — reservations at this 34-seat restaurant are exceedingly hard to get. But the real draw, of course, is Nugent's cooking, which features precise, uncommonly beautiful plates that celebrate life and nature and all growing things — particularly members of the goosefoot plant family, which embraces Chioggia beets, epazote, quinoa, various spinach varieties, Swiss chard and more, much of it grown by the Nugents themselves. Even the menu is printed on ready-to-plant seed paper, so that the mere act of dining here presents the opportunity for growth and new life. I experienced a lot of extraordinary chef work this year, but Nugent's food stood out.
Goosefoot, 2656 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago; 773-942-7547
— Phil Vettel