My Best Restaurants, Bars and Taprooms of 2021

It’ll take travel guide books a while to catch up with all the restaurants and bars closures caused by the COVID lockdowns. To help fill that gap, here are the best places I’ve ate and drank at during my 2021 travels. I’ll update this after each trip, so keep it bookmarked.

  • Chicago
    • NoodleBird at Fat Rice, 2957 W Diversey Ave (at N Sacramento), Logan Square — The lower price-point, post-pandemic reincarnation of Fat Rice, a perennial recommendation of mine. Like Fat Rice, NoodleBird’s starting point is the Chinese-Portuguese fusion cuisine of Macau and then extends to other Asian regions
    • Galit, 2429 N Lincoln Ave (just north of Fullerton), Lincoln Park — Great Israeli/Middle Eastern restaurant with a nice 4-course menu that let’s your table try a lot of dishes
    • High Five Ramen, 112 N Green St, West Loop — Small, hip basement ramen joint. Expect a wait, but have a beer and a Texas BBQ appetizer upstairs at Green Street Smoked Meats while you wait
    • MingHin Cuisine, 2168 S Archer Ave, Chinatown — It’s our favorite dim sum place. And they take reservations!
    • Birrieria Zaragoza, 4852 S Pulaski Rd, Archer Heights (near Midway Airport) — Small, family-owned place with a small menu focused on birria (stewed goat) from Jalisco. Warm service and phenomenal food. 
    • Bitter Pops, 3357 N Lincoln Ave (at Roscoe), Roscoe Village — a renovated slashie (bar + packaged goods) that has a great selection of Chicago craft beer
    • Revolution Brewing – Brewery & Taproom, 3340 N Kedzie Ave, Avondale — Great beers; wide range of styles; bring your own food
    • Maplewood Brewery & Distillery, 2717 N Maplewood Ave (South of Diversey), east of Logan Square — Small, neighborhood bar tucked up against the Kennedy Expressway
    • For more taproom ideas, check out this pre-pandemic TravelCommons taproom tour. Three of the four taprooms featured are still open — Marz, Whiner, and Lo-Rez. Only Lagunitas Brewing is still closed
Sonoran Hot Dog
  • Phoenix
    • Pizzeria Bianco, 623 E Adams St — Thin crust pizza a short drive from the airport
    • Pane Bianco, 4404 N Central Ave — Great sandwich place by the same group further north
Eppiq Brewing
  • New York City
    • Hummus Kitchen, 444 3rd Ave (at 31st St), Murray Hill — Well-executed Middle-Eastern food
    • Her Name is Han, 17 E 31st St (at Madison Ave), Koreatown — Home-style Korean food
    • Craft + Carry – Murray Hill, 440 3rd St (at 30th St) — Excellent selection of NY craft beers on draft and in cans to-go
    • Ted’s Corner Tavern, 523 3rd Ave (at 35th St), Murray Hill — Comfortable neighborhood bar with a great beer selection
    • The Pony Bar, 1444 1st Ave (at E 75th St), Upper East Side — Casual bar with a great beer selection. Been going there for 10 years
  • London
    • Behind Restaurant, 20 Sidworth St E8 3SD, Hackney — Focused on seafood and modern British flavors. The whole restaurant is a kitchen table experience, watching chefs prepare the dishes and then serve them to you. One of the best Michelin 1-star restaurants I’ve visited.
    • The Ginger Pig, Corner of Stoney St and Park St, Borough Market — Bought the best sausage rolls I’ve ever had from their walk-up display. Want to go back and try their meat pies.
    • NOPI, 21-22 Warwick St W1B 5NE, Soho — Fun Mediterranean/Middle Eastern fusion restaurant from star chef Yotam Ottolenghi. Sat at the bar and had a great late lunch.
    • Al Masar, 214, 216 Borough High St SE1 1JX — Strategically located near the Borough tube stop. Solid Lebanese wraps; exactly what I needed after a long taproom crawl down the Bermondsey Beer Mile.
    • Bermondsey Beer Mile, a mile of craft brewery taprooms that have set up shop in adjacent railway arches under a huge brick bridge carrying commuter trains in and out of London Bridge train station. Rob Cheshire, long-time TravelCommons listener and UK craft beer podcaster laid out a taproom crawl that started at The Kernel, the first brewery in on the Mile, and continued through The Barrel Project, Cloudwater, and Brew By Numbers.
    • Old Fountain, 3 Baldwin St (at City Rd) EC1V 9NU, Shoreditch — Tucked into a little side street, it’s a comfortable pub with a great UK craft beer selection.