25 Restaurant Dishes We Couldn’t Stop Thinking About This Year

As you watch the plate being cleared, you think: That was so good. What made that so good? Why isn’t there just a little more? Months later, your mind still glances back. I need to get back there.

In 2022, these were some of the dishes that did that for us.

In reporting our annual list of 50 favorite restaurants in the United States, our writers and editors ate hundreds of meals all over the country. They meticulously cataloged menus, and took notes on tastes and ingredients. In many cases, the restaurants mentioned here were excellent overall, but at the very least these dishes make them well worth a visit. BRIAN GALLAGHER

The shaobing at CY Chia and Shane Stanbridge’s restaurant Lion Dance Cafe changes a little every week, but it’s always delicious.Credit…Emma K Morris

Shaobing at Lion Dance Cafe

Oakland, Calif.

There might be preserved vegetables, homemade pickles, tofu nuggets or slabs of fried tofu. There might be vegan mayonnaise modeled on Kewpie, or crunchy slaws. The distinct and idiosyncratic sandwich changes every week, but you can always expect something thoughtful and hefty, held together in the restaurant’s own beautiful, sesame-scented bread. TEJAL RAO

Sonoran Pretzel at Valentine


Forget everything you know about pretzels. In this version, a crisp, crackled crust gives way to a toasty, slightly tangy and nutty interior. Swiped with honey and whipped butter made from hen fat, the pretzel is the most unforgettable part of the meal. PRIYA KRISHNA

Like all of the grilled seafood served at HaiSous, in Chicago, the oysters are cooked on clay pot grills called lo dat.Credit…Jason Little / HaiSous

Grilled Oysters at HaiSous


Dolloped with mở hành and cooked on charcoal-fired clay pot grills called lo dat, these bivalves are then singed and splashed with nuac cham. Such juicy evocations of Vietnamese street cooking pair well with the Dos Amigos, a citrusy, mezcal-tequila cocktail. BRETT ANDERSON

Mushrooms With Butter and Garlic at Izakaya Seki

Washington, D.C.

If a description-versus-deliciousness matrix existed, this slippery medley of shimeji, sliced shiitakes and bits of king oyster would occupy the corner where “sounds unassuming” and “can I drink a sauce in public?” meet. The pool of earthy, buttery broth that reveals itself underneath can distract from even the most luxurious fatty tuna sashimi. TANYA SICHYNSKY

The breakfast tacos at Maria’s Cafe in San Antonio are comfort food the Texas way.Credit…Jordan Vonderhaar for The New York Times

Breakfast Tacos at Maria’s Cafe

San Antonio

The handwritten menu sprawls across the walls of Maria’s, and you can’t go wrong with any filling wrapped in the restaurant’s buttery flour tortillas. But might I recommend the Minion, which comes with smoky shreds of brisket and creamy-crunchy migas? PRIYA KRISHNA

Palacsinta at Agi’s Counter

New York City

These Hungarian crepes come with a Post-it note of salty butter in the middle. Beneath that slab is even more flavor: A warm, jewel-tone compote ensures that each forkful of tender, airy and deeply golden pancake is slicked with seasonal fruit. TANYA SICHYNSKY

Celeriac schnitzel is a mainstay on the menu at Apteka, in Pittsburgh.Credit…Christine Armbruster for The New York Times

Celeriac Schnitzel at Apteka


Escorted by vegetable preparations — jammy beets, apple-leek salad — that toe the line between side dish and condiment, these delicately crisp schnitzels prove Apteka’s guiding principle: Eastern European cuisine is an underused vehicle for delicious plant-based cooking. BRETT ANDERSON

Pistachio Flatbread at Al Badawi

New York City

It may not be a pizza in the classic sense, but it has a crust, it’s covered in cheese and I would buy it by the slice if possible. NIKITA RICHARDSON

The preparation of the crab claws at Mosquito Supper Club changes with the season, but the star is always supremely fresh crab meat from the Louisiana bayou.Credit…Denny Culbert

Crab Claws at Mosquito Supper Club

New Orleans

This dish changes with the seasons, but in October, it was simply dressed with drawn butter, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. But it’s all about the succulent blue crab from Higgins Seafood down in the bayou — a taste that truly can’t be found anywhere else. BRIAN GALLAGHER

Oxtails at Sambou’s African Kitchen

Jackson, Miss.

Sally Demba opened Sambou’s early this year with Joseph and Bibian Sambou, her son and daughter, to showcase the cooking of their native Gambia. The gravy in the long-simmered oxtails pulse with ginger; you’ll want to spoon it, along with the spoon-tender meat, over your side of coconut rice. BRETT ANDERSON

The pizza bianca at Pizzeria Sei is one of Sang Woo Joo’s simplest pies, and the crust really shines.Credit…Ryan Young for The New York Times

Pizza Bianca at Pizzeria Sei

Los Angeles

This white pizza couldn’t be simpler — cream, fior di latte mozzarella, a touch of preserved lemon and olive oil — but set on the puffed, lightly charred dough, it made me feel quite emotional about the way pizza styles are alive and overlapping, continuously developing one pie at a time. TEJAL RAO

Buttermilk Biscuit at Ihatov


It’s hard not to love an enormous buttermilk biscuit. It’s even harder not to love an enormous buttermilk biscuit with a crunchy, sugared bottom and an inside that’s as soft as air. PRIYA KRISHNA

A golden pocket of jam is nestled inside the black sesame passion-fruit pastry at Lady Wong.Credit…Courtesy of Lady Wong

Black Sesame Passion Fruit at Lady Wong

New York City

This is the year I realized that passion fruit is my favorite of all the fruit flavors. This is the pastry that brought me to that realization. NIKITA RICHARDSON

Fried Whole Huachinango at Tet a Tet

Los Angeles

The minute we realized the deliciousness of what we were dealing with, my family turned this whole fish in a crispy fried suit of rice flakes and aromatics, lounging in a pool of green curry and fish sauce caramel, into a cleaned cartoon spine on an empty plate. TEJAL RAO

The interplay of savory, salty, hot and cold comes together elegantly in Corvino Supper Club’s seaweed doughnuts.Credit…Martin Diggs / Corvino Supper Club

Seaweed Doughnuts at Corvino Supper Club

Kansas City, Mo.

These savory beignets, delivered with a side of thick cream studded with trout roe, are an inspired pairing of texture, hot and cold temperature and subtle oceanic flavor. One bite and you’ll see why they’re a required order at the sleek bar and live jazz venue attached to chef Michael Corvino’s tasting-menu restaurant. BRETT ANDERSON

Kouign-Amann at Yellow

Washington, D.C.

Who knew that the center of a puffed-pastry crown was such a natural bed for the honey-lacquered walnuts that pack Greek styles of baklava? The crunchy, crushed pistachio-dusted topping gives way to thin, flaky layers for a treat that’s just right amount of sweet. TANYA SICHYNSKY

Zitz Sum’s won ton in brodo is meant to be shared, so it is served with an empty bowl for each diner, to be sure all get their share of the heady broth. Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Won Ton in Brodo at Zitz Sum

Coral Gables, Fla.

This marriage of Chinese and Italian cuisine comes alive in its luscious, dashi-Parmesan “tea.” There’s a reason the dish, enriched with a swirl of olive oil, is the only savory item that never comes off Zitz Sum’s menu. BRETT ANDERSON

Suya Fried Chicken at Yum Village


The fried chicken at the West African restaurant’s flagship location is a vivid thrill, thanks to deeply seasoned meat (the chicken is roasted before it’s fried) and the tension between suya pepper spices and agave-based syrup on its sticky-crisp exterior. That, and a side of Senegalese maafe stew, warrant a return visit to Yum Village. BRETT ANDERSON

Melissa Chou’s bakery Grand Opening, which pops up inside Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco, is a dreamy destination for pastry enthusiasts.Credit…Pete Lee

Parisian Egg Tart at Grand Opening

San Francisco

Every cake, tart, cookie and pie is a standout at this pop-up bakery, but all year I’ve been dreaming of picking up another mahogany-brindled egg tart, and spending just a little more time with the flaky pastry and meltaway cloud of wobbly pastry cream. TEJAL RAO

Fried Chicken Skins at Leah and Louise

Charlotte, N.C.

Hot and crunchy and piled high on a platter, with seasoning that approximates the Cajun-y vinegar and jalapeño hit of Zapp’s Voodoo chips, these come tempered with a drizzle of creamy ranch dressing blended with green onion. You swear you can’t eat that many fried chicken skins until you’re looking at an empty platter. KIM SEVERSON

The baby shrimp “gunpowder” at Camphor, in Los Angeles, is made with a delicious variety of podi.Credit…Josh Telles / Camphor

Baby Shrimp “Gunpowder” at Camphor

Los Angeles

There are many kinds of podi, the South Indian spice mixture sometimes called gunpowder. This one, used to dust a heap of tiny, super-crisp shrimp, and full of fried curry leaves and mustard seeds, is particularly satisfying and habit-forming. TEJAL RAO

Fried Green Tomato BLT at the Tomato Place

Vicksburg, Miss.

Your first question will be: Are the fried tomatoes the “T” in the BLT? No, they are marvelously in addition, and achieve the perfect balance of salty breading and acidic bite. On white bread with an ample wipe of mayo, this sandwich is surplus to requirements — in the best way. BRIAN GALLAGHER

Lucian’s omelet is a perfectly simple dish.Credit…Lucian Books and Wine

The Omelet at Lucian Books and Wine


The presentation could not be more simple: A spoonful of salty caviar crowns the tender, creamy fold of egg, and an herb-specked quenelle of crème fraîche rides alongside. A simple but sophisticated balm. Impeccable. KIM SEVERSON

Khichdi at Vrindavan

Frisco, Texas

The daily changing thalis at Vrindavan always include khichdi — for a reason. Deeply perfumed with whole, warming spices, cozy with soft grains of rice and lentils and enriched with ghee, this tastes like the best home cooking. PRIYA KRISHNA

Locust’s version of the Japanese dish kakigori is topped with a pillow of meringue.Credit…Andrew Thomas Lee

Kakigori at Locust


This shaved-ice dessert hides bits of crunchy honeycomb inside a dome of fluffy snow flavored with passion fruit, covered with a soft meringue and topped with a sugared egg yolk. KIM SEVERSON

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