The Year in Food

The 2014 tastes we just couldn't stop thinking about

Balkan Cafe & Grill
Balkan Cafe & Grill (Photo by John Anderson)

Top 10 Global Grub

1) A+A SICHUAN CHINA Cyndi and Ling have edged ahead of their just-down-the-road rival, Asia Cafe, for dominance in Austin's Sichuan food scene.

2) BALKAN CAFE & GRILL Z and Zakilna, with Chef Goran at the stove, are putting out the finest chicken sandwich that Austin has ever seen, not to mention a sensual goulash and jaw-droppingly delicious meats. A simple Balkan menu, with great food at wonderful prices.

3) CHAPLI KABABS N CURRIES Sy and Shazad are producing complex and unique Afghan and Pakistani flavors, like the chicken naan roll (one of the best deals in town at $3.99), a succulent and meltingly tender lamb shank, and their deliciously different, hamburger-like lamb kebab patty.

4) DAAWAT INDIAN CUISINE My favorite Indian spot, Indian Spicy Kitchen, morphed into Daawat, and didn't lose a beat. Featuring the dishes of the southern half of the subcontinent, Daawat doesn't hold back when it comes to spice, producing food that's unapologetically authentic.

5) HIT THE SPOT CAFE Think Southern comfort food isn't ethnic? I beg to differ. Situated in one half of the Garfield Library, Hit the Spot makes everything from scratch and with rare finesse. Burgers to die for, and a spectacular chicken-fried steak.

6) KIN AND COMFORT Ek and Bonnie have been knocking it out of the park at the Hana World Market, doing a unique mash-up of Thai and Southern comfort. They've found the key to balancing what might seem to be disparate flavors. Big, perfect bites for not much cash.

7) TAQUITO AVILES Mario and crew are turning out amazing dishes from this trailer, all of it homemade and authentic, all of it satisfyingly yummy, and all at really decent prices. Tacos of every flavor (including chivo!), elote, enchiladas ... the list goes on.

8) PEACE BAKERY & DELI Palestinian-Mediterranean served cafeteria-style, with the quality of a full-service joint. I have yet to eat anything that wasn't first-rate, from braised lamb shank to fried cauliflower to spinach pie – with an added bonus of a bakery counter.

9) ROLAND'S SOUL FOOD Mr. Roland and Nicole are running the friendliest cafe in town, serving up big portions of soul food made from scratch. Meat-and-two-sides daily specials include oxtail, chicken and dressing, smothered pork chops, and monster slabs of meat loaf.

10) EL POLLO REY A newish Mexico City-style pollo asado trailer, with scrumptious grilled chicken, cerdo al pastor, and carne asada al carbon. Get the meats as a platter, with charro beans and rice, grilled onion, and tortillas – or as tortas or tacos. Good eats, fast service, open late.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Top 10, A+A Sichuan China, Balkan Cafe & Grill, Chapli Kababs n Curries, Daawat Indian Cusine, Hit the Spot Cafe, Kin and Comfort, Taquito Aviles, Peace Bakery & Deli, Roland's Soul Food, El Pollo Rey

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