My Best Eats of 2017
The year 2017 was a delicious one for me, experiencing authentic cuisine from Eastern Europe, Mexico, and six other countries. My first taste of the Midwest happened this year, and I visited 15 states in total. From farm-to-table to food trucks, dives to trendy hotspots, and everything in between, my best eats of 2017 were amazing. I give you my 17 best dishes, meals, or experiences of 2017 in no particular order.
#1 The Veranda (Fort Myers, FL)
The Veranda is a high-end, classic restaurant with antebellum charm and a stellar menu serving exquisite Southern cuisine. You’ve got to try the Southern Grit Cake, topped with a velvety red pepper sauce, pepper jack cheese, and andouille sausage. Epic! Even the complimentary bread and butter are exceptional at this romantic downtown Fort Myers restaurant.
#2 Bia’s Gourmet Hardware (Asheboro, NC)
I enjoyed an incredible dinner from Bia’s Gourmet Hardware, an upscale dining spot in Asheboro. With a menu this savvy and restaurant so gorgeous, I honestly would have expected it to be in a much larger city. What a terrific surprise! Yummmmm, the Pimento Cheese Fondue from Bia’s Gourmet Hardware is phenomenal, the perfect consistency, creamy, and a bit tangy. Save room for the handmade ice cream sandwiches for dessert; incredibly Instagram worthy.
#3 Slap’s BBQ (Kansas City, KS)
I couldn’t visit Kansas and not try some famous Kansas BBQ. My favorite was the award-winning Slap’s BBQ, a restaurant that locals flock to and wait in very long lines to enjoy. The burnt ends and brisket are insanely delicious, but I preferred the buttery roasted turkey. Slap’s side dishes (Cheesy Corn, Baked Beans, and Mac & Cheese w/Bacon) are second to none! You have to try them all. Don’t forget to try the Alabama white BBQ sauce with the meats. It’s my fave.
#4 Arni’s Restaurant (West Lafayette, IN)
Simplicity goes a long way. Arni’s Restaurant has created a signature salad (Junior Salad) with tiny diced ham, turkey, and cheese over iceberg lettuce with green onions, croutons, and radish slices. Pair your salad with a choice of many homemade dressings. I chose Celery Seed, which had a sweet, tangy taste. It was the first time I’ve ever heard of this dressing. I could eat this salad every day of my life! It was that good. Come to Arni’s Restaurant for their famous cracker-thin pizza, but don’t skip the salad.
#5 Diamond Shoals Restaurant (Hatteras, NC)
Tuna Salad has been my go-to food item this year, and Diamond Shoal’s Spicy Tuna Salad Wrap was easily the best I’ve ever had. My waitress warned me that it was spicy, which made it all the more desirable to me. Freaking nom! The peel-and-eat shrimp and Lobster Bisque are perfection. Diamond Shoals, a local, casual eatery, is worth seeking out.
#6 Blue Gill Quality Foods (Gainesville, FL)
During Blue Gill Quality Food’s famous Sunday brunch, I chose the Blue Gill Breakfast. My poached eggs were cooked to perfection; the ham was tender and flavorful, the biscuit and gravy were spot on, but the hot-bacon Potato Salad blew me away. Oniony, sweet, tangy, and al dente potatoes broke the mold for all other potato salads. This side dish is worth me driving across the state of Florida for!
#7 Miguel’s (Siesta Key, FL)
Miguel’s is a hidden gem in Siesta Key. While French cuisine restaurants are not my typical choice, I will reconsider after visiting this one. Miguel’s offers toothsome tableside Caesar Salads, sweet Cherries Flambé that burst in your mouth, and impeccable service! I commend Miguel’s for the adorable complimentary plate of hors-d’oeuvres (bread, veggies, and decadent pate) upon arrival, something most restaurants seem to have left behind. It was appreciated and scrumptious.
#8 St. Elmo Steakhouse (Indianapolis, IN)
When you are a foodie and visit a city with an iconic restaurant (circa 1933), you must go. Seated at the nostalgic bar tables at the St. Elmo Steakhouse, I feasted on the World Famous St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail. The freshly made spicy, signature cocktail sauce comes with an “Eater: Beware” warning because it is that hot. And flavorful. Oh my, this is a tasty appetizer! Pair the shrimp with the signature Elmo Cola, a killer infusion that will tantalize your taste buds.
#9 Otto Gastronomia Italiana (Boquete, Panama)
Otto Gastronomia Italiana is a small gourmet Italian restaurant in the heart of downtown Boquete. The dishes I loved were the housemade Burrata (paired with fluffy bread) and Lasagna, super cheesy and light with a basic, but mighty, chicken meat sauce featuring both a red sauce and my favorite, bechamel sauce. The prices are right, and items are cooked to order.
#10 Doo-Dah Diner (Wichita, KS)
This kitschy cooked from scratch eatery has so many fantastic menu choices that you may as well go ahead and flip a coin to help you decide what to order. I opted for the Triple D, a breakfast platter triple threat, with three items that will blow your mind! It was so good that I happily give the Doo-Dah Diner the title of Best Breakfast of my life. The plate consists of Corned Beef Hash (a non-country version with Hatch chile peppers), Timi’s Benny (elegant Eggs Benedict), and get this—Banana Bread French Toast. The sweet French Toast was topped with apple nut butter, sugared pecans, and vanilla molasses infused syrup. Game changer!
#11 David’s Milwaukee Diner (Perry, Iowa)
It isn’t often that you are blind-sided by a hotel restaurant that dazzles you with meals, each more incredible than the last. David’s Milwaukee Diner, inside of Hotel Pattee in a small town in Iowa, wowed me with excellent breakfast and dinner items that made my taste buds sing! Buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy graced my breakfast plate and for dinner, an array of appetizers which included crispy fried Brussels Sprouts, Toasted Ravioli, and Fried Cheese Curds. I also had a juicy 8 oz. Filet Mignon with Deburgo, a classic Des Moines sauce, that was spectacular in every way. **the restaurant at Hotel Pattee is now called Harvey’s as of 2019
#12 Owens Restaurant (Nags Head, NC)
Being a food writer is hard, especially when a white-tablecloth beach eatery brings out 20 dishes for you to sample. I didn’t eat one morsel from Owens Restaurant that I did not find incredible! My favorite items included Escargot, Lump Crabmeat Remick, Lobster Bisque, and the phenomenal Crab Stack (with mango, avocado, and tomato). You may not eat for a week after filling up at Owens Restaurant, but be sure to save room for the dynamic desserts. The service is professional and noteworthy, as well.
#13 Buccanos at Night (Cozumel, Mexico)
My friends and I were treated to a private tasting at Buccanos at Night, where we were given six exceptional dishes, plated as beautifully as they tasted. Though each one was exceptional in flavor, the Snapper Tartare was severe melt-in-your-mouth freshness. The meal comes topped with Poke Sauce and a side of plantain chips. Buccanos at Night is not one bit skimpy when it comes to uber-fresh fish, either. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and a trendy hotspot on the island.
#14 Wild Eggs (Louisville, KY)
Wild Eggs is a local Kentucky chain that serves creative and contemporary breakfast, brunch, and lunch dishes. The Mr. Potato Head Casserole struck my fancy immediately; I loved how original the combination was. Hash browned potatoes, paired with sour cream, spices, onions, a cheese blend, sausage, tomatoes, poblano peppers, roasted mushrooms, queso, and an egg (poached for me) made the epitome of a darned good breakfast dish.
#15 Candy Apple Cafe + Cocktails (Jacksonville, FL)
It doesn’t hurt that the Southern-inspired Candy Apple Cafe is inside of a popular candy store and factory, but the upscale dishes stand on their own. The Mac N’ Cheese is outstanding, with a sinful cheese fondue sauce made from Fontina and White cheddar, topped with onion hay and candied bacon. OMG, so good! I especially loved that the Candy Apple Cafe did not cover up the cheesy goodness of the delicate and zesty sauce with buttered crumbs, as most restaurants do. It was a fabulous dish with a fantastic balance. **the shared restaurant at Sweet Pete’s is now called MLG Jacksonville as of 2019
#16 Guidos Restaurant Bar (Cozumel, Mexico)
The Florentina Salad from Guidos was one of those dishes that you can’t come up for air while eating. You just shovel the amazing creation in your mouth, with your eyes rolling back in your head with each bite. That was me with this awesome salad recipe that included goat cheese medallions, pears, cranberries, and pecans over a bed of mixed lettuce. A one-of-a-kind blackberry vinaigrette blended perfectly with the salad. Guidos Restaurant Bar is a local top pick on the island of Cozumel with superb dishes and warm, welcoming hospitality in a tastefully decorated restaurant.
#17 Lulu’s (Gulf Shores, AL)
While fun, food, and music is the tagline for this high energy, popular dining spot in beautiful Gulf Shores, the food was the star for me. Beginning with the best $5 appetizer you will ever have, LA (lower Alabama) Caviar will make a black-eyed pea lover of anyone. Lulu’s Crab Melt Nachos were so yummy that I am planning to revisit Gulf Shores just for this tasty concoction. So much crab, such a decadent cheese sauce—this is the stuff dreams are made of!
2017 Was An Exceptionally Tasty Year
My 2017 Best Eats article has been a fun one to compile. I have salivated remembering how fabulous these dishes were, and yes, I kept a note throughout the whole year so I would remember what meals I wanted to include.
It is truly a blessing at how many wonderful places we have traveled to, dined at, and shared with you on our website and social media.
Cheers to an epic 2018, and thank you for supporting our blog!
Many of these meals were included in my visits to the area. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.